Thursday, March 31, 2005

Terri Schiavo: The Day The Music Died

Bye, Bye Miss America, Bye
Drove my Chevy to the levy, but the levy was dry
Them good ol' boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing, this will be the day that I die

Theresa Marie Schindler-Schiavo died this morning.

When I heard the news, I didn't realize how much it would depress me.

Yes, I realize that I have become attached to this case, maybe on a personal level. I'll tell you why: it has made me re-evaluate some things that I thought I believed. It challenged me to re-think my stance on a few issues.

No, I have not changed my opinion that patients do have the right to refuse, verbally or in writing, any medical treatments, up to and including the removal of a feeding tube. It has not changed my opinion that the closest family member or an appointed agent through a Durable Medical Power of Attorney is an appropriate person to make those decisions for the patient if they become incapacitated.

So, why did I get exercised over the Terri Schiavo case?

I have a short list of issues with the case, however, I will only address one: the legal definition of life.

If you listen to some folks talking, this case was about "state's rights". Supposedly, this case is about who has the right to decide who the legal guardian is of an incapacitated person; who has the right to hear cases regarding this matter; who has the right to determine if an individuals health directives, verbal or written, are followed.

Nice try. That has become such a huge red herring. This is one area that congress made a mistake: trying to pass a law that gave the federal courts the power to review cases on patient rights when it concerned life or death matters. The courts refused to review the case.

Why do I say it was a mistake for congress to pass this law? It wasn't just a mistake, it was a cop out. The Supreme Court was correct, procedurally, in refusing to hear the case because they recognized a hand off of a loaded bomb. But, ultimately, refusing to hear the case was a cop out by the Supreme Court as well.

Why do I call it a cop out?

Neither the Congress of the United States nor the Supreme Court wanted to make any law nor set any precedent that might in anyway define the meaning of "life".

In the end, that is what this case was about. It wasn't about some dry and arcane discussion about "states rights" nor any laws about "patient's rights" or "living wills" nor even the law regarding establishment of guardianship over incapacitated people.

This case was about life and who gets to establish what "life" means.

Is "life" the essence of "being"? In order to be considered alive, some people believe that a thing, a person, must have a recognizable cognition of their surroundings, an ability to interact intellectually, not just physically, with their surroundings, to have a personality or character as would be defined by something they refer to as the "higher brain", and, in essence, be something that we can recognize as a "conscious" human being.

Is "life" the essence of "living"? In this definition, living would be defined as breathing, heart beating, eating (whether tube, intravenous or hand fed), body functioning in all ways except the brain no longer imposes or only imposes a minimal essence of "being": conscious, recognizable interaction with people and their environment.

Why did Jeb Bush refuse to issue a directive that the police take Terri Schiavo into state protective custody?

Because, if he had, the state would have been defining the meaning of "life".

It was a cop out.

Herein lies the rub: I know that, in the past, I have noted the issues with trying to define the meaning of life. By defining the meaning of life, other laws would be put to a new test. Other aspects of life, such as the patients right to refuse treatment, might be put to a new test. The question of embryo based research into genetically driven medical treatments would be put to a new test. The most inflammatory issue, abortion, would be put to a new test.

The test of "life" as defined by law.

I recognize this problem. I have recognized this problem for a long time, particularly as I have been a "pro-choice" supporter and insistent that government should make no laws regarding medical procedures that impact a woman's control of her reproductive system, though I have been concerned about the number of abortions performed and what it meant about society. I have recognized this problem when discussing embryotic research, which I have supported, though I have been concerned about the development of embryos as a "marketable" item, thus putting a price on life. Let's not forget organ donation. In order to harvest organs, a patient must be considered "brain dead", but their heart and lungs must still function. Usually, this is through artificial and mechanical means as "brain death" also entails the portion of the brain that controls these functions.

In the past, I supported the governments attempts to NOT define life for the simple reason that "life" seemed to have more than just one meaning and had so many implications regarding existing society and medical practices.

For several months and, more specifically, thirteen days, I watched a woman that I would have considered to be "alive" be denied food and water, dehydrating and starving her to death.

All for the want of a legal definition of "life".

You see, if Terri Schiavo was considered to have "life", without a terminal illness that was already recognizable ending her life, they could not have deprived her life without first meeting the guidelines of the fifth amendment to the Constitution:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Being unable to feed yourself is not a terminal illness unless you are in the wilderness, far away from civilization where feeding, as in the case of Terri Schiavo, could not be provided mechanically.

Some people would argue that this in itself defines the essence of Terris condition: a mechanical device performing a function for her because the organ that controls it no longer does. If we looked at it from that perspective, then we'd have to start questioning things like dialysis, pace makers, colostomies, artificial hearts, etc, etc, etc.

Which returns us directly back to the main issue: what is the definition of "life"?

And, after that question, what is the value of "life"?

From my perspective, life has suddenly become incredibly cheap and expendable.

Worse yet, what I must come to recognize as well as my compatriots from either side of this debate is that, while we argued about the meaning of life and we have allowed our elected representatives not to define "life" through a defined and recognizable law in order to avoid possible conflict with other existing laws, a small court in the state of Florida has already made that law by setting precedent in this case; determining that Terri Schiavo was in a medical condition that was "less than life" and, so having determined that to be true, her spouse could have her life ended through the removal of a "medical treatment."

In all honesty, this is probably not the first court case that set this precedent. This was only the case that received national televized presence. It was the case that finally caught our attention and started anew our debate about "life".

If there was anything good to be said about Terri's death, it was that she made this conversation possible. In the past, discussions about abortion and the meaning of life became stagnated around the question of women's rights and Roe v. Wade. People could easily argue that a fetus not out of the womb could not be considered "alive" or having "life" and others could argue the opposite, but, because it was a baby and babies are inherently considered the responsbility and, let's face it, property of the birthing parent, we the people have been reluctant to try and establish a time frame or other landmark that would signify the beginning of "life" and when the child must be protected under the laws including the basic rights outlined in the Declaration of Independence, the first "rights", of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

"Life" the first "right" recognized by our founding fathers. Who knew 229 years later the question of what "life" is would be so important?

Terri, though, she was not a baby. She was not somebody's property. She was a living, breathing, heart beating, bodily healthy human being that had life until it was taken from her. She had value as a human being. She lived fifteen years after the incident that disabled her, whatever that living condition was, and, after fifteen years someone decided that her life was not worth living.

Not just someone. A court in the county of Pinellas Florida along with her "legal" spouse.

That is who has decided the meaning of life. That is who has set the precedent that will be cited in court cases through out the state of Florida and referenced in every court through out the land.

You are not alive unless you can also "be". Your life is not about your existence as flesh and blood. You must be recognized by the courts as having a personality, a character, an ability to recognizably interact with your surroundings and people. Without that, you are not alive. You are nothing.

Because we are cowards. I was a coward. Because I, we, have held these other issues as in danger or requiring redefinition should we define the meaning of life. Because Congress has decided that someone other than the highest law of the land should define life, be that a doctor, a judge or your average person walking down the street. Because, I, we, have not demanded that a definition of "life" be prescribed in our constitution, as another orator of recent fame noted, the chickens have come home to roost. That chicken landed squarely on the shoulders of Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo and it cost her her life.

I watched it live on my television for thirteen days. Thirteen days that have changed me and my perceptions. I watched as the definition of "life" was defined by a county court in Pinnellas County Florida.

For all those who support the anti-abortion "right to life" movement , who demand that the capital punishment, as defined by the death penalty, be withdrawn as "cruel and unusal punishment" and, yet, would not support this woman's right to live as an invasion of privacy or a "family matter" regarding "medical decisions", I would say that you missed the whole point: everything that you worked for has been defined by this moment.

There is no "right to life" because "life" has been defined as something more than existing. "Life" means that you must "be".

The state and the federal government, along with the judiciary, can decide who dies and who lives, whose life is worthy and whose life is not.

Article I

Section 1.

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section 8.
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

The absence of a law was the law in this case. The absence of such a law has cost Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo her life.

So, here we stand, what is the definition of life, when does that life have "value" and are you comfortable that the decision was left in the hands of a county court, the "expert" opinions of physicians and a couple of lawyers?

Should the definition of life be left up to the opinions of each citizen of this country to define as they see fit?

What ramifications does that have?

I can think of one and that is now, as it has been for some time, it is the individual's idea of the value of human life and that value is too often cheap and expendable.

Beverly Hillbilly Bikers - Burnt Ends

Beverly Hillbilly Bikers - Day 1
Beverly Hillbilly Bikers - Day 2

Day 3

Do you know what "burnt ends" are? Burnt ends are some of the best and cheapest kinds of barbecued meat you can get at a "real" barbecue joint. Burnt ends are the blackened, crispy edge pieces of a brisket or slab of ribs that have been slow cooked over a fire pit. Usually, though, these pieces of meat have been quickly seared over high heat to seal in the juices before placed in a lower heat section of the pit for the slow cook. When the restaurant cuts the beef up to serve, they cut off the "burnt ends", before slicing the rest of the meat for sandwiches or cutting up the ribs for servings.

They're cheap because they aren't the prime pieces of the meat. The term "burnt ends" can be a little misleading since they aren't actually "burnt" so much as "blackened".

But, it is cheap and it is good.

On the third morning of our trip, I awoke at 8 AM to a sunny day that was already in the mid 80's temperature wise. I woke up that early, not because I wanted to, but because it is very hard to sleep in a tent with the sun blazing through the thin walls. You know, tents aren't exactly equiped with "black out" curtains.

I had slept like a log the night before. I had slept so hard and so relaxed that the pillow had become stuck to my face. You know, the next best thing to super glue is your own spit and slobber.

I could hear the birds chirping and a stray dog or two barking somewhere in the distance. It was already muggy enough that I had kicked off the sheet I'd used the night before as my lone covering. I finally turned over on my back and decided to wake up after realizing that no amount of digging my face into the pillow was going to block out the sun or the sound of the "wild", much less the constant low buzz of the people from the other tents.

Crap! I was on vacation and still waking up at some ungodly hour of the morning.

Did I mention that I am a crappy "morning person" until I've had one (or two or three) cans of caffeine? Yeah...chirpy birds? Shut the fuck up, what's there to chirp about? get the picture.

