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Writers Digest Book Review

Recently Writers Digest reviewed ‘Officer Down, Man Up’. below is the judges commentary:

I liked the way the author started his memoir by demonstrating his rotten attitude as a teen and his rebellion against his parents and society by joining the Marines. It is a beginning that will warm the heart of other Marines, as anyone who is related to one will attest. Still, Todd Lentocha struck me from the beginning as an unusual guy, loving boot camp, for instance.

While the extent of his tragedy is difficult to read about when the reader considers that this individual laid everything on the line for the safety of society, it is also information that needs to be out there. People will not appreciate what they have unless they know about the sacrifices being made. Ignorance breeds complacency. I appreciated this book from that perspective as well as from a psychological point of view. How Lentocha manages the rest of his life will be as influential to everyone he knows and all who hear of him as how he dealt with criminals as a police officer.

Readers are likely to find the writer as interesting as I did. I liked his admission of his bad moods and his depression. I hope he follows this book up with a sequel, and I think other readers will wish the same. My bet is that this high-stakes achiever will find something further to write about. Officer Down, Man Up is aptly titled, well written and formatted.

The cover picture is of a mangled car that no living human would be expected to emerge from. I am glad to have had the honor of reading this memoir.

REFUGEES OR MILITANTS?

I am sick and tired of people across this state of Connecticut and this great country criticizing both President Obama as well as Governor Malloy. Listen to me, people, these are two very busy men. I can assure you that they don’t have time to plant their butts in front of a television, listen to a radio, read a newspaper nor consult a news app on their smart phone. How exactly do you think they can know what is going on in the world? Their reality bears no resemblance to the reality in the rest of the world. How can it? They enjoy a bubble of security of law enforcement officials willing to risk their lives in order to guarantee their safety. Never mind about these men and women who would do such a crazy thing. I mean, they are just cops after all. Who really cares about them? Probably only their families or those looking for help from a dangerous criminal assaulting them. That’s what cops get paid for. Right?

Since the attacks in Paris, I have been intrigued to hear some of these men’s responses to this tragedy. I think the President’s incompetence speaks for itself. What I found very interesting is Governor Malloy’s adamant refusal to take into the account the safety of Connecticut. I heard him on the news last night talking down to reporters who questioned the logic of letting countless refugees into the state. Surely we don’t have enough psychos walking around killing people in this state and in other parts of the country?  And it’s possible that we need more? Oh and by the way, if you make it harder for people to legally purchase a firearm in order to protect themselves from these people, all the better. Of course, the problem here is that we don’t have enough of these people.

I know the reasoning behind these assertions by our politicians that these refugees will be properly vetted. Who do you think they are kidding? Recently, “Sixty Minutes” ran a piece looking into the vetting of people for security clearances and how defunct the system is. How exactly are we going to vet refugees? Are we going to send ICE agents and FBI agents knocking on doors in war torn Syria asking their former neighbors about the character of the people trying to come into our country? Are the agencies going to purloin information from bank or computer data bases in an anarchical state? There is simply no possible way of truly vetting people from this area of the world. Absolutely no way. Those who tell you different, either don’t know what they are talking about, or they are lying to you.

If the reports that a high percentage of these refugees are single, military-age males, we have a major problem.  With hundreds of thousands of these people fanning out across the globe, I can’t help but see this as less of a refugee crisis and more of an invasion. MSNBC’s Chris Mathews has a novel idea: Why don’t we take these military-age males, train them, and teach them to take back their own country? Doesn’t this seem like the right thing to do?

To President Obama, you might want to get your head out of your ass. Put down your plans for your Presidential library and concentrate on protecting the American people. Governor Malloy, you may want to stop spending hundreds of millions of dollars on bus terminals and bus-ways that virtually no one will use. Instead, here is my suggestion: hire more cops because your policies are sure to get a bunch of people killed. While you are at it, why don’t you start using taxpayer money to help take care of people who need taking care of, namely the developmentally disabled.

