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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Explosions Rock My Metro Train

Oct 6, 2009 Metro Center Station, DC

I waited on the Metro platform at Union Station as I have become accustomed to over my years of commuting into DC. I hadn't hurried for the train that was already in the station when I arrived. Soon the next train arrived and Robert, a man who is usually on the evening MARC train and part of our Car 5 Gang, arrived from the opposite end of the platform. We boarded behind the pushing crowd so as to be able to remain near the doors in my wheelchair and not get thrust further in by the later arrivals.

We held for an extra minute for the train ahead of us to clear the station at Judiciary Square, then we proceeded. At Gallery Place-Chinatown we were delayed by a sick passenger who needed to be assisted off the train. Robert, with his gallows humor, said they need to toss the passenger off the train so we could get going. In a sense that is what they did. A supervisor assisted the non-emergency exiting of the passenger and we began to move out of the station.

The train lurched forward and we joked that they were trying to knock us down. Apologies went all around for the people who had just bumped into someone else. While we sat there, the operator announced that we would be holding while they "try to figure out what THAT was." It was not your usual false start as when someone is leaning against the doors and the fault indicator stops the train. The operator announced that maintenance personnel were checking the length of the train to make sure nothing was under the train. Again, Robert suggested that it felt like we had run over someone.

The operator got the permission to proceed and we moved slowly forward into the tunnel. My third car location had barely entered the tunnel when the first explosion rocked the train. The shock wave pushed me forward a bit. The flash was clearly visible against the dark walls of the tunnel. A collective "OH," went up and the level of nervous chatted accelerated. Two more explosions shook the cars. The flashes and reverberations seemed closer. My thoughts were, "is this what a terrorist act is like?" The train was stopped in the tunnel – lights on – smoke beginning to filter in through the floor vents and door joints. Some yelled that "we have smoke coming in here." Robert called out for everyone to remain calm and shouting would do nothing to help.

Another explosion. The train operator announced that she was going to limp the train into Metro Center where it would be evacuated. We moved slowly forward with halting movements until the platform came into sight. The operator broadcast to the waiting passengers to move back from the train, this train was out of service. The doors opened and a hurried, albeit hasty evacuation was made. The smell of burning electrical insulation followed the train into the station. The passengers aboard the train all disbursed, already knowing that there was no proceeding on Metro this day. Passengers on the platform still waited to board our disabled train. I told people as I passed by them on my way out, "this train is definitely out of service. It is going nowhere soon."

Smoke rose up through the station at Metro Center smelling of electrical burning. There was not visible flames coming off the train at that point. I paused at the mezzanine to look back at the train that still sat at the platform and the crowds of commuters on both platforms who would be finding a different path to work this morning. Nothing seemed untoward and the whole scene quite benign. By the time I reached the street, fire engines were screaming their way to Metro Center and Gallery Place in response to the " Disruption at Metro Center in both directions. Trains sharing same track btwn Judiciary Sq. & Farragut N due to an earlier situation at Metro Center. Delays both directions." So this is what they mean when they say…

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Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Dear Mr. President:

September 5, 2009

Dear Mr. President:

In this year 2009 once again the cause of health care for people in this land has reared its ugly head. Even with the recent loss of 7 million jobs in this country there are those Legislators who decry expanded health care as Socialist and a scourge to be purged. Those 7 million jobs were typically attached to family households of 4 persons. Most private health insurance premiums are paid by employers on behalf of the employees. So go figure. There are potentially 28 million people in this country who might just now be losing their beloved private health insurance coverage. Since there are a lot of businesses that never paid for health insurance, we can easily half that number and still have a huge population of citizens newly without private health insurance.

A high school era buddy of mine is an early retiree. Such a person is old enough to consider stopping primary employment but who is not yet eligible for Medicare at age 65. He reports that his privately funded private health insurance coverage costs him and his wife $1850 per month. Excluding the annual cost increases that he says is on the order of 10% a year, he will pay nearly $200,000 between now and Medicare eligibility. And this is assuming that some catastrophic event doesn’t intervene and cause termination of the policy by the business that holds his health in their private hands.

