Thursday, October 29, 2009

radio show

The first airing of our live radio show "Don't Dis My Ability" will be Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 4 p.m.. It is a half show that in the words of our promo "...seeks to put a human face on what otherwise would remain a lifeless body of statistics..." We tried to put as little pressure on ourselves as possible by only committing to do a show every other week and only for a half hour. Our first guest will be Lee Harvey, once a successful architect and now a more successful human being. Lee suffered a devastating stroke around seven years ago and has worked hard every day to improve physically, mentally and spiritually. I will be part of a team that includes a young man that also had a stroke at ten months of age and a young lady who has a genetic disorder that has caused her to become legally blind. The same disorder has caused her muscles to be abnormally week. I have been told the show can be heard on the web at and locally broadcasting from Portsmouth N.H. at 106.1. Wish us luck, say a prayer or sacrifice a goat. We need all the help that we can get.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Melzingah Buffalo Preserve

This Sunday Karen and I return to my hometown in Beacon, N.Y. for the wedding of Anna Ruhe-daughter of old friends Chris and Janet. The town has been going through a gentrification since 9/11 when New York City lost some of its allure. I have not wanted to see the side-by-side houses that I grew up in with my brother, mother and grandmother but this time I am a little curious-enough anyway to drive by and shout "Run, get out of this town before your brain rots!" if I see couple of boys playing in the backyard. I don't think that is breaking any laws.
Beacon has a mythical past based on some facts, but even the facts are of the kind that cause a minute of reflection and then "Na, I don't think so." The town exists on a narrow strip of land between the towering Mt. Beacon and the Hudson River. The story is that during the revolutionary war the good guys were concerned that the British would send their ships up river from New York City and reek havoc on upstate New York cities. The plan was to have some soldiers stationed on the top of Mt. Beacon and if those nasty British were tried to send their ships to attack upriver a bon fire or beacon (get it) would warn other soldiers stationed on either side of the river ten miles south of Beacon to pull a massive submerged chain tight so that it was resting on top of the river thus preventing ships from passing. At this point you, the reader, is expected to reflect one minute and then say "Na, I don't think so.", but this is really a true story. There is an historical marker testifying to this bit of history. Anyway, the point is that who knows what else is on top of Mt. Beacon? All kinds of dangerous foolishness could be going on and the good citizens living down below would be oblivious which leads to this story about the Melzingah Buffalo Preserve. One bored day in the life of a bored teenager with a tenuous hold on reality reads the local paper and sees a picture of a couple of dozen buffalo grazing at the base of a mountain. I imagined a Buffalo preserve on top of Mt. Beacon. The name would be the Melzingah Buffalo Preserve-logical and believable in that there was already a Melzingah Reservoir named after a local tribe of Native Americans. Well, Ron what are the buffalo doing down at the bottom of the mountain? Simple-better grass, more tender-not covered in Bald Eagle crap like the grass on the top of the Mountain. How did they get down this very steep Mountain?-That's a tough one. How about the kindly caretaker of the Preserve, Mr. Greely, brought them down one by one in the morning in his wheelbarrow and then brought them back up at the end of the day? So why a newspaper story? Has to make sense-not too far out. The wheel on his wheel barrow was broken and he had developed a large hernia and the penurious hard hearted town leaders would not buy him a new wheel. They would only give him three bucks for a role of duct tape to repair the wheel and his hernia. How is such a wrong righted?-A petition! I carefully wrote out a petition urging the civic rulers to spring for a new wheel and an operation for Mr. Greely and I placed it above the cut out of the grazing buffalo. Then I taped it to Dr, Mary's waiting room wall. Each day after school I would go back and notice with amazement the growing list of signers-some even added a few choice epithets for our skinflint mayor.
So one of the things I want to do when I go back to Beacon forty-five years later is to check my mother's waiting room wall to see how the cause is progressing. I can see myself knocking on my old front door and a young boy answers. He says "Are you here to sign the petition?" and I would say "Why, yes I am" . There would be reams of petition paper piled in a box. The family would ignore me in favor of the local news on tv. They are all eating Swanson's fried chicken dinners. I sign and say goodnight. In the car as it pulls away I add " And a goodnight to you Mom, Richie and Grandma.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

LIttle bits of Dr. Mary

I miss her extremes of exuberance, of compassion, of total hilarity, of her gigantic faith in a larger than life body barely able to contain it all.

Of exuberance: It was at the New york Baha'i convention the year it was held at a large hotel in New York probably forty years when the Baha'i Faith was even more obscure. We were all excited to see a fellow Baha'i and on this one day in October every year there were Baha'is everywhere-all hugging anything that moved. My mother became a pure powerful spirit feeding off the energy. We were on an elevator with our telltale glow when one passenger-not a Baha'i-just a curious businessman asked a perfectly normal question. "Who are you people?".
My mother's huge arms sprang upwards and outwards and she shouted, "We are the people of light!" The look on the man's face of total panic makes me laugh until this day.

Of hilarity: We went to visit some Baha'is in upstate New York and as usual my mother was so excited to meet new people-especially Baha'is and their friends. In a country house with a view of a meadow we sat down at a dining room table to socialize. Dr. Mary turned to an older Baha'i woman and asked, "How are things up your end?" and I, making things worse, said "Mom, you can't ask someone a question like that"
My shocked mother replied, "Oh, I didn't mean it like that!"

Of Faith: She went out to Chiropractic school in her mid thirties to try and help her son who was born legally blind. She was divorced and like so many others of the Great Depression generation had to drop out of High School to make money. With two small boys and a High School equivalency certificate and some money saved from working in a factory she began five grueling years of college. Her entire family thought she was crazy and would not help her. After going to class all day she then worked at a nursing home and came home at nine o'clock at night. She became a member of the Baha'i Faith and helped form the first Local Spiritual Assembly of Davenport, Iowa. She left Iowa in the dead of winter and arrived five days later at her Mother's house in New York-five days of sleeping at gas station parking lots from Iowa to New York. She had two pennies left in her purse.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I'm becoming aware that none of these stories depict me as even moderately intelligent and what does that tell you when a fiction writer is unable to give the appearance of being somewhat aware of his surroundings. Here is another story about falling in love with Maine-this time the illusion of Maine.
Even when I made the move to Maine after a year of being separated from Karen, Laurel and Julia I still had furniture customers back in New York and would make the trip down with a van loaded with furniture and then make the five hour trip back usually in the same day totally exhausted. This time my my long suffering companion had made the trip with me. We were anxious to get back to Maine because although the kids were safe with Dr. Mary we always felt guilty leaving them. I remember it was summer and about three a.m. with very little traffic on Route 95. We were on the homestretch with me behind the wheel and Karen asleep on the van floor. Just as we crossed the Mass./N.H. border there was and is a welcome site-a rest stop with a concession kiosk on the side. I was trying to be courteous and quietly pulled into a space beyond the reach of the building lights so Karen's sleep would not be disturbed. I looked back and saw nothing but darkness because the overhead light had burnt out years ago and I softly whispered, "Karen, I'm making a bathroom stop. Do you need to come in?"
Half asleep she said she was fine. I softly closed the door and went into the rest stop and information part of the building where I exchanged some small talk with the attendant. On the way out I decided to go into the adjacent building for a cup of coffee. Again I made every effort to get in the van making as little noise as possible and off we were for the final forty minute trip To Eliot, Me. In fifteen minutes I could see the toll booth and began to slow down-still only two cars ahead of me on this lonely moonless night. I was waiting my turn when a another toll booth operator approached the driver window and asked if my name was Ronnie. Now this is the part you will not believe but it is totally true. I thought, "One more reason to love Maine! The state has so few people that the toll booth people get to know everybody on a first name basis! In New York this would never happen!. Then my bubble burst. "You left your wife back at the rest stop. She called and said look for a red van. I hurried back thinking Karen would be frantic and out raged but she was her loving forgiving self. As luck would have it she had woken up and gone to the ladies room when I detoured to the concession building. We must have just missed seeing each other. The rest stop attendant told us that this happened more than one would think and that all they did was call ahead to the toll booth with a description of the vehicle and the driver's name. We made it safely home and stumbled up the back porch steps grumbling that the light was broken, but you already know that story.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

my beginning as businessman

This Dr. Mary story is a favorite of my good friend Dominique Metreaud who has urged me for years to write these stories down.
One lazy Summer afternoon when other fourteen year olds were wasting their time playing baseball my friend Gregory and I were making plans to conquer the business world. We were always looking in vacant lots or neglected wooded areas for interesting junk either for a fort or something we could sell for a few bucks and on this day we could hardly believe our luck. Covered in brush, mud and rust we found our future-a five foot tall gum machine. We carried it to Gregory's backyard where there was a hose hook up. For hours we washed, scraped and oiled and what we had in the end was one disgusting gum machine, but in our eyes it was a beautiful moneymaker. The premise was that the customer inserted a penny and then pulled a lever and one stick of gum appeared in a tray. Now here is the genius part. We knew we could but six packs of gum for five at the local grocery store. This meant that for every 30 pieces of gum sold we would make five cents! We were so happy that we had paid attention in math class! School really did teach something practical!
The next step was where to place this cash cow so we could spend our days drinking soda and and count our growing wealth. Who needs school? But what lucky business would we favor with our gum machine. And then it came to me!-my mother's chiropractic waiting room. There was a steady stream of patients coming and going who were basically bored and hungry and would be so appreciative of a nice inexpensive snack. I could see my mother's smiles and hear her words of appreciation at being the only chiropractor with a penny gum machine in her waiting room Why she might even increase my allowance. We carefully carried the gum machine and placed it in place that could not be missed by the patients and then went off for our next adventure-our work was done here. Hours later we came back to my house. My mother's office was on the first floor and we lived on the second and third floors. We approached the house from the end of a dead end street. There was a path through some woods and then we entered our backyard which was really a combination of our lawn and my Grandmothers lawn. I looked up and saw my grandmother sit on her second floor porch with her arm on a wooden railing. I was thinking how comforting my world was in that I knew where everyone and everything would be. Even the birds seemed to be where they should be but there was one object that was out of place . Our gum machine was a wreck and looked like it had been dropped from a ten story building.
We found out later from a patient that sometime that afternoon that my mother noticed the gum machine. She had turned bright red and was ranting and raving about "my reputation" and "I'm going to kill my lunatic son!" She had carried the machine to the back of the house and let it fly and with it were dashed my hopes of having a business career. What saved my life was that my mother had no short term money and by the time she finished her work day and joined me for supper she had forgotten all about the gum machine. Now for a validating post mortem. The next day Gregory and I open the cash receptacle and pocketed 12 cents. We were on our way to riches after all.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Worth of Babies

Our friend Rose stayed with us for a week and as usual our friendship took another turn in the road-this time high into the mountains. She has recently returned from Malawi, one of the world's poorest countries where her charity, has for years struggled to take care of and find homes for aids orphans. Besides being one of the poorest countries Malawi also has one of the highest rates of HIV/aids which has the result of creating a demographic of the very old and the very young. One evening after dinner she was curled up on our couch-her home away from home and we were talking about grandbabies-her Tiernan and our Samaya. We talked about how blessed we were at this stage of our lives to have such divine wonders breathe new life into our hearts every time we are with them. Karen and I don't have to sleep on a friend's couch to see our Samaya as she lives right down the street with our precious daughter and son-in-law so we are doubly blessed. Rose then told us a bedtime story we will remember for the rest of our eternal lives. She was walking down a dirt street in the capital of Malawi when she looked down and noticed something slightly unusual about one slightly irregular patch of earth. Her first thought was that someone might have buried an unwanted puppy-a common occurrence in this desperately poor country when an animal could not be sold. She bent down and began scooping out handfuls of earth when to her horror she saw the face of newborn baby. The training of her former life as a nurse came back to her as she frantically and delicately removed dirt from her throat. She was still alive-already her humanity emerging-one moment a small mound of earth and the next a face trying to breathe-to take her small portion of the world. Rose freed her from her intended grave and made sure she received life saving medical attention. So what is the worth of a baby-in some parts of the world the price on the street can be ten dollars or five if the baby has aids. It looks like this little one with the help of Rose's charity will make it. Her weight has gone from three pounds to eight pounds and if can get a photo of her I will post it, but I don't know if I can look her in the eye. Why? because the last few years Rose's health has deteriorated along with her finances and each time she returned to the the states she ended up in the hospital and for what I thought-to put a chewing gum patch on the African roof where it is always raining. So now I go to bed a fool-just a face albeit a wrinkled one with white hair trying to breathe and hold on to my portion of earth a little longer and hopefully a little less begrudging of others large and small trying to do the same thing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Air of Maine

The air of Maine is in my lungs and in the blood that flows through my heart. I hope to share the sensation with my beloved grandchild, the ever smiling Samaya, through some stories about moving to Maine, about my mother and who knows what else.
I must admit to a small measure of irritation when we first settled into my mother's house in Eliot the time the back porch light refused to shine and it was more than a burned out bulb. In New York tradesmen would come at a call eager to rob and pillage, but they would come and fix the problem. The only tradesman I knew in Maine was my Mother's long time mechanic, a delightful individual whose photo would be right at home on the cover of Yankee Magazine. He would personally deliver her fixed car and the stay and talk with her in the kitchen. We had the only kitchen with a 400 pound vibrating recliner occupied by a 250 pound chiropractor named Dr. Mary. Anyway, I have this memory of Dana with his Vietnam era ponytail coming in the back door and my mother's face lighting up. "Dana, there is a beautiful golden aura around your head."
Dana's face lit up as he accepted anything Dr. Mary said to him as the truth and I could picture him in his ramshackle garage locate in back of the Eliot library proudly telling everyone of his golden aura as he put another log in the wood stove.
Anyway, back to my problem-a broken back porch light I called several electricians listed in the Eliot phone book and was greeted by a recorded message. I believe that every recorded message of every tradesman was made by the same person and I base this emotional assessment on the fact no electrician would call me back! Finally, after a few days of stumbling up dark porch steps I decided to pay a visit to my good friend Dana who surely could fix me up with a competent electrician.
He was sitting at was once a hundred years ago an elegant living room chair. All my frustrations came to the surface as I complained that I could not get an electrician to come to the house. He rose to his feet scratching his chin demonstrating his sincere desire to help. "Well Ron it is like this. In boom times all the tradesman including the electricians are busy working on new housing construction and they can't be bothered with small jobs. In bad times they all leave for the big cities where they can find work. So there is only a small window of time when you can get a tradesman. "
I was astonished at his answer and my frustration was at the boiling point. "But Dana there has to be someone you know who could come over and fix a lousy porch light!."
More chin scratching and walking around deep in thought. "We...ll there is old Henry Smith. He could fix light and do a real good job, but..."
"But what Dana?"
"Old Henry passed away about six months ago."
"Dana", my voice rising higher than a choirboy. "That does me no good!"
Another well and more chin rubbing. "Ron, Old Henry is as apt to come and fix you light as anyone else."
I shook my head-defeated, thrashed beaten like an old rug-muttering to Henry Smith under my breath. "You old coot! Would it have killed you to live a few months longer!"-and that is when I knew I had become Mainer. My whole logic system had become Maineanised!" I needed a Maine solution and then it came to me. Maybe Dana with his brilliant golden aura surrounding his ponytailed head could be hired to stand on our back porch for a few hours every night-hmmm makes sense to me.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

miracle a day keeps the mind at bay

The problem of waking up to a new day is that I am still trying to make sense out of yesterday's miracle and I know another miracle is lurkingaround the corner waiting to perplex and make light of the lightness of my mind.
Today we resumed our training with John Lovering, a spiritual giant in a Yoda body, at the community radio station. We received our first critique from the big boss who is planning to put us on the schedule in Nov.-a half hour every other week. We need to get better at the technical aspects an be cured of insanity-not necessarily in that order. We were joined by a young 24 year old woman who is also disabled. Born with a genetic disorder that has left her underdeveloped with weak muscle control and extremely poor vision, she is hungry to find her place in the world-some work that she finds satisfying. We welcomed her with open arms. My friend and client John S. would welcome any lady with open arms. I told him on the way home that I was going to get a big rock and put a wig on it so he could proposition it all day long. Anyway here was today's miracle. We did a mock interview for practice and she answered the questions in this delicate voice that we had to strain to hear. I was asking most of the questions when out of the blue John S. intuitively asked her if she had ever been teased . Her being went back years ago and she was once again eating her lunch at a middle school cafeteria. "It was ravioli and the sauce was on my face and some kids said I was a little two year old who did not know how to take care of herself." She was crying and remembering and the pain was five seconds old and I looked around and we were all crying because our pain was also five seconds old. "We spoke of her courage for wanting to be a part of this team because she would hear more stories like this. On the drive home John S. asked if the rock could have blond hair-just kidding John if you read this. Love to all and especially those with those who have ever had sauce on their face.