Clean Water for the Children, Please.

We have a couple of friends, Andrea and Zac, and we’d love to tell you
what they’re up to.  OK, as of our last count we have more than a
couple of friends, but for now we’re focusing on these two.

Zac and Andrea
are currently training to run the 2008 Los Angeles Marathon scheduled
for March 2.  And if that is not ambitious enough, they’re doing it to
raise funds for Global Water in honor of Andrea’s father, who passed away last summer.

"Andrea’s father, Pasquale Scarpino, a microbiologist and university
professor who dedicated his work to water disinfection and
clarification projects around the world, died this summer. So we’ve
decided to dedicate our marathon bid to him by raising money for an
organization called Global Water"

We – Steve and I, although Steve doesn’t know it yet – have just done
our part and written a check, check #1004, made out to "Global Water
Water Supply Fund" and as soon as the blizzard outside our door clears,
at least enough for us to find our way to the mailbox, we’re going to
mail it to them.  Yes we are.  If Andrea and Zac are going to run 26
miles for this cause, the least we can do is walk to the mailbox.  In
our snowshoes. 

I know, I’ll ask Steve to do it.  Hey, I wrote the

And because we believe in Andrea and Zac as much as we believe in clean
drinking water for children around the world, we’re writing to you.  Do
you believe in clean drinking water for children?  Then, no doubt, you
will want to help too. 

"Depending on how much money we raise, Global Water will
choose a Guatemalan school to fund, and send us pictures of the
facilities that we help to build. We will not only be helping students
gain access to clean and hygienic water, but will also be helping to
ensure their continued educations. A full 80% of the diseases that kill
children worldwide are caused by drinking contaminated water, and
children sick with water-borne diseases aren’t able to stay in school
as long as children with access to clean water." 

You do believe in clean drinking water for children, don’t you?  And your check number is….?

~ Connie

P.S.  If you knew Andrea and Zac, you’d believe in them too.  You can contact them through their link above.  We hope you do.  With your check number, of course.

Into the Unknown

If you are a writer chances are good that the most frequent question you are asked (other than “How do you make a living?”) is: “What do you do about writer’s block?”

I don’t have an answer for this because frankly I’ve never had the experience. This admission doesn’t make me better than those who do suffer from WB and I freely admit to having lots of faults both literary and beyond. (I can’t spell; I have vicious table manners…)   

But confronted by a blank page or an empty screen I leap into the unknown like the guy who dives into strange bodies of water even though he doesn’t know how deep they are.

James Wright once said something to the effect that you have to be willing to be a bit of a dummy to be a poet.

I should say here just in case any attorneys are reading this that I do not advocate or recommend diving into unknown bodies of water without first checking to see how deep they are.  Any inference that a person should risk a C-4 fracture by jumping off a cliff is subject to seven kinds of ambiguity and is consequently subordinated to the vagaries of college English departments. May the gods be gentle with you.

I went to Paris this morning. The streets were still wet.
A very old priest was walking along the liminal sidewalk with a pet goose by his side.
The goose was looking straight ahead and the old judge was looking at the ground.
Ah, I thought. Justice may be blind but it’s also a forethoughtful gander.
I was there for only a moment.
Now I’m back in Iowa where the snow is covering my whole town.


Which Scrooge Will Be Left Standing?

As America looks to the election results on “Super Tuesday” I hope the voters comprehend the implications of George W. Bush’s latest budget.  President Bush has called for deep cuts in Medicaid and Medicare: cuts that, if adopted will be devastating to the elderly and the poor: just the folks who are already struggling with the cost of health care.

Bush’s budget is heartless and the President is playing politics with the health of people with disabilities, single moms, children in poverty, and the old.

The drama in Washington will now be about whether the House and Senate can “do something”.

I said this budget plan is heartless but that’s really not fair to the rest of the heartless people. Even the amateur Scrooges of America understand that rising poverty and infant mortality aren’t in the best interests of the nation.

Apparently only George W. Bush is still saying: “Are there no prisons, are there no work houses?”


Celebrity Endorsement

News Flash: Poet and essayist Stephen Kuusisto has been endorsed this morning by Mr. Green Jeans, the longtime straight man to Captain Kangaroo.

Mr. Jeans, who is deceased, but who remains remarkably spry, says by way of the Ouija Board that Kuusisto, who is unknown outside a narrow range of mostly well meaning literary readers, “has the good sense to smile in public, even when there’s excrement  on his shoes.”

Kuusisto, who was on a book tour to Begonia, Idaho, said by means of a ham radio that he was flattered to be backed by any of the Kangaroo cast, but he’s a little worried that Mr. Moose hasn’t endorsed the endorsement from Mr. Green Jeans and added: “It’s clear that there are divisions among dead Kangaroo-istas about the virtues of continuing to grin when you have dung on your loafers. This is a divisive issue among dead children’s television stars.”

The coveted endorsement of an American writer by Captain Kangaroo has not been forthcoming.

“He’s of two minds about poop,” Kuusisto said. “He knows it’s a real issue, but he’s afraid to acknowledge it because he might then be confused with Soupy Sales.”

Captain Kangaroo cannot be reached via Ouija Board.


Still Outraged

After reading this article one can only pronounce the

What’s the matter, Osama? Are you running out of martyrs?
Not enough brain washed testosterone poisoned zealots loitering around the
cave, just waiting to do your handiwork? Gotta use unwitting disabled women in
order to blow up more innocent civilians? Yeah, I’m talking to you, Osama, you
swaggering worm, you inedible insect.

Okay. I feel better.  For the moment.  But why are people with Downs Syndrome
or any other disabling condition forced to beg for survival in


Where is the United Nations?  Where is the


sense of conscience?


Nocturne vs. Boogie-Woogie

It was late in winter when I heard the thin, halting piano through the walls:

A neighbor playing Chopin, but with care, pausing,getting it right.

Having no scholarly sense of romantic piano

And partial judgment, I felt sorry for the strange man, whose playing

Was weak and earnest, inflected by the tired life.

So I imagined it. A sadness born of loving that music…

That’s the kind of thing you do when you’re young:

Think of the old as falling or fallen, quiet,

Welling with occasional tears.

I had no idea the body, aging, garrulous

Takes up an instrument without the heart’s permission

Fiercely keeping warm…


Al Qaeda's Latest Outrage

In case anyone has forgotten just how despicable Osama bin Laden and his followers are, we offer this brief news flash.

The BBC has reported that Al Qaeda strapped explosive devices on two developmentally disabled women in Iraq. Here is a link to the story and a brief excerpt.

"The operation was carried out by two booby-trapped mentally disabled women."

The al-Qaeda terrorists and criminals are proud of this method," Brig Qassem Ata al-Moussawi, Iraqi security forces spokesman told the BBC, "The bombs were detonated remotely."

"Forensic and bomb squad experts as well as the people and traders of al-Shorja area of the carpet market have confirmed that the woman who was blown-up there today was often in the area and was "mentally disabled"… In the New Baghdad area the shop owners and customers of the pet market confirmed that the woman who was blown-up there was mentally disabled as well."

The US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, said al-Qaeda had found a "different, deadly" technique.


Thank you, Guiding Eyes

Back in 1998 a book reviewer at The Boston Globe suggested that I am a shill for the guide dog schools. What he meant is that my first book of nonfiction is richly devoted to sharing the experience of training with my first guide dog “Corky”—a life changing event for me and the glue that holds together my book.
I didn’t mind being called a shill. I’ve been called worse.

Today as I was walking in the Iowa snow with my third dog from Guiding Eyes I remembered that old Steve Martin joke where he says to his audience “I want to thank each and every one of you” Then he proceeds to say over and over: “Thank you thank you thank you thank you” etc.

Occupied in this way it dawned on me that Guiding Eyes for the Blind is worthy of every thank you I could pronounce. Guide dogs are expensive creatures to breed, raise, train, and then pair with a blind person. Despite the fact that each dog and person team costs well over 40,000 dollars to create, Guiding Eyes absorbs all the costs through its non-profit program of charitable donations.

I am a comparatively lucky blind person. I have a good job and a wonderful wife and family. Yet I can assure you that if I had to pony up 40K for my street mobility would be very hard pressed indeed. This in turn gets me to my point. Some will doubtless think of me as being too sentimental. Thanking those who have helped you is perhaps, in the minds of some “too old fashioned” or “too caught up in the charity model of disability”.

I believe that as I walk safely and in most cases euphorically that I have a big team behind me. Donors, puppy raisers, puppy breeders, veterinarians, fund raisers, construction and buildings and grounds personnel, volunteers, guide dog trainers, orientation and mobility specialists, dietitians, nurses, folks who work in the kennels, and the blind men and women who have trained alongside me with their new dogs.

Today, walking in the snow I heard in memory the voice of Steve Martin thanking everybody.


TV Goes Down the Drain

The press coverage of the democratic presidential race has descended to one of those circles of hell wherein greedy appetites and exaggerated punishments exist side by side and without end. Did Barack Obama “snub” Hillary Clinton by turning his back on the New York senator as she sought to shake his hand at the State of the Union address on capitol hill? Who knows? What seems clear is that the Balkanization of identity politics has been a profitable story, particularly for the TV broadcasters, and that in turn, substantive issues are not discussed.

I continue to yearn for a dis-modern America where each of us is liberated from the symbolic and semiotic categorizations of the past. When individuals are reduced to symbolism there’s a very real chance that the hoary heads of discrimination and bigotry are doing most of the talking.

None of the reporters in the MSNBC or CNN crowds would easily admit to partaking in glib and discriminatory rhetoric. Yet the reduction of Barack Obama to a mere representation as “the black candidate” or the similar categorization of Senator Clinton according to her gender represents the most clay footed and witless symbolic obfuscation we’ve seen in this country since the reign of Lee Atwater.

I can’t say which I dislike more: the reduction of two fine candidates to racial or gendered inferiority or the money making feeding frenzy that this phony story has created in the media.

Continue reading “TV Goes Down the Drain”

We'll Be Seeing You

I do not customarily get my news from Joe Scarborough whose MSNBC show "Morning Joe" is largely devoid of substance but rank with middle brow party hack-isms from both sides of the aisle. Still, MSNBC has just reported that Senator John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth will speak today at 1 pm eastern time when they will announce their decision to withdraw from the presidential campaign trail. They will make their announcement in New Orleans, where they started their campaign over a year ago. As almost everyone knows, New Orleans remains in devastation three years after Katrina. My general sense is that of all the candidates running, John Edwards has the deepest conscience and the largest heart. Elizabeth Edwards and John have done more to remind this nation that severe and unacceptable inequality is a direct consequence of political policies that have rewarded the richest people in this nation while ignoring the plight of the poor and the middle class. Our hats are off to John and Elizabeth. In Finland where my childhood was spent, they say when people part: "Nakemiin" which means "Be seeing you." We are with the Edwards family and we thank them for pressing for human dignity on all fronts.