Monday, October 22, 2007

Caregiver's Dispatch

NOT strictly election material -- but something relevant


A Caregiver's Dispatch

I spent an evening, a night actually, with a man (‘T’) who has alcohol-related frontal lobe dementia. Which means that he frequently acts like his mind has simply ‘flown the coop.’ He wanders a lot—barely sleeps—feels frustrated a lot—talks about ‘going to the club’. Talks about his annoyance with certain people. He’ll point to a male nurse (working at the care facility) and ask plaintively, ‘is this guy brain dead?’

At times he seems to understand everything that’s said and is both cheerful and chivalric. At other times he imagines that you have said something very strange, while he struggles with the zipper on the jacket he just put on again for the tenth time in the span of an hour.

I might say, “ you think you might want to get some rest? You’ll feel better tomorrow? Does that sound like a good idea?”

He sometimes responds well to that question, ‘does that sound like a good idea?
But frequently I’ll say, “do you want to get some rest?” and he’ll say, as if repeating to me, but with a look of incredulity, “do you want me to donate further playdough?” The syntax is sensible; you could be talking to an office-mate.

Unlike most office-mates, he sometimes gets up at night and pisses on his furniture, or into a drawer, or under his bed, or somewhere other than the toilet, and he will refuse to be directed to the toilet. One night he peed into a drawer with one of the nurse’s aides pulling his arm. T was laughing as he pissed—seemingly possessed of a defiant child’s joy. Sometimes he gets angry if you try to pull his arm or otherwise touch his body to try and get him to do or mostly not do something. He frequently wanders into other rooms and sits down on the bed where someone is sleeping. Of course, certain patients in the place understand, others don’t.

When he goes into someone’s room, sometimes he’ll just sit on the bed, but sometimes he’ll say, “I wanted to go over some figures with you, do you have a moment?” I wasn’t sure how he came up with lines like this, but then I found out he once worked for IBM.

His frontal lobe dementia is such that he can’t care for himself – he lives within the bubble of an ongoing hallucinatory state. He has been known to take the handles off of faucets when agitated. He has swatted me a few times when I touched his arm in the process of trying to redirect him somewhere. (If he is about to piss on the floor of his room, I try to notify him of other options.)

Probably the most striking incidence that accompanies his disability is his habit of imagining that he is drinking alcohol. He ‘pretend’ sips it very slowly. This usually only happens late at night. He doesn’t have this particular hallucination during the day. He can sit in a chair for a half-hour or more, just sipping, and then also ‘smoking’ and sipping. It would make an interesting component to a video documentary on the topic of alcohol abuse, or for that matter, alcohol-related frontal lobe dementia, or for that matter how helpless people can become in the storm of debilitating illness.

No disrespect to the science of medicine, but T’s brain is oatmeal. He won’t ever return to life as anyone knows it. He and the other facility residents can’t count the days of future freedom they might expect on one finger; they are captives of something absolute, and regardless of who started it, there’s nothing to be done about it now. Still, humble as the circumstances may be, it’s as if the sweetness of childhood—the sweetness of life before drugs—has been given back.

Sometimes, late at night, T gets restless and begins searching for things. When the search gets tiresome, he gets busy with shoes. He always spends time on shoe issues, lacing them up, unlacing them, removing them, putting them on again, changing into sandals, taking his socks off, etc.. In the midst of this seemingly random behavior, he’ll stop and hand me the framed photo from the table next to his bed, an older photo of him and his two children. Two smiling kids and a smiling dad (with a flowery, funny hat); the way things were meant to be. Somehow, we are still entitled a memory of what we miss. Like as not, I can’t prove that he even knows who is in the photo—but when he hands it to me, as he’s done a few times, I ask, “Your kids, T?”
“Yes,” he says quietly. And not much else, but smiling.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

R. Valenty's Colorado Daily Profile of Rob Smoke

Smoke: Keep Boulder livable
Deck: Council candidate grew up in dense Manhattan, concerned about Boulder’s rush to density
Colorado Daily Staff Writer

Rob Smoke, a candidate for Boulder’s City Council in 2007, has seen a bit of urban density first-hand.
He was born in Connecticut, but his family moved to New York City when he was five years old, and he spent about 25 years there. Locals shouldn’t expect Boulder to ever become a city of skyscrapers like Manhattan, but Smoke said he is concerned that parts of the city might become not only dense – but also somewhat cold and soulless – if certain plans go through unchecked.
Those who have heard Smoke speak on the campaign trail have certainly heard his opinion on the Transit Village Area Plan (TVAP) and a potential paucity of area green space, depending on how the plan is implemented. Estimates in 2007 say the 160-acre TVA might gain 1,400 to 2,400 new homes and 2,800 to 4,200 new jobs over the next several decades, although the current council just adopted the TVAP last month and no actual projects have commenced.
And despite Boulder’s reputation as being a relatively small city whose residents desire a natural life, Smoke is concerned that TVA development won’t be as natural as the 1960s-designed Manhattan housing project that he lived in.
“The people were concerned with creating really nice, livable, enjoyable spaces,” said Smoke. “The one I grew up in, they set a minimum goal of 15 percent green space surrounding it, and I think they wound up closer to 20. If you went out on either side of the building, you would always see nice lawns, shrubbery, shade trees and flower beds.”
On the other hand, Smoke did choose to move here. He said he came here in 1981 and went to massage school, went back to New York for several years and came back to Boulder for good in 1986.
“I just liked the whole feeling out here,” said Smoke. “It’s really helped me a lot, on many different levels, in terms of my personal development to be out in Boulder. I really appreciate the Open Space, the mountains, and all the usual stuff.”
Today, Smoke works as a caregiver for people with Alzheimer’s and ALS – and works with a person who has alcohol-related frontal lobe dementia.
“I just kind of keep him company, and help him with whatever his needs are,” said Smoke. “I try to make his life somewhat more livable than it is. He’s really sort of tortured – he doesn’t know what hit him, and his mind just doesn’t function very well at all.”
Smoke has also volunteered some of his time over the past several years to the CU-City Oversight Group. The group, in short, is a team made up of representatives from CU, the City and County of Boulder, and the local community that has studied alcohol problems in the Boulder area and has produced recommendations to mitigate the impacts of abusing the legal drug.
“It’s just kind of sad to me that it’s the drug of choice in our nation, and certainly in this community,” said Smoke.
Smoke is also a current member and former chair of Boulder’s Human Relations Commission (HRC). Again in short, the HRC holds hearings and interacts with the community on issues of human rights and discrimination.
To step back briefly, Smoke said one of his favorite parts of living in Manhattan was that he felt connections with people of many different types of backgrounds and ethnicities.
“The most beautiful people I met while growing up were the Puerto Rican kids in my neighborhood, who were just really nice to me all the time,” said Smoke. “It was just really wonderful, that aspect of living in New York, although other aspects were really difficult in a lot of ways.”
The difficult part included what he called a “subtext of violence” and no shortage of “desperate people” who were stressed out and unable to cope.
Back to the present – Smoke said he believes the HRC has done some very interesting things over the past several years, including working on new anti-hate legislation that arose after the beating of mixed-race CU student Andrew Sterling in downtown Boulder several years ago.
He also said the HRC helped the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) organize workers in Boulder, and said the commission helped turn the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration into more of a community-wide event.
Smoke has been involved with Boulder community affairs, either with the media or as an activist, for a number of years. For example, he said he helped organize a group called Citizens Analyzing the Redevelopment of Crossroads And its Special Subsidy (CARCASS) in 1998.
At the time, the city was considering using Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) to finance redevelopment of the aging Crossroads Mall, where the Twenty Ninth Street (TNS) retail center stands today. Smoke said he researched the issue and came to the conclusion that it would be a very bad deal for the city.
“I organized people, talked to business people and several council members, and we changed the direction,” said Smoke. (Former council members) Will Toor and Spense Havlick sort of changed their thinking, but (former Mayor) Bob Greenlee was a very strong proponent of TIF. It sort of wore on him that I was involved in the political discussion, but I was happy to be the person to do it.”
Smoke is also a long-time volunteer with KGNU radio, and he followed council meetings and offered radio commentary on what happened. He said he has also done shows on local topics such as the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, West Nile Virus, computer addiction, transportation and public safety.
He said he was motivated at a deep inner level to run for council, and said he believes the political direction of the council and city government needs to be challenged.
“I think somebody needs to be in there who would shake things up when they need to be shaken up,” said Smoke. “And it’s not hard to identify that I’m someone who will do that.”
So, locals should expect to hear or read Smoke’s opposition, whether he’s elected or not, if the city goes forward with (not yet formalized) plans to build a convention/conference center and a hotel at 13th Street and Canyon Boulevard, near where the Farmer’s Market, the Dushanbe Teahouse and Central Park currently exist or operate.
“The things that people value now, and that obviously work well, are worth preserving,” said Smoke. “We have to recognize that, and bend over backwards to preserve them.”

Contact Richard Valenty about this story at (303) 443-6272 ext. 126 or

For more information about Rob Smoke, visit the Web site Also, to read recent and past Colorado Daily profiles on other candidates, visit the Daily’s Web site

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Salazar and friends

Saw Ken Salazar tap-dance through a Democratic Ladies luncheon today.
He says it would be too time-consuming to impeach Bush.
He says it's important to support Mark Udall.
He says we will not go to war with Iran.
He says the Dems have been busy re-writing the mission statement for Iraq.
He says Colorado is a clean energy state and he's very proud of that.
He had a good George Bush at the White House story, but besides that, is
sort of unimpressive in his level of activism as a U.S. Senator.

However, the crowd was nice -- friendly --

I fear the worse for my little tugboat of a campaign during the final stretch.
We are listing under the heavy winds of Sierra Club and PLAN-Boulder and city council member non-endorsements. Additionally, I passed Mark Ruzzin on the street and he looked at me dead on and said, "I hate you."

I'm sorry, that's not true. And I actually like Mark. I think he needs to be removed from government and barred from further political activity, but other than that, I think he's a great guy.

The problem is that all these great guys and gals on council don't always act in the best interests of everyday residents and people fighting to get by in our community.

I was at the PLAN forum several weeks ago and told the audience that I am an activist. And after sharing that, candidate Massey felt it important to say that he is not one. Look...Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his lovely wife Bertha -- I mean Ellie -- they were activists. The reason we have Social Security is because of activism. The same for civil rights in the workplace and the right of women to vote. Activism is all about creating a better society.

We need people in government who are going to hold feet to the fire when the priorities become short-term economic goals and not long-term human sustainability interests. And not "go along to get along."

Please....I need your vote!!!!

And if I already have it, please tell a friend with an email, a phone call, or a knock on their door.
ALSO....when you vote, vote for the minimum number of candidates you deeply support. You are not required to vote for seven, and when you do restrict the number of candidates you support, you increase my chances, and my chances could use a little help.

If you want to reach me for any reason...say you know a forum where bomb-throwing anarchists like myself completely fit in...don't hesitate to call my campaign cell number:

Thanks ...and please check out my KGNU interview and various other links that I shall post within the next several days.

Love ya',


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Thursday election diary

Weird event at Trilogy last night -- weird, kind of fun, kind of weird, weirdly fun --
drunk audience -- barely sober candidates -- sort of a neat guy hosting -- Waylon the Elephant man -- not fat, not physically grotesque, not even especially drunk --

The problem with the whole shebang was that it opened with Mark Ruzzin hijacking the stage for ten minutes and crowing about all the wonderful things he's done on council --

his wife and infant child were there, which is great -- I think the kid was drinking mai tais

anyway, NO ONE had the opportunity to rebut the b.s. Ruzzin laid down -- and the crowd cheered because...well, what do they know? they're drunkass

Forgive me, but I can think and chew gum at the same time and I happen to regard Ruzzin as a total con artist. Let me give you a recent example --

at the first August meeting of the Boulder city council, Ruzzin put a apresentation by RTD before the citizen participation portion of the meeting -- which pretty much always comes first on the agenda, at least until Ruzzin took office and started inserting PR presentations from Ball Aerospace or anything else he thinks is more important than Boulder's citizenry, which is pretty much anything that happens to please him --

I took issue -- I commented at the meeting after two people had to leave to take care of family business -- (one of the people leaving was Lisa Morzel) --

I wrote a letter to the Camera, which they published -- in turn, Mark Ruzzin wrote an even longer letter attacking me and saying I was trying to manufacture credibility for my candidacy --
what a jerk -- manufacture credibility? -- I'm sticking up for citizens who get disrespected every time they come down to council and are made to feel intimidated and as if they didn't belong --

that bothers me a lot --

in Ruzzin's attack, he picked out the 'straw man' argument -- he said that I knew full well the item was announced on the agenda (I had said there was an unannounced agenda adjustment)

well, technically, he was right! big deal! RTD was listed on the agenda -- I hadn't looked, because the staff signing people up will generally fill people in on unusual details -- for instance -- the fact that people who are expecting to speak in the first hour of the meeting but will unfortunately be delayed is an unusual detail that staff would normally share -- but they didn't!!!

and on other occasions, the presentations inserted prior to citizen participation have not been inserted into the agenda -- in any case, that's not the issue! the issue is the unadulterated lack of respect for people who take the time to come down and give voice to their -- very often -- unique and quite serious concerns ---

I've had enough. Haven't you? I walked High Street, Sunset, and a piece of Mapleton and Pine today -- a couple of people who didn't even know me at all invited me right in -- another several people wanted to discuss issues with me and had really important things to say --

I was particularly interested in the downzoning that occurred on Uni Hill and the 3-unrelated rule problems as related to me from a landlord's perspective --

I may not support every landlord's request, but I do think application of the 3-unrelated rule is very poor thinking --- also, the guilt-by-association of our nuisance ordinance -- I'm all in favor of the city stopping bad behavior by tenants -- I don't think the landlords necessarily foster it --
if they do specifically foster it, then perhaps they are culpable -- just the fact of renting to young tenants does not make them culpable if the young tenants make a mess or behave poorly

The discussion regards this went on forever at council and council came up with a plan to penalize anyone who rents to someone who might act badly -- so...we're talking about young people who rent, people who may not have an incredible track record, people who may show up to sign a lease looking a little scruffy or badass -- well, the city council is telling landlords not to rent to people who even look like they might cause a bit of trouble because the landlords can end up paying for it -- essentially it works out to another gentrification scheme --

in the big picture, it may not be the number one issue this season -- but still...when we come up with rules and regulations we have to make sure they're fair, otherwise we're just encouraging people to find ways to defy unfair laws.

That's how I see it.

I really enjoyed walking today -- it was a beautiful day -- some people just instantly said, "I will vote for you" -- and every time that happens it just makes me feel fantastic --

I may not pull the upset this go-round -- but then again I might --
if you think you can vote for me -- do so, but tell a friend as well

Mercury hits retrograde the day before the ballots are mailed --
astrologically, that indicates a time for big upsets --

I was posted at 100-to-1 by David Thielen, who many of the candidates are coming to understand is sort of a jerk --- to be polite

I wish I could visit every doorstep -- however, if I am elected, I promise to be available to everyone who has a doorstep -- how's that?

I'd insert the link for the Colorado Daily profile of me -- however, it wasn't working just now, so I'll wait to see if they get the glitch ironed out -- it was in the Thursday October 4th edition

it reads well