A small aside, when I worked as a manager of a department, if anyone had to come see me about a "problem" at 8:35 AM, before I saw the person, I would see an arm and a hand sticking through the door bearing a can of coke. Yeah, it's like that.

I finally pried the pillow off my face and flopped over on my back, shielding my burning eyes from the evil sun. A few more minutes of coming to realize that sleep was gone for good and I finally sat up on the edge of the cot, swinging my legs over, rubbing my sleepy eyes and squinting to see if I could find the pair of keds sneakers I'd packed in my "camping" bag for stumbling to the bathroom or just walking around the campsite.

Yes, did I mention my cot? It was a quick assembly job I picked up for 20 bucks at K-Mart. The rest of the folks were teasing me about "roughing it" with my cot and my little air cushion that laid over it. They could tease me all they wanted, but I was damn sure not going to lay on the hard ground with only a sleeping bag between me and the Rock of Gibraltor that always seemed to find its way under the tent, no matter how judicious I was at "sweeping" the area for debris before setting up. And, the rock invariably found it's way right under my shoulder blade, lower back or my ass, insuring that I spent 30 minutes every night trying to "scoot" into a position of comfort. Let's not forget about the pine forest that was also always present, sticking you in unpleasant places.

I had learned my lesson about "camping" long ago and there were a few things that I had decided I preferred to do without and that included "sticks and stones" breaking my bones. After riding the iron beast all day, the iron beast I had purposefully lowered the suspension on so I could reach the ground causing it to ride like a rigid frame, having said Iron Beast shove your tail bone three inches higher than normal when you hit a bump or a pot hole, you really begin to appreciate the small comforts in life.

That first night on the cot and the harrassment I received was well worth it. Particularly, when I unzipped my tent and climbed out to go circulate amongst the other hillbillies and I noted the number of them walking around, bent over, rubbing parts of their bodies.

Yeah, who's the wimp now?

Actually, I didn't say that. I'm too polite so I just grabbed a can of coke, flopped down in my little camp chair (also purchased for 20 and folding up small enough to fit in my "camp bag"), I just raised the can to my lips, smirking behind it as I surrepticiously watched the dance of the crooked people from behind my sun glasses. My parents told me I should always cover my mouth if I was laughing impolitiely.

The rest of the crew stumbled out and finally flopped in their chairs as if they could go no farther and digging blindly in the cooler for their caffeine fix. Except Aunt Jeanie. She'd brought a small percolator to set on the fire and prepare a few cups of coffee. Some mornings when I needed the "strong" stuff, she'd poor me a cup and, for once in my life, I'd drink it black, no sugar.

After the rest of the crew finally meandered out of their tents, flopped in their chairs and at least 15 minutes of silence broken only by three word sentences and grunting replies, Aunt Jeanie finally broke in and said that Heidi recommended a nearby lake where we could go and swim in the "swimming hole". She figured she'd bring sandwich stuff if we brought soda and chips or anything else we wanted.

That sounded good. We agreed and then the conversation turned to the "rest" of the trip. Uncle Louis didn't know if he was up to it yet. He said he wanted to try and ride his motorcycle over to the lake to see if he was strong enough to hold it up. I was a little concerned. Falling over at a stop was one thing, but zonking out while he was driving was another and he always wanted to be in front. You ever see what happens to a group of tightly packed riders when the lead biker goes down? It ain't pretty.

I was determined to ride FAR in the back of the pack. I wanted every chance I could get to evade.

After another hour or so of sitting there waiting for the people in the house to wake up, I was starting to feel the need for the toilet. After last night's little mountain lion episode, I did not have any deep desire to try mother nature's beautifully decorated, if prickly, commode. No amount of leg crossing was going to cure it either. The in door bathroom seemed just as dangerous.

Finally, I got up and went to my tent to get dressed in "swimming/riding" clothes. I decided that I needed to "go get gas" before the lake adventure started. Unfortunately, I did not see the "why don't you wait and we'll all go up since we all need some gas?" that was coming. Well, crap! Short of just coming out and saying that the bathroom was an escapee from a Woodstock adventure or an all male construction company, I didn't know what my defense for just going anyway would be. Sometimes, being polite has it's draw backs.

I decided to speed up the process by going to get dressed and maybe everyone would get the subliminal message that we should get up and go before the sun was high enough to start cooking our brains. It worked. I put on my bathing suit and then a T-Shirt and a pair of overalls. Yes, overalls. Why do you think this is called the "beverly hillbilly bikers" story? Besides, as my dad always says, "They don't bind you up." Adjustable straps are great for that. They also had several pockets that could hold money, wallet and cigarretes. Although, cigarettes were likely to fly out of the upper bib pocket at more than 60mph and that would suck if it was a newly opened pack. Did I say I went from being a "social smoker" on this trip to all out "I need a cigarette"? That's my story anyway and I think you can see why.

When I was dressed, I went over to the hose, washed my hands and face and brushed my teeth with a bottle of water from the cooler. The hair, well, I did say that the pillow was stuck to my face, right? Brushing wasn't helping it much and I wasn't going to wash it just so I could get into some stinky lake water an hour later so I pulled out my scrunci and it was pony tail time.

At that point, I had to go very badly. It was getting to the point of pain. So much pain, actually, that I was contemplating using the indoor bathroom just one mor time.

I was saved when everyone suddenly start throwing stuff in the truck and heading towards the bikes. We finally pulled out with a caravan of five bikes and two vehicles, stirring up enough gravel and dust to choke an elephant. My poor bike was going to need some serious detailing when we came back.

Yeah, that chase vehicle was handy and it was packed to the gills with camping gear, clothes, tools and some cleaning materials for the bikes. We were all a little anal about that.

We got up to the gas station, started pumping gas and I ran in to find out where the bathroom was while I waited my turn at the pump. "Sorry, Ma'am," the guy behind the counter, "the lone bathroom is out of service."

"What?" Oh, damn. This is just making my vacation. I could feel my left leg jiggling back and forth in that nervous way people do when they just "have to go". In which case, waking up early, no shower, no bathroom, I was starting to feel in a less than charitable mood AND to top it all off, this kid behind the counter, not even old enough to grow stubble, called me "ma'am". Shit!

I stomped back outside, pushed the bike to the pump and quickly filled it up after swiping my card. I just love those kinds of pumps. Heidi said that the park was only 12 minutes away. Twelve minutes was almost a lifetime when you have to go, but I was strong, I could hack it. Even the pot holes were not going to make me "lose it".

We made it to the park just in time.

I kicked down the stand, jumped off the bike and started walking quickly to the outhouse/port-a-potties in the parking lot. Yes, I would even use one of those instead. Before I could get to far, I heard Aunt Jeanie holler, "Louis!" in a panicky voice. I turned around just in time to see my aunt with one leg swung half way over the bike as the bike began to go down. He wasn't strong enough to hold it up. Mikey and Robert were already off their bikes. They ran over and grabbed his bike before it could go down all the way.

It would have sucked, too, considering the engines were hot and getting pinned between a hot engine/pipes and the asphalt really sucks. That was enough proof to me that my uncle was in no condition to ride yet. Once I determined no one was going to be injured, the urge to go pee hit me again and I ran/walked to the john.

Ahhh...sweet relief.

Finally, we got over to the swimming hole (ie, a marked off area of the lake that supposedly had a net around it to keep the water moccasins and cotton mouths and any other creepy, crawly, swimming critters from joining us). We all ran down to the water and started playing. Which meant that we were grabbing each other and trying to throw each other in, push them under or generally just be a pain in the ass while we tried not to be the first person to put their head under water and swallow the greenish brown stuff. One of the reasons I am not overly fond of "lake" swimming besides the slithering, swimming creepy crawlies that share the water, lake water really isn't something that you want to take even an accidental gulp of unless you feel like shitting yourself blind for the next two days.

We swam around for several hours and then decided we needed some nourishment. We swam up to shore and my brother dropped down an laid sprawled by the edge of the water, face up. He has a "biker's tan" (we all do). His legs, stomach, chest and upper arms are white as a fish's belly and his arms, hands, neck and face are deeply tanned. I snapped a picture of him laying there. We posted it at home with the title "beached whale".

Then we started putting together some sandwiches. That's when I noticed that the "sandwich" stuff was a little sparse. It consisted of enough baloney slices to make each person a one slice sandwich with a slice of cheese and some mustard. We did have plenty of bread so I walked back to the truck and grabbed some cans of spam, pork'n beans and pringles out of the cases I'd bought (not that I love spam, but it's cheap and quick and the can keeps them decent). That was another thing that they teased me about, but those cans came in handy when you were too hot in the middle of the day to eat a burger (and suffer chronic heat induced reflux) or too tired at the end of the day to go get something or cook something around the campfire.

I wasn't even a boy scout, but I came prepared with can opener and sharp kife for the endeavor.

After we ate, we sat aroud a bit and then swam some more. Finally, everyone was tuckered out after six hours at the lake so we loaded up to go home. This time, Uncle Louis handed the keys to his bike to Robert and asked him to ride it home for him so he could ride in the truck. Candy would ride their motorcycle. I went to the bathroom one more time, hoping I could hold the line again that night.

When we got back, we all sat around the campfire and roasted marshmallows, talking about the trip. Uncle Louis didn't want to hold it up anymore, but he didn't want to stay there so he suggested that Robert continue to ride his bike and he'd ride in the truck with the air conditioning. That would work out fine except that I was still concerned we had a long way to go through nowhere Arkansas and Louisiana before hitting any major cities if somethig did go wrong. Aunt Jeanie said she had gotten some insulin a the hospital pharmacy and that they were planning to drink water.

We noted that we were low on water and a few things so we made plans to stop at the local Wal-Mart to stock up.

While we were all sitting their quietly in the growing dusk, I looked over at my brother who wasn't wearing a shirt, "Dude! You're glowing like a beacon! Didn't you use any sun screen?"

"No. I didn't know we had any." Totally amazing since I was sure he had to have seen me putting some on at the beach at least three times. "You know, you're not looking so good yourself."

"What?" I started looking at my arms and upper chest for signs of sun burn, but didn't see any.

"Yeah, your back looks like an apple." Well, crap! That was the one place I couldn't reach very well. That's one reason a riding partner is so useful: applying sun screen to unreachable areas.

Everyone else started looking at themselves to see if they were in the same shape.

There we were at the end of a cheap and lovely day, burnt to a crisp around the edges.

Burnt Ends.

Riding in the heat and the wind was going to suck tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Terri Schiavo: Right To Die Crack Pots

Let me be frank, Frank. I believe that patients have the right to direct their care and refuse any medical procedure or service, even if it means their imminent death, so long as the patient is competent and capable.

That being said, you can read through my blog and find out why I disagree on the Terri Schiavo case specifically.

So, floating around the blog word to my favorite places, I noted this article from The Rottweiler regarding George Felos, Michael Schiavos lawyer.

I knew this guy was a "right to die" attorney. I didn't know he was a nut case. No, I don't believe everyone that believes people have the right to choose the way they are cared for or die is a "nut job" anymore than I believe everyone that is a Christian is a "nut job" or everyone that believes in the right to life is a "nut job". In this case, I must call a spade a spade and this guy is a nut job.

In his 2002 book "Litigation as Spiritual Practice", Felos expresses his belief in the "cosmic law of cause and effect," in which the human mind is not limited by the constraints of reality. More specifically, if one wants a new car, one could make this dream car manifest "out of the ether."

Quack. Cracked. Crazier than a rabid raccoon. The title of his book gives it all away. Read the rest of the story because that does not even begin to describe this guys nuttiness.

And they have crap to say about the right to life "fanatics" that the Schindlers have attached to their case.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

The Banning and The Burning

Remember all the hoopla about the "Fundamentalist Christians" that wanted to have Harry Potter banned from school libraries because it might teach children "witchcraft"?

Or, maybe you remember a while back when PC people talked about banning Mark Twain, particularly, Huckleberry Finn because it used the word "nigger"? Mind you, I do remember that we had to read this book, out loud, in class. Every person, including me, stumbled when we came to that word. Does that mean it should be banned? I don't think so.

According to Little Green Footballs, CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) has succeeded in getting NRO (National Review on Line) in removing books from their purchase list as "hate speech against Islam".

I haven't read either book. I don't know what they say. I do know that I have read many different books on Islam and the middle east from many aspects. I even read Queen Noor's book on the Palestine and Israel issue (which is where I was reminded about the Balfour Declaration); a "history of Islam" written by an Islamic scholar; "the Crusades" and a number of books regarding that period from Christian AND Muslim writers; I even read several selections from the Qu'ran(yes, in English, I can't speak or read Arabic). Because I wanted to know everything I could from every angle. Why? I'll get to that in a moment.

According to Robert Spencer writing at Frontpage Magazine, who is the author of Jihad Watch and Onward Muslim Soldier, a book that was removed:

In fact, however, The Life and Religion of Mohammed is not “anti-Muslim hate literature.” It was written over eighty years ago by Fr. J. L. Menezes, a Roman Catholic priest who was a missionary in India. I have read it, and there is nothing inflammatory or inciting in it; in fact, it is suffused with a pastoral love for Muslims.

He goes on to quote Fr. Menezes and compares a few sections to the Qu'ran which, of course, support or use exactly the word or phrase that Fr. Menezes used. Finally, he tells us why it is important to watch this group and its actions against "hate speech".

“Hooper said anti-Muslim rhetoric often leads to discrimination and even violence.” Fr. Menezes calls for no violence. Everything he says about Muhammad is, as I have shown, easily established from Islamic sources. What this charge does is attempt to divert attention from the real violence committed by jihadists today to a chimera of violence against Muslims in America, and thereby silence criticism of Islam and, in particular, investigations of the sources of Islamic terror in the Qur’an and Sunnah.

But what about when the jihadists themselves quote the same passages to justify their behavior? Surely they aren’t “Islamophobic” too, are they? Of course they aren’t — and if non-Muslims can’t look into Islamic sources to investigate the causes of jihad violence, it plays into their hands: the less Americans know about how they recruit and motivate terrorists, the less we can do about it.

Now, let's be clear about something. I believe that NRO was practicing free speech when they placed the book on their list. I believe, equally, that CAIR has the right to practice their free speech and demand redress from NRO. I believe that NRO did not have to cave to these demands. CAIR, of course, was fronting economic pressure via advertisers, particularly Boeing, to remove their ads from NRO. NRO, being a business, decided that a loss of an advertiser was worse than caving in and removing a book that people could find any place else on the internet.

Fine. That's the stuff that happens when you need to make a living.

I bet you could still find this book in the library, on Amazon, get Barnes & Nobles to order it for you, etc, etc, etc.

Free speech all the way around.

Now, it's my turn to have my free speech. That's the point of this blog, to say whatever I want (within the limits of the law and my family/company's patience of course). Right now, the law says that talking about Islam, Mohammed, the Qu'ran, even in disagreeable ways, is acceptable as long as I do not advocate AND act on directives of violence, discrimination or persecution.

This is where I get to say, I don't beleive that Mohammed was a "Prophet" of God. Oh no! Hate speeeeeeech! I'm a Christian, what do you think I believe?

Secondly, I think Mohammed was largely an opportunistic man, searching for answers and a way to make a living after his wife died and her property was distributed, and he happened to remember all the things he learned and decided (just like Jimmy Swaggert or Jim Baker) that it would be a swell way to make a living. Preach to people, get them to pay for your food and clothing, get a bunch of followers and, presto, you have power.

Does that mean I think Mohammed or Islam is inherently evil and so are it's followers? No. That would be even too far fetched for me. Too many people AREN'T going around beheading people and flying planes into buildings, so I don't see this as "ALL Muslims". I also believe that people have their own faith and that is between them and their God. But, I do believe some people were able to use this religion, Islam, as their front for a fascist, tyrannical ideology and, since that is the vehicle that they used to perpetrate their acts, we should know every aspect of it, from Islamic scholars to anyone else who has an opinion and knows how to write it.

Excluding anyone that actually writes words like, "All Muslims are evil and should be shot on site."

If somebody even tried to give me that book, I'd toss it in the trash and burn it myself.

However much I feel that CAIR has the right to protest a book and make their disagreement known through their right to free speech, I do feel that they are a bunch of WHINEY, HYPOCRITICAL BABIES!

Yes, whiney, hypocritical babies. Oh no! Somebody wrote something uncomplimentary about ISLAM! Boohoo-hoo! It's "hate" speech.

News Flash: it's only hate speech if the book actually advocates committing violence against, discriminating against or out and out killing Muslims because they are Muslims. Please point to the line in this book that specifically advocates doing Islam or Muslims physical harm outside of an opinion that Mohammed was not a prophet, but he was a butchering, raping, thieving leader of a group that happened to unify Arabic nomadic tribes into a loose nation and create the worlds third great religion?

That opinion is not enough to be classified hate speech. It's an opinion and I can quote hadith and sunna that support it. But, I won't because that isn't the purpose of this post and you can read Robert Spencer's article if you are looking for it.

However, I would like to make an arcane reference to a cliche CAIR should be familiar with: People. Glass houses. Throwing Rocks. You know what I'm talking about?

Why am I saying that CAIR is acting like a whiney hypocritical baby? Islam is one of the three major religions in the world, just like Christianity and Judaism. And, just like those religions and many smaller religions, there have been many books written about Christianity and Judaism. Thousands of them and many of them are not complimentary to the religions. There are plenty of books that examine every aspect of Jesus, the founder of Christianity, and have proclaimed him a fake, non-existent, irrelevant, not as pure as the Christian church would have him, a rebel, an inciter to violence, etc, etc, etc.

As a Christian, I don't get overly exercised about them because it is people's right to free speech and they can have their own opinion even if it's not mine. I might argue with them about it, but I certainly wouldn't stop them from writing it as long as it didn't say "hang all the Christians from the highest tree, enslave them, beat them, tax them, discriminate against them" etc, etc, etc.

Which brings up an interesting topic. By CAIR's definition of "hate speech" we would have to ban the Qu'ran from libraries, reading lists, book sellers, etc, for promoting "hate speech" considering that it makes some very unhealthy references to Jews in many sections and definitely insists that Jesus wasn't the son of God nor the Messiah and he didn't die on the cross, etc, etc, etc. And, while making references to the "people of the book" there are definitely Hadith, Sunna and Surah that comment on how to "treat" these people and it sounds a whole lot like discrimination.

Of course, knowing enough about Islam and it's followers, I know not every Muslim agrees with or applies those tenets. I also know the historical period in which the book was written so I don't get all crazy about that either. I do get a little bent out of shape when those same rules are used to oppress or kill people today (whether Muslim, Christian, Jew, man, woman or child). And, this is where I happen to agree with Robert Spencer: those words that I know many Muslims do not take to heart or use in a hateful, discriminating or violent manner, ARE used by a group of people who do and they call themselves "Muslim" even if a huge swath of Muslims deny them that status. Furthermore, these people committed crimes, more than just September 11, 2001, against many people, not just Christians or Jews, but Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc, etc, etc.

How are you to combat such extremism if you don't know what is said, how it's used, what it means? Does it matter that the person that wrote it isn't a Muslim? I'm sure I could point out some Muslims that HAVE written just such words and HAVE commented on Islam's need to review these practices and insure they are not the "normal" practices of Islam. The source doesn't matter. The words matter in context to the current situation: what is Islam and who are Muslims?

It's free speech. You live in America, you like to use that little concept whenever you think someone is trying to shut down your message of a peaceful religion and not discriminating against Muslims. That and the obvious relations of some of your members with extremist (or, "right on the edge") groups and actual spoken and written words from some of your more "prominent" members that excoriate Jews, Christians and other non-believers and advocate violent Jihad on the behalf of whomever against whatever group has pissed them off today, makes CAIR big, fat, whiney ass, hypocritical, babies.

CAIR is basically saying that they can't take the heat from an 80 year old book.

I'm happy they exercised their free speech in protesting the book. Happy they were able to do as all other special interest groups have done in the past; bringing their economic power to bear against a practice they don't agree with.

