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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Thoughts on U.S. Media

 I worked in the media for 38 years, 32 of it being at a TV station. What you see on the news is completely driven by marketing. Everything you watch on TV or do on the internet is researched, including the fact that I am typing this post and you are reading it. It goes back into what they will put out as "news" because they want you to read their channel or watch their channel. Fox leans right because they cater to the right wing, which is their target audience for advertisers; CNN and the big three networks tend to be more neutral and MSNBC tends to lean left; again, targeting those groups for their advertisers. 


Controversy gets a lot of viewers. Everyone is up in arms about Trump, whether for him or against him, so any bit of drama he stirs up, pro or con, is going to get coverage. Here in the U.S., we constantly bicker about national politics. You see it all the time in your daily social media feed. Americans don't argue about Canadian politics; it's a sad fact that most Americans don't care. So, since stories about Canadian politics aren't going to attract viewers, they don't bother broadcasting them.

In the past 6 years, I have visited approximately 15 countries around Europe. Those people can tell you what's going on in America, but most Americans couldn't tell you what's going on in those countries. It's a sad fact that Americans are very self-centered. I was a bystander to a conversation about that two years ago while on a cruise. The Europeans I overheard were talking about how Americans are self-centered. When they suddenly realized my presence, they apologized to me for saying that. I told them it was OK they said that because it's true. I told them I was not offended.

Capitalist American media is primarily focused on getting stories that evoke emotion in order to gain or keep viewers. Of all the meetings I ever attended during my years at the TV station, I never once heard anyone say, "We need to influence our viewers to believe this or that." It was always, "What can we air that will evoke emotion?"

So, if you want thorough news coverage, find a source that does not depend on advertising dollars.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Rock Band "The Dean's List"

I first saw The Dean's List at the Shortsville Firemen's Carnival in 2017. Not only did I enjoy the band, but it became a night of special meaning to me because my friendship with Stacey was just forming at the time.  She and our friend Judy and I "danced barefoot in the mud" to The Dean's List for almost two hours straight.

Since then, we have seen The Dean's List many times, most prominently when we hired them to play at our wedding! I've considered them to be "danceable rock," but they bill themselves as "playing your classic/modern rock favorites." They generally play in an area covering Auburn, Sodus Point, Penn Yan, Rochester, and anywhere in between.

The lineup for the past few years has consisted of:

Tim Potter - Guitar and Vocals
Scott Jennings - Lead Guitar/Vocals
Joe Carr - Bass/Vocals
Jeff Sitter - Drums
Mark Hillis - Lead Vocals

Mark, Joe, and Tim, were working on projects together and had challenges finding reliable players to fill the final slots in the lineup. They enlisted Scott, who had played extensively with Tim in the mid/late 90’s into the early 2000’s. They completed the lineup with Jeff, a relative newcomer to the scene.

Jeff said he started taking drum lessons about 11 years ago when he was 40. His 11-year old son had been taking lessons for about a month, and Jeff said he "couldn't stand it" and had to start taking lessons, himself. He said an interest turned into an obsession. The Dean's List is his fifth band; others didn't pan out.

The Dean's List Website is

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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

How Mary Survived Multiple Cardiac Arrests, Part 2

The original blog was written by Mary and Paul Pakusch in 2012.  Much has happened since then and Mary agreed to write about it. 

Here is the link to Part 1, which covers the original cardiac arrests, a description of what a cardiac arrest is, how it affects Mary, and includes the years 2006-2012.

Here is her story from 2012 to now.

By Mary Pakusch

September  2019

Although Paul and I have been divorced for a couple of years now, we still get along. Paul recently asked me if I was interested in writing more about my cardiac arrest experiences since he published his original blog about it several years ago. At the time I had written about my initial cardiac arrest and the 2nd one I had 1 1/2 years later. In the following 11 years or so, I’ve gone into v-fib and needed to be shocked approximately 18 more times. It’s hard to keep count. 

Paul actually gave me some notes to help job my memory. The past few years have been traumatic, and sometimes it’s hard to remember all the details. 

After my 2nd SCA, I don’t believe I had another one for quite a few years. I know I wasn’t allowed to drive indefinitely after that one, and I think that lasted about 4 years before I was given permission by my cardiologist to drive again. I remember at least one year of Paul driving me to work and picking me up every day. I spent about 10 hours a day at work because of his schedule and availability. That actually worked out, though, because it decreased greatly the amount of work I had to bring home. I also had a year of a colleague from work picking me up every day. It was so wonderful that she did it, but stressful for me because I felt like such a burden. I don’t remember how I got home those days. I feel like maybe a couple of teachers and maybe Paul shared that job. 

The next time I remember having a cardiac arrest was in May 2014. That year had been a particularly stressful one for me at school.  I was teaching in a 5th grade classroom most of the day, and then I was split between a 3rd grade classroom and working with a kindergarten student the rest of the day. I also belonged to a new committee that was taking me out of the classroom a few times a month. I vividly remember walking down the hall with the 3rd grade teacher I worked with a few months before I had the SCA and telling him, “If I’m going to have another cardiac arrest, it’s going to be this year!” I didn’t realize how true that would be. 

Anyway, that same year the fifth grade teacher I worked with was newly married and his wife got pregnant. In May he was out for a week when the baby was born. It was at this time that school got even more stressful for me. My students had been complaining a lot about bullying going on with some of the other kids and one day I had had enough. I had a class meeting and got very stern about what the consequences would be if it continued. Then I stopped at my principal’s office on my way out for the day and asked her if she would be wiling to stop by and talk to the kids the next day. Driving home I felt very bad heart palpitations. I didn’t think too much of it as I knew it had been a stressful day. That night I had 4 or 5 SCA’s while I was sleeping. My cardiologist said I almost had one while I was driving home, but it self-corrected by itself so I didn’t know my heart had gotten that out of rhythm. 

I remember feeling very dizzy during the night. It never occurred to me that it could have anything to do with my heart. I was trying to lay in positions that wouldn’t make me feel so dizzy. Then, toward daylight I had another episode of dizziness and felt a hard thump in my chest. That was the first time it occurred to me I might have gotten shocked. I woke up Paul and told him what happened. I sat up and at this point I thought it was the only shock I had had. Paul was concerned because I was talking about going to work since I now felt fine. I was in denial and didn’t want to believe it was actually a shock I had experienced. Finally I decided to call in to work and wait until the doctor’s office was open so I could transmit the data from my ICD over the phone line. When I did, they called back and said I had actually had 5 shocks overnight.  I had slept through 3, passed out for 1, and felt that last one. They wanted me to get to the hospital and call an ambulance since I could get shocked again. I can’t remember the details, but I think Paul left work and got home before the ambulance was ready to take me out. At the time I joked the scariest part was being brought down the 5 or so stairs that led to the front door. They kind of tipped me a little on the stretcher and one of the guys got yelled at for it. I think he was new. 

I went to Strong Hospital for some reason. Maybe my doctor was working at the hospital that day. I’m not sure. I was in the ER for quite awhile. Paul came to stay with me. While I was there I felt fine, but I ended up having another shock. I  sat up on the cot to plug in my phone when I felt the dizziness come on. By then I had learned to recognize the feeling. I remember starting to lay down. Something I hadn’t mentioned before is that every time I get shocked I have really crazy dreams or experiences that are hard to explain. I see all kinds of colors and I sometimes feel like I’m spinning, but not in a bad way. Then I feel like I’m falling, somewhat like a feather, not a sudden drop. When I was in the ER I felt like I was falling forever. When I finally landed I opened my eyes and saw many concerned people looking over me. I said out loud, “I’m back…” They kept asking if I was ok. By then I was fine, like I always am after I get shocked. Then I saw Paul sitting in a chair across the hall. They had gotten him out of the way. He looked extremely distressed. I don’t know who was more worried about who at that point. But he came over and saw that I was fine. 

I believe this hospital stay lasted several days. They needed to figure out why I had what they termed a “V-fib storm,” especially after all those years with nothing happening. Through questioning me, we figured out I had started a new medication for anxiety about 5 days before that. Since I had been so stressed at work I had asked my doctor for something to help. I so wish I remembered now what it was called. Little did I know that it had a known side effect of causing heat palpitations and people with heart rhythm problems shouldn’t take it. I was furious with my doctor because she should have known that. While I was in the hospital my doctor wanted to try a different medication for my heart, but it could have bad side effects so they usually keep a person in the hospital for a few days to monitor them when it’s first started. I think one of the days I was there the monitor I was hooked up to went off because I had a run of v-tach, but my heart got back into rhythm on it’s own, so I wasn’t shocked. Then the doctor wanted me to get a treadmill test. I had thought I was going home, but instead I was told they were going to keep me another day to do that test. I was very nervous because the only other time I did one I felt very uncomfortable. Nothing bad had happened, but it was scary to me. While I was waiting to be brought down for the test I was getting more and more anxious. I could feel heart palpitations. Someone finally came with a wheelchair to get me. I told her I was very anxious and felt like something bad could happen. She was supportive, but there was nothing she could do. Then when I got to the room, the technician started putting my leads on. I told him also that I felt like something was going to happen. He said not to worry. If it did, I was in the right spot. We walked over to the treadmill and there was a bed right beside it. I got extremely dizzy and remember saying something “here we go” and trying to sit on the bed before I passed out. The next thing I knew I woke up in the same room surrounded by hospital staff. Later, my cardiologist said, “Well, I guess we got the information  we needed.” I didn’t know what she meant at first, but figured out since that we now knew for sure that anxiety and stress were a huge component to my heart issues. She also felt the medication they were monitoring me for was not a good one. I don’t know if it could have induced those 2 events, or if it just wasn’t working and it was a med that they try to avoid if possible. 

It was a relief when I finally got to leave the hospital, but I was back to not being able to drive. This time it was for 6 months. I think because we knew the medication had caused my v-fib storm, the doctor felt safe letting me drive after 6 months of being incident free. Paul and I had to cancel an Alaskan cruise we had scheduled for August. My anxiety at this point was quite high. I struggled for a couple of months just leaving home to go to the store. My family was very supportive. I think I went back to work the 2nd week after school started. I had some restrictions, but overall I was ready. 

The next time I had a SCA was February 2016. I had decided to leave Paul and it was the day I moved out of the house. I was moving to a 3rd floor apartment in Henrietta, about 20 minutes away. I had gotten a moving company. Because of the circumstance I didn’t feel comfortable asking my daughters to help me move and no one offered, so I was pretty much on my own. Paul had actually offered to help, but that would have been awkward and mean for me to accept. I actually asked him if he could be not home until I was gone. I got my van loaded with the stuff I didn’t want the movers to take. Once they had the truck loaded up they wanted to follow me to the new apartment. We drove all the way there and while they got ready to unload the truck I walked upstairs to open the apartment. I carried a lamp up with me because it was easy and I figured I shouldn’t waste the trip not carrying anything. When I got there I walked in and set down the lamp in a corner. Then I turned around and felt that familiar dizziness. I woke up in the middle of the living room floor with no idea at all of where I was or how I got there. Since it was a brand new empty apartment there were no clues like familiar furniture. Just as I started to feel panicky, I noticed the ceiling light in the dining area. For some reason that was enough to remind me of where I was. By then I heard the movers downstairs. They were working on figuring out how to get the couch upstairs. I crawled over to the wall and leaned against it. When they walked in they asked where I wanted it. I didn’t want to tell them what just happened because I didn’t want them to feel like they shouldn’t take the time to unload my stuff. So I just said I almost passed out and needed some water. One of the guys went down to my van to get my water bottles out for me. They seemed relatively unconcerned, so I let them keep working. In the meantime I called Melissa, who was at work nearby. She immediately left work and came to the apartment. After the movers were done I called the doctor’s answering service since it was a Saturday.  When I told the doctor on call what happened they said as long as I felt ok I should be fine, but if it happened again I should go to the ER. 

Melissa had Spencer came over and they spent a few hours with me. I felt perfectly normal. I had wanted to go to MCH to visit George, so they left and I took a nap. I decided if I felt normal after the nap then I would drive the 4 miles to see him. I did. Around midnight I came back to the apartment. I walked up the stairs and into the apartment. Standing at the dining room table I started to feel that dizziness again. I had just enough time to step away from the table and onto the carpet before I passed out. When I woke up I crawled to my chair and immediately called 911. I think I also sent out a text to the 3 girls and Paul letting them know I was going to Strong. When the ambulance arrived they evaluated me and tried to decide the best way to get me down 3 sets of stairs. They ended up putting me in a special chair and carrying me down. That was one of the scariest experiences of my life! I had no control. They kept telling me to keep my hands in even if I felt like I needed to grab the rail, or the chair could tip. They were very slow and careful, but I was terrified the whole time. 

Paul ended up meeting me at the hospital. I was grateful, but it was also awkward since I literally had just left him that morning. He stayed with me in the ER for a few hours and then decided to leave. Finally a few hours later they put me in a room. My doctor increased my medication and I was back to square one as far as not being able to drive. I was more upset than ever before because now I was living alone and didn’t have people around who could drive me places. My daughters were very supportive and helpful, but I also have to admit to cheating a little. George was only a few miles down the road, so I decided I could drive that distance. I just avoided the expressway and going any distance further than that. Luckily Uber came out around that time. I used it to get to my therapy appointments. 

One of the worst parts about this hospital stay was my general lack of visitors. Paul actually came to see me and stayed awhile. We had a great talk. I don’t think any of the girls came, and when it was time for me to go home no one was available. I felt very lonely. I knew I had upset them by choosing to leave Paul and I didn’t want to push anyone at that point. I ended up posting on FB that I didn’t know yet how I was getting home. Luckily one of my friends at work saw it and offered to get me. She drove me home and then stayed with me for awhile. I think Melissa came over after that and spent some time with me.

I think I was ok for awhile after this incident. I was actually almost a year before my next cardiac arrest. I was working in a 5th grade classroom that year. I had moved up again with my small group of students. I loved the teacher I was working with, but we had one student and his mother that was causing a huge amount of stress for us. I told the teacher and the school counselor that I worried they would be the cause of me having another cardiac arrest. 

Christmas vacation came. After a relaxing week off, I went back to an already busy day on January 3, 2017. I had a CSE meeting for one of my students. I knew it was going to be a battle with the school district to continue services for him as he entered middle school the following school year. I had to plan for a sub to replace me during that meeting. Then, the difficult student I had gave me a hard time about doing some of his work first thing in the morning. So when the class went to art class I was going to make a modified homework assignment for him. I walked the whole class to the opposite end of the building where the art room was, walked all the way back to my classroom, and then grabbed some materials and went up to the office area where the copy machine was in a small room. When I walked in, another teacher from the 5th grade team was using the copier, so I put my things on a table and leaned over to write something down. I felt that familiar dizziness and stepped backward so I wouldn’t hit the table. It was a very small space. 

I woke up facing the ceiling, and again not really knowing where I was. I started to recognize the few things I could see, such as the recycling box near me. Then it came back that I was at school. By then Mike, the other teacher, had jumped over me to yell for the nurse. Her office is across the hall from where I collapsed. She was by my side on her knees. The principal and the special education coordinator for the school district was standing at the door. There were several more people out in the hall. I told the nurse I was fine, but that I had been shocked. I think they had already asked the secretary to call an ambulance, and they had put the school on lock down so no students would come by and see me like that. The nurse wouldn’t let me get up, even to sit. My co-teacher then came into the room where I was. I was so relieved to see her. We had gotten very close in the first few months of school. She later told me the special ed coordinator was giving her a hard time about coming in. 

I gave someone I think Melissa’s phone number because I knew she would be the most likely to be available. My co-teacher asked the principal if she could come with me to the hospital until someone from my family got there. He agreed. I wanted to cry, I was happy she cared that much about me. Sadly, getting onto a gurney and being put into an ambulance had become old hat, so I didn’t feel nervous about any of that. I just couldn’t believe it was happening again. One of my fears was that I would collapse at school. I was thankful, though, that it was while the kids were out of the classroom. It would have been traumatizing for them to see me collapse like that. 

This hospital stay was relatively short, I think. It’s hard to keep details straight.  The one thing I know for sure, though, is that the doctor was concerned enough to decide we needed to try something other than just medication. We discussed the possibility of surgery. She had been talking to several different specialists and found a doctor that could do a left sympathetic denervation. That meant they had to deflate my left lung for the procedure, and then cut a nerve chain in my spine that led to my heart, I think. It is responsible for the fight or flight response. It hadn’t been used a lot for my condition, but the times it was, it was successful. I was scheduled for the surgery in May. Obviously I was out of work again for the rest of the year. I had planned on retiring at the end of that school year, so it turned out that was my last day of teaching ever. Not exactly the way I had planned on ending my teaching career. 

This is where I am a little foggy about the time frame. I think it was about a month later that I had another incident. Technically I didn’t get shocked, but at first I thought I did. My heart went into v-tach and I passed out. It got out of the bad rhythm on its own, but I didn’t know that. This was the day I learned how dangerous cheating on the driving was. I had driven the short distance to MCH. I always parked in the back and walked along a path past the “smoking hut” where a lot of residents hung out. I had just walked past them carrying a cup holder with 3 coffees from Tim Horton’s when I got dizzy and passed out. I woke up face first on the sidewalk with coffee spilled everywhere. My pants were ripped and my knee was bleeding. I knew immediately what had happened. I looked back to the hut and no one seemed to have noticed. I tried to holler that I needed help but no one heard me. I figured my only option was to walk the rest of the way into the building and get help there. When I got to the door one of the residents I knew was coming out. I asked him to get me security. He was in a wheelchair, so he wheeled down the hall toward  the security office on the other side of the building. I sat on a bench in the entrance-way hoping I wouldn’t have another shock. No one else was around for several minutes. Finally an aide I knew walked through. I stopped him and asked him to call security for me. There was a phone nearby. They got there quickly and when they found out what happened, they called a code blue. Now I was surrounded by all kinds of people. I asked someone to get George. In the meantime an ambulance was called. They had me on the gurney by the time George got downstairs. The first thing he said was that he had a bad feeling it was me when he heard the code blue for the lobby. He knew I would be arriving around that time. 

I don’t remember much about the hospital stay except that the doctor was getting concerned about the frequency of my episodes. She did some more adjusting of medications. I think that’s when I started taking the Nadolol, which messed me up badly. It caused me to get dizzy and out of breath when I walked. I was still taking the huge dosage of Metoprolol so I was already tired all the time. This made it so bad that I couldn’t get through a day without taking a one to three hour nap. I was out of work for the rest of the school year for sure. I still visited George, but I used Uber to come and go. 

So I had my surgery in May and seemed to feel great through the rest of the month and June. I had a chance to go to school and say goodbye to my students, and I had a retirement party. Saying goodbye to the kids was the hardest part. I had that group since they were in 3rd grade. They would be leaving to go to middle school soon. One little girl put her arms around me and we both just cried and cried. One little boy I was close to refused to talk to me. I know he was angry I had “left” them. 

By July I felt the surgery and medications were doing the job. At that point George’s son had moved in with me temporarily. We rarely saw each other, but he was using the empty 2nd bedroom I had, and paying me a little bit of rent. One night I went to MCH to visit George and I stayed until close to midnight again. I took the Uber home and came upstairs. Matt was already in bed. I walked over to the living room light to turn it on when I suddenly felt really dizzy. I panicked and hurried to my chair. Just as I sat down I passed out and got shocked. When I woke up and figured out what happened I sat there for several minutes trying to decide what to do. I knew I should call 911, but I needed to go to the bathroom. I decided that was my priority for the moment. After I went, as I started to wash my hands, I passed out again. I hit my shoulder on the sink, leaving a painful bruise. I was just figuring out again where I was when I felt a sharp hard pain in my chest. I said out loud, “What was that?! Why does it hurt so much?!” Then it hit me I had just been shocked a 3rd time in about 5 minutes. I was terrified and afraid to stand up. I crawled out of the bathroom and knocked on Matt’s bedroom door. I told him I had been shocked and I needed him. He popped out of bed immediately and came out to the living room. I crawled up into my chair and passed out once again. Matt witnessed my 4 shock of the night. I asked him to call 911 for me. By then I was shaking badly. I also had him give me my night heart pills. That may have prevented me from having any more shocks that night. 

When the ambulance came I told Matt he didn’t have to come with, but he wanted to. I had to take the ride on a chair down the stairs again, but this time they did a better job and it was much steadier. Matt met me at the hospital and waited until we knew someone else was coming. We joked around some about my 9 lives, etc. At least he kept my spirits up. This was my worst experience psychologically. I had so hoped the surgery had worked, and being aware of 4 shocks in about 10 minutes was terrifying. 

It was this experience that caused me extreme anxiety that affected my daily life. I was afraid to get up and walk across the living room, let alone go anywhere. I still visited George, but I had Matt bring me in a wheelchair. The Nadolol was really bothering me on top of the anxiety. My life became very limited. Obviously the doctor was concerned as well. She talked about me having an ablation, which is essentially burning off a small part of the heart. It was the part she believed was causing it to go into a bad rhythm. She had me wear a halter monitor for 48 hours to track the palpitations. This would help her determine which part of my heart she needed to ablate. The results were interesting. I had about 4, 000 palpitations a day. Although heart palpitations in most people are harmless, the doctor had already determined that they can lead to a cardiac arrest for me. All I could think of was that I had about 8,000 opportunities for a cardiac arrest in two days. I can’t remember who said it, but someone later told me to think about it as 8,000 times I didn’t have a cardiac arrest. When I went in for my results, the doctor asked me what I do after 5:00 in the evening. I responded that’s when I go visit George. I thought she would say my palpitations got worse ( I immediately got it in my head I might have to cut back on my visits), but instead she said that’s when they seemed to calm down. Going to visit George was actually relaxing me! That was good news. 

So the decision was made that I would have an ablation done. For some reason that I no longer remember, it didn’t happen until early November. I moved to a new apartment on November 1 and I believe it was within a week that I had that procedure. Although they gave me anesthesia, it was the twilight kind. That means I was in and out of consciousness. I have had heart procedures done that way before, so I wasn’t nervous about it. It’s actually kind of cool! The only bad thing was that I ended up going into v-fib during the procedure and getting shocked. I was awake for that and didn’t enjoy it at all. I remember asking if I had just been shocked. They felt bad I was awake for it. Being shocked wasn’t supposed to happen during that procedure. 

I think I went home the next day. It was a relief to know I now had 2 procedures and all the medication backing me up so I wouldn’t need anymore shocks. Then about a week later, mid November 2017, I brought my clothes down to the laundry room. When I got back I sat in my chair and then felt that familiar dizziness. Sure enough, I was shocked again. Back to the hospital. I cried. I cried more than ever before, even in the ER. This wasn’t supposed to be happening anymore. 

When I spoke to my doctor she told me she thinks it happened because of everything my heart had been through the past couple of years, including the ablation. She said it needed time to settle down. Now it’s been almost 2 years and I haven’t had another shock. My fear is still there, though. It is just in the past 6 months or so that I’ve been able to work on getting out of the house, drive without feeling panic, walk any distance including going into a store. We have cut back on my medication, including taking me completely off the Nadolol. That made a huge difference right away. Just the other day I had my 2nd visit to Wegmans with my daughter and granddaughter. The first time we went we ate dinner and walked up and down a couple of aisles. This time we walked across the whole store and I did a small shopping trip. It was such a great feeling to be pushing a cart with my granddaughter in it! 

I still have some things to work on, but I have come a long way with my anxiety. I can only hope that I will never have to go through any of that again. I guess time will tell. 

I want to thank Paul for asking me to write this. It is interesting to think back to all of that. It makes me appreciate how far I’ve come. 

Paul: I want to thank Mary for writing this.  Although we are not married anymore, I still care very much for how she is doing.  She is the mother of our three children and grandmother of our grandchild plus our step-grandchild.  We have always wanted to share these experiences with others to educate people on what a cardiac arrest is.  Our divorce does not change that.  As for me, I am very happy in my new life with my new wife, Stacey.  Stacey is very supportive of these efforts, for which I am very thankful.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

9/11/01 Tragedy, TV, Airplanes, and a Song

This blog is about my personal experiences related to September 11, 2001. It includes my perspective of the tragedy, my job at a TV station that was carrying coverage of the day, how it affected my role in aviation, and my part in a song dedicated to the heroes of 9/11.

It started for me a little after 9:00 that morning. I was driving to the local grocery store when I had WCMF radio on in the car. I heard them discussing a plane that had crashed into the World Trade Center. While it was obviously a horrific situation, my mind transported back to the 1940's when a military airplane crashed into the side of the Empire State Building. At that time, it punched a hole in the side of the building and rained some debris onto the sidewalk below. I did not even begin to imagine what this new event was creating. By the time I got to the grocery store, I had heard that the FAA was shutting down airspace around New York City. Still not comprehending the magnitude of what was happening, I started thinking about how this was going to affect flights across the country with cancellations and delays.

I continued with my shopping trip, all the while thinking about Air Traffic Control, the airspace, and airline flights. Obviously I was naive to what was really happening.

Once I got my groceries back out to the car, started the engine, and turned the radio back on, that's when I heard that another plane had crashed into the Pentagon, and still yet another plane had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. That's when I really became aware of what a horrible situation was developing.

Back in my house, I left the groceries in the car and ran in to turn on the TV. I was shocked at the amount of smoke I saw around the south end of Manhattan Island. There was so much smoke that I didn't even  recognize that one of the buildings had collapsed already. As I was watching, the phone rang. It was my mother. She asked me if I had seen the plane hit the building. I told her I did not. As we were talking, I kept my eye on the TV screen. Suddenly I saw the second tower collapse. My mother was also watching the TV and she saw it too. I was shocked at what was going on.

I am a licensed private pilot. At that time, I was the president of the Rochester Pilots Association. I don't remember who it was, put a reporter from a newspaper called me to ask me my opinion about airspace being shut down. I didn't know what to say. I told him that I was just learning of all of the events and didn't know what else to tell him. I still don't know who it was and if they used any of my comments in their story.

I continued watching TV coverage, and somewhere along the way I managed to get the rest of the groceries into the house. At that time, I worked in the control room of WHEC TV 10. I was scheduled to work at 3:00 that afternoon.

Once at work, I was asked to take over in master control and I sat there for the next nine hours straight until it was time for me to go home. My job was to keep coverage of the NBC television network on the air, write up all of the programs and commercials that we were missing, and do local special reports whenever the newsroom wanted them aired.

One of the notifications that we received from the NBC television network was, since nobody knew at that time who was behind these hijackings and attacks, NBC did not know if they would get knocked off the air. They advised all of their affiliate TV stations to be prepared to go to local programming if the NBC television network lost its signal or worse. We had videotapes of our regularly scheduled programs running on the tape machines, so we were ready to cut to regularly scheduled programming if needed. Otherwise, we continued with coverage.

A program log at a TV or a radio station is a pre-printed schedule of programs, commercials, and other content that is scheduled to go on the air. It is a master control operator's job to air these items and to write down the times that they aired. I took pictures of the program log that channel 10 had that day, and you can see some of the pages. The first one shows when the special report began, at 9:00, airing coverage of "world trade center fire." The second one shows when I signed on for duty at 3:00 PM. The third picture shows that we cut away from NBC coverage around 6:00 PM for a local news update. Otherwise, you can see some of the programs and commercials that were pre-empted at those times.

After nine hours of broadcasting repeated replays of planes crashing into buildings, and buildings collapsing, I went home and had images of buildings collapsing in my head as I was trying to get to sleep. It was not easy. I truly wondered what was happening to the United States.

At work, nearly nonstop coverage of the 9/11 events continued for the next few days and frequent coverage into the next few weeks.

The other role I had in my life at the time was that I was president of the Rochester Pilots Association. All flights in the United States were grounded for a couple of weeks until the government assessed the threat of further attacks by air. A reporter from R News in Rochester called me up and asked if we could do a story about small planes, like the kind I flew, being grounded. I met her and a news photographer at Ledgedale Airport in Brockport and here's the story.

The following month, my good friend Tony Weschler called me up and asked me if I would play drums on a song that he was recording as a tribute to the heroes of 9/11. So I did. We recorded it with Eileen Alexander singing lead and Scott Meli playing guitar. The four of us enjoyed working together so much on this song that we decided to form a permanent band, which was named Intrigued, and stayed together until 2009. This was the silver lining on a horrible tragedy. It brought me out of retirement from playing drums and I have been playing drums ever since. Here is the song.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Friday Evening in Geneseo

Stacey and I spent the evening in Geneseo, N.Y. to see some friends performing in the Rochester Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra.

Geneseo is a college town.  I attended SUNY Geneseo from 1979-1983.  During those years, 18 was still the legal age limit for drinking alcohol.  SUNY Geneseo was well-known for drinking.  Walking around Main Street in the village of Geneseo on a Friday evening in those years, you'd see groups of students everywhere as they went bar-hopping.  I remember Uncle Waldo's, the Vital Spot, the Inn Between, and GJ's (Gentleman Jim's), among others, as well as the Statesmen, down on the west end of Court Street.  Bands played at some of them, others had DJ's.  I frequented the Statesmen during my freshman year and the Inn Between during my sophomore year. Parties with plenty of booze would be in progress all over the campus; in dorms, frat houses, the College Union, and "The Rat," which was the nickname of the Rathskellar, down in the basement of Letchworth Dining Hall.

Now, on this Friday evening in 2019, Main Street was a virtual ghost town. With the drinking age now being 21, most college students are under age. The campus has a no-alcohol policy.  The Inn Between has been converted into student housing, I don't know whatever happened to GJ's, and I can't remember the exact location of Uncle Waldo's.  It appeared the location of the Vital Spot still had some life to it, but I couldn't tell from a distance whether it was a bar or a restaurant.  The Statesmen is long gone.

I couldn't even tell you where any students were.  Their dorms?  Coffee houses? On the east side of Geneseo where all the chain stores are now?  I didn't see any at the village park, where we were watching the concert.

Times certainly have changed.

Paul Pakusch
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Friday, September 6, 2019

Recurring Dreams

There's a few recurring dreams that often entertain me:

One is that I am back in the house that I grew up in. For one reason or another, the dream has me buying the house and moving back into it.

Another is that I am working in a radio station and the song is running out and I can't find another record quickly enough before the previous song runs out.

The third is that I am back in school taking a course and I am either skipping a lot of classes or I don't have my homework finished.

I find it weird that I have these dreams. I've often wondered what makes people have recurring dreams.

Paul Pakusch
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Thursday, September 5, 2019

Slow Dance

Paul Pakusch
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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Thoughts on the Bahamas after Dorian

With Hurricane Dorian being stalled over the northern Bahamas in the past couple of days, it has been making me think about my first cruise in 2004. Freeport was the last port on an itinerary that included Labadee, Haiti; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; and Georgetown, Grand Cayman. It had been many years that I had been dreaming of going on a cruise. The Stars finally lined up and in 2004 we sailed on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas. The group traveling included my immediate family, my in-laws, and a friend of one of my daughters.

We sailed out of Cape Liberty, New Jersey. It was exciting to sell under the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge where we had the fun of  "wondering" if the ship would fit under the bridge. When it did, everybody on deck cheered.

The itinerary was a mixed bag of economies.  Sailing into Labadee, I got quite a culture shock.  As we were coming into the bay, we could see people sailing small, rustic boats as they took their places for a day's work, serving the guests of Voyager.  Labadee is part of Haiti, which is a very poor country. Even though most of the people on the island where employees of Royal Caribbean, the poor economy was quite obvious. People were begging us to purchase paintings and other art items that they had made.

Jamaica has better economic situation than Haiti, but it was still quite annoying to have people constantly begging us to buy something or go for a taxi ride in Ocho Rios. Grand Cayman was the complete opposite. There is a lot of money in Grand Cayman. We purchased excursions in the first three ports.

We didn't go anywhere in Freeport except for the immediate cruise port area since it was the last port on the itinerary. So it's with those thoughts in mind that I'm thinking about the people of the Bahamas in general and Freeport in particular. The pictures of the flooding in the Bahamas that have been coming back so far are quite devastating. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like for those people. I hope for the best for them.

Paul Pakusch
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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Desperate Woman

Paul Pakusch
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Monday, September 2, 2019

Remembering the MDA Telethon

As a child, I remember watching the MDA Telethon with Jerry Lewis on the national broadcast, and Eddie Meath on WHEC Channel 10 for the local portion here in Rochester.  I remember kids in the neighborhood going house to house with a can, looking for donations.

As a young teen, when I was a member of the Greece Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps, I remember marching down East Avenue for the Labor Day parade. On one Labor Day, after the parade, we went to the Mapledale Party House parking lot to do a performance when Eddie Meath came outside.

WHEC Channel 10 was one of the original stations to broadcast the MDA Jerry Lewis telethon when it first began in 1966.

Little did I know in those days that I would end up working many of those local broadcasts myself.  I started working at Channel 10 in August of 1982, just a couple weeks before Labor Day.  I was still training to be a control room crew member.  If memory serves correct, the Rochester broadcast was coming from the ballroom at the Americana Hotel on State Street.  Today it is a Holiday Inn, which is weird for me because back then the building across the river from there was a Holiday Inn.  That day, my job was to change the numbers on the Tote Board every time we had a new dollar amount for donations that had come in.

I left the station on September 5, 2014.  From 1982 through 2013, I worked almost every Labor Day for the MDA Telethon.  The remote location changed through the years.  After the hotel ballrooms, we moved to the Xerox Theatre for a number of years, and then down the road to Rochester's School of the Arts. I worked different control room positions at different times through the years; camera was always fun because I liked picking out different volunteers to get closeups of while they were taking phone calls.  I also worked audio, video switcher, and videotape playback.  There were some years I was back at the station, running master control.

There was a large group of volunteers that worked behind the scenes at the MDA telethons.  They put many hours of work into this worthy cause.  I always enjoyed being at the remote location with them. In between local broadcasts, while the national portion was on the air, we often hung out with some of them, or down at the tables where food was being served.

It's sad in a way that the telethons have ended.  I recognize that today it's not the most effective way to raise funds anymore.  I'd like to believe that progress has been made in a cure for muscular dystrophy, but obviously it still exists.  Maybe someday.

Here's a video of a WHEC local portion of the MDA telethon sometime in the late 1980's.  I'm one of the camera operators.  I believe this was at the Xerox Auditorium.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Thoughts on Being Married For the Second Time

This being a second marriage for both of us, Stacey suggested that I write a blog on what it's like being married for the second time. I thought it was a good idea, not just for something to write about, but it's also helping me to organize my thoughts on all I've been through in the past 3 ½ years.

Everyone's experiences are different. Everyone's relationships are different, including the reasons why their relationships may have ultimately ended. So, what I'm writing about here may or may not apply to other people. For starters, I always felt happy in my first marriage, which lasted 32 years.

We had been college sweethearts and I felt that we had a strong bond right from the start. In later years, when we were drifting apart, I didn't see it coming. Sure, I noticed changes, but I attributed it to getting older. I didn't expect it to end and I took it very hard when it did. Counseling helped a lot; in fact, I took my counselor's advice to “keep busy” and I believe that's what helped me overcome my loss and move on. Keeping busy left me with little time to wallow in my sorrows and it gave me opportunities to discover new things about myself.

My nephew suggested I write my autobiography, which I did, and you can read it in this blog. I had always wanted to dance more, so I met new friends and became very active as a dancer. And that's how I met Stacey. I met her at Taylor's Nightclub a little over a year after my marriage ended. We were both dating someone else at the time, so nothing happened yet, but those relationships ended and we became good friends over the summer. By the end of summer, we were a couple. Stacey and I got married in April of 2019. She has a different personality than my first wife, so therefore different values. Not that one set of values is better than the other, it's just that I had to get used to them and make adjustments. She had to get used to me, as well.

Another thing that's different is that we have different expectations of each other from what I was used to in the past. Such as keeping house, meals, managing money together, how we communicate, and living with each other's habits.

A big factor in my second marriage is my adult children. It was hard for them to get used to the idea that mom and dad aren't together anymore. They had always seen us as role models in what a good marriage should be. So it was hard for them to have that image shattered. But they did understand that I would only be happy in a new relationship and then ultimately I would probably get married again. I like being married.  I recognized that it would probably have been hard for them to accept anyone I married, not just Stacey. So when the subject of marriage came up, I promised them that we would be engaged for about a year before the wedding. I believe that this helps them accept their dad's new status with a new wife. It seems to have gone fine.

I think what's different is that we are not having the old family get-togethers with their mom and me like we used to have. Holidays are different, as are other social events. One of the hardest things for me to get used to was that my relationship with my ex-wife's family is completely different now. I had spent many years building a good relationship with them, I watched all the nieces and nephews grow up from babies, and now suddenly they weren't technically my relatives anymore. My nieces and nephews told me they will always see me as their uncle, which made me feel gratified and I appreciate them saying that. I still see them as my nieces and nephews. I have had opportunities to visit with some of them and introduce them to Stacey. I don't know if it was awkward for anyone, but it did seem to go pretty well.  Now Stacey's family is part of my family. I have enjoyed get-togethers with them and I look forward to more.

Another thing that's different is the types of activities that I do with Stacey. When you meet somebody when you're young, you're looking for someone with whom you can start a family. With Stacey, all of that was behind me. So I was truly looking for someone with whom I could spend a lot of time and do activities together. And that's what it has been. We look for a lot of activities to do together and we spend a lot of time just hanging out together. I still wonder sometimes why it could not have been like that in my first marriage, but then I realized that we both really did change. It wasn't something that was expected, it's just the way it worked out.

Life with Stacey is wonderful and I look forward to many happy years with her.

Paul Pakusch
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Saturday, August 31, 2019

A Group Cruise I Am Organizing

Hosted by Paul Pakusch

This is my first venture as a travel host. Depending on how this goes, I hope to host more trips in the future.  Although I am operating a home-based travel agency, the purpose of this cruise is to have a group of friends to travel with.  You may book your travel arrangements with me or you may book on your own with your agent or via Norwegian Cruise Line.  I am fine with it either way.  If you book on your own, please let me know so that we can include you in our group activities while on the cruise. You will need to give your booking agent the name of the ship (Norwegian Getaway), departing New Orleans on April 5, 2020.  If you would like me to handle your travel arrangements, please contact me.

Cruise Details:

Norwegian Getaway, departing New Orleans Sunday, April 5, 2020, returning on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020.
Ports of call include Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan Island, Honduras; Harvest Caye, Belize; Costa Maya, Mexico.

“Group Trip”

I have not set this cruise up as a formal “Group trip.”  After checking out the logistics, I concluded it would be impractical at this time to arrange a formal “group trip” with the cruise line, so this will be more like a group gathering on the cruise.  What we are doing instead is letting everyone make travel arrangements on their own accords, and we will arrange activities that everyone may choose to participate in if they wish.


Due to the variables of the travel industry, the price for this trip may vary.  As of this writing (7-29-19) here are the following price estimates; they are the lowest price in each category. Please note that the prices in ads for cruises often do not include taxes and gratuities, so I have added them to these estimates.  These prices may change; ask for an actual quote when you are ready to book:

Solo Studio Cabin: $1,299 plus taxes ($156.17) and gratuity ($105) = $1,560 includes one free offer*
Inside Cabin: $729 per person plus taxes ($156.17) and gratuity ($105) = $990 includes one free offer*
Ocean View: $899 per person plus taxes ($156.17) and gratuity ($105) = $1,160 includes two free offers*
Balcony: $1,049 per person plus taxes ($156.17) and gratuity ($105) = $1,310 includes two or more free offers*
Mini-Suite: $1,249 per person plus taxes ($156.17) and gratuity ($105) = $1,510 includes two or more free offers*
Spa: $1,449 per person plus taxes ($156.17) and gratuity ($105) = $1,710 includes two or more free offers*

Price estimates based on two people per cabin (except solo).  3rd or 4th person can be booked in a cabin, usually at a lower price per person.

*NCL’s Free At Sea offers are:
·         Unlimited open bar (you will be charged a gratuity)
·         Shore excursion credits
·         Specialty dining
·         WiFi package

New Orleans:

I highly recommend that you arrive in New Orleans at least a day before the cruise.  This is to avoid airline delays, which may cause you to miss the ship.  Although Mardi Gras will have ended by the time we get there, New Orleans is a very active city year-round. Besides the obvious music and partying, there are many tourist attractions to visit.

Stacey and I will be arriving Friday, April 3, 2020 and will be staying two nights at the Hyatt Centric French Quarter New Orleans, 800 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA 70112.  It is in the historic French Quarter and is a short drive from the cruise port. It is next to popular attractions like Canal Street and Bourbon Street. This 4-star hotel has 254 rooms and welcomes guests with 3 restaurants, an outdoor pool, and free in-room WiFi.

Whether you stay in the same hotel with us or not, we will host a pre-cruise happy hour on Saturday, April 4 at a venue in the French Quarter, followed by dinner for those who wish to join us.  Details to come later.

The Cruise

You can plan to board the ship late morning to early afternoon on Sunday, April 5.  Those of us who stay at the Hyatt Centric can arrange transportation for all of us as a group.

There are four port days and two days at sea on this cruise.  There are many excursions you can choose from.  On days at sea, you are free to participate in any of the dozens of activities on board the ship.  Stacey and I usually spend time by the pool, play trivia games, listen to or dance to music, or participate in some other games.

There are MANY activities available on a cruise ship.  If you have never cruised before, here are some options: Vegas-style theatre shows, comedy shows, casino, games, pools, hot tubs, a variety of live and recorded music, dancing, karaoke, trivia contests, spa treatments, shopping, movies, and just plain old people-watching and meeting people from all over the world.  There are quiet places where you can lounge and read a book or watch the passing sea.

Our Group

The best part about cruising as a group is participating in activities together.  You are free to do as you wish for the duration of the cruise.  For those who are interested, as your host, I will schedule a time for us to meet as a group each day on the cruise ship, usually in or around one of the lounges.  The meetings will be short and you are not required to attend them.  The purpose will be to get together and discuss our individual plans and to coordinate activities that some of us might want to do as a group.  NCL has “freestyle dining,” so we may want to reserve dining times in order to sit together as a group.  We can discuss this at our daily meeting.  The first meeting will be on the pool deck by the sail-away party.  We will meet there immediately after the safety drill.


NCL has freestyle dining, which means none of the dining rooms have traditional scheduled dining times and table assignments.  The main dining rooms are included in your cruise fare. To clarify this for first-time cruisers, you are NOT required to pay anything extra for food on the ship.  Your cruise fare includes the main dining rooms and the buffet.  Specialty dining rooms include Steak Houses, Asian and others; these cost extra and you may eat at them if you wish.  Stacey and I do not eat at the specialty dining rooms.  Reservations are recommended for all of the dining rooms, so at our daily meetings, we can decide who wants to eat where as a group and then make reservations accordingly.


Yes, you may bring children on this cruise.  There are kids and teens activities, babysitting is available, and the NCL Getaway has an AWESOME kids pool area.


You will need a passport for this cruise.

Paul Pakusch
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Friday, August 30, 2019

Growing Up in the 1960's

If you read virtually any history of the sixties, you will think that every young person was a hippy and went to Woodstock, everyone protested the Vietnam war, and everyone was listening to psychedelic rock. That's not how I remember it.

I was born in 1960, so this period accounts for the first ten years of my life. I was doing what kids that age typically do. I occasionally saw long-haired teenagers called hippies, but most of what the sixties are known for was not a part of my life. Superman, Batman, comics, Bewitched, Adam-12 and the NASA rocket launches and recoveries were. I had a cool 5-speed Stingray bike that I rode constantly all over the neighborhood. I loved climbing trees; we had a couple of awesome trees in our yard for climbing. Eventually we put a rope swing on one.

My parents listened to country music of the day and so did I.  I remember President Johnson. I didn't really understand who he was or what he did, just that "President Johnson" had a nice ring to it and couldn't imagine saying "President-anybody-else". I was too young to remember Kennedy. I once asked my mom what I was doing when the word of his assassination came on TV. She told me I was playing in the living room. She remembered Walter Cronkite breaking down on TV, so I guess I must've seen that. On November 22, 1963 I was a few weeks away from my third birthday. I do remember watching the episode of Bewitched in 1968 that was interrupted by a news bulletin about Martin Luther King being shot. Before then, I didn't know who he was. I also remember watching the long train ride of Robert Kennedy's funeral and my mom crying.

Just to see how the music of 1969 compares to today's version of history, here's the top 25 hits of 1969 according to Billboard Magazine

1ArchiesSugar, Sugar
2Fifth DimensionAquarius / Let The Sunshine In
3TemptationsI Can't Get Next To You
4Rolling StonesHonky Tonk Women
5Sly and The Family StoneEveryday People
6Tommy RoeDizzy
7Sly and The Family StoneHot Fun In The Summertime
8Tom JonesI'll Never Fall In Love Again
9FoundationsBuild Me Up Buttercup
10Tommy James and The ShondellsCrimson And Clover
11Three Dog NightOne
12Tommy James and The ShondellsCrystal Blue Persuasion
14Marvin GayeToo Busy Thinking About My Baby
15Henry Mancini and His Orch.Love Theme From Romeo And Juliet
16YoungbloodsGet Together
17Friends Of DistinctionGrazin' In The Grass
18Elvis PresleySuspicious Minds
19Creedence Clearwater RevivalProud Mary
20Jr. Walker and The All StarsWhat Does It Take (To Win Your Love)
21Isley BrothersIt's Your Thing
22Neil DiamondSweet Caroline
24Creedence Clearwater RevivalBad Moon Rising
25BeatlesGet Back      

Paul Pakusch
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Thursday, August 29, 2019

How I Keep Up My Activity Level

With the number of times that Stacey and I go out dancing, watching bands, marching in parades, travel, or just my activity level in general with how many things I'm involved with, people often ask me how I stay so active.  Life is short; I want to be able to do as much as possible. The more you stay active, the easier it gets to be active. I feel that keeping up my activity level on a regular basis gives me stamina in what I'm doing so it makes it easier in the long run. Usually I find all of these activities to be invigorating.

I keep pushing myself. I will keep going no matter how tired I am. If I have a goal that I want to meet, I don't let tiredness stop me. It may slow me down but I will keep going until I reach my goal. When I’m at a point when I am totally exhausted, that’s when I will stop whatever it is I'm doing to take a break.  I pace myself, too, so I don’t wear myself out.

Dancing is a form of exercise. So, like jogging, working out, swimming, or whatever, the more you keep up with any form of exercise on a regular basis, the easier it is. But like I said, I do push myself. I'm 58 years old, and my body has its share of aches and pains. I have arthritis in my lower back and in my kneecaps. It often affects my dancing. There was a time when some of the dance moves I was doing became too much for my knees, so my knees were really hurting badly. I bought some knee braces and used those for a while, and it helped a lot. Since then, I have learned what dance moves I can get away with, and I have improvised on other dance moves that I found are not quite so stressful. It also matters what kind of dance surface I am dancing on. For one thing, dancing on concrete is very hard on my knees. If I know I'm going to be dancing on concrete, I wear my padded sole sneakers. If I'm going to be dancing on a wooden floor, or something with a smooth service that's easier to slide on, I wear shoes that have a smooth bottom so I can do some sliding.

I have been doing a construction project remodeling my garage. It involves a lot of bending which is hard on my back. I have a goal that I want to meet so I keep pushing myself to reach the goal of finishing this project. 

So that's my answer in a nutshell. I have goals, I have places I want to go to, and I have things I want to get done.

Paul Pakusch
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