Friday, June 24, 2016

It Is Time For Me To Put In My Two Cents Worth On Orlando!

Before I start to discuss the horrific terrorist attack on the Pulse Nightclub on June 12, I want to tell you a little bit about my gun history.

When I was four, I received my first guns. I got a Paladin pair of six shooters complete with my own business cards that read, "Have Gun Will Travel" and I was styling.These were my pride and joy until I ran out of caps!

Here I am protecting my little sister, Kathleen from any bad ass that wandered in front of our trailer house in tiny White, South Dakota. Shortly after that picture was taken we were on the move again hauling our belongings in that trailer to McLaughlin, South Dakota three hundred miles away!

Two years later, Santa Claus gave me this double barrel, cork gun which I was hunting Grandma's large porcelain cat that sat across her living room with these huge deep blue eyes taunting me. The cat need not worry about my shooting skills because I am left-handed but right-eyed. Nothing I ever shot at needed to worry about being hit because I was never aiming at my target. Although, years later my uncle Terry let me shoot his BB gun at flickertail gophers!  I do not remember, however, I may have even shot gophers once or twice with his 22 rifle. I had no interest in shooting anything or anyone! I certainly was never a member of the NRA!

As always, click on the image to make it larger:

Now, back to my original intent of this post. After much consternation and bickering back and forth between many sides of the issue including restrictions on military style automatic weapons, to discussions on mental health issues, to hatred of someone whose lifestyle you do not approve of, to the shooter who after looking through his computer, journals and his apartment appears to have been a closeted gay man, to our elected bodies of the Congress who are acting like little boys and girls now in what people are calling an unprecedented act by the GOP walking out of Congress literally in the middle of the night and the Democrats staging a twenty-five hour sit-in!

I find it humorous how people are calling this act of Congress on both sides unprecedented; because it happened on the other side of the aisle in 2008 when President Clinton's Congress did the same thing only the parties were switched around over an oil drilling bill. That is only eight years ago and many people have forgotten their recent history!

I want to address a couple issues that have stood out for me over this mass shooting. The irony in the nation getting so upset over the enormity of this one particular shooting and since then we have had several more shootings and the total of one hundred twenty-five people have died from guns! That is less than two weeks people! The numbers are staggering and continue to mount.

Former Chief Justice, Warren Burger (incidentally was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1907) was appointed by Richard Nixon in 1969. He was a staunch conservative and voted many times on conservative issues like abortion, women's rights, equal pay for women and a number of other issues. However, he maintained the Second Amendment was not interpreted properly. He believed the militia or as we refer it today as the National Guard should be in charge of our defense and the only ones who should possess weapons of mass destruction in a quick amount of time!

Mitch McConnell, the majority leader in the Senate proudly proclaimed he would not allow any bill to be brought to the Senate floor that was not first approved by the NRA! The nerve it must take for a supposed leader of the Senate is beyond me! He made his proclamation while holding up a single shot musket shown here:

I have not even begun to address the issue of mental health and/or lack of mental health treatment for people that are contemplating such an act as the Orlando shooter. I will not use his name because I do not believe he deserves to be addressed by name by me.

The issue of mental health as a disease is often not classified as such and many statements are attached to someone with a mental problem. They are often shunned, put down, excused as a "head case" and if they do receive any care maybe the diagnosis is often misdiagnosed. Oftentimes, someone with mental health issues are just shoved along in the system from one department to another and along with misdiagnoses may receive medications that counter the effects of another. If the patient or an advocate for the patient is not diligent in keeping track of medications and treatments, patients often will begin to create an even more horrible situation than the beginning.

They may not have any problems at all in the beginning; but, rather misdiagnoses and treatments that can lead to problems. We are just beginning to understand the brain and how it functions. The sad thing about brain research is many programs are losing funding because of grants drying up and priorities going elsewhere. I have strong beliefs about how our Western medicine operates. I'm a staunch believer in Eastern and/or alternative medicine, and believe the two can work together and create a much better system for everyone.

That brings us to the issue of who pays for what in the medical field? Many insurance companies will cover a certain drug and not another one that might do the same thing. From all my years of experience with the multitude of medications I need to take for certain things to the acupuncture, supplemental herbal supplements as well as some home remedies I am getting by.

This country is divided in many ways and we need to understand and appreciate the people around us who are different than we are. That difference may be cultural, philosophical, racial, language, sexual orientation, disability, age and others.

In the immortal words of the now deceased Rodney King who once asked, "Why can't we all just get along"?

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What Does It Take To Make A Toothbrush Holder For An Old Quad?

Funny you should ask, because I want to tell you what happened to me today when I went to get my six-year-old toothbrush splint replaced as it was beginning to fall apart.

First of all, I was to be at the outpatient hand clinic in the 2800 Building of the Abbott Northwestern Hospital complex. My attendant, Danyell, parked right in front of the building. My instincts kicked in and I hurriedly rushed to the outpatient clinic in the Sister Kenny building. Where I was told I was in the wrong building and I had to go back to 2800. That clinic is for inpatient patients and the 2800 Building is for outpatient hand therapy.

My original appointment was set for 12 noon. I got to the clinic with about five minutes to spare. They got me checked in and quickly assigned me to Teresa who helped me form the basic splint. That is the black part of this following picture.

After almost an hour with Teresa and forming the basic splint, I went back to the correct clinic in the Sister Kenny building and re-met a longtime acquaintance, Christina. She and I went on a great Odyssey over the next few hours! We went to the Occupational Therapy Department I have been in as a patient and visitor for many years. Christina did what she could, but we ran into a problem with riveting the straps to the split. The therapy department no longer has the capability to rivet; so, I mentioned the idea of going down to the maintenance department and see if they could help us. Eureka, we were greeted by several SEIU Healthcare MN members who took us back into their woodshop to see if they could help us get the straps riveted onto the splint.

It was about 1:45 and one of them said they punched out at 2 o'clock. A couple of them said I'll go punch out, but I'll be right back. They looked in every box they could find for the exact rivet I needed. That is when Jim went and got his own little rivet gun box with the exact rivet and four union members stayed for another half hour to get my splints made to fit on the splint. When they finished, I thanked them profusely and Christina and I were off to her clinic to finish the project.

The finished product looks like this:

The image from the other side looks like this:

As always, click on the image to make it larger. I am not sure what the final cost of a split like this will be; however, I can assure you it is in the hundreds of dollars range if not more than a four-digit number!

We were running late and Danyell's shift was way past 2:30 PM. When I got to the van, she was patiently waiting for me, as it was now just about 3 o'clock. She asked me if my blood draw went okay? That is when it hit me, I needed to go back to the main hospital lab and get my blood drawn. I was so proud of myself and finally getting my work done for the day, I forgot I needed to get a blood draw because another infection is starting and my doctor wants to check all of my blood levels.

I got back to the van and it was almost 3:30! The problem was besides her running on overtime was I had an appointment with my friend Mike Ross at 2:30 to help me fix my computer. I finally was able to call him and he had been sitting in my driveway for the last half hour! We had a discussion about what was going on and he agreed to come by tomorrow or the next day when I am here. He is my savior when it comes to keeping my computer running. He has been ever since we were friends in college in Berkeley in the 1974-'75 school year.

Back to my original point in writing this post was to show how creative problem-solvers and people who are committed to their work get things done. All in all I had a fun day despite everything that took longer than expected! Writing this post even went longer than I expected.

I look forward to your comments.



Monday, June 6, 2016

Today Would Have Been My Father's 83rd Birthday!

June 6 is an important day in our history because 48 years ago today Robert Kennedy was taken from us all too soon. I often wonder what the world and our lives would be like had the 1960s been different on so many occasions.

The 1960s brought tremendous amount of change for me as a young boy moving from five different communities and learning to adapt to five very different environments. It was also a decade in which my relationship with my dad changed dramatically as I grew up under his tutelage.

I have written about his birthday on several occasions and other times I wrote how he affected me as my mentor, coach and friend. I was my father's shadow in many ways and as I grew older I came to realize just what a wonderful relationship we had.

There was an alternate side of my father I did not know much about until much later. I choose to focus on the positive side of our relationship. That is why I miss him tremendously since he has been gone almost ten years already. I have several pictures of him at various stages of his life on my Screensaver and see him for seven-second intervals every so often.

Attached is my first photograph of him playing with me and teaching me how to blow bubbles in 1957 when I was only two:

Click on the image to make it larger:

Recently, I wrote a blog post that has become one of my most read ever about him coaching me in the summer of 1968 in Sibley, Iowa. After that summer, he accepted the track and cross country coaching job as well as a counselor position at Worthington State Junior College (WSJC) where he stayed for eight years until my family moved again where he took a similar job at Rochester Community College (RCC). He retired after seventeen years in Rochester. 

Several years ago, I was in Worthington in mid-September for the annual King Turkey Days celebration. I took some time and went to visit and give a brief speech for my long time friend Joel Krekelberg who was teaching a class entitled "Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries." Krek as he is appropriately known in Worthington was teaching his students how to wrap ankles. Every time I get an opportunity to watch him deftly wrap an ankle is a treat because he is so good at!

After his class, I wanted to go over to the athletic building and see if any of my dad's track and cross country teams pictures were still there. We went over there and there were only a few photographs left. The athletic director was there and asked me if I wanted those photos because since track and cross country were eliminated from their sports options, eventually they would be thrown away when the football team pictures crowded them out. I gladly took them and want to share a couple with you now of my father's very successful track and cross country program in the eight years he ran the program that he took over when Bruce Traphagen turned over the program to Dad in the fall of 1968.

I am attaching a couple photographs and their yearly haul of trophies:

As always, click on the images to make them larger:

Some of you may recognize yourself or someone you know. One of the members of the track team, Jerry Schnyders, back row, second from right, I have known since we lived in Edgerton and played baseball together in the mid-1960s!

Roger Schipper who is on the far right in the second row lived with my family for a while when he first moved to Rochester to become the trainer at the Community College. Later, when he was finishing his student teaching, he stayed with Dave Bisbee and me in my first apartment in Minneapolis.

This is fun for me to look at old pictures of not only my dad but also friendships that have lasted many years. I wrote a lot about that in my book.

I look forward to your comments.



Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Stefen Curry Is A Monster!

If you stayed up late last night and watched the NBA Western Championship game, you saw one of the best performances in the second half by a single player in recent NBA history! Curry willed his team to victory by raining threes, driving the lane and even using the glass when appropriate in the second half and passing the ball like nobody has since Pete Maravich.

Curry had 36 points (13-24 FG, 7-12 3Pt, 3-3 FT), eight assists and five rebounds in 40 minutes during last night's 96-88 Game 7 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Curry put the finishing touches on an historic series comeback for the Warriors, scoring 15 points in the final period Monday to help his team advance to a second consecutive NBA Finals. 

As he has done time and time again this season, the MVP dominated in a must-win situation, nailing two three-pointers in the game's first five minutes and controlling the tempo throughout. The 36 points were Curry's most since he tallied 40 points off the bench in Game 4 of the Warriors' second-round series with the Trail Blazers.

He was simply dominant and fun to watch as the Warriors completely dominated Oklahoma City and their star Kevin Durant. It was worth staying up to watch history in the making. Especially when you consider Oklahoma City was up by 13 at one point in the first half, the comeback by Golden State was especially dramatic!

Very few teams have been down in a championship series 3-1 and come back to win three games to clinch a series. That includes not only the NBA, but also the major sports that play seven-game series like the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB).

Here is a photograph from last night's game:

His ever-present mouth guard seems to always be hanging out of his mouth even when he nonchalantly steps to the free-throw line and sinks two or three. However, his focus is always on the basketball. The intensity in his eyes is admirable and fun to watch.

I must admit I do not watch many NBA games during the regular season because they tend to always come down to the final few minutes and the stars take over in one-on-one matches and the games are decided by a couple points. The playoffs are different, especially for Game 7's because it is win or go home.

I much prefer watching college basketball because for the most part they are playing for the love of the game and not millions of dollars.

For example, Curry's contract is for $12 million this year. He will become a free agent after next year and certain projections are putting his new contract to be around three times that per year! Other sports have found paying certain players that much money has not worked out. It will be interesting to see what happens with him.  

This was a record-breaking year for the Warriors, as they became the first team to go 73-9! The record had been 72-10 held by the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

Now, it is on to the Finals against the Eastern Champions Cleveland Cavaliers and their star-studded cast led by Lebron James. Since Golden State has the better record they are the top seed and will get home court starting Thursday night.

I know it is a big deal in Cleveland since no major sports team from that city has won a championship in 52 years when the Cleveland Browns won the NFL Championship. That was before the Super Bowl era. That ranks them third among city droughts behind Ottawa back to 1927 and 89 years since winning the Stanley Cup. Second on the list is San Diego at 53 years when the Chargers won the old AFL Championship in 1963. That was also pre-Super Bowl era.

Many people are hoping the Cavaliers will win this Championship. Personally, I hope the Warriors win their second straight championship behind Curry's second consecutive MVP Award!

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Monday, May 23, 2016

One Pitch Can Change Everything!

One pitch can change everything from a walk off home run in the bottom of the ninth in game seven of the World Series to keeping a young Iowa junior high school team from going to the state tournament.

Iowa, unlike its neighboring states, of Minnesota, South Dakota and Nebraska has run its baseball program in the summer. The Iowa High School Athletic Association feels it is necessary so young boys can participate in their summer months and run track in the spring if they choose so. In Iowa, I could play four sports. I played baseball in the summer, football in the fall, basketball in the winter and ran track in the spring. I only did that one year as I started going to school in Worthington and commuted with Dad who had started coaching and counseling at Worthington State Junior College in September 1968.That was in my eighth grade year. We stayed in Sibley until our house was completed in February 1969.

The first picture I want to show you is when we were getting ready to go to the 9th District Tournament Championship game to qualify for the Iowa State Tournament:

The next picture is the rundown of our game as it appeared in the Sibley Gazette:

The next picture was our practice picture and does not have all the team members at practice.

I want to show you our team of student/athletes at our practice field, which doubled as a demolition derby on weekends at the Osceola County Fairgrounds. It was an all dirt field with very little grass in the outfield. My dad was our coach, bus driver, groundskeeper and third-base coach. He had to reinstall the pitching rubber every Monday after a demolition derby that weekend and performed any other tasks deemed necessary. He is standing on the far right. He also coached the high school team.

Our loss came on one pitch in the bottom of the seventh when Mark Huisenga hit a smash up the middle and the pitcher blindly snagged, which abruptly ended our rally and our season. It was a sad ride home that day.

Baseball was fun to play and watch. I miss being able to play catch with my dad with a baseball, football or shoot baskets with him teaching and mentoring me all the way.

The regulations that govern Iowa baseball state your birthday has to come before a certain day to be eligible to play on that team. We were lucky because our three best players all have the same birthday falling into the parameters in the rulebook. Bob Wahl, Dan Pomerenke and Mark Huisenga were those players.

I built lifelong friendships with that team and still keep in touch through Facebook with a few of them, their friends, sisters, wives and other people from Sibley. We only lived in Iowa for two and one-half years; but it was an active, carefree, fun existence for a young boy in a quiet, little town in northwest Iowa in the late 60s!

I often think about what other memories we would have made if that pitcher had not made that one pitch!

Now, I get my coaching and mentoring fun by watching the Minnesota Twins and the University of Minnesota's Gophers men's basketball team. Both of them have been hard to watch lately.

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Some Friendships Last A Lifetime!

I had a great experience yesterday when three of my close friends from the dorms I lived in in Berkeley during the 1974-'75 school year flew in for a few hours of sharing old memories and making new ones. Karen "Smalley" Bixby called me a couple days ago and asked if she could fly from a conference in Chicago for a few hours and then go back later yesterday afternoon.

I replied, "Of course, that would be great, but I could not come to get you at the airport. Maybe Mike Ross could pick you up and take you back when you needed to fly out?"

Kathy (Keen) Mancuso lives in Houston now and when Karen proposed the idea to Kathy, Keeno was ready to come if she could get good flights with corresponding times.

Here is a picture of the four of us, as they were getting ready to leave:

As always, click on the image to make it larger:

Mike had me order some Chinese take-out food for lunch, which they picked up on the way to my apartment. Karen helped feed me with chopsticks, which she was very adept at using! There is no way I can use those sticks!

The year I was in Putnam Hall was the first year the Physically Disabled Student Program (PDSP) started integrating students with disabilities into the general student population. UC Berkeley was way ahead of its time! The program has since dropped the first word, Physically, from its title and is now known as DSP. It is housed in the Ed Roberts Campus, which is located a few blocks from campus and was started to honor all of the work Ed did around the world for the disability community. I have written about him before and you can find that post by clicking on his name in the labels at the end of this post.

Karen was a Resident Assistant for Freeborn Hall. She went out of her way to make friends with the three students with disabilities that lived in Putnam. It was no easy task since Greg was unable to speak and had to spell everything slowly on his lapboard. Gary lived on the other side of me and spoke very slowly and non-discernible by most people. I became his interpreter and when anyone new would join us at lunch, they would look to me to tell him/her what Gary was trying to say.

Another story everyone remembered fondly was getting my mail because I could not open the mailbox, which was high on the wall and down one floor. When my mother would send pictures of my little brother, Chad who was just a few months old when I moved to Berkeley and he was learning to walk, she would send a half dozen pictures a week of Chad as he grew and changed every week. Mom would write "Do Not Bend" on the envelope in several places!

Whomever got my mail would run up the stairs screaming, "Mike, you got another, 'Do Not Bend'" We all knew what that meant so several people would gather in the lush courtyard right outside the cafeteria and pass around a half-dozen more pictures of Chad looking left, Chad looking right, Chad sitting up, Chad standing up. You name it, Mom will deny this but she was encouraging me to come home in her subtle ways! The funny thing is, it worked!

I tell everyone that asks what was the best thing I have ever done? I tell them, "The second best thing I ever did was move to Berkeley." 

Their response is always, well then what was the best thing you ever did? I always reply, "I moved home." I say that not because of my friends I made in Berkeley and the growing I did on a personal level, but rather how my life has grown in so many ways since moving back, finishing my degree at the University of Minnesota and the changes my life has taken since I left Berkeley in 1975.

Another irony in this move was several years after I moved back and Chad graduated from college he moved to Southern California and has been there for many years now! It was fun for Kathy and Karen to see pictures of Chad now as a forty-two-year-old entrepreneur living in Southern California!

We shared stories of our memories of the fairly short time in our lives where we were actually together and how that school year has made lasting friendships that have lasted more than forty years!

I want to close with a picture of the three of us men who attended our dinner at Trader Vic's Restaurant in San Francisco when I took eight other friends and myself to a four-hour dinner for $150! We had a blast that night and stories abounded about who remembered what from that treat. I like this picture because the three of us all had cool 1970s hair!

Besides Mike Ross In his flashy velvet jacket and me was Doug Hamblin, Mike's roommate.

As always, click on the image to make it larger:

Like I said earlier, the four hours just flew by and I wish it could have lasted longer. I do not believe a minute went by when somebody was not talking, usually while somebody else was telling her or his memory of a particular story!

It always amazes me how all the stages of my life keep coming back in various ways by people who made a difference in that particular piece of my life. At 61, I have a hard time believing I have managed to live in so many places and acquire so many friendships on levels I cannot describe. I have managed to live more than forty-four years with a high-level spinal cord injury and I am feeling the aging process along with everything that goes with my injury. Yet, there are many days I feel like I can turn those numbers around and I feel 16!

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Monday, April 18, 2016

I Stopped Driving … Again!

About two years ago I started to feel uncomfortable and not in very good control of driving my van. I knew something had to be changed or I was not going to be safe on the road anymore. It started to scare me that I might cause an accident and hurt or even kill someone else or myself on the road.

It has been a difficult decision since I have been driving fully-modified vans since 1974 in Berkeley. I ordered my first van from a brochure at a medical equipment company in Minneapolis called Redi-Care. I did not know if I would be able to drive it or not and it was a tremendous leap of faith for us to order what was called a Med-Van. I was going to spend $13,000 on the vehicle I was not sure I would be able to drive!

In the winter of 1972 my father, my little brother, Rick and I went to Minneapolis to get tested at a driving school to see if I could drive a car. The instructor quickly found out I would not be able to drive a car, but with the right modifications I might be able to drive a van. That is when he gave me the address for Redi-Care. Fortunately, the owner of the company was in the store that Saturday morning and introduced me to my first van.

The first picture I want to show you is my current van of me driving two years ago. There are several more photographs of me driving and various parts of the van on my website.

Click on the image to make it larger:

There are many stories I would like to share and pictures to show of all six vans I have owned or leased; however, this post is not long enough to show them all! Suffice it to say, I have driven about 500,000 miles in six vehicles, three full-size vans and three minivans.

I want to show you another picture of me driving my first van in 1977 when my mom, dad, were on our way for me to speak at the athletic banquet in McLaughlin, South Dakota. It was a real honor for me to be asked to speak at their banquet since I only went to first and second grade in McLaughlin! Fourteen years later, I was asked to come back and address many people I had known from our three years in McLaughlin.

This picture shows my little brother, Chad watching me as I drove across the plains of Minnesota to drop him off at our uncle's farm so he could play with his cousin. I love the look of concentration on Chad's face! Of course, my mom took that picture!

When he was not standing behind me, he had two beanbag chairs to lounge on unrestricted in the back of the van. No child restraints for us in 1977. I am excited to tell you Chad is quite the entrepreneur and loving life in Southern California trying to get his patented Drum Wallet sold, among other adventures he is always pursuing. He and I are very much alike and communicate with cell phones, Facebook and keeping track of each other's activities.

The reason I wanted to put this post up is to show how my life has changed dramatically since my ability to drive has been lost. There have been a couple other times when I was unable to drive for extended periods of time. However, I eventually got my strength back and the stamina to drive several hundred miles at a time, speak for a day and drive home that night. Now, I need to take an attendant with me to do all of my personal cares and that can be a problem on occasion when I go for extended periods of time. I hope to make it back to Worthington in September for their annual Turkey Day celebration. It is always fun to be in Worthington during those couple of days.

I often get speaking engagements and book sales from people who constantly come up to me all day long. 

The reason I have not been posted since last November is I have not been able to sit up long enough during the day to work on putting up a good post. We tried something new today and after my acupuncture appointment this morning, my morning attendant laid me down and my evening attendant got me back up so I could write this post. So far, my sitting tolerance is good and I feel fine. Hopefully, I will do this more often and post on a more regular basis.

I want to close this post with one last picture of me riding as a passenger in my van.

As always, click on the photo to make it larger:

I know driving is a privilege and I was privileged enough to have driven for almost forty years. I have friends and relatives who have never been able to drive since their injury onset or their entire lives. I am not complaining about losing this privilege; I just want you to know how our lives change and how it can affect people around them. The loss of some independence is difficult for all of us to deal with. As we grow older and start to lose some of our faculties we may all come to the conclusion it is time to turn over our keys to someone else!

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Monday, November 30, 2015

Black Lives Matter!

Now that I have your attention, I want to tell you about one black man who has had a tremendous influence on my life. Shortly after I moved to this apartment in mid August 2012 I was coming down the sidewalk after running a few errands to get little things we could not find in our packing.

Ahead of me was a thin, small black man who was using his phone. He did not hear me when I asked him if I could get by. I kind of snuck up on him and scared him. I apologized for scaring him and went on my way. I went around the building and came in the front door as Robert was coming in the backdoor. We did not know each other lived in the building. We laughed and introduced ourselves. That was the first time I met Robert Foster and we became fast friends at that moment.

Robert lived in the building with his brother, Rodney and was his primary Personal Care Attendant (PCA) and shortly came to work for me as well.

He had an infectious smile and loud, booming voice. From behind my apartment walls, I could hear if Robert was in the lobby.

He became part of my extended family and we did a number of things together including making a trip to the annual Smith pheasant hunt in South Dakota. Here is a photograph taken in 2013 during that trip:
 As always, click on the image to make it larger:

We were in the barn on the farm my uncle is renovating and Robert was teasing me about something trying to get me to smile and I was not going to give him the satisfaction!

He read my book, enjoyed it and we had many discussions which came from points he found interesting. He told me he learned a lot from me and that meant a great deal. I try to mentor and teach just about everyone I come in contact with. We had a great connection and love of all things sports especially basketball. We meshed from the very beginning and the race difference went away from the very beginning.

He loved to play basketball and often shared stories of when he played at North High School in Minneapolis. We would often watch football and basketball games together and SportsCenter was always on when he would get me up in the morning.

Robert loved life and despite overcoming many tragedies with losing his daughter because a kidney transplant did not take, a mother suffering from Alzheimer's disease, his brother being paralyzed and struggling, a brother with AIDS, just to name a few of the tragedies he is overcome in these little more than three years I knew him. He had a strong faith and inner drive we all can aspire to have!

