On Peter, on Cape, on writing , & a coming wave – by, Smerkle Grumpy

Once in a blue moon Peter lets me write a piece for his blog. Mostly he goes for long walks with his dog, Charley, while I tap out words on this here keyboard. We don’t talk much about what I want to write but he knows there are times I think it’s important for those who’ve been knowing him for some time, or reading him for some time, to get a peek at just how he’s doing. That’s where I come in. I like to overview him from time to time.

Now he’s doing pretty good in Berkshire County these days. He does have this idea of moving to Cape Cod in his head. A dumb thing to say, I know, because where else would he have it but in his head?

Anyway, first things first.

This coalition of his, this Kahrmann Advocacy Coalition (named after Peter’s father, Sanford Kahrmann, not Peter), is gearing up to become a 501c3 with a board of directors and all that hoopla and that’s damn good news if you favor equal rights for folks and bad news if you don’t. I was in the room a day or two ago when Peter lit into someone who answered the phone at  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office  (He’s New York’s version of Chris Christie, you ask me. A bully). Woman gave Peter her first name but refused to give her last name saying they didn’t provide last names and without missing a beat Peter said, “Thank you for confirming I’ve reached the governor’s office.”

He fires those rounds so quick you wonder if folks realize they’ve been hit.  Not a whole lot makes Peter mad but when he is mad you’d have to be in a coma or gone to the next world not to notice.

He’s writing more than ever before in his life now and that is making him feel good and if you’ve been reading this blog you know he just did a lead part in a play and that was damned good for him. More than I think he realizes at the moment. Anyway, with him at his writing and, as always, reading up a storm, he’s begun to think of moving to Cape Cod. He told me once the proper phrase is people are “on Cape,” not “on the Cape.” Said he learned this from a woman he fell in love with. You’re on Cape or off Cape. No need for the.

It gets confusing.  Last week I asked him, “Why Cape?” He said it was okay to say, “Why the Cape?” and I said him and these Cape people need to sort out once and for all what their where they stand on the word the because the rest of us are busy stumbling over syllables and are just fine with the word because we use it a lot. I think he might still be smiling over that one. Anyway, he said he’d been thinking about the Cape because he went there as a boy with his father and family and it’s a place his father loved and the last place his father felt happiness before he died. It’s a place he (Peter) fell in love and almost married the woman and, the underpinning of it all, he misses the ocean. I always forget that when he was a boy both sets of his grandparents lived by the ocean. One set lived right on the water, they even had boats. This was in Rumson, New Jersey. And his other grandparents lived in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, just blocks from the ocean. And then, later in the seventies, Peter lived right on the ocean in Seagate, Brooklyn.

The coming wave I was thinking about when I picked the title for this piece is the wave of change. Change is coming for Peter but what’s nice to see is how clear and peaceful he is about it. That’s a good thing. He disengages quickly from  fight pickers or folks who, sad to say, are addicted to conflict, usually without realizing it. He keeps the door open for some who don’t have an active presence in his life. Even that Cape Cod woman. I asked him why he doesn’t lock more doors, I asked him about this yesterday or that day before. I can’t remember, and it doesn’t matter. I liked what he explained so I asked him to write it down.  Asked him to write it down. So he did. Here it is:

Sometimes people disengage from you, sometimes you disengage from them. Sometimes there are some barbs inflicted.  Anyway, it would be unfair to them and to me if I judged someone or someone judged me on poor disengagement skills. I’ve certainly absorbed some clumsy and mean disengagement techniques but they don’t deserve so much influence over me that they rob me of remembering and valuing what was and very well may be wonderful and extraordinary in someone. The very reasons I loved them and still love and care about them, in some cases. No, I’m no one’s pin cushion and am not available to absorb barbs, and hold myself and others accountable. But if healthy ways of loving someone or helping someone in life make themselves known, I’ll act on them, even if the person never learns I had a hand in helping them. I’m fine with that.”

I like Peter. No, that’s not right. I love, Peter. A young man not long ago said Peter is one of the kindest and most loyal people he’s ever known. That’ true, except of course if you start denying people their rights. Then all that changes.

Anyway, let me publish this on the blog now. I can hear Peter and Charley coming back. Peter’s laughing. Charley must’ve said something. Yeah, I know; dogs can’t talk, but they sure can communicate. Just ask Charley.

