Greetings, world, Glenn Horowitz here. Thanks for stopping by!
As related elsewhere, I’m starting this blog because I’ve run out of conventional options. If it succeeds as I hope it will, I plan to continue it with a more casual focus. I’d like nothing better than to chill out, relax, and have fun with it, but right now it’s pretty serious business for me. Blogs are cool that way; nothing’s carved in stone and they can evolve and adapt along with the person writing them. Just for the moment, though, I’ve gotta stay focused on a very pressing goal…getting mobile!
I believe it’s my responsibility to provide all the details I can about my situation, so I’ll begin with my background and some of my history:
I grew up in New York City, graduating from Stuyvesant High School in 1979. I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend the school, it’s one of three NYC public high schools with an academic emphasis on science and mathematics…but as I later found, there was a lot more to Stuyvesant than just that.. I always thought it was a pretty typical high school until I got out in the world and saw the results of standardized public education that’s inflicted on so many other people. After meeting scores of other folks with education levels from high school grads to PhDs who had never learned the basics of creative thinking and couldn’t express ideas outside the range of safe, controlled mainstream thought, I thanked my lucky stars that the majority of teachers in my life had consistently encouraged me to think creatively, question any concept, and be able to frame my ideas clearly and accurately, whereas the average young person is taught conformity, sticking to only safe, approved subjects and regurgitation of facts fed to them rather than real learning, I found. That’s an injustice, and led me to research the history of public education in the US in later years, a subject that intrigues and infuriates me still.
Incidentally, I still get a kick out of the fact that the film Hackers was based on Stuyvesant…though I don’t recall the young ladies in attendance resembling Angelina Jolie around the campus when I was there!
After graduation, I attended Boston University for a couple of years, and it was my exposure to the academic life that convinced me that I just didn’t fit in with most academic disciplines and had no desire to make a career out of any of them. I left college then and began working to achieve a long term dream of mine: being a professional pilot.
I’ve been a lover of aviation since I was a small child and becoming a professional aviator had always been somewhere in the back of my mind, always relegated to the category of fantasy. Not any more. Through a series of happy coincidences I was able to earn my private pilot certificate during the summer of my seventeenth year, so by the time I left university I already had a good start. The next few years were spent working full time to earn the ratings and certificates I needed to begin my aviation career, and in the spring of 1986 I took my first professional job as a certificated flight instructor, starting work the same week that I was hired.
I really enjoyed being a flight instructor and it felt like I’d really found a niche with it. Unfortunately it’s a very low paying occupation, as most civilian instructors find, and it wasn’t long before I was starting to set my sights on a more challenging step up in my work. Through daily contact with every sort of aviator in the field , by the end of the year I was transitioning to my first position as a Part 135 charter pilot.
This was great fun! Though I enjoyed the occasional passenger charters, I discovered a whole new world in air taxi freight carrying, the ‘gateway drug’ that pulled me in and kept me in the ‘freight dog’ business for a lot of years. The experience is nearly unimaginable for non-pilots, or even pilots only accustomed to the more rigid environment of the military, flag airlines and passenger-only charter aviation. It’s a lot more wild and wooly in the freighter pilot’s world…I still describe it as “Pony Express with wings” when trying to explain the business; we flew older airplanes, most of which had seen better days, through all kinds of weather and mainly in the middle of the night. Like the old Pony Express we were always faced with the pressure of meeting strict cutoff times and deadlines, even though blizzards, thunderstorms and fog were often hazards we had to deal with regularly. I’ll never forget the night in 1989 when I was pulled off my cargo route to transport a doctor to Charleston, South Carolina so he could evacuate his family from Hurricane Hugo, which made landfall in Charleston Harbor just as we were arriving. Flying a light twin engine Beechcraft Baron that had been built in 1968 that night was quite the adventure, to put it mildly.
My next position also came about through acquaintance with people in the field and this time put me in the right seat of the Mitsubishi MU-2, an airplane all of us had heard unpleasant stories about during our sheltered days as flight instructors. The MU-2 was regarded as a monster, difficult to fly with its unconventional aerodynamic layout, and deserving of its fearsome reputation among pilots due to its questionable honor of having the highest fatal accident rate in its class. Happily, it turned out to be a fine airplane, and while unconventional, is one of the most honest airplanes I’ve flown. I couldn’t have chosen a better way to learn the airplane: the MU-2 is technically a single pilot aircraft, but the courier work we did for the military allowed me to log the hours I spent in the right seat as second in command, since the military required a second pilot for these operations. I learned a lot in the several months I spent as a copilot, apprenticing under experienced pilots who knew the airplane like few others. Before long I was cleared as an aircraft commander myself, and moved to northern Kentucky to serve our client, the Defense Courier Service, in their operations from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. It was an interesting couple of years, not least because we found ourselves flying in and out of every sort of military installation during the 1991 Desert Storm war. Security was at heightened levels everywhere, and I had the dubious pleasure one day of staring down the barrels of several M-16 rifles wielded by nervous young soldiers who hadn’t been briefed on our arrival thanks to a miscommunication!
All good things come to an end, and the company lost its military contracts in 1992, leaving me out of work. It was a grim time…the aviation industry was stagnant and finding a new job was difficult. At one point I was even told by a pilot working for an outfit I was applying to that I’d never get hired, since I’d been out of the cockpit for so long. I’m fairly stubborn and dug in harder, and in 1993 finally found employment with another Part 135 operator specializing in using MU-2s and Learjets to carry high value, time critical bank documents and cancelled checks.
This began the longest…and the last…position I held in my career. I began as a ‘floater’ pilot with no fixed home base, but an opening presented itself when the Nashville pilot moved on to greener pastures. I jumped at the chance, settled in Nashville and spent the next thirteen years flying my now-loved MU-2 on the Nashville-Atlanta run. These were good years for the most part, and the Mitsubishi became as comfortable to me as a worn pair of slippers as my ‘office.’ We flew through all the weather Nature could throw at us, and I even added another hurricane to my resume in 1995 when Hurricane Opal drove its way up the country. It arrived in Atlanta while we were coming in on our first trip of the night, and again made quite an impression on me…the sight of power transformers all over the city exploding link purple fireworks is something I’ll never forget.
Life went on away from the airport as well. During these years I got married, became a homeowner, got divorced, and finally felt the stirrings of the urge to move on in my career. Not only had it gotten far too comfortable, my interest in politics and economics were leading me to reconsider the moral hazard of working for the Federal Reserve as my company’s primary client. I was just starting to get serious about a new job search in 2005, with the fractional passenger carriers like NetJets being the most appealing to me. For once the idea of wearing a tie wasn’t so awful…the hours, equipment and pay were a lot better, and I wouldn’t have to feel like a hypocrite for enabling a truly evil enterprise like the Federal Reserve.
All was well with the world for me. I was confident in my abilities as a journeyman pilot, I liked my Nashville home, and was even toying with the idea of buying a small sailboat to ply the waters of the large Percy Priest Lake near my home. Then fate announced it had other plans for me.
In 2006, at 45 years of age I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I went from having a mild limp in 2005 to being thrown abruptly out of work in early 2006 when the limp couldn’t be ignored any more and my flight surgeon insisted I have it checked out before he’d even think of renewing my medical certificate that no pilot may legally fly without.
I was diagnosed incorrectly at first with the milder flavor of MS referred to as ‘relapsing/remitting’ that usually isn’t as fast or severe as the ‘primary progressive’ form of the disease that I have. The neurologist who made the diagnosis turned out to be a not very nice individual prone to doing not very nice things, among which included his delaying my return to work as best he could…but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
MS really bit me hard that year and by its end it was clear that I wasn’t going to return to flying…or to any normal job…again. I applied for permanent disability income at that point and spent the better part of the next year and change running the Social Security gauntlet. Finally in late spring of 2008 I was approved for disability status. Good thing, too, I was about two weeks from losing my home, my 401(k) retirement fund was gone, and my walking had gotten bad enough to need a four wheeled walker to get around. It was a creepy time…I had nowhere to go had the house been lost. I had a nice car, but I was rapidly losing the ability to drive it safely with its manual transmission, and you really can’t trade a car in for a home!
Fast forward to September 2010. My life had settled down a bit, I’d sold my car and gotten a nice new Honda Element with the proceeds from the sale and a chunk of my disability retro money. Being reliant on the walker wasn’t so bad, since I’d been fortunate in contacting the local Civitan Club and they’d already custom built 3 ramps in the house so I could get everywhere I needed to from my bedroom all the way through my bi level living room, my back porch, and from there to my driveway. Wonderful folks, they only asked me to cover the cost of needed materials.
My mom was planning to move here to Nashville from Washington, DC…a win-win thing, I love my mom a lot and had wanted to get her out of the District of Criminals for years, and for my part I needed a reliable housemate to make sure all the bills were covered…disability income ain’t a fortune. The MS hadn’t been idle, I was reduced to a slow hobble with my walker but my neurologist had already jumped through all the Medicare hoops to qualify me for a power wheelchair. It was approved, ordered, and enroute. So, lookin’ pretty spiffy here, right? It was until my bad leg gave out from under me and dumped me on my living room floor, spraining that leg’s foot, ankle, and knee.
I heard a pop as I went down and knew that a Very Bad Thing had just happened. I realized I had to be in shock, so I hoisted myself into the walker (only took a half hour or so) while I could still put weight on the foot, got to my desk, and spent the next three days there. I carefully transferred from my desk chair to the higher part of the living room floor to sleep, but couldn’t put weight on my left side after the first hour or so. It wasn’t the most fun situation, while stuck there for three days I couldn’t get to the kitchen or my bedroom, couldn’t even get to the couch to lie down. I couldn’t get to the bathroom. Not fun.
When I got the wheelchair, it opened up a lot of things I could do whose disappearance had been so subtle, so incremental, that I’d hardly noticed I’d lost them. I hadn’t even been outside in ages, but now was able to go anywhere within a couple-few miles of the house so long as it was within the chair’s battery range. I was thrilled to have more energy than I’d had for a long while…MS causes some truly nasty fatigue and I’d been blowing what strength I did have just schlepping from room to room. I signed up for physical therapy to try and recover what little walking ability I had prior to the fall and had therapists visiting every two or three days. Unfortunately I’ve just never come back from that fall, the sprains healed but I found I could no longer even hobble…since then I’ve barely been able to simply stand upright. It didn’t help that I fell again in May while in the john. Thankfully I didn’t crack my skull on the tile when I went down, but it took me an hour and a half just to maneuver my way back into my chair, and since then I’ve had to use a bedside commode, only going in the bathroom to shave and clean up.
That leads us to today. I still can’t even hobble with the walker and haven’t touched it in almost a year, which shoots my plan to get a wheelchair lift for the Honda; my plan was to secure the chair and make my way to and from it when I got wherever I was going, but since even standing reliably is now beyond my ability, that ten feet might as well be a light year. I still have to get to the doctor’s office every two months to renew the prescriptions for the medicines I need to get by. Among these are pain meds…I’ve tried going without them, but being in constant moderate pain is like having a fly buzzing loudly in your ear. You can’t think straight, you can’t focus, you can’t get anything done. You sit there like a lump and all you can think about, all you can feel is that pain.
That’s a pretty daunting figure. I’ve spent a lot of time calling around to every charitable resource I could dig up, but not a one is able or willing to help me. I’d finance it myself, but as I’ve mentioned elsewhere even my modest mortgage eats 85% of my disability income so there’s no way I can afford it even if I were to qualify for a loan, not for a lot of years until my home’s paid off. I barely make ends meet now…that’s part of the reason my mom’s living here…I couldn’t even keep the electricity on without a housemate’s financial help. The other reason was to get her out of Washington, DC, a thing I’ve wanted to see for years. The District of Criminals is not a very happy place to live, and for my mom, who’d been out of work for some time and is partially disabled by the work-related fractured foot that never healed properly and causes her a lot of pain, it was becoming a nightmare. Parents will drive you nuts, as most will agree, but I love my mom and we have a good relationship. In addition, I think that as things in the US get worse, Mordor on the Potomac will become downright awful, and an even more dangerous place to live than it already is, so I’m happy to know she’s out of there.
Since going anywhere outside of wheelchair range puts me at risk of severe or fatal injury from falling, I can’t go anywhere else a healthy person might go. I haven’t been out to a restaurant in years. I cant enjoy an outing to a park, or the hobbies I used to do. I can’t even get new prescription sunglasses to replace the pair I’ve had since 1993. Those errands just aren’t worth the risk.
God only knows what shape I’ll be in in several years, since multiple sclerosis is an incurable, progressive disease, but I still must see the doctor every two months, and the potentially fatal hazard of falling will be present with every transfer to and from the Honda. My mom is the only person in my life willing to push me around in the manual wheelchair once I reach the destination so apart from the very real possibility that she’ll hurt herself doing it, I’m looking at the possibility of falling hundreds of times in the future, a rather dismal prospect.
I’ve essentially become a prisoner of my home and neighborhood because of this disease. I confess that sometimes it’s almost overwhelming, watching the days tick away while my life swirls down the drain. Honestly, it’s like opening a vein and watching yourself bleed to death, drop by drop.
The effects of this foul MS have been so stealthy and incremental that they truly did sneak up on me, but it’s undeniable: at this point I may exist, but it is not living.
I do hate to ask for help, but this blog seemed like the best way to accomplish my goal. If enough traffic comes this way, if even a small percentage make a donation, it will succeed. Asking for $26,000 is an awful lot from any one person or organization, but thanks to the internet, I can reach millions of people, and those $1, $5, $10 or (hopefully) even larger sums can pile up quickly. I believe the internet is one of the most useful things in the world for reaching out to people…and I have a great deal of faith in people. Your donation of any amount can remove the Sword of Damocles this stupid affliction has put over my head, and let me have a lot of my life back that it’s taken away from me.
Please take a moment to donate. This is no joke…you could be saving my life.
Thank you all so much!