The Promised Land

April 2nd, 2023

My son, Hans, bought himself another Harley last week. He already has one, but the engine needs work, and that bike has been a static display resting on an oil stain in his driveway for years now. Anyway, he went out and found an old Electra Glide Classic. I think he said it was a 2007. It’s a heavy bike. Hans told me that it weighs 800 lbs. without any baggage. The engine is just shy of 1600 cc., and it apparently has a lot of torque.

Why did he buy it? Well, there are a number of reasons for getting it; some good, some not so much. His wife was apparently all for him buying the Harley. She thinks that riding helps to keep him sane. I think that’s true. After Hans came back from Iraq, he used to ride a Harley all the time, just to clear his head. He would crank it up, let the bike choose the route, and go until he arrived somewhere unexpected. I guess the motorcycle was fast enough to outrun his PTSD. Hans told me that riding the Harley calmed him down as he became one with the bike. It sounds to me like a Zen kind of thing.

I went to the synagogue yesterday. It was the last Shabbat before Passover. after the service was done, I gave a ride home to a friend of mine from the shul. The guy is an old man, pushing ninety. He has a son just a bit younger than I am. When I was deployed in West Germany back in 1983, his son was fighting in Afghanistan with the Soviet Army. My time in Germany was relatively uneventful. The other soldier’s deployment in Afghanistan was not.

I thought things were bad when Hans got hurt in Iraq. I don’t know what all happened there, but I know he got shot at least once. Hans’ experiences don’t at all compare with what happened to my friend’s son. His vehicle got blown up by an IED. He was the sole survivor from the explosion. Now, forty years later, he is still a mess. His father tells me about it every time we are together.

My friend is a Ukrainian Jew. He came from Kyiv. He is convinced that I am Jewish. I tried to explain to him that I’m not, but he simply can’t accept that idea. Back in the Old Country, he never met a Christian who wasn’t a Jew-hater, so If I am his friend and I go to the synagogue with him, I have to be a Jew. The old man takes his tradition with the utmost seriousness. He plans on celebrating Pesach (Passover) with his daughter. He asked me,

“My friend, will you celebrate Pesach with your family, or does your Catholic wife only celebrate Easter?”

I answered, “We won’t be celebrating Pesach together.”

He smiled a bit, and said, “I think you and your wife, you made an agreement. I think I know it. Your sons were raised Catholic, and your daughter, she is Jewish. After all, your grandson, her little boy, Asher, he has a Jewish name. Am I right?”

I dodged the question. I said, “My wife and I worked it out.”

He nodded and said, “Okay, you worked it out.”

He asked me, “Your son the soldier, Hans, is he okay? And his family?”

I told him, “Hans is alright.”

Then he started talking to me about his boy.

“My friend, it is hard. My son, he never stops drinking. In his dreams, his comrades who died in the attack, they come to him. They speak to him. My son, he wants to be with his soldiers, but they are all dead. My daughter, she knows what he spends his money on. She tells me that he buys a bottle of alcohol each day. Every day! He is going to die. My wife and I have lived with this for forty years already.”

I had been thinking about Pesach. My wife and I have been to seders. We know the story. Passover is about freedom from slavery. My friend’s son is a slave to his memories and to his addiction. My friend keeps waiting for his boy to be liberated from all of that. If God could free the Israelites from Pharaoh, then God can rescue his son from his disease.

I thought about my friend’s forty-year-long wait for salvation. The Exodus story begins with the liberation of the Jewish people from Egypt, but the saga continues after that. Pesach celebrates that glorious initial experience of freedom. What follows is forty years of wandering in the desert until the Hebrews arrive in the Promised Land. None of the Israelites who remembered Egypt lived to see Eretz Israel. They never made it.

My friend desperately wants to see his son healed. He keeps waiting to enter his version of the Promised Land. My friend might not get there. His son might not get well. He may die before his father does. There is no guarantee. Moses stood on Mount Nebo and gazed longingly on a land he would never enter. The leader of the Exodus was not allowed to go to the Promised Land. He died first.

Hans has his Harley. Maybe he can ride it to his Promised Land, a place where he is at peace, even if that place is only in his mind and heart.

How can my friend’s son find his Promised Land? Is it here? Is it in a bottle? Or is it somewhere in the next life, where he can be with old comrades again?

When my friend finished talking, he grasped my hand tightly. We had arrived at his home. He asked me,

“Your grandson, Asher, you love him very much? He is in your heart, the very bottom of your heart?”


The old man smiled and got out of my car. He waved and said,

“Kiss Asher for me!”

A final note: My friend’s son died on 04/03/2023, two days before Passover. I hope that, after so much suffering, he found freedom.

Any More Questions?

April 5th, 2023

Computers are wonderful things. I’m using one to write this article, so they must be. As computer technology becomes more and more commonplace, our dependence on it grows accordingly. I can remember, when I was at West Point back in the late 1970’s, how the school’s computer (yes, I am using the singular here), was an electricity-devouring behemoth that took up an entire floor of Washington Hall. The smart phone in your hand has exponentially more power and speed than that monstrous anachronism had. The computer at USMA was only used for science or engineering projects, so if it went down, that kind of sucked, but only for the students who were struggling to design a howitzer. For the vast majority of people, it didn’t matter. Now, if our computers go down, it matters, and it matters to everybody.

