Recovery, not Jail: It's Time to Stop Abandoning America's Mentally Ill; 2nd Annual Painesville Bathtub Race; Dinner at the Tremont Greek Festival; Annual South Euclid Memorial Day Parade.
On Friday, May 27th, we went to the City Club to hear author and journalist, Mr. Pete Earley speak. The title of the program was "Recovery, not Jail: It's Time to Stop Abandoning America's Mentally Ill" which is a subject that Mr. Earley had personal experience dealing with because his son had very severe mental problems before the right combination of medications and counseling finally stabilized him.
Mr. Earley wrote about his family's torturous journey in a book titled "CRAZY: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness" which achieved great acclaim. When we arrived we talked with Ms. Anne McCabe, an advocate for the mentally ill who works closely with the National Alliance on Metal Illness (NAMI), who strongly recommended the book to us because it enlightens people on the complications involved in obtaining proper mental health treatment for one's self or one's loved ones.
This was exactly the message of Mr. Earley's presentation. His descriptions of how law enforcement and other facilitators couldn't help his son (the young man refused voluntary treatment) since he wasn't considered "dangerous enough" were downright harrowing. He was such a loss at what to do at one point that his wife suggested he put his talents to work and write about their experience and those of others. Mr. Earley ultimately spent almost a year doing research inside the Miami Dade County Jail where he shadowed many people with psychological afflictions through the criminal justice system to see where they landed.
To be sure, what he witnessed in Florida was often gut-wrenching to say the least but there were bright points scattered throughout his presentation. For one thing he praised former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton (who Ms. Margaret W. Wong strongly supports) as a leader in the establishment of mental health courts and her efforts to move the mentally ill out of jails to places where they can receive the care that they need.
We asked Mr. Earley about the particular problems of immigrants who are dealing with mental health issues especially the undocumented. Mr. Earley acknowledged that this was indeed a cause for concern and recalled an instance where a mentally ill undocumented immigrant sat in a Miami jail cell for 3 years while the various authorities argued about what to do with him and who would pay for his treatment. Mr. Earley contended that it is too often the case that treatment programs are centered around the white middle class and therefore have to be made more culturally sensitive. A recurring problem is that mental illness is regarded as a disgraceful thing in some cultures so special kind of intervention is needed.
In conclusion, we learned from Mr. Earley that vital elements of the current situation are a lack of funding; funds that are available not being directed to where they would do the most good; and a lack of coordination between the programs of the federal, state, and local agencies.
We talked about this with Ms. Leslie Powlette Stoyer, Executive Director of NAMI in Summit County who suggested that we investigate and support a bill by Congressman Tim Murphy (18th District of Pennsylvania) known as the "Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act." Congressman Murphy has a Ph.D. in psychology and this bill, according to his website, "fixes the nation's broken mental health system by focusing programs and resources on psychiatric care on patients and families most in need of services." This bill has been praised by the American Psychiatric Association, CNN, the "Wall Street Journal", the "Washington Post", the "Pittsburgh Post Gazette", and NAMI which Mr. Earley suggested that we all join as an important first step,
Back in April, 2016 we attended an Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce meeting at which Ms. Barb Monacelli from the Economic Development Dept. of the City of Painesville announced that the 2nd Annual Painesville Bathtub Races would be taking place on Friday, May 27th.
This aroused our curiosity so we obtained an entry form and read it over. We learned that the bathtub car could be made out of anything as long as it was capable of holding 2 gallons of water, was steerable and had brakes. Our attention was also directed to the provision that allowed businesses to advertise on the sides of the bathtub cars. One of our childhood dreams that we never fulfilled was to put a car together and participate in the soapbox derby so we viewed the bathtub races as a second chance for us as well as an offbeat but possibly effective way to promote the immigration services of Margaret W. Wong and Associates to Painesville's diverse community. Accordingly, we decided to throw caution to the winds, take our chances, and enter the races.
Oh! We almost forgot to say that the two people are required to race with each bathtub; one of whom must sit in/on the car in order to steer and hopefully put the brakes on after the finish line is crossed and the other must push the engineless vehicle for the approximately 50 yard spurt. Since we attempt to go to the gym each day (not always is this goal met) we decided to assign ourselves the job of pusher. Ms. Tracey Schveder, our good friend, bravely allowed herself to be recruited to be the driver.
Thus the application for entry was completed, signed, and submitted along with the $20 entry fee paid by Margaret W. Wong and Associates.
Then came the task of building our bathtub car. To this end, we were momentarily inspired by a line on the application which read, "turn ordinary bathtubs and other unique creations into rolling works of art." But the keyword proved to be "momentarily." We went to Home Depot to see what accessories were available and for a few days entertained re-designing a wheel barrel so that it resembled...with a touch of the imagination...a bathtub car. But then there was the requirement of affixing brakes and coming up with a way of steering the thing passenger-wise.
Even though our limited mechanical dexterity was stretched to its utmost when we installed a doggie door at our home eight years ago (the dog is now dead but the door still hangs there) we have no doubt that if we had the time and had mustered together every ounce of our patience while quietly chanting to ourselves that "this is not a problem, this is a challenge" we would have assembled something that at least rolled on multiple wheels and braked by sorrowfully dragging a stick along the pavement. Subsequently, Ms. Schveder could have steered by leaning to one side or the other.
But we were psychologically fixated on this joyful community ritual by now so we decided to give it some class, energy, and sustainability. So we contacted Ms. Monacelli who immediately put us in touch with Mr. Paul Morton, Painesville's electric plant supervisor, who was a veteran of the bathtub races ofthe previous year. Mr. Morton understood our situation and promptly suggested that we place a call to Mr. Ron Spangenberg who had built several bathtub cars used in last year's races.
After just a couple of moments on the phone with Mr. Spangenberg, we could tell that, far from being frustrated, he was the kind of individual who actually loved the process of bathtub car construction and was more than eager to put his expertise to our use. And so we decided to allow him to do that very thing and the end result was a beautiful bright red vehicle that made us want to say, "wow" when we first saw photos of it. Our new car was light weight, easy to steer, with a bar across the back to be used for pushing. In short, it was perfect in every way and we were proud to be associated with it.
Soon the day of the race arrived. Very sadly for us, Mr. Spangenberg had another commitment and couldn't be there. A few days earlier he had dropped off our car at the Painesville Electric Plant where Mr. Morton both housed it and then graciously delivered it to Main Street in Painesville where the races would take place. We arrived via a U-Haul truck which we would use to take our bathtub car home after, hopefully, claiming victory.
We soon realized, however, that our competition would be fierce because there were 18 other entries from such organizations as the Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce, Morse Van Lines, Buckeye State Credit Union, Active Plumbing Supplies/Kitchen & Bath, Lubrizol, and Avery Denison. Plus, there were entrants from such City of Painesville departments as fire and police, community development, engineering, municipal electric, public works, and water.
Ms. Schveder met us there and we practiced pushing, steering and braking our fiery red roadster. Thanks to Mr. Gordon Landefeld, some accomplished looking bumper stickers advertising Margaret W. Wong & Associates had been prepared and Mr. Spangenberg had placed a steel strip below the push bar so they could prominently be displayed.
The format of the contest called for every entry to race at least once and the winners would keep competing until there was just one vehicle and one crew (maybe, just maybe us) left standing.
It was soon revealed that we one of the two participants in the very first race and our opponent would be a high-level yellow bathtub car entered by the Painesville Public Works Dept. manned by two hunky young guys in their 20's. At first glance, it seemed the odds were against us but we had worked out at the gym the night before and several people told us that our car was much lighter than that of our opposition so we were defiantly optimistic. Our spirits were especially buoyed when an older man with white hair moosied over just before the start of the race and confided to us that he had bet a considerable sum on us winning.
Then...the gun went off...and...
Well, let's just say that we were a length behind from the very start and kept that distance from start to finish. We managed to hang on to it even though our glasses flew off 2/3 of the way through and we managed a one-handed catch.
We congratulated the winners but we couldn't help feeling a bit crestfallen throughout the rest of the day. We emailed Ms. Wong, who had been thinking of detouring over to Painesville to watch us compete, to let her know the results and she promptly emailed us back letting us know that she appreciated our valiant effort on behalf of the firm.
After a couple of hours, the finalists were two consistent winners; Lubrizol and Avery-Denison. We knew it would be quite a stand-off so we moved to the finish line in order to see which set of front tires edged over the finish line to take first place.
It was ...
Avery Denison in a nail biter! Both crews showed respect for each other as they accepted their minature pink bathtub trophies and both magnanimously requested that their prize money of $50 (2nd place) and $150 (1st place) be contributed to the local municipal fund which was a truly wonderful gesture in our opinion.
As for Ms. Schveder and ourselves, we gave ourselves a consolation prize of some sangria from "Your Vine or Mine" right across from the race; a brisk walk in a nearby park; a delicious pizza with pineapple, mushrooms and tomatoes from Bada Bing Pizza; and a couple of episodes of "Breaking Bad" on Netflix.
At this time, our bathtub car sits proudly on the enclosed patio of our mobile home in Euclid Beach. We plan to put some bricks under it to take the pressure off the tires and cover it with a tarp to keep it intact and sparkling until this time next year when the 3rd Annual Painesville Bathtub races come to pass.
At that time we will work even harder at the gym starting a month before and will start saying "no" to pizza and vegan cookies.
At that time we will practice pushing the bathtub car around our mobile home park with Ms. Schveder steadfastly behind the wheel.
At that time we will ask a friend to hold our glasses before the race starts to avoid needless distractions.
At that time...well...we have no control over our opponents and those young guys were pretty formidable. But at the very least our competitor for next year will cross the finish line panting and muttering between gasps, "those old dudes were swift, man!!!"
[Below is the Gazette News article that featured Mr. Michael Patterson - our "bathtub racer."]
Memorial Day 2016 would be amiss if we didn't mention two recurring events that we make an effort to attend each year.
First of all, on Sunday night, May 29th, we decided to have dinner at the Tremont Greek Festival, now in its 46th year, at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.
On this day we arrived just prior to 5:30pm as Mr. Mike Boyeas was rounding up everyone for a church tour. Even though we have gone on several such tours over the years we decided to take part because we had never been on one conducted by Mr. Boyeas and we were glad that we did because this church has such a rich, extensive history that no two guides would emphasize the same things.
Within the souvenir booklet for the festival there was a very informative short excerpt from "Greek Americans of Cleveland" by Themistolcles Rodis and Mike Vasilakis that talked about Greek immigrants who came here between 1894-1912 and the establishment of this church in 1912-1913. Therein it was written that "the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, the first Greek Orthodox Church in Cleveland, established the roots for all subsequent Greek Orthodox Congregations in Greater Cleveland, and is honored as 'The Mother Church.'"
After the tour, we had an excellent dinner of spanakopita (Greek spinach and Feta pie), roasted lemon potatoes, rice pilaf, and Greek-style green beans. It was served to us by Father Dean Dimon who was taking his turn assisting the hungry festival-goers. We then walked through the festival and spent some watching the Annunciation Dancers perform.
In the souvenir booklet there too was a proclamation from the House of Representatives of the 131st General Assembly of Ohio signed by Ohio State Rep. Bill Patmon. It read, in part, "the fabric of America is woven with many threads, each contributing to its strength, but lest the fabric be weakened, each nationality must retain pride in its cultural heritage. In celebrating this event, those associated with the Tremont Greek Festival will not only pay tribute to the history of their forefathers but also recognize those who have strengthened the bonds of the local Greek-American community."
Second, on Monday morning, May 30th, we spent some time helping our friend, South Euclid Councilman-At-Large Marty Gelfand distribute candy as took part in the annual South Euclid Memorial Day Parade.
For several years we have taken part in this mile-long jaunt because we admire Councilman Gelfand and enjoy working on this venture with him, his wife Dr. Sherry Ball, their daughter Eden, and their good friend Ms. Marjorie Preston and her daughter, Emma. What's more, this was the first year that Eden and Emma were old enough and strong enough to do the entire mile trek (if not more) themselves on foot instead of via a wagon.
Walking near us were South Euclid Councilmen Jason Russell and Joe Frank. Along the way, we encountered South Euclid Municipal Court Judge Gayle Williams-Byers and marchers for Ohio State Senator Kenny Yuko including his wife, Ms. Pam Yuko.
Thankfully, the parade started at 9am before it got hot and our focus was so intense about putting either a mint or a stick of licorice in each outstretched hand the length of the route didn't seem to matter.
At the end of the parade, there is always a brief program presided over by Mayor Georgine Welo but, alas, we could not stay because we had to get over to an event where we were at most of the weekend.
And this event just happened to be the 18th annual Berea National Rib Cook-Off produced each year by the Berea City Club whose mission is "to promote positive civic interests for the betterment of the community." Since it was first established in 1998, this organization has raised some $700,000.00 for various community projects.
This was our first year tabling there; we were ultimately drawn to it because it has been our experience that hot weather, lip-smackin' food, assorted bands, and ice-cold drinks bring people together regardless of culture.
All told, there were 16 rib vendors present with such colorful names as Sgt. Oink's National Cooking Team, Armadillo's Real Down Home BBQ, and Desperado's Lick My Ribs Barbecue. They came from all over Ohio and such places as Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Charleston.
Of course several prizes for ribs and sauce were awarded. We especially enjoyed it on Saturday when the young Ms. Berea Beauty Pageant contestants voted their top prize to Porky Chicks BBQ. It was accepted by a large man appropriately named "Big" who seemed delighted that his product was the choice of the young ladies.
We, ourselves, set up shop next to a man named Augie selling phone chargers. Throughout, the weekend Augie kept telling the passer-byers that he was up to negotiating a deal because "the lawyer was in" referring to us.
Right across from us were Jack On The Bone Barbecue (which advertised a "Vegetarian Nightmares" composed of 1/3 rack of ribs, 1/4 chicken, and pulled pork) and Bad Azz BBQ which served delicious macaroni and cheese along with cole slaw. Jack On The Bone was a good neighbor too; they let us use their faucet to keep our water bottle filled for the duration of the hot weekend.
We honestly did not know what to expect in terms of potential clientele but a person who had a friend in Cambodia talked to us about helping out with paperwork to bring her here to the United States. Likewise a man whose girlfriend was here on a visit from China talked to us about extending her stay. There was also a young woman from Canada who might need our help obtaining a green card.
Several people who knew Ms. Margaret W. Wong stopped by to say hello. These included:
***Ms. Athena Tam who told us that Ms. Wong helped her mother with her immigration paperwork when she immigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong some 20 years ago.
***Mr. Bob Redmond, who we know from the Solon Chamber of Commerce, is a good friend of our Mr. George Hwang. In fact, they worked together on a project involving Pearl of the Orient in Rocky River.
***An uber driver named LaDon who looked at Ms. Wong's picture on our banner for a moment before he exclaimed, "I know her!" He recalled picking Ms. Wong up at the Cleveland-Hopkins Airport and transporting her to our office on Chester Avenue.
In addition, a person stopped by to tell us that she was very concerned about the recent political rhetoric regarding immigrants. The negativity of what is being said especially touched her because her own mother immigrated to the United States from Iceland when she was in her 20's and lived here 50 years before she died. She said that we "must protect our immigrants."
Needless to say the bands were diverse and quite spirited. We especially liked a band that played '60's songs named "Aftermath" that was like a shot of adrenaline when we were feeling drowsy due to the heat and, certainly, the Chardon Polka Band that we see all over and always enjoy. This time they played a really funny song titled "You Can't Drink Beer in Outer Space" which prevented them from even entertaining the notion of becoming astronauts.
During the entire length of the festival, thank you's to veterans were worked into the proceedings. Ms. Morgan White, a young Nashville singer/songwriter said it best when she firmly stated, "Memorial Day is not about cookouts. It's about veterans who do so much for this country."
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC