Psychotherapy is socially taboo; buying a gun, not so much – how can we change the culture?

guns with history

This video is a good example of how the gun culture can be changed by people believing their own observations, rather than their perceptions.

We’re a gun culture and nothing will change that. I used to think otherwise until there was another mass shooting, this time in Las Vegas – 59 dead over 500 wounded. I don’t know about you, but I’m growing tired of all this.

I suppose the positive is the out pouring of care – random people wanting to donate blood, heroic acts by strangers, prayer vigils, flowers left at the scene, public officials decrying the action, social media memes.

Before Vegas, it was Congressman Scalise shot while playing baseball this summer.

Before that, it was the June 2016 Orlando Massacre – 49 dead and 53 wounded.

Before that was in October 2015 at Umqua Community College in Oregon that was shot up by another twisted buy with 14 weapons in his apartment.

Rather than more laws, how can the culture change?

There’s an excellent scenario that played out in Manhattan with huge impact. Prospective first-time gun buyers get their wake up calls about gun ownership. Watch it here.

Buffalo Operation Rescue 1992

The gun control lobby should take a page out of the anti-abortion lobby playbook and start publicly shaming gun shop patrons.

The anti-gun lobby should take a page out of the anti-abortion playbook.

The anti-abortion lobby works hard to change the culture through grassroots efforts. It can’t pass laws that ban abortions, but put up roadblocks like strategic public shaming.

The pro-gun lobby says that more laws won’t keep guns out of the hands of anybody, let alone crazy people.

I acquired my hunting rifle from a friend. When I gave up the sport, I traded it to a guy who did some tile work.  I had a box of shot gun shells that I used for a movie prop and sold those at a garage sale. Guns are easy to come by.

I have to agree with that, particularly with 300 million civilian guns in circulation. One size does not fit all.

The crazies and bad guys get guns regardless of laws. The United States government is the largest consumer of firearms in the world.

newtown parents testifying

Newtown parents testifying before elected officials has fallen on deaf ears.

The politicos think that keeping guns out of the hands of crazy people is the answer. All crazy people have access to guns, but not all crazy people have access to mental health services.

That makes sense from a rhetorical standpoint, but I don’t know how politicians decide who’s the craziest, though.

Who’s crazier, McConnell or me? It’s a toss up.

It may be a personal choice to access mental health care services, but part of creating a new culture includes a social environment that makes seeking mental health services socially acceptable. Depression and other mental diseases are coming out of the shadows.

The POTUS 2018 budget slashes funding for mental health services which doesn’t exactly encourage people to seek services which are scarce. When a guy like the Vegas shooter knowingly goes up into a hotel with two dozen fire arms, that’s a public health issue.

While I’m sure that everyone personally deals with events like this differently, there doesn’t seem to be very many who are interested in creating the social and cultural change necessary to end gun violence.

I, for one,  haven’t followed the Vegas shooting much and end up watching the fake violence switching back and forth between Law & Order SVU and Criminal Minds.

Compared to anti-abortion groups zealots, the anti-gun group members don’t show the same long-term passion that would include protesting in the rights-of-way of gun stores or on the public sidewalks in front of the Walton family homes; grooming like-minded people to put in for appointed and run for elected public offices.

caleb keeter vegas

Kyle Abbott band guitarist Caleb Keeter posted this tweet after he was shot at during the show in Vegas.

I’m thinking that in the final analysis, the only people who get involved in trying to change the gun culture are those families and friends directly affected by the death or injury to a friend or loved one.

That’s a pretty small number of people and they can’t do it alone. The anti-gun lobby needs to come up with a higher purpose for their end game.

After Vegas, there was a country music guitarist, Caleb Keeter who had a wake up call after playing at the concert that night. He tweeted “I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment all my life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was.”

Knowing his market, he may well go the route of the Dixie Chicks.

After the Vegas massacre, I doubt any legislators will put forth much effort beyond strong emotional responses, particularly since nothing happened after 49 were gunned down in Orlando, 27 school kids murdered in their school, nine South Carolina church goers shot in the back, another nine gunned down in a community college classroom.

Here are three ideas to help change the culture without having to take anyone’s guns away since that’s not happening any time soon:

Short Term: Go to the shooting range and take a hunter safety class – The United States is a gun culture. If you don’t want to fire a gun, at least go to a gun shop and handle one – they have a distinct smell, they are heavier than the ones Detective Benson slings around. I used to be a hunter, but that experience gave me an appreciation for the power of guns and a realization that animals don’t stand much of a chance against them. I felled an antelope, shot at a few deer which was enough for me – it was a right of passage for a Wyoming guy. The country was founded on violence and the Constitution was written with that in mind – preserving and protecting citizen rights. The last thing the government is going to do is take away people’s guns. I know that’s a scare tactic, but a successful one since the gun lobby continues to grow and the sale of guns is out of sight, despite nobody taking away any guns.

Medium Term: *Civil Rights Laws – Unless authorities uncover some hidden agenda behind the Vegas massacre shooter, this isn’t applicable, but after Orlando, I heard Matt Lauer talking about this on the Today Show. He asked a Homeland Security guy about what it would take to “asterisk” civil rights laws so that anyone like the Orlando terrorist could continue to be watched and monitored even if there is no probable cause determined. I think the only time limited martial law was approved was by the antebellum Congress at the time of Abraham Lincoln.

Long Term: Reapportionment – the US Census will be completed in 2020 and new US congressional districts will be drawn as well as state legislative districts. The SCOTUS ruled in favor of independent redistricting commissions taking gerrymandering out of the political process. This is an opportune time to create competitive state and national districts and balance when considering potentially divisive legislation.

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June 2014 – Acupuncture and Yoga

alan michael yoga

My friend and colleague Michael Conti shot some yoga footage for my “Aging Gratefully” documentary series.

It’s been about a year since I started to hit the wall. No energy, lost a lot of weight. I even missed the Mighty Fudge Halloween party last year. As an update, I’ve noticed a few things lately.

My hair has become quite curly. My across the sidewalk, Jim, got a haircut, which is notice that I need a haircut. I usually let it grow out fairly long, but this time around it was curling up in the back.

I asked Riley at my haircut place about it. She said that there isn’t any hard evidence, but she has noticed that as men’s hair gets grayer, it starts to get curlier. She said, in her experience, it’s mostly men and fewer women.

Since I’ve been getting acupuncture every week, I thought it might have something to do with that. Apparently straight hair follicles are different that curly hair follicles and they get changed.

The last few weeks, my acupuncture treatments have included electro-stimulation for the Post Herpetic Neuralgia that’s settled into my left scalp and forehead.

In my case, e-stim entails an acupuncture treatment known as “surrounding the dragon.” Needles are placed into several points – generally on the crest of my head, on the eyebrow, in the cheek and in the temple-area. Micro-power leads are attached and low current flows through.

My observation, only two of the acupuncture practitioners I’ve seen are okay with the e-stim treatment. All the others see it as “non-traditional” which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Electric fish were used by the ancient Egyptians to relieve pain. The fish were placed over wounds. In the 1930s, acupuncturists in China refined the treatment using the acupuncture needles and batteries.

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Electro-stimulation treatment at the Southwest Acupuncture College

It is more of a Dr. Frankenstein – type treatment, but seems to work pretty well for me, but maybe the e-stim caused my hair to curl like when getting too close to lightning causes hair to stand on end.

The acupuncture clinic has also been aggressively treating my Interstitial Pneumonia. According to acupuncture theory, the lungs and skin are closely related since they are both exposed to the air.

I’ve been going to acupuncture since May. I don’t know if the treatments have been doing any good, but there has been remarkable improvement based on my x-rays.

The first one was taken when I was first transported to the Intensive Care Unit before the biopsy surgery in December.

My tissue samples were sent to the University of Michigan and turned out I had some exotic but “everyday bug” that was controlled by archaic sulfa drugs. Back in the early days of HIV, it was the type of pneumonia AIDS patients would get.

I was on high doses of steroids when I was carried from the hospital to the ambulance and taken to rehab. When I was released and a little stronger, the March xray showed pretty good improvement.

I was then tapered off the steroids and began acupuncture.

The second X-ray was taken later this summer after I’ve had 12 weeks of acupuncture treatments. My lung doctor continues to be amazed at my recovery, since in his view at the time, I should be dead by now.

I’ve been melding old world medicine in the forms of acupuncture at the acupuncture college clinic for my lung problems, neti pot flushing to rinse out my sinuses, gin soaked raisins for joint pain; with modern medicine through my insurance HMO.

I've been melding old world medicine like acupuncture with modern medicine.

I’ve been melding old world medicine like acupuncture with modern medicine.

The reason I’ve stayed with the same insurance carrier over the years is the HMO is one-stop shopping. I’ve had the same primary care doctor for many years and access to others in his group if I can’t get in to see him.

The main downside is the hospital and emergency services are located 15 miles away. That was a big hassle when I was laid up early in 2013 – 2014.

Anyway, there was a NPR radio segment on “Science Friday” yesterday about how smartphone apps are changing how health care is accessed.

That’s been very handy for me.

The Kaiser Permanente smartphone app is very handy for keeping track of my health.

The Kaiser Permanente smartphone app is very handy for keeping track of my health.

I use the KP app on the phone which is the same user inner face as the computer. I can access my health records, write to my docs. On the computer I can make and cancel appointments.

The best part is being able to communicate by email with my doctors. Over the past year, I’ve developed a long list of them from the main doctor, to surgeons to rheumatologists, to pulmonologists. They’re all pretty good at writing back and that saves on co-pays and trips to their offices.

It’s amazing what they can tell from blood tests.

In addition to keeping track with the app, I’ve been able to combine old world and new world medicine together successfully. I downloaded my health record and put it in my acupuncture health file.

That’s been useful since the herbalists there are able to see how my regular doctors have been treating me and can suggest acupuncture and herbal alternatives. KP offers acupuncture, but its clinic is pretty far to the east of me so I haven’t tried it.

There are also phone apps for acupuncture meridians.

There are also phone apps for acupuncture meridians.

The Southwest Acupuncture College Clinic is a lot like an HMO. Based on a patient’s needs, there are a variety of practices offered from acupuncture – needles, moxabustion; body work – shiatsu, tuina, cupping; herbal medicine; pain management and combinations of those practices. I have a smartphone app about the acupuncture meridians.

I’ve heard about people who refuse to use modern medicine in favor of traditional remedies.

There’s a reason people used to die when they were 40.

There’s room for both approaches in the same treatments. My post herpetic neuralgia got better with acupuncture and electrical stimulation and blood letting. My Kaiser doc put me on prescription drug neurontin and the combo has been reducing the pain.

I've been trying some kitchen remedies like gin - infused raisins for joint pain.

I’ve been trying some kitchen remedies like gin – infused raisins for joint pain.

Lately, I’ve heard about soaking golden raisins in gin for joint pain and arthritis. I haven’t asked my medical docs about it, but will report to them if I find it effective.

I made up a batch and have been eating nine gin-infused raisins daily.

I’ll report back any changes in my stiff fingers battered up from sports abuse and autoimmunity. A couple of my friends have reported that the raisin – gin concoction was effective.

The Little Yoga Studio is, in fact little, but has a great welcoming environment for beginners to expert yoga practitioners.

The Little Yoga Studio is, in fact little, but has a great welcoming environment for beginners to expert yoga practitioners.

My Kaiser doc did recommend the Neil Med / Neti Pot. I bought the starter kit for a couple bucks at the pharmacy and it worked instantly for my sinus dripping / nonallergic rhinitis. I use it a couple times a day with a couple shots of the prescription flonase in the morning.

Did I mention I’ve been going class at the Little Yoga Studio two or three times a week?

BOULDER, CO - SEPTEMBER 2: Lindy Cook and Alan O'Hashi pull weeds from the garden of the community with other residents September 2, 2015 at Silver Sage Village. The active adult cohousing community for those 55 or older is setup like a usual condo community with every person having their own place, but the sense of community is what is unique. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post)

BOULDER, CO – SEPTEMBER 2: Lindy Cook and Alan O’Hashi pull weeds from the garden of the community with other residents September 2, 2015 at Silver Sage Village. The active adult cohousing community for those 55 or older is setup like a usual condo community with every person having their own place, but the sense of community is what is unique. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post)

A month or so ago, a Denver Post reporter caught wind of the documentary I’m making about “aging in community”. The principle photography is done, but there are a couple stories that need updating and I’m gathering up some photos for extra coverage.

The movie is based on my “aha” experiences and perspectives learned after being pretty sick to the point of having the “end of life” and drastic “heart lung transplant” conversations with my doctors back during the summer of 2014. My colleague interviewed some of my Silver Sage Village neighbors about their perspectives about aging in an intentional community like cohousing.

The Denver Post article came out yesterday – the beginning of Labor Day weekend. There’s another chapter in this saga which marks the one year anniversary of me taking yoga classes.

In this town, that shouldn’t be too earth shattering at all. For a Wyomingite, it’s not the usual way to while away the hours. There’s an advertisement to attract former Wyoming people back to the state that says something to the effect that “we have latte’s and yoga” which are why an expat like myself should move back.

Yee Haw – git a long little downward facing dogie!

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A “dogie” is a neglected calf that is eventually rescued and looked after.

Over the past 10 years or so, one of my annual missions is to take footage of all the entertainment along the Bolder Boulder route. The 2014 acid test was whether or not I could complete my usual task and finish the 10K. All went well, but I needed to take a swig of O2 going up the Folsom Street hill into the stadium.

A month later, I was given the okay to put the supplemental oxygen aside while weaning off of the prednisone. My chest x-ray in June wasn’t that great, and my lung doctor wasn’t very optimistic at all. That’s when I also started with aggressive treatments at the Southwest Acupuncture College Boulder Campus. I attribute my miraculous recovery to that, which is another story.

In retrospect, the Bolder Boulder probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do, since my percent of oxygen was around 80 percent, which was pretty good, considering a couple months earlier it was in the 60s and 70s. I had gained back some of the 37 pounds I lost laying in the hospital for a month and half and I noticed the lost weight right a way since my inner knees didn’t ache.

Anyway, I was still very weak and had trouble lifting the milk jug out of the fridge and still not very stable on my feet, having taken a tumble on the step going into Silver Sage Village. I finally could push the clutch pedal on the Eurovan and I started driving, which also wasn’t a very good idea.

My occupational therapist had me trying to do push ups against the wall and half push ups on the floor. I couldn’t do either. Sit ups were painful because of the scarring from the leaky intestine ulcer that was also repaired. I didn’t want to lift weights or go to a gym. The OT couldn’t do anything more for me. When I relearned how to walk and my gait was straight, she turned me loose.

I was picking something up at McGuckin Hardware on the Sunday afternoon before Labor Day. I noticed the The Little Yoga Studio next door. There was a woman inside working on the computer at the front desk. They were closed, but she told me to take a schedule from the box by the door.

Being a Boulder guy, I wasn’t a yoga guy. Many years ago, Comcast used to have Core Power Yoga on TV in the mornings. I did that for awhile, then the practice started to include weights and equipment, which seemed out of context.

That gave me some knowledge and experience with the basic poses. Since my body was totally out of whack, I thought yoga would be more balanced than going to a gym, plus I only needed a mat – although I had sticker shock when I saw mats cost as much as $85. I needed to get stronger and more flexible. Shortly after Labor Day I made my first visit.

I really didn’t know what to expect since it was my first time in organized yoga practice, I thought it was more meditative, but I have come to learn that the Americanized versions of yoga are very different from it’s 5,000 year old traditional roots in south Asia. I was also surprised to learn that yoga in America is an 18 billion dollar a year industry. The yoga industrial complex includes, clothing, mats, equipment, food. In Boulder, you can’t turn around without your water bottle whacking into a yoga teacher.

Ronald McYoga

Ronald McYoga

I got a deal for yoga at one of the other studios in town. Turns out that was part of a yoga franchise – McYoga. It was a huge place with showers, a store with branded merchandise. That wasn’t for me – some of the same teachers work there, too.

My initial reasons for going to yoga class a couple times a weak were totally health and medical related. Some of the teachers give little dharma lessons at the beginning of the class.

At the beginning of one class the teacher gave a bit of a rant about how westernized yoga moved away from the traditional tenets, which wasn’t a good thing. and that there should be more attention paid to the original teachings.

That brought to mind an NPR radio story I heard six or seven years before, about a group in Fairhope, Alabama that wanted to take the original spirituality out of yoga and replace it with Christian spirituality, since they liked the asana part – physical aspects – of yoga, but not the meditative part.

At the time, that struck me as odd.

Now that I have more of an interest it really strikes me as odd.

I also remember this story because I mnemonically link it to a former basketball player from Fairhope who played at Wyoming named Quentin Higgins.

Afterwards, I talked to the teacher about this, and turns out there’s quite a bit of information out there about the topic of non-yoga yoga. I watched a documentary called “Yoga, Inc.” which was mostly about the lawsuit between yoga mogul Bikram Choudhury and some of his teachers about unauthorized uses of his yoga pose sequences.

Om

Om

The yoga classes are helpful for me physically. I was going a couple times a week with a day of recovery time in between. I now try to get there four or five consecutive times with a couple days of rest between. But also, I want to be around the practice more which is insightful. My journalistic curiosity always gets and best of me and I’m now researching American yoga for another documentary project.

I’m learning that horse has left the barn and there must be some other angle that hasn’t dawned on me yet about putting yoga back into yoga. I talked with a pal of mine about it. He said that whether India repatriates yoga is important from a historical perspective, but from a yoga perspective, he said, “Any yoga is good yoga.”

This Santa Claus is the nexus between Christmas and yoga.

This Santa Claus is the nexus between Christmas and yoga.

The reason I like the Little Yoga Studio is because the teachers tell a story to go along with the day’s class.

Today the teacher mused that the December holiday season pushes everyone to be extroverts which can be stressful. For introverts like me it was fitting that the day’s practice focused on grounding. It was helpful for me mentally and physically.

Considering last year on Christmas and New Years, I was flat on my back at the Good Samaritan Hospital recovering from emergency surgery, I’m much better.

My robot care givers - monitors that check out how I was doing at any moment.

My robot care givers – monitors that check out how I was doing at any moment.

I really can’t remember what I did on Christmas 2013 since I had undiagnosed sepsis and had no appetite, lost 30 pounds, apparently pretty drugged up.

This December holiday season, a friend of mine, Med, is in rehab at Manor Care in north Boulder and likely there over Christmas and New Years.

I pop in on him whenever I drive by.

From experience, being laid up is lonely and because of societal pressure the holidays seem to be lonelier than all the other lonely days in confinement.

I was at Manor Care in Denver and was in a craft class where we painted Bronco balls.

I was at Manor Care in Denver and was in a craft class where we painted Bronco balls.

I did two weeks time at the Manor Care in Denver after my four-week hospital stint. When I stop by to see Med, there are certain sights and smells that bring back fond memories, which is a little strange to me.

I was finally sprung from there in time for the Super Bowl. Wheel chair and walker restricted.

This Christmas I’m mostly back to health and fully upright. Yoga has helped me regain my strength and balance. I now find myself over-reacting to “symptoms” that I notice in myself. You hear about people who “over-use” the medical care system and now I know why – prevention is the best medicine.

I’m now one of those people.

Fortunately, my doctors are open to consultations using email and phone calls. It’s amazing to me how much they can tell from blood tests. I am grateful for all the health care providers from the CNAs and docs who kept me alive. They barely keep a person kicking, but that’s good enough.

My Coca Cola Santa doll makes an appearance once a year.

My Coca Cola Santa doll makes an appearance once a year.

Even though I prefer to live in the present, I do have some remnants of Christmas past including a stocking made by my mom and a Santa Claus from my dad. He worked for Coca Cola for 40 years and passed Santa dolls around the neighborhood.

Back in the day, Coke was known for the Santa Claus Christmas ads – now culturally incorrect.

He only gets out of the box for a week or so every year and he’s still in pretty good condition.

The Coke tree ornaments in the image are also Coke advertising premiums.

The cat from the angel-cam. The angel was a project of my mom's.

The cat from the angel-cam. The angel was a project of my mom’s.

My mom had craftsy Christmas projects every year. I still have a crocheted angel that hangs atop the tree. She must have starched then ironed it.

Both my parents are gone now and so have the Christmas traditions.

Coming up with new traditions is easier said than done.

Waiting outside The Little Yoga Studio.

Waiting outside The Little Yoga Studio.

For those of you who have your parents still around, spend some time talking about the future and not just about estate planning but more importantly tradition planning.

Before you have family meetings like this, I suggest taking some yoga classes.

Today, looser hips and thighs have made me more aware of my root chakra – bring on the Christmas havoc!

Meanwhile, I’ll be continuing to “age in c(OM)unity”.

Lincoln Court affordable housing will be in nobody’s back yard

lincoln court development plan 2017

After a couple meetings with the city of Cheyenne planning office, the Lincoln Court mixed use affordable housing project is making some headway. Click on the image to read the latest.

I’m leaving for Nashville in a few hours to participate on a panel at the Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Affordable Housing.

Part of my presentation was about the Lincoln Court mixed use affordable housing project I’m pushing in my hometown of Cheyenne. Based on what I learned at an informational meeting last week about the project, my entire presentation is changed.

We’re getting a little press about the Lincoln Court mixed use affordable housing project. It’s a moving target with lots of things happening in the neighborhood with the likely Hitching Post demolition and the Atlas Motel now up for sale.

Project architect and also my across-the-street neighbor Bryan Bowen and I held a couple informational meetings in Cheyenne last week. The first was attended by stakeholders from the city, realtors and lenders.

The second was attended only by the newspaper reporter Austin and photographer Jacob. That was a little disappointing, but based on the comments we sought on social media, it wasn’t surprising.

Both of them have wondered about the lack of affordable housing in Cheyenne. Having been a newspaper reporter, I know that news gatherers aren’t exactly pulling down the big bucks. Jacob reported that he spends 50 percent of his monthly income on housing in Cheyenne. The generally-accepted housing cost is closer to 30 percent.

hitching post 2017

The city shut off the power and water to the Hitching Post Inn signalling a move to demolish the historic hotel.

Based on the intrepid reporters’ observations around Cheyenne, particularly about the, apparently, very active Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) crowd, they, too are skeptical about whether Lincoln Court would actually happen because of the lack of community support for the idea of affordable housing.

Lincoln Court is the perfect project to satisfy the NIMBYs since it is bounded by Highway 30, Missile Drive and the railroad tracks – who in their right minds would want to live there, and to top it off how about 40 mph winds and 40 below?

