Archive for the ‘PTSD’ Category

ODE TO MY FRIENDS, THE SPAMMERS…

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Having just set up a new desktop computer – my old faithful homebuilt crashed after eight years of steady use – you can understand why I haven’t posted much of anything these past weeks. Another reason is that I just got tired of mostly putting stuff out there for you spammers to make money from. Yes, after two years of writing blogs, that I hoped would stir up interest in my 3 ACES website and perhaps an occasional purchase of my novel, 3 ACES, I’ve come to the realization that perhaps the only guys and gals (if you really have a corporeal form) voraciously gobbling up my blogs are you Spammers.

I honestly didn’t know what a Spammer was. So I had to look you up on the internet, just like you looked me up. Except that I find you really aren’t a “you” at all. What you are is a “spambot,” some kind of spider that goes crawling around looking for peoples’ work to glom onto and send out in bundles that somehow makes you a lot of money with the tap of a computer key. Doesn’t sound very nice to me. Or ethical either. But you are going to do it, just like Congressmen who ply their trade of scamming the public by accepting bribes from business through middlemen (and women, often their own relations) called lobbyists. I guess your Spammer middleman is the very same implement that I am using to get this blog message out. Does that make me a kind of Spammer scammer too?

I know a few people have run across my blogs and read them for pure enjoyment. I’ve actually received comments from such people, and can tell you that it really makes my day when that happens! It’s not a regular occasion, mind you, but it’s sure welcome.

Well, I hope the content of this blog will sail out there with the content from the others. And maybe whoever ends up using my content to promote their own business will have little twinges of embarrassment when they read this content that they have purchased from the Spammers in question and stop giving them business. It’s really not right.

As for all the kind folks who have said nice things and posted legitimate comments to the articles on my 3 ACES site, keep ’em coming!

BURIED IN BALTIMORE…

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

It was 2:00 in the afternoon, Sunday, February 20th…I had just pulled off Interstate 83, north of the Baltimore Beltway, into the parking lot of the Hunt Valley Shopping Center for a cup of coffee, when I felt the bump-bump-bumping of a front left tire quickly going flat. I got no more than ten feet toward the row I intended to park in, when, in a flash, the brake pedal of my 1987 Dodge Diplomat slumped all the way to the floor; the car keeled over and screeched along the asphalt to a halt!

Getting out to survey the damage, it was instantly apparent I’d escaped calamity out there on I-83. I’d been on my way home from the very special funeral of my august mother-in-law at the Highland Presbyterian Church, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. As if that hadn’t been excitement enough, my head spun as I witnessed, beneath my car’s left front fender, wheel and tire collapsed at a 70 degree angle against a rusty frame! The Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania and home were suddenly a moonshot away!

Dazed, I wandered into Wegmans supermarket, where a sympathetic clerk at a long information desk offered me a phonebook the size of – and just as inscrutable as – the Magna Carta. Slumping to a seat on a bench that faced the check-out lanes, I failed to focus at finding the AAA auto club’s number, of which I happened NOT to be a member. Which of several towing outfits was the right one? And if I did pick a winner, where was I going with the car? Which of the dozen garages listed could be trusted to repair my car? Which of them were open on a Sunday? I never thought of suburban Baltimore as being a particularly friendly place, but the store manager approached and asked what my problem might be. As quickly as I poured out my predicament, he was on his cell phone speaking with an inexpensive and functional towing outfit. The manager also disclosed that I was within shouting distance of a well-regarded Sears’ auto repair center – which, in fact, proved to be on the opposite side of the shopping center directly behind his store. My benefactor had no sooner left when a gentleman took a seat beside me and – explaining he had overheard the store manager’s conversation – called the Sears people, relaying the situation with my car as I laid it out to him. Squirming in discomfort, I uttered a snippet to my tale of woe; I was expected  back in northern Pennsylvania Wednesday morning, bright and early, for eye surgery. Angel #2 smiled in return and put me on his cell with “Chris,” the Sears weekend manager, who guessed they could have my car up and running and out the door by late Monday afternoon.

The tow truck driver, a friendly chap from El Salvador, spoke excellent English. When we’d towed my car around to Sears, he offered to chauffeur me, gratis – in the tow truck – to a motel of my choice. My first selection, the nearby Hunt Valley Inn, at $140 a night, proved too much for my pocketbook. We made the rounds of several other places near the mall (no reduction in the prices!) until he thought of the former Hampton Inn. A mile away, it was $89 plus tax. Recently reborn as a Comfort Inn, it was to be my palatial and comfortable home for the next several days.

Monday, I was at the Sears garage as quickly as I could get there – not as easy a job as you might think. Over the past several weeks, Baltimore and its environs had been stricken with at least four feet of snow; the sidewalks piled even higher – undoubtedly hurled in haste off the streets and now frozen mounds of ice. You couldn’t walk anywhere, even to a place within sight; wild, relentless traffic made the cleared streets too dicey for foot traffic.

Enter “Jimmy’s Taxi,” a super efficient bunch that appeared almost before you called them and, at reasonable rates, got you where you needed to go at bullet speed. The cab drivers, although from India, were cheery, quite Americanized, and knew the Baltimore area like the tanned back of their hands. The warning about the sidewalks and the “Jimmy’s” recommendation had come from the girl manning the Comfort Inn front desk – as it turned out, another godsend from yet another angel.

At the Sears garage, Monday’s news  was mixed: they’d found the problem: the upper left wheel control arm had virtually disintegrated from age and road salt. My car being 23 years old, the suspension parts were not readily available; it could take weeks to locate them. Brown’s salvage yard to the rescue…out on Kirkwood Road in the town of White Hall; they sent a man into a junkyard drifted five feet with snow to pull the part from the single matching Dodge car in their inventory. As for Monday, that’s all she wrote….

At the motel, Tuesday morning, I grew totally antsy. I’d been forced to cancel the eye surgery back home, already once rescheduled because of the funeral. In a dither, bag and baggage, I checked out of the Comfort Inn and took up residence in the waiting room at the Sears garage. Either that car was going to be fixed, or… or, what? Andy, the mechanic, took me out into the garage and showed me the mess confronting him. Trying to mount the junkyard arm, he had discovered further hidden rot at the point of attachment. Andy broke it to me gently – the car was not easily, if at all, fixable. Furthermore, it was Andy’s personal advice not to drive it one mile further, even if he were to fix it. The amount of hidden salt and rust damage to the frame, the brake lines, etc., in his opinion, made the car a death trap. Andy didn’t have to tell me that if that control arm had let go out there on 695 or on I-83, at 70 miles an hour I most certainly would have been attending my own funeral.

I hated saying good-bye to my old friend the Diplomat, but I cleaned the car out, and gave it a burial right there in the Sears garage. (Brown’s arrived the next day and towed it off – along with the unused control arm – to keep the other Dodge company out in there the drifts.) That afternoon, I leased a little Chevie Cobalt from Avis and headed up I-83, first toward York and Harrisburg, PA, then east to a bed at my daughter’s home in Kutztown, some four hours away.

What did I learn from this experience? First, never, EVER, look a gift horse in the mouth. When O’bama presented his “cash-for-clunkers” deal I’d turned up my nose at it – that $4500 dollar allowance I’d missed, was looking very good on the new car I now belatedly contemplated purchasing. Why in hell had I stubbornly stuck to that clunker? Sure, I’d bought it five years ago for $1500, but in the past 18 months the expensive repair bills had been mounting. And as to the SAFETY aspects? – I’d been totally out of my mind driving that car at speed on trips to Florida, lucky to still be alive. I’d certainly been warned – not just by my son and daughter – but by practically everyone who knew me.

The best lesson of all was in discovering how wonderfully helpful Americans can be when they see someone in trouble. It’s the kind of thing that takes you totally by surprise – folks in the middle of a stressful day, coping with their own problems, simply putting them aside to come to your aid. If we are looking at hard times, then, as Dubyah once told us, “bring em on!” I suspect hard times will only bring out more of that kindly AMERICAN SPIRIT that so helped me a few days ago in Baltimore.

FAREWELL CHRISTMAS BUM…

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

From the corner of my eye, driving home New Year’s Eve, I spotted him in the the driving snow…treading the bridge walkway over the ice-filled Susquehanna River…bent into the snowdrops, grizzled, ruddily complected, bed roll strapped above his backpack…not a scene I felt comfortable being a party to from my snug, warm vehicle.

Had I been the victim of some paranormal vision? – a witness to some holiday will-o’-the-wisp?..or some benighted Santa sailing through the Christmas of our town and on into 2010? Bless me, I swear I was perfectly sober…and may I say, completely rational.

In nine years of crossing this nation as a long haul trucker – incidentally gathering information for my novel, 3 ACES – how many lost wanderers had I borne witness to over the million miles I logged? In springtime they would sprout, once again after a winter’s absence, along the highways and byways. And a week or so later you would pass them off as part of the indigenous scenery. But this? – this isolated Santa seeking neither aid nor attention, this apparition bending doggedly onward in a swirl of snowflakes… (more…)

WHAT’S A DOG DOING IN MY TRUCK? – OR HOW “PIP” POPPED INTO 3 ACES.

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Whenever you pull alongside a big truck and glance up at the driver, you may spot another face staring down at you, that of man’s best friend. Truth is, many drivers – not to put down their womenfolk, at home with the kids – welcome a dog’s company. Reciting your troubles to a canine pal won’t get you any answers; on the other hand, it won’t produce any criticism. When you’re all done kvetching to your four-legged friend, what you will get is an impulsive slurp or two on the kisser accompanied by an enthusiastically wagging tail. Your long haul pooch is happy just to have you all to him or herself.

A trucker faces often impossible delivery deadlines, grueling hours behind the wheel, arguments with his dispatchers, and telephone battles with the home front – if there’s anything left of the marriage after a few years of regional or long-haul driving. You want to rest assured there’s no one breaking into your cab while you’re in a truck stop shoveling down a meal or enjoying a good, warm shower; a snarling beast steaming up the windows of your truck is a wonderful deterrent. (more…)

PTSD – HANDS OFF; STAY AWAY!…(PART II)

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

Last post, I promised we’d discuss my personal reactions to the psychiatric community regarding PTSD. I’ll cite two experiences: one from my childhood; the second from an attempted visit to a regional Veterans’ Hospital.

I’m the first to admit that, in my teens, I began to have emotional problems – a delayed result from a traumatic accident to my feet as a three year old and the experience of subsequent multiple surgeries. My parents sent me to a respected  psychiatrist in a neighboring city. The shrink listened an hour to my problems, then asked: “…Have you ever considered it may be your parents who are the real problem?” – and with this advice sent me packing. What’s a confused sixteen year old boy to make of that analysis? (more…)

PTSD – HANDS OFF; STAY AWAY!… (Part I)

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

When, at the age of three, you have your feet lopped off in a hayfield by a horse-drawn haymower and by some miracle a surgeon delicately reattaches them; then, over the next 14 years have one surgery after another that solidly fuses the fragmented ankle joints and prepares your feet for an active adult life – wouldn’t you think you qualify as some kind of an expert in survivial?

And when the research for a trucking novel you are writing, concerning a recon vet suffering from PTSD, discloses to you that YOU also have been suffering from PTSD, probably from the very day of your accident a lifetime ago – wouldn’t you also say you have some kind of credentials when it comes to discussing PTSD?

Well, guess what?…you don’t! (more…)

HARD TIMES, HELL – JAMMIN’ DOWN FREMONT STREET…

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

From a 9th floor window of Binion’s Golden Horseshoe tower my gaze fell upon a crowd of thousands, swaying and dancing to the pounding beat of California Dreamin’. Down there on old Fremont Street was a stageful of everything wild and crazy: two stolid, surging rock guitarists; an off the wall drummer; an intensely cool keyboardist; the almost hidden, busy light and sound technician; and, last but not least, two wonderfully frenetic and tireless female dancer/singers lighting up the bandstand and the crowd. The vibrations penetrating my room too much to resist, I flicked off my laptop, took the elevator down to the casino level and elbowed my way through the rows of slots and gaming tables. (more…)

SUMMERTIME IN VENICE…

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Well, I suspect we’re not where you thought… I’m referring to the June 17th, 2009 meeting of the Sarasota Florida Writers Association – except that this meeting took place in the Nokomis, Florida Volunteer Fire Company’s nicely air conditioned meeting room here in the good ol’ USA. (A former meeting place in one of the Sarasota Public Library rooms had become too cramped and the available hours unworkable.) If I mention air conditioning it’s only because the temperature throughout the Venice-Nokomis-Sarasota area had been running 101 degrees, accompanied by 85% relative humidity, resulting in a (dis)comfort index reading of 115. (more…)

