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Phillipe and Jorge’s Cool, Cool World: Traffic Snarls, Political Fools and Art Makes Everything Better

Newport Nightmares

Ah, Newport. Sailing Capital of the World. City by the Sea. Rhode Island’s #1 tourist attraction. And seemingly determined by state and local pols and planners to make a visit there as unpleasant as possible.

P&J refer to the ill-conceived need for a median strip on the Newport Bridge, an overreaction of the first order. The bridge has been reduced to one lane in both directions as of April 6, and the eastbound lanes’ EZ Pass lane was closed, which has resulted, by the RI Turnpike and Bridge Authority’s own calculations, to warrant an hour’s delay in the morning and evening commutes. Some fun, eh kiddies? P&J have seen this backup firsthand, and have considered doing roadside gun stands at both ends of the bridge for those drivers who want to buy a Glock or Sig Sauer and simply put a bullet in their heads as they try to get to work before noon, or home before “Jeopardy” ends. (And if you want to see a real car bomb go off, if there are still lane restrictions on May 5, the day festivities for the Volvo ocean sailing race begin, which Newport officials have humped harder as an attraction than Disney does Orlando or Walter White did crystal meth, expect fireworks galore.)

RITBA officials claim all this work will be done by May 1. Why not? Who has ever heard of a major construction project in Little Rhody going over its projected deadline or costing more than anticipated? (Take a bow, former governor Ed “Gerber Baby” DiPrete, whose state contract to build the new Jamestown Bridge not only ran over time-wise and cost-wise, but didn’t have a clause saying that the contractors would pay for lateness, and instead left the great unwashed of Vo Dilun on the hook for the massive cost overruns. Full gainer into that Dumpster, Gerb.) So keep bringing those Indonesian pee bottles with you folks, and don’t expect to get across the Bay in less than 60 minutes.

Worse is all the construction roadwork being done on Broadway in Newport, which for many is the only way into town unless you know the back routes — and even some Newporters don’t. The town planners did this to Washington Square businesses two years ago at the height of the tourism season. P&J pointed out that restaurant owners such as Biggie Korn at Yesterday’s would have been acquitted of murder of town officials on grounds of justifiable homicide as people avoided the downtown eating establishments as if they were selling Ebola on a bun at food carts.

P&J suspect it is only fitting that the “Scenic Newport” exit off the Newport Bridge empties onto yet another one-lane road named Farewell St, which fittingly runs between two cemeteries. (Geddit?) Stack the empty coffins by the gates, folks, we’re sure they will be quickly accommodated if all these construction woes continue.

Monster Raving Loonies 

The race is on. US Senator Ted Cruz announced his bid to become the Republican Party’s presidential candidate in 2016, and we can bet Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Donald Trump feel upstaged. But it was nice to know Mitt Romney has tacitly acknowledged his insanity by offering to have an exhibition boxing match with former heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield. (“Just don’t muss up my hair, Evander.”)

Back in the 1960s, a titled and barking mad aspiring politician in England who called himself Screaming Lord Sutch, who put out unlistenable albums at his own expense and drove a Rolls Royce painted like the Union Jack, ran for office under his own Monster Raving Loony Party banner. Well, I am sure the Republicans can counter the emergent Tea Party with another allied wing called the GOP Monster Raving Loony Party, which Screaming Lord Sutch would appreciate to no end. And leading that parade will undoubtedly be Sen Cruz.

Cruz’s campaign may be the best thing that could happen to the Democratic Party and Queen Hillary. As he plays to an audience of evangelical “Christians,” like he did in his announcement at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University – who’s for grape Kool-Aid, kids? – he is bound to bring out the worst in all of the GOP future contenders during future public appearances and debates. If other potential candidates like the desperate and dim Jeb Bush, Miami Marco Rubio or schoolboy manqué Scott Walker find out they need to grab the ultra-conservative votes to have a chance of winning, they may quickly find God in the worst of ways, all caught on videotape before they have to “walk back” their comments. And the conservative bloc will be important, as none of them are getting the black, Latino or even women’s votes.

“God’s blessing has been on America from the very beginning of this nation, and I believe God isn’t done with Americans,” Cruz said. Well, we are glad to know The Big Sir found time from his global work to specially bless us back in the 1700s. But given this country’s recent behavior, and God botherers like Dubya Bush and now Cruz invoking his name and their direct connection to Him without express written consent of the NFL, maybe we better hope God is done with Americans, or at least looks the other way rather than sending America swarms of locusts or rivers of blood and telling us to keep him out of the discussion.

But Wait, There’s More

Only a week-plus after Cruz declared, self-ordained ophthalmologist Rand Paul threw his tousled toupee into the ring to the sustained applause of no one.

Little Randy urged voters to “take our country back,” when most people didn’t know it had been missing. Must have been smuggled out in a suitcase or shipped to Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s house, where he is hiding it from the eyes of all those faggots and dykes who want to disrupt Hoosier Heaven. (Note: After seeing the smarmy, lying phony Pence on TV, with his “boys regular” haircut promoting the “Freedom of Religion” act (honk!) his state passed, we can only conclude that Indiana is the only state where livestock animals are allowed to vote.)

In fact, our country has been taken by Randy Paul and his political pals in Washington, DC. They have corrupted the democratic process, they lie and steal at a rate that would make Vladimir Putin blush, and care nothing about the general public. So start taking it back from your buddies, Sen. Paul, a loathsome, lying and libertarian phony. Who has let these a-holes command even a minute of our attention? (And the media, who P&J will gladly buy a drink to wash the taste of the  candidates’ nether units out of their mouths – see: Clinton, Bill.) Only 16 more months of this assault on your sense of decency to go. Whee! Buckle up, campers.

STOP THE PRESSES: As P&J go to print, we first learn via Scott MacKay’s blog at Rhode Island Public Radio that former guv Linc Chafee is giving thoughts to a run to be the Democratic party’s presidential candidate in 2016, having formed an exploratory committee. This is kind of like having a colonoscopy just for the fun of it, as far as we read Linc’s chances. But if this is a sign of the future, P&J hope there is a space in the presidential candidate’s parking lot (behind the DC K-Mart – not unlike K Street, but with employees with more ethics at the retailer) for the Dems’ clown car right next to the one driven by Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.  Keep the delusions coming.

Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame Inductions 

The RIMHOF is only in its fourth year, but has grown in leaps and bounds to be what the Providence Journal has described as “Rhode Island’s most fascinating museum” (Providence Journal, May 24, 2014). There are two events this year and they are right around the corner. First, on Mon, April 20 at Bovi’s Tavern on Taunton Ave at 7pm, this year’s jazz inductees, George Masso, Duke Belaire and Bob Petteruti will be honored on stage before the regular Monday night performance by the John Allmark Orchestra (John took over for honoree Duke Belaire whose big band held  court on Monday nights for decades at Bovi’s). The other induction ceremony and concert is on Sun, April 26 at the Hall in Pawtucket’s Hope Artiste Village and next door at The Met. It’s an all-day affair starting at 2pm.

