Saturday, January 31, 2009


Imagine laying paralyzed on the battlefield. Stone cold fear grips you like nothing you've experienced before! Your only thoughts are of survival. Nothing else matters. The questions, "Will I ever walk again?" and "What am I going to do for the rest of my life?" will come to mind sometime later --- if you live long enough!

Prior to World War II, Americans who suffered a spinal cord injury had a life expectancy of one and a half years. After the war, antibiotics and modern medicine combined to keep many fallen heroes alive long enough to actually be discharged from military and veterans' hospitals.

Before Hollywood actor Christopher Reeve's tragic injury, most Americans - most people worldwide - probably had little understanding of the ramifications of paralysis --- not to mention the terms "Quadriplegic" and "Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)".

Hollywood movie makers first touched upon these issues in The Men (Marlon Brando, 1950). Others, Coming Home (Jon Voight/Hanoi Jane, 1978) and Born On The 4th Of July (Tom Cruise, 1989), would focus on paralyzed survivors of the Vietnam War.

QUADALAJARA --- The Utopia That Once Was tells the story of a number of brave souls, among them veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam who ventured into uncharted territory, leaving behind family, friends, the safe confines of institutions, and a life expectancy of seven to however many years in search of a second chance at life. They discovered paradise South of the Border in --- Quadalajara.

Follow the author on his journey from Qui Nhon to Quadalajara. Find out whatever happened to The Men!

(Coming "soon" to a theater near you?)

Hardcover 394 Pages

Web Site

Email the Author


Sunday, January 18, 2009


(Preview of article to appear in the March 2009 Paraplegia News)

The Explorers --- In Search of Utopia

The following information pertains to life in the 1950s and early 1960s, when paras and quads were discovering travel adventures:

According to the Paralyzed Veterans of America:

Prior to World War II, Americans who suffered a spinal cord injury (SCI) faced a bleak future and a life expectancy averaging about eighteen months. But veterans who sustained a spinal cord injury during the war years received the first ray of hope for a fuller life ahead—the development of antibiotics, modern medicine, and new techniques which added significantly to their life span. Because of this medical progress, for the first time, spinal cord injured veterans could leave the confines of the VA or military hospital, return home to work or rejoin society. Unfortunately, much of society proved to be unwilling, unable, or ill-prepared to accommodate the needs of paralyzed veterans.

PVA’s monthly periodical, Paraplegia News (PN), went to print in 1946. The publication united paralyzed veterans from chapters initially formed in VA hospitals, from New York to California. Information ranging from legislation, adaptive equipment, individual chapter news, and travel tips for those who were able and willing could be read by every PVA member or periodical subscriber who opened its pages.

One interesting article, complete with travel tips, was penned by PVA member James E. Seybold and appeared in the November 1954 PN. Not content to push his wheelchair through snow or sit around for another long cold winter, Seybold drove his hand-controlled automobile 2,500 miles from Wisconsin to California by himself.

“It’s not such a great problem after all,” he reported. “I would like to enumerate a few of the main difficulties which may arise, and how to face them: Your car should be in A-1 shape. Good tires and a well-lubricated engine and chassis for a safe, comfortable drive. Pack your car so that the things you intend to use while traveling are easily accessible. Recognize your handicap and don’t knock yourself out by seeing how far you can drive in one day… Try to plan your trip so you will reach a certain destination for a decent place to eat or sleep at a certain time. Toward the middle of the afternoon, start looking for a place to sack out… When you stop, inquire before you get out if the bathroom is large enough to accommodate a wheelchair.” He goes on to mention the necessity of water while crossing the desert and checking brakes before mountain driving. “Never hesitate to ask for help when you need it. You don’t have to go into details about your condition. I have found people only too glad to assist in all instances where I needed help.”

Seybold was probably not the first active para, or possibly quad, to make such a trip, but his detailed report in the Paraplegia News appears to be a first. His journey would not end there.

Travel tales appeared regularly in the PN. Group travel, to and from about every European country where SCI survivors lived, was becoming commonplace. A late ’40s letter, which gave kudos to the PN magazine editor, came from a PVA member living in Brazil. Our neighbors to the North also made the PN pages. The only conspicuous absence of travel news came from our neighbors to the South. Some adventurous para or quad must have explored Mexico, with the exception of anyone who may only have been shopping or looking for mischief in one of Mexico’s infamous border towns.

Hernan Cortes and the Spanish conquistadores certainly were fascinated by their new find. Cortes and his followers explored practically every inch of this enchanting territory resting on our southern border.

Who were the first to explore Mexico, not on horseback like Cortes but using an E&J wheelchair to travel and explore a whole new world of adventure? The many unconfirmed reports of a paraplegic or quadriplegic having visited or moved to some city or town in Mexico’s interior were just that—rumors.

Countless PVA members were surely mesmerized while turning their May 1955 issue of the Paraplegia News to page four: “Mexico, a Paradise for Paraplegics,” by James E. Seybold.“Did you have a hard and trying winter?” the article begins. “And you Californians, did the smog and fog drive you to distraction? Your worries are now over, for here, in Mexico City, is the ideal retreat…Until you have actually seen it, it is hard to realize how beautifully modern and how far ahead in architectural design Mexico, D.F., is.” Seybold touts the “spring-like climate” and states that “the city was once the bottom of a lake,” accounting for its wheelchair-friendly, level landscape.

His article continues with detailed travel tips for adventurers like himself, who wished to drive down and explore Mexico’s capital city. Seybold explains the advantages of services provided by the American Automobile Association, including obtaining Mexican auto insurance, arranging accommodations, and planning scenic routes while driving within Mexico. He cautions about highway conditions and the dangerous mountain stretches absent of guardrails.“Activities are numerous, from bullfights to Jai-Lai and soccer to visiting such nearby places as Maximillian’s Castle in Chapultepec Park, the Shrine of Guadalupe, and the Aztec pyramids. As Mexico City is centrally located, it can be used as a base of operations from which these side trips can be made. Some of these points of interest are Vera-Cruz, Acapulco, Puebla, Cuernavaca, Guadalajara, and Taxco.”

This interesting and informative article must certainly have served to pique the interest of a number of institutionalized SCI veterans and discharged shut-ins. The question is—how many curious adventurers, if any, were motivated to act?

Seybold returned to Mexico City in the winter of 1956 and again sent his “Report from Mexico City (The El Dorado of the Western Hemisphere),” which appeared in the February 1957 PN:“Did you just pick up your Paraplegia News after pushing your cold-rimmed wheelchair through a snow bank? Why not get away from it all? Visit sunny Mexico!”

The article is a basic follow-up of his previous visit, with updates on the Mexican peso, highway conditions/improvements, new traffic lights in parts of the city, and a reiteration of “the magnificent architecture of Mexico, both the modern hotels of Mexico City and Acapulco and the ancient beautiful cathedrals, like the one I visited yesterday in Taxco.”

Seybold concludes his article, “All in all, I’m delighted to be away from the cold and the winter. The only Spanish I know, to sum up how I feel about Mexico, is pura vida, which literally translated means ‘this is the life.’”

While Seybold was marveling at the magnificent architecture, climate, accessibility, and lovely senoritas in and around Mexico City, another PVA member was crisscrossing the same terrain. Harold E. Doolittle “has been roaming around Mexico for the past several years looking for the most likely spot to live. He has settled on Cuernavaca because of its climate and its location. Doolittle speaks fluent Spanish,” according to an article in the April 1960 PN.

Doolittle had indeed been exploring Mexico himself since the mid-’50s, something that would be verified in a future article in the August 1961 PN. His plan was to “arrange a set-up in Mexico where U.S. paras and quads can vacation or live on a permanent basis.” Cuernavaca was where Doolittle envisioned renting a place that would become a co-op to house men and women with any type of disability, as well as their children. The city is “50 miles south of Mexico City” and has schools for children of all ages. “This is because of the large American colony in Cuernavaca…There are many, many things to see and do in Mexico.”Doolittle’s article, which was intended to ascertain the number of paras and quads interested in his venture, concludes with a mailing address for Harold Doolittle at the VA hospital in Coral Gables, Florida. Apparently his dream did not become a reality.

At approximately the same time as Seybold and Doolittle were exploring areas in and around the hub of Mexico City, there was talk of Senor Roberto, an American para named Bob, who was renting rooms to fellow paras and quads in his four-bedroom house up the road a ways—in Quadalajara.

This material was excerpted from Chapter 12 of QUADALAJARA, The Utopia That Once Was, by Jack Tumidajski, and is used with the author’s permission. The book depicts the hardships and good deeds performed through PVA’s Mexico chapter—the lessons learned and memories experienced by those who got a second chance at life, in Quadalajara.

Hardcover, 394 pages.

Available at

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Author: Jack Tumidajski

How long have you been writing, and what influenced you to get into it?

First off, I tell people that I'm an author --- not a writer! Most people use these words interchangeably but I believe that anyone with a unique or interesting story to tell can, given the passion to put words to paper, become an author. In school, I was always good with numbers, not with words. Only the military can take an accounting major and turn him into an administrative specialist/would-be wordsmith. It was during my time in the Army that I was "drafted" into helping a few of my buddies put together a newsletter for our unit. It was then that my fascination with small publications was born.

A few years before I began writing my book I was a regular contributor to our local newspaper's "Letters to the editor" section. That was where and when I gained confidence in my ability to express myself and to tell my story.

How many books have you published?

QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was is the first and probably only book I'll ever write?

Have any of them been national releases, if so through which publisher?

Brundage Publishing ISBN: 1-892451-34-4

What current book/books are you promoting?

Since its release, promoting QUADALAJARA has been my only promotional job.

What projects do you have coming up in the future?

Nothing concrete, as far as new projects go, but I have received some national recognition which I intend to parlay in to other media.

What author/authors influenced you to start a writing career for yourself?

Love him or hate him, but I'd say unlikely authors such as Rush Limbaugh and his positive message about following your passion and believing in yourself.

My favorite author is David Horowitz.

Are you a member of a writing group/organization?

I presently belong to the Military Writers Society of America and the Arizona Authors Association.

What are some of your favorite hobbies other than writing?

I'm a former "Roto Geek", so I find fantasy baseball and football to be guilty pleasures. They're a temporary change-of-pace and they also allow me to go back to my love of numbers and statistics.

Spending as much "free" time as possible at San Diego's beaches during July and August.

Has "The Authors of Myspace"/or Myspace itself helped you out with sales or networking/friends?

I'm one of the many new Myspace folks who have benefited from making new friends and experienced the wonders of "networking". I hope to become more acquainted with "The Authors of Myspace". I believe it's a fantastic idea and, hopefully, a beneficial networking tool for those who participate.

What tips do you have for beginning writers?

(1) Don't let anyone tell you that you can't. (2) Remember: everything that is was once just a thought. (3) Anything that someone else has done, you can do also! (4) If you don't already know, writing your book will be the "easy" part. Once published, the "real" work begins --- PROMOTION, PROMOTION, PROMOTION! (5) If you're looking for fame and fortune, you should also know that roughly 5% of authors show a profit.

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