Mad Dogs, Bad Hops, Good Cops


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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD

[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks! And know these accounts are truewithout exaggeration!]

Andy GriffithA fictional sheriff’s tact and compassion are alive and well in Rossford …

In a day and age when police officers are vilified as uncaring even as they lose their lives protecting us, this personal experience needs to be shared.

A true story, clarifies Screen One, involving exchanges between a dedicated Rossford Police Department officer (given a fictitious name for privacy) and you, Boss, the town “walker.”

Good morn, Officer Taylor –

You came to my home in swift response to a woman’s dog running loose and chasing me. (Trying to escape the big black dog’s wrath, I suffered an injured left knee and wrenched back when I misstepped and smashed into a silver car instead of hopping atop its hood.)

White men cannot jump, sighs Five.

I saw you knocking on the door of that woman’s home. I have no knowledge of the discussion because you asked that I allow you to handle the matter without interference. Please fill me in on what was said and what measures now will be in place to protect me and our friends’ four little girls during our walks.

Thank you for your calm spirit that morn and your service to us each day,


Considering the pain you are in, Black, comments Four, this is a kind note. Then again, it is not the fault of the officer that you proved unable to leap with agility.

Mr. Blackwell,  

I usually see you walking through town every day. I haven’t seen you since the incident. Go figure. I took a week off as well and was not able to contact you.

She liesThe owner of the dog informed me she was outside when the incident happened and that her dog never left the yard.  I brought up the previous incidents of her dog running after people and told her she needs to better control her dog so it does not have the opportunity to injure someone. 

Direct but diplomatic! applauds impressed Six.

She said her dog – which actually was extremely friendly to me – has never bitten or been aggressive with anyone.

“Not aggressive,” she claims? shouts riled Three. What a crock of cheese!

Rossford Municipal code only addresses when a dog leaves the yard or barks an extended period of time.  Personally, I – knowing there might be a chance the dog could be out – would avoid that side of the street to avoid any possibility of an altercation, especially if I were with small children.  That might not be satisfying –

An understatement, agrees Two.

–  but I would not chance an incident, especially when there are so many other ways to walk around without coming close to that dog.  I hope the owner heeds the warning, but if the dog is spotted out of the yard, please call so we can address the problem.   

See you around,

Officer Taylor

How can you argue his thoughtful response? asks One.

G’day to you, Officer Taylor –

Thanks for your apology, though I realize far greater matters weigh down our excellent officers. Truly, I appreciated your swift response and calm manner of fielding the episode. Another officer (himself just bitten by a dog!) did contact me to review case details.

Here’s my struggle: I read your note the same day I paid yet another doctor to treat injuries sustained in “escaping” the black dog. (Earmuffs markedly diminished my hearing – I knew only that a woman was screaming and a dog’s angry barking approached me at high speed. Did he leave the yard? I cannot say. In the dark, I was busy bolting and, ultimately, smashing into the car I thought might provide rooftop sanctuary.)

Multi-tasking is your talent, praises Six.

Which wayThis encounter marks the fourth mishap incurred as I’ve walked the Rossford streets. Three times now the RPD has asked me to walk somewhere else to avoid dogs running loose. Three times I have changed my route. I’ve even followed your officers’ suggestions to walk in the street (instead of on sidewalks) and to walk earlier in the morn (I’ve moved my time from 5:15am to 4am). 

Yet my safety has been compromised following each change, despite demonstrating sincere interest in skirting conflict. My efforts have been met with surgeries, doctor visits, and owners’ curses. What happened to my rights as a responsible citizen?

Wish I had written that, admires Five.

Frustrated and concerned, I now carry grizzly bear repellent –

Ahh, sighs Three in satisfaction, the “Great Persuader.”

– to certify I suffer no more ill effects caused by roaming dogs and thoughtless owners. (This move is backed by the just-bitten officer who contacted me in your absence.) My hesitation in using such powerful substances is gone, courtesy of the extreme pain endured from the last encounter and the reconstructive shoulder surgeries of the penultimate attack.

Again, I understand you’ve done your best to keep things low-key and safe. I now do my best to certify they remain that way.

Sincerely, Blackie Blackwell

Officer Taylor does not respond to this, observes One.

Adds Four, I would be saddened by the absence of his diplomatic responses were it not for the resultant dialed-up protection of Rossford. Realize, Black, you have not been chased since.

“Correct,” I gratefully reply. “That officer is a true-blue role model of what neighborhoods need in these troubling times.”

And now, says Three with a smile, the “dog days of summer” are no more.

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* * * * *

Blackie’s Weekly Wonders

Speaking of being chased (which “Snopes” denies) …

A policeman’s song calms a wee heart …

Officers and gentlemen tend a broken bride


Life as a Man in Motion


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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD

[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks! And know these accounts are truewithout exaggeration!]

ron_and_catherine   Cathy and Ron share their vision with those who once had no hope …

Handsome Ron Tijerina and his longtime bride, beautiful Catherine, co-founded “The RIDGE Project,” a nonprofit begun in 2000 to build a legacy of strong families. Though RIDGE now serves both genders equally, it originally sustained those clans who had lost fathers and husbands to felony charges resulting in prolonged incarceration.

Mr. Tijerina certainly understands that, comments Screen One. He spent no brief time behind bars himself while his wife labored alone to keep the young family together in his absence.

But Ron early on determined those years would not be lost, that he and Cathy would produce something powerful out of the extended, painful separation. And that product of their brilliant imaginations, hopeful hearts and ceaseless prayers is the reason 200 invitees today celebrate The RIDGE Project’s Inaugural Summit. This is the first step in truly taking its TYRO (“novice, apprentice, or someone learning something new,” yes, but also a “soldier” or “recruit”) coursework to the nation, teaching participants how to overcome destructive generational cycles of poverty, incarceration, and dependency.

And thus build strong families, applauds Five, breaking those debilitating patterns into which so many families fall and remain trapped.

Several speakers are lined up for the day. Persuasive Miss Mariah leads, addressing the considerable medical and insurance needs of families deprived of one or both parents. Points effectively and swiftly made, she makes ready to exit the rather elevated stage.

Go help her, Black, commands Six, but I, having seen three portable steps leading up to the left side of the platform, assure myself a similar structure exists at right.  Still, insists Two, this is the gentlemanly thing to do.

“Relax,” I tell my screens. “I’m tired of always reacting first and thinking later, of being the mindless man in motion. Remember how I ‘rescued’ the Chinese gal from her burning car?” Silence. “Well, I do.” Pause, then huff, “Trust me, this woman is fine.”

Step struggleNanoseconds later, Miss Mariah steps off the stage, miscalculating the distance between extended high-heel and floor. A distressingly loud, vaguely familiar sound echoes across the spacious hall.

Snapped her ankle, guesses Five.

Body follows limp leg and woman crashes to Earth, writhing in agony. People leap to feet and dash past frozen me and my front-row table seating. Disbelieving, I share her pain but find that mine pulses from another time, another locale.

Boss, cautions Three, do not revisit this related episode. These things happen. Yet the screens replay their ancient tragedy even as they protest my modern viewing ….

Having just learned canoe rental costs at a suburban Chicago park, I stroll the dock, well aware of being under-dressed in frigid April air. Kind of pushing the recreational season, eh? shivers Four, and I nod agreement just as a scream punishes my ears.

Two young men – teens, and brothers at that – inexpertly guide their canoe with fumbling strokes. Neither wears the requisite safety gear and, as the craft founders –

Does that mean it sinks? asks Two.

– the boys’ screams intensify.

I race back to the dock’s edge as Six shouts, Dive, Black, dive! Use those lifeguard skills! But my launch is preempted by one youngster who laughs, bends, grabs a water-soaked life jacket and easily slips into it. “They’re fine,” I soothe, embarrassed at my over-reaction.

The words do not comfort Six. See how the second panics instead of putting anything on? And the canoe itself swiftly takes on water. They may freeze and drown.

I’ll freeze,” I lightly sling back, “and then we’ll all drown!”

Six is correct! asserts One. The two desperately clutch one another as their bodies slide into the bitter cold. Dive deep, Black. Swim underwater and come up behind the teen not wearing safety gear. The second should float for a time.

I do not dive but race to my parked car, warning surprised family I must save two drowning boys. Then I run back along the lake’s shore side, which seems closer to the duo. Stripping clothes, I stop only when frantic wails of a mother beside me prompt my eyes to look up.

life vestOne boy wildly slaps the water, life vest not enough to counter his inability to swim and his desperate motions of retrieval. He chokes and sputters and screams, a foreign tongue calling the unseen sibling.

Perhaps you can use his position to gauge the point of disappearance of the brother, suggests Four.

Rescue will not happen in the depths of this bitter cold and dark lake, sighs Three. The second is no more.

Excellent swimmer, you, whispers Six to me. National records. Yet your strength did not help this one, Black. You never even went forward. Why? he asks in confusion, and then chides, That is not us.

The words of Six apply to my failure both then and now. Sitting wordlessly amid the uproar fueled by still more rushing attendees and arriving paramedics, I burn inwardly, whelming shame coloring my face as Miss Mariah calls out in pain at each attentive touch.

You are ADHD-powered for a reason, states Three. The laughter – mocking or participatory – always will be there, Boss.

Five adds, Use what you have been given or regret what might have been. But vow this moment we shall “know” no more broken ankles … no more lost boys.

Hello, world. Here I am – TYRO, ADHD, ready – at last. Get in. Sit down. Buckle up. Hang on.


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Postscript: Owens Community College is a proud partner with The RIDGE Project. And I am a proud instructor of Owens’ own superlative truck driving program, which helps RIDGE Project participants quickly get back on their feet in more ways than one.

So we love attending RIDGE festivities, ceremonies, meetings and more, says Screen Ron TijerinaThree with a smile.

“And I think the Terrific Tijerina Twosome – Ron and Miss Cathy – enjoy our being there,” I reply.

How do you know this? asks Four.

“Well, I could say it’s the warm letters Miss Cathy and her staff write to me after every event in which we labor together. But since a picture is worth a thousand words, I will simply post a photo of Ron (at right) wearing my bright orange glasses and let readers decide for themselves.”

* * * * *

Blackie’s Weekly Wonders

You kids, don’t try this at home …

This gymnast is all heart

The Boys of Spring


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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD

[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks! And know these accounts are truewithout exaggeration!]

FSU BarryBaseball is not merely a national pastime at Florida State University.

Far from it! agrees Screen Six.

There among the famed college-age players, muses One, the sport brings meaning to life, rhyme to reason, gain to pain.

The Seminoles’ Mike Martin, winningest –

Is “winningest” even a word? questions Three.

– coach in the school’s history, believes there is baseball. And nothing beyond baseball.

Which explains why it is unfortunate that outstanding catcher Barry Blackwell and equally renowned pitcher Richie Lewis are late for today’s spring practice. This also explains why the two players’ panic levels are reaching record highs.

“Got to … retrieve … my car!” explains Richie, breathing hard as he runs through a fenced yard in search of his impounded vehicle.

The Barron“Not … good idea,” says Barry, who himself will have not-good ideas years later as he swims among sharks with freshly speargunned groupers tied to his body.

Yet the two young men continue propelling themselves through the locked area, passing relics others once considered transportation treasures.

Quotes Three unbidden, “One man’s treasure is another man’s – ”

“Dog!” shouts Richie. “Aughhh, Barry! We’ve got to outrun it!”

Screen Six laughs because he thinks much the way Barry thinks, which means he knows Barry’s singular thought is, “Actually, I only have to outrun you, Rich.”

Barry does just that, reaching the chain-link fence ahead of Richie and scrambling over without hesitation. His companion, however, fares less remarkably, presenting the maddened mongrel with a perfect place for planting teeth.

Such a bite, laments Five.

Leaving behind more than just regrets, Richie finally scales the barrier and leaps to freedom. The two flee a short distance, then assess rearward damages. Barry serves as the horrified eyes. Richie serves up horrified sighs.

“I’m done for,” wails the pitcher. “Insurance won’t cover this unless it happens during a baseball activity.” So he hustles to the practice, changes discreetly to avoid revealing his wounds, races out to the field and pretends to slip on still more fencing and railing strewn about the field.

Statham hurtsBarry recoils at the intensity with which Rich throws himself onto the fence. “Got to make it look real,” gasps comrade Lewis, who then limps in to home base and discussion with Coach Martin about the fresh injury he has just received while practicing.

Sent off to see a trainer, Richie drops drawers and unveils his bloodied buns. The trainer reels, then steps into professional mode and, courageously combating cookie-tossing, examines the shredded flesh. “This … this is way beyond just falling on fencing,” he expertly gauges. “The injuries are synonymous with – well, with bites. Terrible dog bites!”

“No!” Richie vehemently denies. “I’m telling you, I tripped over the fencing and slid along it. That’s what ripped me up!”

“But you have big teeth marks here and here and here!” the confused trainer replies as he points. “You’ve been bitten – multiple times!”

“They’re not bites and I’ve got witnesses. Now, do your job and check me out.” The trainer silently agrees and pulls up a stool for the dressing of the injuries.

Marvels One, I do believe the impossible deception is about to occur.

“Oh, and while you’re at it,” Richie adds casually, “could you check for rabies?”


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* * * * *

Blackie’s Weekly Wonders

Tiny Titus honors another national pastime

“Uptown Funk” … with old-time dancers

Still another pastime has its own dangers

Harvey, the Tale of a Rabbit


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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD

[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks! And know these accounts are truewithout exaggeration!]

Three Bienemann generations   Lifetime pal Yogi, proudly joining the two generations below ours …

So, Black, asks Screen Three, are we going to catch the annual Easter showing of Harvey or just let a great movie pass us by?

“You do realize, Three, that your much-loved and too-often-watched movie about an invisible rabbit is from 1950, right? I mean, it’s older than I am, and I’m older than dirt.”

Ah, but that movie is a classic, adds One. And a Jimmy Stewart performance never disappoints.

“True, boys,” I reply, “as we have seen every Christmas with the reruns of It’s a Wonderful Life. But why watch an event … when one can live it?”

Taking their cue, all six screens unite in brilliant Technicolor hyperfocus and let an ancient reel play …

“Yogi” – Bill, by birth – Bienemann is a fast friend from the first moment he shows up at the Blackwell house to welcome the neighborhood’s newest arrivals. Delighted that both he and older brother, Bob, now have a variety of ages with whom to play –

There are, after all, points out Five, half a dozen of you … or will be when Barry, the last-born Blackwell, shows up a few years later.

– Yogi cooks up all kinds of nonsense in which to involve me.

And your screens, laughs Six, go right along with his game plans. Despite being a single-screen Real Worlder, Yogi is as close as they come to being an ADHD-powered pal.

Yogi and BlackieWith Easter swiftly rolling up, discussion between two fourth-grade buddies covers such wide-ranging topics as which Resurrection Sunday church service we will attend, the different candy types we expect to see in our celebration basket, and whether gifts of some sort possibly could accompany the much-anticipated chocolate egg hunt.

Abruptly, I see Yogi’s expression change. Dramatically.

“You know,” he says conspiratorially, “Chris Forte has those baby bunnies he’s trying to give away.” Wisely, time is given to let that thought race around the inside of my six-screen head before Yogi adds, “I sure would like to have one, but I don’t think my parents will allow that.”

“I already asked my folks. Mom said, ‘No, no, no.’”

Says Four, Imagine that. She does not want to add to a zoological collection that may well rival the San Diego Zoo’s.

“I don’t think I will ask,” murmurs Yogi, a wink of his eye cuing gears to grind inside two youthful heads. Though screens flash images of huge Mr. Bienemann – Tomzilla – a pro football player in younger days, I push past my fear of reprisals and lend ear to Yogi’s Brilliant Plan, hatched in just 30 seconds.

Soon, Mr. Forte surrenders one of his bunnies into our eager hands –

Only one bunny is contracted for, reminds Two, because you do not possess the stratospheric nerve levels Yogi  does.

– for safekeeping outside the Bienemann household until the Saturday night before Easter Sunday. Then Yogi smuggles the furball into his home, keeping the tiny creature hidden from prying eyes and punishing parents.

Nice that rabbits don’t peep, bark, squeak or cry, observes Five.

Early Easter morning, even before big brother Bob awakens, Yogi slips from his bed, silently descends the steps, withdraws the bunny from hiding, and places the whole kit-and-caboodle near the goody baskets. He attaches a note that briefly explains the bunny is Yogi’s pet to keep. At 32 Brook Hollow Lane. Forever.

That may be a tad over the top, critiques Three.

Yogi and BobYogi “finds” the bunny and shouts with exaggerated joy. Bob wonders how his little brother gets to have such a pet. Perplexed parental units wonder the same thing.

Per plan, Yogi delightedly calls me on the phone to express his amazement at the Easter gift “somebody” gave him. Per plan, I react with astonishment, saying once again how I wish my own mom would have allowed me to receive such a neat present.

Not per plan, laughs One, Mom smells not a rabbit but a rat and begins a cross-examination that whittles you to pieces.

Sighs Two, A similar process is underway at Brook Hollow Lane.

Soon the Blackwell Matriarch and two Bienemann forebears compare notes across telephone lines. “Gruesome discovery” insufficiently details all that is learned as two formerly tight-lipped youngsters sing like canaries. Mr. Bienemann, begrudgingly and with no small amount of accompanying commentary, procures wood and mesh screen, building an expensive but first-rate enclosure for Yogi’s self-administered surprise.

And this all ends how? asks Two, knowing readers will want the inside scoop.

Let me borrow immortal words penned by Yogi as an adult: “Two genius juveniles with nothing better to do came up with the perfect plan/crime. It was executed flawlessly … umm, flawlessly until later that morning when the recipient juvenile [yes, Yogi] witnesses the sun rising [along with a father’s anger], casting a shadow in what is known as a near-death experience.”

You do not get spanked, reminds Four. And Yogi gets to keep the bunny, which he names Harvey. I declare this a win-win … and no small Easter miracle of its own.


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First grandchildPostscript: Decades after the Great Bunny Balderdash, I ask my still-good friend Yogi if he ever thinks about what we almost pulled off that day.

Now a proud grandfather himself, Yogi first kindly wishes my family “the very best Easter possible.” Knowing my fondness for cocoa and chewy candies, he heartily encourages me to “eat too much chocolate and too many jelly beans.”

Only then does he answer my question, proving in his response that he thinks more often of that escapade than I had guessed:

“Thank the Lord we didn’t get scalped back in the day.”

Now, if we can just keep our own kids and grandkids from repeating the stunt ….

* * * * *

Blackie’s Weekly Wonders

Have a sip of cuteness

Bent Fences Makes Good Neighbors


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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD

[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks! And know these accounts are truewithout exaggeration!]

My fence!Open-mouthed in disbelief, I stand and watch.

Bet he just drives off, wagers Screen Six.

Think you are wrong, counters One. He departs only the vehicle, not the accident scene.

“He” is an undefined older man, meaning that I know nothing of him beyond one simple fact: the aged fellow has just run over my three-foot, boundary-protecting, chain-link fence.

With his massive white whale of a van, no less! mutters Three. Moby Dick lives!

Despite my shock, I am calm, especially for one who is ADHD-powered. Truth is, this has happened before.

You being calm? asks Two. Really? When was that?

Blackie means the fence has been smacked before, asserts Five. The last was the teen boy, so busy putting hands on his sweetheart that he had none left for the steering wheel. Crunched the supporting post big-time and took off like a bat out of –

Well! shouts Two, drowning Five’s words. What shall we do about this latest damage?

Having reached the recycling bin, I position myself there, nicely hidden from the driver’s sight by his own vehicle. Mr. Geriatric does, indeed, exit his mechanical whale and step over to survey the fence he has just bowed with his van’s steroidal bumper.

OK, maybe he did not flee, concedes Six, but you can sure tell he is going to look at the ruined fence, scope the area and then drive away without a care in the world.

Fence fixed!Uhnnnnn!” grunts Grandpa, leaned way over and pulling on the fence post until it abandons lazy ways and nearly straightens. Deeming the first tug insufficient, he grunts once more, huge hands coaxing the metal into a well-behaved posture.

As the man also straightens to assess the impromptu handiwork, his eyes catch mine. “Oh!” he says, startled.

“Oh,” indeed! fumes Six. Probably thought his amateurish repairs would buy the time needed to fool others and allow a safe exit, putting him miles distant before anyone recognized the heinous nature of his misdeed.

“Note to self,” I say to me, “cut caffeine consumption.”

“Who lives here?” the man asks without the tone the words imply.

“I do. I live here.” My next words – “I own the fence you just ran down” – do not make their way into light of day.

“Oh!” again escapes aged lips. Then, “I’m Tom Rader, your new neighbor. I just ran over your fence.”

Laughing as Tom eagerly puts forth a massive mitt for shaking, I say, “Blackie. And that’s – well, that’s one way to meet, I guess.”

An expensive greeting, murmurs Four. Cookies work better.

The man looks sheepish. “Didn’t realize it at first, but when I felt something drag, I stopped and went back to find out what had happened.” He steps nervously toward the reworked barrier. “You, uhh, you might want to look at the fence yourself.”

“I can see it,” says One through my lips, speaking before Six interjects with suggested compensation. “What you have done is fine … the fixing, I mean. Not the flattening.”

Tom flames red again, shakes his head. “There’s just not much space to park that big van back here, is there,” he asks rhetorically. “Was working so hard to carefully get it out of the tiny driveway and … well, really sorry.”

“I’m not,” I respond. “I just witnessed firsthand what kind of neighbor I’ve got. You ran over my fence, stopped your vehicle, returned to check the damage, and even did your best to straighten what you’d just crunched. I really like who I see.”

This time I’m first to extend my hand, which is warmly swallowed by his. “Welcome to the neighborhood, Tom Rader. Great to have you.”


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* * * * *

Blackie’s Weekly Wonders

(Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all the Irish wonders and wannabes!)

Dolphin Dougie does laps with labrador

Sweet Swiss mountain coaster

Father to the Nations


Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD

[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks! And know these accounts are truewithout exaggeration!]

Doug and Leah      Dad (the Prince of Popcorn) and his oldest granddaughter, Leah

You may remember –

And you may not, counsels Screen Two. But that is why we have provided links.

– our oldest Blackwell sibling, Michael, decided he would cease celebrating the days we had lost someone in the family. “From now on,” he explains, “I am going to honor their birthdays.”

We, his younger brothers and sister, applaud this perspective and agree to follow the practice. Which is how I have come to write about my dad, Douglas Blackwell, in this week that would have notched his 88th year of life.

If ever someone were to be described accurately as a “father to the nations,” says One, Pop would be that man. He saw beyond genealogical lineages and neighborhood boundaries, making sure every child with whom he came in contact felt special.

“And he does that in so many ways, guys. One of my favorites is the summer night he steps out the front door and, observing countless children running past his perch upon the porch, cups hands to lips.”

“Freeze!” he shouts, which confuses a number of us because that is not the type of tag we are playing at that moment. “Stay right where you are and count off out loud.” He taps a young boy who stands in plain sight on our grass-less front yard. Moments later, a hesitant “Uhh, one!” is uttered.

no-cloaking“Rats!” I softly respond, having selected a first-rate hiding place beneath the gap created by our massive picture window. Calling out is going to blow my present cover and my future cloaking choices.

Still, reminds Six, your dad has instructed you. Silence is not an option.

So I do, indeed, call out “24!” and am mightily spooked when “25” arises from lips attached to a girl hiding in the same brush mere feet from me. More broadcast numbers split the night air, the last one being “51, Mr. Blackwell!”

Dad turns to Mom, who has joined him on the porch. “See?” he says with undefined delight, then rushes inside our bright yellow home at 45 Old Oak Drive.

Noticing everybody standing in somewhat frozen postures, Mom shakes her head, waves off the collection of kids in polite dismissal and apologizes. “Sorry. Go back to what you were doing.”

Three murmurs, Nobody actually says, “What is that all about?” But I have to believe the thought is going through heads other than mine.

Fifteen minutes and two games later, Mom opens the front door again and holds it wide for Pop, who is carrying two large pots. “Come and get it!” he shouts as he reveals their sacred contents:

Caramel popcorn balls! exclaims Five. Dozens of them!

The locust plagues of Egypt pale in comparison, marvels Four. Smaller hands eagerly reach, excitedly grab, greedily withdraw. Pop gently reminds one child after another that the plentiful popcorn balls are carefully calculated to provide just one per person.

The game swiftly resumes. Having been caught early on, I enter our house and walk into the kitchen, which is undergoing no small cleanup. Cookware and ingredients seem to be everywhere as Dad, happily whistling, tackles a sticky stove.

“Pop,” I tell his back, “the kids are saying how great you are.” He laughs as I add, “Thank you. That is really nice.”

“Just a little treat,” he downplays. I am about to protest, but a rhythmic sucking sound makes it way to my ears. Looking around the kitchen, I laugh in surrender. “What is that noise?”

A finger points down. My eyes take in Frosty, our cocker spaniel, tilting his head and mouth this way and that, apparently losing his battle to consume something my father fed him.

“Is he OK, Dad?” I ask, eyes wide.

“Fine. I made him his own heated little caramel ball – no popcorn – cooled it slightly and then stuck it to the roof of his mouth. He’ll be busy licking that for a bit, which will keep him from barking at all the kids – 51! – in the yard.”

Sheer genius, cheers Two. America would be just fine with a few more like him in every neighborhood.


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Teaching (and Avoiding) Mean Backhands


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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD

[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks! And know these accounts are truewithout exaggeration!]

Windy Tom       Apparently “windy” status is not confined to Tom’s speeches …

Clearly the man at the podium is nervous.

“Nervous” is 10 levels below the present anxiety of this gent, assesses Screen One.

Agreed, agrees Five, agreeably. I would rate him at ballistic, perhaps thermonuclear.

“Guys,” I silently plead with the chattering screens, “I’m trying to listen to Tom Martin. Please, knock off the ratings and help me absorb these words.”

The “Tom” to whom I listen – or try – speaks about being “Forever Crazy in Love,” making the most of marriage. His preparation and precision are evident.

“The one thing you need to remember is pep,” says Tom. “That’s P-E-P, which is an acronym for priorities, expectations and practices.”

Fan the flames, mocks Three. Woo and pursue. Men are from Mars.

“The decisions we make today determine our relationships tomorrow.” Scribble, scribble. “Mutual submission is the glue in all great relationships.”

You will need to write more swiftly, coaches Four. This Martin chap is a volcanic eruption of wisdom.

Tom and GayeRomantic love looks for what it can get,” Tom continues, unaware of the cerebral battle raging just a few feet away. “Unconditional love looks for what it can give.”

The flow abruptly stops. “Gotta tell you,” says mindful Martin, glistening droplets beginning to unite forces on forehead, “this is my first time of giving such a talk in front of all of you. When I had my own business as a tennis pro, I just talked people through things I demonstrated to them on the court.”

Tom corrects himself. “Well, there was the time I gave a presentation to my industry peers.” He frowns in remembrance. “The topic is cardiocybernetics – ”

Did he just curse? gasps Two.

“ – and I speak while wearing a heart monitor as a tie-in to the way stress can negatively affect our performance. Thing is, the sound men want me to wear a mike, and in those days, there are no wireless versions.”

Ah, notes One, nodding, the Dark Ages. We remember.

“I say no, but don’t finish even the first sentence when a man shouts, ‘Can’t hear you in the back!’ So the sound guy reappears and straps a tethered mike on me. I drag that around the stage like some big snake, which only adds to my nervousness. Then I drop my notecards, which are not numbered.”

Tom’s face glistens, the mere memory making more moisture materialize. “Worse, while I’m speaking, this loud, distracting pounding is happening. I glance down at my heart monitor, which everybody in the audience can see because cameras are focused on it – 210 beats a minute! Humans die at 220. The loud pounding is me!”

While six screens laugh at Tom’s predicament, I am aware only of my own shirt becoming moist.

“Moist” is one of America’s least-liked words, states Three authoritatively. So is “smooch.” And – hey, Boss, are you drifting away?

“So, Mr. Blackwell,” says the older man seated among an audience of 70, “you’re saying anybody is eligible for this special program at your school?”

We know this fellow, somehow, murmurs One uneasily. But unable to “pull him back” to memory more clearly, I nod in answer to his question, saying, “Yes. Just about.”

Finger points at Blackie“Ladies and gentlemen,” says the man, voice rising in anger and volume as he gains his feet, “I say to you, this Mr. Blackwell is a liar.” Fingers thrust skyward. “For I applied to the program, was accepted and then he” – multiple fingers shakily point my way – “heartlessly turned me down.”

Bristles Six, You turned him down only because he hid three violent felonies from you during the application process! See if the man stands so righteously when you tell this crowd about his past!

The most heinous of the three crimes crawls onto my lips for Blackwell broadcast, but Two gently says, He has suffered enough, Black. He did his time, losing both years and family amid the indignities. Do not put a man back behind bars for the sake of your ego. Leave to him what little remains.

I study the man’s face, his eyes fearfully widening as he understands I now know who he is. But the swayed crowd claps as I apologize, “Sorry that happened to you … didn’t understand certain program parameters at first.” His Broadway-worthy exit captures the audience’s attention and I wind my talk down, heart racing at all I could have said and did not.

My painful reverie of the past is broken as Tom’s voice in the present penetrates my memory, my embarrassment, my tribulation. He concludes, “For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.”

And a man who shows love for a “neighbor,” whispers One, does the same.


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Postscript: In the last two weeks, you learned next-youngest brother Ted survived his Mazda RX-7’s crash off a very high interstate bridge in West Virginia … then rode the back of my 650cc Yamaha Heritage Special motorcycle.

Which I flipped while gunning a steep hill.

Knievel has nothing on you, cheers Screen Six.

Thor in helmet - notI comfort myself in having provided a helmet for Thor’s deeply wounded head prior to the cycle ride. But my brother views that kindness in a slightly different way …

Thor: IF ONLY readers could have seen a picture of the helmet Blackie found in the shed behind his West Virginia home. It was SO filthy, flea-filled, dusty and dirty that Blackie actually decided it was “too disgusting to wear.” So he went in his house and brought out a clean bandanna for me to apply before I put the helmet on. Only brothers think that caringly about each other.

Blackie: I see by your words, beloved brother, that you are overcome with emotion at my tender treatment of you. Count on me, Thor, to be there in your “darkest hour.”

Screen Three (laughter): Probably because you created it, Black.

* * * * *


Hooked on a Feeling – Part II


, , , ,

Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD

[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks! And know these accounts are truewithout exaggeration!]

Blackwell foursome   Only Thor (front) and I (third) ride my Yamaha that fateful night …

[Editor’s note: We thoughtfully present the second, and final, portion of “Hooked on a Feeling.” We do this for all you Real World whiners who lamented the cliff-hanger with which we left you last week, even you though knew Thor, my next-youngest brother, had survived the terrible crash off a West Virginia interstate bridge.]

Safely back at my Beckley home, two Blackwells (ages 25 and 23, respectively, but not respectably) set numerous clock alarms, timing them to go off every two hours during the night.

Wearily we lay our heads down (Thor does so a bit more gingerly than do I) and immediately launch into comedy routines –

Blackie, says Screen Five warily, Dr. Yang asked that you “observe” your brother to assess his post-accident condition. I do not think this behavior constitutes true observation.

– mimicking the voices of Yogi Bear, his sidekick Boo-Boo, and dozens of other cartoon characters. We sing snippets of silly songs, quote killer movie lines, and do just about everything shy of illegal that might establish proof my brother’s knocked noggin is fully functional.

“Fully functional,” repeats Three, laughing even as he says the words, may not be an accurate medical basis from which to start.

Each time a “Mind Minder” rings and shatters the dark silence, I call out to Thor, “You’re not dying on me, are you?”

And each time a different character answers back. This round it’s Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties, vehemently insisting to a would-be girlfriend, “But Nell, I love my horse!”

We laugh until it hurts –

That pain point comes sooner for Ted than for you, notes One.

– and fall back to sleep in head-healing anticipation of our next improv session.

Trouble really doesn’t start until late the following afternoon.

Yamaha 650 Heritage Special“Wow,” whistles Thor, having just come from the garage where my prized Yamaha 650cc is parked, “when did you get the killer motorcycle? It looks brand new.”

Is, in a way. Well, it’s two years old, but it’s been kept in the dealer’s crate until now.”

“Let’s take it out for a spin!”

I actually listen to this half-baked idea, and my screens rejoice. Do this, do this! coaxes Six. Does sound fun, agrees Two. What could possibly go wrong? comforts Three.

But what comes out of my mouth makes all my screens gasp in disbelief: “Thor, you’re all banged up. Your ‘split’ head is raw, stitches are fresh, body is sore. This really isn’t a good idea. Remember, I’m still on ‘Brother Watch.’ You should not be driving yet.”

“I won’t. You will.”

Gee, ponders Five, that seems OK.

We struggle to outfit Thor’s head with a helmet. My own super-safe, screaming orange model is too snug and presses against the massive sore spot. Get that dusty, old, black helmet from the garage, suggests Four. We blow as much of the dirt and oil out of it as we can, then tear away the protective padding to keep it from catching the stitches.

Wincing, Thor gingerly pulls the helmet down and around his head, then forms an “OK” with his fingers. We roar off to the lake a few miles distant, and there in the deepening shadows I tell my brother about the incredible guts this 650cc beauty has.

state-quarterMissouriquarter“Show me,” says Thor, forgetting he is not from Missouri but New Jersey.

“Watch me climb this hill,” boasts Six through my lips, “even with both of us on the bike.” I veer away from the now moon-kissed lake, gun the throttle and start to fly up the grassy hillside. A third of the way up, though, the ascent steepens markedly. I shift the wrong way and the cycle starts to die.

More throttle! bellows Three. Gas solves everything!

The front wheel pops up, flipping us backward. I dive to the side, but the bike falls heavily onto my right leg, its hot muffler pipe pinning my sneakered foot. I hit the kill switch and crawl out from beneath the Black Beast, but combined helmet and darkness blind me. My calls go unanswered as I crawl the ground, searching for Thor’s inert body.

He survives the fall from the bridge, pokes Three, only to have you polish him off.

“Right here,” a voice says from above. Strong hands lift me to my feet and spin me ’round to reveal the moonlit silhouette of my brother.

“You’re alive!” I shout. “Did the bike pin you down, too?”

“Nah, I felt the engine dying, put my feet down, and realized I was tall enough to stand. The bike surged ahead without me. You flipped off moments later and” – he laughs hard, very hard – “I’ve been watching you this whole time.”

Oh, you have, have you? growls Six through gritted teeth. We will laugh now, just to show you what great guys we are.

But tonight, vows Five, while you sleep, we will Velcro the pillow to your stitches.


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Postscript: That photograph at top – yes, the one with the four chaps – shows four of the five Blackwell brothers.

(Apologies to twin Dianne and youngest brother Barry. Apparently the motorcycle is not long enough to have them aboard as well.)

What you do not see is that the three riders behind “driver” Ted – Mike, Blackie, JB – all owned cycles. And what you do not know is that all three brothers crashed or had serious cycle injuries.

But (as you learned last week), Ted alone escaped such tragedy, wisely choosing instead to crash while tucked inside his Mazda-RX7.

The guy is brilliant, claps Six. You would do well to follow him through life, which I presume may not last long.

* * * * *

Blackie’s Weekly Wonders

Blackie helps wounded Thor cross a creek

Another one of those tear-jerker “Best Ads Ever

Hooked on a Feeling


, ,

Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD

[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks! And know these accounts are truewithout exaggeration!]

Accident    Thor’s post-accident expression stuns his poor daughter, Olivia …

“West Virginia State Trooper Brody calling, sir,” says the crisp voice across the landline. “Your younger brother’s Mazda RX-7 went off the interstate bridge this evening.”

Please, begs Screen Two, do not say the next words. Do not, do not, do not.

“He’s at the hospital. Get there safely, but as soon as possible.” Pause. “Your brother is in critical condition with head injuries.”

Across my tear-filled, 80-minute drive, not one screen breaks the tension, though Four unwisely reminds me just how very high the interstate bridge stands above surrounding countryside. Absent is the rehearsal of pokes, prods and puns, those tacky but life-warming responses to tragedy among the Blackwell brood.

At the hospital, stern-faced emergency personnel, their eyes streaming sorrow, direct me to Thor’s glassed room and an unmoving brother’s strong frame.

I am not ready! admits usually stoic Six, in this moment broken and sobbing at possibly losing our co-adventurer.

Pausing before opening the door to catch my breath, fight my fear, quash my anguish, I am unaware my brother, stabilized by doctors, plots against me. His head emptied of both blood and compassion, Thor is full of mischief. “Frosty,” he moans, laying his knocked noggin gently against pillow and closing fluttering eyes, “Frosty, where are you?”

Frosty - notFrosty is the family cocker spaniel. He’s been gone two decades.

Weeping loudly, I enter Teddy’s presence. He cancels the “blown brain” bit and exuberantly trumpets, “I’m going to make it!”

“I am Dr. Yang,” greets an Asian voice behind us. “We look at head now,” explains the materializing doctor. “See better what to do.”

“Skip brain scans,” I counsel. “You won’t find anything.”

Ignoring our raucous laughter, Dr. Yang looks closely at Thor’s markedly split head, sighs, leaves. He returns but a moment later with curved medical needles.

Hooks! recoils Three. Huge hooks! Those would haul up sharks!

Thor, who has not yet seen the doctor’s implements, agrees his head should be stitched and will stay. But my stomach and feet are about exit.

“You no go!” commands Dr. Yang, sensing my pending escape. “Hold hand.” I wrap my fingers in Thor’s. “When pain bad, he squeeze.”  The doctor nods in approval. “I give shots now. Tell me when not feel good.”

Another monstrous needle surfaces. Feeling … woozy, mumbles Four as the point is inserted into an already battered head.

“Not good,” says Thor, calmly. “Ahh,” replies the doctor, “this just painkiller. Three shots to go.” Then a sheet is placed over my brother’s head –

He is not dead, insists Five.

Medical hook - not– and a precisely cut hole in the sheet allows Yang to circumvent infection as it prevents Thor from seeing the invasion. The doctor threads one of the ghastly hooks, places it at the edge of an oozing wound, and pushes firmly with such precision and speed that the “metallic curl” pops right back out the other side of the bloody crevice.

“Owww!” Thor cries out.

“That hoort you?” asks Yang in accented surprise. “Needle hoorts?”

“No, Den hurts. He’s squeezing the crap out of my hand!”

I apologize and promise not to watch the process. I lie. The Hook slides through scalp once, twice, thrice. “You hear that?” the doctor queries, looking around. “What that noise?”

Such a high-pitched sound, puzzles One.

Hook slices skin a fourth time. Eerie noise returns.

“Haven’t a clue, sir,” I confess to the doctor as we scan the room.

Head-covering sheet flips back, exposing Ted’s agonized face. “You’re killing me. More painkiller!”

Ted surgery - notShots and stitches and suction finished at last, Thor’s head is in one piece. Dr. Yang cannot certify everything is there that once was, but thinks Thor will heal nicely. “You stay here,” he tells Ted. “Brother come tomorrow. Pick you up.”

“Why can’t I go home with him now?”

“Not safe. Must observe. Swollen brain, much fluid. Sleep too dangerous first hours.”

“Thank you, sir,” Thor politely declines, “but my brother can check me during the night. We’ll set alarms.”

Dr. Yang straightens, adjusts his white vest and commands, “I am doctor. You stay.”

Thor straightens, expands his tight chest and demands, “I am fine. I go.”

Yang realizes he is just eye level to Thor’s pectorals. “You go,” he nods heartily. “Brother watch. OK?”

Hahaha! laughs Screen Three in delighted expectation. This fires up our next great adventure!

[Editor’s note: Three is correct. Come back Thursday for a sequel that rivals the latest “Star Wars” movie … but has more action and better characters!]


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Blackie’s Weekly Wonders

B.J. Thomas is “Hooked on a Feeling,” too

Stitched Together with Insecurities


, , ,

Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD

[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks! And know these accounts are truewithout exaggeration!]


A teen acquaintance posts a Facebook photo of herself leaned against an upright surfboard on a sunny California beach.

Absolutely envious, I write, “We are freezing to death in Ohio, yet you dare show pictures of yourself tanning? I hope a shark mistakes your board for a seal and takes a chomp out of it.”

That will teach her, Black! laughs Screen Six, joined by other readers who also laugh and then “like” my comment.

The young lady quietly sends a message. “Sorry if the kidding is supposed to be good-natured, Blackie, but I really can’t take it. My heart is stitched together with insecurities.”

Powerful word picture, commends Screen Three.

That young woman’s sentiments come to mind when, during one of my early morning “trashercize” walks, I pick up notebook paper blowing across the Rossford High School lawn. Seeing handwritten words, I realize my nine fingers hold the unspoken cry of a wounded heart.

Before you reprint this letter, cautions One (who never cautions me), have you changed the names to protect two innocents?

“I have, indeed. Otherwise, it is presented exactly as written.”

Dear Victoria,

You probably don’t know this, but losing you as a friend breaks my heart!

You probably don’t care cuz “we’re not friends” any more, but it does – it breaks my heart! Think of all we’ve been through … and you’re walking away from our friendship?

I know I can be kinda mean and I get moody, but even when I do, I’m still happier when I’m with you, cuz I think of you as my other half.

I never wanted to lose you as a friend, but I guess if that’s what you want, then … it was amazing being your friend! It was definitely a privilege!

Goodbye, old friend.

Obviously, Ariel

Wow, says Five in hushed tones. I do not know which has the greater effect on me: the fact the powerful letter is drafted by one so young, or the depth of the pain she suffers at the loss.

“Same here,” I reply. “Either way, I definitely feel for her.”

letter flyingI wonder how the situation played out, comments Four. Did the letter actually reach the hands of Victoria, who then brusquely discarded the sentiments and let it float where it might?

What if, gasps Two, Victoria never got the note in the first place? How sad is it that she forever may be unaware of just how much Ariel truly cares?

Maybe, suggests One, you should fold the paper, seal it in an envelope boldly inked with Miss Victoria’s name, and turn it in at the high school office.

All six screens continue to pour forth ideas, but their well-intentioned debate is to no avail. Rather than weigh what should be done with such a soul-searing letter, I am far, far away and lost in thought about the contents.

I also again think of the “surfer’s” comments, and I wonder what causes a young woman, beautiful of face and bright of mind, to find herself “stitched together with insecurities” at the very edge of adulthood? Where are those who mean most in life, who bring confidence and assurances and approval to the days of a teen?

Your own family provided those elements in immeasurable quantities, murmurs Five who, unnoticed, has slipped away from the six-screen brainstorm. How different would your days be without ceaseless expressions of love from parents and sibs?

Back to Ariel and painfully penned prose. “Please,” her letter says without saying so, “know that you are important to me even if you believe yourself nothing to others. Bask in our friendship and find strength in my honoring of you as a person of merit. We all disguise our ‘off’ days, but I have felt free to show you mine because I trust you to handle seeing that side of me. Stay close and allow me the unending treasure of your acquaintance.”

Your many friends also have blessed you, notes Six. They are your shelters from the storm, preserving you in the waning hours of hope, drinking deeply of your mournful tears, supporting you in your impossible dreams.

I stand in awe as one who truly has it all – “all” being that which really matters in the world, such as time, attention, care. Understanding this, I read Miss Victoria’s sad song a final time, then bow my head, asking that her simple but sincere request be heard and granted despite lost letters and unyielding hearts.

Too, I pray all who find themselves “stitched together with insecurities” these days be remade with fine steel cords woven of imperishable love and courageous friendship.

Your best Valentine’s Day gift ever, whispers Three. Now, would it be OK to nibble a few chocolates before you give Miss Laura the box?


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