Lost In The Woods

The forest is home to animals that want to eat you.

Wolves are especially dangerous because they dress like grandmothers and say things to throw you off guard. Grizzlies are just as bad. They see you and they start polishing the silverware.

A few Octobers ago a Cub Scout troop descended on a campground just over the state line. The small wooded acreage brought in a little cash for farmers who worked at the GM plant until it closed.

Tents were pitched. A lady named Peggy grilled burgers and dogs. A bonfire was lit. The night had turned cold and various critters rustled around the tents causing some kids to climb into their parents’ sleeping bags — the older scouts wouldn’t have to know.

The air was pure oxygen the next morning. After a warm breakfast a party set out to explore the environs. Everybody wanted to strike camp early because of the NFL game that afternoon so one of the fathers stayed behind to police the grounds.

When the hikers got back, his son wasn’t with them. No one seemed concerned about the missing boy — except his father of course.

The man squared his shoulders, squinted into the sun and ventured out alone.

He followed the trail that rolled to the right. Nothing. A child shorter than the undergrowth would be difficult to spot. He came to the loop where the paths intersected. Again, nothing.

He was well-aware that a nine-year-old carried away by the Chippewa would be initiated as a brave and end up on the warpath against the Great Chief in Washington, meaning that he would never be eligible for Federal Student Financial Assistance.

He tried to think what Liam Neeson would do.

Tick, tick, tick.

Then on a rise worn bare by the wind, something yellow darted between the trees. The man ran to a clearing where he finally got a visual lock on his boy.

Hiding any trace of panic he approached and asked his son how he was doing.

“Can we get shakes on the way home?” the kid answered. Then he mentioned how much he liked being alone in the woods. He said it was awesome.

The dangers were imagined that Sunday morning, but the fears were real. This was just the latest installment on the price of being a father. The man drove home knowing his account was current, its balance was paid in full.


Net Neutrality

Dear Friends, this is not a usual ‘Out Among Human’ post.

The Commissioner of the FCC is determined to kill Net Neutrality.

Ajit Pai would allow Internet service providers to create “fast lanes” for certain websites, charge fees for bundles of sites the same way cable companies do for broadcast content, and adopt price structures that’ll trap you in economy class.

Enormously profitable corporations would be allowed to hijack and control the Internet.

Below is a web link that will place your phone call to your three congress members’ offices. It provides and dials the number and even suggests a brief script to help you explain your support for Net Neutrality.

I made my three calls during office hours and immediately talked with a staff member. It took less than three minutes.

Here’s the link: https://advocacy.mozilla.org/en-US/net-neutrality/

It’s our Internet, not theirs. Please share.

Thanks, Pat


The Doctor And His Shakespeare

This post is about a person I respect very much.
He has faced a serious illness with strength and imagination.

The man shown in the photograph has dedicated his life to… the healing arts. He’s an internist specializing in cardiovascular medicine.

He’s a personable man but if you ask him about himself he’ll volunteer as little as possible. His focus has always been on his patients.

Then he got sick.

The people he had attended over the years couldn’t help but be concerned.

Without going onto great detail, he explained that he was suffering from a disease of the mouth and that his jaws would be locked shut for a period of time. His patients watched a large man grow small.

His team began referring his appointments to other practitioners. His absence stretched longer than expected.

That was some years ago. These days the doctor speaks with a certain difficulty, his jaws still a bit clenched.

People find miraculous ways to face tragedy. Although the works of William Shakespeare are steeped in murder, larceny, insanity and despair, the doctor has always delighted in how accurately the playwright diagnoses what makes us tick.

Last year he put together a cut-and-paste, photocopied invitation to the reading of a stage script he wrote in homage to ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ The performance was delivered by professionals with a wit the Bard would have applauded. The doctor was radiant.

During a recent appointment I told him I’d like to make a few notes about him and the sixteenth-century poet. He insisted that no one would want to read about him.

“You didn’t make an appointment to talk about me,” he added.

But here’s a man who had walked through fire, and I was hoping he would share a few pointers with the rest of us mortals who one day may find slings and arrows coming our way.

The coming flu season should give me an excuse to try him again.


Rich Quinn’s Tour of Duty

Rich grew up believing that he had a duty to serve his country.

Rich watched World War II movies on TV. He knew that John Wayne had done us proud and that the peace we engineered was as much a victory as the war we had won.

Despite Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about a ‘military industrial complex’ the U.S. waded into a ‘limited’ civil conflict. it ended up sending almost three million Americans to Vietnam.

That televised war bitterly contradicted our image of ourselves.

Just years earlier The Peace Corps had been created to spread American ideals around the world. That mission, Rich Quinn realized, would allow him to serve honorably without drawing a weapon.

He trained for ten weeks at Columbia University before shipping out to coastal West Africa.

Not everything made sense in Ghana. Volunteers weren’t sent to posts based on their skills but on the alphabetical order of their names. The town where Rich was assigned didn’t need an English teacher so he was hijacked to teach French — the good people of Bechem forgave his shortcomings because the presence of an American was prestigious.

There was no running water. The latrines were foul. Rich contracted amoebic dysentery, dengue fever and a festering skin disease that landed him into the hospital in Kumasi. “If it weren’t for penicillin I wouldn’t have made it back home,” he laughs.

Peace Corps volunteers were free to leave at any time. Many were shipped home because they couldn’t hack Africa. “This is a mistake,” Rich remembers thinking after his first year. But he stayed in Ghana and met his commitment.

Corps members believed that by serving a two-year tour they would be exempt from the military draft but that policy had didn’t appear anywhere in writing. Just after Rich returned home, the Selective Service initiated a lottery.

His birthday drew a draft number of 19 out of 365. He had served his country honorably but there was now a likelihood he would be called back for a second tour, this time in the military.

Every day for three years Rich went to the mailbox expecting to find the induction notice that never came.


First Trump Team Indictments

…just hours ago.

Last year’s Republican convention worked itself into a frenzy chanting “…lock her up…lock her up.”

That chant has come back to haunt the Trump campaign team.

WASHINGTON DC — The first insiders to be indicted under the Mueller investigation are former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump campaign official Rick Gates.

Twelve counts include conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money, being unregistered agents of foreign principals, false statements, failures to report foreign bank and financial accounts.

It goes without saying that both defendants are protected under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.

We live in a remarkable country. Even people who campaign to have their political opponents locked up without a trail, even people like that, are presumed innocent until proven guilty.


I Shot A Man in Reno

There’s a guy at our neighborhood coffee shop… who writes a blog. He’s been at it for years.

He keeps a notebook where he details the genius and the idiocy of humans like you and me. The things we do fascinate him no end.

Blogging is like putting a message in a bottle and tossing it in the ocean. There’s not telling who will find it.

One audience the man keeps in mind is his grandchildren’s children. He imagines they’ll be given school assignments to write about relatives who lived back in simpler times like ours.

He imagines them desperately rummaging through the family cloud the night before a project is due (procrastination is an inherited trait) and lifting entire passages from his posts (plagiarism is too).

As a writer he worries whether particular ideas or catchphrases will make sense to future readers. What was Y2K? There once were 50 states? When in doubt he turns to the baristas on duty.

He asks Hollie what she associates with the phrase:

“…a man in Reno.”

Hollie draws a blank. Minutes later he adds a clue:

”…I SHOT a man in Reno.”

Horror flashes across Hollie’s face.

”On no!” she cries.

At which point the dirty-chi, the medium-drip, and the soy-cappuccino in the window turn and chime in with the precision of backup artists in Nashville:


Hollie laughs in that infectious way she does.

The blogger makes a note to embed audio into his post. He fantasizes that his great-great greats will score points by playing ‘The Folsom Prison Blues’ during their show-and-tells, some hundred or so years from now.


Crystal Ball

The older crowd at
our neighborhood coffee shop…
uses Harold Schlegel’s crystal ball to look at the past. The younger afternoon crew is more interested in seeing the future.

The accuracy for the two modes are an amazing 97.052% and 98.308% respectively.

There are risks involved of course. No one is quite the same after even a brief encounter — $179.95/minute — with the past or the future. It seems our neural synapses aren’t so different from those of our Neolithic ancestors after all.

Harold will explain the dangers of his app before you ever touch his silicate sphere, and his legal team will insist that you sign a waiver. Don’t be deterred.

The one thing my colleague’s groundbreaking process fails to do, at least as of this writing, is to make sense the present and the colorless, odorless truths floating over our heads.


Taking A Knee

When you think
of the Patriots
you think of
New England.

But there are patriots who play for other NFL franchises as well. Last Sunday in Cleveland is an example.

These are the athletes who choose to take a knee during the playing of the National Anthem, risking the careers they’ve worked to build. Putting your hand over your heart looks lame in comparison.

We kneel before the Almighty as a show of reverence. We kneel before kings when we are knighted. Our grandfathers knelt while proposing marriage to our grandmothers.

No one is harmed, nothing is damaged, no laws are violated. This is what the First Amendment looks like when it’s done right.

Some people believe it’s unpatriotic for players to speak out about problems in our criminal justice system. They choose not to see what video after video shows us.

Professional athletes are role models both on and off the field. They stand tall when they kneel silently, respectfully, and petition for the equal protection of the law.



They kept the bedroom ready in case of one of their three sons would need to return home.

They could stay as long or as briefly as they wanted, no questions asked.

The couple knew the boys would leave in due time just as they had when they married.

The last son to leave was the first to return. He had made beginner’s mistakes in a business startup, out-of-state banks were calling at all hours.

His mother replaced the metal, barracks-style beds with more comfortable ones. His father cleared a space in the basement where his son would freelance until an offer came along.

At that time an event was unfolding that would mesmerize the world.

We all stopped and watched as the Apollo XI Moon Mission launched from Cape Kennedy. We didn’t breathe until Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon four days later.

How do the events on the Sea of Tranquility connect with those in a modest living room 252,700 miles away?

The boy’s father hadn’t been well for years and decided not to stay up for the moonwalk. If ever a moment was meant to be shared, it was this one. What could it have been but cosmic fate that plopped the young man down next to his mother in front of the TV that evening?

Sharing that unfolding drama along with cigarettes and ice cream and his mother’s lady fingers, was the last memory he would have of her as the still vibrant woman who had raised him. They had a big night.

Other moonwalks followed but the long-married couple didn’t pay much attention. Another son had come home to claim the bedroom and brought children who visited on weekends and vacations.

Explorers like Aldrin, Conrad, Bean, Shepard and Mitchell couldn’t begin to compete with the gravitational pull those kids exerted on their grandparents.