Is Caitlyn Jenner a hero?

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Here’s the reason some otherwise very kind and open-minded people have it wrong about Bruce Jenner. And I only use her former name instead of Caitlyn to be sure they know who I’m writing about. But let’s first find something we agree about: America is a great nation, the land of freedom and opportunity. Now we might diverge when I say it hasn’t always been that way.

We spit on soldiers returning from a nightmare war into which they were drafted.

We turned dogs on people only because of their skin color.

We did not allow women to vote.

We arrested people of the same sex for consummating their love.

The list is pretty long, and there are people like Louis Farrakhan who will happily extend it indefinitely.

So I’ll continue with my four examples, and ask you what we’ve done to correct what most Americans have come to see as grievous wrongs. Recent Presidents have awarded posthumous Medals of Honor to soldiers’ families. We have channeled billions of dollars into education and inner city programs. We passed the 19th Amendment to our Constitution. Laws have been changed and the US Supreme Court has spoken about same-sex marriage.

It took Presidents, the SCOTUS, vast treasure, and changes to our founding document to BEGIN to right some of our country’s historical wrongs.

So what do we do with people whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender? We’ve beaten the tar out of them in grade school. We pissed on them in the gym shower. We refused to hire them and we failed to protect them from crime. We tried to make them commit suicide, just like we did all the fags and dykes in high school. Often we were more like Adolph Hitler than, well, Adolph Hitler.

But America is a great nation, and the land of the free. We are imperfect, but we keep trying to fix things. America is great because it wants to get things right.

Naming Caitlyn Jenner a HERO is not a slap in the face of our nation’s veterans. Those men and women are still heroes. America is simply trying to fix a wrong. We treated transgender people like “coloreds” and “slant-eyes” and “queers” and “baby killers” since we first discovered they had the audacity to lurk among us. This has been a moment for a bit of hyperbole in order to grab the Adolphs of this great land, shake them hard, and say “knock it off.” You don’t have to marry Caitlyn Jenner, you just need to quit pissing on her, because there are countless more generations of transgendered kids yet to come into this world, and they have one crucial trait that matches everyone else: they are human beings. Caitlyn Jenner is a hero because future generations needed someone as badly as we all needed Rosa Parks not to give up her seat. It’s that simple. Jenner said here I am, and Parks said no I won’t.

This is America. A great nation, the land of freedom and opportunity. We just need some polishing from time to time.

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Necessary Fiction review of Dash

A friend messaged me with a link to a new review at Necessary Fiction earlier tonight. ‘Nuff said …

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to my skier friends

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I’m posting here instead of on the ski message boards because I’ve not wanted to seem to be encouraging anyone’s support. Not to say I don’t appreciate it

Anyway, guys and girls, if you’d like DASH or any of my books in your local library where you can read it for FREE, the best thing to do is pay them a visit and fill out a purchase request form. This is also a perfect opportunity if you don’t already have a library card, which is also why it’s better than trying via phone or email. Even if your library is small, there’s a great chance you can get any book delivered from your county, and there are even more opportunities for ebooks.

Now back to some spring skiing.

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Dash with Paris.

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A free book?

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Okay, here’s the deal for my closest friends and allies … I have a couple dozen advanced copies of my new novel available. It’ll be first come, first serve for anyone in exchange for an honest review on either Amazon (to review on Amazon you need an account and to have made a minimal purchase at some point), or GoodReads.com. Second caveat is that the (however brief) review be posted during the first week of April. Send me an email at ColeAlpaugh@yahoo.com, or private message me on Facebook.

What’s it about? Well, here’s the review from ForeWord Magazine in its entirety:

“Surely Dash’s run of bad luck must be winding down. He’s lost his job and fiancée and finds himself alone on what should have been his honeymoon flight from Vermont to Australia. What else could possibly go wrong? Lots of things, as it turns out. In Cole Alpaugh’s darkly comic and richly layered Dash in the Blue Pacific, the defeated Dash never makes it to Sydney but instead crashes in the South Pacific. What seems like a near-death experience at first is actually the beginning of a mind-bending, life-changing journey for a man at the end of his rope.

Dash’s adventures begin with a familiar trope: a man washes up on a remote island’s beach, worries that the natives will eat him, and plots his escape. In Alpaugh’s hands, however, the story is anything but stale. Instead of building signal fires and rafts (though these will come), Dash is preoccupied with a tribal chief who wants to feed him to a volcano, women who want his help to make the island’s first white baby, and a young girl who hopes to escape the island with the “soldiers” who sometimes come to her shores looking for the prettiest among them. And then there’s the former god Dash spends many hours consulting with, a half-fish, half-man mind reader named Weeleekonawahulahoopa—Willy for short—who has resigned his godly role after failing to save his people from drowning. It gets weirder after that.

The weird parts work because Alpaugh integrates them into a story that is physically raw and wickedly funny. Dash is as incredulous about all that is happening as anyone, and his self-conscious skepticism keeps the magical elements from seeming off-the-wall. Little by little, Dash’s conversations with Willy reveal Dash’s deeper emotional wounds, and offer another interpretation for his dreamlike visions.

Taken simply as a comic adventure story, Dash in the Blue Pacific is thoroughly entertaining. When you consider the other elements—racial tensions, human grief, and spiritual redemption—it takes on new levels of meaning. Book clubs will be talking about this one.” – Sheila M. Trask, ForeWord Magazine

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The year in repeat.

My predictions for 2015:

A plane crash will kill lots of people.
A politician will get caught in a bold-faced lie.
Hamas rockets will land in Israel.
Israel will bulldoze a Palestinian home.
Dozens will die from an exotic disease.
Someone will have their head cut off by a man in black.
A black kid will be shot by a white man.
Gay people getting married will be called queers.
A mining accident will trap workers.
Iran will almost have a nuclear weapon.
There will be record heat.
There will be record cold.
A tornado will kill someone in Oklahoma.
A controversial statement by the Pope will be walked back.
Scientists will clone something.
An American ski racer will be injured.
A lunatic will open fire in a crowded [fill in the blank].
Old people will die.
Babies will be born.

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A beautiful creature.

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Now available on Amazon for pre-order!

A man, his fish, and a pissed-off Volcano God. Pre-order a copy today!

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Walking in the Woods with a Killer

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Sign post on Rt. 390.

BARRETT TWP. – Today was sunny and almost 60 degrees in our part of the Poconos. I told my wife that it was a pretty afternoon for a long walk in the woods. Alone, I said. Just a couple of cameras and a bottle of water. It’s safe, I explained, since hunting is currently banned in Barrett Township where the accused killer’s family lives.

My oldest daughter got married 43 days after Eric Frein is accused of killing Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II, 38, Dunmore, and wounding Trooper Alex T. Douglass, 31, Olyphant. The crimes occurred 45 days before my younger daughter was running late and missed the school bus. Mom had to drive. Police are still searching for Frein. The events aren’t connected, of course. Just horrible, wonderful, and slightly frusting things that recently happened. And all made for a good reason for a walk through the woods.

Sometimes I miss being a journalist. I peek at the online newspapers until a pop-up window tells me I’ve exceeded my monthly free visits. The Wayne Independent is filled with stories about people I know, while the Scranton paper gets the local sports posted online fast. There sure weren’t live updates of high school football scores when I was chasing stories. And seeing the credit line of one of the Times-Tribune photographers makes me do a double take because his dad was one of my heroes when I was starting out. Fred Comegys was – and is – the best photographer I’ve ever known. It really is a small world.

I don’t have interest in the $175,000 reward posted for Frein. I’m a photographer, not a bounty hunter. What if you find him, my wife asked. Will you call the police? I’m not taking a cell phone, I said. I figured the news editor I’m trying to sell the pictures to would call police. But that’s not really any of my business. For background, I used to cover wars, and the job is to present images and facts to people who buy your magazine or newspaper. You aren’t there to take sides. In fact, taking sides is one of the reasons so many journalists have been killed over the years, but that’s a subject for another time. The bottom line is that you have to work with the assumption that someone is likely not going to kill you if you don’t pose a continued threat. You might surprise them, which is a dangerous moment, but someone you come across in a sniper position doesn’t want to pull the trigger unless he has to. Guns are loud.

I picked a spot for my hike from a Google Earth map. I know the area around Canadensis fairly well. When you’re facing a needle in a haystack, you mix what you know with your gut feeling. I took a 90 minute, sixty mile perimeter drive, as well. I always felt more comfortable in a war zone if we were inserted after a helicopter sweep, rather than marching into a jungle. You are less claustrophobic, and you have a better sense of the terrain.

Deep in the woods of Barrett Township, a few thousand feet where Frein allegedly took the gun he used to attack officers, there are countless squirrels readying for winter, and even more birds making angry territorial cries. There are hundreds of dark stumps that look like mad-men. There are trees that cast shadows that look like prone bodies, and some of the remaining leaves catch the light with the same reflective quality of a rifle scope. I walked in twenty minute intervals, stopping to listen for five minutes each time. It was something I learned to do when hunting Contras in Nicaragua. You go to a place where they might walk right up to you, the Sandanista commander had said. Then you go to another place. Do it enough times and boom, he said, shooting an invisible rifle with his hands.

I didn’t see a single cop, nor did I see the weather balloon-like contraption they’re now using. It’s outfitted with some kind of spy technology, like slow moving drones, I suppose. The area campgrounds and parks are empty, but people are in their yards doing chores. A pretty teenage girl was rough-housing with a Golden Retriever, and she waived when she looked up.

The woods around Frein’s family home are quiet while you are walking, but noisy for those five minute stops. Falling leaves sound like marching boots if you listen too closely. Each breaking twig is the approach of a cold-blooded murderer. Those dark stumps just about drive you crazy. I swear, every single one was Eric Frein for a second or two, long enough to begin raising a camera.

It’s also a comforting hike because of the thick brush and changes in elevation, gullies and open trails for power lines. Walk far enough and there’s a house with a barking dog. The proximity to roads make it unreasonable that our outdoor sports were ever cancelled at Western Wayne High School. Our tennis courts were a million miles away from the trail of overturned leaves I followed for a few hundred yards.

Maybe Frein is still in those woods. If I walked right past him, then I’d like to thank him for not shooting me, although I know he was only making the correct tactical decision. But for what he’s done to the families of the officers, I sure hope he makes a fatal mistake.

A school bus passes electric no hunting sign in downtown Canadensis.

A school bus passes electric no hunting sign in downtown Canadensis.

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Woods in northern Barrett Township.

Woods in northern Barrett Township.

Torn strip of no hunting tape in Promised Land State Park.

Torn strip of no hunting tape in Promised Land State Park.

Woods in central Barrett Township.

Woods in central Barrett Township.

Posted sign of closed hunting areas.

Posted sign of closed hunting areas.

Trail in southern section of Promised Land State Park.

Trail in southern section of Promised Land State Park.

Loch Ness Monster in pond along Rt. 390.

Loch Ness Monster in pond along Rt. 390.

 

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