Again, this is where I get to exercise my free speech and tell CAIR that I believe they are wrong and I completely disagree with them about classifying books that don't agree with them or paint their religion in the hue they desire as "hate speech" without the book or documents actually advocating death, injury, discrimination or other acts against Muslims.

The same way I would never agree to banning or boycotting uncomplimentary books about Christianity, Judaism, etc, etc, or Christians trying to get Harry Potter banned for the superstitious and moronic fear of witchcraft, or the politically correct crowd trying to ban Huckleberry Finn for an historically operative word when the book was written over a hundred years ago.

Normally, I would never say what I am about to say considering I believe that immigrants, past, present and future, are part of what has made this country and keeps it strong and progressing, but, if you want to live in a country that will protect you from having to see or read a book that is uncomplimentary of your religion, might I suggest immigrating to Saudi Arabia or a number of other "Islamic" countries that have actual laws against it? Then you wouldn't have to be offended.

My grandma always said, "Can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen."

No, you say? Not your idea of utopia?

Didn't think so.

In which case, get over it.

A Few Items To Address

Parents came up for the holiday weekend and are leaving sometime today (sweet relief). Blogging will be short until they depart this afternoon.

I will resume Day 3 of the Hillbilly Bikers this evening. Please make sure enjoyed the first 2 days of the trip.

In the meantime, some quick notes:

  • Comments are working again. Who knows how long it will last. I will investigate haloscan this weekend. Please be patient and leave a comment when you can.

  • Schiavo sitatuation: Day 12 without food and water and she is still alive. As I commented on the day it was happening, Terri Schiavo was not dying until they removed the feeding tube. Can you imagine 12 days without food and water except a damp clothe to wet your lips? I know the point is supposed to be that she can't feel anything and therefore, it doesn't matter. 12 days and she still lives.

    Think about it.

    I saw a report this morning that the federal courts had finally decided to hear an emergency motion to review the case in it's entirety. This doesn't mean that they will. Just means they are taking it under consideration.

    If they took this long on death penalty cases, we'd have already executed the criminal, had an autopsy and the body buried for two weeks. Anybody else wondering if the courts delay is a little attempt to side step having to review the case at all?

  • Pope getting tube feeding through Nasal Gastric Tube. Ironic, don't you think? Thank God he doesn't live in Florida. The next wannabe pope could get two cardinals to swear the pope "wouldn't want to live like that" and request the tube to be removed right after we find out the "witnesses" had held a black mass. The courts would probably consider his words as accurate, considering he IS a holy man and he IS married to the church after all.

  • Johnnie Cochran died yesterday at 67. The infamous "if it doesn't fit, you must acquit" defense line of OJ Simpson. You must wonder, when he reaches the pearly gates and St Peter is standing their with the measuring stick of his life, St Peter holds it up and says, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit. Hahahahaha..." Cachang! As he pulls the lever for the "down" elevator.

  • Indonesian earth quake kills 1000. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I'd be wondering if this was caused by hollywood to distract us from Brad and Jennifer's divorce. Don't look here. Nothing to see here. Just your usual (sticking had behind their backs to pull the "earthquake" lever)...Quick, look over their: EARTHQUAKE!

  • Oil dives below $53. Holy shit! You mean it's only going to cost me 39.50 to fill my gas tank instead of $42.00. Wow!

    Stay tuned for other snarky and sometimes serious commentary.

  • Tuesday, March 29, 2005

    Something Interesting In "Referrals"

    I found this post regarding liberalism and libertines translated into Chinese yesterday evening on my referrers list.

    Just thought I'd mention that interesting fact.

    Don't miss my new series (first two posts below) on the Beverly Hillbilly Bikers.

    Ya'll come back now, ya' hear?

    PS...I don't know whats wrong with comments again. They were down for a long period of time yesterday, again.

    Haloscan is looking really good now.

    Monday, March 28, 2005

    Beverly Hillbilly Bikers - You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet!

    Day 2

    It was a beautiful morning. I had just topped one of the high points in the Arkansas Mountains and was looking down on the rolling hills below me. The winding highway twisting and turning, running in and out from behind hills and between knolls, sending a thrill through me. I could feel my arms and legs tingle. I was holding my breath a little and then let it out it a long gasp, not just seeing the beauty before me, but FEELING it. It was green, so green with a little ribbon of gray, almost white road running through it. Above it, cloudless blue. A slight haze was over it all, whether from the heat or the misty fog that hadn’t burned off, I didn’t know.

    I gave the throttle a twist and started down from the top. It was like a slalom run, swishing back and forth: left; straighten up; right; straighten up. The sun was warm on the right side of my face. No, it was like dancing with the road, my legs were the 850cc engine between them. As I came into the first curve, I geared down, leaning the bike to the right as far as I dared and, just as I was reaching the apex of the curve, I twisted the throttle again, making the engine wind up, giving it just enough energy to keep it at that angle as I rode out of that curve, straightened up and then geared down again, the motor making a deep rumbling sound down in it’s pipes as I let off the throttle and started leaning to the left.

    It was like dancing. Dancing with someone that knows your every move, smooth and in time. I felt my hair tickle my neck. We were twisting and turning again. The breeze was cool in the warm morning sun, but strangely gentle for the speed I was going. I was into the next curve then, gearing down, leaning tightly to the right again, breathing deeply as I went into the turn, holding it through the apex as I pulled the throttle back again, ten letting it out in a gush as I turned out. Now the left turn, gear down…

    BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! (in quick succession)

    What the hell? I glanced down at the bike.


    Fuck! The bike lost power and suddenly straightened up in the curve. Suddenly, the wind was howling in my ears and terror made my heart beat like it was trying fly out of my chest. I tried to brake, but got no response.


    Dammit! I saw the slope drop off on the right hand side of the road. Down into greenish grayness that disappeared into the haze below. I kept thinking, “This is it. I’m going to die on some fucking back woods, hillbilly, fucked up road in Arkansas and nobody is going to know because I’m the only idiot riding this morning.” The bike kept going straight as the road curved more to the left. Just then, the road came to an abrupt end beneath my front tire.


    “Kat! Open up!”

    Open up? Open what up? I just fell God knows how many feet and you want me to “open up?” I wanted to curse, but my lips felt frozen.


    “Kat! Open up! I need your keys!”

    What the fuck? I’m dying and you want my keys?



    The long plaintiff voice finally dragged my eyes open to half-mast where I peered out into the valley. Not really a valley. It was the edge of a bed and I was looking down into the crevice between the two queen size beds that occupied the room.


    I rolled back a little and peered at the clock on the bedside table. 7:30 AM. Somebody was banging on my fucking door at 7:30 AM! What the hell?

    I flopped over on my back, loath to kick the warm covers away. It had been hot the night before so I’d turned up the air conditioner and crawled under the blankets. Just the way I like it with the warm covers up to my chin and a cool breeze on my face. I peered towards the big window with the black out curtains. They were letting in just enough sun around the edges to make me squint. I could see the door in my periphery vision.


    “Kat! Dammit! I need your keys!” It was my cousin Candy and she was sounding about as grouchy as I was feeling right then.

    “Alright! Alright! Just a damn minute!” I yawned and stretched, sitting up on the bed and rubbing my eyes, trying to focus.

    7:30 AM! We hadn’t even got to the hotel rooms until 1:00 AM and that was after 9 hours of hard riding, fighting the heat and the hot wind. THEN, waiting by the hospital emergency room door for any word of what was happening; finally getting told they had admitted my uncle to the hospital. Somebody had suggested that we just take our tents and pitch them on the grassy knoll beside the hospital. I and several others vetoes that for one of several reasons, not the least being that I really wanted a shower after that stinky, sweaty and mucky day. I also wanted a bed. I didn’t know how badly I would want a bed on that first night.

    Besides, pitching tents beside the hospital was even too hillbilly for us.

    We’d finally unpacked everything, chained the bikes together and I had laid down on the bed waiting for my turn in the shower.

    Must not forget, when we found the only hotel in town, it only had a few vacancies so we paired up couples to share rooms. Well, except me. In which case, I told my bro I’d share a room with him and his wife. It was cheaper that way since it was an unplanned hotel room night.

    It was on one condition: I’d better not hear any animal noises coming from that side of the room while I was trying to sleep. I guaranteed them that I was not going to act all polite and pretend I didn’t hear anything if I did. My sister in law was embarrassed, but my bro just laughed. He can laugh all he wanted, but that was one thing I was drawing the line at.


    “Kat! Get up! I need your keys!” She was wailing again. Probably waking up the whole damn hotel.

    “Alright! Dammit, I’m coming! Stop banging on the freaking door!” I pushed myself up and stumbled towards the door, fumbling with the locks. I jerked the door open and the sun nearly blinded me. “What!?” I’m never a good “morning” person and it’s even worse if I don’t get my can of caffeine before I have to talk to somebody. I glared at my cousin who was looking about as good as I felt: rumpled and grumpy.

    “I need your keys.” She stated in a more moderate voice.

    “What for? We took all the stuff out last night.” Since most of it had been in the bed of the truck, everyone had taken their stuff to their rooms for security.

    “I need to go to the hospital.” She was looking exasperated because she had to tell me a reason.

    “Hospital? The damn things not even a block away. You couldn’t walk?” I KNOW she wasn’t banging on my door for 10 minutes when she could have walked there in that time.

    “I have to pick up dad and mom.” She said, holding her hand out for the keys.

    I was very confused. Her dad had just been admitted last night and they were talking about holding him for at least 24 hours, if not 48 and I said so.

    “Dad signed himself out this morning. He made mom call over and get me up so I could come and get them. He says he wants to go down the road.” She was getting impatient, switching from leg to leg, standing in the doorway.

    “Fuck that! He was admitted to the hospital. He almost died. We’re not going down the road!” Not only was I pissed about being woken up this was pissing me off more. What the hell was wrong with these people?

    “You’re not the boss!” She was suddenly angry and getting red in the face.

    “I’m the boss of that fucking truck and it’s not going down the road today!” We were starting to shout again. I saw my other cousins come out of their room they had shared with Candy and Robert. Just then, there was a moan from the other side of the room. The kind that said, “shut the door, your letting in the light and you’re too damned noisy” just as the pull the pillow over their head.

    “You’re not the boss!” She shouted again. “It’s my dad’s trip and if he wants to go down the road, we’re going to go. Just because you’re the oldest of us kids (we were all adults by the way), doesn’t make you the boss!”

    “What the hell is wrong with you? Being the oldest hasn’t got a damned thing to do with having a freaking brain and being responsible. It is NOT responsible for us to take your dad down the road in the middle of nowhere after he just had some sort of seizure. I don’t think he could even ride for a long distance in the truck.” Why is the world filled with stubborn, moronic people?

    “Dad won’t ride in the truck. He insists he is going to ride his bike.” So there! She was saying.

    “Well that’s great! The guy that just about died last night and who always insists on being in the lead wants to go down the road on his bike so he can really die this time and take the rest of us with him!” Let me repeat, morons.

    “We’re going! If Dad wants to go, we’re going!” She was emphatic. I still wonder today when she will ever grow up and stand up to her dad.

    “Maybe you are, but my truck isn’t. You wanna go? Strap your crap on your bike and move on. The truck stays here!” This was getting ridiculous.

    “You’re not the boss of everyone!” That again.

    “No. I’m not. But, apparently, I’m the only adult here still able to reason and act responsibly. If you’re not grown up enough to tell your dad, “no”, then I’ll do it.” I shut the door in her face. I was good and grumpy then, but also good and awake. I stomped over to the sink and began to brush my teeth and comb my hair. I was looking like a wreck, but I was going to go over to the hospital and wring a peel over these people’s heads.

    “What’s going on?” My brother groused from the other queen size bed.

    “What? You couldn’t hear? Never mind.” I was in too much of a hurry to get going to the hospital.

    I finished dressing in the bathroom and went outside. Mikey, his wife and Candy were standing outside my door. They had both waited outside until I came out.

    “What are you doing?” My cousin Candy.

    “I’m going to pick up your mom and dad, what’s it look like?” I was walking down the catwalk to the stairs.

    “Hey! You know, if uncle Louis wants to go, he can make up his own mind. I know WE want to go.” My cousin Mikey, sounding reasonable, but joining the ranks of the boneheads.

    “Dude, if you want to go, go. I mean, I know we all saved and did all kinds of stuff to go on this vacation, but I don’t want to continue on, have uncle Louis drop dead and then be haunted by the fact that, if only somebody had been half way responsible, it would have been fine. Not to mention, I really don’t want to have to tell my dad, your mom or our grandma, not to mention Louis Jr, that Louis Sr. died because we’re a bunch of idiots.”

    That put a scowl on Mikey’s face. Oh yes, I was pissing everyone off already and it wasn’t even 8 AM.

    “Well, this may be the only vacation I ever take like this in a long time and I want to enjoy it. I had plans.” It probably was the only vacation like this they’d get again. They had three kids and Sandra had just been diagnosed with a debilitating disease. I did feel for him.

    “That’s cool. You don’t have to stay here. I just think we should. At least for a few days. Once everything is cool, we can decide what to do. In the meantime, my bro picked up some brochures about white water rafting and some of the back roads we could ride around here locally. There are a ton of things we could do, including riding. See my bro and think about it, okay?” I kept going down the stairs. I had to go because I knew uncle Louis would be getting impatient.

    I jumped in the truck and drove over to the hospital quickly. I saw my aunt and uncle outside, my uncle in a wheelchair and my aunt behind him. He was all slumped over in the wheelchair like he couldn’t hold himself up. I was pissed all over again. I braked and threw the car out of gear, throwing open the door and jumping out to stroll purposefully over to where they were waiting. Half-way there, I couldn’t hold it in anymore, “What’s this crap about going down the road?” No, I wasn’t going to be diplomatic. “You were just in the hospital, dammit! Don’t you think…”

    Aunt Jeanie cut me off, “Hold it, Kat!” She was holding her hand up. “We’re not going down the road.”

    That brought me up short, “We’re not?”

    “No. I already talked to Louis and told him he was in no condition to go on a long trip, even if he rode in the truck. He just wants to go to Heidi’s and recuperate there. We haven’t really seen her in a couple of years except flying visits.” Now that sounded reasonable.

    “Oh. Okay. It’s just Candy came to my room this morning and got into a big argument with me about it and I just KNEW we couldn’t be talking that crazy. No offense.” I was so damned relieved. Somebody had some common sense left.

    I helped her get uncle Louis in the truck, she pushing and me pulling. We drove over to the hotel. Candy and Robert had offered them their room to rest in for awhile while the rest of us got up and got our stuff together. We pulled up to the hotel. Mikey and Robert came over to help uncle Louis out. Candy was hopping back and forth on either foot, acting impatient. When Aunt Jeanie came around the hood of the truck, Candy pounced, “Mom, Kat said she wasn’t going to let us take her truck down the road.” She always was a little tattle tale.

    Aunt Jeanie held her hand up, “I know what was said. We’re not going down the road.”

    “We’re not?” The others all echoed surprised.

    “No, we’re not. At least not today. Your dad is in no condition to go, even in the truck.”
    Everyone looked disappointed. The scowls were directed my way. I couldn’t help but smirk. Not that I was in anyway the deciding factor in that earlier decision, but, when you’re right, you’re right. “Your dad just wants to rest a few minutes and then go get breakfast. We heard the hotel has a restaurant downstairs that does a buffet.”

    Ahhh…the magic word: buffet.

    You ever see what swarm of locusts can do to a crop? That would be the crew I was with. When they went down the buffet line, you were lucky if you had a metal hot dish left, much less any food.

    Everyone went back to the rooms. I wanted to get a shower since I hadn’t gotten a chance the night before, having fell asleep. As we went back to our rooms, there was a few grumblings and dark looks tossed my way. Candy was still mumbling something about me being bossy.

    We met down at the restaurant and were seated at a long table. Heidi had come up to join us since she was only fifteen more minutes away. The buffet suffered just as I predicted. I don’t think they normally got that kind of business, even during the summer when they would be full up with the over flow from the nearby Willamina Resort. The manager seemed to be a bit flustered.

    The conversation at the table was stilted at first. A few comments were thrown my way. I mostly ignored them. Mikey seemed intent on going ahead. My bro wanted to, as well, but I could tell that he didn’t want to go if I didn’t. Our dad had always taught us to stick together. My suggestion was to hang out a few days, make sure everything was cool and then we could go on and do whatever we wanted. Our trip wouldn’t be as far as we had planned, but it was never etched in stone anyway. Aunt Jeanie did most of the talking for her and Uncle Louis. Her thoughts were that they didn’t know if he could keep going, but he did want to rest a day or so and then see if he could ride in the truck at least until he got his strength up.

    It seemed settled then. We were going to go down to Heidi’s and spend a few days. She was effusive about her place. It was out in the country. Very few neighbors. Big yard we could camp in and she’d love for us to meet her kids. She and her husband lived with their in-laws. She said she had iced tea in the refrigerator and, of course, we could use their bathroom.

    That seemed to settle it. We packed all of our stuff in the truck. Uncle Lou and aunt Jeanie drove, Heidi riding with them. Uncle Lou gave Robert the keys to his bike to ride over.

    We drove about fifteen minutes and took a couple of turns down some side roads, finally driving down a gravel road. If you’ve never done it before, riding motorcycles on a gravel road is very challenging. Particularly, if you are following a truck throwing up dust and gravel. And, the road is full of potholes.

    We turned onto Heidi’s drive and then pulled into the yard.

    My first thoughts were, “Woah! This doesn’t look like what she was describing.” The house was beat. Not just a little beat, but a lot. There were some holes in the sides. Not that you could see INTO the house, but you could certainly see the frame in a few places. The house itself had once been white, but was now a dirty and dingy gray. There were about four dogs and a couple of scrawny cats running around.

    By the time we got there, I had to use the bathroom, especially after loading up on coffee. So did a number of other people. I unloaded some of my stuff from the truck and started setting up camp while I waited my turn. No one seemed to take very long inside and I was happy when my brother came out quickly. It was my turn and I had to go.

    As I passed my brother on the way in, he stopped me for a minute, “Umm…watch out for spiders.” My bro is deathly afraid of spiders. As a matter of fact, spiders can make him scream like a girl. Literally.

    “What?” I did break stride. Not because I’m that afraid of spiders, but because it seemed to be a kind of weird thing to say right then.

    “Watch out for spiders.” He said again, “And, you can’t throw any toilet paper in the toilet.”

    “Right.” I thought he was pulling my leg.

    “No. Seriously, there are spider webs all over and Heidi says the septic won’t take the paper.” Damn! He was serious.

    “Okay.” Now I was starting to wish we’d stayed at the hotel.

    I went up to the house and walked in the front door; and froze. There was an awful smell in the house. Like thirty wet dogs had rolled around in it, over and over again. It assaulted me and made me nearly gag. I started to step back out the door at that point, contemplating if the great outdoors wouldn’t be safer. Heidi caught me at the door, “Kat! Come on in! These are my in laws,” she proceeded to introduce them, “Would you like some iced tea?”

    She was walking towards the kitchen on the right. I glanced in there and there were dishes piled up everywhere. Crud and mold. My eyes started taking in the rest of the place. Hol-lee shiiit! The place should have been condemned. It stank so bad because they did have a bunch of wet dogs running around. The house had no air conditioning and it was about 100* inside. I felt my mouth starting to water in that very dangerous way. “No thanks. Really. I just need to use the bathroom. Which way is it?”

    By then, I had to go very badly. I was considering my options too. The bathroom was probably not in any better shape. However, I had experience in stopping at every kind of hell hole gas station on earth (you take what you can get), so I figured I could hack it. She showed me the restroom. I went in. Sure enough there were fairly large spider webs in the shower area and some other areas.

    Heidi, like a good hostess, was standing outside the bathroom, “Let me know if you need anything.”

    “Yeah, I’ll do that.” Obviously, I couldn’t just turn around and walk out of there. So I took my time and did the best I could not to touch anything. But, I couldn’t bring myself to throw the toilet paper in the trash. I figured it wouldn’t hurt this one time and dropped it in the toilet. Then I went to wash my hands. The sink had no running water. Now I knew why the tub had cobwebs in it. The only running water in the place was the toilet.

    Crap! I meant that literally. I knew I should have stayed at the hotel. Now what the hell were we going to do?

    I came out and walked into the main living area where I noticed that the carpet was covered in little pieces of paper and crud and some other stuff I didn’t want to know about. “Are you sure you don’t want any tea?”

    “No, no, really. I’ve got water out in the truck and I think I need to keep drinking it.” I didn’t add, for my own safety. “Whew! It’s hot in here. I think I’ll go on outside. There’s a bit of a breeze out today.” Well, not really, but I had to think of something before I threw up right there. “Hey, do you have a hose or something I could borrow.”

    “Sure,” she said with a smile and took me around the side of the house. I went back to my duffle bag, grabbed my anti-bacterial soap and scrubbed.

    My brother came over, “You thought I was joking?”

    “Dude, that is just disgusting. I mean, I know I’m not the neatest person in the world, but that is…” I trailed off. I noticed my aunt and uncle coming over. They were talking about setting up camp.

    The front yard was very spacious. To the left of the house was a burned out trailer. I discovered that Heidi and her husband and kids were living with her in-laws because their trailer had burned down a couple of months before due to an electrical problem. Well, at least it wasn’t HER place, but still…

    Mikey and Sandra took their tent to the far side of the yard, at least 20 yards away; for privacy. My bro and Mer went in the opposite direction. Aunt and Uncle was taking up a central position around a fire pit. I decided I would do the same. So did Candy and Robert.

    Candy and Robert began to set up their tent. Everyone in our group had taken a few spare dollars and went and bought a cheap dome tent. You know the kind where you snap the elastic poles together, stick them through the slots, bend them into place and “presto” one domed tent? Not Robert and Candy. They had gotten their mom and dad’s old tent. The kind of tent with color-coded poles and slots that took about 20 minutes to set up and that’s if you knew what you were doing.

    “These are the “brown” ones.”

    “That’s too many.”

    “What do you mean “too many”?”

    “There aren’t supposed to be that many. You must have another color in there.”

    “No I don’t. See? They’re all brown.”

    “No, that one’s black.”

    “Which one?”

    “That one.”

    “No it’s not.”

    “Yes, it is.”

    “Give me the instructions.”

    “No, I’m reading them. You just get the poles together the way they’re supposed to.”

    “I want to see!”
    “Here, you freaking baby!”

    “I’m not a baby!”

    “Yes, you are!” Robert turned away for a moment, but not fast enough to hide his grumblings, “This is stupid.”

    “What did you say? I’m stupid?”

    “No, I didn’t…yes, you’re being stupid. Now give me the directions.”

    “I’m not stupid, you are!”

    “No, you are.”

    I was sitting in my lounge chair outside my tent, sipping my water cautiously (I was hoping not to have to go to the bathroom until tomorrow when I could pretend to sneak up the road to the gas station for some gas), watching it. It was like watching the three stooges, minus Larry. Any moment I expected one of them to wipe their face repeatedly and say, “Woop, woop, woop! Them’s foiytting words,” and try to poke the other one’s eyes out.

    From my left, I heard an ear-piercing whistle. “Give ME the instructions. I don’t understand how you two can’t put up a simple tent. Your dad and I have done it a million times in fifteen minutes or less.” Aunt Jeanie held out her hand.

    The other two stood there glaring at each other for a few seconds, then reluctantly handed the instructions over like recalcitrant children.

    “Ahhh, Aunt Jeanie,” I laughed, “it was just getting entertaining.”

    Everyone started laughing. Except Candy and Robert. They continued to stomp around, glaring at each other, mumbling “you’re stupid” and “no, you are” while my aunt directed them and got their tent set up.

    Mikey and his wife and my bro and his wife had pulled chairs up to the fire pit we’d made. We were talking about driving over to the lake the next day and swimming. Heidi had finished feeding her kids and came out to join us. It was starting to be evening. You could hear the sounds of the woods. Some wild dogs were yapping, the crickets were chirping and an occasional Hoot Owl spoke up. Heidi noted the tents of the younger couples spread out. “Are you sure you guys want to put your tents out there?” Both tents were near to the burned out trailer in the vast side yard.

    “Sure,” Mikey replied, “We’ll be just fine.” He slapped his wife on the leg and she blushed. “We already got some wood to build a fire with later.” The first night they could be “alone” without a room mate or their kids.

    “Suit yourself,” Heidi responded, “I just thought you should know that last week a big mountain lion jumped out of the trailer and nearly scared me to death.”

    Mer and Sandra both sat up, “A mountain lion?”

    “Yeah, we’ve got a few runnin’ around here. Killed one or two of those wild dogs you keep hearing.” She was serious as she sipped her tea.

    Mikey and my bro just brushed it aside, “Those mountain lions aren’t going to come around here. Besides, I’ll get a big fire going and they’ll stay away.” This was Mikey.

    “Suit yourself.” Heidi responded again.

    A little later, Mikey and my bro went to find some more firewood. We were all talking about turning in. The last two days had been exhausting and with little sleep. Just about then, out of the woods behind the house, a big, “Yawaoooorrrr!” echoed. Mikey and my bro both froze where they were standing, somewhere close to the edge of the yard where the big brush was and where they had been gathering wood.



    They had their wives come over and grab a side of the tent, all their belongings still in them, and carry them over to our growing tent circle. Heidi just sipped her tea, “Told ya’.”

    A little bit later we all turned in. Everyone zipped the tents shut. We had all faced our openings away from the fire so we could leave the mesh part open. I was getting comfortable on my quick set cot with a little air mattress (the size of a full body pool float) and a light sheet I had had the fore sight to pack considering the heat. I snuggled down on my little travel pillow and closed my eyes.

    Ahhhh. I’d made it the whole day without having to go to the restroom again. Probably a sign of the dehydration I’d suffered the day before considering the amount of water I had drank.

    “AAAAAUUUUUGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” a blood curdling scream came out of my brother’s tent. “Son of a bitch!”

    I could hear everyone scrambling out of the tents. I jumped up and unzipped my tent, climbing out of the tents quickly. I looked over the top of my tent. My bro was standing on the other side of the tent, holding a piece of firewood over his head, the whites of his eyes showing, his head jerking from left to right.

    “Dude, what’s up?” “What happened?’ Everyone was speaking at once.

    He was almost incoherent, “I was laying there…this big shadow…the side of the tent…raised up,” he put his arms up above his head, “jumped on my head! Mountain Lion!”

    “What?” Everyone started looking around frantically for this big cat, moving towards the fire.

    “Bwaahahahahahahahaaaaa!” His wife started laughing hysterically.

    We were all looking at her strangely. She had been inside the tent with him when it happened so we knew it wasn’t her.

    “It’s not funny!” My bro yelled at her.

    “Ahhhahahahahahahahahaaa!” She couldn’t stop laughing. She bent over from the middle she was laughing so hard. Then she stood up and she had this little scrawny kitten in her hands. “Ah-ha…Ah-ha…Ah-hahahahhaaa…it was…so…funny,” she was gasping for breath between her laughter, “your brother…hahahaha….was moving around…(cough, cough, gasp) …and the cat saw his shadow…Ahahahaha…it wanted to play! Ah-hhahahahahahahaaa!” She almost couldn’t talk she was laughing so hard. “It raised up…ahahahaa…the light from the house….hahaha…cast a shadow over the tent…bwaahahahahaaaaaa…and …(cough, cough, gasp)…it pounced on his head! Bwaahahahahahahaaa!”

    My bro done thought he’d been et’ by-a mountain lion.


    He shorely did.

    Beverly Hillbilly Bikers - In The Beginning

    There are things you always remember. Things that you look back on and laugh about, even if they didn’t seem all that funny at the time that it happened. Tonight, after a full day of visiting with the family, my brother and I were talking about our crazy family stuff and one thing led to another. Next thing I know we are laughing our asses off about “THE TRIP”. The one that we will never forget.

    We were into bikes. Motorcycles. My whole family. Well, we had nine between us. I had my own, but the others all rode double. Husbands with their wives. That made about 17 of us on bikes. We had an assortment of bikes. Mostly Jap Cruisers. My uncle owned an 1100 Honda Shadow. My cousin Mikey had a Kawasaki 750 that my middle bro had cut up and made to look like a Harley. My cousin Candy and her husband had a 650 Honda Shadow (w/six gears). My youngest bro had a 750 Suzuki Intruder. My other cousin Lou had a 750 Suzuki Intruder, too. I have an 850 Suzuki GSL. There were a few others in our group.

    My uncle and his wife had done many bike trips where they just jumped on the bikes, threw a few clothes, strapped a sleeping bag on the back and went down the road. They had told us all about how great it was. The rest of us had just done day trips. My uncle and aunt started talking about taking a big trip. We were all psyched about it. It sounded so damn cool. It was May and we were talking about going to Sturgis in August.

    We started planning that early. We talked about how much money we would need per couple or single (only single being me of course). $1500 per couple and $750 for me. We were planning on camping several nights and alternating staying in hotels. We had several meetings over the summer where we sat down with maps and talked about where we would go. My uncle, having been on trips before, decided to designate himself the unofficial “leader”. Since we were all the “kids”, we naturally looked to him for that leadership.

    Except me. Sort of. I didn’t mind if he was the “lead” rider or planned the stops for the nigh, but I did have some ideas about stopping and seeing a few things along the way. Like, Independence Rock; the Black Hills; Mt. Rushmore. There were also a couple of places that had museums and things. Like the Mammoth Dig where they were digging a whole Mammoth out of the ground up in South Dakota. I was also hoping to see Deadwood and a few other historical areas.

    I tried to mention these at some of the meetings, but they were insistent that I was making it “too” organized and I should leave more of it up to fate. Personally, the bike trip itself was cool, but I didn’t know if I’d ever have the chance again to be up that way and see some of these things. My uncle assured me that we would take a trip to Mt Rushmore and drive over to Deadwood if nothing else. Those were great rides.