He also liked his Nikes! He had around two hundred pair many of which have never been taken out of the box! He even had a storage shed full of his shoes and a few other assorted items.

A couple years ago, he was struggling with a car and needed $1200 to get a used car to get him through the winter. I put my old financial planning hat on to try and see if we could straighten out his financial situation. The first thing he did was open a checking account at the bank just up the street. Then, he got a credit card which he used sparingly just to establish his credit.

Shortly after that, he went up the road a ways to an Acura dealer and bought a very nice car for around $6,000. He loved that car and it was always in immaculate condition. They gave him a good deal and treated them very well all because he was in the system now and not living from paycheck to paycheck. He was also building up a small investment.

I am very proud to say he learned how to use the system to his advantage from me.

The other great thing he had going for him was the love of his life, Lisa. They were always together and shared many experiences that helped him get through all of the tragedy he was dealing with. They were soul mates and found each other and had a great time together.

He was like a member of our family and even called my mother, Moms! They also got along great together. We teased each other we were brothers from different mothers. We also referred to ourselves as ebony and ivory, chocolate and vanilla, salt-and-pepper. You get the idea about the young man growing up in the inner-city and connecting with another man who grew up living in small towns across the Midwest. We came from very different backgrounds; however, that did not matter. We overcame those differences from the very beginning.

I am not positive about Robert's exact cause of death, I just know he went very quickly these last few months and had something to do with renal and liver failure. I have a hard time believing he is gone. It will hit me at his service on December seventh.

I know I need to go through the grieving process and it will take some time as I am still in denial. I wish you well in your next world, Robert. Peace be with you and we must take solace in the fact your pain is gone. I will miss you my friend.

I look forward to your comments.



Monday, November 16, 2015

Do Not Ever Break Your Neck!

I usually follow that statement with, "because it's not worth the good parking spots."

In this case, I am referring to relying on Metro Mobility to get me from my apartment to Williams Arena on time so I could watch the new version of Richard Pitino's Golden Gophers play the University of Louisiana, Monroe.

I was supposed to be picked up at 2 PM and arrive at 2:30 PM to meet my ticket holder sharer, Phil Echert. On the way, we had to make a stop at the Mall of America to drop off another rider. We did not leave the Mall of America until 2:30! I had this sinking feeling we were not going to make it on time!

We arrived just in time to see the opening tip! After the game, my ride was a half hour late and it took me little more than an hour to get home. I understand the need for multiple riders on these dial-a-ride services; however, I wish they had a better way of letting us know they were going to be late or at least know we were not going to be the only riders.

I enjoy the freedom of getting in my van, driving to where I want to go and coming home when I want to. My van has not been driven for several months because of my bedridden status and I was forced to use the dial-a-ride service. I hope to get my van in working order by the next game.

By the way, the Gophers won 67-56. It was not a pretty game, but a win is a win. At one point late in the second half the Gophers were 2 for 20 from the three-point line! The Gophers had gone on a poor shooting streak and let ULM back in the game. At one point,ULM led 51-50. Then the Gophers went on a 17 to 5 run to win the game. It would not have looked good on their tournament resume to have fallen to a team like them.

I finally arrived home after dropping off another rider who was fortunately fairly close to my destination. Amed was following his GPS religiously and I told him to turn it off so I could better get him back home.

It turns out the service had me going to a different address than my beginning address and after a couple wrong turns, he listened to me and got me back home. He thanked me for  telling to him how to get home the shortest way possible. We had a nice conversation and I appreciated his willingness to listen to my directions. He had an interesting story about his country of origin from Syria seventeen years ago! He was glad he was not there now!
Since I had recorded the Vikings – Raiders game, Mom and I watched the game in its entirety; skipping through the commercials was fun to watch a game! 

The Vikings are now 7-3 and sit atop the National Conference Central Division since Green Bay missed a last second field goal to lose to the Lions. It has been a long time since the Vikings were in this position and we will find out how good they are Sunday when Green Bay comes to TCF Bank Stadium to see which team will sit atop the division at least temporarily. It will make it interesting to see who wins in the regular-season finale at Green Bay!

Adrian Peterson had a tremendous day yesterday and the Vikings need him to run like that again this weekend. Both teams have their own set of injuries and we will see how that plays out on Sunday.

As always, I tend to stray away from my original intent of this post. If you are frequent reader of my blog you know that is something I do often!

I will close now by saying, "Go Gophers, and Go Vikings!"

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Friday, November 6, 2015

Another Gopher Basketball Season Is Underway!

Once again I am excited about the upcoming Gopher basketball season, as I have been going to watch since my first one in 1973 when I saw my first game with a good friend, Mike Johnson. After a brief stint of going to games in Berkeley when the conference was the Pac-8, I returned to Minneapolis and have had season tickets for almost forty years including season tickets when I was a student and tickets were six dollars!

The Barn will not be rocking tomorrow afternoon and not all the seats will be filled, but I still enjoy being in that old place and watching my favorite college basketball team! I have great seats sitting at almost midcourt in the front row right behind the broadcasters. Oftentimes people can see me while they interview the broadcasters at halftime.

Here is a great picture of the scoreboard several years ago my sister took from her seat about twenty rows up. Notice the balance scoring. You do not see that every day. In fact, I have never seen it again:
 As always, click on the image to make it larger:

The Barn was rocking that night as the Gophers were playing Michigan State. I do not know what year it was, but I do know it was during the Monson years.

Williams Arena has undergone a few changes since then. The most noticeable change is the lowering of the floor several inches. Other than that, I believe Williams is the second or third oldest college basketball arenas in the country! 

If you have ever been in The Barn during a close game or a major run by the home team you can attest to the excitement, energy and noise in that place. I love those nights in The Barn! It is those nights that get me through these frigid Minnesota winters!

During the 1996-'97 season which was officially wiped out because of all the NCAA rules violations of then coach Clem Haskins The Barn was especially loud as the Gophers had their finest season in history. They went to the Final 4 that year and lost the first game to Tubby Smith's Kentucky team which won the National Championship two days later.

Longtime Gopher fans will remember Coach Smith and his own downfall when he came and coached the Gophers.

Richard Pitino is entering his third year at the helm of the Gophers amidst his own allegations when he was an assistant for his father at Louisville. We will follow his situation and see what happens.

I wrote earlier how I had taken a break while I attended school at the University of California, Berkeley. When I arrived on campus in late 1973, I started researching the campus to find out where I could go to watch the Golden Bears basketball team play the likes of UCLA, USC and Stanford.

When I got to Harmon Gym, I was shocked it had thirteen steps into the front door. This was Berkeley, how could that be?

I went up to the Physically Disabled Student Program (PDSP) and asked my good friend, Ed Roberts why Harmon was not accessible? He told me it was on their list of trying to get all the old buildings on campus made accessible to students with disabilities. Ed told me if I wanted to get a ramp in the building with automatic door openers I should go to the Dean's office and ask how we can get it done. That was the beginning of my student activism on campus!

To make a long story short, that summer the University began construction of this ramp into the building. This picture is my father and me checking out the construction when my mom and dad made a road trip with me to get back for the upcoming school year. My uncle, Terry was stationed in McClellan Air Force Base near Sacramento and he rode with us for the trip until we dropped him off at the base.

I like the look on my dad's face as he carefully inspected the work going on:

Again, click on the image to make it larger:

The ramp was finished by basketball season and I was able to see some of my classmates play ball for the Golden Bears that year.

Basketball has always and always will be my favorite sport. I am not only a fan, but a coach and student of the game. I often do coaching from my seat and amaze people who come to the game with me not knowing much about the intricacies of a trapping midcourt defense or beating a 2-3 zone defense.

After playing and watching basketball pretty much my entire life I find myself teaching my friends things I learned from my dad and Flip Saunders in my time at Golden Valley Lutheran College.

Here is a photograph of Flip and me at one of our games. It is still hard to believe he is gone!
Click on the image to make it larger:

I also used some of those techniques when I coached my nephew for three years playing Park and Rec ball in St. Paul when he was just learning the game. One of my players told me he really appreciated the game much more because of everything I taught him about playing and watching basketball.

Back to Williams Arena and the upcoming season. Last year was a disappointing year after winning the NIT in Pitino's first year. After going 17-15 last year, I am looking forward to the new recruits and watching the development of last year's players.

Go Gophers!

I look forward to your comments.