About twenty-five years ago, I was a supervisor at a trucking company. I used a computer to organize incoming shipments, and to set up delivery routes. The system I used was internal to the corporation. I had a green screen monitor. We did not have Windows at work. I don’t think we had access to the Internet at all back then. I planned my operation with a technology that was slow, clumsy, and often unreliable. However, at that time, this software was hot shit. It let me know what freight was coming to me from faraway places. It also told me when the shipments would arrive at my facility. It allowed me to devise efficient ways to deliver the shipments with the labor I had available to me. It was a crude method of doing things, but it is far better than trying to plan everything with a stubby pencil and a Ouija board.

As I mentioned, the internal computer system was not always accessible. That being the case, we backed up everything we did with a paper trail. That was cumbersome and redundant, but sadly necessary. I am convinced that our use of paper decimated entire forests. We made copies of everything imaginable.

For instance, when a driver in another city, say Chicago, picked up a pallet of freight from a customer, he or she would have the shipper fill out a bill of lading, a shipping order. Once the pallet was at the Chicago facility, a copy was made of the billing of lading, a “Copy of Shipping Order” or “COSO”. The driver who brought the shipment on his trailer from Chicago to my dock in Milwaukee would bring a bundle of COSO’s with him, one COSO for each shipment on his trailer. Normally, I could print delivery receipts from the information on the COSO’s (the information having already been entered into the computer system), and I really didn’t need these copies that came with the freight.

But sometimes I did.

One night, all those years ago, the corporation’s computer system failed, utterly and completely. This was bad, very bad. Suddenly, every supervisor and manager at every facility was blind. That night, I had no idea when a shipment would arrive, or who was bringing it, or even if it was coming to my facility at all. I wasn’t just clueless about one shipment. I knew nothing about at least four hundred of them. I couldn’t organize anything at all until each trailer showed up and I could examine the COSO’s. It made for a long night, and a brutal morning.

I got it done, but it was ugly, oh so ugly. I couldn’t plan ahead, so I had my dockworkers do “shotgun loading”. If a shipment arrived that was going to a customer in a certain part of town, I had the forklift driver put it into a trailer with other shipments going to other customers in that same general area (kinda sorta). There were no effective delivery routes that day. Each delivery driver was going to put on a lot of extra miles. I had a lot of angry questions directed at me. I was kind of busy with the endless chaos, so I was not a good listener.

The discussions usually went like this:

Unhappy driver: “Hey, Frank, what is this skid doing on my trailer? This customer isn’t on my normal route.”

Me: “It’s not a normal day. Get rid of it.”

Very Unhappy Driver: “I don’t even know where this place is.”

Me: “Buy a map.”

Pissed Off Driver: “Did you see how those idiots loaded my trailer? I will be going back and forth all day! It will take me forever to deliver all this freight.”

Me: “Then you better get started.”

The driver took his paperwork and walked away. As he passed a coworker, he glanced back at me and snarled, “No point in talking with that guy! All you get is smart answers and dumb looks!”

It went on like that for hours.

The drivers had to deliver their shipments suing the COSO’s. I couldn’t print them any official delivery receipts, so I had to make copies of the copies. They needed two copies for each customer to sign upon receiving their shipment. The customer kept one copy and the driver returned home with the other copy. When I wasn’t arguing with a surly employee, I was standing at the Xerox machine making a seemingly endless number of copies. It incredibly tedious, but it had to get done.

Our customers were also seriously inconvenienced by the system failure. We tried to deliver almost all of our shipments overnight. The customers expected us to do that, and they wanted to see their shipments the day after they ordered them. They wanted their stuff, and they wanted it right fucking now. At a minimum, they wanted to know where their goods were and when we could deliver them. Nobody in the office knew any more than our loyal customers, the people paying top dollar for our prompt service. I told the clerks to tell the customers that they would probably see their freight by noon. We almost delivered everything by that time anyway, so it wasn’t a lie. Most customers grudgingly accepted that, but not all of them.

As I was feverishly making copies, one of the clerks came to me and said,

“Frank, this customer was told that he would get his shipment early this morning. He hasn’t seen it yet. Do you know where it is?”

Without looking up from the copier, I replied, “No.”

She exclaimed, “I haven’t even told you who the customer is. Could you have somebody look for it?”

“No! I have four hundred shipments and I don’t know where any of them are at this moment. I don’t even know where to start looking for the freight.”

“Well, what should I tell him?”

Still not looking up, I told her, “I don’t know.”

She kept going, “Frank, that is not acceptable to the customer. We have to do better than that.”

I snapped, “Goddammit!”

I slammed my right hand on the top of the copier. The glass shattered from the impact and there were shards all over the floor. I stared dumbly at my right palm. It was beet red, but I wasn’t bleeding. I glanced around and noticed that I was all alone. The office was completely empty.

There was another Xerox machine in the office. I picked up my papers and walked over to it in silence. I made more copies.

I had no more questions that day.

A Hard Reality

April 3rd, 2023

My wife, Karin, and I want to drive from our home in Wisconsin down to Texas to visit our three grandchildren there. Unfortunately, we can’t make the journey at this time. We don’t know when we will be able to go. There are a number of reasons why we can’t make the trip, and all of them somehow involve the fact that we are the primary caregivers for our toddler grandson, Asher. As guardians of Asher, nearly all of our time and energy is spent watching over the boy. Travel outside of the immediate vicinity of our home is difficult. Long trips are impossible. We don’t mind being at home with Asher, but we miss being with Weston, Maddy, and Wyatt. I have never even met Wyatt, and I have only seen Maddy once in my life. This grieves me.

I have to put things into perspective. Our situation is unlikely to be permanent. Circumstances will change, and we may be able to go to Texas someday. In a couple years, our grandkids from the South will be able to come up to Wisconsin and visit with us for the summer. In the meantime, we can exchange videos and photos. We are not total strangers to each other.

I know other people who are separated from their loved ones, and their struggles are far more challenging than mine. I have a friend who is an Afghan refugee. He and his wife and their baby boy fled Kabul just before it fell in August of 2021. Luckily, they were accepted into a country that has proven to be a safe haven for them. My friend worries about the family members he left behind in Afghanistan. He wonders how to get them to safety. He wonders when he will see them again. The answer to the last question is “probably never”. They can’t come to him. He cannot not go back to Afghanistan. Unless the Taliban suddenly disappear, he won’t see these relatives again. That is a hard reality to face.

I also know a family of Syrian refugees. My friends from Syria have been living in the United States for about seven years. Before coming to America, they lived for a while in southern Turkey, in the area that suffered so much during the recent earthquakes. These refugees still having family members residing in that part of Turkey. They have been in contact with their relatives and have sent them whatever help they could. My friends would dearly love to hug and console the people that were injured and lost their homes, but they can’t go to Turkey to be with them. That is another hard reality.

There are people all over the world who are separated from the people they love the most. Millions of Ukrainians are refugees, and they might never see the folks that they left behind in their war-torn homeland. There are displaced Rohingyas, Yemenis, Hondurans, and countless others who probably told family members, “We’ll see you again”, knowing that they won’t. Sometimes a goodbye is temporary, sometimes it’s forever.

That’s a hard reality.

Twenty-eight Bones

March 28th, 2023

There are twenty-eight bones in a person’s foot and ankle. When my right leg was crushed by a forklift back in 2009, I broke all of them. That’s what my orthopedic surgeon told me. Some of the bones had hairline fractures and some were shattered. None of them were intact.

The surgeon spent 2 and 1/2 hours rebuilding my foot and ankle. He put together a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. By the end of the operation, I had a fully reconstructed limb containing nine titanium screws and a plate. Eventually, three of the screws were removed, but I still have plenty of hardware in my right leg. I also have several wicked-looking scars as reminders of my surgery.

I stayed in the hospital the night after the operation. The doctor was concerned about the possibility of blood clots. After all that slicing and dicing, there were a number of places were the clots could form. They gave me a strong pain medication shortly after I woke up from the anesthesia, but it didn’t last very long. I don’t remember much pain after I was run over by the forklift, but I distinctly remember the pain after the surgery. That hurt. Really hurt.

The surgeon prescribed me OxyContin for when I went home from the hospital. That was back in the day before the addiction hazards of opioids were well known, and doctors were still handing out pills like they were Skittles. I had a big ol’ jar of those pills from the pharmacy. I’m glad that threw most of them away.

I didn’t like OxyContin. For one thing, it didn’t really take away the pain. It just made me not give a fuck about it. It also gave me auditory hallucinations. My wife, Karin, would leave me alone in the house when she went shopping, and I could still hear voices coming from the other rooms. In my youth, I probably would have paid good money for that kind of experience, but at age fifty, I wasn’t loving it.

The drug also caused constipation. I didn’t like that either. There is phrase that is sometimes used about “shitting a brick”. When, after days, I finally had a bowel movement, it felt like I was being split in half when I was on the toilet.

I like to drink beer. I noticed on the label of the jar that it was not a good idea to drink while using Oxycontin. I remember that there was printed in bold type: “Do NOT consume alcohol while using this medication”. Don’t even think about it. The message told me to get off this stuff ASAP. I did.

Having never before in my life broken a bone, the recovery process was a completely new experience. I had to learn how to use crutches. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t work. I needed to lie in bed with the foot elevated for quite a while. There were lots of changes.

The biggest change was the unpleasant realization that I was totally dependent on other people to do things for me. My wife had to take care of me, and I sometimes rebelled against that. I tend to think of myself as being independent and self-sufficient. I wasn’t so self-sufficient when I was laid up, and I probably have never really been as independent as I pretend to be. I had an epiphany in that I was suddenly aware of how much I needed other folks, and how much they needed me. There was reluctant acceptance of their help on my part, and a strange feeling of humility. I learned a lot during my recuperation.

I went to see the surgeon about a week after the operation. He removed the temporary cast and looked at his handiwork. I looked too. He smiled and said,

“Those stitches look really good. That’s healing nicely.”

Apparently, he saw things that I did not. When I looked at my lower leg, all I saw was a Franken-foot. Two of the toenails were jet black, and the rest of the foot was hideously swollen. The stiches alarmed me a bit. They looked nasty to me. The foot was covered with bruises in colors not found in nature. The surgeon looked at my extremity through the eyes of a craftsman. I saw it through the eyes of a distressed owner.

I went through a couple different casts during my convalescence. They came in a rainbow of colors. The first cast was black like my mood. When I got the second cast, I was feeling confident in my masculinity, so I asked for one that was hot pink. People noticed.

Shortly after I went home from the hospital, I had a visit from a visiting nurse. He was a bright young man who came to me in order to inject me with a blood thinner. Once again, blood clots were a concern. I was lying in bed when he gave me the blood thinner. After he stuck me, he asked me a question:

“Do want me to come here twice a day to give you your shots, or would you rather do it yourself?”

“How hard is it to do?”

He replied, “It’s easy. I’m a diabetic, and I’ve been giving myself insulin for years. You just grab a handful of belly fat and stick in the needle. Your wife could do it for you.”

I looked at Karin. She shook her head and left the room.

I told the nurse to teach me how to do it, and that I would handle it on my own. He told me how to dispose of the used sharps. He gave me a box of injectors. Then every day, twice a day, I would lie down, grab some flab, close my eyes, and push the plunger. I learned yet another new skill.

Recovering from an injury can be boring. I hate watching TV. Instead, I did a lot of reading while I was laid up, and I wrote quite a bit (like I am doing now). I also took out my bass guitar and invented lame riffs for hours on end. As I became more adept with my crutches, I started doing things around the house. I washed dishes and vacuumed the living room, that sort of thing.

I never got up the nerve to attempt to go down the basement steps on the crutches. I kept imagining losing my balance and doing a lip stand on the concrete floor. Instead, if I needed to go downstairs, I scooted down the steps on my ass. Then I would crawl back up again. It just seemed safer.

Eventually, I was got released to go back to my job. I could only do things in the office, since I was not mobile enough to avoid moving equipment on the dock. I was still on crutches, and I was going back to work on third shift. I asked my wife, Karin, to buy me an eye patch and a stuffed parrot to put on my shoulder. If I was going to be on crutches, I wanted to do the Long John Silver pirate thing at work.

My fellow shift supervisor had no sense of humor. When I arrived at work, looking all swashbuckling, he found nothing to be amusing. Our office clerk thought it hilarious, but my dock buddy wouldn’t even acknowledge that there was anything unusual with my appearance. Even when I asked him, “How arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre you?”, he didn’t crack a smile.


Once I got off of crutches, I started physical therapy. The therapist was a nice young lady who began by asking me,

“What are you goals with regards to this therapy?”

I replied to her, “I need to dodge forklifts.”

She stared at me for a moment, and said,

“Okay, let’s work on that.”

Mostly, she worked on loosening the scar tissue in my foot an ankle. She would spend an hour every session massaging the scar tissue to break it up. She explained that, if she didn’t do that, I would have poor flexibility.

One day, my wife came with me to therapy. The therapist introduced herself to Karin, and she explained that she massaged my foot and ankle. Karin smiled back at her and said,

“That’s good. Just don’t go any higher.”

The therapist took me to a small circular track they had in the hospital. We would walk along the track and at random moments she would yell,


I would turn abruptly on the bad leg, and then we would walk some more. We did over and over and over. I practiced turning on the bad foot until she felt certain that I could avoid a speeding forklift. This process took a while. I had lost almost all of the muscle memory in the right foot and ankle. It took my body some time to remember what to do.

When I had the operation, my surgeon told me about the leg. He said,

“It will never be the same, and you will feel it every day for the rest of your life.”

He was right. It isn’t the same. It never will be. It doesn’t hurt, but it feels different. I know when it’s going to rain by how my leg feels. It’s a barometer now. The foot and ankle work fine. I managed to go on a 165-mile walk with a group of peace activists in 2014. I walked ten miles a day, every day, on the dock during my shift at work. I did that until I retired seven years ago.

I am blessed. I got well.

Snow in Springtime

March 25th, 2023

It’s still rather dark outside, even though it is nearly 7:00 AM. The snow is steadily falling, and the wind is twisting the tree branches, all of which are heavily laden. The limbs on the pine tree out front of the house are bending almost to the ground. It is a heavy, wet kind of snow, more like slush really. We might wind up with five inches or more. Eventually, I will have to clear the driveway. There is no rush. The streets haven’t even been plowed yet.

There are only two weeks until Pesach/Easter. Yesterday, the weather was clear and sunny, and not terribly cold. Our thoughts were of springtime, daffodils and tulips. I guess got our hopes up too soon. The daffodils were just starting to peek out of the ground. Now, they are buried again under all this sloppy white stuff. We won’t see them again until the snow melts away.

I was thinking about going to the synagogue this morning, but I won’t. I’m certain that the roads are nasty and slick. This will be a day to hunker down and stay home. Asher, our toddler grandson, might be able to build another snowman. He’ll like doing that with his mama. My wife, Karin, will most likely spend time in her craft studio, and work on a new weaving project.

I’ll shovel.

Right now, I think I will make a pot of coffee, and then sit in the kitchen to watch the snow silently fall from the sky.

A Leap into the Unknown

March 24th, 2023

Back in January of 2007, there was a large anti-war rally held in Washington D.C. The war in Iraq was raging and the U.S. had been fighting in Afghanistan for six years already. Peace Action of Wisconsin offered bus transportation from Milwaukee to D.C. and back so that people could attend the demonstration. I went, as did my oldest son, Hans. I remember Hans asking to come along with me. Hans remembers being coerced into going. Maybe he’s right. Two years later, he enlisted in the Army, and in 2011 he was deployed to Iraq.

It was a brutal bus ride to Washington. We drove all through the night to make it to the rally in in the morning. The bus was packed with an eclectic population. There were numerous old school hippies, some of whom insisted on showing anti-war documentaries on the bus’s television all night long. There were a variety of college students, one of whom was a Che Guevara wannabe. The people who most impressed me were the Skinheads for Peace. They were three guys with shaved heads, black leather jackets, and combat boots going to D.C. to protest against the mayhem going on in Iraq. I really liked them.

When we got to Washington, the bus driver, named “Coach”, made it abundantly clear to all passengers that he would be leaving the bus terminal to return to Milwaukee at precisely 7:00 PM. He emphasized the fact that it is a long walk back home. He suggested that we get back on the bus a little before seven.

The demonstration was fascinating to me. There was no lack of interesting people there. I heard plenty of politicians, and I saw numerous cops. Lots of signs and banners. I remember distinctly one that said, “Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity”. I stayed and mingled with the crowd. Hans snuck off to see the Smithsonian. That was a smart move on his part.

Hans and I made sure that were back at the bus early. Two of the skinheads showed up a little bit after we did. We struck up a conversation. I asked the two punk rockers,

“Where is the other guy? Where’s your buddy?”

One of the young men took a drag off his smoke and said, “Oh Benny, yeah, well I don’t think he’s going to make it.”

I asked him, “Why not?”

The guy told me, “We don’t know where he is. We got separated.”

Benny didn’t get on the bus, and Coach didn’t wait for him.

Hours later at a rest stop, I asked the skinhead,

“So, have you heard from Benny?”

He replied, “Uh yeah, well, Benny used somebody else’s phone to call us. He lost his wallet somewhere.”

“So, where is he now?”

The guy took puff his cigarette and shrugged. Then he said,

“Benny met some guys from New York. He got on their bus going to New York City. He’s never been there. He thought that it would be a cool trip.”

I was stunned by what he said. Benny was a guy with no money, no I.D., and he was on a bus going to New York with total strangers. That blew my mind. I couldn’t decide if Benny was courageous or batshit crazy, or both. I wondered if I would ever have the balls to do something like that.

Now, years later, I realize that I have done things like that. I went on the Longest Walk in 2018 with a ragtag group of Native Americans, people that I had never met before. I traveled across most of the country with them, going from reservation to reservation, for about two months. I never knew what would happen from day to day. It was like joining a cult. I got home okay, but it was the wildest thing I have ever done in my life.

Going back four decades, I think about when I showed up at West Point at the beginning of July in 1976. I arrived at a place I knew almost nothing about, and then put my life in the hands of total strangers. I gave up what little money I had and got a brand-new identity from the U.S. Army.

Benny and I have a lot in common.


March 15th, 2023

I used to visit veterans who were patients at the local VA hospital. I talked with one guy. He was telling about his convalescence. At some point during our conversation, he asked me,

“So, have you ever been in the hospital?”


“What for?’

I told him, “I was run over by a forklift.”

The vet’s eyes widened a bit. Then he asked,

“How bad was that?”

I replied, “My right leg got crushed.”

He winced involuntarily. “Damn. That had to hurt.”


Actually, as I think back on that accident, I don’t recall having any pain. I suspect that my brain has wisely chosen to block that part of my memory. I do remember a lot of other things.

The forklift accident occurred on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009, at 8:30 AM. It was on the loading dock at work near Door 117. It’s funny how I can recall those specific details. Some things are etched into my mind with acid. It was cold that morning (the dock at the trucking company had no heat and the overhead doors were all open so that trailers can be loaded and unloaded). I was supervising the dock operation. Things were busy. It was “crunch” time. We needed to get our drivers out on the street.

A loading dock during crunch time is akin to an anthill. There is a great deal of activity, and it is difficult to keep track of who is doing what at any moment. I had to watch over about twenty guys who were racing around on forklifts trying to get freight out for delivery to our customers. If a person is walking on the concrete slab at that time of day, they need to keep their head on a swivel. Constant vigilance is required.