AS SERIOUS AS IT GETS – PTSD…

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

In World War I it was known as SHELL SHOCK; in World War II they called it BATTLE FATIGUE.  Today we know it as a problem of the mind: PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is defined as a psychological condition affecting those who’ve experienced a traumatizing or life-threatening event such as an accident, rape, natural disaster, a violent personal assault, or  wartime combat. (more…)

“MOST VICIOUS VILLAIN IN MODERN AMERICAN FICTION…”

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

In his Amazon review this past summer, that’s what Thomas Livingston called Karl Stohner – Dawn and Abner’s nemesis in my novel, “3 ACES.”

Take a look again at last week’s blog. You’ll see (in Part I, of “Wake Up America!”) my confession about an earlier draft missing the real thrust of the international financial disaster unfolding before us.

What has this to do with Karlton Stohner – the novelistic villain concocted some years ago as I wrote “3 ACES,” my recently released action-adventure/romantic-suspense novel?  Well, I had the pleasure of attending prep. school with a number of future movers and shakers, a few of whom have been in high governmental positions. Several others became executives in New World Order enterprises, waxing rich on the import business from goods manufactured in their foreign plants – goods showered upon the American consumer who was frantically tapping supposed home equity with adjustable-rate 2nd and 3rd mortgages; but, as it has turned out, really consuming their retirement nest eggs.

In my saga I wanted a villain who would personify all that I felt had gone wrong in the globalist businessman – a character who would act as a foil to the down-home, simplistic goals of my trucking duo, Dawn & Abner; Karl Stohner resulted.

To start with: what better than concocting an eponymous surname connoting the biblical act of stoning someone to death? (...Stohner condemns you to  slow financial death – enticing you today into cheap imports and expensive casinos with funds that should be tomorrow’s savings.) As with  Dawn Carlisle and Abner Weaver, my leading duo, Karl Stohner evolved as a composite of several people.

As a schoolchild, I never forgot the bullies. I remember being  pushed face-first into a blackboard by one of them when the teacher had briefly left the room. He had a henchman then; now he has several, and his physical insults have matured into snide comments. At a dinner several years ago, he was not shy in comparing my closeted life (“your downhill struggle for literary success”) with his global, money-making genius. Another of the bullies has passed away; a third remains in questionable health. All of them were tall of stature, neatly topping off their air of nastiness. (Why do the tall ones among us most often rise to executive status and wealth? Are we forced to look up at them, or do they simply bull ahead with that looming presence?) So I made Stohner a collegiate basketball star, who briefly entered pro. basketball – before finding a way to make far more money.

We first meet Karlton Stohner, fresh off his private jet, in Chapter 12 of “3 ACES,” as he heartlessly prepares to scavenge the key accounts from a trucking competitor, the current employer of Abner Weaver. (At the same time Stohner is ripping off the man with the lease of used vehicles he is certain to profitably repossess.)  When the competitor collapses and Abner is carried into Stohner’s fold of companies, Stohner spies Abner’s driving partner, Dawn, and sets out to possess her as well.

If Karlton Stohner is to attempt this, we need to invest him with a goodly amount of charm. Divorced for some time, his solid wealth a given, I made Karl extremely personable; somewhat of a raconteur; and marginally modest in the presence of an attractive woman (“…I speak as the unvarnished son of a Kansas wheat farmer”). Stohner always plays the odds – he mistakes Dawn for a pushover when he puts the heat on and invites her, in Chapter 27, to join him in his Hong Kong container, shipping, and currency trading operations. He’d present a challenge to any intelligent, ambitious woman: Stohner is attractive, bright, smooth and slippery – a world class shark!

Abner is not fooled. In reference to Stohner, alluding to to his youth in southern Pennsylvania, he warns Dawn: “The dirt of Lancaster county ran through my hands ’til I left for Vietnam. How does a man turn his back on his homeland…unless he’s a sick rat!”

This is a tale of global business, American Trucking, and the Vietnam war. Conflict lies at the heart of any good action/adventure novel. “3 ACES,” by its very nature, has plenty of action and adventure – and the character of Karl Stohner promises there will be plenty of conflict.

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