This afternoon I found myself saying, “I’m sorry that happened,” to a friend of many years. Paul Bendix is one of the stars in my heaven who I see on rare occasions when the sky is clear and I have stuck my head out of the burrow of my fears. Here Paul tells the shortest of stories of mishap, his maturation, compassion for the uninitiated, and a prescription.
~ mark gardiner
Paul Bendix reads from his memoir, Dance Without Steps
Last week [June, 2017] I was robbed just outside my house. It happened in an instant. A young hand reaching around to grab my wallet. A kid in a hoodie bending over to pick up my phone. Then two mid-teens running away as I yelled “police, police.” It was 2:30 in the afternoon. Only moments before, rolling my wheelchair up our hilly San Francisco street, I’d been feeling safe. Now I wasn’t. In my youth, street robbers had shot me in the spinal cord, paralyzing me for life. The incident aroused unpleasant memories.
Fortunately, it quickly brought memories of the Minnesota Men’s Conference. In trying to understand why kids would attack an old guy in a wheelchair—I half knew the answer. Uninitiated young men. Aggressive, rambunctious energies with no social container. At the Minnesota gathering, for years teachers from diverse backgrounds had agreed on this: we need to save young men.
Now, I needed some saving too. I was enraged, frightened and hurt. I could have run over these kids with my Dodge van. I could have broken their bones. Fortunately, my bones retained just enough acquired wisdom—to decide to make the arduous wheelchair trek to Camp du Nord on 11 September.
See you there,
Paul Bendix and Paul Frantzich at MMC, Camp Miller
I have always worried a lot. During my first 21 years in California, I worried about things like getting away from my parents, getting through school and getting laid. After the shooting that left me half paralyzed, I worried about all the same things — but now there was a lot to distract me. Like living in London for four years. A brief stint working in the disability rights movement. Writing about science, then writing for high tech companies. Then marriage. Then another marriage. Interspersed with efforts to stop gun violence and deal with its aftereffects. And travel. Lots of travel. – P.B.