Trains? Yes, please! Planes – not so much

Peace of mind has its price. For me those twelve years ago that seem like just yesterday it was $551.

Some people just shouldn’t fly. I should’ve remembered I’ve long been one of them, but it had been 15 or more years since my last flight, and I didn’t have much time to spare between Girl Scout leaders’ training and the start of my daughter’s school.

“Do not go gentle into that good night – Rage, rage…” Dylan Thomas’s adage gripped me as I gripped the armrests and would not let go.

Aboard that plane heaving through turbulence, my rage was raving and impotent, the plane indifferent. Nowhere to get off, no turning back, no relief — nothing to it but get though it. Seeing the flight attendants in no way concerned, just busy in their ordinary ways, in no way lessened the trauma within.


I wanted to kiss solid ground when the plane finally did land in Miami as scheduled, but I didn’t, trying to save face in front of my little girl. On the drive to his family’s home, my brother-in-law admitted he feels the same about flying. As soon as he left to pick up his own kids from school, I burst into fresh tears and lunged for the phone: 1-800-USA-RAIL.

Even though she was only four, my small one and I had been on trains cross-country a few times before. Fingers crossed, I managed to navigate the phone tree to a real person.

Yes, they had a sleeper for the day I wanted — two actually: one on Train 92 for the Miami-to-DC leg, and then, let’s see, yes, another for DC-to-Chicago. My relief knew no bounds, and when the agent asked if there was anything else she could do to help me, I sobbed “Thank you for having a sleeper, and for being there!”

When I got off the phone I was still crying. Morgan took my face between her hands and said (gravely? – bravely?) “Don’t worry, Mommie – you don’t ever have to go onna airplane ever again!” This caused fresh tears, for wasn’t I the adult here?

Jose came home with his children and the girls chased off together, my sister-in-law arrived from work, dinner was made and eaten, just like they always do. Next day my dear one refused the clothing I suggested (“No ‘sorts! Pants!”) despite the 80+-degree heat. We went the flea market to look for size 4T pants (none), but she and her cousins  would ride the ponies. We stopped at Doris’s dad’s farmette, where we drank juice straight from the coconut and held baby goats. All along, I kept my emotional turmoil to myself, then and the next five days. We swam in their pool. It was a good visit.

I’ve visited churches and temples, yet never known the degree of peace that enveloped me when, the breeze blowing warm, we were given a ride on an Amtrak people-mover/golf cart-sort-of-thing, and the train pulled up, on time. In boarding, we told car #9211’s attendant, Thanks – we know the way to room 5, see you up there. This was better than any merely familiar spot, like my mother’s favorite kid-friendly bookstore-cafe. This was our home-away-from-home.

Relief flooded me as we set our bags under the seats and settled in for the ride. Long distance travel, especially when somebody else drives, somebody else cooks (in the dining car), and somebody else cleans up, is fabulous. I wanted to hug the whole process, but I tipped everybody instead.

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Women, men, and incel hell

Let’s say you’re anti-abortion. “No abortions, ever, that’s the sanctity of life.”

Can you prove you are? Not with signs, or rallies, or even your words. Prove it with your own actions.

Because you resemble a white-right extremist. You say you are no such creature? But they have, in their credo, something about how whites are supposed to “out-breed” them; you know, them, the other, the unwanted; the wrong color, religion, whatever — what the Nazis espoused.

Are you just there to do a man’s bidding? He says “Jump,” you have to ask how high, he tells you “We’re makin’ babies” and you’re supposed to meekly say “How many?” Did he get a (better) job or health insurance, check references on nannies or build a mother-in-law apartment so somebody can be there to help you? Is he helping you go back to school?

You might be young and fertile and healthy, you female. Does that mean your destiny is to wear flowy skirts and stay barefoot and pregnant, to be a breeder, like a sow or doe — some bitch? These men are (supposedly) happy if you are a broody hen! Oh, except for the “good” Christian male who gets his mistress pregnant, then demands she get an abortion — because the l’il woman is supposed to listen to the man.

Many years ago I was a very peripheral member of a devout Christian group. That is, until I realized it was almost always the women caring for the kids while the men played soccer and guitars, both of which I was interested in. So church wasn’t my cup of tea. Maybe they were, in fact, gentle beings – although, much later, child abuse going on within the group would be revealed.

Then again, maybe they were simmering cesspools of hostilities like so many “incels,” involuntary celibates, who think women owe them attention and sex, who have increasingly been shooting innocents when they decide they’ve had enough of uppity females rejecting their advances. Maybe? Probably.

And while we’re on the subject of toxic masculinity, let’s go to Texas’s lieutenant governor and the NRA, who claim prayer in schools is what’s lacking, plus laid blame on the schools (for having too many doors), and on video games. Too bad they don’t seem to be kidding — or reasonable.

Schools have many doors because they, schools themselves, have been known to catch fire. Anyone who wants a repeat of the notorious, needless fire (December 1958, Chicago) at Our Lady of the Angels grammar school, in which children were told by the nuns to pray — not to run out — and which resulted in ninety-two kids dead from flames and smoke – you go right ahead and listen to Mr. Patrick and Mr. North. Praying didn’t help those little children of God, and fewer exits won’t help future scared students get away from shooters.

If they want to talk violent videos? Start long before video, at the beginning, with football. Football has until very recently encouraged young men to crack each other in the head with their own helmets, knock ’em down, pile on, binge-drink afterward. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy has increasingly shown up in football’s victims, causing some to have violent outbursts and/or to commit suicide. Hello Danny? Ollie? Why no “credit” where credit is due? Getting your sports bet ducks in a row for whenever that travesty descends on us?

So let’s not tippy-toe around toxic masculinity anymore; let’s call misogynists what they are. Start with a look in the mirror: do you boss your wife or girlfriend around? Do you refuse to listen to her, change the subject to shut her up, and/or enjoy making her cringe, then tell her she’s too sensitive? Did you get her (or maybe multiple hers) pregnant, then duck out? That doesn’t make you a partner or a real man, it makes you a gaslighting bully and/or coward!

Feminism is the “radical” belief that all people (not only women) are equal under the law. Feminism has started no wars, starved no-one, tortured no-one, killed no-one. Feminists help women control their own destiny.

The belief or implicit expectation that our daughters owe attention to any unpleasant men is the trouble, and more dads, coaches, teachers, and other leaders — all adults really — are overdue to correct that nasty misperception. Toxic masculinity is the root evil. Its adherents call the miscreant who went hunting (hunting for sorority girls in May, 2014, in California’s Isla Vista) a “supreme gentleman,” when nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone who blames everything BUT this vile attitude, that men get to do whatever they want, allows this disease to fester and replicate.

And you know what else replicates and festers? Cancer!



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Grief, two years out

I was there at the end of August 2011 when my mother breathed her last. She’d been brilliant, an MD, but deteriorated mentally as well as physically, the way nobody wants to but too many will. My only siblings resided on the other side of the country, with their jobs/spouses/kids; I was the night nurse.
I dreamt of Mom after she was dead, and cried more when I realized it was just a dream. Or was her spirit really there, as in there there?
After my child, graduated grammar school in June 2016 — across the street from Mom’s house, where I too had gone to school, where we’d been living, with Mom, since dear daughter was born — we had to move out. All my bargaining for more time came down to nothing, since the executors were (overly-?) anxious to sell the house. And so I was moving furniture and boxes every day, to storage and the charity and to my husband’s and my house 5 miles and several neighborhoods away. It was traumatic and exhausting. I lost twenty pounds and cried and grieved my mother and the homestead every day and all over again.
Now I’m more able to handle some task involving Mom which I’ve set myself — like going through the pictures she left, or making a photo collage of her (as I’d long mentally promised). If I start feeling like it’s too much, I make a conscious decision to be gentle with myself, and put the project aside.
There was a post somewhere which compared grief to being pounded by ocean waves, unbearably at first, knocking us off our feet with no time in between to breathe, but over time more manageable, if sometimes unexpected still. I think if we are processing the grief, little by little we become stronger – imperceptably, we put on another layer of that psychic bark, which, like a tree, protects us. Two years on, I still feel overwhelmed by grief, but not as often.
I admire those able to stand up to pharmaceuticals; that is some strength there. If it’s spring and not storming where you are, I hope your garden gives you solace. Maybe there’s a friendly dog nearby, even one you simply visit at the home of someone you know (who might become new friends). One foot in front of the other, one minute/second/breath at a time, one (or 2, or 3… okay, however many) dog kiss(es) at a time. Because we experience oxytocin when we gaze into a dog’s eyes, and they into ours, or inhale it, and oxytocin rocks, and a paw on my lap and that urgent gaze as I sit sobbing does much to turn around a wretched wrenching heart, even if only for a few seconds at a time.
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Tagger? Get over yourself!

Who picked the article “Train Painting” (Utne Reader c. Sept/Oct2000) which should’ve been titled what it is – train wrecking? Allan Abel regaled us with tales from the “defacers’ hall of fame,”and that, too, should’ve been called what it is – the hall of SHAME.

The writer thought vandals feel “it unites them with hobo tradition.”  Ugh, romanticizing property damage. Times aren’t even less safe now than they were then. In many cases hobos did odd jobs or waited for charity, while taggers admit that when they lack cash, they will steal what they need, meaning what they want. So, poor taggers, they shoplift to feed their addiction? That’s called compounding the crime!

Why should we care about their purported “needs” when they care nothing for ours? They couldn’t care less about the wishes/needs of the rest of society – to see our garages and alleys and favorite manner of transport (trains), as we, the owners, intended them.  Too bad for us, I guess, boring old train- and home-owners (read: slow-moving/stationary targets) who can hardly keep pace putting a clean coat on, so quick and prevalent are the defacers.  No one “needs” to spray paint.

These immediate-gratification junkies, these immature punks, apparently are to be pitied: they can’t be bothered to put paint on canvas where it belongs, they can’t wait for a gallery to show their so-called “art” — that’s for squares! They claim none of the artists have any control of where it pops up. What they really mean is they do not want to control themselves and we’re supposed to shrug and be okay with that, for them to be too.

One defacer claims to “love trains, because he even bought tickets.  Wow, such a regular guy. My nephew loves trains for real, not like these swooned-over criminals. Trevor and I (and all ordinary folk) would never dream of using so much as fingerpaint on them – because they aren’t ours.

An important point Abel totally ignored is that, as every officer knows, graffiti is not only to say “I was here,” but to say “I own this” and “I did this, and you didn’t catch me – SUCKER.” Unlike anything written that is wanted, an autograph perhaps, no normal person is are pleased at finding drivel sprayed or etched on their property, or where they work. These morons don’t always stop at tagging with ordinary paint. They scratch bus windows with sandpaper and damage telephones in subways with padlocks, for example, when their painting spree runs dry. I’ve seen the commuter-rail people cleaning trains for a living (their salaries paid for by the increasingly-expensive tickets we buy, dumb taggers!). I feel their anger and pain – not taggers’ alleged angst.

These wanna-be artists bring to mind unneutered male cats, also unwanted by homeowners. Taggers also yowl a lot about what they consider their turf, marking up what they want for territory.

But impulse does not equal instinct: the human toms have no excuse. They should know better, and they should use all that energy to plant trees or do something – anything – useful. Waahh, too ordinary! Bo-ring! Too bad for intact surfaces or trains and the folk who like it that way!

Shame on taggers, and shame on all their apologists who give them space/credence.

(adapted from a letter to the editor, Utne magazine, 05OCT2000)

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Keep fish on our side of the pond!

I fail to understand how Alaska salmon, transported to “China, where it is processed into steaks, bulk packaged and stored frozen by a secondary processor… later repackaged into retail units for the U.S. market” (Sunday Tribune, April 25,2010) is better for anything except the pocketbooks of the companies allowed to commit this travesty, and perhaps the Chinese, or whoever keeps the fish guts and bones.
You can’t tell me there aren’t enough people in Alaska to do this kind of work for pay.  I’d be willing to wager there are still plenty of underused packing and processing plants on this side of the pond capable of handling all that food.  The fuel used to transport the Alaska salmon to China and back to the U.S. could be put to better use here, or never dredged up in the first place.
Taking North American fish thousands of miles overseas to save a few pennies on U.S. or Canadian labor costs may be what big corporations call “the bottom line.”  Reasonable people and I call it an undue ecological burden, madness, and greed.
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Pot – or not?

It’s true Illinois needs long-term influxes of cash. Representative Kelly Cassidy and State Senator Heather Steans probably think they’re doing good in advocating for legalized marijuana in Illinois, but their call to legalize it is barking up the wrong tree.
As a veteran law enforcement officer, I have on many occasions locked up people in possession of even small amounts of marijuana. I no longer do so, as my current assignment precludes that kind of contact with the public, but I am more against it than ever.
When assets are seized from dealers or those in possession, troopers and police share the proceeds from items sold with the states attorneys. It may not be much, or steady money, but it does help ease the burden on taxpayers for our crimefighting efforts.
Pot use tends to stall on a different plane. Several guys I knew who used it frequently, from high school onward, never seemed to progress emotionally into adulthood. We have enough individuals in a state of arrested development right now – our legislatures should not be getting involved to facilitate any of it! 
Steans and Cassidy think legalizing pot could result in a reduction in opioid overdoses. Where’s their research? Who are their sources? Steans’s webpage hasn’t any, though it proclaims the idea that “Legalizing recreational marijuana has swept the nation.” Why does she feel she must cheerlead it here? Colorado is still investigating whether legalizing it, as they did several years ago, has increased crime. But they have seen an increase in traffic crash fatalities, which Illinois definitely does not need. 
Locking someone up for suspected drug use while driving makes for a long stretch of officers not on aggressive and preventive patrol, since the LEOs must remain at the hospital to guard the driver until the nurses and doctors can take his blood and otherwise tend to him, until he’s sufficiently patched up for us to take him to jail. Many in Colorado believe an increase in face-to-face pot deals gone bad has caused an uptick in crime; it certainly can’t have helped. 
As reported by Mother Jones, illegal marijuana operations in California’s Emerald Triangle have decimated the native creatures, and endangered and needlessly hamstrung researchers trying to gather information on what belongs there. The researchers used to manage solo, but now must arm themselves and travel in pairs to watch over each other, against those who feel they have a right to grow pot on the taxpayers’ land. The cretins who stake their claims out in our National Forests put down poison which has resulted in one of the top predator’s population plummeting – fishers might already be totally gone were it not for the scientists removing rodenticide and trash, and which the two-leggeds must now spend almost all their time doing rather than seeing to their wildlife studies. Even if dope is legalized, who will keep this eco-catastrophe from insidiously making its way into “legal-sales” shops here?
An additional troubling finding is that as pot gets legalized, Colorado children are being poisoned by its accidental ingestion, a 150% increase since 2014. Will there be a Illinois fund from the sale of marijuana, dedicated to caretaking the inevitable similar small victims, and would it ever be enough — or will that fall instead into the laps of the taxpayers Steans purports to help?
Because grass could be legally sold in Illinois does not mean it will be responsibly grown here or elsewhere. No fertile farmland should be taken out of production, no greenhouses erected in order for some to have their playtime smokes and addictions seen to.
Grown by George Washington, hemp is the not-so-poor cousin to pot, criminalized as part of the 1930’s “reefer madness” despite its place as a prominent industrial fiber, used to make canvas and clothing. The US hemp industry, once robust, if re-established, could renew old tried-and-true industries like rope-making.
Sometimes marijuana alleviates seizures, or pain, or nausea attendant with cancer treatments. Legitimate medical uses of cannabis sativa must be rigorously regulated, and its growth and use not allowed to bleed over into casual smokes.
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Save Jane Doe/Poe/Roe (etc-et al)

The Chicago Tribune’s Steve Chapman gave us most of the pertinent details about Jane Doe, the pregnant young woman too often referred to as a “girl” (“Forced childbirth or voluntary abortion?” Thursday October 26th, 2017) and compared her case to the practice in China of forced abortions and coerced sterilizations. A good start.
A veteran Chicago Police Officer, I have worked off-duty as a clinic guard. I’ve seen firsthand the anger of the zealots who cannot dissuade the staff from going to work nor a woman trying to control her own reproductive destiny. They turned their rage on the clinic workers and on me too, sending me ostensibly caring cards — but also some with vague threats. Such Christian compassion did one man display that he stepped on my foot and punched me! Perhaps he imagined himself as Jesus at the money-changers’ table? He fled before the on-duty officers arrived, getting away with the assault and battery.
Why did Mr. Chapman not mention who, or what entity, was ready to step up for the potential baby should the Trump juggernaut have been successful in forcing the young female humans to go to term? Who helps the (potential) mothers for the entire duration of any baby-then-child’s life?
He noted none because there is no such animal.
The anti-choice crowd doesn’t care about other lives, they’re all about power and control. They don’t want the babies born in the US to stay here — those would be anchor babies! — they want the young women to be forced to see the pregnancies through,then ship ’em all out to those countries they were escaping from!
Nobody at ICE or elsewhere demanded to know, “Who’s the guy who got you pregnant?”, nor to sue him as the at-fault party for the legal and medical expenses the United States has now ponied up. Some man had a part in this, but because they can’t see him they willfully and swiftly drop the matter to focus their laser-like attention on the pregnancy.
Sometimes they provide diapers and baby clothes for the expectant one’s offspring. But they don’t put themselves in the picture for the long haul, they don’t provide medical care if the infant is born damaged or addicted, they mostly don’t help the mother — any mother — get clean and stay sober, or help her get education and a worthwhile job. Do they provide the child with a good education, vaccinations, or nutritious meals? Warm coats and hats in wintry regions? Books? All for the child’s entire life? Indeed, they do not, not en masse, not every pregnancy, not every woman. Nobody can count on antis.
And how much better would it be, wouldn’t it, if women who didn’t want to get pregnant had the means not to? What if the pro-life advocates supplied contraception to women and men? Nope – that makes too much sense! That’s encouraging sex outside marriage (which, by the way, is happening anyway)!
I guess they’re okay with her lack of choices, of returning her and the unwanted child to their country of origin (maybe while boasting, “We got her to have the baby! We saved a life!”), where she might hope for the best, perhaps, but where the women often say that they would assuredly suffer more abuse, from parents, other relatives, and the system as well.
Now there’s been a Jane Poe and a Jane Roe, in similar straits. Yes, it does cost a lot of money to raise a child. Those who are anti-abortion and who don’t put their money where we find these hungry mouths and minds should be dismissed and stymied at every turn, not given ever more power to control us. We must vote them out!

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a Sassy observation

Last year Alabamians got tired of being one of the poorest states ever.

Bannon and McConnell blamed each other for Roy Moore’s loss, but as skilled as Repubs are at seeing everyone but themselves as the problem, and are we sure this wasn’t Obama’s fault also? It wasn’t even Doug Jones who beat him. 

I say it was science and reason.

Nobody in the South should be content anymore to be a second-class citizen in the world’s greatest country, to have to endure — among other indignities — the schools being saddled with the likes of Betsy deVos. Trump of course picked her, tried to handpick Roy Moore, and is busy behind the scenes rubberstamping (maybe “Sharpie-ing” is more apt since he apparently can’t see or read much and is too vain to wear specs) whatever federal judges are put in front of him.

If I lived near Roy Moore and saw him a-horse, riding to and from his polling place, I would be even more angry than I am watching from afar, because he certainly can rub it in, can’t he, that he’s got the money and leisure to own and saddle up his own mount, giddyup, and too bad for you, peasants! 

Well, it’s time for them to all ride out on that horse he rode in on! Sorry Sassy.

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Big Rules Rule!

Amazing how Republicans clamor for fewer Federal oversight regulations – until it hits home and they don’t.

“Whittle down big government!” has been their jangling (alright rallying) cry for so long they should all be mute from hoarseness. Yet as soon as Texas or Florida get flattened by some powerhouse hurricane they immediately call for the country to declare them a disaster zone and send some help already! Well hello? That takes funds, planning, supplies, and infrastructure on a rather large scale, doncha know.

Panera Bread recently asked the USDA to weigh in on this weighty matter:What exactly is an egg? Yeah, I was sure I knew that since I was about two too. They want the competition to stop calling its egg/other things mashup “egg.” I see your concern, Panera. Do you think you could drum it into Repubs that we actually do need quite a lot of rules?

So Republicans, what’s the alternative? Keep shutting down the government, keep closing the National Parks? Hamstring the military by keeping them from being able to fund not just adequate but up-to-the-minute plans?

When do you look in the mirror and see the source of our problems?

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Trump – here’s a way to help the poor – but will you?

In framing Bank of America’s decision to slip customers who bank electronically into higher-fee checking accounts as only leaving them the option of currency exchanges, Robert Reed (in a recent Chicago Tribune article) missed a golden opportunity to insist the Post Office reinstate the minor bank services it used to offer, before 1966, an ongoing dark time when bank lobbyists quashed this community asset.
Thanks to people annually ordering billions of items online, the USPS delivers more packages than ever. Along with allowing it – for instance – to sell fishing licenses and to notarize documents, the post office could return to offering small banking functions.
The Post Office is, in most cases, in exactly the same buildings they’ve long been in, the same ones where bank operations happened prior to the mid-60s. The newer postal buildings have never known bank service, which doesn’t mean they never could or never should; any extra space hopefully means it should be of little trouble to retrofit anything. Chicago’s main post office for example, built in the early 90s, has cavernous public spaces which have for years stood unused.
There have been calls for the Post Office to be privatized, which it doesn’t need. In spite of Congress demanding it pay its pension obligations for 75 years into the future (which no other business or group is forced to) it is not broke.
If Trump truly cared for the not-so-well-off, he would have already executive-ordered the Post Office to return its banking opportunities (and attendant jobs) to all sites. The middle class and poor alike could then steer well away from payday loan sharks and pawn shops, transferring their attention and time and monies to the good old post office, where they could safely obtain reliable and local loans, and money orders – and, as always, passports and stamps.
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