At the Hall will be the unveiling of the exhibits on this year’s inductees followed by the inductions and performances by many of the inductees themselves. At The Met will be a posthumous salute to Nelson Eddy, along with inductions of non-performer Richard “Paco” Zimmer, a legendary tour manager for major bands and the prime creator of one of Rhode Island’s greatest nightclubs, the Center Stage in East Providence. George Wein, founder of the Newport Jazz and Fok Festivals, is also a member of the 2015 class. He unfortunately will not be able to make the ceremonies, but promises to be in RI in the summer where a presentation to him will be made.

As for the performers/musicians, this year we will induct classic ’60s “garage bands” (garage bands with hit records), The Others, The Ascots and George “Georgie Porgie” Leonard. Brenda Bennett, who cut her teeth with the Tombstone Blues Band in the 1960s and continued as a member of Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6 (who worked with Prince) will be inducted in a new “sidemen” category as the Martys, i.e., bassist, Marty Ballou and drummer, Marty Richards, two the of the busiest sidemen in the business who have worked with jazz, blues and rock acts from the Gary Burton to Joe Perry to John Hammond to Peter Wolf, Roomful of Blues and too many to mention here.

And finally, one of RI’s most popular bands, The Schemers (who morphed into the Raindogs, who will also be honored) and the primary singer/songwriter with these bands, Mark Cutler, will be inducted. All of these bands and musicians will perform sets at the induction ceremony and, for those who care about RI music, this is a “must.” (Disclosure: Jorge, aka Rudy Cheeks, is on the RIMHOF board of directors).

HMS Gaspee

Most Vo Dilanduhs have heard of the Gaspee and its importance in American history (the ship burned in Pawtuxet Cover by angry patriots years before the Boston Tea Party). But to get a fuller view of the whole story — its relation to the slave trade, for instance — see the 51-minute documentary film, Aaron Briggs and the HMS Gaspee by Andrew Stewart, a young Rhode Islander who spent years putting this whole thing together. It is now available through Amazon Instant Video and we highly recommend it.




DareMe: Becoming a Sparkling Beatnik — There Will Be A Show

beatnikHi Katie,

Writing to see if you’d be interested in “infiltrating” the Empire Revue for the November “Behind the Scenes” show. We’d have you attend a couple of rehearsals, and put you in a sketch, plus the closing song. We thought, if it’s cool with you and Motif, that this could be your dare for the month.

What do you think?

Cheers

Keith Munslow

– sent Oct 7, 6:42pm, aka, my birthday

My heart stopped. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Empire Revue, it is a variety show that takes place on the first Sunday of every month. It is a mixture of sketch comedy and guest acts — usually musicians or comedians. The reason I nearly had a heart attack after reading that message was because in two and a half years I’ve yet to miss a show and being asked to be a part of it made me jumping-up-and-down happy as well as sick to my stomach. Most of my dares revolve around getting reactions from strangers; this was going to be a dare for my mind because it was gonna force me to overcome some intense fears. I do a lot of crazy things. You may even call me fearless. However, I’m saddled with severe social anxiety. I have so much trouble with my anxiety that if I get too nervous I evict my stomach contents. The thought of acting with these amazing people I’ve watched for three years made me nervous. The thought of singing in front of any of them made me want to lie down in the fetal position and cry. I almost did not take the dare due to nerves; however, it’s basically my job to make myself as uncomfortable as possible for your entertainment, and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If I didn’t take it I’d be kicking myself  for the rest of my life.

Challenge accepted!! 

Katie Lewis

– sent Oct 7, 6:46pm

The Empire Revue revolves around a core acting group named the Sparkling Beatniks. This group consists of Eric Fulford, Kate Teichman, Casey Reagan, Tom Rajt, Alan Souza,Kelly Seigh, Melissa Bowler, Nicky Mariani and Sam Bell. Then the house band playing between sets is one of my personal favorites, Superchief Trio, which consists of Pam Murray, Joe Potenza, Johnny Cote and the man behind the piano running the show, Mr. Keith Munslow.

Heading to my first rehearsal I arrived at AS220 at 6:30pm on the dot. My knees clacking together with anxiety while I stepped into the performance space, stage manager Nicky Mariani, probably seeing nervousness painted across my face, scooped me up and introduced me to all the beatniks. Shaking hands and introducing myself was such a strange feeling. These are people who I’ve seen act for years and they had no idea who I was other than that girl who wore bathing suits, Halloween costumes and even duct tape to their show. That starstruck feeling settled in as the beatniks conversed pre-rehearsal. Kate Teichman came over and asked, “How ya’ doing?” Words started spilling out of my mouth as if I was dying to tell someone, but also trying to convince myself I was fine.

“Good. Good. Nervous. But good. It’s just that I come to the show all the time and I’m really nervous to be in the show with you guys and I’m just nervous,” I said. Kate smiled and playfully rolled her eyes. ”We’re just a bunch of goofs here. Don’t worry. Leave the anxiety at the door.”

Just then, director and master of ceremonies Keith Munslow walked in. As he began setting up his Nord keyboard, the beatniks scrambled to set up tables and chairs for the group. As everyone came to sit around the table, I found a comfortable spot between Nicky and Kate. Keith explained my purpose to the group, and then they got right to work. Nicky took notes on what skits needed to be written and what needed work. Everyone split up into groups — approximately three per group — to work on writing. I had writing of my own to do. I wandered from group to group observing and taking notes. I was particularly excited to watch as Keith, Nicky and Tom pieced together lyrics creating the closing song, which has always been my favorite part of the revue. As the Beatniks finished their group work, they began to gather around the piano to help sing and write. I sat there in amazement thinking, “Are they speaking a secret music language?” It’s baffling, The wheels turn so fast in the minds of these creative individuals.

The song was finished and we did a full sing-through. I recorded it on my phone so I could listen and learn it for next week. I had a feeling that my memorization skills were not as developed as those in my company. Next on the list was to watch the Beatniks perform their pieces. Keith as director got the first crack at suggestions, then the rest of the Beatniks gave their two cents. They work so perfectly together; they are receptive and grateful for input and pat each other on the back whenever something comes out perfect. Before I knew it, my first rehearsal had come to an end.

As I packed up my notebook, the tone of the room slightly saddened, and the Beatniks’ faces washed over with concern. I realized they were talking about the Empire Revue’s very own star Melissa Bowler who had taken ill. The Beatniks chatted about how she was doing and who had paid her a visit. I felt oddly out of place in a room where such a personal topic was being discussed; however, it took all my energy not to tear up. Although I knew very little about Melissa, other than she was amazing in every form of entertainment she ever tried, I realized that we shared a similar problem. In that moment I was able to relate to what she was probably feeling. Through the years my health has been bad and even though my family has been there for me, I have felt very alone at times. Seeing the love written on the Beatniks’ faces, I could tell that they would do anything for Melissa. That warmed my heart  when I realized that the Sparkling Beatniks are so much more than an acting troupe — they are family.

A couple of days later, I noticed my hair was really long, but I couldn’t afford a haircut. So I did what any mature 22-year-old girl would do. I complained about it on Facebook. I got a lot more replies than expected, one of which was from Melissa Bowler offering to cut my hair on stage at the Revue! Should I trust her with my hair? Well, I never was one to turn down a possibly fun/awkward moment. And bam! My haircut was written into the show.

A week later I attended my second rehearsal. I walked through the doors slightly more confident, having taken the first leap already. All the Beatniks came back with their skits transformed, knowing exactly what their adoring crowd wanted for comedy and how to deliver. A couple skits still needed revising, so the Beatniks split into groups. Once again, I wandered between the groups wondering how they put on this amazing show with only four rehearsals. I was particularly intrigued by a sketch that Kate Tichman and Casey Reagan were working on that spoofed a romance novel. Funny and sexy seemed hard to pull off at the same time, but these two masterminds pulled it off beautifully.

Now was the moment I was dreading. It was time to be put up on stage and placed into a skit. I’ve done some acting in the past, but this was a whole different ballgame. What I never knew about the Empire Revue is that a lot of their writing is improvised. Why wouldn’t it be? The Beatniks are master improv performers. But thinking on my toes? Not my strongest suit. So there I am, sitting on stage, dead silent as Eric Fulford attempted to improvise with me. The poor guy just kept talking and talking, waiting for me to interject, which I never did. I just kept staring and nodding at whatever he said. Keith eventually cut in, realizing I needed clear instruction. I ended up in two scenes — one with Kate and Tom as a waitress in a cafe and then one with Eric as his patient. I now knew what to say and when I was on. The worst was over.

Before I knew it, rehearsal was over. I could have stayed forever watching and learning.

Sunday had arrived, the day of the show. It was 10:30am I was ready for morning rehearsal with all my costume gear in tow. We did a full run-through of all the skits and I was pumped. Stuart Wilson came in to help with choreography for the closing song. He gave me a ride home after rehearsal and I explained to him how nervous I was, and asked if he thought it was a good idea to let Melissa cut my hair. Stuart told me everyone is nervous their first time in the Revue,which I guess is true because every Beatnik I confided in shared a similar experience. Stuart talked about his experience with the show and told me how much he enjoyed being a part of the Revue whether with costume design, choreography or acting. “Keith is someone who will always help you out. He sets you up for success,” Stuart said.

It was 6pm; the show was only two hours away! I went back to AS220 and watched as the band learned new songs on the fly. I helped the cast raid the Empire Revue closet for costumes and I was even awarded my very own bright red Sparkling Beatnik t-shirt! When Melissa arrived looking amazing, she asked me about what we were doing for the haircut. I told her I wanted layers and she assured me, “That’s easy. I looked it up on YouTube. It takes like 20 seconds.”

We were all business while we talked about the skits, but all I could think about was how much I wanted to share my health problems with her. With no chance of stopping it, the words bolted from my vocal cords, past my teeth, off the tip of my tongue and out of my mouth. I spilled how I heard she wasn’t feeling well, and I knew what she was going through, and I’ve been there, and if you ever want to talk about it I’m here. She seemed a little bit shocked that I was so forward with my troubles and I’m not sure if all that came out of me with the hope of making her feel better or me feel better. Feeling alone is the worst feeling in the world. Sometimes having someone tell you their story is the exact medicine you need.

I waited downstairs in the green room. Guest stars, comedians and musicians began to arrive. The show started. I could hear the band playing that song that I’ve heard a million times. I heard Eric Fulford giving his introduction announcing the Sparkling Beatniks’ names and I waited with anticipation to hear my own. I put on my white apron for my first scene as a waitress. Done! It went off without a hitch. Next up was the doctor scene. I just got to tell you I make a hospital Johnny look good! Then came the haircutting portion of the evening. I was nervous, but putting 100% trust in Melissa. We stepped out on stage and I took a seat in the high top stool that was waiting for me. Melissa was on stage having a couple of whiskeys and saying that this could be a disaster. I felt her begin to twist my hair on the top of my head into a ponytail. Not being able to see what she was doing was a little nerve-wracking, and all I could hear was the audience laughing. I felt her take a fistful of hair  and chop it off. The audience gasped, but my hair came out pretty fabulous, I’ve got to say. Well done, Melissa!

beatbujIt was time to do the closing song so I got up on stage and had a blast! Then it was curtain call and the pictures show me smiling ear to ear like I just had the best day of my life. When exiting stage left, a strange feeling hit. It’s over? I don’t want it to be over yet. That was so much fun! I want to do more! I want to see more! I want to sing more! I was riding on an all time high and I was ready for another hit.

I greeted my parents and boyfriend in the audience and they told me what they thought and how excited they were for me. Then we sat at the bar as we always do after an Empire Revue drinking Moscow Mules. Life was good. Before too long it was time to say my goodbyes and thank yous.

This was one of the craziest, most fun, fantastic dares I’ve ever done. If you’ve seen me wear duct tape and have seen my modeling pictures, you might wonder if acting was really that difficult. But this was a personal fear for me to get over and I did it and I loved every second of it. The most amazing part of being a part of the Revue was not seeing how fast they can write or how witty they all are, but it was seeing how strong the bond is between all of them. Seeing that they are in fact a family, and they stick together and produce a show every month without fail for eight years. As the closing song said, “Come hell or high waters, there will be a show.”

The Empire Revue continues to perform the first Sunday of every month at AS220. They will also performing their second annual New Year’s Eve show titled “Ring in the Night.” The show will start at 10pm; however, there will be activities all day.

I can’t thank the Beatniks enough for inviting me to be a part of this show and for sharing their stories with me. It’s been a pleasure.

Check out the show! youtu.be/aCsePuLf2GU




A Stereotype Guide to Ending Cannabis Prohibition

mjguideWith the midterm elections taking place in November, politicians across the nation have been hitting the campaign trail hard; shaking hands and kissing babies. They are out “trick-or-treating,” looking to discuss the Affordable Care Act, unemployment rates, public assistance and how they need our help to make our communities better places to live (and maybe score some candy).

Now it seems that the latest “posh” Halloween costume for these politicians has come in the guise of the Cannabis Abolitionist. They like to focus on a few staple topics that revolve around preventing access to minors, providing tax revenue and social disparity in the justice system; all topics that weigh heavily on the working class family. Indeed, the lower income demographics are by far the most affected by such social injustices, which are perpetrated by the U.S. War on Drugs. However, I do not believe that this is the demographic that is going to sway public opinion in one way or another, nor do I believe that this is the demographic that is going to make the difference at the polls.

If you look at data collected from the US Government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive (SAMHDA) and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2012, you can see an extreme contradiction to what cannabis prohibitionists and the government have been telling us for over 75 years. Cannabis is not a low-income, minority based epidemic. Even though marijuana arrest and incarceration rates are disproportionately biased toward minorities, the use of cannabis is equally consistent among white people and spans a multitude of demographics.

Of everyone in the U.S. who has reportedly tried marijuana, 76% are white and only 11% are black. However, when marijuana users are divided by race, whites and blacks have tried it at about the same rate (38-39%). In addition, the relation between cannabis use and different income levels is almost non existent, with 38% of all people who earn less than $75,000 having tried marijuana, compared to 39% of those who earn over that amount. Finally, the age demographic to participate in cannabis use the most is between the ages of 26 and 34, at 55%. Ages 18 to 25 fall close behind at 52%, with 35- to 49-year-olds coming in third, at nearly 50%. Only 37% of those over the age of 50 have ever smoked pot. The gender gap is fairly narrow between males and females as well, with 47% of all men and 38% of all women having tried cannabis. Therefore, attempting to create a generalized profile for those who smoke cannabis becomes quite a challenge, as there is an equal chance that anyone under the age of 50 from any walk of life has smoked pot as there is that they haven’t.

Studying the information gathered from the census reports (as well as exit polls conducted by Edison Research of Somerville, N.J., for the National Election Pool) we can define a more appropriate target demographic for the campaign to end marijuana prohibition. When broken down by race, the voting demographic is directly proportionate to the demographic of those who smoke weed. The white demographic made up 72% of the total vote for the 2012 elections. African Americans made up 13% of the vote, with the hispanic demographic coming in third at 10%. Asians and all other races made up the remaining 5% of the voter turnout. Does this mean that everyone who smoked marijuana voted? I highly doubt it (no pun intended) but it does raise the question, “How can the minority vote be persuaded to become more engaged in the political system?”

I believe this is the reasoning behind a misguided concentration on the minority population, by people advocating an end to prohibition. There has always been an assumption that the minority communities have more of a stake in the cannabis movement because statistics show that they are more likely to be implicated in criminal activities by the authorities. However, this does not in any way represent the majority of the cannabis community. Indeed these communities would benefit the most from such changes to marijuana prohibition, but judging by the voter turnout from past elections, even if this demographic doubled their political involvement toward an end to prohibition, this would not be enough to sway an outcome.

If you take into account the age demographics for past major elections, there is another interesting parallel to be drawn. Voter turnout by age was the highest between 40 – 64 year olds, at 48%.  30 – 39 year olds brought in 17% of the vote, followed by 16% from those over the age of 65. The 18 – 24 year old demographic brought in 11% of the vote, with only 8% coming from the group ages 25 – 29.  The elderly community (as well as that 30 – 39 age group) represent the second highest turnouts for voter activity at the polls.  However, these two demographics represent the lowest groups for those who have actually used marijuana.

I find the elderly demographic to be the most surprising, especially with the major advancements that have been found with cannabis use in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. This is a group that has been molded by more than sixty years of anti-cannabis propaganda and it could be argued that they are likely set in their beliefs. They tend to represent old Republican ideals and come from a generation that has always viewed the use of drugs as an ugly mark on our society.  This generation will eventually be replaced by those 40 – 64 year olds, who dictate the current elections and are not as opposed to the current views and science that surround cannabis use.

Finally, we can review the income demographic that participated in the last presidential election. Voter turnout in 2012 was far higher for those who earned above $75,000 (at 77%) than it was for those who made less than $50,000, which rose from 59% – 62% since 2008. Although there is a significantly larger number of Americans who earn under $50,000 annually, those in the higher income bracket vote in larger numbers.  Because of this fact, the percentage of the actual vote weighs in favor of the wealthy. This higher income demographic is where I see the largest potential to market the legalization campaign in the U.S.

If legalization efforts would provide more of a focus toward those people from higher income brackets, there is a chance that cannabis initiatives could gain some momentum at the polls.  I don’t believe that these initiatives are defeated due to a lack of conviction by those in low income areas or minorities that have been affected by the war on drugs.  I believe that the data, gathered over a multitude of election years, proves that voter participation “is what it is.”  The turnout may fluctuate from election to election, but over a ten year period, there are no consistent trends in any one direction. These figures provide a basic prediction of what to expect through each election and the predominant determining factor tends to be that high income, white people determine election outcomes.

For the cannabis initiative to have the highest success rate, groups need to focus their efforts on demonstrating an appeal to the high-income, white demographic.  To accomplish this goal, the effort will have to demonstrate that there is a proven potential to generate revenue.  Since it’s already been proven through various models of taxation and regulation around the world, including those in Colorado and Washington, there should be a plethora of persuasive information. If presented by the right people (see previous paragraph), there is a chance that those in the $75,000 and up category will finally put their money where their mouths are.

Considering that 39% of this demographic have smoked weed, I would imagine that they wouldn’t have any moral issues with legalization, yet they do not seem to be expressing their views on the ballots. Maybe their views would change if they saw a way to benefit from it? Not only has the marijuana industry generated more new employment opportunities in our staggering economy than any other U.S. industry in the past decade, but there are billions of dollars to be made in this new market. Without the support of the people who can fund these opportunities, the fruits of our labors will never grow.




Was It Worth It?

worth” Almost one-third of returning veterans are diagnosed with PTSD, and that is taking into account only those who honestly answer screening questionnaires and exams. A culture of silence, an omertà among warriors, regarding PTSD has long been a plague of the U.S. military.”

Along with hundreds of thousands of other veterans of the war in Al Anbar Province Iraq, I recently watched as Al Qaeda successfully captured the city of Fallujah, with Ramadi surely soon to follow. I watched as the same buildings I, and thousands of others, stood on now swarmed with mask-clad terrorists attempting to calm the local populace despite light resistance from local tribes. As I watched, the same angry sadness welled up inside me when anyone talks about Al Anbar for a bit too long. As they cheered on the TV in front of me in my warm suburban New England living room thousands of miles from those dirty streets, a stray tear fell and I thought about the friends who I lost and the ones I will continue to lose to the fighting that occurred on those streets. But for all the tears we who returned shed for our fallen brothers and sisters, we certainly are not out of danger, as the physical and mental tolls of deployments accumulate on our hearts and souls and strike us down like random bolts from vengeful gods. And when we see what is on TV right now, we have to ask ourselves, just what did we accomplish and at what cost?

Veterans’ health is an easy topic to make as bland as possible. It could read like a textbook entry in some vague college pre-med class – sterile, clean and full of detached pity. However, the health of our returning war fighters is anything but neatly packaged into various categories for the unknowing public to judge and lament at their leisure.

That red-blooded American youth returning from combat service in a foreign land can look forward to myriad health problems to plague him the rest of his life, long after glowing homecoming ceremonies and proud backslapping from relatives and neighbors subside. The nightmares and insomnia usually begin soon after coming home. They’re not even clear ones, but result in the kind of restless paranoid sleep that ends with a violent wakeup and fearful howl. Almost one-third of returning veterans are diagnosed with PTSD, and that is taking into account only those who honestly answer screening questionnaires and exams. A culture of silence, an omertà among warriors, regarding PTSD has long been a plague of the U.S. military. Too many fear diagnosis and treatment as a threat of being removed from units, placed on vague federal watchlists, or carrying a stigma of being mentally weak. And this culture of silence has led to epidemic levels of combat veteran suicides.

On the night of Easter Sunday 2011, I crawled into a bathtub in Middletown to die. I, like hundreds of thousands of other OIF and OEF veterans, had been diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety attacks. The symptoms of these, along with a growing addiction to the pills being fed to me to fight them, and a fierce thirst for alcohol that had become a bottle-a-day habit, left me a despondent mess barely able to hold together my personal life. I swallowed every pill in my cabinet and waited for the end. I fortunately survived that night; however, the majority of my brethren in arms who chose to take that last and horrible step when the pain, fear and loneliness overtook them just one time too many, did not.

Anger will also rot the homecoming hero – anger toward the enemy, other units, people back home we used to care for, anger toward wives, friends and even the dog. It is a burning, resentful anger that simmers deep and leads to problems with high blood pressure and anxiety throughout life. This anger and resentment often leads to substance abuse used silence demons and build a lubrication to the world around us. Unfortunately, self medication along with the zealous prescription of strong medications often leads to disaster.

But not to worry, fellow veterans, recent studies have noted a strong link between suffering from PTSD as a young person and developing dementia later in life. So, maybe one day we can look forward to at least forgetting what we are so angry about.

Despite the sexy popularity of PTSD awareness, and more recently TBI awareness, among Americans during our generation’s war, there exists in American society an entire generation of youth who are just plain broke down and tired. Combat service and training, especially among the infantry and combat support units, is a physically strenuous activity even among those not wounded in battle. Musculoskeletal injuries, chronic arthritis, torn ligaments and dislocated joints are commonplace in the warrior profession, and those coming home, despite being at the peak of health and fitness, may suddenly find themselves struggling to keep up with their peers who don’t deal with pain. These ailments, when coupled with an already higher than average national unemployment rate among vets, hinder many in finding the type of jobs essential to post-war reintegration.

Then we come to the mystery ailments that the paranoid veteran underground likes to speculate on. Vietnam saw Agent Orange, and The Desert Storm had Gulf War Sickness, but what will be our war’s enduring lethal legacy? The asbestos that filled every building we stepped in and blew apart? The long-term exposure to foreign pathogens and old world diseases that most Americans have never been exposed to? Or perhaps the murky legality that surrounded the suddenly mandatory anthrax inoculations that began in 2007?

My money has always been on the burn pits. Any of the older vets can tell you of the time when everything in Iraq was burned next to the outposts, sometimes feet from sleeping and eating areas. Wood, clothing, old electronics, human waste, food, any and all garbage, old meds – you name it, into the burn pit it went to constantly smolder and melt as we inhaled the fumes night and day. Lawsuits have already been filed by service members against the large corporations like KBR and Halliburton who maintained the large burn pits at the large bases in Iraq.

Iraq and Afghanistan are not easy wars to be veterans of, not that it’s easy to return home from any war. We deal with the misunderstood stigma of combat veterans being violent assholes. We deal with watching a war we fought come apart on the evening news. And we deal with a confusing and often incompetent system of healthcare from the V.A.

As one Rhode Island combat veteran told me, “You don’t get PTSD from going to war. You get it from coming home.”

Indeed.




2nd Story Previews Impressive Sons of the Prophet

 

2nd Story Theatre’s dominance of the East Bay continues as they solidify their expansion in Warren with a production of Stephen Karam’s 2012 Pulitzer finalist, Sons of the Prophet. Having just concluded a magnificent showing of Dancing at Lughnasa in the main theater (UpStage), 2nd Story’s new space downstairs (DownStage) follows the celebrated Lobby Hero with this intimate, yet expansive tragicomedy. 2nd Story is no stranger to Karam’s work, having delivered the exquisite Speech and Debate a few summers back, and Director Wendy Overly adds her distinctive touch to a piece that seems wild and mundane in one fell swoop. Motif was invited to attend the first preview performance to get a sense of what is in store for audiences by the time the show enters its official run. Regardless of how the piece gels and settles in after further performances, Overly and company have managed to fulfill Karam’s desire to illuminate suffering and loss with pointed humor and dogged perseverance.

Unlike the ebullient Speech and Debate, however, Sons sputters after its initial exposition peters out. The script concerns the Douaihys, a Lebanese-American family suffering compounded loss and adversity in the wastes of eastern Pennsylvania. The sons, Joseph and Charles, navigate the recent, somewhat bizarre loss of their parents as they struggle to care for their aged, ailing Uncle Bill. Both sons are gay, Uncle Bill is an ardent bigot and Joe’s acerbic employer, Gloria, is blackmailing him for a career boost (or prescription drugs … or both). This setup leads to a somewhat dizzying array of plot twists and amusing secondary characters as we glean what seem to be overtly autobiographical details from Karam’s script. What is set up as a cathartic race to the finish, symbolized most poignantly by Joseph’s phantom pains that have curbed his Olympic dreams, ends up more like a studied stroll across the finish line. Karam seems to tell us that life simply doesn’t work like a Lifetime movie – we laugh, we love, we die and everything in between can get very, very messy.

So it goes, and Overly’s cast takes a very difficult script and makes the most of it, succeeding, in some cases, spectacularly. Out of an overall solid cast, featuring many 2nd Story regulars (including Paula Faber who rallies to channel an inner Carol Burnett in a tour de force toward the end of the show), the standout here is Vince Petronio as the willfully inappropriate, yet heartfelt, Uncle Bill. While it would seem that Joseph’s Job-like struggles to frame his own suffering would be the play’s through line, it is Petronio’s Lebanese Archie Bunker who becomes a pivot point for all concerned. The two sons must care for him while struggling with their own issues: the loss of their parents, their socio-religious identity and the challenges of homosexuality in a small town. Gloria intrudes on their home and winds up as a sort of uneasy ally and Vin, the culprit of the accident that took away the family stability must seek acceptance, if not approbation,  from Bill more so than Joseph. This may not be what Karam intended, but his forceful, memorable performance serves to make the wonderfully realized chemistry between Joseph (an understated Jed Hancock-Brainerd) and Charles (a delightfully sardonic Andrew Iacovelli) subservient to Petronio’s grounded, yet perfectly crafted character work. Charles Lafond (seen recently in Counter Productions’ Speed the Plow) does a neat Anderson Cooper take while Sharon Carpentier and Susan Powers handle the background comic relief in a play that needs all it can get, lest we start weeping.

Trevor Elliot’s sets for 2nd Story never fail to amaze, and here, with Moe Assad, he delivers yet again. Audiences enter the DownStage space to a deceptively simple room, a two-tiered monolith that comes alive through clever use of projections and lighting with the flexibility of moveable set pieces and carefully choreographed changes that create a wide variety of tableaus. Lighting designer Steve McLellan creates pockets of reality within these confines and allows us to make the necessary leaps in time and space required to keep up with the constantly shifting scenes and scenarios. Special notice for costume designer Jessie Darrell Jarbadan, who manages to make the appalling Uncle Bill seem cuddly while Gloria’s awful, yet flattering dress in the first scene allows us to forgive the inanity of statements like, “You’re white the way a Jewish person is white.” The absurd is the norm in Nazareth, PA. Small towns hide a litany of stories and most of them are sad. We laugh at the plight of the Douaihys even though nothing truly funny is occurring. Tragedy wears a clown nose and bigotry wears animal prints. Sons of the Prophet may well be titled Sins of the Father, since no one here chose their suffering, only the manner in which they approach it. Wendy Overly and her cast didn’t write Karam’s hilarious, yet plodding script, but their choice in handling it triumphs over all adversity. DownStage at 2nd Story is shaping up to be a worthy companion to its UpStage predecessor; it may be time to schedule even more drives out to Warren and remember that some of the best professional theater in the state is way out on the East Bay.

2nd Story Theatre presents Stephen Karam’s Sons of the Prophet October 31 through November 24th in their DownStage playing space. 28 Market Street, Warren, RI, 02885. Call 401-247-4200 or visit http://2ndstorytheatre.com/downstage/#/sons-of-the-prophet for more tickets and information.

 




A Breach of Trust

 

Veterans aren’t being granted proper disability care

armySlideThe recent turmoil and bitter division left by the federal shutdown reverberated throughout the nation. We find battle lines drawn by anger-shaking hands on both sides over almost every domestic issue. Social media is almost unbearable in the midst of such crisis. Wannabe expert pundits squabble over issues in comment threads and blog posts as if the very fate of the Republic lay at stake. And in the middle of such crippling indecision and impotent rage, an unexpected group suddenly found itself threatened: U.S. military veterans.

On October 9, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs secretary Eric Shinseki announced that if the government shutdown continued much longer, he would be unable to send out November disability checks to 3.8 million American veterans, and just under 500,000 surviving spouses or children. In all, nearly 6 billion dollars in payments to disabled veterans, surviving spouses, and children was shamefully put onto the chopping block, with all the world to see. This act, if it came to pass, would have had vast social and financial repercussions, and may have impacted civil peace. Luckily, this crisis, along with countless others, was narrowly averted in a midnight hour deal to keep the government running for a short amount of time.

Yet, what lies next for the veteran? Will every time our two political parties come to ideological blows over an issue, the failsafe in place to make sure millions of men and women who sweat and bled for our nation — sacrificing limbs, health, marriages, jobs, and sometimes their very sanity — be threatened? Will that 30-year-old National Guardsman who lost his arms in a dark, dirty, smoke-filled hell be able to feed his children next month, or make his rent payment when squabbling millionaire politicians draw a hard line to appease fanatical factions? What about that 21-year-old Marine who wakes thrashing, night after night, for years after returning safely home with a scream in his throat and utter panic seeping into his brain? What happens to him when that small check that keeps him in a warm bed at night suddenly is threatened? We saw exactly what happened after Vietnam — mass homelessness, unemployment, drug abuse, and indeed an entire generation of Americans needlessly lost. Not the ones who fell on the battlefield —  their loss was still sharp and painful to our psyche — but to the generation who made it home just in time to see us turn our backs on them.

One of the benchmarks of any truly great society is how they treat the citizens who bled to protect that society when it wasn’t so great. Our grandfathers came home from WWII and Korea hailed as the greatest generation that has ever called itself American, and our country flourished. Those recently discharged heroes came home to a booming economy, plentiful jobs, and numerous opportunities to achieve the American dream. Our uncles went to Vietnam, and came home mocked and ashamed and angry. Funding for veterans’ care was almost non-existent, and the stigma of post-traumatic stress disorder still ran rampant. And our nation entered some of its darkest times. We, the public, learned our post-Vietnam lesson for the most part, however. Despite varying levels of popularity over the past decade regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we as an American populace have rallied behind our fighting men and women. Now it is time for the government to do so as well.

Though the average age of a U.S. war veteran is still past 60, there are millions of Iraq and Afghanistan vets in society today. These are not the grandparents in high pants and sweet old man veteran hats at the grocery store that most think of when you say the word “veteran.” These are 20-somethings who grew up in the 90s and early 2000s. They watched SNICK and bought the first iPods and went to war with Facebook accounts. They made the choice to join the largest all-volunteer conflict in U.S. history, the earlier waves pushed by the horrors of 9/11, and later many sought the military as a chance to escape the cancer of recession that was rotting away at our economy. Whatever the reason for joining, they went. They went and did an unpopular, extremely difficult, and misunderstood job in a distant land. Now that they’re home, the hint that the benefits these warriors rely on to provide stability to themselves and their family as they recover and rehabilitate from the horrors of war are being threatened is beyond shameful. It is an utter breach of trust to those who placed their faith in their nation enough to put their lives on the line daily to ensure its survival.

It is a dark and trying time for our country. We are struggling to come to grips with our own waning strength and divisions. The next generation of Americans will inherit a nation struggling to break free of the 20th century and remain a superpower not just in size, strength, and numbers, but in national spirit. Never again must the security of our returning war fighters be called into question. Never again must we contemplate betraying those who have sacrificed so greatly.




Right To Work Means Left Behind

right to work

Will fair practice be jeopardized if  RI adopts Right to Work?

Right-to-work laws are a deliberate means by which to limit workers’ and employers’ freedom of contract negotiation. Furthermore, and contrary to propaganda, they do not belong in a free society. The enactment of a right-to-work law is an attack against the labor movement and against common sense.

Unions: A collective bargaining agreement is designed and sanctioned as a mutual contract to ensure fair practice from both employers and employees. Part of the union-employer agreement commits the employer to ensure that newly hired workers join the union within a specified period. Right-to-work laws ban these requirements for employees to become dues-paying union members. When a legislature interferes with voluntary employment contracts, it infringes on people’s freedom to bargain with their own labor and possessions. The adoption of right-to-work laws endorses the licensing of arbitrary interventions into the market by politicians.were legislatively enacted by two primary congressional acts. The Wagner Act of 1935, which officially gave workers the right to join a union, and the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which outlawed the closed shop as well as the “union shop,” meaning a workplace where the employer could hire anyone it wanted, but you had to join a union after you were hired. These legislative measures were supposed to create a system that was generally inviting to collective bargaining, but did not dictate any of the terms. The concept was that the government would develop and oversee procedures for negotiations, but the details of employment contracts themselves would be negotiated by both parties. Without Taft-Hartley, unions faced the problem of the “free-rider.” Employees could exploit the services and benefits of union membership, including negotiation of wages, workplace health and safety, and representation before management, without paying for it. Taft-Hartley made organizing much more feasible because it eliminated the question of the dues-paying member, “Why should I pay union dues if my fellow workers do not?”

The argument in favor of right-to-work laws is a self-defeating proposition encouraging a race to the lowest common denominator for the majority of workers. If a state doesn’t undercut unions, it will lose jobs to those states that already have right-to-work laws. A parallel theme for states and local governments has been handing out billions in tax breaks to employers looking to expand or relocate, out of fear that if they do not redistribute public money, someone else will, and thus win the jobs. Both are destructive practices and, from a national perspective, detrimental to economic development. With both forms of surreptitious corporate welfare, the only winners are the employers and shareholders. The losers are the vast majority of working class citizens. The workers face lower wages. The local governments lose tax revenue. The communities ultimately encounter a loss in economic stability. However, the small percentage who profit from the lowering of standards for working Americans want nothing more than to weaken the power of labor and their unions by using right-to-work laws.

Corporate-influenced right-to-work laws are a partisan political ploy that torpedoes the basic rights of workers. By demonizing and weakening unions, these laws lower wages and living standards for all workers in the affected state. According to recent statistics provided by the Economic Policy Institute, workers in right-to-work states earn an average of $5,680 less per year than workers in other states. Furthermore, according to US Census Bureau results, household median income in states with these laws is $6,437 less than in other states ($46,402 vs. $52,839) and poverty rates are higher by a difference of 15.3 percent to 13.1 percent overall. And, a surprising and frightening statistic, determined by a national AFL-CIO study, is a worker mortality rate of 36 percent higher in states with right-to-work. Right-to-work for less? Right-to-work to death?

The argument for right-to-work often proposed and endorsed by conservative politicians, wealthy corporations and right-wing organizations (such as the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity) is promoting free enterprise and freedom for workers to choose not to join a union and pay union dues. However, supporting a free society means embracing people’s freedom to form unions. And it means acknowledging that unions – and union shop agreements – can offer both unions and employers something valuable. Lest we forget, corporate interests rarely resemble the interests of the majority of working Americans, upon whose back their fortunes are made. Rather, they lobby elected officials to support and enact corporate interests, i.e., right-to-work. Unions, on the other hand, are the lobbyists for the people.

 




A New Plague on Our Youth

weed

Despite big strides toward legalization, keeping marijuana out of the hands of our youth remains vital.

The US Justice Department issued a statement on August 29, 2013, declaring that they will not interfere with states’ rights to implement independent, structured regulatory systems for legalized Mary Jane. This leads some to fear that a new threat to society is upon us. Could tour enthusiastic approach toward the substance most commonly associated with the drug war be sending the wrong message? Are we paving the road to America’s future with the ambitions of America’s youth?

While proponents to end marijuana prohibition take to the streets, rallying for “cannabis friendly” laws, parents tremble behind closed doors. Could this be the beginning of a new epidemic, poisoning the minds of upcoming generations of entrepreneurs and leaders?

Let us begin this discussion with the undeniable fact that not one single death has ever been directly related to the use of marijuana. Though this lends credence to the idea that marijuana is a relatively harmless drug, it does not take into consideration other, surrounding factors of reefer ingestion, which include impaired judgment, impaired motor skills, potential for addiction and other adverse effects. Though these reactions are not common in most cannabis users, there seems to be growing evidence of such cases appearing among teens who began experimentation with marijuana at an early age.

A current misconception among America’s youth is leading to the highest percentage of teen marijuana use this nation has ever seen. This misconception lies in the majority consensus that marijuana is not only safe to use, but also has positive effects.  Though not completely untrue, there is a level of risk associated with cannabis exposure to a brain that is not yet fully developed.

There is also a lack of understanding about how one can receive many of the beneficial effects of cannabis, which is based on the consumption of proteins, oils and other nutritional aspects of the hemp plant – and not the ingestion of THC. When you consider the numerous tales of success surrounding medicinal marijuana research and medical cases (https://motifri.com/meeting-your-child-for-the-first-time ), it is easy to understand where this misconception may come from.

Many of the children who experiment with marijuana do so with the genuine naivete and ignorance that is common among teens, provoked by an inability to fully understand the potential risks and consequences of their actions. This puts adolescents at a high risk for addiction, anxiety, and sociological or developmental disorders.

To understand this, consider not only the obvious social aspects, but also the science behind the development of the adolescent brain. Adolescent brains have well developed rewards centers, allowing them to experience reward and pleasure in the same manner as adults. Unfortunately, the section of the brain that deals with self-control, managing impulses, thinking ahead and organization is not fully developed until age 24*.  Coupled with the inability of the adolescent brain to reproduce cannabinoids at the same pace as an adult brain, teen pot smokers tend to seek out alternative methods to replace the depleted cannabinoids. This can naturally lead to repetitive marijuana use, helping to explain the high rate of abuse and addiction in low-age cannabis users.

But it doesn’t explain the reasoning behind why more teens are experimenting with marijuana in the first place.

Recent studies, however, have shown that this trend – increased teen marijuana experimentation – is actually moving in the opposite direction in states where marijuana reform has taken effect. I believe that this can be attributed to a willingness to engage in a fact-based and honest conversation with children, rather than using fear tactics and misinformation to discourage drug use. Communication based on honesty and trust encourages healthy growth and communication between youths, authority figures and role models alike.

Based on the simple law of action*, if a concept is supported by concrete facts and examples, the presentation of future concepts will be that much more easily accepted. When these concepts are not supported with concrete evidence, or seem biased, future concepts will be more heavily scrutinized and questioned, provoking rebellious behavior. This is especially true in younger people. In the case of marijuana prohibition, the truth is so simple that it is basically more difficult to fabricate lies. These resulting lies are becoming more and more obvious to a media-aware, information-based generation.

The truth is that smoking cannabis is where most of the health dangers lie. There are other, safer methods used to medicate, but those who have not been exposed to a marijuana-friendly society do not commonly know about these. I don’t mean to imply that these other methods eliminate the dangers to children. It is my belief that any person under the age of 21 should avoid any drug, at all costs. Though the dangers are fewer at later ages, exposure to any drug can produce adverse effects, especially when used inappropriately or mixed with other substances.

There is a lot more research to be done on this topic. The current federal administration has finally set a precedent that will allow such research to happen – without fear of prosecution – as long as it is done responsibly and with respect for the priorities defined by the law. But as this research develops, we can demonstrate that honesty is the most valuable tool available for protecting our youth.

It is time for lies about marijuana to end. This is a drug that has been used by both presidents and peasants. Artists, philosophers, athletes and world leaders have all admitted to their experiences with cannabis; some have even embraced it as an inspirational factor in their achievements. As parents, we are only hurting ourselves if we continue to hide these facts from our children. Not only that, but we are exposing them to an epidemic more dangerous than weed – an epidemic of lies and deception – the true new world plague.

Sources:

•             Office of National Drug Control Policy • Marijuana Myths & Facts • 2012

•             NORML • Marijuana Health Mythology • Dale Gieringer, Ph.D. • June, 1984

•             CNN • Weed • Dr. Sanjay Gupta • 8/11/2013




Meeting Your Child for the First Time

Medical Marijuana soothing Epilepsy in young children

There is a list of debilitating conditions associated with child development, which are, for the most part, currently untreatable in this country.  Many of these, such as Doose Syndrome, Dravet Syndrome, Infantile Spasm Syndrome and Rett Syndrome, have some terrifying symptoms, like a variety of developmental disorders as well as seizures. As a result, those affected by these conditions find it challenging just to meet their basic needs. Many of these children will lose their abilities to walk, talk, use their hands and even eat. It is a sad reality to which no family or child should ever be exposed.

Those who have severe conditions may have life threatening symptoms. Frequent seizures can cause brain damage, breathing problems, heart palpitations and even death.  There are many pharmaceuticals available to treat these disorders, though none have been proven to work for extended periods of time, and many have proven to cause other worrisome side effects – some even have made the symptoms worse.  Fortunately, extensive research is being conducted in the United States that presents parents with an alternative treatment for their children.  Unfortunately, for many,

I say “unfortunately” because there is a stigma associated with the cannabis plant that convinced society it is a very dangerous drug with a high potential for abuse.  Unlike pharmaceuticals, cannabis is not an FDA-approved treatment for anything and is illegal in all but 21 states, making it unavailable on a national level and leaving those who undertake such treatments exposed to prosecution on a federal level. And the rallying cry for those who oppose medical marijuana use is that they worry about the message presented to children in states where the way to handle the drug topic is not so clearly defined. This rallying cry will only grow louder when the question of whether it is t treatment is marijuana.

the question of whether its acceptable to prescribe a recreational drug to a minor for medical purposes comes up. Some believe this type of legislation will promote the use of marijuana to minors and encourage recreational marijuana use in society.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many foundations, institutes and research facilities that have done intensive studies on the medical benefits of cannabis. Some of these, such as the Realm of Caring, founded by Colorado’s Stanley Brothers, have even specialized in developing treatments that could provide relief to children who suffer from some of these debilitating conditions. In this research, there have been major efforts to isolate the compounds of the cannabis plant, such as CBD (or Cannabidiol, the less psychoactive, more medicinal compound of the marijuana plant), and breed new strains of cannabis that will not get a person high. In fact, Dr. Margaret Gedde of the Clinician’s Institute for Cannabis Medicine says that the marijuana plant, when bred in such a manner, can actually “dial down nerve stimulation and stop seizures, without getting kids stoned.”[NBC, Today Show, Nancy Synderman, July 10, 2013]

On the Realm of Caring website (www.realmofcaringfoundation.org), there are stories of families who have successfully
treated their children with medicinal marijuana. One such story was aired on CNN (Sunday, August 11th) in a documentary titled “Weed,” in which Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who was formerly opposed to the concept of medicinal marijuana, spent a year investigating the medicinal benefits that are currently under debate in this country. This story was about a little girl named Charlotte, who was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a catastrophic form of epilepsy that is very rare, but deadly to children. This poor child suffered more than 300 tonic clonic seizures per week, some of which lasted for more than an hour, as her family watched helplessly, praying for a miracle that could save their daughter.

Charlotte’s condition continued to worsen, as none of the prescribed pharmaceuticals or conventional treatments were helping.  She had a significant decline in cognitive/motor skills, struggled to walk and talk, has brain damage, and had to be fed through a surgically placed feeding tube in order to get any nourishment, food or water. The Figi family was convinced that they had exhausted all of their options and eventually were advised that the most humane thing to do for their daughter would be to place her on a “Do Not Resuscitate” order. That’s when they began to search for other, less conventional options.

Paige Figi, Charlotte’s mother, heard of a California parent who treated her epileptic child with cannabis. The Figis lived in Colorado, which is a medicinal marijuana state, so Paige decided that it would be worthwhile to investigate and see what facts she could discover about cannabis as a treatment for her daughter. She found cases of children being treated for epilepsy with medicinal marijuana. Not only that, but she also discovered that there was a way to medicate children without them having to smoke the drug and without exposing the patient to the psychoactive side effects associated with THC. It didn’t take long for Paige to “change her opinion of marijuana as an illegal, recreational drug to an understanding of cannabis as a viable medical therapy.”

Once convinced that she was going to explore this alternative treatment for her daughter, Paige needed to find a dispensary that could provide her with medicinal marijuana that was high in CBD, yet low in THC. This is when Paige discovered the Stanley Brothers, who were experimenting with high CBD strains and had access to a large amount of what Paige was looking for. To add to the excitement, no one wanted the high CBD strain that the Stanley’s cultivated because it lacked the psychoactive ingredient that patients usually seek in medicinal marijuana strains. Fate provided Paige and Charlotte with the miracle that they so badly needed.

After the first week of treatment, Charlotte went seven days seizure-free. Eight months after her treatments began, Charlotte experienced a 99 percent reduction in seizure activity, among other benefits.

“Charlotte eats and drinks on her own now, despite being tube-fed for more than a year. For the first time ever, she sleeps through the night. Her severe autism-like behaviors of self-injury, stimming, crying, violence, no eye contact, lack of social contact … are all things of the past.” She is a happy child now, who has friends, plays with her sisters, rides horses, dances and smiles. These treatments not only stopped the advance of Charlotte’s disability, but began to repair the damage. It was as if the Figis were meeting their real daughter for the very first time.

There are still great obstacles to overcome in providing medicinal marijuana to patients in need. The Stanleys founded the Realm of Caring Foundation in an attempt to encourage and provide more research in this field and a better quality of life for those suffering from similar ailments. More than 40 children since Charlotte have been treated with the Stanley’s high CBD strain and almost all have experienced similar, positive effects. All but one of the 40 children were actually freed from the pharmaceuticals they were previously prescribed. However, there is still an uphill battle that must be fought to educate those who have not witnessed the miracles that cannabis provided for those who have lost all other hope.

I encourage everyone to visit the Realm of Caring website and explore the stories and testimonials provided there. There are children all over the world who are in need of their own miracles, but are being deprived of treatment because of a lack of knowledge and a lack of available resources. The Realm of Caring Foundation has great resources for those seeking knowledge or help or who just want to volunteer and make a difference. If after visiting this page and reading the stories about these special children and their families you are not convinced that marijuana is a legitimate treatment that needs dedicated and adequate research to explore the full potential of its benefits, than you most likely never will. However, if you’re anything like me or any of the families affected by these miracles, I predict that you will want to get involved and help the thousands of other parents affected by children with disabilities meet their children for the very first time.

From the pages of 13 Folds Magazine.




Live Bait: The Love of my Life

By Ali Walsh

If someone asked you to tell a story about the love of your life, what story would you tell them? The audience at Live Bait this past weekend came up with a lot of heartfelt, interesting, and hilarious stories to share.

Live Bait is an open forum that allows anyone that shows up to tell a story regarding the theme of the night. All they have to do is put their name in the fishbowl and stand up in front of everyone when their name is called. There are no notes, no performers and no acts, only real people telling true-life stories.

Phil Goldman, aka The Host, started Live Bait in 2008 as a “half-baked idea,” as he describes it. He thought of an event where a group of open-minded, positive people can come together to talk about pretty much whatever they wanted to share. When he told his friends that someone should start something like that, they responded, “So do it.” Five years later, Live Bait has gained a large following.

This past Saturday was a big night for the show. Not only was the organization celebrating their fifth anniversary, but Live Bait Phil Goldman and timekeeper Tricia “The Wolf” Goldman also celebrated their first wedding anniversary. Cake was provided to the audience upon entry.

Each storyteller gets six minutes to tell their tale. If they go over, they will be cut off by the bell. Rant and ramblers need not apply.

The theme of “the love of my life,” didn’t simply produce cute stories of how lovers met, quarreled and lived happily ever after. While these types of stories were told, they were in short supply. There were  stories of children’s love for their parents as well as their parents’ love in their second marriages. One storyteller shared his love for Rhode Island and another simply talked about loving life. The most touching story of the night was shared by a Live Bait regular, who talked about the birth of his newborn daughter. A story everyone thought was going to be sweet ended up being suspenseful and scary, but magical all the same. It brought the audience to tears and a standing ovation.

Live Bait happens once a month, with a new theme every time. The next one will be taking place on August 2, with the theme “Losing My Cool.”

No matter the theme, the stories are always incredible. From tales of heartbreak to love, betrayal to comedy, and scary to hilarious, many people have stories to tell. And this is the perfect place to share them.

Learn what’s next at Live Bait: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Live-Bait-True-Stories-from-Real-People/130065654016