President Obama stated his goals of creating a health care coverage overhaul that would allow everyone to have access to medical services before their conditions go critical and we have to fund their costly recovery via Medicaid. He did not specify how the legislation would be worded nor what exactly the Bill would contain. His plan allowed the Congress to work it our as a bi-partisan effort to help the growing population of families and individuals who had no access to medical services until they arrived at an emergency room and could not leave under their own power.

The Democratic legislators set to the task of crafting such a plan while the Republican legislators boycotted the process and said that the Democrats would have to proceed without them. How can it be that there are no Democrats living in Republican districts and states?. How can it be that no Republican constituent is without adequate private health insurance paid for by their employers? How can it be that access to medical treatment is a partisan issue worthy of universal objection by one particular political party?

Republican legislators need to hear from their Republican electoral base that they too need access to adequate affordable medical care. My health is not for sale to Republican profit motivations.

Robert Carlson

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fear is Trump

Fear is Trump

The behaviors of people speaking against health care reform that would benefit millions of people made me realize that they are so afraid of the "death squads" allegedly in the health care reform legislation because it gives voice to the idea of the convenient death for a declining elderly parent or spouse and how that death would bring respite from years of the hearthache of caring for that loved one with Alzheimers, alcholism, Cancer-chemo, etc. The desire for escape is unthinkable and results in a cognitive dissonance and outpouring of anger and denial.

Each political party in the US has its share of special interests who lobby them to see the current issues in a light that is agreeable to the interest groups. When hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, are at stake the battleground is everyone everywhere. Each citizen is a marker that is placed in one column or another to represent the interests that are being influenced. Fear being a powerful agent is employed most effectively in these cases. Unfortunately our human susceptibility to fear makes us vulnerable to they who would use it as a weapon as opposerd to a defense. Fear cannot be used to promulgate a good and happy thing. Love and kindness can do that. The problem is that fear is trump in the cardgame of politics.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Vulnerable Profile

The events that unfolded in Cambridge during the week in July 22, 2009 are similar to hundreds (if not thousands) of events that have played out in this country over many decades, in many cities, towns and communities across this nations. They were events that are not supposed to happen any more but ultimately still do. A black man is arrested by a white police officer for some reason (legitimate or not) and a lot of people weight in with their opinions as to that legitimacy without knowing what actually happened.

I go on the record as saying I don’t know what happened. I can say why, however. At least one participant did not use the best judgment in his/her actions. This includes ALL the people who weighed in on the matter without considering the ramifications of their statements. If profiling is a factor in this debacle, just who has profiled who? Did the white office use a profile to determine the threats of Mr. Gates. Did the President of the United States use a color profile on the officer as a “blue pig”? Hasn’t a lot of Americans profiled this same officer as being offensive to African-American men?

In the CNN web stories they stated: Dennis O'Connor, president of the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association, also took aim at Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who reportedly has characterized the arrest as "every black man's nightmare and a reality for many black men." I believe that it is immaterial whether this arrest was legitimate or not, the scenario remains a nightmare for innocent men who find themselves in any situation where an office of the law is involved. Therefore, Govenor Patrick’s statement is valid.

CNN continued with: “Echoing the words of Crowley, O'Connor said he was dismayed that the president and governor would opine on the issue without all the details.” Yes it is important to get the facts first, something that (here comes an opinion) most news outlets and sources have eschewed Post-Cronkite.

It is fortunate that Mr. Gates was not hearing impaired or did not reach for his wallet to provide identification and that Sgt. Crowley was not either Sean Carroll or Edward McMellon. What a nightmare it would be to be hit by 19 of forty bullets because of the impressions in the minds of a group of armed men.

Tough situations that go from bad to worse where one or both or all parties are incrementally wrong in their actions deserve apologies and all attempts to defuse the matter before they go really sour. Emotions seem to lead the way after they are first sparked.

I agree that minority males are disproportionately at risk for maltreatment and that constitutes a Vulnerable Geometry for which there is no excuse. We have a long way to go toward equality for everyone. Our only explanation is that our laws are less than 50 years old that assert that equality. Our Constitution is only 233. These documents are supposed to undo several thousand years of “an eye-for-an-eye” attitude. And this assumes that everyone actually believes in those ideals and wants to abide by them.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Carlson's Backyard

The night was alive with the sounds of ten thousand crickets whose chorus filled the air with a constant droning, interjected by an occasional new voice like a castanets being shaken for a moment then let fall silent. A lone firefly flashed from its death trap in a web at the corner of my deck. He wasn't supposed to be there at all considering that the season was mid-September.

I, with my imported beer and sourdough pretzel nuggets, sat in the crossed beams of light from the two deck lights that hung on black poles above the deck high in the branches of the trees and sniffed the warm damp night and inhaled the essence of the evening.

Beyond the forest, beyond the deck and the penetration of the incandescent bulbs a crowd of people and the occasional dog enjoyed the throbbing sounds of recorded music played a bit too loud. Their excitement filtered through the trees and found my ears. The mechanizations of the music ebbed and flowed with a light breeze that made the flames of my citronella candles flicker. Their light combined with the illumination of the overhead deck lamps that made twin opposing half shadows that when combined, made a deeper shadow.

The moon at half phase peered through the still green leafed trees and added its meager rays to the scene. The sky was still discernibly less black than the underside of the canopy of trees that blocked the moonlight. Except for the loss of one broad tree last year during the rain of Floyd, the moon would have been hidden from my view entirely.

A sudden movement in the corner of my eye drew my attention to a leaf that moved contrary to the affect of the light breeze. Something fluttered there. It settled to a stop and became invisible to my human eyes. But when it moved, my perceptions locked in on the discontinuity of movement. After a moment or two it leapt into the air and fluttered comically as it approached my position. It disappeared from view under my crossed knee. Where did it go? Did it continue, unseen to somewhere else or did land where I couldn't see it? What was this large nocturnal fluttering anyway?

I backed up a bit to see if it was stopped on the deck before me. As my eyes adjusted focus, I saw the eyes and thin neck and triangular head of a brown praying mantis peering from around the curvature of my knee. She stood erect and stationary. Her triangular head that was half eyes turned slowly to survey the surroundings. I thought about how she would eat hundreds of destructive insects and her mates to conceive her brood of tiny manti. After a long mutual scoping out of each other, she departed in a great flourish of wings and sheaths that made her flight seem haphazard. She landed on the side of my house near the eves and above the copper figure of Kokopele. There she waited for the occasional insect that would make her meal.

The night air was filled with pheromones of which I have no perception. The chemical lures and trails that the insect world can apprehend is a blank dark night to me. I can only imagine that the attractions of pheromones is like a beacon of light in the distance that grows ever brighter and more distinct as one draws nearer.

From beyond the globular light of the bulbs that hang above the deck under their green domes, I could see the lone bulb of light at my neighbor's back door. It signaled a point in space that has significance.

A second mantis fluttered across the clear blackness of the night illuminated in the incandescence that bathed the deck and landed in the garden of balloon flowers that have gone to seed. She clung to the stalks and walked her slow rocking gait to gain the advantage over an unsuspecting meal.

Something else was nagging at my vision. Occasionally other leaves moved suddenly. Their illuminated tops sides were green in the deck light and the under sides black with the night. It leapt into the air and fluttered to a new perch in the darkened branches. A leaf wobbled contrary to the light breeze and hung a bit lower than before. There it was again. From one branch to another it, they hopped. Then in one long extended fluttering, it flew toward me. I waited for it to descend and alit. It looked like a green leaf folded along the center vein, except for the legs. It landed on my shoe, the one crossed above my knee where I could readily see this fellow. It rested only a moment and was gone.

With my beer all gone and my candles burning low, I decided to head back inside. A train whistled in the valley beyond the woods and fell silent. Beyond the world of my back yard made visible by the electric lights suspended above, something else still, waited and watched. Silently it hovered, out there. It made a light fluttering at the edge of my auditory perceptions. It was coming toward me.