Peace out!

S.G.

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Falling in love (an interview)

Do you think you’ll fall in love again?

– (Smiling) I don’t know that I have much say in the matter.

– How’s that?

– I don’t think falling in love is something you choose. It just happens. It’s like one of those exquisitely delicious moments life offers, like, for me, the first time birds find the newly placed birdfeeder. The breathy gasp of joy is out of me before I know it. Like falling in love, it just happens. Your experience of the moment or the person simply happens.

– So a person’s powerless? Defenseless?

– What would you be defending? As for powerless, you’re not. You have a lot of say over what you do in response to falling in love. You can pack up and run. Some do. Or you can allow the experience.

– What about rushing into it?

– I’m not sure you have, speaking for myself anyway, that you have much choice over the intensity of feelings.  I think there is such a thing as moving to quickly. Remember to breathe, enjoy the beginning of things. There are a couple of things I’ve learned over time. The hard way in some instances. First, never give up who you are for someone and second, allow yourself time to be sure the person you’ve falling in love with is really there, and, if you they are, that they’re able to be fully present as real intimacy expands its reach.

– Giving up who you are would be?

– For me it would be, say, someone doesn’t like that I’m a writer or love to read or that I jump into the fray when I see someone’s rights are being denied.

– And people being who they really are? Allowing intimacy?

– There’s healthy compromise and there has to be in relationship, but if you begin to give up the essentials of who you are, resentments build, the relationship becomes toxic and then you’re done. As for people being who they really are or being able to continue to be present when the intimacy becomes real on all fronts… Sometimes I think people present themselves as someone they’re not, not so much because they want to be deceitful or dishonest, but because at some time being themselves openly was a dangerous undertaking. Connected to this, at least in my mind, is the person who flees, runs, disengages – you pick the word – when the relationship really begins to be fully intimate. Some run because when you are fully with someone it can feel as if your very existence is at risk. It’s not so, but God knows it can feel that way.

– Are you a runner?

– No. Other way around, there are times I should’ve disengaged and didn’t. And then, one more thing.

– And that is?

– In order for any relationship of any kind to be a healthy one, each person needs to be who they really are safely with the other. Absent that, there’s no point.

– And so when it comes to you falling in love again?

– (Smiling) If there is the possibility of being in a loving healthy relationship with someone, I don’t want to miss it. Cool?

– Cool. Thank you.

 

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Søren Kierkegaard and weather conditions

I suspect I am one of many who looks for and sometimes finds clarity and support and assurance that the path I’m on is  life as it should be. Poorly phrased, this. Best I can do at the moment.

Lately I’ve read some of Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s work. A couple of  salient lines reflect some tenets in my state of mind, all to the fore now given my current life experience (going back on stage): “Personality is only ripe when a man has made the truth his own,” and, “Be that self which one truly is.”

Both guidances underscore the fierce allegiance one must have to honesty. Honesty with self. Honesty about one’s being. The unflinching or flinching capacity to accept the reality you’re in. Flinching is okay as long as you reach acceptance. Trust me; I’m a flincher from way back.

We are each our own “weather condition,” never still, always moving, always changing. Our planet, our armature, is our being. Any quest to move through our “weather conditions”absent pain, sadness, fear, confusion and so on, is doomed. It’s simply not possible. Those “weather conditions” along with delicious ones like love, joy, laughter, wonder, ecstasy, and so on are all part of  life – and that’s okay. It’s as it should be. The sooner one recognizes one’s very being is (unless one seeks confirmation of one’s worth in the “weather conditions” of others) is the fountain of self, the freer we are to live, to be. And was not Oscar Wilde right when he said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken?”

Far too many of us, me too for a time, rely on the  “weather conditions” of others for our sense of value and worth. That’s like leaning on smoke and hoping not to fall.

Don’t fall. Be.

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Confessions of a Goofball – April 21, 2015

On or about the time I moved Massachusetts someone I love and care about called me a Goofball April 2015goofball. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed being called a name as much as I enjoyed being called a goofball. 

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines goofball, in part, as one who is “silly”  and defines goofy as “being crazy, ridiculous, or mildly ludicrous : silly <a goofy sense of humor>.”  Guilty on all fronts, particularly that last part about having a goofy sense of humor.

