Early Morning

Without question early morning is my favorite time of day. Has been for years, certainly since I moved out of New York City in 1987 and took a job working on an upstate New York horse farm, a job that had me at the farm at five o’clock in the morning.

Now, there are those of us who are at ease with getting out of bed, blazing through their morning tasks and flying out the door in a dazzlingly brief period of time. Not me. I find the notion of having to leave home unsettling in the first place. Having to leave in a rush is unbearable. The farm was a 30-minute drive from where I lived so I’d get up at three a.m., plenty of time to have coffee, read, write, hang out with Bubba, the Siberian Husky who’d helped me reclaim my ability to leave the house after I was shot and held up again at gun point months later.

Ever since those first days out of the city early mornings have become a sanctuary of peace, healing, free thought, the intoxicating ineffable wonder of a new day emerging, adventure and, in a very real way for me, safety. Why the latter is true I’ve yet to discover, but it is.

Now early morning into mid-morning is dominated by writing. But there is a ritual. I set up the coffee machine the night before so, when I wake, I come into the nest (my writing room), click on a heater and turn on the PC. Then I go downstairs,push the button on the coffee machine and return to the nest. If my New York Rangers played the night before I check to see how they did. I then glance through email, do some chess problems, look at the homepages of NY Times and NPR, and during all this I may listen to Imus in the Morning. I then go downstairs, pour the first coffee of the day, return to the nest, have my morning coffee with Christine by phone or Skype or in person when she is here, and then hunker down to the day’s writing.

After my day’s writing is complete, I go downstairs, start up the fire in the wood stove and, once the fire is going, read.

Early morning, now and forever, my favorite time.

STOKES FOREST JOURNAL: EXCERPT #3

Note to reader: Some of us who live with a brain injury are sound sensitive. I am. And when I am tired, my sound sensitivity increases. This should explain the first sentence in this journal excerpt.

Sept. 29 – 10:24 p.m.

There is a cricket right by the window making so much noise I’d like to blow his fucking head off.

Midnight

I started to go to sleep and then I heard branches breaking outside and grew suspicious and frightened. Everything is okay.

It dawned on me earlier this evening that other than hotels, where I am surrounded by people, this is the first time I have spent the night completely alone (since I was shot). Always, if not people, my dogs (have been with me). It makes sense that this night would be in a place powerfully linked to my father. Once again he is helping me reach a summit. In a very real way he is giving me a present for my 55th birthday.

Sept. 30, 2008 1:05 a.m.

Having a hard time sleeping. Now there’s a surprise. It’s cool enough to start a fire now but I don’t think I will. I think there is a cricket in the cabin and if I had a shotgun I’d point it in the direction of the sound and fire away. Leave it to me to get pissed off at a cricket.

7:33 a.m.

The lake is covered by a mist and again my Dad’s “voice” helped me. I wanted to listen to Imus a bit to see what was on the news and hear some humor but of course I got on my back (thinking), Silent retreat, Peter. Silent retreat, you must go through with this. Then, my Dad saying, Pete, listen to the news. Do what you want. Listen to Imus. It’s okay.

There are beautiful sounds outside as the world continues to wake up. I am living in a fairy tale.

Oct. 1, 2008 6:55 p.m.

And so here we are, Dad. The home stretch (to my 55th birthday on October 2). In a way it is like waiting for a child to be born. He is due just past midnight. He’ll be a burly little fellow, delightfully animated, and filled with an ample supply of piss and vinegar. He’s gonna need it. We will be his guardian angels you and I. His guardian angels. I will watch out for him from here, you’ll watch out for him from there.

I love you Dad with so much of my heart you are my heart. Maybe it is this very heart that will be freedom born just past midnight. This time he will enter world a mighty heart. He will be seasoned, finely tuned, prescient, and keep of his own blood flow. We will watch him carefully as we loose him on the world. He will not have as much time as you and I had at 55 – but perhaps between us we can guard his freedom to be. If he can be the mighty heart he is, it will be redemption for the two of us. Then, finally, we can rest in peace knowing we have squared the deal.

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BUILDING 18: AN AMERICAN DISGRACE

I don’t know one American who will not be outraged when they learn that badly wounded American Veterans are living in a government-owned, mold-infested outpatient building that is home to an ample supply of rats, mice and cockroaches.

But wait, I’m wrong. There are some Americans who simply don’t give a damn. And there are others, like the White House, members of Congress and the military’s top brass, who are so oblivious to the plight of our wounded warriors they’ve never visited them at Building 18, the building in question that sits right across the street from Walter Reed Hospital which is in the nation’s capitol of all places.

Lt. General Kevin Kiley, Surgeon General, U.S. Army on the Jim Leher Newshour on PBS last night. Kiley blamed the presence of rats, mice and cockroaches on guess who? The wounded veterans who live in Building 18! They had food in their rooms, Kiley said. I’m sorry, but there is no way a human being can give a damn about our wounded warriors and say something like that. Kiley should be fired, jailed, or, better yet, forced to live in a rat infested dwelling for awhile.

God bless Dana Priest and Anne Hull from the Washington Post for bringing the tragedy of Building 18 to the American people. And then there is White House Press Secretary Tony Snow with his large smile and must-be whitened teeth who said no one should question the president’s commitment to the American soldier.

Many of these wounded warriors have lived in Building 18 for as long as a year. This means one or both of the following two statements are true. No one from congress or the White House has visited or some did visit and simply don’t give a damn. As “General George Patton” said on the Don Imus radio show yesterday morning, The 535 members of Congress ought to be duck-walked over to Building 18 and made to live there. In two days that building would look like something Trump built.

People like Bush, Cheney, Snow and Kiley should simply be jailed.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN IS RIGHT – AGAIN

I am watching Republican Senator Mitch McConnell tell the Jim Leher Newshour that the details of a squabbling senate might be too confusing for Americans to understand. To be exact, he said that the “parliamentary tangle is somewhat confusing for your viewers.” The tangle he references is the Republican effort to block an up or down vote on whether or not the senate supports the troop escalation proposed by President George W. Bush.

Sorry to disappoint you Senator but at this point I think most Americans know most of you on capitol hill are a bunch of greed-soaked liars who will do anything, including sacrifice the lives of young Americans,Iraqis and Afghans so you can remain in power. And why the lust for power? My guess? Money – as much as you can get.

I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of political leaders treating us like a mindless bunch of Lemmings (my apologies to the poor plummeting rodents). Too often both sides of the aisle are more concerned over their ability to retain their political posts then stopping the killing.

Vice President Dick Cheney, for one, should be in jail. He is not at all delusional as Democratic Senator Dick Durbin recently claimed. Cheney is a liar without conscience. He is about money and greed and couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the young men and women being killed in the middle east. Moreover, he is a wimp. The five deferments he received to avoid going to Vietnam were sought because, he said, he had other priorities. What were they? He wanted to go to school (actually he knew going to school would help keep him out of Vietnam). The last deferment was a hardship deferment. What was the hardship? His wife was 10 weeks pregnant. There are so many tempting lines here about Cheney’s distaste for pulling out that I’d better flee to the next paragraph.

You think Cheney or Bush give a damn about those killed and brutally wounded? Think about this. A 70,000-square-foot state-of-the-world rehabilitation center for returning veterans recently opened in Texas. It’s called the Center for the Intrepid and was funded by the donations of 600,000 Americans with a wonderful assist from radio talk show host Don Imus. Cheney and Bush didn’t bother to attend the opening. Could it be they have a conscience? Could it be they maybe feel guilty and have a hard time facing the men and women who’ve lost limbs or been horribly burned? I don’t think so. After all, Cheney’s old haunt and the source of millions for him, Halliburton, a Texas-based oil company, was asked to donate to the rehab center. They refused. Oh, by the way, Halliburton was awarded a no-bid contract in Iraq in excess of $7 billion.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Most men can handle adversity but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Obviously the same holds true for women. Just look at Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to be the Speaker of the House in our country’s history. What’s the early read of power’s impact on her? She’s demanded and will receive a military plane to fly her back and forth to her home district. Lincoln is right – again, and again, and again, and again.