My family and I recently had the privilege of spending time in France, and Paris in particular was the highlight of our trip. Paris is a great place and it truly breaks my heart to see so many families whose lives have been changed forever. When the President of France comes out and says that this is an act of war, I can’t see how this can be argued against. Some idiots will try, and shouldn’t be listened to. I really don’t care what title they hold or were elected to.

That’s all for now.

VIVA LA FRANCE and GOD BLESS AMERICA

Diet Tips from Blind Guy

 

While my Magoo Moments have been well received, they are becoming hard to come by. I mean, I still do stupid shit but I’m not sure that they are worth writing about. So I am going to change things up a bit.

As many of you know I regularly attend a CrossFit Box called the Brickyard. The people who go there are a mixture of people: moms trying to stay in shape, cops, some people who like the competitive aspect of the work outs and then there are the people who are very serious.

Don’t mistake my meaning here. You have to be serious about this sort of working out. It is very expensive and very, very intense. I take it seriously enough but, during the weekends, I like my beer and pizza. My excuse? Sure, here it is. Since losing my sight, there are quite a lot of fun things I cannot do. I am not going to stop myself from enjoying those things I can do. Like eating and drinking. Of course, everything in moderation. Yeah right.

Since I have been going to CrossFit, I have regularly injected some humor into these work outs. Normally this humor is injected using some sort of food. Example, “at what point is our ice cream break?” Or “What kind of beer are we carb loading with today?” You know, stuff like that. I usually hear laughter. Lately I have stepped up the shenanigans.

One of the owners, Michelle, who also coaches and gives dieting advice, has taken to scolding me and my wayward diet tips. My answer to this form of abuse? Oh baby, here it comes: Mr. Magoo’s Diet Tips: “Get a bag of Pecan Sandies and a pint of Haagen Daz, don’t forget the spoon. It isn’t going to be quite as good as sex but it will last longer and you can do it anywhere.”

The first time I shared this advice at the Brickyard, my buddy Mike said, “Your wife hung her head with shame. Michelle’s mouth just dropped open in disbelief, and the stay-at-home moms laughed wholeheartedly.

Maybe you had to be there but I thought this was kind of funny. Hope you enjoyed it.

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: “Never Broken: Songs are Only Half the Story” by Jewel

For those of you have been visiting this blog let me thank you. I appreciate it and I hope you enjoy it. Second, this book is a little different than some of the books I listen to. I do like to change things up a bit.

Part of the audio book experience is the narrator’s voice. A great book can be read by a narrator you just can’t envision reading it, and this will absolutely ruin the story for you. So before you buy an audio book, make sure you listen to the preview. It will help you save time and money. Now the flip side of this reasoning is just as true. A mediocre book can be absolutely delightful with the right voice. This is just one of those books.

I am not going to say that this book is mediocre. In fact Jewel’s life is anything but. It is very interesting. If you do have healthy eyes, don’t read it; listen to it. Jewel is the narrator.

Even though I love music I have never been a huge fan of Jewel. I mean I like her stuff. She has a beautiful voice and she is a talented song writer, which for me is a window into a person’s intellect. But I love Jewel’s narrating voice. I was actually sad when the book ended. She sounds like an angel. I know some people throw this around but it is true. I just fell in love with her voice. It is truly unique–sweet, with just a twinge of sad. Yet it is not depressing at all. Probably because she is such a tough person– hardscrabble and perseverant. Smart and Hardy. I just wish I was smarter so that I could come up with more adjectives to describe her.

So, don’t read her book. Listen to it and fall in love with that voice. It is a voice that seems to always be singing to you. Enjoy.

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: “Day of Wrath” by William Forsten

Once in a while you come across a book that will grab your stomach and twist it into a knot. Once doing so, the story keeps twisting, literally making your heart whip in your throat like a never-ending roller coaster ride. Even if you‘re not yet a fan of this author and his works, notably “One Second After,” you will have to trust me, and let me be very clear here: you HAVE to read this.

The events of this story will not come as a surprise to people who have made it their life’s work to protect the populace. For some the story will be an apocalyptic fantasy only imagined by those crazy people who “cling to their guns,” as once noted in a political speech. Reading this book left me wondering how the fictional events haven’t happened yet. Thank God they haven’t!

For those who don’t believe that such a thing could happen in this country, you have to read this. You will have to acknowledge the apparent ease at which the event unfolds. It will scare the SHIT out of you and it should.

Shortly after the attacks of 9/11, there was a rumor that leaders in this country asked some of the creative minds of this country–authors, entertainers and the like–to conjure such scenarios. I’m sure that if this consultation actually happened, such an event might have been thought up. Its simplicity is startling. Maybe it wasn’t posed because it was too horrific.

You are probably asking: what could be more horrific than the attacks on 9/11? How about fifty schools being attacked by terrorists? Then a second wave of terrorists roaming the highways, gunning down those parents who are making their way to rescue their children.

For some this is a far-fetched scenario. For those who make a living protecting the populace and have studied such attacks that have happened in other parts of the world, it isn’t far-fetched at all. In fact, it is a fairly short leap into this sort of nightmare.

Read this book and be prepared to view our relatively safe society in a way that you may never view it again.

Audiobook Review: Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Have you ever dreamed of finding a pile of money? The pile of gold at the end of the rainbow that will solve all your troubles? Of course you have. This isn’t a unique concept. Hell, I can’t count how many times I have hoped this would happen to me.

There have been other books written on this very subject. That’s okay, really, because this “winning the lottery” scenario just sounds so cool. I actually know a guy that this sort of thing happened to. Not a hundred dollar bill blowing around a sidewalk kind of a thing but a real find. I am not completely clear on all of the details but the amount found was in the thousands, like nearly six figures, or so I am told.

So this begs the question, what would you do? Really. Forget the hypothetical here. Think about it for a minute. No big ideas? Don’t feel bad. I would have figured out a way to keep it as well. The guy I am talking about didn’t but that is something he has to live with. I can tell you with some amount of certainty that not only would I have kept the loot but just about every friend I have would have kept it as well. I mean, no law was broken here. You didn’t steal anything. You FOUND the money.

I have always liked Stephen King. The dude is a friggin genius. Some literary snobs out there would disagree and that is ok. For me and for most writers, success is much more important than awards. I think that more than one writer would quietly admit that they too wished that they enjoyed that sort of success. I know I would.

Ok, you probably have figured out the premise of this book. No, I am not going to tell you that King has reinvented the wheel or anything, but Finders Keepers is downright entertaining. It was really great. Not only were the characters great but for the writer in me, it stirred up the creative juices. For you writers out there, I bet it will for you as well.

The premise of a kid finding money is not new, nor is the bad shit that happens at the end of the book. It is the story that happens in between that is interesting.

Since this blind guy can only read and blog on audio books now, I don’t know how Finders Keepers reads, but I will tell you that audio book is first rate. The narrator, Will Patten, is a well know actor. For those of you who don’t know who he is, he was Bruce Willis’s best friend in the movie “Armageddon”. (Of course he has been in a lot of things but that is the one that comes to mind here.) He knocked this one out of the park. A good narrator can make a book more enjoyable. The ability to change voices for different characters and to inject feelings and empathy in the characters is the hallmark of a good narrator of an audio book. Not everyone can do it but Mr. Patten did.

So if you are one of those people who make your living driving across this country and are sick of listening to talk radio, buy or rent this audio book. You will love it.

Later.

Magoo Moment: Meandering Magoo Tries Facebook

Alright people, let’s just say that the Meandering Magoo has been up to some interesting hijinks. Are you ready? No? Well ok. How about now? Ok, here we go.

So, back when I could see, I stayed away from social media. There was no particular reason for this, other than to admit that I really wasn’t interested. My world was pretty interesting without all that surrounds social media.

Well let’s advance a few years and I wake up from a prolonged coma and can’t see a lick. When this happens, one’s world definitely shrinks some.  So I decide to write a book. Writing was the easy part. Marketing and selling such a thing, on the other hand, is a whole other ball game. Enter Facebook.

In order to network, I entered into the social media fray. Utilizing the voice-over device on my Iphone, I was able to maneuver around Facebook, all by myself. Yea, uh, oh. You see where I am going here?

What I did not know was that when you friend request someone, that person’s friends become possible friends for you. So for a few weeks, I am friend requesting and accepting from everyone. Until one day this happens:

“Uh, Dad?” Says my sixteen-year-old daughter.

“Yes,” I respond, cheerily.

“You’ve got some strange friends.”

With a raised eyebrow and curiosity along with some trepidation, I ask, “Oh?”

“Dad, there are women posting naked pictures of themselves. At least I think they are posting pictures of themselves. These pictures could be of anyone, really.” And then she asks, “Do you want me to delete the pictures and the person from your friends list?”

Mmm, well, since I can’t see these pictures, I think…. Then I say out loud, “Oh yes. Get rid of that trash right now.” And she does, along with a bunch of other things she found questionable. Not before she tells her mother who, by the way, berates me with mild amusement.

Fast forward a few weeks and the instructions I had received from both wife and daughter (“Don’t friend anyone you don’t know!”) seemed to be forgotten by Moi. Alison asked, “Have you been fooling around on Facebook again?”

I respond, “Maybe.”

My wife gets a little heated. “What in the world would make you friend request a person named Nikki Blue?”

“Well, she is an author. I am networking,” I say defiantly.

“She is an author for a blog, so you are right about that.”

“See,” I say with some satisfaction.

Then she says, “SHE IS A BLOGGER FOR THE VAGINA CHRONICLES!”

“Oops,” is all can I say. “Probably should delete that one as well,” I offer helpfully.

So there is a reason I share this Magoo Moment with you. If you find yourself on my Facebook page and some wild stuff comes up, remember, a blind guy is maintaining this page. I cannot be held accountable. Not legally, I’m pretty sure.

Now another piece of business. There will be extended times that I will not blog. There are many reasons. The last reason I have missed nearly a month was for vacation. We went to the British Isles, France and such. It was good and I gathered quite a bit of material for my next book. Not the entire reason but for me the most effective reason for spending an ungodly amount of money to visit a place I can’t see. The goal is: how do I make this experience entertaining? I am working on that.

Feel free to contact me with helpful suggestions. Later.

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: Out There, A Story of Ultra Recovery By David Clark

While searching for new things to listen to on my IPhone, I often grab a book from the Travel and Adventure section. I have to say that there are some real gems in this category. The Sex Lives of Cannibals,  AWOL on the Appalachian Trail, and just about anything written by Bill Bryson is a treat. It is also a very entertaining way for a blind guy to experience the world beyond what sometimes feels a very limited world view.

Ultra Recovery is one of those “overcoming adversity” books that I have really become hooked on in the last few years.

Author David Clark starts us off with a glimpse into his younger years of college, but the book really takes off during his early adult years. The amount of booze this guy consumed is absolutely mind- boggling. For example, two liters of scotch along with a six pack of beer along with a handful of Vicodins. Keep in mind, this wasn’t a sometimes occurrence but a nightly occurrence. One will wonder how he is still alive.

He takes us on this painful journey with an honesty that is crucial to any book like this. Most of us will not be able to relate. Some of us will. For instance I know someone who can polish off a bottle of Smirnoff easily on a daily basis. I good friend died of renal failure after consuming the sort of booze David Clark did. So this story isn’t completely foreign to me. Hell, I like to drink as well but, as my wife reminds me, I am already walking around like I am drunk. As a result of this condition, I am now limited to two beers (well, sometimes three if no one is paying attention). So I do have a hard time imagining what it was like to drink as much as the author was able to. That is only one of the shocking things about this guy and his book.

The other thing is his incredible road to recovery.

There are some real lessons here, lessons that would be valuable to just about everyone. The most important (and one I agree with) is that David shunned victimhood. “Own your own shit” is how he puts it. David owned his and figured out a way to make his life better, fuller. It is hard to imagine that he didn’t affect everyone he came in contact with. He actually ran his way into recovery, eventually running ultra marathons on a regular basis. These races aren’t for the faint of heart: he cramps, hallucinates and pukes his way through 100-mile races.

For anyone who loves to run or to exercise, this too is a must read. The light and positive nature of the human spirit is on display here. It is not a story you will forget anytime soon.

Later.

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: Fiasco: The American Adventure In Iraq, 2003 to 2005 by Thomas E. Ricks

For amateur history buffs, this is a must read. Written nearly a decade ago, it is (in my never to be humble opinion) an honest, sincere, and unbiased account of the Second Iraq War. The book is even more important now than when it was published in 2007.

Like all history books that are read with the benefit of hindsight, Fiasco has an accuracy that is rarely seen or heard in our 24-hour cable news environment. While this book could be deemed critical of the George W. Bush administration and its approach to the war, for me and for this blog, the criticism is secondary. Bear with me, gentle reader; let me explain.

While I did not serve in this war, I did serve as a Marine. It is from that perspective that I approach this book’s subject. Whether you agree with the reasons the United States invaded Iraq is irrelevant. To the many who lost loved ones, the reasons are irrelevant. What is relevant is that the soldiers are gone. Never to be hugged, kissed, talked to or depended upon again. I wish to address here the sacrifice that they and their families made for their country, for something bigger than themselves.

Ricks’ book is a cautionary tale that all leaders and future leaders–college and high school students–should read and take notice of. Our mistakes and missteps are too numerous to acknowledge here, and that is why reading or listening to this book is so important.

It is also the reason that the sacrifice that so many made is more important than blame-laying.

I’m sorry for repeating myself here, but I tend to do this. Follow me as I get back on track. When I was an active-duty member of the Marine Corps, I wore this T-shirt that read “when the wolf is scratching at the door, call the United States Marines Corps”. Essentially the message here is that young men and women will answer the call to defend their country. Their reasons will be wide and varied, but the result of this volunteerism is what keeps this country free. Yes, we are free.

Why do so many people of every creed and color and ethnicity try so damn hard to get into America?

Whether on a foreign or domestic policy level, republics make mistakes. The last decade will be something this country and its elected leaders will be learning from for years to come. (One hopes, anyway.) Those lessons learned will make it possible to better serve those who choose to serve us.

I am loath to get political here but I must make a point or two. The subject of this book is about the actual conduction of the war and the aftermath, and the criticisms are correct, in my view. The initial reasons for the invasion are suspect. Furthermore, those reasons are often clouded by post-911 politics. The attacks on that day were strategically successful, in that they clouded the minds of many of our leaders–not just in the White House, but also in the halls of Congress. Let’s not forget that majorities in both Houses gave the Bush administration permission to invade Iraq. Nary a one has been held accountable for that decision, unless one considers Hillary Clinton’s loss to Obama in the Democratic nomination process.

While the conduct of the war is rightly blamed on the administration that controlled our armed forces, we need to look at the lack of “A Profile in Courage” on Capitol Hill. Most important, the politicians’ incompetence must never reflect on those men and women who answered the call when their country called. They sacrificed their lives, limbs and sanity to do what they believed was right: to protect their country from further attacks. For that they should be held in high esteem.

Read Fiasco. It is extremely important to the future of this country and to those we ask to defend it. Will done, Ricks.

Later.

Magoo Moments: Target Toilet

My wife’s favorite store is Target. I swear, she probably goes there twice maybe three times a week. It doesn’t really matter to me, except when I have to schlep around the store with her. I often stay in the car, but once in a while I forget my good sense and go in with her. (Usually because I have to go to the bathroom.)

One particular time, I agree to put myself through this torture chamber. So we go to the bathroom located next to the pharmacy. Alison also has to go so, like a gentleman, I motion for her to go first. (I’m secretly hoping that it will earn me some goodwill I can later dip into when I start complaining like a child about having to walk around this store for an hour.)

Before she is able to go inside, an employee–obviously in a hurry–cuts in front of both of us and goes in, locking the door behind her. So we take a seat on the bench conveniently placed by the door. Well, it is taking an inordinate amount of time and both of us are crossing our legs and sighing. Then we hear what sounds like talking from the bathroom. I am suddenly wondering, did miss something here?

I ask my wife, “Is she in there with someone?”

Alison says, “No. She is talking on her walkie-talkie.”

Not known for my patience, I’m now made more irritable with every passing second. I say, “Screw this.”

Alison gets alarmed. “What are you going to do?”

Remember she has been married to me for a long time and she knows that just about anything is possible. But as I said before, I am gentleman. I simply walk over to the door and give it my best police knock. You know the loud cracking of the knuckles that cops give a door right before they ram it down with search warrant in hand.

Turns out this does the trick. You guessed it, out comes out the embarrassed party. Actually, I don’t think she was embarrassed at all but honestly, I couldn’t care less. Hell, I have to pee. You know what I mean?

Alison goes in and comes out. Cool, I go in right after her.

I do my business and then, greatly relieved, exit. Feeling happy and proud of myself, I give a wide-eyed, double thumbs-up to a woman who is standing right where I had left Alison. Small problem: my wife is around the corner. Apparently her vantage point allows her to watch me make a fool of myself, and she is hysterically laughing. She says in a sweet voice, “Over here, honey.”

I have to admit that it was pretty funny and couldn’t help but join in laughing. Wish I could have seen that poor woman’s face. She must have been terrified to go in there! Wouldn’t you be?

Another Magoo Moment for you. Hope you laughed. Later.

Audio Book Review: One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War

By Bing West

Once you get to reading some authors’ work, all you want to do is read the rest of their books. And never finding yourself disappointed in their writing, you can’t help but tell everyone you know about their work. Bing West is that sort of author.

Looking up his bio is very difficult for a blind guy so I will let you look him up. Prepare to be impressed.

A lot of his books have that quality that makes you feel as if you are there and have somehow become personal friends with the people he writes about. I don’t know, maybe that is a bit of hyperbole on my part. Maybe it is simply because I too am a Marine and even a quarter of a century later, recognize the personalities he describes in this book.

Not only is One Million Steps a step back in time, it is also a window into the future of the Marine Corps. I have had conversations with others over the years in which I explain, or try to explain, what it is that makes the Marine Corps different from the other branches of our armed forces. I will be fairly simplistic: Marines don’t fight for the Flag, Mom or Apple Pie. Marines fight for the Marine next to him or her. They fight to honor those who came before them, and they fight to set the example for those who follow them. It is a culture that fights to exist. Essentially, Marines fight for the Corps. They are prepared to die for their fellow Marine and Corps as well. It’s not the preferred course of action but it is an accepted fact. Marines fight and Marines die. As long as there is a Marine Corps that honors its history and legacy, then those who do perish on the battlefield will live on in the hearts and minds of his or her fellow Marines, and in the annals of the Corps itself.

Bing West is that sort of Old Breed who makes sure that our traditions live on. He does this by getting his ass out there on patrol with men who could easily be his grandchildren. He spends time in the trenches, lives without showers, eats bad chow and shares the misery that comes from living in a combat environment.

Bing West takes us along for a tour of combat in one of the deadliest places on this planet, Helmand Province in Afghanistan. It is where Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment (3/5) took the fight to the Taliban and became legends.

Of course you have probably never heard of the battles that the third platoon, Kilo Company, waged nearly every day while working to pacify this region, a region that previously had been occupied by a unit from the British armed forces.

The contrast between the two units is striking. West details the passive, non-committal strategy that was adopted by the British and the results that transpired. When the Marines came in, it was if they were forced to start all over. Forced to confront an enemy that went unmolested for years. The Marines battled for every step. I cannot fathom the thought of every patrol being led by a Marine with a metal detector, yet that was what was necessary. Even still, the amount of IED’s that the Taliban planted were so numerous that it was simply impossible for every one to be discovered. Many were discovered by Marines and Corpsman the hard way, with the ramifications being a ride home in a body bag. More, and I mean many more found themselves missing limbs, crippled for the rest of their lives.

Yet with the competent leadership so prevalent in the United States Marine Corps, third platoon kept taking the fight to the enemy. In doing so, they left a somewhat safer battle zone for the Battalion that relieved them after their tour was complete.

This is the in-depth story of the sacrifice made by these men. You probably won’t find it talked about it in any newspaper or cable news program. You should, but you won’t. Buy this book. If you do, maybe someday, the story of these brave warriors will be told on the big screen as all Heroes’ stories should be. Let’s make their names known throughout every household in this country. It is an honor that has been earned in blood.

Semper Fi.

Audio Book Review: Among Heroes by Brandon Webb

Last night I finished listening to Brandon Webb’s book Among Heroes. It an anthology of stories about eight men, fellow Navy SEALs he had considered dear friends. These men died in freak accidents, training accidents or in combat, essentially doing what SEALs do–live large and hard, accomplishing all the things that make them who they are, America’s elite.

Webb prefaces each chapter with a commentary in his own voice and ends with a reaction from that fallen soldier’s loved ones. Each story is as different as the person whom that chapter profiles. Webb’s narration is moving and provides a true example of a man who cared about and misses his friends. It is not a sad book; in fact it is filled with crazy stories and daring feats that give the reader, especially those who haven’t had the privilege of knowing such men, feel as if they now know these heroes. Their inspiring stories made me want to be a better person. I don’t know is this was Brandon’s intent but this is the effect it had on me.

Over the years I have become acquainted with numerous veterans who have been wounded in war–life threatening wounds that leave one wearing prosthetics for the rest of their lives. Most of these vets rarely, if ever, complain. I am sure that in the privacy of their homes with the ones they love or with others who have suffered from these same catastrophic injuries, the vets may feel more freedom in voicing their frustrations. I have not suffered the way some of them have, so it is certainly not my place to judge. I do want to say that I have been inspired by these people, in how they have confronted their adversities and how they continue to move forward.

There are a lot of young men and women who have perished in the last fourteen years. Each and every one has a unique and sometimes comparable story. The stories should all be told. Well done, Brandon. Keep doing what you are doing. Later.

Magoo Moments: CrossFit

So I am at the Brickyard the other day. This is a CrossFit gym in South Windsor where I choose to torture myself and have, unbelievably, convinced my long suffering wife to not only drive me there but join this group of crazy people.

Well, I have been attending classes there for about a year now and Alison doesn’t feel the need to follow me around as if I am a small child walking around the back yard looking for a nice warm dog turd to pick up and pop into my mouth as if it’s a chocolate. (I know, I know, it’s an unnecessary metaphor but, what can I say? I thought it would make you laugh.) Anyways, I make my way over to the rowing machine where I start the day’s assigned warm up-routine.

Now I am in the process of rowing when this woman gets on the machine next to me. She is wearing dark clothing and a funky purplish sneaker and her hair appears short. Just like my wife’s.

In a flirty tone that I often mistake for charming, I say, “I was hoping you would come down here.”

I hear a moment of silence followed by a small laugh. I am not concerned because I know Alison is not all that thrilled to be here and could possibly be a little irritated with me. I am not offended by this apparent brush-off and continue rowing.

I think this evolution is to last five minutes or so and, since I cannot see the screen in front of me, I either rely on Alison to tell me to stop or I try to figure out when the rest of the class stops moving. If either of these doesn’t work, the coach will come over and say something along the lines of, “Hey Magoo, we are done.” (Actually, that isn’t true. The coaches are really very nice. My fellow classmates, on the other hand, especially the ones who know me, feel no compunction about saying such things to me.)

Ok, so I am rowing next to ‘Alison,’ and I can tell she is finished. I have noted that she hasn’t said a thing to me the entire five minutes. Not alarming, but a little unusual just the same.

We put the rowing machines back and make our way over to the wall for a ‘dead frog’ stretch and, of course I am following ‘Alison.’ I get into position between her and another person similarly attired. Short hair, dark clothing and bright purple sneakers. But this woman says to me “hi honey.”

Uh, uh.

I do what had comes natural to me, as I have found myself in this sort of situation more and more as of late. I confront it.

I told my actual wife that I thought it was her who I’d been rowing next to, and I tell her what I’d to said to the poor woman. I do so in a loud voice so that the other woman can hear me as well. Fortunately there is laughter all around especially when this other woman expresses her initial reaction to me. She said to us, “I thought, my, this guy is awfully friendly.”

This is a pretty good reaction to a guy who had tattoos all up and down his arms and legs, has a big crazy scar in the back of his head, needs a shave and is wearing a stupid t shirt designed to draw attention to himself. In a word, expressed by my sixteen-year-old daughter when I told her the story, “creepy.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Another truly unique Magoo Moment. Hope it made you chuckle. Later.”

Midwest Book Reviews

“Officer Down, Man Up: Putting a Life Back Together Again” is the personal story of Todd Lentocha, a former U.S. Marine who became a police officer and, after five years of service, was blinded in the line of duty in January 2012. Todd Lentocha has faced traumatic brain injury and permanent blindness with humor, determination and support from his loved ones. It is interesting to note that Lentocha utilized a voice-recognition computer program to write the account of his struggle with the editorial aid of Pegi Deitz Shea (a former journalist, publicist, and the author of many children’s book). More than just another ‘comeback’ book about struggling with a disability, “Officer Down, Man Up” is a compelling testament that draws from informative interviews with Lentocha’s neurosurgeon, therapists, and fellow police officers, and reflects what can be accomplished even when confronted with the most dire of circumstances with the right kind of medical, familial, and social support system. As a side note, with the current national dialogue over police misconduct, “Officer Down, Man Up” will serve to remind us all of the sacrifices our policemen and women make in their efforts to secure our peace and safety. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, “Officer Down, Man Up” is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections.

Midwest Book Reviews, June 2015

Magoo Moments: Tracy Morgan

Normally I have reserved this area of this site for light hearted content such as Magoo Moments and for audio books that have made an impact on me. Informative and hopefully uplifting notations. There will be times, and this is one of them, when I will feel the need to talk about something that I just can’t get out of my mind.

The other day I listened to an interview Matt Lauer had with the actor/comedian, Tracy Morgan. I was moved by the sincerity and caring that Matt showed and the profound sadness that Tracy was feeling. (For those who aren’t aware, Tracy and his friend were involved in a horrible traffic accident in which Tracy was severely injured and his friend was killed.)

As a survivor of a traumatic brain injury, I can sympathize with Tracy’s long recovery but I cannot know his loss. Unfortunately there are no words that can help a person suffering from the pain of losing a loved one. Only time will do that. As for the physical healing, well, to be completely frank, that will be much easier to overcome.

What struck me about this interview was the glimmer of strength Tracy showed when he told Matt that he would, at some point, be that guy who will make others happy. I believe he will do just that, I really do.

Such an injury is a life-changing event that impacts not only the person who sustains it, but also all those who love you and care for you. It truly is a life-altering experience for the entire family. How you handle it will also impact your family. You can lie down and say, “no mas” or you can keep fighting. You keep fighting, Tracy Morgan. Keep healing. Keep getting better. Mourn your friend whom you so obviously loved. Just get better and, I assure you, that in itself will make people happy.

Later.