One of my guys had just popped open the door of an incoming trailer. He called me over to where he was working so that I could look at the load. Whoever had crammed the trailer full at the origin facility had failed to properly block and brace the shipments. Freight shifts inside a trailer as it rolls down the highway, and this load was a mess. There was shit (i.e., “valued customer’s freight”) scattered everywhere. I had to take a photo of this dumpster load to send back to the management at origin so they could “coach” the idiot who packed everything.

I tried to get a clear shot of the scattered boxes and dumped over skids in the trailer. I looked behind me, and I was clear. I friend of mine was picking up a pallet with his jeep nearby, but he had seen me. As I looked through the lens of the digital camera, I saw that I was too close to the trailer door to get a decent picture. I back up two steps.

That’s all it took.

As I stepped backwards, my friend, who had already checked behind his forklift, started to back up. Things happened quickly.

Be advised that a forklift is designed to pick up heavy skids of product. To maintain balance a forklift is heavily weighted in the rear. The back wheels of a forklift, which are generally made of solid rubber, carry about 8,000 pounds of weight. That way, if the operator picks up a pallet of steel castings, for instance, the forklift doesn’t tip forward. This also means that the rear wheels of the forklift will flatten anything they roll over, like my ankle.

Getting hit by the forklift was kind of like being in “The Matrix”, where the action scenes occur in slow motion. I remember it all in slow mo. I watched the left rear tire of my friend’s lift roll over my right ankle as I went down. I remember falling hard on to the concrete floor and screaming.


Everybody in the building heard that.

My friend stopped immediately. He was not parked on top of my leg, thank God. I told him,

“Don’t fucking move!”, as I dragged myself from under his lift.

As with all accidents, a crowd gathered. Dockworkers rode by the scene very slowly to gawk. My friend got off his jeep and asked me,

“Can you get up?”

I said, “No”. I was shaking. So was my friend. The guy’s face was pale. He was horrified.

Somebody called 911. Oddly enough, the hospital is literally across the street from where I worked. It took the paramedics less time to get to me than it did for the call to be made. In the moments that elapsed before the ambulance arrived, my buddy from HR, Terry, came to me to ask questions for the accident report. I asked him,

“Now? You want to do this now? Really?”

Terry smiled and sighed and said, “Frank, it will work much more smoothly with workers’ comp later, if I can just get a couple facts from you now.”

Paperwork always comes first. That’s somehow comforting.

The paramedics got to me and loaded me into the ambulance. I had never ridden in an ambulance before. I had never been hurt before. It was a day of firsts.

One guy started taking my vitals. I looked at his readout and noted my blood pressure: 220/140. Holy fuck. I asked the medic,

“Hey, are those numbers okay?”

He was busy plugging an IV needle into my arm. He momentarily glanced at the screen and said,

“For right now, yeah.”

Once they got me into the ER, things got blurry. Immediately, somebody started a morphine drip. Keep in mind that, although I have a long history of alcohol abuse, I have never used any other drug, not even weed. So, morphine was a whole new experience, another first. I think I would have liked it better if the stuff hadn’t made me nauseous. They eventually gave me a different pain killer. The doctors determined that the dry heaves weren’t going to help my recovery. However, for several hours, I was in morphine heaven.

They took x-rays and an MRI. I laid partially upright on a bed. The PA came in with his pictures. He asked,

“How are you doing?”

Why do people ask that? He probably already had a good idea of how I was. My foot and ankle were swollen and looked like a pink bag of gravel.

I mumbled, “Yeaah, fine. I think I sprained my ankle really bad,”

The PA gave me a bemused look. Then he looked at his photos, shook his head, and said,

“Well, the good news is that the bones are all going pretty much the right direction.”


They kept me in the hospital that night. They wanted to watch for possible blood clots. The building actually housed two separate medical facilities. The entire second floor of the place was an orthopedic hospital, not connected with the rest of the operation. I was on the second floor. It was strangely convenient.

My surgeon popped into say hi. He had just finished doing a procedure. He looked at the right foot and grabbed my big toe. He asked me,

“Can you feel this?”


“Good. Good. I don’t think you have any nerve damage, and the skin isn’t broken. Come to my office in two days. We will do the surgery on the 10th.”

Then he smiled and left.

My wife took me to the surgeon’s office. I sat quietly while he looked over my x-rays. He gave me a wry smile and said,

“You must have a million tiny fractures in that leg.”

I made whimpering animal sounds.

The doctor got serious. He said,

“Well, maybe there aren’t a million fractures, but that foot and ankle are shattered. We are going to do our best to rebuild all that, but it will never be the same, and you will feel it every day for the rest of your life.”

Fair enough.

I asked the surgeon about the operation.

“So, do you do this with a local anesthetic?”

He laughed, and asked me,

“Have you ever been put under?’


“You will be.”

On the day of the surgery, as I was being prepped, the nurse told me,

“While you are under, we will put a tube down your throat. When you wake up, your throat will be really sore, and you will be thirsty. We can’t give you water right away, but we can give you ice chips.”


I remember when they laid me on the table. The anesthesiologist told me that the drug might cause a slight burning sensation, but I would be asleep soon. She was right. As she administered the anesthesia, I started counting, and then I was gone, as in nonexistent.

I wonder if death is like that. What if death is just like being put under? There is nothing and nobody there, and there is really no “there” for anyone to be. That is somehow appealing in a twisted sort of way.

I was out for 2 and 1/2 hours (so I was told). As I returned from the void, I heard the distant voice of an angel. She was asking me,

“Would you like an ice chip?”

I whispered hoarsely, “Oh, fuck yeah.”

One Day at a Time

March 17th, 2023

“Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair!” 

“The real joke is your stubborn, bone deep conviction that somehow, somewhere, all of this makes sense! That’s what cracks me up each time!” – Heath Ledger, as the Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’

I know an old man. He’s a bachelor and he lives with his brother. I used to visit the two guys at their home, the same house where they grew up. Upon my arrival, I would ask what I always thought was a normal question. I would say,

“What’s new?”

The old guy would snort and shake his head. Then he would growl,

“What’s new? What could be new?”

What indeed?

These two old men have always made a point of living simple, uneventful lives. For the most part, there never was anything new at their house. Each day was basically a repeat of the previous one. There is nothing necessarily wrong with a quiet life. I have come to the conclusion that excitement is overrated. I wouldn’t mind a few days of boredom.

Alas, the does not happen at our house. We exist in a perpetual state of barely controlled confusion. My wife and I are retired, and often retired people have humdrum routines. We don’t. Part of this is due to the fact that we the primary caregivers for our two-year-old grandson. Toddlers, like the Joker, are agents of chaos. If you need to watch over an energetic and clever little boy, don’t make any other plans for the day. Your schedule is full.

There are other factors that play into all of this mayhem. There are other wild cards in the deck. Suffice it to say that my wife and I do not know what will happen from one day to the next. Maybe nobody really knows that. However, other people act like they can plan for the future. We don’t even pretend to do that anymore.

I know a young man at the synagogue. He’s a good guy, and he has been in recovery for eight years. He is big into 12-step programs, and he likes to tell me,

“One day at a time, one day at a time.”

I’m not really a big fan of 12-step, but I wholeheartedly agree with that mantra. The best I can do is live one day at a time. Sometimes, I have to narrow the focus to one hour at a time, or even down to one minute at a time.

As a case in point, just now, I had to stop writing because little Asher woke up from his nap. I had to soothe him for a while to get him back to sleep. I live with interruptions that are interrupted by other interruptions.

I know an Afghan refugee family. They fled from Kabul in August of 2021. They spent months living in absolute uncertainty. They didn’t know where they would sleep at night, what they would eat the next day, or where they would eventually end up. They are okay now, starting a new life, safe in a new country. My troubles are trifling compared with the terrors they had to face. I have to put my level of chaos into perspective.

Still, I sometimes find it hard to deal with not knowing what to expect. I find it hard being unable to make sense of events that are apparently irrational. I find it hard to find serenity amid all of the noise and commotion. It can be maddening.

So, one day at a time.

Stand for Peace

March 3rd, 2023

I got a notice from Peace Action Wisconsin, the local anti-war organization. Tomorrow, they are holding another one of their hourlong peace demonstrations in Milwaukee. This one is of interest to me because it is the twentieth anniversary of their first “stand for peace” event. If I remember correctly, I was standing with the people from Peace Action at the first one back in 2003.

That first action was held just weeks before the United States invaded Iraq. Bush, Rumsfeld, and Cheney were gearing up to go after Saddam Hussein and his stash WMDs that apparently never existed. Despite months of protests in Milwaukee, and in many other parts of the world, the attack on Iraq took place on March 20th. I remember the date because it is my birthday. The invasion was an unwanted and unnecessary gift to the world.

I had been standing in the cold on street corners holding signs to protest the upcoming invasion for weeks prior to the attack. Once or twice, I took along my oldest son, Hans, when I went to demonstrate. Hans wasn’t really interested. He just wanted to get out of the wind and the snow and go home. He was almost sixteen at the time. He thought I was crazy, and he was probably right.

The war in Iraq initially seemed to be a smashing success. There was shock and awe, and George W. standing in front of the banner that proclaimed, “Mission Accomplished”. Then it wore on. The blitzkrieg against the Iraqis was successful, but the follow up was not. With each passing day, I worried more about Hans getting sucked into this conflict. There were murmurings of a military draft.

When he turned eighteen, Hans needed to sign up for the Selective Service. I attended a lecture at the local Quaker Meeting House about how to convince the Selective Service that a young man is a conscientious objector. To do that, there has to be a paper trail showing that the eighteen-year-old is against all wars, not just any current mayhem. I worked with Hans to establish some evidence of pacifism. Hans once again wasn’t interested. He just went along with his father’s ravings. To this day, I still have some of the paperwork that Hans and I put together to keep him from getting drafted. It was all rather pointless.

In the autumn of 2009 Hans enlisted in the Army, knowing full well that he would be going to war, either in Afghanistan or in Iraq. I know why he joined up. He did it for the same reasons I did back in 1976. The irony is bitter and sometimes overwhelming.

Hans was deployed to Iraq in the summer of 2011. He survived, but much of what I feared came to pass. He came back damaged, and for what?

The twentieth anniversary edition of the Stand for Peace is tomorrow at noon. I will know people there. Some of them will be folks who stood with me back in 2003. They are overwhelming opposed to the use of any nukes in Ukraine. So am I. Oddly, this time they will mostly be protesting against the involvement of the United States in the war in Ukraine. Somehow, they figure that the U.S. and NATO are driving the world into a nuclear war. Perhaps they are right, but they ignore the fact that Russia lit the fire.

I was opposed to the Iraqi war because I believed, and still believe, that the invasion was illegal and immoral. The protesters at that time, including myself, thought that the war would all be the fault of the U.S. It was. Many years later, other people in the United States have come to the conclusion that the war in Iraq was a mistake, but they don’t usually consider the moral aspects of the war. They generally look at the war as a strategic failure. The sin was not that we invaded Iraq. It was that we didn’t succeed.

Many, probably most, of the people at tomorrow’s demonstration are convinced that once again this war is the fault of the United States. Actually, they believe that almost all of the wars on the planet are caused by America. I got one email message that quoted a peace activist, Caitlin Johnstone. She blames the “American Empire” for the devastation in Ukraine:

“Empire apologists will frame this trajectory toward global disaster as an entirely one-sided affair, with bloody-fanged tyrants trying to take over the world because they are evil and hate freedom, and the US-centralized alliance either cast in the role of poor widdle victim or heroic defender of the weak and helpless depending on which generates more sympathy on that day.

These people are lying. Any intellectually honest research into the west’s aggressions and provocations against both Russia and China will show you that Russia and China are reacting defensively to the empire’s campaign to secure U.S unipolar planetary hegemony; you might not agree with those reactions, but you cannot deny that they are reactions to a clear and deliberate aggressor.”

What bothers me most about Johnstone’s diatribe is that she doesn’t mention the real victims of this war: the citizens of Ukraine. What about them? Don’t they have a right to defend themselves? Are the Ukrainians somehow the aggressor here?

Yes, there are self-loathing Americans, and I know some of them. Maybe I am one. The United States has numerous black stains on its record. As a nation, we have committed some heinous crimes. It is wrong to whitewash our history. It is just as wrong to blame ourselves for everything. We did not start the Ukraine war. Russia pulled the trigger on this one.

I probably won’t be at tomorrow’s protest.

Nation Building

March 4th, 2023

Before Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, he asserted that Ukraine had always been part of Russia, and that, in effect, Ukraine isn’t a real nation. He emphasized the shared history and culture of Russia and Ukraine. There may have been a time when Putin’s words were at least partially true. After all, Kyiv is the birthplace of the first Russian state back in the 9th century. However, that was a long time ago and things change.

I have a friend from a synagogue that I attend. My friend is an old man, pushing ninety, and he came to the United States with his wife as political refugees after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The old guy is a native of Kyiv. He left Kyiv when Ukraine was newly independent, a time when chaos reigned. He and his wife had already decided to leave Ukraine when they had an unexpected visit. My friend often tells me the story. In his thick Slavic accent, he tells it to me like this:

“My good friend, one day a group of armed men came to my house. They were part of an ultranationalist Ukrainian militia. They wore camouflage uniforms; you know what I mean? The one man he talks to me and says,

‘You must leave. Ukraine is for Ukrainians. We don’t need no Poles or Moscow people. And we don’t need no Jews!’

I ask him, ‘What if I don’t leave?’

He says, ‘If you don’t leave here, your life won’t be worth one kopeck!’

My wife and I left, sooner than planned.”

My friend from the synagogue is very interested in the war currently ravaging the Ukraine. He and his wife watch Ukrainian newscasts. He said to me,

“My friend, I watch the news from Ukraine. It is all different now. They show on TV two Ukrainian soldiers together. One speaks Ukrainian, but the other is from the east, and he speaks Russian. These two soldiers are friends. They fight alongside each other. They are comrades; you understand what I mean?

Now, the people in Ukraine they don’t argue about who is a true Ukrainian. They don’t argue about western Ukraine and the east. It doesn’t matter anymore if a person is a Jew or not. The old Ukrainian nationalists, the fascists, are no more. It is a whole new generation. Ukraine is united!”

Is my friend right about the “new” Ukraine? He might be. He knew the old Ukraine intimately. He sees a great change from thirty years ago.

It is ironic that, even if there was a strong connection between Russia and Ukraine in the past, it no longer exists today. Putin’s goal was to extinguish the budding Ukrainian national identity. If anything, the Russian invasion has made Ukrainian pride incandescent. He has effectively united Ukrainians in a way they never were before. Putin has inadvertently done some nation building, and he has created an implacable enemy on his border.