This is a huge opportunity to anchor the redevelopment with a collaboration among the city, the Hitching Post Inn and the Atlas Motel to return the West End to the vibrant neighborhood it once was.

While comparing Boulder to Cheyenne is “apples and oranges,” Boulder’s Holiday Neighborhood is a strong corollary to what can happen on Cheyenne’s West End. Holiday is bounded by State Highway 93 (Broadway), US Highway 36 (to Estes Park). The surrounding land uses are industrial (peat moss yard), light industrial (garages, car lots, storage), trailer parks (Ponderosa and Meadows), risky recreation (two shooting ranges and a strip club – now closed).

Holiday ended up with over 333 homes with 40 percent permanently affordable on 27 acres. There are data from an affordable housing purveyer called Artspace that when new residents are introduced to slum and blighted areas, the land uses change and become vibrant.

This is generally identified negatively with the concept of gentrification where affordable housing is replaced with high end housing and kitschy boutiques and Starbucks.

What’s great about a place like the West End of Cheyenne is, there will be no displacement of current residents, but rather new ones will be attracted. No historic buildings will be demolished, but new ones built that keep memories alive through historic place making.

There is a huge housing gap not just in Cheyenne, but many places. On social media we asked for input and comments and heard from mostly skeptics about the meaning of “affordable housing” and whether or not the city government was going to lead or muddle through.

When housing is only reliant on market forces to set prices, developers typically nurture a niche that meets the needs of people who earn a good living, are of lower financial risk and able to purchase larger and more expensive houses.

In the absence of community supporting decent housing for all and no agreed upon definition for “affordable” anyone but those with an ability to buy what the market offers are literally left out in the cold. I think there is a WTE article coming out in the near future about people living in substandard conditions.

I’m not saying the public sector has to set up a bureaucracy to deal with affordable housing. One of the objectives of Lincoln Court is to come up with a way to market-regulate permanent affordability.

I have to say that the project is a bit frustrating since there’s a demonstrated need for lower cost housing in Cheyenne. The Lincoln Court wants to meet the heart-felt need to provide affordable and safe homes where individuals and families can thrive.

On the Road: Total solar eclipse and advanced umbraphilia

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Click on the image and watch the total eclipse movie. Thanks to Jeff Geyer rigged a filter and recorded totality.

The total solar Eclipse-a-palooza happened on August 21st and stretched coast to coast from South Carolina to Oregon.

Not knowing what to expect, I became a born again umbraphile.”

One who loves eclipses, often traveling to see them.

I’ve had a mild case of umbraphilia. Over the years, I’ve seen several partial eclipses through the pinhole cameras we fashioned out of grocery store boxes in grade school.

Looking at a picture of the eclipse was better for my eyes, but the experience didn’t cut it for me.

In 1979 there was a total eclipse when I was in Lander and the paper-frame eclipse glasses were first commercially available. In fact, I still had them in a box and took them with me.

After August 21st, my umbraphilia has become aggressive.

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Looking at a picture of the eclipse just wasn’t cutting it for me.

For background purposes, eclipses happen when the moon orbits between the earth and sun which casts its umbra – shadow – on the earth.

The fact that the moon orbit around and the earth and the earth / moon orbit around the sun have to perfectly line up is very amazing to me. Total solar eclipses are evidence to me that the universe isn’t random.

The eclipse totality cover image was shot by my neighbor, Henry Kroll, in Arthur, Nebraska. He shot in available light with a stopped down lens through a slight haze.

I made plans with a group of friends to head to Glendo, Wyoming, but the enthusiasm among my crowd waned and it ended up being just me on another solo adventure.

Since I could only be in one location for the eclipse, I wanted to make a home movie based on video and photos taken by my friends and neighbors from across the country.

columbus eclipse

Columbus was revered in what is now Jamaica because he “predicted” a total eclipse in 1504.

It was a strange experience.

I can see how 14th and 15th century people would have been freaked out during a total eclipse. There was a war between the Medes and the Lydians in 585 BC that supposedly was stopped because of a total solar eclipse.

Columbus dazzled the people in what is now Jamaica with his eclipse “prediction” in 1504.

These days, big-time celestial events bring people together – family reunions, informal gatherings, and community festivals. Everyone I know who saw the eclipse became an umbraphile.

IMG_7985

McGuckin Hardware in Boulder recalled Y2K.

There was quite a bit of sensational hype about getting ready for the eclipse akin to nuclear war preparations or the Y2K scare. I bought into it. Not knowing what to expect, I brought along:

  • 10 gallons of water – there was water all over the place
  • camping toilet – there were port-potties all over the place
  • gas stove and cooking equipment – there was food for sale all over the place
  • fueled up the car three times – there were gas stations open all over the place

Nonetheless, I headed out on Saturday morning. The roads were clear and a straight shot to Cheyenne. My rounds include a stop at the Paramount Coffee Shop for a boba tea. I wandered across the street to Phoenix Books and Music to visit Don McKee.

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The 2nd state Beatles “butcher” album

He had a 2nd state “Yesterday and Today” record album that I bought on an impulse. I intended on returning to pick it up on Monday after the eclipse, but didn’t make it until much later.

My friends, the Keenans, are breaking in a new service dog named Moose.

They live in north Cheyenne. They weren’t home, but through the miracles of technology, they took a movie of me on their porch and texted me about stopping in to visit them at Culver’s. Bill headed to Wheatland on eclipse day.

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Bill, Susan, Alek and Moose

On my way out of town on the Eclipse Trail, there were bootleggers selling T-shirts and eclipse glasses for inflated prices, thinking there would be no more. The Cheyenne facebook garage sale page had eclipse glasses listed for $20 to $40 a pair.

I got back on I-25 and uneventfully pulled into Glendo. My first stop was Howard’s truck stop. I go there whenever I drive by for my favorite road meal.

howards-glendo

I came here with Matt Mead and his son, Pete, who recommended the fried taco.

The biggest disappointment of the weekend was when I learned that the deep fried tacos are no longer on the menu. “Amy doesn’t work here anymore, ” the lunch counter matron said.

I’ll have to settle on a new “go-to” food item.

My friends Doug and Carrie Quinn have 60 acres in the Glendo city limits and staying there was my destination. Carrie is originally from Glendo. They were renting out spots for RVs, tents and cars.

Doug, Carrie and couple of their friends were busy greeting visitors.

It soon became so busy, that a bunch of others including myself were drafted into being parking lot attendants.

carny cfd

I worked at the Cheyenne Frontier Days carnival for a newspaper column.

This gig was a throwback to my carnival days when I learned that I was pretty good at getting people to give me money for nothing. I worked in the pop-the-balloon game during Cheyenne Frontier Days many years ago.

There was an umbraphile next to me from Germany who traveled to Glendo. He travels all over the place to watch total solar eclipses. He said, “You get hooked.”

I wanted to get there early to take in the festivities. Saturday night was hoppin’ in Glendo. There was a street show with the Jalan Crossland Band.

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Del trips the light fantastic with Cooper, Sally and Katy.

I whooped it up with Del and Sally Lummis. They were part of my original party and weren’t going to come, but decided otherwise at the last minute.

There were a lot of people like that who jumped in the car and made a quick road trip.

I didn’t get a chance to look around much because parking cars was so much fun shooting the breeze with eclipse goers. Besides, I’d been to Glendo many times before and being mostly a land-lubber, checking out the water wasn’t appealing to me.

On Sunday morning a steady flow of vehicles from all over the place stopped for information. There was quick-get-away parking that cost $20 and free parking in Glendo State Park and the Glendo Airport. The free parking spot exit was bottle-necked.

glendo eclipse traffic

In Glendo with 50,000 of my closest friends.

Traffic was heavy on eclipse day. Glendo did a great job organizing the crowds. The population swelled from 225 to 50,000. At least that’s what one t-shirt said. I walked into town early in the morning looking for something to eat.

Downtown Glendo isn’t very accessible, which is a good thing because foot traffic is encouraged. I walked over to check out the morning action.

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Angler’s and $5 coffee

The few food places had lines around the corner and rather than join the crowd, I went into Angler’s Rest thinking there may be some bar food.

No food, but asked to refill my coffee. The bar keep said it was $5, which I thought was pricey even for eclipse prices. He said everything was $5 and I might as well get it with a shot of whiskey. I haven’t had Irish coffee for a while.

I made my way back after cruising by the souvenir stand, which was nearly sold out. I’m a skinny guy and don’t wear the large sizes.

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Part of my parking lot attendant group.

I wasn’t in the mood for a T-shirt. They were the iron-on designs as opposed to silk screened and settled on an under stated Glendo cap. Some of the others had slogans like, “I blacked out in Glendo.”

After parking a few stragglers, I set up a 360 virtual reality camera and turned it on about 15minutes before totality and made a VR movie which can be viewed online and in goggles through a smartphone.

One of the guys in my group, Jeff Geyer, rigged up his camera with a filter and captured the totality.

richard mathern lusk traffic

Slow moving traffic

As advertised, after 2nd contact, cars streamed out making for traffic jams throughout the night.

I lingered with my crowd and decided to venture out around 3pm, thinking traffic may be less.

My play all along was to return on the back roads. Everyone else had that idea, too. My first mistake was heading north to Orrin Junction and go through Lusk. Once I got to the exit the traffic loosened up until just south of Torrington.

I ran into bumper-to-bumper slow moving traffic on Highway 30 and cut over to Chugwater on Wyoming 312. Then I saw all the taillights on I-25.

Traffic moved along, but I didn’t get back to Boulder until midnight. All things considered, the trip was a good one. It was fun parking cars and meeting some new people.

The next total eclipse is 2019 in South America. After that, there’s one in North America in 2014. Those two events are incentive enough to keep taking my medicine. Umbraphilia will keep me young.

No matter what your memories are about the eclipse, I hope they are fond ones.

Braceros, Traqueros and DACA Kids: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

reagan quote immigration

Ronald Reagan signed immigration reform into law in 1986 that was sponsored by former Wyoming US Senator Alan Simpson. The law gave amnesty to 3 million undocumented people.

The US government and railroads welcomed immigrant workers from Mexico. How did they end up coming to the United States in the first place?

I heard a presentation by Lu Rocha at a workshop organized by my grad school Center on Domestic Violence at CU-Denver.

She gave a history of the Latino/a/x/ labor force in the United States that dates back to the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the 1800s and propping up the war efforts between 1942 until it’s repeal in 1964.

The H2A and H2B visa programs for agricultural and non-agricultural workers are remnants of the Bracero Program.

Immigration issues have been in the news lately.

daca sign

POTUS 45 repealed DACA put in place by President Obama in 2012 as a stop-gap measure to protect kids of undocumented residents.

The Reagan administration signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 which heightened border security but also granted amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants. This was a bi-partisan effort led in the US Senate by Wyoming’s Al Simpson.

Red and Blue presidents and congresses failed to act on immigration reform until Obama in his lame duck term issued the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrives (DACA) executive order which cut some slack to kids brought to the US by their undocumented parents. It was a compassionate Band Aid.

POTUS 45 is trying to move the needle. He overturned DACA effective in six months, hoping Congress will get its act together on immigration reform.

I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

Immigration reform is a wedge issue for Republicans. They are against immigrants, generally, because of the supposed “taking of American jobs” rap. At the same time, American business is reliant on immigrant laborers who perform low-end work that regular Americans won’t do which is a throwback to the transcontinental railroad construction and World War II worker shortage.

traqueros

The Transcontinental Railroad was completed by laborers from Mexico.

Traqueros In 1881 Governor Luis Terrazas of Chihuahua drove a silver spike completing a rail line linking Mexico and United States which allowed immigrants transport to the United States and coincided with the West’s construction of the transcontinental railroad.

Mexicans were the dominant immigrant labor laying track in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite low wages compared to their native born coworkers and discrimination, immigrant Mexican laborers became permanent residents, not by law but by fact. By the time of the Great Depression, workers moved to the cities in search of other low-skill work.

Bracero Program

The US Department of Labor and the Immigration and Naturalization Service collaborated on the Bracero Program at the start of World War II. Braceros were allowed in to the US to provide help on farms during wartime.

Braceros The bracero program (Spanish for manual laborer) began in 1942 and operated as a joint program of the State Department, the Department of Labor, and the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), as it was known then, in the Department of Justice.

Laborers from Mexico were promised better living conditions in camps, including housing, meals and toilet facilities. They eventually were paid a minimum wage of 30 cents / hour. The pact also stated that braceros supposedly would not be subjected to discrimination and exclusion from “white-only” areas.

During World War II, the bracero program intention was to fill the labor gap, particularly in agriculture. The program lasted 22 years and offered employment contracts to 5 million braceros in 24 U.S. states—becoming the largest foreign worker program in U.S. history.

The bracero program caused problems on both sides of the border with labor shortages in the northern states in Mexico and resulted in illegal immigrants who remained in the United States. Millions of Mexican Americans attribute their roots to their fathers and grandfathers who crossed the border as braceros.

DACA MASS WALKOUTDACA Circle back to DACA kids. They are the modern day traquero/a/x and bracero/a/x. They are people who arrived in the United States under the radar as children.

Like the braceros and traqueros, while they should have returned to Mexico, those families have remained – while looking over their shoulders – without documentation and became productive members of their communities.

The DACA kids ended up with high school and college educations, contribute to society in professional jobs, have families of their own with kids in local school systems. They pay taxes and volunteer in their communities.

When the Bracero Program was ended in 1964, the positive outcomes were better working conditions for farm workers thanks to advocacy by activists including Cesar Chavez and Delores Huerta. There were no immigration laws that turned traqueros back to Mexico.

DACA was a short term fix when Obama acted because Congress didn’t. The immigration issue has come full circle from 1986.

Whether Congress and POTUS 45 get their acts together on immigration reform will be a defining moment for the Republicans like it was for Republicans and Ronald Reagan.

Until then – don’t ask, don’t tell.

simpson reagan signing“We have consistently supported a legalization program which is both generous to the alien and fair to the countless thousands of people throughout the world who seek legally to come to America. The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans.” Ronald Reagan on November 6, 1986 upon signing the Immigration Control and Reform Act.

 

 

 

 

 

Winter 2013 – Note to self: don’t get sick in December

In the fall of 2013, I decided to enroll in an Affordable Care Act health insurance policy. Everyone was written a letter by their health insurance companies giving policy holders a little time before then end of the year when all insurance plans expire.

Little did I know how close all those would be to home until I enrolled under ACA and was also a recipient of more than my fair share of medical care during the hectic Obamacare transition period.

For most people, there wasn’t much of a transition if covered on the job or some other public program.

I don’t think most people who have real jobs and a personnel office that annually negotiates group insurance realize that insurance actually lapses at the end of each year keeping coverage, apparently, seamless.

Nor do I think most people in insurance groups bother to read their coverage fine print.

Back when I had a real job, I was surprised to learn that as a single guy, in my group plan, I was covered for maternity care.

But when it was explained to me that to spread around the risk, I am obliged to pay to help cover my colleagues who have families or may want to start one. I viewed it as being a good community member.

This was in the 1970s – 1990s and it has been that way since. Now that I’m self employed, I’ve had to annually negotiate m y policy.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) began to point out what they considered to be unnecessary coverage, like maternity care for single guys.

As a quick primer, the ACA was proposed by President Barrack Obama approved by the US Congress and signed into law March 23, 2010. It set up centralized health insurance exchanges where users who weren’t covered by their employer, the Veteran’s Administration, Medicaid, Medicare, or some other program could sign up for health insurance.

Of the US population in 2015, 49% are covered by their employers, and 43% by some other form of coverage leaving around 8% needing health insurance coverage including self employed people like me.

Other than mandating health insurance for all as a means of diversifying the national insurance pool, there are provisions like not being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions and young people being covered under their parents’ policies until they are 26.

I’m one of the self-employed people who has had the same insurance carrier for the past several years. My insurance is routinely “cancelled” when the company annually changed the terms and conditions, deductibles and more times than not raised the premium prices at the end of the year.

I could either take the new plan or be cancelled. I always opted to stick with my carrier, but had to call up every year to see what options I had. Generally, I settled for higher deductibles to keep my payment close to what it was before. In my estimation the insurance industry is a big legal ponzi scheme, if you ask me, but thank God I have health insurance!

… and I knew I wasn’t going to get dinged for a preexisting condition.

People who are shocked or surprised that their policies are routinely changed tossed out letters from their insurance carriers as junk mail.  In March of 2012, I was informed that my insurance would be grandfathered under the ACA if I wanted to go that route – keep my doctor and everything in tact.

Pioneer that I am, I set up an account on the Connect for Colorado Health exchange website and after a few delays and glitches, was a approved for a way better plan from my existing carrier for less price.

So I was “double-covered” with my existing policy and my new ACA policy because I didn’t quite trust the new system.

I finally gained confidence in the ACA and canceled my higher deductible plan which was a good thing.

Politicians have been trying to “Repeal and Replace” Obamacare since its approval. I chuckle when I see the political action committees running ads on TV about the small group of folks who claim to have fallen through the cracks when they didn’t take personal responsibility to take care of their health insurance business during the one-year window during which they had a chance.

Rather than be accountable for their irresponsibility, Obama and all the other socialists are to blame for their current misfortunes.

You know what?

Obamacare, socialism, public / private partnership – whatever you want to call ACA, have nothing to do with reality. Health care reform only has to to do with people like me who were flat on their backs pushing the hospital room call light hoping a nurse’s assistant will come by to empty the urinal or patch a bed sore.

Truth is, Trump, McConnell, Ryan or any other politician can’t help anyone, let alone improving advice individual patients get from their doctors and their staffs. Anyone who disfavors ACA hasn’t been sick lately.

Before I get into the gory details, I have to tip my hat to health care workers in the trenches, namely nurses and certified nurse assistants. The world wouldn’t turn without them. I’ll jump ahead a bit and say that I’d never really had a hospital stay before and after being flat on my back for six weeks.

I couldn’t walk, stand, wipe my butt. The nurses and CNA’s were there to meet my every need, particularly when I got very low and bummed out.

This raises another big topic of self advocacy. Being flat on my back, I was complacent and didn’t advocate for myself as much as I should have. My partner in crime, Diana, was a big advocate. She questioned what was happening and kept on the nurses and doctors, to their annoyance.

She brought over a couple friends and neighbors, Nicki and Evie who also had experience advocating and helped particularly early on when I was first admitted.

I can’t say enough about having a strong advocate. I’m pretty sure, my doctors weren’t waking up in the morning wondering how I was doing.

Over the course of the fall and summer, I was being treated for various types of pneumonia and eventually went to the hospital. I was quite out of it because I had lost a lot of weight – eventually 30 pounds – had no energy or stamina, and no appetite.

What happened next is a bit of a blur, but, my lung doctor did a biopsy to figure out about my pneumonia.

Did I mention the morphine pump?

Meanwhile, I was on steroids which led to a perforated ulcer and stomach contents were leaking into my body cavity causing sepsis. I don’t know this as a fact, but I’ve been told that I was not given much chance of making it through the emergency surgery to patch up the ulcer – mostly because of the lack of eating and general indifference, translated into “failure to thrive.”

I read through my medical record and I was also classified as anorexic. That sounds worse than it is. It means I was very skinny.

So I have this emergency surgery and am being fed pablum through a tube bypassing my stomach and intestines while the ulcer patch heals. This causes me to lose weight and strength. I’m flat on my back between ICU and a regular hospital room and rehab for six weeks.

Since my parents died a few years ago, celebrating the winter holidays have been different every year. I wrote a stage play about this which was produced by Hitching Post Theater a few years back – I’ll have to dig out that story.

This was no different being being in a hospital with the second tier help on duty.

This stint in the hospital was good in that when the biopsy results came back from the University of Michigan, the results figured out about my lung condition as being an auto immune pneumonia now being treated by steroids, which is a good thing – particularly for those of you who had to deal with my hacking and coughing over the summer and fall.

Not so good with the ulcer recovery, I still had a rubber tube sticking out of my stomach that was. removed after a week. So getting to the bottom of my pneumonia was good, the state of my physique, not so good. Then I was kicked out of the hospital.

Meanwhile, I can’t stand, walk or otherwise take care of myself and I’m lifted into a wheel chair and strapped into an ambulance to go to rehab at this place in Denver.

Unable to move on my own, I start sliding out of the wheel chair and bouncing around like a rag doll. I felt like the dead guy, Bernie, in that bad movie “Weekend at Bernies”. The driver pulled over at the cooking school on Quebec and got me repositioned before getting to the rehab center in Glendale, which is a neighborhood in Denver.

The rehab center was an hour from Boulder, served mostly geriatric patients and I was the youngest one there. It was good meeting some folks from Denver.

This rehab center has it figured out. Everybody there gets about an hour or two of rehab each day and the other 22 hours, they feed everyone high protein and lots of carbos. It got a little monotonous plotting out the day based on meal time.

I am totally amazed that I received enough physical and occupational therapy after two weeks to walk out – albeit with a walker, compared to when I arrived as a total invalid.

My diet was simple – eat anything, particularly high protein and sweet stuff – a lot of rare steak and ice cream floats. It takes a long time to gain back wright. I was up 15 pounds during rehab and stabilized after getting 30 pounds chubbier.

After being out of captivity since the first week in February 2014 and getting stronger every day I was getting back in to the swing of things. Being self-employed, I had many ongoing projects.

I think it’s also an Asian thing to be totally self reliant – but this experience has taught me that it’s okay to ask for help. Many thanks to Michael and Barbara for keeping mud in my entrepreneurial cracks over the past couple months of my recovery.

After being out of rehab for a week, I attended the Boulder International Film Festival over President’s Day weekend – I’m on the BIFF Board of Directors. It was my first outing “off campus” since Dec. 16th – prior to this, I was in an ambulance, hospital, ambulance, rehab center, in my condo.

I’m also back in the editing booth – I cut together a tribute to Shirley MacLaine that screened Saturday night at the BIFF.

It’s been a big wake up call for me, particularly about big picture issues – mostly around downsizing and relationships with people.

Small picture issues, I’m now more serious about plotting out some exit strategies for projects I head up and handing off projects to others and getting ready to “retire”.

Even though I’m mostly recovered, I’m still planning for a long road ahead, I still consider myself “disabled” and will likely be recovering for awhile. I may be out and about, but I anticipate plenty of limitations.

I still encounter steps and small inclines and places without banisters or elevators that I didn’t notice before.

My message to the politicians? Keep muddling through the ACA because here’s no turning back.

 

 

Silver Sage Village Tree Inventory – August 2017