It was June 28th, 1983 and as I laid on the cement floor of my shop, I was listening to two paramedics argue about wether or not I had a stroke. They got another call and they left. I had one of my guys help me to my old pick-up truck and he drove me to the hospital. I sat in the waiting room in a chair until I almost colapsed and then I finally ended up on a examination table. I waited…and waited until a doctor was just walking by and he stopped and checked me out. He started barking orders and said , ” this man has had a stroke !”. That was the beginning of 7 weeks in the hospital. I had a out-of-body experience that was mind boggling and I thought I had died. I will explain that experience in detail after I confess my sin for which I was being punished. I had just completed a project for a great friend and next door neighbor by the name of Fritz Catterfeld. He worked for Rockedyne in the San Fernando Valley. He knew Werner Von Braun and was one of the associated group of scientists that the USA inherited after WWII. To me he was just Fritz and his wifes name was Ilse Catterfeld. They were both from Suhl, Germany. (what was East Germany). When they traveled to the USA they were under the protection of the OSS. The OSS became the CIA. Fritz and Ilse are now passed but they were wonderful friends. On Sunday afternoons (when I was not working) Fritz would always invite me over for a beer or two. Then he would give me unsolicited advice that was brutally honest and usually acurate and good advice. On one particular Sunday afternoon Fritz approached me regarding me becoming his model maker for a special project. Fritz was a propulsion rocket scientist and the project he was working on was the MX missile project. The project later was renamed by President Ronald Reagan. The new name was : PEACEKEEPER
I was just a guy with a cabinet/ wood/working shop trying to get by and make payroll every week and have some money left over to take home. Can you relate? I accepted the job and signed some documents for security clearance and a couple of days later a truck shows up with a forklift and a 10 foot tall crate and they drop it off in the middle of my shop. I sign for it, open the crate and it is a full scale exhaust nodule/cone complete with everything except the propulsion pump and the multiple volutes involving the high pressure mixing of fuels. Fritz showed up with the blue prints and explained all of my questions. This was not a mini model but everything to scale. Everything had to be made out of wood or plastic and no metal because they use all the parts to fabricate molds for parts and metal was not compatable with the process. My job was to build a mock-up of a pump/motor that mounted on the top of the exhaust nodule and the volutes and the routing lines that feed the pump ! No Problem ! Perfect, I figured that if I could keep my 1962 Chevy Pick up truck running for all those years, this should be easy. I also had to create a pump unit in a display box with a 1/4 breakaway of the pump showing the internal workings of the pump in diagrams. I had to have it portable and in an enclosed box. That turned out really nice. Walnut box, brass etc. etc….. The pump itself was larger then a NFL Football but only by about 50%. In looking at the specifications I asked Fritz how a motor that small could be 12.5 horsepower ? He said” look again !” it is 125 horsepower ? I asked, how is that possible ? He said, EASY….. It only has to make ONE TRIP ! At that moment…. it hit me like a ton of Bricks ! This was going to be the worlds most powerful Nuclear weapons system. I was feeling very conflicted. In my high-school Annual I said I was going to join the United States Marine Corp. All the guys that I met that were Nam Vets told me I was out of my fucking mind and don’t do it ! I thought this was something I could do to make a contribution to my country. Conflicted. And now… Conflicted again or still conflicted. I was working through the nights and failure to finish on time was NOT an option. The large exhaust unit was back in the crate, picked up and gone. I had to complete the box with the pump. I finished that and it was delivered to Fritz Catterfeld. So after all that work and all that confliction and ethical internal struggles, I have a stroke. I almost died. My entire left side paralyzed. I lost 50% of my vision on the left side of both eyes. I had a out of body experience floating face down in a cavern, suspended, and I could not see the bottom. There were ledges on my right side and there were groups of 3 men ( I assume they were men) in dark hooded robes hands together under their sleeves and heads under hoods and no faces exposed. So, I believed I was dead. What else would I believe ? In my thoughts, I begged to live and to get back to my wife and daughter. Starting to sound alot like the movie, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE WITH JIMMY STEWART right ? I was feeling regret for my participation but realistically, I brought alot of it on