Oh. Well well well. It has been awhile since I've routinely updated things on here - so many things to rant and cry about, but....just haven't. With winter blues comes cabin fever in the forests of the Great State of Vermont - and the rattled streets of NYC, of which I certainly have. My chum of the road, 8D69, is hibernating for the winter, but shall soon awake in another 8 weeks to feel the whip of the wind over her hood. So...what follows? Well - less rant, more...authentic and truth. But needs to be said nevertheless.
Life has a funny way. We are often too busy to really think about it, but everything we possess in life – both spiritually and materially – was spawned from each spark of our ancestry. One diversion in movement or thought, and POOF – we might not be here. So it goes – that in this game of life, we create and forge friendships – little sparks – that can ignite into things that it is hard to imagine, much less comprehend. Some philosophers have gone bat shit mad thinking too much about it. If just one of my Dutch German grandfolks (above pic is actually my great x9 Grandfather, funny it has the word taxi in it) kicked the bucket the day before *ahem* you know what happened with great x9 grandma, well…the chain that led to little old me would be broken. And along the road of life, new chains are welded. New links are added here and there and some are broken. But what follows, is a chain that extends from the USA – to Australia.
Everyone knows I like the Paralympics. I’ve blogged about my reasoning before – I doubt anyone cares to hear about it again. What is important though – is that I like them. I don’t care what country one hails from, or particularly what sport an athlete does; however, I admit I have my favorites.
During the 2012 Paralympic Games, I, like so many others, were pissed that the games were not getting the same coverage and attention that the attention whore Olympic Games were getting. I mean – these guys/gals get so much attention, I think they have personal trainers that actually massage their throats after they are done eating. Paralympians though? Yeah – not quite the same ‘attention to detail’ – often having to fend for themselves with training and, at least in one occurrence I am aware – PAY their own way to the most important games of their careers. That’s like telling someone they’ve won a vacation on a cruise ship, but…you just have to pay for the fuel on the ship. If you’ve ever watched the Paralympic Games – it is amazing to see not only an individual overcome a personal challenge, but that isn't nearly as cool as just watching the uniqueness of their athleticism that is really amazing. It is those challenges overcome, that do make the paralympics that much more satisfying/unique - at least as a spectator.
Now, during these games, I was suckered a bit, like most people, into reading articles and facebook posts from different teams – and led to believe that the same support system existed for their Paralympic athletes, as any other athlete may receive. I was wrong. Way wrong. Wrong like saying 2 plus 2 equals a pepperoni pizza. What does an athlete do when their own team does not provide the basic tools in order to perform their sport? Well – they rely on family and friends.
Brydee Moore, professional javelin and discus tosser, holder of 24 Australian records, 3 Oceanic records, ranked number 1 in the world in all of her disciplines, and 1 cm from a world record (the width of a clipped fingernail) was one of those athletes who was not provided with the basic tools, yet managed to still perform for her team and country – and did so with faith in her abilities and faith in herself. She unselfishly placed herself second, and placed her team first. Brydee Moore, through hard work and determination, earned her spot in the 2012 Paralympic Games, and while there – performed with maximum effort, under less than ideal conditions. Firstly, she was very ill prior to the games - and I don't mean she had the sniffles - I mean gravely ill, the kind of ill that necessitates the use of an IV and 4 hour interval Doctor visits. The kind of ill that sucks the will to live out of oneself. The kind of ill that doesn't scream "lets go on an intercontinental trip to London hurrah!" The kind of ill that if it was MIchael Phelps, a priest would have been giving him his last rites. And if that wasn't enough, once the worst was over, the mere task of just getting to London...?...well, lets just say she wasn’t clinging martini glasses with Sir Roger Moore in first class on British Airways. How do I know? Momma Moore.
A pic of Brydee and her first coach - the man who influenced her early on with athletics in her life - and remains a part of her world and training today. If it wasn't for all those Russian medals he earned as an Olympic athlete being in the pic, I would have probably photoshopped my face over his - but no one would believe I won even one of those, or that Brydee Moore would be caught dead riding around with Mike Ruse in a old NYC Taxi, even though Estonian pop star Getter Jaani loves it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcIsznnsRl8.
But let me tell you a little something about Donna Moore, who is Brydee’s mom, or, according to Google’s American to Australian Translate feature, “mum”. At first glance, one might correctly determine that she is very proud of all three of her daughters, that she is a seamstress, likes to cook, often tags her daughters in things to their chagrin, is a hell of a party host/planner, and that her husband Jim and she are hardworking middle class parents and have spent their latter years as most average people do; working, paying bills, keeping their heads above water and rarely - if ever, putting themselves first. Really no different in Australia than it is any other place on earth, least of all the USA.
The Moore Clan celebrating a birthday in regulation approved Moore themed style. Brydee's father James, sister's Daragh and Shanlan, mum Donna, and Brydee.
So, imagine the quagmire, when faced with the pride of having a world class athlete, and also knowing there is some royal mistreatment being dealt by a few individuals who hold some proverbial cards in her career. I personally have been down this road before - I wrote a poem about it once http://www.travelsinacab.com/2/post/2012/11/blatta.html. Perhaps this is a small percentage of my devoted interest; I don't like to see good people messed with - much like Donna. You see, in the animal kingdom, when a cub is messed with, a momma bear reacts instinctively to destroy any threatening menace. But Donna realizes, much to her misfortune, that there does exist laws to protect the menacing evil in human society, so has rather met the threat head on without resorting to making headline news, by writing, calling, documenting, fighting. It’s hard to fight against power. Power in our human world does not always rely on strength, but rather strength in numbers and shielded by rules, red tape and government/corporate indifference. To large organizations that are fat with support – cubs are numbers. To them, cubs are nothing to flourish and grow - they are a food source - and like all cackling hyena's who circle prey, they can't do anything without numbers. To them, mother bears are a mere speed bump to the tidal wave making machine of red tape; easily broken. But Donna isn’t exactly the type to lay down as a speed bump – more of a “block the road with my car” type of speed bump. She doesn’t give up. Methodical and patient, Donna is the tiger crouched in the grass – waiting for the slow moving prey to get just close enough to rip her claws into, remove the fur and make a blanket out of it for her little nephew. And this doesn’t just extend to the trials and tribulations of the nitwits playing around with Brydee – it extends to EVERYTHING. Just the other day, some company was diddling around with a clothing order that she was dissatisfied with (they took money for an item not in stock) – and my newsfeed popped up where she wrote some rather choice words about her experience. No tags. No attention. Not a status update (that came later as a warning for others), just a big hearty 'in your arse' from her to the company.
What does Donna and her family *really* think of this seemingly weirdo American cop with a NYC Taxi, who is so adamant in joining the ranks of Brydee Moore support/fans? Well, while I am not privy to dinner table discussion, I can tell you this – my right ear hasn't rung too loud, and that I have been treated with a warm kindness, if not tolerance – especially since they've never actually met me. But since I am on the other side of the globe, I think it’s a fair assessment that no one is in danger of my stopping by and announcing ‘oh hi, I was just in the neighborhood’; therefore, my persistent fact checking in support of my fav Aussie athlete is indeed well intentioned, and I've assured everyone that they can throw out the restraining order paperwork. But seriously, on their own volition, they have sent me parcels containing a little taste of Australia – including commemorative Australian Paralympic items. Hey look, I know I’m a weird guy, a bit eclectic and affable by nature, but when I latch onto something I either like or support – I am true blue. And I am honest when I say that the Moore’s friendly nature in appeasing my sense of self is one of which I have the utmost gratitude.
But nothing, and I mean nothing – could top the package I received last week sent to me from the suburbs of Melbourne. I opened the box, and inside was one of the most treasured things a person like myself could ever receive; the actual jersey that Brydee wore during events at the 2012 Paralympic Games – and she signed it for me! To any person, achieving the honor and distinction of being a Paralympian or really anything that matters most to someone is one thing, but to have as a memory something tangible like a jersey and number plate – are usually things that are deeply personal – something one would definitely hang up for viewing pleasure. But here it was, in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Made in China, worn in London, sent to Australia and onto the USA, this jersey has more miles than a space shuttle mission. The generosity and selflessness to send me this, is immeasurable. This jersey is something that is very representative of a person’s real timeline, not a social media timeline that is easily erased. This is not something that gets thrown in a box and stored in an attic. This jersey represents a deeply personal time in Brydee Moore’s life – and she parted with it knowing it would be appreciated in the hands of someone else; that is character. This in and of itself shows a selflessness that is rare beyond imagination. The fact that she parted with this, shows she puts others first. This, is what Australian Athletics needs more of. I mean hell, that clown convention can’t even reply to email! This is the type of athlete they should be mowing deadwood over for. This, is the type of athlete all games need more of. This….is the type of person we ALL need more of. How many other admirable athletes exist out there that would do this.?. Not many. Do you think Lance Armstrong would part with one of his yellow jerseys (even though he didn’t earn them honestly)? Nope - he arrogantly snapped a pic of them framed in his living room two weeks ago. Do you think U.S. Ski Team’s resident drunken dipshit Bode Miller would part with any of his things? Do you think that if he did, it would be for a simple fan? HELL NO. You know how sometimes you want to be nice to someone, so you give them something very meaningful, and the person really doesn’t give a damn? Well, I’ve been duped before with this, but – as a receiver – this is one of the nicest things I have ever received, and it was sent with no expectations, no agenda; just a pure and kind gesture. This jersey was paid for with a lot of blood sweat and tears - and she didn't even get someone to carry her suitcase.
There is a a lot more I want to say; and I hope circumstances develop in a positive way for her so that I never actually have to say them. My hope - and part time mission - is that the route to future APC games and the Paralympics in 2016 for Brydee and fam has more coasting then pedaling. I'll be paying close attention to *that* development, and I remain hopeful those who in charge of decision making, take a more proactive and humanistic approach to one of their most valuable team members, because Brydee isn't a "cub" - she's a young woman who has given her all to Australian Paralympics - and represents her role in the most admirable of ways. It would be a disservice to not express their pride in her representations - both on and off the field.
It’s amazing these little nuances in life. These little sparks. This jersey would not be here if not for those sparks. One of those sparks, ironically, is this yellow submarine in my garage. That was the spark that led me on a more personal level to the Moore family (well – a few other reasons too of course). If it wasn’t for this taxi, this site would not exist, and the Moore family would never known me. Well, they definitely wouldn't have known what a Twinkie looked like (I sent them one of the last ones ever made). I would likely never know what street they live on. I would never know the sordid details of the behind the scenes nonsense that occurs in some Paralympic circles. I would have never known of the betrayal Brydee has suffered at the hands of a colleague she once respected. I would never know that Brydee prefers a Coke to water. I would not have downloaded Voxer and actually hear the cool twang of their Aussie accents, or be told that I have my own. I’ve been writing for years as a sideline. Of all the things I’ve written, Brydee Moore up until most recently, was the most read article/blog I’ve had in some time. On this website, it has by far been the most read. What I glean from all this, is one doesn’t need a jersey to be a champion. One doesn’t need a medal either. Sometimes, all they need to be, is present. Since I have the jersey, then I guess 2 out of 3 isn’t bad.
Boom! Crash! Bang! - went the fireworks at the opening day of the 2012 Olympics in London - signifying the beginning of competitive games where countries press forth their most able bodied athletes to achieve greatness in their name. So, fair enough - as the world’s hungry watch 10 years worth of food blow up in the night sky to mark the games - it does indeed inspire millions of people, which is wonderful. I am an American - born and bred in the State of Vermont - the Green Mountain State, which is like a big town in New York, but close enough to Boston I can see it on a clear day if I‘m high up enough. However, just because I am American doesn’t mean I root just for my own countrymen and women - I’ll root anyone on if I feel they deserve it and have a heart that weighs more than gold. But, unlike the media frenzy that concentrates on gold gold GOLD during the Olympics, there is something else I am far far FAR more interested in. The Paralympic Games. Folks, this IS the Olympics still - and I am going to let you in on a little secret that NBC hasn’t figured out - it is far more interesting, more challenging and chock full of really amazing competition. I first became more aware of the Paralympics after watching them when the Olympics were held in Atlanta, GA and my country was in a tizzy over our hosting. In all the games since - the events I’ve been personally more interested in have usually been dominated by Australians - like Lyn Lepore in the Sydney 2000 games in road cycling, which is a personal favorite of mine. In addition to the Paralympics, I was further inspired with admiration for individual disabilities after discovering the story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah - who as a young man with a severe disability, rode his bicycle across his country of Ghana to raise awareness to the plight and prejudices of the disabled
in his land. He is an absolutely amazing man - and I would highly recommend watching the documentary on his awareness work entitled Emmanuel's Gift. He still gives back to this day.
Now, most people know that in the world of sports and physical achievement, there is no greater honor then for a person to be chosen for competition in the Olympics. Like any word can sometimes illicit a prejudice, the terms ‘Olympian’ and ‘Olympiad’ usually conjure up images of great physical prowess and skill. Those words are accurate descriptors in our mental image of just what prowess and skill is and how mere armchair competitors view it. I remember a number of years ago when I learned I was distantly related (like so distant, I would need binoculars) to former Olympian Albert Gutterson, who won a gold medal 100 years ago for broad jump during the Olympics of 1912 in Stockholm, Sweden.
I looked at his picture from those days – so young and full of life, and it reminded me of greatness - although...it would have been nice if his name was Scott, or Alex, or Max etc.....lol (kidding). When I see the family homestead nearby, I can’t help but be fascinated an Olympian grew up there. Now, I am not one to get emotional over photos of persons I’ve never met; however, this was different; he was an “Olympian” – it made me feel proud. Why did his existence and Olympic accomplishment make me proud? Simple. Anyone can live a life of work and weekend play - and merely contribute the bare minimums to the betterment of this world, which pretty much sums up most of my long deceased relatives lives - but an Olympian? It takes a special and unique person to qualify as an Olympian – no question about it.
Now, let us peer behind door # 2 to examine another word(s) that can conjure a prejudice; “challenged” or “disabled.” I imagine that when one hears these words, the prejudice that comes to mind is someone who does not have the same range of motion that perhaps an ‘Olympian’ possesses. So, for discussion sake, what then happens when these two descriptions/prejudices above collide? That is to say, a person who has challenges yet is also an Olympian? I’ll tell you what happens; amazing things. It is true unadulterated amazement that any individual can be so strong physically AND mentally so as to transform themselves out of a debilitating challenge and then use their bodies in such ways that most ‘able-bodied’ persons couldn’t even think of. To me, a person who has physical challenges is far stronger than those who do not. When one isn’t challenged in life, they become weak and complacent. An individual who is challenged, is always honing their skills and goals in life. I personally have a quandary with the word disabled or disability. The word, which accurately describes a condition in a sensible non-offensive way, it does to me denote a certain unavoidable stigma; I just dislike it. I rather see a person for who they are as an individual, rather than resort to labels.
So as to make my point, lets stick with Australia and let us now look behind door #3, in which I will use as an excellent example - we will find Brydee Moore. Brydee is a long time competitor in the world of sports. Brydee has been competing in sports since 2001; I think it’s safe to say that sports and competition are her life. In 2006, Brydee’s goals of competitive discus throw and shot put received a serious bump up the big time scale, when she competed in the 2006 FESPIC Games earning herself two gold medals and later, during the 2008 National Championships in Beijing earning three gold medals while representing her native country of Australia.
Brydee has 16 gold medals at the National Championships to her credit, including her latest haul of three gold at the 2012 Nationals. She holds the Australian records in her classification for all three of her throwing disciplines and her shot put length of 6.47m is not far away from achieving the world record. And it doesn’t stop there, Brydee continues on her path of competitive sportsmanship to this day, having competed at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games and now, acceptance for a second time into the Paralympic Games at London 2012. That’s right, Brydee is an Olympian.
But what makes Ms. Moore so inspiring in her skills, is that not only is she an Olympian, she also has some physical challenges in her life. Prior to my stating this, you probably conjured up an image of a toned glistening woman flying over hurdles on the field in full Olympic regalia – royal horns bellowing and crowds in full cheer. And, consequently, now that I’ve thrown the words ‘disability or challenges’ into the mix, your imagination may have been playing a few tricks in the mental imagery department. Trust me on this - there are no tricks here; there is serious tonage and glistening going on. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 11 months old, it would seem clear that Ms. Moore has not always had an easy road to travel upon - and that is for certain. But – this hasn’t slowed herself down a bit – she is out there in this big world showing it what she can do and inspiring so many thousands of people as well as many who may have similar worries/challenges as herself. I liken it to this comparison: while many of us cruise through life complaining about the need to inject Botox into our glistening non challenged BMW bodies, Brydee has souped up her Holden Commodore….and the BMW is afraid. Very afraid. So while us BMW’s sit in the garage resting on its laurels and name brand reputation, Brydee the Commodore is wrenching a turbo and dual exhaust to her Mad Max engine. Physically challenged? Disability? Just words…..mere sounds one makes with their tongues – and in the case of Brydee Moore, actions speak louder than words. Brydee has a personal motto; “see the athlete, not the disability.” And for the record, I would rather arrive at a party in a Mad Max car than a BMW - far more attractive, superior performance and way less maintenance costs.
Now, for the U.S. Paralympic team - as I edit this blog, I just learned in the town right next to me, is a U.S. Olympian who will be competing in the London Paralympic Games; Alicia Brelsford Dana, from Putney, VT. I couldn't believe it when I read this in the paper - that a stone's throw away is a hand cycling olympian. Amazing! Here is a link to the article, which explains it best: http://www.reformer.com/localnews/ci_21259962/racing-london-putney-woman-rides-wave-support-paralympics
What is really amazing, is I've seen her before naturally - I practically live next door - and while I have admired her strength as I lazily drove by in my car, I never imagined this person would be competing in the Olympics. Paralyzed from the waist down after suffering a fall, this single mother seemingly juggles it all - and still had the fortitude to qualify for the paralympics, so now I'm even more thrilled to see what happens during these games. No matter what her outcome may be, I am proud and thrilled for her. No matter what the color of a medal is, whether gold, silver, bronze or empty handed, I still think it's amazing to even qualify for the Olympic games; every Olympian is a win. Naturally, I immediately sent her a friend request on facebook so I could inundate her with daily posts of my fandom; she is going to be SO sorry if she accepts it!
I love the Paralympics. And the reason I enjoy them isn’t because of some noble thought that I *should* watch them, but more because any person who has a disability and can do something better than someone who doesn’t have a disability, is a true Olympian. I have mixed emotions about the term Paralympics, but – I suppose it is really semantics. I have entered numerous bicycle races in my life, and if I may brag - earned bronze on three occasions in the U.S. national championships in the late 90's for obtacle course, slalom and a distance road race. I have also run a few piddly fiddly 5k’s in my time, and on such occasions, there have been persons who have also entered who must use a different vehicle to meet their specific bodily needs – i.e. a wheelchair. Each time I have been intimidated – because I know…this guy or gal is going to make mince meat out of me. I know this to be true not because their bodies are toned with the obvious effects of practice, but because I know mentally they are absolutely committed to DESTROYING me. And, barring some mechanical failure on equipment, they always do.
Cody McCasland, 8, from Colleyville, TX, shown here in the Ranger Triathalon. Cody is a double above knee amputee born with a rare birth defect called Sacral Agenesis that caused his legs to form both missing tibias and knees. Doctors, in his best interest, amputated his legs at 15 months old, and Cody has never stopped challenging himself physically. He raced the 100m swim, 2.2 mile bike ride, and 800, run in under thirty minutes. Future Olympian? I hope so!
I am a man of perfect motion. I can walk, run, roll, cartwheel and roll out of bed in no time flat – and admittedly take this ability for complete granted. If I am in a stadium and feel the need to visit the restroom, I can run to the bathroom with the best of them – and be in and out in no time flat. I do not know what it is like to limp, or have no feeling in any part of my body, or to know what it is like to live with the daily challenges one faces who does have such things to bear. I have had, however, a brain injury - which is occasionally recurring with intracranial pressure, after having been smacked upside the head repeatedly by a complete nutcase I was trying to arrest several years ago - and have spent my fair share of time in the CT-Scan torpedo tubes, from constant headaches to continual swishing noises in my left ear. But anyways - it is nothing compared to what others suffer. But back to physical prowess......I have lifted a discus and a shot put – and they are heavy. To throw a discus and a shot put for far range and in control takes practice and skill. I thus have tried throwing a discus and a shot put. I admit, I thought it would be easy – I mean, it’s just throwing an object right? I grappled my hands around its cold steel and instantly felt awkward, unable to comprehend how one can really hold onto something so odd shaped and heavy, and throw it at a controlled distance; much like a Frisbee on a windy day. I wound up, took a deep breath, and with one felt swoop – exhaled a small scream and threw the discus – imagining in my mind where it would it land….that being approximately two miles away ala Clark Kent kicking that Football from the original Superman movie. I think it landed about 5 feet away and like a bad golfing slice about an equal distance to the right of where I expected it to land. I tried again. And again. And again – each time gaining the same result. I came to a conclusion after GIVING UP, that, indeed – throwing a discus and even more so the shot put…takes skill and obvious practice. I’ve never thrown one sitting down – but as I sit here in my chair and pretend, I know it is extremely difficult. When I was a kid, I wasn’t particularly fond of running, despite my (at the time) built for speed body, so I thought perhaps being good at discus and shot put would be good, but alas – nope….I then just stuck to my bike. All people are good at something – and when they find out what it is, there are no limitations to hold them back; not even a disability - as proven by the athletes in the Paralympics.
I am quite familiar with Cerebral Palsy and it’s oft time frustrating effects; I know many people who live with it, and likewise, I have my own personal familial issues with this and other afflictions that affect the mind and body. I have witnessed the occasional and understandable decline of the human spirit when such challenges exist and when it seems life is a constant struggle. I’ve seen the frustration, the teasing and all the other stuff that goes along with a life of challenges. The hopes and dreams we all share, can sometimes be compounded for persons who have disabilities. I’ve always been an advocate for such individuals; I’ll never stop with that – and for the most part, my reason for having even become a police officer was an inherent desire to become a more prominent advocate in the battle to end the chronic finger pointing, senseless prejudices and abuse. I remember my Aunt Jean Lemire and my cousins Robbie and Kenny Blake, who had so many debilitating challenges in their lives. Wanting so badly to ‘fit in’ – to find and experience the things all human beings yearn for: to find that love of their life, to have a family, to drive a car, to experience a first kiss, to own a home, to run, to jump, to escape…if only for a moment. It crushes MY spirit just thinking about them, now gone, and it hurts to know how they felt so much of the time.
As the Paralympics start to gear up – I urge people to take an active interest in this serious world of competition; you’ll be amazed. I also would urge people to reach in their pockets every now and then and throw a couple of bucks toward organizations that provide assistance on so many levels to individuals who face life at times with a constant head wind. Give up one pack of cigs a month – after all, it won’t kill you, it will help you – it’s a win win! If you know of families who have equipment needs for small children who want to compete in sports by all means lend that hand and donate. There is no greater calling.
So, from August 29, 2012 to September 9, 2012, the Paralympic Games will be in full swing. On August 31, 2012, give a cheer to Brydee as she enters the arena for discus while representing Australia and my new best fanned neighbor Alicia Brelsford Dana as she handcycles her way into history representing the United States - the only paralympic athlete from Vermont. I suppose I am supposed to cheer for the USA - and I most certainly will, especially Ms. Breslford Dana; however, since my new/last Chevrolet Caprice police car was made in Australia – and is the sickest most insanely fast cruiser I’ve ever had, I will also have to make an exception here and root for the land down under as well. Actually - I root for everyone; geographical boundaries really don't mean much to me.
Above: My Australian made for USA cop car. Took so long to get here it was a "year" old by the time I rolled out of the fleet garage with it. It is a Chevy Caprice, but - so I've been told, is called a Holden in Australia.
Root for your favorite team and event - I know I will be – because I’m a fan – and I bow to the greatness of all Olympians, whether they walk into an arena or arrive on wheels. The truth is, we all have challenges – some are just more visible than others. From my cab to yours – enjoy - and please check these links to learn more about Cerebral Palsy - as well as a wonderful video series by Charisse and her journey with Cerebral Palsy - it is her hope to further awareness of it and break people from having an uneducated and otherwise uninformed conclusion of just what exactly it is. She encourages people to cut/paste her link to learn more - she is just such an inspiration - I promise you will be hitting subscribe faster than Ms. Brelsford Dana can ride her bike - well, pretty close anyways.
This section of the site is not specific to my taxi travels. They are not really rants either. It is more of a space for me to simply raise awareness to topics that either inspire or frustrate me as an individual.