The NFL only pretends to care about women

After reading the USA Today article on NFL coaches and incidents of domestic violence, I was struck by one theme. The coaches with violent histories against women all “declined to comment” and “teams would not make them available for comment,” and “would not answer written questions” concerning the allegations.

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Ray Rice was given a two-game suspension for knocking his fiancée out in an elevator. Justice? You decide. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ray+rice+and+wife&&view

You might recall NFL commissioner Roger Goodall proclaiming the league had a “commitment to being a leader on the issue of domestic violence,” following the harrowing video of player Ray Rice beating his fiancée and dragging her from an elevator. Yet Goodall also declined to be interviewed for the story disturbingly titled “Red flags in the NFL: Domestic violence allegations easy to find in coaches’ pasts, but teams didn’t act on them.”

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I guess this means the NFL cares about women.

Here’s the thing: The National Football League … doesn’t … care! Oh, they pretend to give a damn about women. Come on. All those guys wear pink in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In fact, the league also decreed October should be a time when we think about domsetic violence. And they want you to remember how great they are because they hired a woman official a few years back and another woman – Rita Smith – who is called “an adviser to the league on domestic violence issues.” Surely that means they support women.

But people, read the writing on the scoreboard. The league is only interested in covering up allegations of domestic violence. In fact, there is only one reason they give a whit about women: money. Statistics show women drive 70 to 80 percent of consumer spending and they are the dominant buyers of apparel and gifts. Now check those prices at the Official NFL Shop and do the math. (And isn’t it cute that the league also sponsors the Official NFL Ladies Shop?)

So let’s stop pretending. The league is and always will be a boys’ club, committed to defending its employees and hiding all incriminating evidence.

Can we do anything about this attitude? Probably not. However, even though I love football and have been an avid fan for almost four decades, I will never buy league paraphernalia, nor purchase a ticket to a pro game, nor buy a streaming service for the sole purpose of watching an NFL contest.

Perhaps you’ll join me. The more of us that turn away from the league, the better chance we have of them listening. And guys, if you’re vacillating, think of the women in your lives: your mothers, wives, sisters and daughters.

Do it for them.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

Press Box Faux Pas

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The press box is a serious place with rules and etiquett. I wish I’d understood that before I became a reporter.

I was a sports reporter for about fifteen years. During that time, there were certain job skills I was required to master. One was press box etiquette.

Unlike other occupations where one might seek guidance courtesy of a handbook or instructive power point, I had no way of knowing what was expected in that journalistic inner sanctum. So, sometimes, I made mistakes. Some that earned me the ridicule of my brethren.

One such moment took place when I was diligently watching the Arizona Cardinals lose another game. This was back when the Cardinals were one of the worst teams in the NFL – kind of like now. I was the team’s beat reporter for what was then KTSP-TV in Phoenix, which meant I traveled with the squad, attended games, and filed reports that ran on the evening news. I would watch from high above the field, documenting plays, determining story angles, identifying players I’d like to interview in the locker room following the game, and figuring out what I’d like to ask them, all of which would be pre-packaged for a live shot.

As you might expect, I got to know the players pretty well. Let me say here that, under the circumstances, I do not believe my behavior in the press box was horribly ill-mannered, still the other reporters were appalled when, on one rare, spectacular Cardinals play, I leapt in the air and cheered.

I was greeted by silence. I squinted at the row of reporters who stared at me with disdain. Apparently, cheering in the press box was a serious faux pas. But how was a I to know? No one handed out a list of do’s and don’ts upon entering the press box. And I was just delighted the Cards managed to sneak in something for their very short highlight reel.

The tension was thick. The other reporters turned away as if I had a contagious disease. I slumped into my chair, chastened.

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It was during a Rochester Americans hockey game that I got into a bind in the press box,

On another occasion, I watched the Rochester Americans – a minor league affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres – host an AHL game. There was a timeout on the ice. The referee skated up to the scoring table, performed a nifty hockey stop, and got into a conversation with the guys keeping the books. Then, he picked up the phone.

We reporters were startled when the phone rang in the press box. One of the guys grabbed the receiver, listened for a moment, and then looked at me and furrowed his brow. He scrunched up his face like he needed a serious dose of antacids. Then he held the phone toward me and said, “It’s for you.”

Slowly, I put down my pen and rose from my seat. I took the receiver.

“Hey!” The referee said. “Where do you want to have dinner tonight?”

“Um…” I glanced at the other reporters who were waiting, wondering.

The referee laughed.

“I … don’t … know.” I squirmed, all eyes on me.

Let me pause here and explain that, yes, I was dating the referee. (Never could resist a guy in stripes.) I stared at the ice and he looked up at the press box, gracing me with a rakish grin. Players were waiting. Reporters were staring. I was sweating. What could I say that would sound professional?

“Yes! That would be fine.” I hung up quickly and returned to my seat, acting as if there was nothing strange about a referee calling a reporter in the press box in the middle of a game. I stared at my notes and considered explaining that I had been an amateur hockey official, so we were discussing a rule clarification, but that was just silly. So I focused on the ice, where the ref dropped the puck and the game action resumed.

The other reporters seemed to be waiting for an explanation, but I avoided eye contact and hoped they would be distracted, since what could I say? I knew that dating the ref might be considered out of bounds. I gripped my pen and concentrated as the puck bounce around the ice.

Despite the apparent need for decorum in the press box – don’t interrupt the guys broadcasting the game, pick up after yourself, keep the volume down, cuz we’re working here – there’s one place in that hallowed hall that’s generally a free for all. I’m sure you can guess.

It’s the buffet. No one bats an eye when reporters stuff their pockets with extra cookies or candy bars, or they eat the last sandwhich, even if they’ve already had two. It’s just a perk, the scribes will say. No manners required. That’s one rule that was obvious right from the start.

I wish the others had been that clear.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

The things we save

I have moved around a lot over the course of my life. I’ve lived in eight states and another country. I’ve resided in 13 different homes. Through all of those moves – and the purging of personal goods that inherently comes along with such transitions – certain items remain.

Geode

My best friends gave me this lovely geode when I was 16 and I have cherished it ever since.

There’s the glass mug that says LHS – Livingston High School – Senior Prom, June 1, 1973. And my Yamaha 12-string guitar which I lugged from place to place without ever playing for 35 years. And the geode with an array of blue-gray crystals that my best friends gave me for my sixteenth birthday. And the rest of my rock collection that has grown to about 400 specimens, some that I’ve had since I was in elementary school.

I think of these things now because I recently had to go through my father’s possessions. He died in June a week shy of his 96th birthday after a long and interesting life.

I faced boxes piled atop one another, taped and carefully labeled. I picked up one that had an ominous message. Do Not Open!

“Sorry, Dad,” I said as I cut through the tape. Inside I found a thick wade of money, bills from the post-World War II Philippines and Japan. Numerous coins spilled out: Indian Head pennies dating back to the turn of the 20th century that mingled with a single New York City Transit Authority subway token and a few 1960’s-era Kennedy half dollars. In an Altoid tin, my dad had another collection of coins. These apparently from some of the countries he’d visited over the years: France, England, Germany, Ireland, Canada.

Dad and a sailor

My dad – on the right – had a box of pictures from when he was a sailor during World War II.

Inside another box were small black-and-white photographs of my father and his shipmates on board their destroyer escort – the U.S.S. Alvert Moore – during the war, as well a a photo of my mother dating back to 1939. Mom – who is the epitome of strait-laced propriety even today at 94 – appears in a pair of white short-shorts and a halter top. When I presented the photo to her, trying to suppress a laugh, she insisted the woman in the photo was not her. Even when I pointed out her name scrawled across the top, she dismissed the picture as an obvious fashion faux pax committed by someone else.

Mom in short shorts 2

Though my mother swears the woman in the short shorts isn’t her, clearly it is.

There were also six pairs of rosary beads and some saints’ cards. Not too surprising for a life-long Catholic. And a thick but tiny book titled Useful Information for Business Men Mechanics and Engineers, with gilt-edged pages devoted to Weights of Flat-Rolled Steel, Heat Colors, and Unit Compression Stress for Main Members. (Don’t ask me. Dad was an engineer. Oddly, he was rather useless at fixing things, still he managed to design and build complicated industrial machines.)

A small cardboard tube caught my attention. Inside were three pages of rolled-up orange paper dated August 8, 1969: a letter I wrote from Girl Scout Camp. “I’ve been scubaing in the jungle,” I said of one of my earliest scuba dives in Saranac Lake, New York. “It’s got millions of water vines and plants all over the place.” The post script read as follows. “Shelly passed into blue cap,” I explained of my friend who had struggled with swimming early on. “Boy, is she happy!”

Another box held a fistful of sobriety coins courtesy of Alcoholics Anonymous. Dad earned over 35 of those awards, an achievement of which he was immensely proud. There was also a theater program from my high school production of South Pacific where I played a Navy nurse and a complicated slide rule in a black leather case with markings indicating my dad had owned it since he was in college at Penn State.

While going through the boxes – several of which were confounding since they were empty – I noticed some trends. My dad apparently collected pocket knives – there were maybe a dozen – and fingernail clippers and dental floss. I placed them in piles wondering what possessed him to keep purchasing these items. I wish I could ask. Perhaps his predilection caused my own. I too love pocket knives and have acquired more containers of dental floss then I’ll ever use. (I’ve put many dentist’s children through college.)

Troy, Brandon and Ry Dad's funeral

My youngest son, Troy – on the left, with Ryan and our oldest son Brandon – wore my  father’s clothes to the interment ceremony. My dad would have liked that.

While clearing out my dad’s clothes, I couldn’t help but think of Jon Hamm’s character in the TV series Mad Men. Despite being raised in a family of mostly coal miners, my dad was a clothes horse who wore his Brooks Brothers suits, buffed wingtips, and rakish fedoras with pride as he ventured into New York City to work in the 1960s. I brought some of his clothes home and, as it turned out, they fit my youngest son perfectly, which has me doing double takes sometimes. My dad would have been delighted.

As I sorted through my dad’s belongings, I saved some things and discarded others. Clothing and shoes went to Goodwill. The watercolor of his ship at sea went to my brother, who will eventually pass it on to the great grand children, along with my dad’s service medals.

When I was finished, I wondered why my dad saved the items he packed in those boxes. I will never know. Still, I’m glad I had the opportunity to study the things that were important to him. It gave me the chance to hold onto him a little bit longer.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

Facing our fears: Once was enough

download-1Most people are afraid of something. For me it’s tight spaces. I’m not sure when I first fell victim to this phobia, but it might have been on a high school Friday night when a bunch of us were going to a drive-in movie. (Remember those?) I was encouraged to get into the trunk of a car before we drove through the gates – something about too many kids in a car. In any case, I freaked, and clawed the underside of the hood and yelled until they let me out.

So, I’m claustrophobic, a malady that smacked me in the head one day when I was one hundred feet below the surface of the sea staring at a hole in the ocean floor.

I’d been told about the lava tube we would encounter. I glimpsed the small opening as another diver’s fins disappeared into the darkness. I paused, sizing up the mouth of the cave. It was not much wider than my wingspan and perhaps three-feet tall.

I  turned to my sweetie pie, who was hovering by a woman who was uncomfortable diving. I pointed to the mouth of the cave and he shook his head. Then he took the woman by the hand and helped her swim above the tube.

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I’d take a shark anytime over a narrow underwater cave.

I stared at that hole and wanted nothing to do with it. It looked so small and dark, but then I saw a light flickering inside and, without thinking, I swam to the opening and ducked inside. White sand flowed along the cave floor. I saw fins in front of me and followed. Then, suddenly, the fins and the light vanished, leaving me in total darkness.

I stopped abruptly. Then panicked and considered backing out, but turning around in that narrow space in complete darkness was problematic. The back of my tank caught on the top of the tube. The contact was slight, but was enough to make me sick to my stomach. I dropped to the floor and dug my hands into the sand in an effort to calm myself. I started sucking air, which was bad. The compressed air in a scuba tank is used up quickly on a deep dive. I had to move forward soon, but was frozen.

I raised my head and stared into the darkness. I held one hand before me but could see nothing. I dug my free hand into the sand and lifted the other, pulling myself forward, gripping the sand so hard my hands hurt. Slowly, I moved forward and down. The tube descended beneath the sea floor, angling deeper as I went.

Why had I not brought a light? And why had I been dumb enough to go in without such an important piece of equipment? I continued inching forward. How long was the tunnel? Why had I not asked? The questions swirled.  I was tempted to reach to the side to see how wide the tube was, but was afraid to know the truth.

Sometime later, I caught a glimmer piercing the top of the tube, a broken spot in the ceiling that glowed with soothing blue light. I rounded a bend and was graced with an opening. Dim light flooded the the cave, illuminating walls that were startling close. I kicked hard and exited. My sweetie pie was overhead. He knew how I felt about small places, so he was concerned.

Later, after a hot shower and a strong, grown-up beverage, we talked about that deep, dark, watery hole.

Yes, I’m glad I tried to conquer my fear, still I don’t think I’ll do anything like that ever again.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

Roadkill

First, let me say that I love animals of all kinds. I am a dog and cat rescuer and even take great care when I transport house-bound spiders outside. My sobriquet – Eco Annie – was earned, in part, because I wholly believe in saving the Earth’s endangered species.

That said, I’ve occasionally had situations with wild creatures that didn’t end well. For them.

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Some seagulls are smarter than others.

Take, for example, the issue of the not-so-bright seagull, a creature I met dramatically on a lonely road along the Lake Ontario coastline. I came upon a whole flock of seagulls lounging on the tarmac. As I sped toward them, I watched the birds lift into the sky. Then I spied a single gull that remained on the blacktop. By the time he lifted languidly into the air, it was too late. He hit the windshield beak first and splatted, feathers flying.

I felt bad. Really bad.

Just down the road, a string of rocks appeared before me. Since my car was still shedding feathers, I slowed way down. To my surprise the rocks were moving, a long string of turtles, migrating from one side of the road to the other. Lovers of these sweet shelled beasts, be comforted. I waited patiently as the last turtle crossed the road, making it safely to the other side. So I was 1 and 1 on the kindness-to-wildlife scale.

Then there was the evening on another lonely road, this one in Western Australia. We were mining in the Outback – I’m an avid mineral collector – and as we left our campsite for the delicious promise of an actual bed and a warm meal, we were warned.

“The kangaroos will be out at dusk, so be careful,” our new Aussie friends explained.

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Many vehicles in Australia, cars and trucks alike, boast roo bars because of collisions with kangaroos.

The idea of a shower and a cold grown-up beverage had us ready to roll. Perhaps, it might have been advantageous had we actually considered  those massive metal contraptions that were mounted on the front of many of the vehicles we passed, quaintly referred to as “roo bars”.

“OK! You keep an eye out and yell if you see a kangaroo,” my sweetie pie said.

“Roger that!” I squinted through the windshield at the wild desert land that was quickly vanishing with the light. I surveyed the area, knowing that kangaroos love to nibble on the grasses that sprouted beside the road.

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I don’t think even Dr. Chris could have helped poor Skippy.

Suddenly, a head popped into view. “Kanga …” But before I had time to utter “roo” we’d smashed into that beast, spinning it up into the air and off into the shrubs. We skidded to a halt. I jumped out and looked for the animal. Today, after all those episodes Dr. Chris Pet Vet  – which, of course, I watched only to learn about veterinary care – I wonder if I might have been able to help an injured kangaroo. But I was unable to find the poor creature. (Now, if only I could locate Dr. Chris. But I digress.)

Ryan checked the front of the rental, examining the crushed-in hood that would, in the end, cost us a cool thousand bucks. Luckily, the car was drivable. As for Mr. Skippy, I doubt he fared as well as the vehicle.

The next day, on the road back to Perth, I was in for a bit of deja vu, for there in the middle of the road was a flock of birds. Not seagulls this time, but flamboyant mccaws, big birds with long blue and gold feathers.

“Wow! Look at that, Ryan said as we approached.

“They’re beautiful!”

As before, the flock took flight. And, as before, one stayed behind.

“Crap!” Ryan applied the brake, but the bird disintegrated in an explosion of pretty feathers, bits I later picked out of the grill.

I stared at my sweetie pie. He looked despondent. In less than twenty-four hours, he’d taken out a kangaroo and a mccaw. I patted his arm. “It’s OK. You didn’t mean to do it.”

He started the car and cautiously eased onto the road, carefully surveying the view in front of us.

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The thought of hitting a cuddly koala had Ryan driving slower than usual.

“What are you looking for?” I asked.

“A koala bear.”

“Geez! You don’t want to hit one of them!” Visions of koala meat sticking to the car made me shiver.

It took us a little longer to get back to our hotel than it should have, but, luckily, there were no koala parts to remove from the grill.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

“The goddamned family vacation”

I grew up in northern New Jersey, a suburb of New York City, graced with the big-city extras that location entails. I thought all kids got to see Broadway plays, peruse exhibits at the Museum of Natural History , and eat at fabulous restaurants in Little Italy. It wasn’t until I attended college that I discovered other places in the country were … different.

“Let’s go to the city,” a friend said one weekend.

So we hoped in the car and headed for Cincinnati. Upon my arrival at the spot where the Ohio and Licking rivers meet, I said, “So where’s the city?”

However, it’s not as if I was completely unfamiliar with the rural world. In fact, in the summer, my parents would load me and my two siblings into the station wagon for what my father once referred to as “the goddamned family vacation.”

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Like Eddie Albert and Zsa Zsa Gabor in Green Acres, my grandparents played at being farmers.

Our destination? My grandparents farm in Zanesville, Ohio. While they had not lived full time on those 325 hilly acres since the Great Depression, they would spend their summers at that broken-down house where my grandmother tended a large kitchen garden and my grandfather did his Green Acres bit, playing at being a farmer, riding around on a tractor and telling us to keep away from the bull, since one did not want to make the big guy mad.

Even though we were avid campers, this change of venue was astonishing for us suburban kids. There was no plumbing at the farm. We pumped water from a well that stood in the yard. There were no toilets. One had to trek over the hill where an outhouse provided a splintery seat where one might hear strange creatures scrabbling about underneath. And, because no one wanted to make that trek in the dark, we sometimes resorted to a quaint tin pot that rested under the bed. Baths were in a big metal tub that we lugged into the kitchen. A black, pot-bellied stove had a prominent spot in the living room. You could not step anywhere in that old farm house without hearing floorboards groan. The front porch sagged, proof that the dwelling’s best days had long since passed.

But what the farm lacked in amenities, it made up for with untamed beauty. Much of the land was forest, though there were fields that were rented to local cattle ranchers, where placid cows spent their days on pretty hillsides. There was a stream and ponds where my dad taught us to fish, showing us how to bait a hook and gently remove our sunfish from the line before returning them to their watery world. I saw my first quails perched on fenceposts, swimming copperheads, and a massive snapping turtle whose jaws were as big as my fist.

Some farm kids lived down the road and my brother, sister, and I found their accents peculiar. (In hindsight, I wonder what they thought of our New Jersey diction.) They let us ride their horse. All these years later, I still remember them laughing hysterically when said beast bolted with me on board, giving me a permanently bruised tailbone to remember them by.

All along the fence wild blackberries and raspberries boasted masses of sweet fruit. One day, I stuffed my pockets with those berries and – just for the joy of it – I ran up the hill to the house. On the way, I tripped and splatted on that one-lane road where the rare passage of a vehicle prompted people to stop what they were doing and wave. When I stood, all those smashed berries oozed from my pockets like jam.

After a week, my parents would pack us in the car and head back to Jersey. I’d watch the old farm house disappear and the one-lane road vanish between the hills. All the way home my siblings and I squabbled in the back of the station wagon, too far away for our parents to swat for misbehaving. While my dad loved the farm, I know it was the one-thousand mile round trip to that old house that earned our yearly trek the title “the goddamned family vacation”.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

The assault on silence

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What’s with all the noise?

What’s wrong with silence? It seems, of late, there is an all-out assault on quiet.

Take for example my recent trip to the dentist where I was excited to get a crown. (Nothing like grinding away at a damaged tooth to brighten your day.) In any case, I selected a magazine – that is an archaic news-delivery device  – and sat down to read.

There were several other dental patients waiting, all with heads firmly planted in the cellphone screens. And, yet, a TV blared reruns from the Home& Garden network. Now, I love a good international house hunt where Americans insist that they need five bedrooms and five baths on the chance that someone may come to visit. (Have they not heard of hotels?) Still, no one was paying the least attention to the TV. It was just making noise. So, I considered asking that the volume be turned off, but wondered if I might upset the fragile dental waiting-room applecart with such a request. Luckily, my name was called and I was off for an hour of hearing nothing but drilling.

Later, I headed to my health club for a swim and a steam, which would surely make me feel superior – Hey, I worked out! – and pleasantly relaxed. But no. I had to listen to some guy’s music which boomed from his headphones in that steamy environment. I wondered if he was hard of hearing. Clearly, if I waited long enough, he would be.

gas pump

Do we really need to hear commercials at the gas pump?

Then, I went to put gas in my car. Imagine my surprise when the pump called to me. I punched the button for Regular and jumped when an anchor-type woman – all coifed and pretty – started telling me about products I just had to have. I wanted to say, “Honey, was this your dream? Did you aspire to talk to people from a screen on a gas pump?”  Later, I looked up gas-station advertising and found this: Advertising at a fuel station is a great way to reach drivers in a captive setting. And that is exactly what I felt like: a captive, an animal in a zoo. It’s not like I could leave without filling my tank. I was trapped.

My question is whatever happened to quiet? When did silence become the enemy? When did it become a good idea to fill every waking moment with man-made sound? Perhaps, if the trend continues, we might someday be unable to abide silence.

I worry about that.

Is there a solution? I actually found a product that says it will solve the noise problem. You can order a DVD for $29.95. It’s silent. All you have to do is “turn the volume all the way up to drown out all that extraneous noise.”

I’ve got to think about that for a while. Now, if I could only find a quiet place to ruminate.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

The power of the press

A while back, I needed my shower fixed. I hired a contractor and, while reinstalling the decorative panels, the glass broke, shattering in thousands of sparkling pieces. I was not a happy girl when I found the box of glittery bits and was less enthused when I realized I could not take a shower.

I notified the contractor and asked that the requisite repairs be made, but when that did not occur in a timely fashion, I stopped payment on the fifteen-hundred-dollar check.

End of story? Not so fast. Six months later, a fifteen-hundred-dollar withdrawal was made from my account by said contractor, an unexpected deduction that sent me into a tailspin. By the time I understood what was happening, I’d bounced some checks and was understandably horrified.

So, I contacted the bank, explaining that they had made some kind of accounting error.

download“No, there’s no mistake,” a bank employee explained breezily. “The fifteen-hundred-dollar check went through two weeks ago.”

“But … I put a stop on that check! He’s not allowed to cash it!”

“Well, yes … he can.”

“How is that possible?”

She sighed. “A check hold is only good for six months.”

“That doesn’t even make sense!” I’m sure I said calmly. “You’re telling me that, for the rest of my life, I have to keep renewing my hold on that check every six months?” There was a slight pause, so perhaps I wasn’t as calm as I thought.

“Yes.”

“I want my money back.”

“I’m sorry, that is our policy.”

Back when this happened, I was still a new teacher, making new-teacher pay. So, fifteen-hundred dollars was a ton of money. I asked to speak to a manager. When I got the same answer from him, I asked to see the bank president. As you might expect, he was busy. In fact, every time I tried to get in touch, he was unavailable.

“What are you going to do?” My sweetie-pie asked.

“I don’t know.” I frowned. “There are no options.”

“Are you sure?”

th-2“You know, if I was still a member of the media, I’d march right in and …” That’s when the lightbulb went off.

I called the editor of a paper I used to write for and asked if I could borrow my old reporter cap for a few days. I explained my plan and he agreed.

I called the bank and told the president’s secretary that I was a reporter doing a story on bank regulations and policies. Would her boss mind being interviewed for my piece? (Here’s what I know about most people. They like being interviewed. Are impressed that someone might be interested in their thoughts and opinions.)

After placing me on hold, she said, “Yes! He would love to have you come in.”

Bingo!

I was escorted to the big guy’s office, introduced myself, and sat in a plush chair. I smiled and asked him to discuss the policy involving stopped checks being just temporary.

Without skipping a beat, he launched into the spiel I had already heard several times.

“Do you think that’s fair?” I asked.

He spread both hands. “That is our policy.” Then he squinted, perhaps suddenly aware that reporters report on things publicly.

downloadI made a point of adjusting my recorder. “So, what would you say to people who have lost money in this way?

“Um …”

“In fact, what would you say to me, since I’m out fifteen-hundred dollars because of your policy?”

He froze. Our eyes met across his desk. Slowly, he picked up the phone. After a long conversation, he hung up. Then he described the very convoluted journey my money had taken through another bank and the difficulties involved in getting it back.

I folded my hands in my lap and waited.

“I’m not sure there’s anything we can do.” Now he looked nervous. The recorder kept whirring.

Perhaps it will come as no surprise that, relatively quickly, my fifteen-hundred dollars magically reappeared in my account. Would I have received a refund had I not been a reporter? I think not. As a bonus, my editor ran the story in which I advised those who place holds on checks to make sure they read the fine print.

So – all together now – let’s hear it for the power of the press! Hip hip hooray!

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

“You want me to do what?”

High School Year Book Pic

See that last line from my high school yearbook? “This is your local sports announcer.”

I wanted to be a sportscaster from the time I was a teenager. And that is exactly what I eventually got to do. But back in those nascent days, I thought I understood the requirements of the job. However, I would learn that I did not.

While sportscasting requires the skills one might expect – being able to ask concise, relevant questions, having a good eye for B-roll, the ability to tell a good story, and the adept application of make-up – Yes, I’m a chick, so that too mattered! – there were other obligations about which no one informed me.

Take, for example, the day I was called to my boss’s office when I was working for a station in Rochester, New York.

“Go to the race track.” My news director – a man of few words, many of which were loud and angry – directed.

I considered whether I should ask why, but just said, “Sure!”

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The fact that I was being asked to race an ostriche came as a big surprise.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the horse track, where I generally expected to see horses, only to find a flock of ostriches. I noted that all the other local sportscasters were there, as well.

“What are we doing?” I asked the assemblage of on-camera sports folks.

“Racing ostriches,” someone called out.

“What?” I was flummoxed. Then I saw a harness and sulky being attached to a giant bird. I’d spent some time around standard bred race horses, so I was familiar with the get up and had, in fact, previously had the opportunity to warm up a racehorse on a track. But now I was looking at a nine-foot bird that looked none to happy about being strapped to the two-wheeled cart.

Still, after donning a helmet and easing myself into the seat, I, along with my sportscasting brethren, did indeed race those big, feathered beasts and lived to tell about it.

At a station in Phoenix, I received another summons. “Go to the state fair!”

“Aye Aye, Cap’n.” That was in my head. I did not address the news director in such fashion. It was probably more like, “Yes, Great Leader!”

My cameraman and I arrived at the state fairgrounds where we walked past myriad stands selling all things fried. Oreos, Twinkies, Bananas, Corn Dogs, and Indian Fry Bread. (Mercifully, this was before they started serving fried butter, a “delicacy” I have never been able to wrap my head around.)

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Yep! That goat needs milking. And I was called on to perform the task.

We were escorted to a barn-like shed, which was, in fact, I big-ass barn. Farm animals bleated and squealed and mooed, as we walked by. We stopped in front of a pen filled with goats. I stared at the multi-colored beasts and they stared back. “Are we here to watch them race,” I asked, wondering how such an event might play on my evening sportscast.

As it turned out, there would be no goat racing, because I was there to milk a goat, a competitive event that pitted me against others of my ilk. Now, I don’t like milk unless it comes in the form of cheese or ice cream, so the idea of eliciting warm milk from a goat udder made me a bit queasy. And, the fact that I was supposed to perform said act on camera – looking fabulous, makeup perfect, hair in place – was something else entirely.