    Let me pause and just say that one of the hardest things you could do is plan a trip with 10 people or more. EVERYONE has their own ideas. And, when they are my family, they are all hard-headed Irish-American Indian-Germans. In other words, we are always right and we won’t change our minds even if God himself appeared to us and told us a better way.

    At the beginning of August, big fires were tearing through the Black Hills and surrounding forests near Sturgis. Many of the campgrounds had to cancel reservations and we were having problems finding replacement accommodations. On top of that, the hot winds were stirring up tornadoes and other windstorms making the ride up there dangerous. Once we got a few things figured out, we were going to end up staying over 100 miles away from Sturgis.

    We called an emergency meeting of the “group”. My cousin Lou decided he had to back out completely. His wife did not want to go if she couldn’t ride with him. You see, he only had a 750 Intruder. Lou was about 250 lbs and his wife almost 200 lbs. A 750 Intruder was not going to pull both of them up some of these mountains. Not to mention that the bike’s suspension was not made to take that kind of weight on a grueling ride.

    I had offered to take my brand new Ford F150 as a chase vehicle with a trailer, just in case, as long as there was someone to drive it. I explained that I was planning to ride the whole way and it would have to be the “passengers” taking turns to drive it. My cousin Mikey said he had a problem because his wife had never driven before and had no driver’s license (the reality was, they wouldn’t give her one because she had seizures; I found this out later). That left my bro’s wife, my aunt and my cousin Candy to drive. They all offered to do so. A chase vehicle with more tools and space to carry bags and camping gear would be cool. My Cousin Lou’s wife still refused. If she had to drive, it wasn’t the same. In which case, Lou dropped out.

    Further complicating the matter, Mikey and his wife were having a hard time finding a babysitter for their three kids. They weren’t bad kids, it’s just that he was having contretemps with his mom and sister at the time and didn’t have anyone to watch them. Finally, though, his sister relented and volunteered to keep his kids (she loved them anyway, she was just being a pigheaded Henry). My mom was keeping my nephews (niece was not born yet).

    Lastly, the fires and the lack of accommodations up in Sturgis had thrown our plans for a loop.

    You know, there are times when everything is really going wrong and something in your gut tells you that you should abandon your plans and just stay home. It would be safer that way. I could go camping locally. Maybe I should just stay at work? There was so much to do there.

    But…Noooo. The wild and adventurous side kicks in and tells you to stop being a panty-waist. When’s the next time you’re ever going to do something like this? Don’t be a chicken sh*t.

    At the emergency meeting a suggestion was made that we should go in the opposite direction. Go down to Gulf Port, Mississippi down on the Gulf of Mexico. It would be a long, hard trip, but, if we pushed it, we could get down there and have two days on the shore. My brother and my cousin Mikey wanted to go on to Pensacola, Florida. I was the math whiz, time table, money guru for the trip and it was not feasible. We’d have to travel over 600 miles every day and we wouldn’t be able to stay anywhere, just turn around and come back.

    Now, 600 miles is about 10 hours of driving in a car and pretty easy for some folks. On a bike, in August, the hottest time of the year with the winds blowing around 20 to 30 miles an hour, you’re fighting your bike the whole way. Especially if you have a windshield on the front; but, even if you don’t, the wind is blowing against you so hard, by the 8th hour of driving, you just want to get off and sit down somewhere quiet that doesn’t vibrate or feel like a brick is being shoved up your ass every time you hit a pot hole.

    So, it ended up being five of us against four. No Pensacola. Mikey and my bro seemed a little pissed and made noises about not going. It seemed like the trip was going to fall apart by a difference of a city. My uncle told them not to be assholes. A trip was a trip and it would be fun regardless.

    It was still on.

    As it came closer and closer, I was torn between excitement and just saying, “no.”

    I had a two week vacation and was worried about what work would look like when I came back.

    We were still arguing about the “plans”. We had made extensive plans for Sturgis, but barely any for Gulf Port. We were flying by the seat of their pants.

    Plans? We don’t need no stinking plans!

    The day came for the trip. The night before I had taken the truck over to my uncle’s house so everyone could throw the camping stuff in the back. My brother was having problems with his bike. The new pipes he’d put on were causing his carburetors to act up. He kept fouling spark plugs. He told us he didn’t think he could go.

    That left me, my aunt and uncle, my cousin Mikey and his wife and my cousin Candy and her husband. At that point, I was going, no matter what. I had saved money, changed plans, packed, fixed the bike and done a huge number of things to be able to leave work.

    I was going.


    The next morning I got up at 6:30 AM, took a shower, through a few things on the bike (the main stuff was already in the truck) and drove over to my uncles. We waited thirty more minutes to take off, just in case my bro had gotten his bike fixed. He didn’t show and he didn’t call. We took off down the road.

    It was exciting. It was exhilarating. We were down near Harrisonville, Missouri when a bike came zooming out of no where, flying past us. It was my bro and his wife. The bike looked like a hobo’s cart. Sleeping bag, tent, duffle bags and an assortment of other things were strapped on the bike with bungee cords. His wife and he were sharing a piece of the seat that was normally reserved for one person. Even the front of his bike had a duffle bag strapped to the forks.

    As he flew by us, his bike backfired and a big puff of black smoke came out. We all yelled the biker yell, “Wooooohoooooo!!!” He pulled off the side of the road and we followed him.

    “Dude, what’s up? Did you get your bike fixed?” Everybody was asking him at the same time.

    He just jumped off the bike and started whipping out some tools, barking orders at his wife to dig out some spark plugs.

    Guess not.

    We stood around watching. “What’re you doin’?” Like we didn’t know. “Are we gonna have to do this every other hour?”

    “No,” he answered. “We’ll be fine.”

    “Dude,” I said, “You must have been flyin’ to catch up with us.”

    My sister in law was looking extremely wind blown and hassled. Maybe even a little shaky. “We were doin’ about a hundred all the way from your mom’s place.”

    Bro was wrenching on the spark plugs as quick as he could. “Yeah. We were hoping this was the route you took.”

    About that time, bro had wrenched one of the spark plugs out of the bike and grabbed it with his fingers out of the slot on the engine. Like a moron. He started tossing it between his hands like a hot potato. “Mer! Take this thing!” And he tossed her the spark plug.

    Mer, being taken by surprise by the flying object, grabbed the plug with her left hand and immediately began to toss it back and forth, “Oh, ow, ahh!” Finally, she tossed it into the ditch by the side of the ride.

    “Dude!” She was looking annoyed.

    We were all smothering a laugh.

    “Well,” he laughed, “it was hot.”


    He changed the other spark plug, but this time he just grabbed it quickly and tossed it over his shoulder.

    “Mer, start grabbing our stuff and put it in the truck.”

    I went over and helped Merstart un-strapping stuff off the bike and putting it into the truck. Within 10 minutes we were going down the road again.

    After that, it was kind of nice. Just going down the highway, playing a little leap frog (that’s where we change positions in the staggered line of bikes, each of us switching lanes and speeding ahead of another in the line, forcing everyone to reshuffle and reconfigure the staggered bikes; it was good practice for later).

    The other reason the trip was going to be just a little longer was that my bike only had a three gallon tank. Worse, it had racing jets in the carbs that only allowed it to get about 30 miles to the gallon. We had to stop every 90 miles so I could get gas. One of the draw backs of my modified bike.

    The day became very hot and humid. The wind was blowing about 25 miles an hour. We were headed down to Arkansas for our first stop. One of my other cousins lived down that way and we were planning to haul ass all the way down to Arkansas before we stopped for the night.

    As we drove along some scenic mountains in Northern Arkansas, I drove with one hand and took pictures with my other. As we drove along, a car came up the entrance ramp with two women. It was a Dodge Aries K. The two women were talking and not looking to the side; just straight ahead. I watched because I could see that they weren’t looking. As they entered the highway, Mikey was right beside them. His wife had gotten in my truck earlier. As I saw the car merging, I yelled at Mikey even though I knew he couldn’t hear me. It was reflex. Mikey saw them, but he was being a bit of an ass. Instead of moving over as we had done, he reaches out and knocks on their window.

    I thought the two girls were going to have a heart attack. They swerved to the right, almost driving off the road, and Mikey swerved into our lane on the left. I had my full face helmet on so it was kind of hard for him to hear, but I yelled at him anyway, “Dude! What the hell is wrong with you?!”

    He just laughed and twisted the throttle.

    The day was getting hotter. It was about 99* at noon time and getting hotter. At one of the stops I bought some water in bottles and threw it in the cooler in the back of the truck.

    My bro and I were at the back of the pack. Bro was made to ride back there because his pipes had no baffles and his bike was so damned loud, no one could even hear their own bikes, much less any cars behind or beside us. Also, it stank. Bad. The carbs were still running rich and the exhaust was nearly choking. I had the same problem. Rich carbs that is, and a smelly exhaust. Plus, I had the next biggest bike engine. My job was to ride herd and, if anyone dropped back or had problems, I was to zoom ahead and catch the lead bike to stop.

    About 1pm, my bro suddenly hits the throttle and runs up ahead of everyone. Suddenly he pulls off the side of the road, kills the engine, jumps off the bike and falls to his knees, retching. Everyone else cranked their throttles down, kicking the bikes into low gear and jumping off our bikes. Bro was suffering from heat exhaustion. The truck had stopped too. Everyone got went to the back of the truck to get something to drink. I got water. I offered some to the others. The only one that took it was my brother. The rest were insistent on drinking the coke. “I don’t need water. Water tastes like crap,” my uncle said.

    “Yeah. I’ll drink coke.” My cousin Candy said, chugging down another one.

    “Whatever,” I replied. I grabbed my kerchief from around my neck and wet it down from the ice cold water in the cooler. I placed the kerchief around my neck after ringing it out over my head. We were ready to go again. We were planning to stop at a gas station about an hour down the road. When we got there, many of the others were showing signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion. It was now 104* F according to the bank.

    Everyone seemed to be dragging ass some more.

    We got back on the road. It was now an hour and a half to my cousin’s place where we planned to stop for the night. We were now in the backwoods of Arkansas and it was going towards dusk. The roads were windy coming out of the hills without any guardrails. My uncle was still in the lead.

    As we came down the first set of hills, there was a little town. It boasted a convenience store/gas station, a small hospital about two miles away, a garage and a little post office. As we approached the town, my uncle’s bike, with my aunt on the back, started weaving back and forth. At first I thought he was doing it on purpose. Then, as we approached the railroad tracks just before the little convenience store, he slowed down and came to a wobbly stop. We all rode up and stopped around them asking what was wrong.

    My aunt said my uncle was feeling a little woozy and needed to stop. The convenience store was half a block up the road. We slowly edged our way up to the convenience store and parked. My uncle was very week and could hardly swing his leg up over the bike.

    Mikey and Candy’s husband ran over and helped him off, walking slowly into the convenience store, finally sitting him down at one of the little tables and chairs near the front. Just as he sat down he passed out. His chin was leaning down on his chest. I was standing outside looking in the window taking my gear off. I saw everyone standing around acting confused. My aunt was gently slapping my uncle’s cheeks.

    I put down my gear and walked quickly inside.

    “Hey! What’s goin’ on?” I walked over where they were standing around. I noticed that my uncle’s eyes were at half mast and he seemed very pale. The clerk asked us if we wanted an ambulance. I started to say “yes”, but my aunt cut me off and told them he’d done this before, much to my surprise, and he’d come around in a second. She directed Robert to get some orange juice as she continued to slap his cheeks.

    “Louis, wake up, now. You need to wake up.” Robert came over with some orange juice and a little Styrofoam cup. She poured a little in the cup and pressed it to his lips. “Come on. Drink a little.”

    He continued to be unresponsive.

    “What’s up? Does he have heat exhaustion?” It had now been long enough to make me worried.

    “No. He didn’t take his insulin this afternoon.”

    “What?” What the hell was that about?

    “He left in the refrigerator this morning and we didn’t realize it until we stopped earlier.”

    “But, if he needs insulin, why are you giving him orange juice?” Me scratching my head.

    “Excuse me,” the clerk again, “should I call an ambulance?”

    “Yeah!” Me, bro and Mikey. At the same time, “No!” Aunt and cousin (her daughter).

    “What the hell? He’s been unconscious for at least 5 minutes now.” I was getting a little agitated. Mikey walked away throwing his hands around.

    “It’s his decision whether he wants to go to the hospital or not.” My aunt. Illogical, I know.

    “His decisions?” I was incredulous. “He’s fucking unconscious! He can’t MAKE a decision.”

    “He and I made a pact a long time ago that neither of us would make the other go to the hospital unless we said we wanted to go.” My aunt, explaining it as if it was perfectly logical at this moment. She began patting him on the cheek again, a little more forceful this time, “Louis, come on, now. You need to wake up.”

    “Which part is confusing here? He’s unconscious. He can’t MAKE a decision. You have to make it for him. He’s been out now for about 7 minutes. Anything more than three is dangerous. We need to go NOW!”

    My cousin Candy jumps in at this moment, “Your not the boss!”

    “What the…? This isn’t about being the boss, dammit! This is about being and adult and making a freaking decision!” I wanted to add, “you moron” but I didn’t think it would help the situation.

    There we were, in a convenience store in the middle of nowhere Arkansas, arguing about whether we should take an unconscious man to the hospital or not. The clerk was getting more and more concerned. I’m sure they were thinking a man was going to die in the convenience store, right there, on their shift. “I’ll call an ambulance.”

    “Never mind. They’ll take to long. Mer, run out and pull the truck up to the door. Mikey, Robert. Get ready to carry him out.” I decided I was done arguing and it was time to take charge.

    Meanwhile, Candy has joined her mom, “Dad, dad! Do you want to go to the hospital?”

    I rolled my eyes. Robert brought up a good question, “What do we do with his bike?”

    “We don’t have time to load it on the trailer.” Mikey was being sane and thinking logically.

    “Robert can drive it. Aunt Jeanie can get in the truck with uncle Louis.” I replied.

    “NO! That’s dad’s bike! No one can ride it without his permission. We should stick it on the trailer.” Candy again.

    “What part of, ‘he’s fucking unconscious’ don’t you understand? He can’t give anybody permission for anything. He doesn’t even know where the hell he is!” I was getting really pissed.

    “Dad,” she insisted, “what do you want us to do with your bike?” She was down close to his face. “You want us to trailer it? Or, can Robert take it? Dad, you really need to answer me!” Now I could see they were realizing he was not in any condition to answer them.

    Mer had brought the truck around. The clerk had their finger on the phone to dial. The freaking hospital was two miles away according to the last sign we’d seen before town and he’d been out for at least ten minutes. “Mikey, Robert! Grab him up and let’s go!”

    Candy was wringing her hands, still complaining I was bossy. Aunt Jeanie seemed resigned to it. Mikey, Robert and bro grabbed up my uncle and started carrying him out. I held the door open. Mer had the air conditioning on high. I jumped in the driver side and reached over the consol to drag him in from the other side. Aunt Jeanie jumped in the driver’s side and threw Robert the keys to the Honda. Everyone jumped on their bikes and we took off.

    A mile up the road was a little blue sign with a white “H” on it indicating hospital was a left turn and a mile up the road.

    My truck didn’t take the turn, but kept on going straight. We all raced up to the truck, waving our hands and pointing back towards the turn. My aunt rolled down the window and yelled, “He woke up and said he doesn’t want to go!”

    I pulled back along with Mikey, bro and Robert. We were all gesturing to each other, pretty much saying, “What the Fuck!?”

    The truck had now slowed down to about 60 mph and Mikey pulled up beside the truck. He pulled back and shouted something about uncle Lou wanted to make it to his other daughter’s that night.

    I was royally pissed. The guy had just been unconscious forever and, with a little revival from the air condition, can make his wife decide NOT to take him to the hospital? That was just bullshit.

    We drove about 15 more minutes on the two lane windy black top through the second set of hills without any guardrails. A 4x4 truck tries to pass us. With a truck and trailer in the lead and 5 bikes behind, there was no way to do it safely. Twice he had to squeeze in between our bikes, forcing us to take evasive action. Mikey and bro started pushing him back by slowing down and forcing him to back down.

    Finally, the traffic was slow enough and the road not as windy, he was able to pass us. Suddenly, the truck veers off the side of the road and stops.

    I thought, “Shit! Here we go again!” Everyone slammed on their breaks and stopped as well. We jumped off and ran towards the truck.

    “He was doing fine and then he just passed out again!” My aunt had jumped out of the truck and was running around to the other side. “I’m so sorry, Kat. He dropped his soda inside your truck. We’ll pay to have it cleaned.”

    As if that was my chief concern. My main concern was that this man might die in my truck. Then, the truck I’d only owned for two weeks would have to be sold. No way in hell I would keep driving it. I ran up to the truck. His lips were turning blue.

    “Fuck! Where the hell are we?” I started looking around. We were in the middle of nowhere. There was nowhere to land a life flight, even if our cell phone signal could have reached out of there. “Why the hell didn’t you go to that other hospital?”

    My aunt just had a stunned look on her face and kept saying she was sorry for the coke on the floor. “Okay. It’s no big deal. Let’s just get the hell out of here. Where’s the next hospital?”

    Mikey had lived down there for a year, “It’s another 15 minutes the way we were going.”

    So, stuck in the middle with no way to get a life flight, no way to get a cell phone out and nobody but me with the basics of CPR.

    “Okay. Let’s go, let’s go. Jump in the truck and drive.”

    Everybody jumped on the bikes and into the truck and started driving. Now we were doing 75 and 80 down the mountains of Arkansas. Mikey and my bro suddenly jumped ahead of the truck and raced away. Robert and Candy and I were on the other bikes. We were signaling to each other and yelling. Finally, Candy said that they were going ahead to tell the hospital we were coming.

    We continued to race towards the hospital.

    What kept going through my mind was, “Please God, don’t let him die in my truck. Don’t let him die on this trip. I’ll never hear the end of it.” My dad had been warning me about taking the trip with these yahoos. Of course, he was not imagining this I think.

    When we got into Mena, Mikey and my bro were blocking the road that passed the hospital. They weren’t taking any chances that they would pull that crap again. They turned into the hospital, thank the lord, and two guys with a wheelchair ran out to the truck. These guys were bean poles. My uncle was about 260lbs on a light day.

    “Dudes, you need help?” My cousin Mikey was worried.

    “No, we got it.” One of them replied.

    “Are you sure? I mean, he’s kind of heavy.” Mikey again.

    “No really, we got…” About that time they were lifting him from the truck. And nearly dropped him.

    Mikey and Robert ran over and them get him out of the tall truck and into the wheelchair. They were quickly wheeling him into the hospital with my aunt Jeanie close behind. By then it was about 7 pm and we were exhausted.

    Mer moved the truck since it was an emergency entrance. We all sat down on the curb and wiped our faces with out kerchiefs. I looked down and saw that I my white shirt was now tan looking from the dust and the wind. We sat there for about 30 minutes before anyone came out to tell us he was revived and they were giving him an IV. Candy was arguing with my bro about calling her brother we’d left in KC. She didn’t want to. Bro insisted that she should.

    Finally, my bro called and, of course, Lou Jr insisted that his mom or sister tell him what was going on. They barely convinced him to wait until we had other news before jumping on his bike and riding down like a mad man.

    The rest of us were starving since we’d missed dinner. It was almost 8pm and we hadn’t stopped to eat since noon time. We had cans of beanie-weenies, potato chips and soda. We sat on the curb chowing down. An ambulance came and went. A group of people, an older man in over alls, his wife, very heavy set and wearing spandex shorts and a big flowery shirt and someone who looked like their son, equally badly dressed with a mullet for his hair.

    My cousin Candy watched them walk in. “Look at these people. Freaky, huh?”

    I looked at her and then looked down the line of 8 people sitting on the curb, sweaty, smelly, dirty, big dirt rings around our eyes where the sunglasses were, hair matted down from the helmets, also sweaty and nasty, we were eating beanie weenies and drinking coke on the curb of the hospital emergency room entrance.

    I started laughing. “Babe, we ARE the freaky people!”

    Everybody stopped chewing for a moment, then they laughed. We needed that laugh.

    And, this was just the first day.