WhiteWater Adventures

“Left side, Mike, back paddle, back paddle!” yells our WhiteWater Rafting Guide. In rough waters, like these though, hapless Mike, Vietnam Vet, who’s positioned in the front of the craft, is completely deaf to Bob’s instructions. The waves crash over and over and the raft goes circling into a tailspin lost in an eddie at the bottom of a hydraulic hole. That’s rafting vernacular and today’s adventure has taken me into the heart of the Adirondacks with a few fearless friends from the YMCA. There’s only 3 of us plus our guide, in a boat built for 8, so we have our work cut out for us. This stretch of the Indian River has steep banks with tall cedar trees growing on each side and huge iron ore and granite cliffs. “Great for rock climbing” I think to myself as I my confidence grows tackling another huge “lateral” and “pool-drop”. This river has a huge dam that lets loose tons of thousand pounds of water increasing the CFS, cubic feet per second, on steep gradients and upping the river rating to “4”. Based on a scale of 1-6, 4 can be a true challenge for novices like us. I made the mistake of hurling a shovel over my head for 3 hours the day before (lawn work) so my upper body strength is a disgrace. It’s still a cold time of the year to be battling 40 degree rapids so we’re all dressed in matching neoprene wetsuits and polypro. Our ugly pink helmuts ruin the effect of an otherwise attractive looking bunch, but, no matter, we’re there to tame the Indian, all 17 miles of her, do-able for some in less than 5 hours, it takes us 4. The best part about whitewater rafting, other than being outside, is experiencing the thrills and chills of a sport that your in complete control of. Exhausted, cold and dripping wet from head to toe, my team of 3 plus guide exit the river with a new license on life and a few more smile lines to add to our parched and weathered faces.

Reporting From "Somewhere"

A trail of dust and tracks was all that was left behind as we raced through God’s country on our way to find the Microwave Truck. We’d been stationed somewhere in the lower Adirondacks with a “wife-shot-husband-dead” late breaking news story. For hours we waited at the bottom of the victim’s driveway, like vultures circling their prey, watching State Police, Investigators, and Sheriff Patrols come and go from the small clapboard crime scene. Neighbors knew little about the recluse couple, other than the 58 year old former Schenectady Cop and Marine, may have had a history of domestic abuse. With no more than 2 to 3 hundred people in Wells, ask enough towns folk though and your bound to discover the victim was not a good man and probably had what was coming to him. A few years ago, when he was a cop, he somehow got away with not working for 15 years and still collected a paycheck. Some would call that crafty and cunning, the law calls it a crime. “This is a dead-end road!” my reporter screams. I throw the Subura into reverse and burn rubber on unpaved gravel. Is that possible? We have 5 minutes left to find a Microwave Truck that’s parked at high altitude to reach distant microwave towers for a signal back to headquarters. Cell phones are of no use secluded backwoods like these. I hail down a rusted-out pickup with yellow soldier stickers and 2 grissly looking passengers. “Can you quickly tell me where King Road is fellas? “Right over yonder…see, what you want to do is…” I don’t let them explain — “right over yonder” is all I need. My navigational prowess kicks in as I instinctively know where higher ground lies. Thank God there are no deer crossings or children around the bend because I’m driving at speeds where a crash is inevietable. Josh, the truck op and Chris, my back-up camera guy, jump into position as I race to cut scraps of video tied in with DA soundbite. With seconds to spare my reporter is live at 5:02, calm, cool, and collected…but she stumbles at the very end….”Reporting live from…from…from somewhere, this is Judy Sanders”. Yah, where are the hell are we?

The More Things Change…

The More They Stay The Same! This week’s news stories are proving that theory truer than ever! I didn’t pay much attention because I was too young, but when John Lennon, music lyricist, poet and activist, was assissinated on December 8, 1980, I remember it being a big deal. I remember too that the arms race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. was another big deal because of Sting’s Russian’s lyrics. Then, when I was 16, unsure of my political persuasions and too nieve to know better (still guilty of that) I sided with the sweet, innocent-looking, boyish-charm of Oliver North. This week, North Korea test fired a missile into the Sea of Japan, political protests gathered in NYC at the UN, and Sting released a wonderful collection of music used in movie soundtracks – many being political. Ironic? I would say not. It’s all cyclical, not cynical, but cyclical. The mantra – “what comes around, goes around” is true and as much as I want to beleive in the political process, economic growth for all, and society to be ever-evolving, it’s not and it won’t ever. Last Sunday, several busloads of locals from the Bethelehem area gathered in NYC for the March and Rally to Demand Global Disarmament at UN headquarters. 40,000 protesters, including some neighborhoods of mine from the Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace (BNP) formed part of the peace symbol in Central Park. It really was incredible if you saw the aerial shot in the paper. The BNP is an organization of concerned members working for peace through diplomatic solutions, believing war is NOT the answer and voicing dissent with the Iraq war and other agendas. Of course, I beleive all that to be good, wholesome and ethical constructive but productive? Hhmmmm… I read Mother Jones, recycle, and avoid shopping at Walmart as best as I can, but does it help? Does anything ever really help? May marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month and the National Alliance of Mentally Ill will again be pushing for the passing of the Mental Health Insurance Parity Bill. With almost 25% of our population suffering from some form of M.I., Parity is so important in preventing deaths and yet NY is not among the 19 states that have passed it. Even with major advocacy, it’s not likely they ever will. Ok, Ok, I AM A CYNIC, — I strayed away from that in 2004 but the cyclical tide is sweeping me back into the deep, after all, the more things change, the more they stay the same!

Spread the GoNomad Gospel

The Big D trip I made a few weeks ago is finally up for review at GoNomad.com! This extensive site attracts adventurous writers and travelers from all walks of life: retired ex-patriots, lonesome hitchhikers, suits looking to let loose, and families opting for more than the artificial world of Walt Disney. Writers blanket the planet, discovering people and places that few travel agencies have ever heard or cared about, journaling their vivid tales and exploits for no more than a contributor’s sign-off. Sharing this vast collection of first-person anthologies is the vision of GoNomad owner Max Hartshorne, a regular contributor to CNN and travel magazines and somebody I hope to work closely with on a 13-episode show idea. To think of all the many past sojourns I took throughout Europe, Mexico, and this country and I could have been, should have been, blogging about it! Well, no matter, I’ve begun the milestone with the Big D and there’s no turning back now..wonder where I’m off to next?

Alcohol & Drug Abuse Series

I’m working on another 3-part series on alcohol and drug abuse among highschool kids for Sweeps month. At first I balked at the unorginality of it but then it became clear that this was not another proverbial news story. Our series starts tonight at 11pm and continues Monday and Tuesday. What’s so revealing is that kids are finally responding to the anti-drinking message because of a recent medical report about brain damage. Most of us have heard of alcohol consumption and ARBI or Alcohol Related Brain Injury. ARBI results in damage to the cognitive part of your brain (memory and thinking abilities) and difficulties with balance and coordination as well as long term neurological disorders. ARBI is more likely to occur if a person drinks heavily on a regular basis over many years but it is possible to develop ARBI if the drinking is aggressive enough, like binge drinking (what teenagers and college kids are guilty of). The hippocampus, the prefrontal area, the cerebellum; I’m working with doctors and social workers on this story so it’s like a crash course in AMA journalism. The new report, published in the journal Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research, is downloadable as an abstract at this site – http://www.alcoholism-cer.com Testing on animals proved that young brains under the age of 21 are not programmed to make rational decisions, under the influence or not and when a teenager binge drinks, they are literally causing irreversible and permanent damage to their frontal lobe. I could go on and on and on about this interesting topic, especially since I have family personally effected by alcohol and drug abuse, but then you’d missing my evening series! Can’t have that!!

Murderers, Memorials & Musicians

Everyone should be so lucky to have a job like this. I know I complain from time to time but reflection at the end of the week really put it into perspective. Where else will a hardened criminal pour out his deepest emotions with you on Monday, or a music icon like Mary Wilson discuss the impact the Supremes had on race relations on Tuesday, or a renown Archeologist show you how to unearth the skeletonal remains of a Revolutionary War Hero on Wednesday? Stories of profound and prolific people pepper the political press of Albany, NY, especially during Sweeps. Minus mundane Press Conferences and perp walks, this job is positively provocative and professionally unparrelled! Like in movies or music , there’s always a message in the methods used to manipulate a story. It’s empowering and enriching to be a part of pop culture in that way. It’s equally satisfying – physically, mentally, and emotionally when a fleet of stories like those this week peak your passions! I just hope someone’s watching…