Did I milk the goat? Yes. Do I have any desire to touch those velvety teats ever again? Not in the slightest.

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Too fast! Much too fast! Please stop!

Another time I was directed to a drag strip. There, I was positioned in the front seat of a fast car and told to drive … fast. “Put the pedal to the metal when the green light flashes.” I was instructed.

My cameraman in the backseat looked dubious. I’m not really into speed, but I did as I was told and was shocked at how quickly the end of the track came into view. Terrified, I slammed on the brakes, a little too early perhaps. But we didn’t die. And no, like milking the goat, I never want to do that again either.

Over the course of my sportscasting career, as one might expect, I reported on sports. But I also took a horse through a jumping course, ice danced, and played an awkward match of polo. I guess all those extracurriculars are just part of the playbook. Still, I wish someone had told me ahead of time.

Perhaps I might have been more prepared.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

Losing my school newspaper: The mermaid conundrum

ORDER-33744_Header-_Final

After 65 years, our school newspaper is no more.

When I head back to school this year, something will be different. South Mountain High School, where I have been teaching for almost two decades, will no longer have a student newspaper. The Southwinds journalism classes, which have been in existence since the school was founded back in 1954, have been cancelled.

I suppose it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. After all, professional publications all over the country are folding under the weight of the Internet, where social media “reporters” can post anything anonymously and without regard for reliable sources and veracity. As a former journalist, the thought is almost physically painful.

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In my journalism classes, I taught my students how to determine whether a story was true or a fabrication.

I will now show my age by saying that when I was a reporter one had to verify facts by obtaining three separate sources who would agree that the information was accurate. (Imagine that!) It was also necessary to write a balanced story, meaning that those with opposing viewpoints needed to be given equal time. Reporters did not take sides, except in instances where stories were clearly labeled as commentary.

Today, the networks force reporters to opine in order to fill commercial slots and to make sure their listeners hear only what they already believe to be true. We wouldn’t want folks to make their own decisions based on fair and balanced reporting, now would we?

But back to the demise of school newspapers. Note that I am not blaming my school administrators. They have allowed my journalism classes to exists for years with just a small number of students. Unfortunately, the word journalism implies that students must write and, sadly, most have no interest. I suppose I should be grateful that the Southwinds has managed to survive this long.

Still, while I realize I am biased, I can think of nothing more valuable than producing well-rounded adults who can think for themselves. What that requires is the ability to discern whether a story is true or a fabrication. My journalism classes did just that: identify a source, determine their bias by reading their mission statement or biography, and read their comments carefully before deciding if they are worthy of your trust. My motto in regard to using sources in stories is, “When in doubt, leave them out.”

But, perhaps, my time has passed. Maybe people are more comfortable thinking that whatever they already believe is right. And that, conversely, everyone else must be wrong. Certainly, the networks have determined that this is an extremely profitable methodology. So, why mess with success.

Oh, wait! If no one is willing to change their opinion based on truth, where are we headed? If that idea doesn’t give you an uncomfortable chill down your spine, I don’t know what will. But I am afraid for our future.

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Sadly, I always have students who believe in mermaids, because they’ve “seen” them on the Internet.

I’ll give you an example. My classes often begin with a discussion on what’s happening in the news. No subject is out of bounds. Every year the same topic emerges. Mermaids. I am not kidding here. I always have numerous students who argue with me claiming half-human/half fish creatures exist. I then provide the facts: Even warm sea water is too cold for humans.  They would die of hypothermia. Our skin would slough off after being in the water too long. Why are there no mermaid remains?

Yet, invariably, they smile and shake their Disney fairytale-infested heads. “But I saw one on the Internet, Ms. Montgomery.”

Eiee! Even when I explain that I’m a scuba diver and have spent a great deal of time searching for sea life around the world and have witnessed nary a sign of a mermaid, they disagree. Because they want to believe in mermaids, they do. Facts don’t matter. Not even when I point out the obvious fakery in their YouTube mermaid videos.

However, by the end of the school year, after pounding them on their sweet heads about verifying sources and having a healthy dose of skepticism when faced with dubious news stories, many do come into the light.

But my journalism classes are done. Who will teach them about truth now?

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.