Demise of Politics or Politics on Steroids?

The gloves are coming off in the political battle between Republicans and Democrats.

The word “politics” now comes covered in green slime, piling on with every evil word, contradictory statement (previously called “a lie”), and rolled eye at an opponent. The sense of political life as a profession has been on a steep decline for several years, but now politics appears to be on a downward roller coaster ride headed for a brick wall. No political party appears to get a pass on this. It’s the last thing you would recommend as a calling for a son or daughter. ”Why get caught up in all that? You could ruin your reputation.” 

Complicates life for a sincere candidate who wants to represent the concerns of the people in their district or state. And even harder for someone who doesn’t want to be lumped with the “in-it-for-me” candidates. No doubt many of those entering political races in the past were required to have an out-sized ego in order to overcome the jabs and barbs anticipated in modern politics. Unless a candidate has gobs and gobs of personal funds that they’re willing and able to throw into the contest to purchase advertising—digital and broadcast—they’ll be spending hours and hours cozying up to wealthy people they don’t know (and might not care to otherwise).  

In 2012 Each Senate Candidate Spent $410,476,451

An average Senate candidate in 2012 (last figures available from Maplight) spent $10,476,451—that’s per candidate—one-third of the Senate are elected each year. That comes to a continuous fund-raising of $14,351 per day.  The most expensive Senate race in 2012 belonged to Senator Elizabeth Warren, who spent $42 million to defeat Scott Brown in Massachusetts.  Congress and statehouse elections cost $6.3 billion in 2012, according to Maplight.

Prior to that election, in 2010, the Supreme Court voted to complicate political spending, agreeing to allow U.S. corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections. This would not be the first time that “unlimited money” would create chaos in any American system. With money comes influence, an influence John Q. Citizen cannot match. Decision making begins to float away from “the people” as in “government of the people, by the people for the people,” as defined by Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address as he worked to pull a nation back together. 

Thirty-five years ago, I left my role as a Senate aide and never looked back, though I continued to work in communications in DC until 2014. When I moved to Texas, truth be told, I didn’t mention working in DC, fearing what expletives or disparaging words I might hear from people across the table. Prior to working on the Hill, I’d worked as a reporter, if not a noble profession, then not something we’d hide from the neighbors and whisper to the kids. No one picked apart our stories (except maybe an editor) or called us out as “crooked” or “liars.” When a journalist’s story came into question, it was judged individually on its own merits or demerits. One journalist does not make up the press gallery, but then we knew calling out the entire press corps and questioning the viability of every story left the public without a counterbalance to politicians’ statements. Something a free nation depends upon.   

Checks and Balances Worked in the Past

When we’ve had a wily President in the past, say Nixon, the media-government contest got heated in the lead up to the Pentagon Papers release and Watergate, but the stories came out and the public had an opportunity to make their own decisions. It didn’t devolve into a he-said-she-said contest that passes for fast-paced political coverage these days.   

Congress, America’s chief political body, has been on slow-go because of the split between the Democratic House and the Republican Senate nearly since the inauguration in 2017. But now as both political parties throw venom, the question will be whether or not the States follow their example or work to serve their own constituents throughout what promises to be a nasty 15 months until the November 2020 elections.  

Decisions about the future of American Politics depend as much on us as on the politicians themselves. What will voters be willing to accept from their leaders?  Will we work in our individual states, attempting to ignore the shenanigans, working to solve the issues at home, waiting for a more productive future? Will we fall into the trap of divisiveness? What will be required of the media in order to restore their role as the Fourth Estate, necessary for an informed public?  As others have said, it will be a bumpy ride, but it will be up to us to create America’s political life and determine if we can melt the slime to show its value when politics is not played like a blood sport. 

Stayed tune next week for a discussion of   How Politics Could Change (for the Better)


Impact the Future as you Live the Present

Favorite view during daytime flight. Fluffy clouds that change from minute to minute represent the future because you never know what you’ll find on the ground. The world has changed while you’ve been in flight.

In conversation, we often talk about the past as if it were the present.

Instead we should live in the present but prepare for a future that improves upon it. You say it’s hard to know whether the future will meet that expectation. Ah, but if you aim low, for a so-so or not-so-good future, it’s harder to envision the possibility of a better one and harder yet to obtain the desired future.

“Past Becomes Present,” is this blog’s title, pulling our combined history into present day for better or worse. Or turning history inside out. That seems legitimate. But in conversation this week, I found myself reliving the past, not so much to sample its lessons, but to examine points of trial and pain that should be soothed and digested by now. I decided to take a look at the role the past and future play in life. One might think my hands and mind would have little bearing on the future as I am over 60, but as long as there is breath in any of us, we can influence tomorrow–whether it is the next time we awaken or even possibly 30 years from now.

If we want to push forward, we need to go far beyond the past, carrying it with us, pay attention to our role in the present, embrace it, but hold in our minds a vision of the future that we will work to achieve.

Cruel realities of 21st century life—extreme fluctuations in temperature and rainfall, political philosophies that whiplash the country left and right, and an economy rising upper incomes but often neglecting the bottom–threaten to cloud our impression of the present and impose fears for the future.

As a grandparent, who frequently looks into the inquiring eyes two generations below, I seek the positives that could provide them a future worth moving into. While the current state of affairs has not reached the conundrum faced by Abe Lincoln in the Civil War and Winston Church in World War II, they exercised hope in bleak worlds when their people needed it most.

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Message sent to Congress delivered a written review of the nation-(The tradition at the time minus tv cameras to register the clapping, standing, and sitting of the opposing parties). On December 1, 1862, Lincoln seemed to address my concern as he wrote:

“ The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

Abraham Lincoln December 1, 1862

Churchill ventured across the Atlantic Ocean peppered with German U-boats to address the Canadian Parliament on December 30, 1941. He asked for their assistance but also spoke to his countrymen:

Let us address ourselves to our task, not in any way underrating its tremendous difficulties and perils, but in good heart and sober confidence, resolved that, whatever the cost, whatever the suffering, we shall stand by one another, true and faithful comrades, and do our duty, God helping us, to the end.

Winston Churchill December 30, 1941

Each man had the ability to see beyond the current difficulty to believe in their nation’s ability to overcome, not in a Disney-esque fashion, but in a positive reality built out of turmoil.

Few could have predicted what post-war Reconstruction would bring without a fair and steady hand, like Lincoln’s, at the helm. Some might say America still suffers from the missteps after 1865 that resulted in Jim Crow laws in the South that punished blacks and might have been avoided had race relations been handled differently immediately following the Civil War. Fortunately for Europe, Germany, and Japan a more progressive hand administered the Marshall Plan after World War II, yielding strong partners today. But still this did not prevent backward looking nationalist tendencies from cropping up throughout Europe and the U.S. today.

Every country and every era has been divided by serious issues, but without agreement about the need to draw the sides together and ease opposition by finding areas of agreement and common need, stagnation or worse begins to destroy a country and upset global harmony. On so many issues America seems to be at a stalemate, but as Churchill so memorably proclaimed to students at Harrow School on October 29, 1941:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never. Never. Never in nothing great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

For modern America facing the future this seems to translate: Stick to your guns, don’t give in to petty challenges. If, however, your country is at stake, work like heck to preserve democracy, just like Lincoln worked to preserve the Union, and Churchill sweat blood to protect England from the Nazi horde.

Almost the Ides of September: Lost Innocence

New York City skyline with single World Trade Center building

This date will never be normal for me—not the average, get dressed, have coffee, and get to work day. With what happened that morning, I can’t even remember driving to work, just a simple 20 minutes or less, sitting in traffic atop King Street, the final hill. Passing the Metro station from DC turning left below Washington’s Masonic Temple, marking the end of Alexandria, Virginia. Just about two miles from the Pentagon. 

On September 10, life remained normal. I don’t recall if National Public Radio first alerted me or if someone in the office informed me on 911 as they turned on NBC in the circular conference room, surrounded by windows. But word leaked out that a plane plowed into one of New York’s Twin Towers. “Oh, how could a Cessna do that?” my first thought, never realizing what would come next…and the next.  

Speechless as we realized it wasn’t a tiny Cessna, but a full-fledged Boeing 767 jet that went full power into the north tower at 8:48 am on a sunny, fall day in New York City. Then as we watched live 18 minutes later as another fully booked United FL 175 flew from Boston’s Logan into the south tower. Our organization’s financial director sat on board another American Airlines’ plane on the ground at Dulles Airport when Flight 77 took off for Los Angeles, only to be hijacked. She declined to fly again for over a year. 

As the day’s drama unfolded in New York, in Washington the day stood still, for an instant, as we caught our breath, barely. Four of us enveloped the screen watching the new reality, near speechless, as the existential tragedy unfolded. A foggy, immobility descended on us as we realized there was nothing we could do—we the crisis manager, the event planner, the media rep, and the CEO—but watch in horror. 

Three blocks from Masonic Temple, our four-story brick building shook at 9:40 am. At first it seemed a large desk had fallen onto the floor above us, as we sat watching the news from New York City in the circular conference room below. Within seconds someone looked out the windows and saw black plumes of smoke rising rapidly from the northwest–the direction of the Pentagon, we learned quickly from NBC and CNN.

A Boeing 757, FL 77, carrying the wife of the Solicitor General among the passengers, punched the Pentagon’s shell at full power, entering a building where 24,000 people were conducting the nation’s military business. The five-sided building includes five layers of metal and stone protecting sections within, which prevented the plane from penetrating further into the building for even greater carnage, but complicated the extraction of the wounded. Once the carnage cleared, 184 people were dead at the Pentagon.

While the planning for the multi-city attack, seemed near flawless, if the hijackers shifted to another near side, they could have reached the Office of the Secretary of Defense. As it turned out, Donald Rumsfeld assisted with rescue and recovery there, rather than being a casualty or sitting in a secret cave with other Cabinet officers. President Bush slowly made his way back to Washington from Florida, on board Air Force One, giving local civilians a bit of a scare when his plane reached the city after civilian air travel was suspended.  

In all 2,977 people died in the plane crashes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. This last plane expected to hit a target in Washington, possibly the U.S. Congress or the White House, but the passengers and crew were able to overcome the hijackers and take the plane away from DC before it crashed.

In today’s world, crisis managers are called upon to have large imaginations. If they can dream it, maybe they can plot backwards to lay a strategic master plan to counteract major chinks in the armor. Flexible, inquiring minds are required. National crises demand a strong network of national security advisers and intelligence officers, who today are required to listen to and work well with others, and are trusted by the nation’s leadership. 

What’s worrisome now is whether or not United States leadership could assemble a team of trusted intelligence and crisis management leaders, farsighted enough to prevent the next potential threat to our nation. And to trust and keep them in place long enough to realize their long-term value. 

Could American intelligence prevent another 911 today?

Nearly twenty years after 911, plenty of back-seat political advisers have appeared to highlight many of the places where intelligence breeches occurred or were ignored. Lack of trust between the internal and the foreign intelligence agencies helped add to this tragedy. Now that cyber security easily crosses both fields, cooperation becomes even more vital. Turf wars among federal agencies threaten the safety and security of all Americans—to an even greater degree than occurred in 2001. 

Today children born in 2001 are preparing for college and the workplace. The image of the smoking, then imploding, Twin Towers does not occur in real time for them, only on the Internet in a Wi-Fi horror show that fades from memory with each passing year. Even those of us who watched the towers fall for the very first time have seen the then constantly repeated images lose meaning, even though we pledged then those images could never be erased. A reasoned response to America’s role in the world could prepare those 18-year-olds and us old-timers to embrace the future, by preparing for it, not attempting to ignore it, hoping the threat would disappear, being prepared to offer “thoughts and prayers” the next time. That tired, reactive approach won’t work in 2019.

What does it mean when such a horrific, yet iconic, image floats backward in memory? Do we become less diligent, less aware of our safety, our country’s? Do we gain a sense of reality that we live in a world more dangerous than before, which it may be? Or do we reach out to learn about others, so we understand other people a little better? Do we learn to be proactive, not in fear, but to consider the motivations of the people around us, so we recognize the true danger and ignore the hype?  

America lost its innocence on 911, realizing the oceans no longer protect us. It’s time to replace fear with logical thought and intelligent consideration of international situations. If 911 taught us anything, it should have been that America is part of a global world and a global economy and our prosperity comes from it. When American passenger planes left the skies for weeks after 911, the entire world suffered—not just US. Embracing the future—negative and positive—we can create a path forward, not with our heads in the sand, but with eyes wide open, trusting in our ability to shape a positive, productive future. 


American Ramblings…after Horowitz and Olmstead’s Tour

Ramblings from coast-to-coast for work and pleasure inspired me and enforced my appreciation for my country and the amazing people who live, work, and raise families here.

Labor Day cues the traditional end of summer rambles with watermelon and barbeque gorgings in places like Texas, where Tabasco Sauce and habanero chilis bring authentic heat, and rhythmic door openings and closings on thousands of airplanes and SUVs occur in unfamiliar places nationwide.

A shout out to all the laboring people who smoothed the sheets, cured the brisket, and ensured tenderness of the biscuits on my travels through 46 states. They inhabit every corner of America, not just the humid South of Horwitz’s recent tome (Spying on the South), but the boroughs and bayous, marshes and mountains– stretching from Bangor, Maine to  Miami-Dade County, Windy Chicago to Cajun Lafayette, Louisiana; from Chula Vista, California to Washington’s Cascades’ rain forest and roads winding to Hurricane Ridge for breathtaking views into Canada’s Rocky Mountains)—all doors to discovery.

The opportunity to tour 46 states came as a Midwesterner with a wanderlust and the luck to see the country while making videos to share a safety message with daily drivers and pedestrians. I missed what to the untrained eye might appear to be the most exotic states—Alaska and Hawaii—and possibly the under-appreciated Dakotas (but a place called the Badlands probably deserves a visit!). A complete list of memories from decades of American travels could only come in bits or in a single end-of-summer blog, so expect mere highlights! 

New England’s Subtle Surprises

During an August Congressional Recess rush up the coast to Nova Scotia with my groom in my late twenties New England’s pleasure went unnoticed. But the Crayola-colored clapboard barns and fishing vessels did catch my attention and the fresh cod rivaled every fish dinner to that time. In Bangor a decade later the wait staff presented stick-to-your-ribs backwoods chowder and crushed the stereotype of the, scowling flannel-shirted Libertarian. Then a generation later, Boston barmaids served Samuel Adams craft beer to tables of thirsty metal-wearing marathon athletes, my daughter among them. The next year we returned for shrimp and sushi to celebrate her rowing performance stroking a Texas eight in the Head of the Charles (River) Regatta.

Amtrak took me to New York City in October 2001. The Big Apple seemed to ooze red, white and blue after traveling from DC on business. The heroic recovery crew still worked in the pit at the base of Manhattan as I entered the subway system. Colorful notes with smudged pictures of loved ones posted by wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, and many adult children begged for any scrap of information about them. Over future trips, the notes came down and new skyscrapers went up, eventually a semblance of normality returned with a subtle, but expected twist of insecurity.

Today the brash, confident New Yorkers who were neighbors briefly eons ago have their mojo back. The generosity they showed decades ago to a pregnant guest drinking hot chocolate with her husband to keep warm one New Year’s Eve: “Potty run! Let the pregnant lady up in line!” (Cold must have seasoned the child to all weather —see earlier Boston events).

The lure of Washington, DC drew me in my twenties and became home base on and off for over thirty years. Yet a feeling of awe always overtakes me when I enter the Library of Congress Reading Room with its massive dome and the collection of the nation’s venerable bound antiques gracing the walls. Today whenever a Congressional argument seems nonsensical, I remind myself that Congress once argued over whether to purchase Jefferson’s books. The Library needed a jumpstart after the British burned it to the walls in 1814. Ludicrous.

Next in priority: oars slicing through the Potomac River in a rented rowing shell from the Thompson Boathouse near Georgetown—or if you prefer a kayak or a paddleboard. Early mornings can’t be beat when the proud Blue Herons cautiously trot out their staggering chicks on the backside of Roosevelt Island opposite the Virginia shore and the multi-colored ducks waddle into the water near pure white geese floating the inlet.

Two rules are essential for these early trips down the Potomac—stay dry and stay alive as the blue green river seems to swell all around the sliver of a boat that protects you. Even with a few years’ unsystematic rowing under my belt, never failed to slow down for the immovable stone arches of the Key Bridge—beautiful from the GW Parkway, but perilous and unforgiving obstacles capable of ending it all for risky novices on the water. Likewise, the larger tourist boats deserve a wide berth or simply hug the shallow right or left edges of the river, where they can’t travel.

A Confession

Traveling feeds my joint passions—a book addiction that grew into a six-bookcase, seven-shelf, floor to ceiling book collection of odd cookbooks and unique finds about American Founders, Civil War generals, and American presidents– and the quest for new ideas in unexpected places. People who sold the books, cooked the meals, and picked me up and deposited me at far-flung airports were my instructors in America’s casual classroom. Their pleasure in their work encouraged my gratitude and dependence on their unique expertise as I sought relief while wworking with tight deadlines and even tighter filming budgets.

Western Travels

Being able to return to a simple meal and Netflix in my room made it easier to retool for another day in 100-degree heat where trucks and trains met in Dallas or pedestrians risked their lives in Chula Vista, California, where we filmed PSAs. Room service wasn’t an option while working the snow-covered rail right-of-way in Ohio filming safety videos for truck drivers. And maybe the Belgian waffles at breakfast set me up for a confident morning, which I needed when I took over the rental’s wheel outside Colorado Springs. An ancient Oldsmobile Cutlass in front of me did a 360 in the newly fallen snow, ahead of an oncoming car. No sweat, although half the staff rode with me. Never a scratch.

While working on a PSA long before I sampled authentic TexMex in Austin, the crew wandered into a simple restaurant on a suburban side street miles from Chicago’s skyscrapers to find Spanish signage and menus. Then ordering began with a pointer finger, sad to say. Warm homemade tortillas wrapped around authentic burritos and tacos, seasonings adjusted for the Gringo palate.

Southern Problem Solvers

Then on an assignment outside Atlanta, fine Southern fried chicken and biscuits could not solve a major problem initiated in the Chicago suburbs. Seven high school students died and two dozen were injured in a school bus-Metro-train crash at Fox River Grove, IL. A substitute bus driver stopped on the opposite side of the tracks at a stoplight, but didn’t realize the back end of her bus overhung the tracks by eight feet (due to widening of the road in front of her). All the school bus-train crossings in the country were inspected and a school district near Dalton, Georgia worked with us to develop and a school bus driver training video with a DC production team .

The completed “The Responsibility is Ours,” safety video debuted at a school bus driver convention in Reno after which I drove southwest for a view of Yosemite, which seemed to me to be this side of heaven, just what my soul needed after nearly a year working with fabulous people under tremendous pressure to deliver a story worth watching with a safety message woven throughout. For many fortunate reasons, the training being just one, school bus-train crash fatalities have nearly disappeared. (School districts now are aided by GPS,-all-county mapping, and advanced trip planning for out-of-district sporting events.)

When we flew through Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport for the Dalton shoot, the pizza makers picked up their pace dramatically in preparation for the Olympics. Earlier they tossed pepperoni slices at a tender, haphazard speed onto the stretched dough. “One pepperoni, two…” marked their speed. Now the toppings were scattered as if from a helicopter and whipped into the ovens able to heat six large pizzas simultaneously .Speedy adjustments.

East St Louis: Nothing Left to Lose

I’d be lying if I pretended that bringing a film crew into East St. Louis didn’t scare me. A drug bust went down a block from where we were filming an outdoor scene, we persevered. The law enforcement hired to rotate in the area had one request: “We will be out of here before nightfall?” But this seemed to beg the question: Why were we here? The middle school stood less than half a mile from where a student had been killed walking in the middle of the tracks. That’s why we were there. The students were eager to help, working with us through boring takes for three days onsite before we moved to film by the tracks and an area cemetery.

A local filmmaker developed the script and pointed out a young black actor who played the lead very convincingly. In the script he sought a break to be a comedian. When an opportunity comes, he’s held back by a train blocking his neighborhood. He decides to climb through the train just as it lunges forward, tossing him onto the tracks as the train rolls crushing him. Later we went back to the middle school to share the Telly Award the video won.

NOLA Repeatedly

After five business trips and one mother-daughter birthday celebration in New Orleans, my Cajun and Zydeco education continues. I grew up on Louie Armstrong. Early on I realized before draining my first that a single Hurricane at Brennan’s would do. Years later law enforcement safety partners didn’t slow down and paid the price after three of the sweet, alcohol fueled intoxicators. Sat them on the sidewalk, while we sampled my favorite crawfish etouffee finished with crème brulee Southern style. Only Shreveport comes close, serving those tasty bites doused in a creamy red sauce within a mile of their catch and home to the original Tabasco Sauce factory. In their honor an artist’s rendering of those succulent beasts graces my kitchen. Since all the major railroads run through the Big Easy, it was once the easiest place to get approval for safety meetings, since New Orleans was “on their road.”

Attention Deficit Vegas

Probably the continual Ca-Ching, Ca-Ching once you step off the plane draws Americans for the chance to double their money on the slots (or lose it and then some at the blackjack tables), see the bright lights of the GM Grand, or catch Circe de Solei in flight. The attractions grew over a decade plus, beginning when writing the Mobile Electronics newsletter during the Consumer Electronic Show. Unforgettable 18-hour days glassy-eyed viewing the latest and greatest technology while standing on cement barely covered by a thin layer of plastic “carpet.” (After three years of cortisone shots,  foot surgery helped relieve the pain.). Cheap hotels, cheap alcohol, and “family-priced” restaurants made Las Vegas a popular location, so we went often, even though the meetings weren’t as productive as they could have been in Omaha or Fort Worth. The quality and quantity of the accommodations multiplied, but blindfolded I could identify where we were by the wattage of the keg lights, whether it was Cher or Adele, or if the cologne was Old Spice or Hermes 24.

Snow Shouldn’t Matter

Park City, Utah, great skiing location, site of Sundance Film Festival, and not far off Union Pacific tracks, delighted with mountain landscape out every window. The car rental company talked me into renting a Blazer for a drive into Yellowstone National Park after the meetings ended. (What they didn’t tell me: in April 15 feet of snow still stood around the park). Before I left the rental counter, Enterprise, which has since treated me well, said they’d topped off the tank and place my luggage securely in the back of the Blazer. Major mistake: I didn’t check.

Forty-five minutes later when I arrived in Park City, the trunk was bare. When I called to have the bag delivered, Enterprise said they weren’t making deliveries that night because of the snow—they’d bring it up in the am. Isn’t this a ski resort? Snow your bread and butter? Evidently not when it falls on rental cars.

I spent the night in the SAME clothes I’d worn since leaving for National Airport at 5:30 a.m., something that hadn’t happened in thirty years, on a job interview in Binghamton, NY. Then a truly ferocious snow storm that forced the plane off the runway and convinced me I didn’t want to be a reporter in the Eastern snowbelt.

In Park City arose the next morning at 6 am and drove down to Enterprise in a surly mood and retraced my tracks to dress for an 8 am. Used other rental companies for at least six months, not wanting to chance another evening wrapped in a sheet.

While snow did remain on the mountains around Yellowstone after work concluded, a winter wonderland awaited, offering sights and sounds I might never have seen if I’d come in summer—and with the crowds the Elk might have stayed away.

Keeping the Beauty of the West on the Wall

For every rugged story, there’s a counter—Montana—don’t understand why Jane Fonda could flee such a slice of heaven. Her pairing with media mogul Ted Turner must have been a slice of hell!  (But they didn’t seem to share similar political perspectives.) I brought back with me a print of the Big Blackfoot River flowing through Cottonwood Creek that hangs in my office to reminds me. Neighboring Idaho served as a gateway into the Canadian Rockies’ stunning scenery—cornflower blue skies and whiter-than-the-White-House clouds. Advice to novice Canadian drivers—those beautiful prancing deer travel in packs of five across major highways. Just missed them at twilight, my heart stopped beating for a moment. That’s a collision neither  driver or deer survive.

Sometimes just stopping to admire Mt. Baldy or spending an hour with the priceless art at the Getty Art Museum north of Los Angeles helped relieve stress during the Middle School safety filming along. (My living room wall holds the museum’s framed Monet casual flower poster). We hired professional young teen stunt performers in movies and commercials. One’s father performed in the Pirates of the Caribbean.

When the safety film was in the can, we wondered who would be the first to use it. Surprisingly the most conservative folks when it came to “stunts” wanted to test it in Maine. They tried it out in several classrooms. Middle schoolers got it.—”Yes, we do risky things for a living, but we’re trained to be safe. Running in front of trains can get you killed and that’s not a risk we’re willing to take.” 

When they saw the response, New England sent their results and endorsed the video, which helped encourage other regions to give it a shot. The Houston Film Festival awarded “Are You in Contro?l” a Bronze Remi in the Safety category at their International Film Festival that year.

In the end, this is a love letter to those who helped make the work successful and my travels epic, and to those who labored to clean the rooms and fed me unexpected treats when I needed them most. And especially to those who trusted me to carry it forward, but particularly those who worked diligently to craft the stories and stay the course to film them in some pretty dicey situations. Some people are alive today because your videos enticed people to watch, giving the safety message time to etch in their brains. Thanks to all of you. To my readers, hang tight, seek out similar adventures safely! Stay tuned for more American Ramblings!