Friday, October 26, 2007


A question from one Myspace friend: "In the movie Born on the 4th of July they showed the guys down in Mexico - is this book based upon that?"

Unfortunately, about the only living record of this unique place in time that the general public (and future movie viewers) are aware of comes from Oliver Stone's movie, Born on the 4th of July (adapted from Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic's book by the same title). I've taken exception in interviews, as well as in my book, to a number of myths and negative stereotypes presented and perpetuated in the movie. It was one of the reasons for writing the book. For example, the demeaning portrayal of Mexican women in Stone's movie was that of whores and prostitutes! Vietnam and other vets were nothing more than drunken whoremongers! And this long ago utopia was moved from Mexico's heartland to the ocean!

Biographies/autobiographies/memoirs give the writer a chance to set the record straight. Not everyone's experiences are the same, and one man's experiences from his brief visit to Mexico (embellished in a Hollywood movie) should not define a period of history that lasted some thirty years and was shared by countless hundreds of others.

I have no problem with Ron Kovic or what he wrote of his experiences at "Villa Dulce". But they differ greatly from what most of "us" experienced. I lived there for most of the '70s and continued to spend significant time there up until 1993!

QUADALAJARA --- The Utopia That Once Was is a well reviewed 394 page hardcover book, the first 287 pages typed by a quadriplegic (me) using a typing stick (no voice activation system), followed by weathered old newspaper and magazine articles and more than 100 photos of people and places that shaped this almost forgotten moment in time. (Maybe that's why it took over two years to complete?)

For anyone interested, there are a number of old (some very old) photos on Myspace and reviews on my BLOG. Additionally, there are more reviews, interviews and chapter previews under "BOOK" in the dropdown menu of my website.

I welcome any questions, comments, feedback, emails --- Heck, I'll even accept a book order or two :)

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Monday, October 22, 2007


THE MEN --- (MARLON BRANDO, TERESA WRIGHT, JACK WEBB) is the first big screen movie that deals with the issue of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). It's an obscure film made in 1950 that would be even more obscure if not for the fact that it marks the beginning of Brando's movie career. The Men takes place shortly after World War II. The story deals with the lives of some of the first "survivors" of SCI --- paralyzed war veterans learning, or attempting, to start life over again wheelchair-bound in a veterans' rehabilitation hospital. It was and continues to be an eye opening and educational film for those with little knowledge of SCI. It certainly was in 1950. I don't intend to pretend to be a movie critic or reviewer. There are a number of reviews here on the Internet, and anyone interested in viewing the film can find cheap-enough DVD's as well. (Don't expect your local Blockbuster to carry it.) I will say, however, that since the first of the four or five times that I've watched The Men three things bothered me, as for its educational value. First, the word "quadriplegic" is not uttered once. Maybe back then there were none? Maybe we all were considered "paraplegics"? There is one scene in particular where an actual quad --- The Men was filmed primarily at the Birmingham VA Hospital in Van Nuys, CA --- is shown moving his fingers ever so slightly. (Forty-five or forty-nine ---depending on where you look --- actual paralyzed veteran patients of the hospital take part in the film.) Secondly, in the opening scene, Dr. Brock --- presumably a look alike to actual SCI Doctor Bors --- is speaking to family and loved ones of the paralyzed vets. During Q&A a mother of a nineteen year old paraplegic asks the good doctor how long can her son expect to live? His patronizingly reassuring answer, "With proper care and proper nutrition, there is no reason why he couldn't live to be ninety!" A life expectancy of 71 years? I know it's only a movie and the well intentioned man of medicine is attempting to sooth the poor women's concerns --- but let's get real! I can't say what/if patients were told in the 40's about life expectancy post-SCI, but I know people injured in the 60's who were told seven/eight years and one gentleman injured in 1953 who was told he had about three years to live. He spent many years living in Quadalajara and passed away in 1998! The third thing that bothered me about The Men was that one came away with the impression that ALL the paraplegics would finish rehab --- except for a small percentage of patients who died from their injuries or an isolated illness --- and be discharged into the world that Brando's character, Ken Wilcheck, shows was not yet ready or willing to accept them. (When I went through rehab at the West Roxbury VA Hospital in '69-'71 there were many patients who NEVER went "home" or EVER intended to --- ditto just about every VA SCI hospital in the country at that time.)......... Now that I have vented sufficiently, I can say that I really believe this film to be valuable for a better understanding of where "we" started and how far "we" have or haven't come in sixty years! Much thanks to the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) for leading the way and making life better for all paras and quads and people with disabilities in general. PVA played a prominent role in the movie itself (Jack Webb's character, Norm, was PVA president and head of the hospital disciplinary board). PVA members also lended a hand as technical advisors behind the scenes.


Monday, October 08, 2007


The ironic twist of fate changed the course of Charlie Newbold's life. He would spend part of that year at the St. Alban's Naval Hospital before being transferred to the Bronx VA Hospital in December.

“I was in the VA a long time. I just didn't know where I was gonna go or what I could do,” recalled Newbold. “I was there in '61, all of '62, '63, and most of '64.”

When asked about when he thought about checking out Quadalajara, Newbold replied, “My friend Joe Cicero is the one who really pushed us to go.” Charlie Newbold was in the same situation as many. “I grew up in the Bronx. My mother lived in a three-story walk-up.” Not exactly wheelchair friendly accommodations. “I'd never have gotten out on my own. We had guys living at the hospital for thirteen, fourteen, and even seventeen years. After a while, you just figured that was the way it was going to be.”

On November 12, 1964, Charlie Newbold and hospital buddy Joe Cicero made their move to Quadalajara. “Because of some labor dispute or something, the plane landed at the Zapopan airfield and we came into the city on Avenida Vallarta. George Ray had sent a worker named Poncho to bring Cicero and me back to his place. One thing that impressed me was the big, wide boulevard with a median and the palm trees and bushes all around. I was very impressed with that. And then I got the culture shock. We're on this big avenue just cruising with no cars around, and then all of a sudden there's a guy on a burro.

“Anyway, when I got to George Ray's Place, it was evening. One of the first people I met was Larry Blinn,” continued Newbold. “Since it was after dinner, Blinn and some of the others guys sent one of the aides out for roast chicken. They had a platter full of chicken and all I could say was, 'This place is heaven, look at the kind of food they serve you."

(Both Charlie and Joe are alive and well today. They beat the odds, so to speak. What would have happened had they stayed in the Bronx VA Hospital and not rolled the dice and journeyed to Quadalajara in 1964??? )

From "QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was" (page 160)

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007


"I just got through reading the first four chapters and, "Dude it sucks"...Kidding! I will definitely be ordering a copy of your book. I have to confess, aside from the kidney stones and your devotion to your grandmother, there wasn't much I could relate to at first. However, through your words by chapter three I started to feel like I was a young solider in Vietnam ...Only cuter...Just kidding! Seriously, I was able to see things through your eyes and that is to your credit as a writer. I could feel the fear you experienced on guard duty and the elation you felt at heading back home.

I wonder whatever happened to Belle and Lee. What a sad way of life.
I have to confess I was a little worried when you were in the hotel with Bob, Mai and Lee that things were about to take a kinky turn :) I was relieved that wasn't the case. Forgive me it is late and I get silly when I am tired.

OK, so what are my thoughts so far: I'm hooked....I can tell it is going to be a powerful and moving story. I think I will gain a new respect, not only for the servicemen who fought in Vietnam, but for the brave men and women who are risking their lives everyday in Iraq.

I'll probably be touting your praises - once I have read the book in its
entirety - on my BLOG. I am anxious for you to get to Mexico :)
I am not looking forward to reading about your accident though."

-Myspace Friend 'Tara', SC

QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was

Honorable Mention Award from the 2007 Hollywood Book Festival
"Celebrating books worthy of further attention by the film and TV industries"

QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was
A MWSA 2006 Distinguished Book Award Winner!
Bill McDonald, President, Military Writers Society of America
(Presented at MWSA's "Salute to the Military", San Diego, October 2006)

QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was
EMAIL ADDRESS --- Thanks, Jack

WARNING: Chapters Two, Three and Four (and Nine)
Rated - R (Make that PG - Considering this is 2007!) email: