The Soul of Bash, by Steve Holmes

That ...that...I’m just going to say it, bastard, how can he say those things, doesn't he know we’re people too. I’m sooooo angry about this. What are we going to do? We can’t let him get away with saying things like that on the radio. We’ll have a lot to talk about at the meeting tomorrow, that’s for sure".

She put down the phone and sat at her desk in the living room of her 8th floor apartment. She could just see the tops of the two towers on the Empire State Plaza off in the distance. It was a gray day made all the more so by the phone call.

I can’t believe this, she thought. We take one step forward and two steps back. We can’t let this man do this to us.

Mary Ann is 28 years old. She lives in a Senior Housing high-rise that has a number of units available for people with disabilities. Her disability is Cerebral Palsy, but no one ever told her she had a disability, not without hearing the sharp response, "we are all disabled in one way or another, some of us by attitude".

What caused Mary Ann to be upset this day, the subject of the phone call from her friend, Dale, was an afternoon radio program, hosted by an obnoxious man, PU Bash. Bash’s show was on weekday afternoons from 3 pm to 7 pm on WBOR. Mary Ann had listened to the show a few times but stopped after PU had said some nasty things about older people. Mary Ann lived in a building with lots senior citizens who all took turns being her grandmother, and she wasn’t about to listen to ‘this garbage’. And now he had turned his attention to people with disabilities. What Dale informed her was that Bash had started his program that day by talking about seeing two people who used wheelchairs at the Crossgates Cinema, with their ‘handlers’.

"These people were helpless and I don’t blame them for being there, I blame their handlers for taking them", he said, and went on to mimic the voices of the two theater goers and invited callers to share their experiences of seeing other people with disabilities in the community, "drooling all over the place". This was the start of a two day barrage of jokes and insults aimed at all people with disabilities. It was also the start of one the most interesting experiences of Mary Ann’s life.

Mary Ann uses an electric wheelchair to get around but does quite well on her own. Each morning an aide comes to help with her personal care needs and things like cleaning hard to reach places in her home and also the aide does her food shopping. Mary Ann has lived in her apartment in the Arbor Hill section of Albany for two years. It’s in an all black neighborhood and Mary Ann is the only white person who lives in the building at this time. She is also the youngest by far. She took the apartment because it was the only one available and it was ‘time for her to get out on her own’. Not that her parents weren’t wonderful, but living at home at 28 was just to much for a young woman who wanted her independence, not to mention some occasional privacy with her friends.

Her parents and family members were all a little concerned about the neighborhood she had moved into but those concerns quickly evaporated as the older women in her building immediately ‘adopted’ Mary Ann. And Mary Ann adopted them as well. It became a mutual admiration and support society. Her older friends looked after her and she helped them with problems with their benefit checks and other government matters, using the skills she was learning at SUNY School of Social Work where she was studying for her MSW.

Mary Ann would often watch her favorite programs in the common room on the first floor with several of her older friends. That’s where she headed now. She had to talk with someone about PU Bash and his tirade about people with disabilities.

She closed the door behind her using a key that was attached to a wooden peg which gave her just enough hand control to open and lock her door by herself. Mary Ann could do a lot with her hands, but she had a little trouble with working or holding small items like keys. But she always managed. "Where there is a will there is a way".

When the elevator opened on the first floor, one of Mary Ann’s favorite people was standing there.

"Mary Ann, what is a matter child, you look like your dog died, and I know you ain’t got no dog living with you."

"Hi Mrs. Arthur, I’m really upset about a radio host that has been saying things about people with disabilities, that same guy that is always talking down about older people. He makes me so damn, excuse me, mad." Mary Ann explained the things that PU Bash had said.

Mrs. Arthur was 82 years old but few would guess that. She was a tall, thin woman, with dark gray hair, and a beautiful grandma smile. Her eyes were bright and brown and focused on Mary Ann as she spoke.

"Oh dear, that man has a broke soul for sure. He so twisted, he see his behind whenever he open that venom filled mouth of his. Lord, he bring out the judge in me. Forgive me for these unkind thoughts".

"Unkind, how else can you think about someone like him", Mary Ann responded, "He was mimicking the speech problems of people, laughing at our challenges, and saying we have no place in our community. Hitler would love a guy like this, he is evil".

"Now there was a man with a warped soul, child. That Hitler, he completely lost his way in this world. I don’t know about this PU Bash fella but we pray on it and see we can’t help turn him around."

"I don’t know if you can change someone like him" replied Mary Ann, "besides he just does it for the ratings and the effect it has on his audience. People like this man. He is the most popular talk show host on the air. That’s what concerns me the most; all these people call in and agree with him and encourage him. People like me, who speak up for ourselves and others with disabilities, we work hard to teach people that we all have gifts, that we have something to contribute, that we just need a chance, that we are no different than anyone else, that...", Mary Ann burst into tears unable to finish her sentence.

"There now child, you are a strong one, taking on all that weight, standing up strong for your friends and yourself. I love you for it. Remind me of a fine young man I knew, years ago, you might of heard a him, Martin Luther King".

"Martin Luther King", beamed Mary Ann, "are you serious, know him, he’s my hero! So much of what we do in our disability rights work was inspired by him and others in the civil rights movement. I wish I had his courage and vision."

"Yes, he was a special one, took no back seat to any man. Knowed his purpose too, served his soul and taught others as well, no higher calling than that, none at all. You special too child, got that fire in your belly, can feel it coming out of you like a hot draft. And you got courage, heart full of it. You got a purpose too child. You feel it?" Mrs. Arthur placed her hand on Mary Ann’s shoulder.

"Well I guess so but right now my purpose is to help figure out what we’re going to do about PU Bash." We’ve got a big self-advocacy meeting tomorrow night and when we’re finished with him, well he’ll know who he’s dealing with. Mary Ann’s tears were gone, replaced with a smile of determination. She did have a purpose.

"Well, dear, don’t you think it’s time we went into the TV room and joined Mrs. Comfort and Mrs. Jenkins. Time for my favorite show, Touched by an Angel. Let’s see what Della Reese is up to tonight."

"Great idea", Mary Ann replied, "I need something to take my mind off that man."

The next day, Mary Ann headed off to work at her intern job. It was the last course for her degree. She just hoped that she could finally get a real job after this internship.

Mary Ann’s internship was at a group home for people with developmental and other disabilities. Actually Mary Ann did not believe in group homes for people. She believes that every person should have their own home and live with people they want to live with. But that was going to take time, always time. Things were changing fast for people with disabilities, people were always telling her that, but not fast enough for Mary Ann. But she enjoyed her work in the group home. She was helping the six men who lived there to develop their own plans for their lives. And she was

not surprised that everyone had interesting ideas for things they wanted to do. Carl wanted to open his own lawn mowing business, Jim dreamed of having a newsstand of his own, Ed and Richard wanted to work at Walmart, Ted wanted to be a disc jockey, and Paul’s dream was to be a Minister. Mary Ann did not know if these men could accomplish these goals but she believed with all her heart that each one of them had a right to try. Right now they were all attending the same day program in Albany. It was very boring. Some days there was nothing to do but Mall therapy, walking at the Mall, looking at all the things that no one could afford. But maybe someday; things were changing, right?

Mary Ann and her friend Dale often gave workshops for people with disabilities about dreaming. At all these sessions they asked people who attended what are your dreams? No one ever said, I want to live in a group home or hey, when can I get a job in a workshop. People had such wonderful dreams. They wanted to get married or have a girlfriend; they wanted to own their own home or business; to take a vacation to California, work with kids, be a disability advocate, or get to know people in their community who don’t have a disability. They wanted the same thing everyone else wanted and that was the point wasn’t it. Dale was a song writer and one of Mary Ann’s favorite of Dale’s songs was "We want what you got".

At a recent dream workshop, a young man had come up to Mary Ann after the workshop, he was with a staff person, who told Mary Ann he had something he wanted to share with her. He gave her a piece of paper with some words that took her awhile to understand, because they were written with an unsteady hand. The words were: My dream is peace on earth, one kind word at a time. Here was a man, who lived with 12 other people, who had to take turns with his roommates going to church on Sundays, who had no privacy, not a lot of real opportunities, at least not yet, and still his dream was for a better world. Unsteady hand but steady heart

One kind word at a time Mr. Bash, one kind word at a time. That’s how we get peace on earth, that’s how we build communities. Not with your negative drivel, not with tearing others down, not with toxic humor, not with ratings at others expense. Oh she had a lot to say to Mr. PU Bash. Someday, someday.

That night, at the Albany Public Library on Washington Ave., 23 people gathered in the Community Room, for the monthly self-advocacy meeting of a group called, We’re determined. Most of the members of the group were people who had often been labeled mentally retarded or developmentally disabled, Both of these labels are unacceptable to this group and the thousands like it across the country. Many self-advocacy groups in fact referred to themselves as ‘People First" groups, referring to their commitment to teach the world that people with disabilities want to be known for who they are not for their disabilities.

Mary Ann is a co-advisor of this group. She and Dale helped the group get organized several years prior, and the group has flourished ever since. The group has a structure with a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer. The group is not a self-help group or a social club, it’s an activist gathering, with an purposeful agenda: ‘to speak out for ourselves and others’. Most recently, the group had successfully lobbied an organization that provides services for people with disabilities to change it’s name from, Services for the Retarded, to it’s new name the, Organization for Community Living. It was a small but important victory.

Tom, the president of the group gaveled the meeting to order.

"We got a really important issue to discuss tonight and we’re going to get right to it", said Tom as he brushed his sandy blonde hair out of his green eyes. Tom works as a mail clerk at the Legislative Office Building in Albany. He lives with two other men in an apartment provided by on organization that supports people with disabilities. He recently applied for a new opportunity called self-determination, where he and his two friends who like living together will be able to get their own home, "not an agency place". They’ll also be able to hire their own support staff, who’ll work for them directly. Tom was anxious for that day to come.

But this day he had another important task.

"I need to tell you all about something really bad that happened this week. I know you’ll all be upset by this but I just want you to know that we aren’t going to take this lying down". Tom, with Dale and Mary Ann’s help, told the group about Mr. PU Bash’s recent radio show, which Tom referred to as "Bash’s bash at people like us".

"I know that guy", said Don, who is member of the Board of Directors of the Self-Advocacy Association an organization controlled by and for people with disabilities. "I heard him on the radio the other day, he was talking about Hot Dog Dan’s. It was a commercial he was doing and he said he could eat about a dozen and 1/2 of them with relish and mustard. It made me sick just thinking about eating that much. And he is a really big guy, must weigh way over three hundred pounds, must be all the hot dogs I guess."

Tom asked the group for any ideas for how we should deal with this. Using some newsprint Dale quickly wrote down the following suggestions the group made.

Have a protest rally outside the radio station’s office

Write letters to the station manager

Get a reporter at the Albany newspaper to write an article

Take an ad out in the paper bashing Bash

Chain ourselves to the WBOR office building till they apologize

Write letters and e-mails to the sponsors of the show--

hit them where it really hurts

Make phone calls to PU’s program and send him lots of e-mails

Take PU hostage--a joke

Put flyers all over Albany with the words PU stinks, he’s got to go

Write to the Federal Communication Commission

Sue him of behalf of all folks with disabilities

"I think we have a pretty good list of idea’s", said Dale, "maybe we should see

if we could decide on one or two and take some action against this guy or the radio station. What do you all think?"

"I think we should go to the radio station and chain ourselves to the front door, and refuse to leave no matter what, unless they give all people with disabilities an apology and promise not to single out any group with this kind of abuse", offered Sally, her blues eyes beaming with enthusiasm., "It’s time we fight back about this kind of abuse."

Several other members agreed with this idea and they discussed the possibility that there might be some good news coverage from a direct action like this that would help expose PU for the unkind, bigoted man he is.

"I don’t know" said Dale, " a guy like that might actually benefit from our actions. He doesn't care if people like him or hate him, as long as they listen and he might turn this around on us and make it a big issue on his show. I think we should hit him where it hurts by going after his sponsors, by telling them we won’t buy their products if they continue to sponsor him. They may not know what kind of things he says about people".

"That’s a great idea", said Mary Ann, "We could try that first and see what happens and if we get nowhere with that we could try a rally at the station or something else."

After more discussion, which included an idea for a slogan called Bash Bash, which was not approved, the group agreed to try contacting sponsors and see what happened. A meeting was scheduled for three weeks later. Three members volunteered to help Mary Ann and Dale write a letter about the issue and make a list of people to contact. They decided to use e-mail and regular mail to get the word out.

Mary Ann got home late that night. Her ACCESS for You van was an hour and a half late picking her up and it was after 10 pm when she got back to her building. Mrs. Arthur was in the common room and came out to say hi.

"Evening young lady, how was the meeting?"

"It was good, we decided to contact the sponsors and try to convince them not to sponsor his program, that might really get the station’s attention. But we decided not to confront him or the station managers directly because we are afraid that will just draw attention to him."

"Well that sounds like a wise plan dear and I agree that any attention will put wind in that man’s sails, but probably won’t make him sail away. But you don’t seem excited dear, what’s wrong child?" Mrs. Arthur placed her hand on Mary Ann’s shoulder as she often did in that grandmotherly way the melted Mary Ann’s defenses away.

"I’m glad for what we are doing but I am still so angry at him, PU Bash, for attacking us, for his meanness, and there is a part of me that wants to scratch his eyes out. I mean, I’m glad about the decision we made but part of me wants to confront him, to hurt him. He is like so many people who have discriminated against us, looked at me like I was different and didn’t belong because of my wheelchair. I’m just so sick of people like him". Mary Ann threw her coat to the ground in frustration.

"Lord dear, you are hot to trot tonight, what can you do with all that anger you built up, what lesson is your life teaching, what’s your soul say about all this."

"Mrs. Arthur, you are always talking about souls and soul journeys, does a guy like PU even have a soul".

"Course he does dear, we all do. Man like him just off course a bit. We don’t know why he like he is or does what he does, but he a soul too and he’s here to learn like you and me, Maybe you’ll help him somehow".

"I’d like to help him get out of town", Mary Ann was laughing now. "Mrs. Arthur, how did you deal with all the racial stuff that you lived through, the discrimination you experienced."

Mrs. Arthur picked up Mary Ann’s coat from the floor and placed it on the back of her wheelchair.

"When I was your age, I got as hot as you about people, white folk mostly, who made me feel like I was inferior or from some other world. Lord, it was frustrating to sit in the back of buses and to have to use separate toilets as if me and my loved ones and friends, as if we even peed different. But as I got older, as this hair got grayer and these bones thinner, I come to see things differently. I once read where a man said something like, ‘we need our enemies, how else can we learn patience’. These are hard lessons though sweet child."

"I don’t want to be patient with people like Bash, I want him to change today, right now, to stop treating people like you and me as if we were just material for his radio show, as if we had no feelings, no dreams, no gifts to contribute. How can he not see how much his show reinforces all the old stereotypes we try to tear down, how can he not see that he destroys a piece of our community each time he degrades another human being." Suddenly, Mary Ann was brimming with confidence, her words were flowing with force and enthusiasm.

"You are a wise one young lady, I so love your spirit", replied Mrs. Arthur as she leaned over to give Mary Ann a hug and kiss on the cheek.

"I always feel so calm after talking to you" said Mary Ann, "how is it that you always see the big picture?"

"It comes with age child. Man like Mr. Bash, he don’t have the wisdom to see the wisdom that comes from living. But I think you’ll teach him about that child, I really do. But first you got to figure out what he trying to teach you. What chance does he give you to learn and grow. This man is plant food for that beautiful soul of yours. Can you forgive this man even while you oppose him and all he does?"

"I’ll try", said Mary Ann, "But it won’t be easy."

"Trying is all the Lord asks, the Universe will do the rest dear".

The campaign of calling the show’s sponsors went on for several weeks and at least twelve sponsors withdrew their ads from PU’s show, though they were quickly replaced with others. Members of Mary Ann’s self-advocacy group took turns listening to the show and took notes on PU’s comments. Over this period, PU made no remarks about people with disabilities, nor did he acknowledge the loss of sponsorship in any way. But during this time, people noted that PU turned his toxic humor towards older people, often referring to their calls and letters of complaints as coming from the ‘old farts’. He also bashed gay people, using the word ‘homo’ constantly and generally used offensive language in all his shows. But there was one surprising element of the show. Several times in the three weeks that people listened, PU Bash went out of his way to raise funds for people who had some problems like the family who were burned out of their home, losing all their possessions, or the man who needed help raising funds for a heart transplant. Was this a different side of this man? Was this just part of his show?

At the next advocacy meeting, the group members reviewed the progress of the campaign. Dale and Mary Ann gave an update to everyone. It seemed like there was some progress. From what they could tell over 200 hundred people had made calls or sent messages to sponsors by e-mail which all agreed was a good amount, Since the campaign started PU had not made any disparaging remarks about people with disabilities though people noted he was negative about other groups of people. Twelve sponsors had dropped their sponsorship of the show but two were back already and the others had been easily replaced. PU noted a number of times that his show was the number one show in the market meaning he had the most listeners of any other radio show on at that time.

"So what do we do now", said Tom. "I mean it’s ok that he hasn’t been bashing people like us anymore but he hasn’t apologized either or said what he did was wrong. Don’t we need him to do that to feel we’ve done something?"

"I don’t like that he still is saying nasty things about older folks", said Mary Ann. " And he is always making fun of gay people too. It’s good that he hasn’t been mimicking or degrading people like us but how do we know he won’t do it again? Do we need to keep monitoring his show, I sure don’t want to listen to him anymore."

"I think it’s time we went to speak to him ourselves", said Tom. "it’s time he heard what we have to say about all this. If he attacks us or tries to embarrass us on the radio in any way we can go after his sponsors again with more people or we can do some kind of direct action at the station like we talked about before. Let’s do it!" Tom threw his fist in the air as he finished this statement.

The group agreed that a visit to the station and a direct confrontation with PU was the best plan and Mary Ann, Dale and Tom were chosen as the team to make a visit. Mary Ann volunteered to call the station and make the arrangements.

"So child, you gonna go see this man, tell him what’s what, try to change his heart." Mary Ann and Mrs. Arthur were sitting in the TV room of the apartment complex. They were alone as everyone else had gone up to their own places after a very good episode of Touched by an Angel.

"Yes, tomorrow is the day. It took us a lot of phone calls to get to him but I have to say he was sort of polite on the phone, though he did say, "so you’re the people causing me all this trouble."

"He also said he was just joking and that was what his show was about. But he did agree to see us. I’m a little nervous and I can’t wait to get it over with. I’m afraid he’ll just give us lip service and play nice with us to keep us quiet. I’m also afraid of how angry I might get at him, I don’t want to lose my temper".

Mrs. Arthur adjusted the front of her blue smock, and looked right into Mary Ann’s eyes. "Sweetheart, you not going to see the devil tomorrow. He’s a man, a beastly man at times, but just a man, and a weak man at that. He lost dear. He separated from the flock, no sense of himself in this world like so many others. You going to show him the light, I know it, I feel it. You got a lot of power, a lot of spirit girl. He’ll feel it."

"I hope you’re right Mrs. Arthur. I just hope everything works out all right. We’ve prepared a statement and I’m going to read it."

Dale picked up Tom at his apartment in Delmar. Dale worked for an organization called COOL, Inc. The letters stood for Creating Our Own Lives. It was a new agency founded by people with disabilities who were determined to create an organization that that provided supports that were based on people’s dreams; that gave people with disabilities control of their own lives. Dale was fifty years old. She had worked for many years in various positions, supporting people with disabilities, with organizations like ARC and UCP. Earlier in her life, she had worked at an institution where people were warehoused and that experience lead her to a life long commitment to the work. She loved her new job because she now had a chance to really help people create the life they wanted and she really loved working directly for people. Dale was trim and petite woman, with long silver hair. Mary Ann often said she had hair of silver and a heart of gold. She and Mary Ann had become instant friends several years back and now were working closely on self-advocacy issues.

She and Tom drove across Albany and down to the end of Lark St., where they picked up Mary Ann. Dale’s car was a used van that had long ago been converted for wheelchair accessibility, and though the motor on the lift was a bit tricky, it was still a very dependable vehicle. Mary Ann and Dale had named it SAM, the Self-Advocacy Mobile.

"Well this is the big day, lets go knock the socks off this guy. He’ll never say a bad word about any of us after we talk with him, that’s for sure." Tom was in the front seat. He was wearing his best suit, a blue pinstripe that his mother had bought him years ago. He was ready for this confrontation. Tom, was proud to be a leader of this group and he felt it was really important to make sure that people like PU listened up and started seeing people with disabilities and other people who seemed different as just part of the community and an important part at that. Self-advocacy was the voice of the people, all people really.

They drove out the Henry Johnson Blvd. to the Thruway, 90 West, towards Schenectady where Station WBOR was located.

"We’ll hello, there I’m PU Bash, radio host villain, at your service" he said with a smile and with a wink at Mary Ann. "Come on into my office, I won’t bite you".

Bash was a big man, well over three hundred pounds, with a grizzly face covering his thick jowls. He wore jeans, held up by blue suspenders and a bright blue dress shirt. His salt and peppered hair was short a crew cut style.

Tom, Dale and Mary Ann introduced themselves and Mary Ann said, we have a statement that I would like to read from our group.

"Well that will be just fine darlin', but first let me offer you some refreshments. In fact, I think we just got a delivery of dogs from Hot Dog Dan’s, one of our loyal sponsors I might add. He pushed an intercom button and asked for some "dogs and sodas" to be brought to his office.

"Ever been to a radio station before? We have 50,000 watts of power here; people can hear us just this side of Syracuse, well past Plattsbugh, over as far as Springfield and clear as a bell in Poughkeepsie. Did you know I have the highest ratings in the area? We call it market share. That’s why the sponsors line up to listen to my show, I deliver the goods to them, lots of loyal radio listening customers. I make a lot of money for the company that owns this station and they pay me well for it", said PU, leaning back on his chair so that he seemed precariously close to tipping over.

Tom started things off, "You have offended an awful lot of people with disabilities and old folks too. Why do you do it? Don’t you care how people feel?"

"Son, I admire you for getting right to the point, and I’ll do the same, I’m just joking with people for gosh sakes, why take things so seriously. We all have to laugh at ourselves, You may have noticed I even joke about my rather noticeable bulk. Did you notice that I really can fill out a pair of jeans. Hell my butt is as big as all three of yours combined", said PU, laughing loudly as he slapped his hand on his thigh.

Mary Ann asserted herself, "I have a statement that I would like to read. It is from our self-advocacy group, We’re Determined."

There was a slight knock on the door and a young woman came in carrying a tray full of hot dogs and sodas.

"Thank you, dear", said PU, "a feast for Kings". Dogs anyone? These are the best in my entire listening area."

Dale, Tom and Mary Ann shook their heads no but PU quickly slapped some mustard and relish and downed one of the hot dogs in two bites; he picked up another and prepared to munch.

"Mr. Bash, we came here to talk about a serious issue, not to eat hot dogs, I would appreciate you giving us a chance to make our statement".

"Well go right ahead, darlin''’, sorry for the interruption, but a man’s got to eat and these dogs are calling out to me". PU popped another dog in his mouth.

"Thank you Mr. Bash", Mary Ann said as she removed a folder from the wheelchair back-pack that hung from the handles of her chair. She opened the folder and pulled out the one page, typed statement.

Dear Mr. Bash:

We are here today representing a group of people with disabilities called, We’re Determined. We call ourselves self-advocates because we speak up for ourselves and others with disabilities. Our vision is of a community where we are accepted and welcome for the gifts that we share. We are not looking for anyone’s sympathy or pity. We simply want the same opportunities, respect and civil rights afforded any other citizen of this country.

Several weeks ago, on your afternoon show, you made some incredibly unkind remarks, poked fun of people with disabilities like me and my friends, questioned whether we belong in the community, and devalued our worth as citizens and members of our society. Furthermore, this is a theme of your show as you do the same with the elderly and other people who are different.

Mr. Bash, your attitude and actions as a public figure are unacceptable to us as citizens of this community and we will no longer tolerate it in any way. We do not dispute your right of free speech, we simply say it is offensive in a free society. It is offensive and toxic. It builds walls between people, creates or reinforces stereotypes and represents the kind of hate radio that no community can tolerate.

Our response to you barrage of insults was to organize a campaign to discourage your sponsors from working with your station. We know we had some success. We are also here to tell you today that this is just the tip of the iceberg of what we are willing to do if you continue to disparage people with disabilities or any group of people on your show. We are willing to do what ever it takes to stop you: more letters to your sponsors, demonstrations outside this station, a media campaign; we will chain ourselves together at the outside door of this building if we have to. We know that we run the risk of giving you the attention you seem to seek by doing this but we are committed to an all out campaign to convince you to do the right thing as a human being. We only ask that you be kind, that you stop ridiculing others, and that you find ways to develop community spirit not tear it down.

Mary Ann put down her speech and stared directly into PU’s eyes. "We do not hate you Mr. Bash, we hope you will do the right thing. We can even forgive you for what you’ve done but you must stop hurting others. We are determined to change your heart. Please listen to us Mr. Bash".

Throughout her speech Bash had sat straight up in his seat, staring coldly at Mary Ann. His face turned red as she finished and his nostrils flared as he responded. "Well that was quite a speech little girl, or should I say young lady, but who the heck do you people think you are threatening me. I have a right to earn a living. I’m just poking some fun, having some laughs, and my listeners love it. I’m sorry if you’re unhappy about some things I said and maybe I went overboard a bit those few days, but if people don’t like what I say then they shouldn’t listen. That’s what I tell all the old farts who call and complain.

Tom jumped from his seat. "That’s what we’re talking about. My grandma is old and she is no fart and you have no right saying that about her, no right cutting her down because she’s old. Why you’re just a big tub of....". Dale put her hand on Tom’s arm and he relaxed a bit. They had agreed not to let this man get to them or stoop to his level.

PU came right back at him after taking a rather large bite of another hot dog, his fifth or sixth since they came in, this one with smothered in sauerkraut.

"Look who’s talking", PU mumbled, his mouth full of food, "you were about to comment on my weight, now isn’t that hypocriti...".
Suddenly PU started to choke, grabbing at his throat, his face turning bright red. It seemed he couldn’t catch his breath.

"Mr. Bash what’s wrong", screamed Mary Ann, "Mr. Bash".
"Can’t breathe, .....stuck in throooat....".

Dale responded immediately. "Tom go get some help".

PU had moved to the front of his desk and dropped to his knees. Dale got behind him quickly and tried to get her arms around his stomach to perform the Hemlich maneuver but couldn't’ get her arms around him. Bash dropped to the floor, his face beet red, grabbing at his throat and gasping for breath.

He looked up and saw Mary Ann in her wheelchair. The light from the ceiling seemed to illuminate her face oddly, she seemed to have an aura around her, almost a halo. Is this it he thought, choking on a dog from Hot Dog Dan’s on my office floor. How strange.

Mary Ann, backed up her wheelchair. Bash lay across the floor on his side. She could see she might just have the right angle if she could hold her feet out straight. She slammed the stick shift in the forward position and shot towards Mr. Bash, hitting him with her outstretched feet directly in the solar plexus, a perfect shot. The hot dog piece, sauerkraut and all flew from Bash’s mouth and shot across the room landing on the white office wall and sliding to floor with a splat.

Dale pushed Bash onto his back and checked and found he was not breathing. She performed CPR on PU Bash as she been taught as part of required training on one of her jobs. Her memory of the technique was good and PU Bash breathed a quick breath and coughed as several people rushed into the room behind Tom.

The emergency crew arrived within minutes and though Bash seemed to be recovering , they placed the big man on a stretcher and prepared to bring him to Ellis Hospital as a precaution. As he rolled by Mary Ann, he asked the attendant to stop and he starred into Mary Ann’s deep blue eyes, seeing nothing but relief and wishes for his good health.

"I’m so glad you’re OK, Mr. Bash, you really scared us all".

Bash, reached his hand out and stoked and touched Mary Ann on the forward.

"Thanks to you darlin', thanks to you". If there’s anything I can ever do for you, just let me know."

Mary Ann smiled, and said, "Well Mr. Bash, we already told you what we want you to do. But I’ll take five minutes of your radio show when your feeling better.

"You got it, anytime, just give me a call", whispered Bash, and the attendant wheeled him out of the room.

"Lady’s and gentleman, several weeks ago, something amazing happened to me. Two things really. I had a near death experience, and I’m sure I saw an angel, but I’ll tell you about that some other time. The other thing is I met some incredible people and I learned something from them. I’m going to let my new friend Mary Ann kick-off the show today with some thoughts she’s prepared. But first, I’m going to tell you that I’m going to change our format a little. From now on I’m going to change the way we do the humor on the show. I’m only going to do skits and fun stuff when we’re all laughing together, with each other. I’m not going to be doing any humor that pokes fun at others, or is directed at people. I know this will be a big change for some of my fans but I ask you to bear with me. You see, I had a revelation recently, I learned something about myself, kind of all in one moment really. I want to be a successful radio personality, it’s always been my dream. But I can no longer do it with my former scthick, the ranking on others humor that I featured here. Somehow, I’ve discovered that that’s just not my purpose here in this world. So bear with me and I’ll try to explain to you over the next few days what I hope the show will become, and I hope you’ll remain listeners.

But enough of me. It is my pleasure to introduce you to an extraordinary young woman. I have really gotten to know her some over the last few weeks and she is a person of great wisdom and someone I know you’ll enjoy hearing from. I’m hoping she’ll become a regular on my show. You see, she saved my life a few weeks back in more ways than one and I am so grateful to her for the gift she has given me, the miracle of a new perspective. Well, that’s enough of an introduction. Mary Ann, here’s the five minutes I promised you, I hope it’s the first of many appearances on my show.

"Thank you Mr. Bash", I am very pleased to be here though I am nervous knowing how may people are out there. First I want to thank a dear friend of mine, a wise teacher really, Mrs. Arthur, who has taught me that we all have a purpose on this earth and that we are all here to learn and grow together. Thank you Mrs. Arthur".

Now, I’d like to talk to you about community and why our communities are really empty unless there is room for everyone, unless we are all included no matter what our race, or how we might be different from each other.

I am a self-advocate, I believe that ......

Steve Holmes March 4th, 2001

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