I am firm in the belief that a sense of humor – even a goofy one! – is a sibling of courage. I know no one who is functioning well in life after taking some of life’s more formidable beatings who does not have a sense of humor.

These past three years the goofball part of me has seen a lot of action. First, I was determined to give community life another go when I moved here. Ever since the shooting – I was held up and shot in the head in 1984 – and the attending brain damage and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that ensued, living in isolated fashion has been my preference.

Re-entering community life has at times been terrifying. The thing is, each time I’ve climbed over or broken through a “fear wall” I am always glad I did. Now, three years since my arrival in Berkshire County I am more involved in community life than I thought was possible, for me. So much so that I find myself in rehearsals for a play by Samuel D. Hunter called “A Bright New Boise” produced by Mill City Productions.

Returning to the stage for me has, in more ways than I ever imagined, brought a large part of me back to life. I danced with the Joffrey Ballet years ago and was a member of the Quena Acting Company, an offshoot of Joseph Chaikin’s, The Open Theatre. By returning to the stage I’ve reclaimed a cherished part of life. Last night as we arrived for rehearsal the house lights were down and the stage lights were lit, the set well on its way to completion. There’s magic in them there lights.

When I got home last night I danced around the house with Charley, my black-lab mix, doing a rather admirable job of following suit. He’s a goofball too. Once a goofball always a goofball.

I’d have it no other way. 

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Cuomo’s Dept. of Health gets even sleazier

When the New York State Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council was formed in the 1990s when the late Mario Cuomo was governor who could have imagined that less than 20 years later, his son and current governor, Andrew Cuomo, would do everything in his power to undermine and pulverize, not just the council’s ability to function, but the sense of safety and right-to-privacy citizens have when attending the TBISCC’s public meetings.

During a remarkably productive TBISCC meeting this Friday, this writer learned and attorney for the state’s DOH, Nicholas Cartagena (nicholas.cartagena@health.ny.gov)  issued an email to a private citizen saying  if she wanted copies of the council’s minutes she would need to file a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request. For the past two decades council minutes were made available to members of the public once approved by the council. They’d be available at the meetings or sent via email or regular mail.

There’s an even more ominous sign in Cartagena’s email. He says the TBISCC is part of the DOH and therefore it documents are subject to FOIL. This is the first time to this writer’s knowledge that a state official has blatantly claimed the council is part of the DOH and therefore the DOH runs the show. While this certainly appears to violate the legislation that formed the council; it unequivocally violates the purpose of the council, which, under this governor more than any other, seems to be the goal.

This is just one more example of Cuomo’s DOH doing all it can to be obstructionist, when it comes to the public’s right to know what it’s government and  advisory councils to state agencies are doing.

Not only does a FOIL requirement violate the construct of the relationship the advisory council has with the public, it puts an unnecessary and punitive burden on people with brain injury disabilities.

  • First: Submitting a FOIL request to the DOH is a laborious and time consuming process, largely because of the DOH’s at times blatant resistance and disingenuous posturing in response to the request. I recently submitted a FOIL request (after an email request to Deputy DOH Commissioner Mark Kissinger was ignored) asking who in the DOH was drafting the manual for the TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver).  After a month I was informed the DOH needed an additional month to gather the names. When the names identifying those creating the manual finally arrived, months after the FOIL was submitted, they were: Mark Kissinger, Lydia Kosinski, Maribeth (Knuckles) Gnozzio and Dawn Weiss, the latter three all directly under Kissinger. In other words, Kissinger and the DOH knew and had the requested information the moment it was asked for.
  • Second: The DOH can legally charge 25 cents a page for documents provided as a result of a FOIL request, making it a financial burden for those on fixed incomes like, say, many New Yorkers with brain injuries.

Unless one’s been living under a rock, or, is severely delusional, it seems quite clear that Andrew Cuomo is New York’s version of New Jersey’s Chris Christie. He’s a bully. Something his father was not. He also doesn’t give a damn about New Yorkers with brain injury disabilities, a group of people his father genuinely cared about.

Perhaps when no one was looking, Cuomo took a pledge not to follow in his father’s footsteps. If so, he’s living up to it. I’ll give him that.

Posted in Andrew Cuomo, brain, brain damage, brain injuries, brain injury, TBI, TBI Waiver, tbiscc | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments