Saturday, October 1, 2016

Bill Bricker: The Poster Boy For Eliminating the Statute of Limitations in Illinois for Child Sexual Abuse

On Tuesday, October 4, 2016 at 10:30 AM, there will be hearings in Chicago at the Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle/Room C600 on an Illinois Senate bill to eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. You can listen to audio here:

I am providing this narrative to my Illinois state assembly representative, Elaine Nekritz, for background on my interest in this bill. She is a member of a task force on the subject. This narrative is a work in progress and probably won't be finished until after Tuesday, October 4, 2016. But I decided to post it as I wrote it. [After Trump was illegally elected IMHO, I also decided to take a break from everything political, so this still isn't finished as of January 9, 2017]
Bill Bricker was a serial child molester for at least fifty, and perhaps as many as seventy, years, who was enabled by the administrators and attorneys for the school district where he worked, the owners of the Wyoming ranch where he taught campers in the summer, the Boy Scouts, the police department in the town where he lived, and the statute of limitations in Illinois. In the end, the long arm of the internet took him down.

Approximately fifteen years ago, when we were in our fifties, a childhood friend from Winnetka told me he had been molested many times by his scoutmaster, Bill Bricker in the 1950's. Bricker was a Winnetka native who became a decorated Marine veteran during WWII. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star for his bravery in battle on Okinawa. After the war, he became a Winnetka scoutmaster, a popular gym teacher at Winnetka's Hubbard Woods Elementary School, and worked as a camp counselor at Teton Valley Ranch near Jackson, Wyoming during the summer.

I immediately wanted to report my friend's molestation to the police, but he said, "Only if you can find someone else who will come forward. They will try to destroy me otherwise." I told a troubled family relative what I had learned about Bill Bricker. After a moment of silence, he said Bricker had molested him too. I talked to one of my best friends from high school whose Eagle Scout brother had shown signs of mental illness and committed suicide in college. She is convinced that Bricker molested her brother, too.

After my childhood friend told me he had been molested, I went to the Winnetka police to make a report about what he told me without using his name. I thought perhaps there had been others who had been to the police. The uniformed officer who did the intake made his notes on the back of a used envelope. He told me the statute of limitations had passed and not to expect to ever hear from them about anything they found out. They weren't kidding. 

There is no record that I ever spoke to the police at all.  I can only assume that the Winnetka cops felt there was no reason to keep a record of the complaint because the statute of limitations had passed.  

Shortly after my visit to the police, I tried to get Bill Bricker's teaching records to see if there were any other complaints. I called the Winnetka School District #36 office. They informed me that I couldn't get Bill Bricker's records even using the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA]. That was a surprise. 

Frustrated, I was at a standstill until around 2007. I begin to Google BIll Bricker in hopes of finding information on the Internet. Since I was Googling him, I thought maybe some of the people he had molested would be using Google too.

In 2007, I discovered a flattering profile written about Bricker in the Glen Arbor Sun, a publication in northern Michigan where Bricker was retired and living. He was now in hia eighties. I copied and pasted the article to my blog and waited. During the ensuing seven years, the Glen Arbor Sun received so many unexpectedly negative comments from Bricker's former victims that they took the article down.

By 2014, there were even more comments about the article on my blog, enough so I first received a request from a victim to post the contact information for an attorney who was willing to help pursue a case against Bricker in Illinois. But it turned out that the statute of limitations was long past for everyone he talked to.

Next, I received a call from a Detective Dani Spence of the Teton County Sheriff's Department near Jackson, WY. They had heard from two victims who had attended Teton Valley Ranch [one in the 60's and one in the 80's] when Bricker was a camp counselor. Wyoming does not have a statute of limitations. The sheriff's office read the comments on the blog and opened an investigation. At her request, I posted Detective Spence's contact information so victims hoping that victims molested at the camp in Wyoming could come forward.

In September of 2014, Wyoming had Bricker arrested in Michigan at the age of 94.  Upon his arrest, Winnetka School District #36 provided copies of Bill Bricker's 200+ page school file to interested parties.

Information gleaned from Bill Bricker's school records released in 2014:

While the people I have talked to were molested in the fifties, the first complaint about Bricker does not show up in his school records until 1968. At this time the following occurred:

• Because of the accusation[s] made by a student[s] there is a timeline that shows he had a scheduled meeting with the chief of police -- but there is no record of that meeting and no indication that any investigation was made
•He had a scheduled meeting with a psychiatrist -- but there is no record of that meeting or the psychiatrist's evaluation
• There is correspondence that he was removed from teaching after school sports at Skokie School, so as not to bother the boy[s] who had made the complaint about him, but he was not removed from teaching at Hubbard Woods School.
• According to a letter written at the time by the Winnetka scoutmasters, one of whom was a fellow Marine, Bricker stepped down from Boy Scout Leadership, using his engagement and upcoming marriage as the reason. [The marriage lasted four years, but an uncorroborated scource says it only lasted eighteen months and neither party married again]. According to the letter to the school board from the scoutmasters, Bricker's involvement in scouting was supposed to be limited after relinquishing his position as a scoutmaster. Nevertheless, he received a 50 year plaque for scouting in 1988.
• When Bricker retired in 1985, the principal of Hubbard Woods School, despite other complaints about Bricker, allowed him to come back as a full time substitute for four more years. This information was used to get this same principal to step down from the District #36 school board in 2015. 
• In 1997 another molested student stepped forward requesting Bricker's school records, using FOIA. The student was turned down. In fact there are multiple letters written by superintendents and attorneys to people requesting records. The letters of request don't seem to be there.
•  Finally an attorney pointed out that the school was denying FOIA access to Bricker's records improperly. The records could have redactions, but not be withheld. 
 • There is a reference to a journal about Bill Bricker that was kept by a superintendent of schools who was critical of Bricker, a fact revealed in some correspondence. He refused to give the journal to anyone but Martin Lucente, the Sidley Austin attorney for the schools who stonewalled with his improper interpretation of FOIA. He has since passed away. 
• Where is the journal?
• There is a long letter defending Bricker written by the owner of the Teton Valley Ranch, who refused to believe that he was a child molester. His adamant support of Bricker helps explain why the former scoutmaster, teacher, and camp counselor was able to molest children for so many years. 

* The North Suburban Boy Scouts  contacted to get the names of all the boys in Bill Bricker's troops so they could be apprised of an ongoing investigation. Also to determine the number of suicides. 
° The BSA national office was contacted regarding the notorious Boy Scout "Perversion Files." After years of refusing to reveal these records, they are now online. However, at some point, the original 20,000 were purged, and now only 6,000 files exist. There should have been files for Bill Bricker from the 1968 incident, but there is nothing.

BELOW -- 1. A cover picture of scouts on an outing with Bill Bricker strumming the guitar

2. A photograph of Bill Bricker [top right] in the midst of a group of boy scouts on an outing.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Let's Crank Up the Way Back Machine

Once Upon A Time, Mrs. Linklater couldn't decide what she wanted to be -- an ad biggie, a famous model, or a member of Second City. So for a brief period in time, she did it all.  By day she toiled at a large, international ad agency, by night she was a member of the Second City Touring Company, at lunchtime she was doing print jobs as a harried, married, tired, stay at home or pregnant mom for ad photographers. While looking for something else recently, she ran across these photographs from 1969, which a former boyfriend [and, even after all these years, still a friend] captured when Mrs. L and her other Second City second stringers in the Touring Company took their comedy on the road -- on this occasion, to Beloit College in Wisconsin. You may even recognize some of these people. 
Mrs. L with Gerrit Graham who has gone on to cult status as Beef in what movie?

No words are needed to explain why Mrs. Linklater's acting style failed to appeal to everyone.

 Harold Ramis when he was in his black Afro stage is the guy on the left. Eric Ross is on the right.
                Mrs. L with David Bloom, or Blum, or Blume, can't remember since it's been awhile. . .
                                       You can probably spot Harold. Gerrit is third from left.
                      Since this is her blog, Mrs. L is posting another shot of herself and David.
                                  Bill Murray's older brother Brian Doyle Murray, young and handsome.
                                Mrs. Linklater once had long hair. And pushed chairs on stages.  
                                                Harold once again with Sherry Nerens and Eric. 

That's all for now!!! 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How Does White Privilege Pay It Forward?

Let me first say that I don't have an answer, but certain recent events beg the question.  What do recipients of white privilege owe the people whose privileges have been denied?

A few weeks ago, a man who was in the class ahead of mine in high school retired as the head of a foundation that works with non profits. Since the crash in 2008, the number of non profits has grown exponentially. So has the number of business school graduates who want to work in the non profit sector. Each year the foundation he formerly led offers a number of fellowships to MBA students interested in non profit advocacy that include mentorships with non-voting board positions. 

Along with his previous foundation commitments, this exemplary man -- the only Congressional and White House Fellow ever -- is a well-regarded professor at one of our country's finest graduate business schools. As you might expect, he was a star student athlete in high school, and attended top universities for all his undergraduate and graduate degrees. With such a stellar start in life, he has enjoyed a lucrative fifty years, advising top federal and local officials in the corridors of power, a career that would be the dream of any policy wonk, not to mention a Congressman or a Senator. 

But he almost didn't get that chance, because as a high school senior, he did a stupid thing. While on spring vacation, as I recall the story, he blew up a hotel toilet with a cherry bomb. The incident was the talk of our high school. Boy, there goes his acceptance into one of the top schools in the country. What's he going to do? How do you get out of a mess like that? The buzz went on for days. Then school was out for the summer and nobody heard anything else.

Which means I never learned what happened until years later, after he was appointed to an important post by a famous mayor. The newspapers posted his bio as part of their background story. As it turns out, he got to go to the college of his choice after all. No harm. No foul. Apparently, blowing up a toilet in a hotel on spring vacation isn't grounds for forfeiting a world class education. 

If you're white. 

But there's more. The woman who just took this man's place as head of the foundation, also has a remarkable background. She, too, is white. Given the nature of Tier One graduate business schools, that probably goes without saying, which is part of a larger problem. She was also privileged to attend top schools for her graduate and undergraduate degrees. Along with her position as the new head of the foundation, she is also a professor at the same renowned graduate school along with the aforementioned cherry bomber. In addition, she spent many years as the president/CEO of a very successful museum, brilliantly navigating the difficult waters associated with any non profit institution in a major metropolitan city. By any measure, she has enjoyed a phenomenally successful career. So what's my beef?

Again. White privilege.  

She didn't blow up any toilets, but, her late grandfather was an architect, a profession steeped in white male privilege. He was also a good friend of a former mayor. After entire neighborhoods where black families lived were demolished for reasons that probably had more to do with ethnicity than fairness, the mayor chose his white architect friend to design high rises for all the displaced people [following the requisite bids, I'm sure]. Why build high rises? The short answer is -- because they could. The longer answer? I am going to assume it's because high rises were cheaper and easier than taking the time or money to design a real neighborhood where anyone would want to live. Second, because I'm certain those in charge [white guys in suits] didn't ask what any of the residents, who were black for the most part, would like. Third, white people have a tendency to think they know what's good for everybody. Noblesse oblige, which was invented by Queen Antoinette, dies hard. Granted, living in a high rise means you don't have to hire people to cut the lawn, so, from their frame of reference [say, Kenilworth] I'm sure they thought they were doing a good thing. 

With an unsettling lack of foresight, these high rises became nothing more than warehouses for generations of underserved black families. The afternoon conversations on neighborhood stoops and bbq's on the back porch had been replaced with dark corridors and broken elevators. The gentrification of a large city in the 50's and 60's had created huge areas of de facto segregation intended to keep black families out of the white neighborhoods. With the mayor's blessing. Along with neighborhood redlining sanctioned by our federal government and executed by the rapacious banks, as well as unions that wouldn't hire or train minorities, what chance would you have to improve your circumstances? 

So as near as I can tell, the new head of the foundation had a grandfather who contributed to the utter failure of urban renewal with the same mindset as a plantation owner. I really don't think she has ever given a thought to the impact his high rise developments had on thousands of people who made the mistake of being black or poor. But maybe the time has come. 

And the former head of the foundation has built his entire life's work on a suspicious lack of accountability at a make or break moment. His ass was grass and I firmly believe his white privilege insured the high quality of his life and the low responsibility for his misdemeanor.

For both of these people, the time has come to pay it forward,  Not just by sitting on boards of directors or writing a check, but sharing ideas face to face, providing one on one advice, and spending time with the people they owe. 

Otherwise, the payback could be a bitch. 

A year just went by? How did that happen?

A year ago, I wrote a post about my stepma's 84th birthday. That was on July 15th. Well, here we are again and I haven't posted anything since -- part of taking a break from getting a pedophile arrested -- a sabbatical if you will. So to get back in the saddle, as it were, why don't I post a photo from this year's soirĂ©e, courtesy of Grandma Ginny's childhood friends -- still friends to this day, I might add. They all went to Wellesley or Smith. Ta-da, there they are, having their post prandial cups of coffee at one of the legendary Walker Brothers' restaurants -- the one in Glenview. If we'd chosen the Wilmette establishment, we could have driven on down the road to Homer's Ice Cream afterward for dessert. Although, what do you have for dessert after a '54 Buick hubcap-sized pecan waffle?  Of course, I then ran this commemorative picture of Virginia's 85th birthday through all 30, yes thirty, iterations of my new artsy-fartsy app called Prisma. Don't worry, I only posted three or four. Youu gotta get Prisma. It's free. It won't change your life, but you'll sure have fun. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Happy 84th Birthday, Grandma Ginny!!

Grandma Ginny isn't my grandmother. She's my stepma. But Grandma Ginny is what my kids called her growing up, so I did, too. If I don't use Grandma Ginny, which is usually saved for family occasions, I call her Virginia. After my mother died when I was 23, my father remarried a year or so later. As much as I liked my new stepma, I didn't call her Mom. She was 16 years younger than my father and only 12 years older than I, and more like my sister. I was also so bonded to my biological mother that psychologically I couldn't replace her. Regardless, I was thrilled my father had remarried. Plus I got two half brothers out of the deal.  

Since then, every year for the past fifty or so years, Virginia's birthday has come and gone during the same month and, coincidentally, on the same day. So you'd think I could remember those two things. But no, I usually find myself calling her up a week or so after the event to wish her a belated HB and we go out to dinner or something. She never seemed to mind, preferring to ignore the passage of time. She also hates calling attention to herself. 

This year I decided to have a party on her actual birthday with as many of her friends as I could find. I was prompted to do this because one of her best friends, Jody, a pal since junior high school, had past away in 2014.  

In a brilliant move on my part, I contacted another one of her childhood-through-college chums, Ruth, and mentioned my idea to her. She was on board from the get go, calling everyone, ordering a cake, and even encouraging one of their group to fly in for the occasion. We spent a lovely afternoon during the tea time hours -- 3:00 to 5:00 PM -- sipping raspberry tea, enjoying a delightful cake confection. reading some funny cards, passing the homemade fudge. And talking, talking, talking. 

So, without any more pre-mumble, here are some photos from a couple of days ago, with this great group of lo-o-o-o-o-o-ongtime girlfriends, all of whom attended Wellesley or Smith, back in the day when our high school, New Trier, was a feeder school for the Ivy League colleges. 

Mostly they can't believe so many of their group are still around to celebrate Virginia's natal day. Their only deceased friend, Jody, had gone to Stanford, but she was forgiven long ago. 
Grandma Ginny is easy to spot -- she just came from her stylist and her hair is brown. 

This was a discussion of medical mysteries, which usually take over most conversations. 

I'm only 83. They're 84. 

Lynn's smile matches her sense of humor. 

One of the Wellesley girls.

Grandma Ginny was having a great time.

Tish has some serious fudge-making skills.

Didn't you JUST take my picture?

Ruth, our hostess with the mostest. 

Betsy flew in for the event. And took even more pix than I did. 

It was nice to go Olde Schoole and use real silver and china. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Weekend in Indiana

It cost me less than $20 to get to Indiana and back on the train last weekend. One of my train rides was from my suburb to Chicago: $6 roundtrip. The other was the 94 miles from Chicago to South Bend: $11.50. Okay, senior discount. So half price. I also got picked up at the South Bend stop, which is at the South Bend airport, just an FYI. 

For comparison, it cost me $8 one way, including tip, to travel one single mile across the Loop from Union Station to the South Shore station. These pix below are from breakfast at the Mill Creek Kitchen in South Milford, IN. There used to be a mill on the creek. The creek is still out back. And there's a huge granery behind that. Huge. But no more mill. This little restaurant has grown since I was last there in August of 2014. Open more hours and days. With more people working there. Check them out on Facebook -- did I mention their name is Mill Creek Kitchen? Really good food. And a large menu. 

We also ate dinner at my favorite Amish place, Tiffany's, filled with long tables of Amish men and women, speaking Amish, with the most pleasant service from Amish teens. Not to mention wonderful, inexpensive food. And great pie. 

Drove through Shipshewana. We didn't stop because it was raining, but we've taken the Amish buggy ride -- a gift from my friend for my septuagenarian birthday. Try saying that three times in a row. 

Had such a nice, relaxed time at my friend's home on one of the many glacially formed lakes. Visited with her daughter/son-in-law and four of her grandkids. 

I also baked browned butter chocolate chip cookies for dessert on Sunday night. Way worth the train ride.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fifteen Minute Post

In fifteen minutes I will leave for my weekly rehearsal of the ladies who wear sequins and polyester. We've also added boas to our costumes. What's next? Tap shoes? 

We are working toward our Really Really Big October Show, which will feature 10 to 12 new tunes from the sixties. And choreography taught to us by a Las Vegas Singer and Dancer. [Put that in your hat and sit on it!!] 

Meanwhile, over the next few months we will also be performing at several venues using selections from the repertoire of songs we sang for our last show. Can you count? That means we have to keep more than two dozen tunes tiptoeing through our heads at any one time. You try remembering that much. Did I mention that we are not spring chickens? 

PLUS -- we have a whole repertoire of Holiday Tunes which we perform during December. Show bidness is not easy.

As the engineer at our recent recording session noted, "For a group that only rehearses once a week, you're pretty good." 

I see that my fifteen minutes is up. Until next time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Movoto Top Ten Lists are Total Bull

I love when companies latch on to a marketing idea to build awareness about themselves that's basically just a bunch of B.S. wrapped up with a pretty bow. 

For example, Movoto Real Estate. This is an online real estate company, licensed in thirty states, that has become ubiquitous around the internet for its Top Ten Lists. Their motto seems to be "We make real estate easy." It should be "We make real estate cheesy."

Somehow they've came up with a bunch of exotic algorithms, which [they claim] help them determine which cities, towns, counties, states, etc. are the best places for people to live. I'm sure they've done a bunch for your state.

I think they are full of shit.

Let me use my state and a town where I've lived [Northbrook, IL] as two prime examples of how insanely inaccurate these people are. 

Recently, Movoto posted the list of  the Ten Best suburbs around Chicago. I know Chicago. I have lived in the city and its 'burbs most of my life -- not only Northbrook, but Winnetka, Glencoe, and Evanston. According to Movoto:
First of all, La Grange, La Grange Park, and Western Springs are right next to each other. They are carbon copies of one another, too. So, pick ONE, not all three. 

All that aside, Kenilworth and Wilmette are the only two suburbs that should be on this list. Why? Because they are the only two towns listed that are located on the lake. Or any lake. 

As far as I am concerned, the lake is the ONLY reason Chicago exists. If your town doesn't sit on the beaches of Lake Michigan or any one of the smaller inland lakes, or a river, you got nothing, no matter how big your lawn is. 

Movoto says they based their [ridiculous] choices on 1] amenities per capita 2] standard of living 3] total crime 4] violent crime 5] high school grad rate 6] commute time.

If high school grad rate is so important, where's Winnetka on the list? Business Insider just named Winnetka the most educated town in Illinois. 

So why pick Kenilworth over Winnetka? Kenilworth has a train station. And huge houses on big lots. [Winnetka may have even more] That's about it. Oh wait, I forgot its residents have an insanely high median salary [$230,000 give or take a few thousand]. 

But Kenilworth has nothing else besides their one beach, which isn't nearly as big or as swank as Wilmette's or Glencoe's. Plus Evanston and Winnetka have more beaches. Kenilworth has no downtown. No grocery. No drug store. No Starbucks. Only a travel agency, a brokerage firm, and an assisted living service, that I can recall. You have to go to the towns on either side of Kenilworth to get anything to eat, anything to wear, anything to fix your car, a plumber, a dry cleaners, anything. I know for a fact that Winnetka, Glencoe, and Evanston have way more to offer besides rich people in enormous homes. Movoto even admits that Kenilworth doesn't have much in the way of amenities. So WTF? 

Not to mention, Kenilworth has no park district either. No golf course, no tennis courts, no parks to play basketball or baseball or soccer, nothing. You have to use the facilities in other towns. And yet, Kenilworth made this stupid list. 

Here's where it gets even more interesting. Movoto published another Top Ten list for my state. Actually they've published several Top Ten Lists, mainly to create awareness of themselves for having Top Ten lists. They also list the Best Cities for Cats, Snobbiest Cities, Most Boring Cities, Most Stressed Cities, Most Caring Cities. . .blah blah blah. 

However, the list I'm referring to is the Top Ten List of Best Towns to live in for the entire state of Illinois. Not just around Chicago, but the whole state.

The towns they chose are all suburbs of Chicago. Did anybody look at a map? They couldn't consider Galena, Rockford, Springfield, Princeton, Wayne, Libertyville, or anything else outside Cook County? Or downstate?

And the number one town they picked? Northbrook. Granted, Northbrook is the only town around with a velodrome! And not one, but two post offices. Acres of forest preserve. A dog park. Four tennis clubs. Five Starbucks. A skateboard park. A destination mall. A Harley store. A huge hill for sledding. A river. A pond with fish to catch. Two aquatic centers. Two indoor skating facilities. A Jewish day school AND a mosque. Did I mention a world class park district? Plus Jim McMahon and Gale Sayers live in Northbrook. Here's the whole list. Not one of these towns is outside Cook County, where Chicago is located. 

I can't believe that Park Ridge and Glenview made both Top Ten lists. Neither one is on Lake Michigan. Both towns are perfectly fine places to live. But they're not that wonderful. Meanwhile, where are Schaumburg, Orland Park, and Naperville in the mix? Not one mention? 

So odd that even though Northbrook was considered good enough to rank Number One on the list of the Ten Best Places to live in Illinois, it couldn't make the Ten Best Suburbs around Chicago. How messed up is that? But there's more!!! Here's what Movoto said about Northbrook:

This photo of Northbrook's Village Hall [ABOVE] is just another example of Movoto stupidity, lack of knowledge, and failure to do their research. 

They described the building in the picture like this: "[T]he town is dotted with old buildings like the Village Hall. . ."

In fact, the Village Hall is practically brand new. Maybe ten years old. It was designed to look retro/classic rather than modern. Apparently they succeeded. Movoto calls it quaint. Right next door to the Village Hall is the public library which doesn't qualify as an old OR quaint building. So suck it, Movoto. 

Next time you see a Movoto Top Ten List for anything, be sure to take it with a grain of salt. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

When Death Is An Option

Four people -- a family member, two guys I had dated, and the adult son of a close friend -- have died in the last four weeks. Only one death was anticipated. The others were sudden and unexpected. Two of the funerals were on the same day. So I am tapped out emotionally. And it's made me a little philosophical about death, LITTLE being the operative word. 

The longer I live, the more I appreciate how close I have come to dying. At the time these near death experiences took place, I didn't think I was that close to terminal, but on reflection, I realize that the Grim Reaper had tiptoed a lot closer than I ever thought.

The first time -- that I am aware of -- I was sixteen. One summer afternoon, my best girlfriend and I were hanging around at the beach in my hometown. I lived six blocks from Lake Michigan growing up and spent many summers on our suburban sands trolling for cute lifeguards and frying my epithelial tissue to a crispy bacon shade with baby oil. 

On that fateful day, a bunch of guys in a powerboat was hovering close to shore and asked if we wanted to go for a ride. Yes, we did. After tooling around for a half an hour or so, they drove us back near the shore to let us off. We planned to jump off the boat and swim the short distance to the beach where we'd left our towels. The boat was stopped, idling in deep water so they wouldn't get stuck on a sand bar. 

Except there was a hidden sand bar that nobody noticed. 

We spent about five minutes saying our thank yous for the nice ride. As we were executing the teenage girly giggle and flirt thing, nobody noticed that the idling boat had begun to drift into much shallower water. Finally we had worn out our welcome. My girlfriend stood on the stern of the boat and jumped out. I followed about a second after, but in a moment of teenaged stupidity, I had decided to dive, for no other reason than to show off.

I had been to camp. I had learned, long before, that you never dive off a boat, a pier, anything, unless you know exactly how deep the water is. Ever. Amazing how showing off for boys shuts off the synapses.

The only thing that saved me from a broken neck, total paralysis, or immediate death was that in the middle of my swan dive, which almost became my swan song, I saw my girlfriend out of the corner of my eye, SITTING in water that barely reached her chest.

In midair, I turned my head hard left so that my right shoulder -- not my head -- could take the brunt of the plunge into the sand just inches beneath the water. 

Thanks to that last minute move, I survived, albeit covered in heavy, wet sand. I rose from the water looking like one of the Clay People from Flash Gordon as I stood up. The guys in the boat took a gander at the monster I'd become and sped away. 

Initially, based on the amount and location of the pain, I thought I had broken my shoulder. Along with my shoulder, the ligaments, muscles, and tendons on the right side of my neck felt wrenched to the breaking point. My head was bent so far left, my ear almost reached my clavicle. Needless to say, it took awhile before I could straighten things out. 

I hurt for a long time afterward. But I never went to the doctor. Or told my parents. As I recall, I just took some aspirin and went to bed early. Years later, nerve pain revealed thinning discs at C6 and C7 on an x-ray. A small price to pay. 

The second time I could have died was one of those home accidents that usually happens when you're drunk. Drunkenness is a helpful catchall for stupid death tricks in one's home. But, like most of my life, I was stone, cold sober. [I may have told this story before. If so, my apologies ahead of time.]

I had come home from work early and, for some reason, decided to change the burnt out lightbulb which usually illuminated the basement stairs. I wanted to do this chore before I changed out of my work clothes, fed the cats, had something to eat, or even checked the mail.

I was still in my power suit, which included black patent leather heels. As I stooped down on one of the steps to remove the cover on the light, my slippery shoe slid out from under me and I was suddenly propelled down the rest of the basement stairs, head first, on my backside. Despite any effort I made, there was nothing to grab onto as my rear end went thump de dump, dump, dump on each stair, leaving me with spectacular black, yellow, purple and green headlight-shaped bruises on each butt cheek for weeks afterward.

As I continued down the stairs, unable to stop myself, I remember thinking, "People die from falls down the stairs. They break their necks." This contemplation of my imminent demise was something I considered as calmly as sipping a refreshing glass of water. Without a sense of panic or the least amount of terror. Like deciding whether to have a mushroom or sausage pizza.

I was still holding the new lightbulb in my hand, when my head made contact with the basement floor. To this day I don't know whether I was knocked out or not. I do know, once I'd come to a stop, I opened my eyes and saw lots of broken lightbulb glass around. 

When I tried to get up, I noticed I was physically impaired to the extent that I had to concentrate very hard to do anything. I reached for the stair railing and held on to it like Dorothy riding the tornado in the Wizard of Oz. I was conscious enough to know I needed to call for help. But the phone was upstairs in the kitchen. To climb the stairs, I had to think very hard and focus on each step, pulling myself up one at a time. Very. Slowly.

When I got to the phone in the kitchen, I remember leaning against the refrigerator to brace myself, while staring intently at the phone's keypad, trying to keep things from spinning, as I attempted to remember what to dial. NOTE: This was before my town had 911, so I had lots of numbers to input. After several tries, I got the police on the phone. That's when I discovered that I couldn't talk very well.  "Hell--loh. [LONG PAUSE] I. . .felllll. . .dowwwwn. . .the. . .stttaairs." Every word was spoken very carefully and extremely slowly, because no matter how I hard I tried, I couldn't talk any faster. 

The paramedics got to my house and found me sitting on my front stoop waiting for them when they arrived. They wrapped my neck in a collar, transported me on a stretcher, and kept asking me questions about two inches from my face. I kept wondering why they had to get so close.

I later learned that people usually fall down the stairs because they are drunk. Apparently the first responders were all trying to get a whiff of my breath. ["I don't know Al, what do you think?"]

At the hospital, they took an CAT scan of my head, gave me a tetanus shot, and tracked down all the places where broken glass was embedded in my skin, obviously a potential for infection. They were ready to release me when a doctor rummaged through my hair and found a large cut in my scalp that needed several stitches. I should have known that not finding this gaping hole in my head did not bode well for other cuts that may have been missed. 

I returned a week or so later to have the stitches removed, only to learn I was running a slight fever. Did I have a cold? No. I pointed out a cut on a pinky finger that was slightly inflamed, but no one panicked. Or did anything about it, for that matter. Me neither. 

Within days I felt like I had a horrible case of flu. I had a three digit fever, my joints ached, and my head hurt. I called my doctor for two reasons. 1] I don't get the flu 2] Jim Henson had just died of a systemic strep infection he thought was just the flu.

After escaping death from my fall down the stairs, the systemic infection I got from some leftover broken glass, festering in my pinky finger, could have killed me. 

Instead, Augmentin killed it, thanks to calling my doctor after reading a story in People Magazine about why Jim Henson died. 

My most recent brush with death was just a few years ago, when a woman ran a red light and nearly broadsided me, only to stop within inches of my driver's side door. I remember thinking as I saw her front end headed straight for me, "Hmm, I could die from this." For some reason I just stared her down as she got closer and closer. 

She was so close to me, when her car finally came to a stop, that I could almost read the keypad on her cellphone, which she was still holding up next to her left ear.