myself. LIFE IN THE FAST LANE!! We all paid a price for those years! The best way I can describe that experience is that it was MORE real than real life. I begged and awakened with my wife at bedside. I was transferred to Northridge Hospital where I spent weeks in therapy. I ended up in a private room thanks to alot of people. I was feeling sorry for myself and fighting depression. So late one night, I was spinning the TV channels and I see this television evangelist on TV and I just could not buy into his schtick. So I turn off the TV and it is dark. I was depressed and sliding downhill. Right next to the bed I hear this strong voice… “Heal Thyself ! “. It really scared the shit out of me and I do not scare easy. So I get out of bed and I hit the floor. Clawed my way back up by the bed and hobbled/hopped out into the hallway and I fall down again. I am heading towards the nurses station and I fell 3 or 4 more times and a nurse comes running up and says, “you are not supposed to be walking !” I responded by telling the nurse , ” OK , so you go and tell that to the guy in my room!” I don’t expect people to believe alot of what I am telling you regarding the supernatural aspect of this account,so please consider that I KNOW that I have physical issues but I have over come those issues to the point that most people do not notice any physical issues. Cognitive issue, well… you be the judge. It does not mean that much to me one way or the other. What the hell, I am living in paradise on borrowed time. Every day is biscuits and gravy. There were some other experiences that night that must have been group halucinations because the staff was really freaking out and the next day there were more people on staff and my room was relocated behind the main nurses station. A couple of staff people on the floor saw something that I saw also. I have seen some strange things all my life but a couple staff people were having a little meltdown. The next day I was having to answer alot of questions by nurses and of course a “shrink”, with a million questions. I was telling them about this aerospace project that I was working on. So shortly there after I have my own nurse 24/7 and this psychiatrist is trying to make heads or tails of delusional me and in walks Fritz Catterfeld. Fritz walks right in and shakes my hand and says”congratulations!”with his heavy German accent. I asked for what ? He said that Rockedyne got the contract and he took my portable model to the pentagon himself and they loved it ! I even suggested a couple of minor changes that they incorporated in the design, according to Fritz. ( maybe that was pre-brain damage !)Wow, maybe I was smart and then I got stupid. The hospital had the wheelchair basketball team come for a visit. That was one of my biggest motivations to work very hard afterwards in therapy. I worked really hard. Being in a wheelchair sucks. It is hard work !! I have strength on my left arm but my dexterity never came back to the point where I could play my guitar . I had a kid that worked for me by the name of Greg Blalock. I gave him my guitar. It was a great guitar. He was a great kid.
The first thing I did when I got back in the shop was give him my guitar. It made me feel good. He had played my guitar before and loved it. I always loved playing music by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens. Joni Mitchell etc.
NOW I PLAY CD’S !! THEY SOUND BETTER. A FEW YEARS LATER I MADE AN IMPROMPTU VISIT TO THE RONALD REAGAN MUSEUM RIGHT BEFORE A JULY 4TH SPECIAL EVENT THERE AND GOT TO TAG ALONG WITH A GROUP AND THE DOCENT. MY PROJECT MODEL WAS ON DISPLAY. THE PROJECT I WORKED ON IS NO DOUBT OBSOLETE. WE NOW HAVE BIGGER AND MORE POWERFUL NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND MORE COUNTRIES HAVE THEM. MY SIN WAS THAT I DID NOT FOLLOW MY CONVICTIONS. I CONVINCED MYSELF THAT I MAY BE HELPING TO STABALIZE A INCREASINGLY UNSTABLE WORLD THROUGH SUPERIOR FIREPOWER. NUCLEAR DOMINATION IS SUICIDE AND NOT A DETERANT. PEACE THROUGH NUCLEAR DOMINATION OR ANY FORM OF DOMINATION IS WRONG. IT IS A SIN.
but….. MAYBE THE PEACE TRAIN ISN’T LATE.
MAYBE THE PEACE TRAIN IS RIGHT ON TIME AND WE WERE ALL just DISAPPOINTED WHEN THE TRAIN DID NOT SHOW UP WHEN WE THOUGHT IT SHOULD! MAYBE WE SHOULD ALL TRY TO BE POSITIVE AND PATIENT AND LET THE FLOWER UNFOLD AND NOT FORCE IT. I AM OPTIMISTIC. WE ALL MUST BE OPTIMISTIC EVEN IN SPITE OF ALL THE EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY. I CAN HEAR THE TRAIN COMING ! I AM GOING TO START BY JUST TRYING TO BE A LITTLE NICER TO EVERYONE I MEET. IT MAY SEEM LIKE A LITTLE THING BUT IF EVERYONE DOES IT, WE CAN SOLVE OUR PROBLEMS. BEING KIND TO PEOPLE DOES NOT COST ANYTHING !! BUT THE RETURNS ON HOW IT MAKES US FEEL IS WONDERFUL ! WHEN FRITZ PASSED, I WAS ASKED TO GIVE A EULOGY AT HIS FUNERAL SERVICES AT THE WAYFARERS CHAPEL BY THE OCEAN. THERE WERE ALOT OF PEOPLE. FRITZ WAS A WONDERFUL FRIEND AND MENTOR. HE LOVED AMERICA AND SO DO I.
NEXT BLOG- BI POLAR POLITICS IN THE GOOD OLD USA!