Four Years On, What Trouble We Have Wrought

I set up my constellation flag today with a heavy heart. Four years ago I pedaled throughout this country and found strength in the goodness of the people I met. Tonight, city after city I visited tremble with protests, mostly peaceful, each pounding a valid stake against institutions supported by our government that systematically oppress our fellow citizens for the color of their skin.

I have strived to retain reason and balance through the election of a tyrannical President, the elevation of an abuser to our highest court, the approval of one incompetent sycophant after another by our deplorable Senate. I have struggled to plough fertile rows of truth from the impossibly high pile of lies and corruption. I have remained engaged in my hospital and food banks to counter a pandemic that has endangered as many lives from calculated chaos as from respiratory contagion. All under the naïve assumption that if good people continue to do good work, good will prevail.

But tonight I am worn down. By the assholes I encounter every day who refuse to wear masks, the creeps who violate our social distance, the science-deniers who proclaim their individual freedoms, mistaking inconvenience as oppression.

Tonight I am defeated. Exhausted for the people who are truly oppressed, forced to take to the streets at this most dangerous time to shout: ENOUGH! It is time for this to stop. It is time to treat all people, regardless of their skin color or national origin, as equals. It is time for us white folk to stand aside, share the wealth, share the power.

I am the most patriotic person I know. I love this country so much, I served my nation not in war, but in peace, as a VISTA volunteer. I took the time to explore and document it at a depth few ever will. But tonight I am in tears that the nation I love is so morally bankrupt. I reach out to my community, real and virtual, to help me find the strength and support to carry on. To rebuild our democracy, to recapture the noble ideals of a nation that has strayed so far from its purpose.

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How Will We Live Tomorrow? comes to the Stage

Three years after I began my bicycle odyssey throughout America, the voices of the folks I met took center stage at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre at the first public staged reading of my new play, How Will We Live Tomorrow? The stories, the songs, the voices made for an enjoyable, and thought provoking evening—as well as another round of revision and polish.


How Will We Live Tomorrow? is now available for workshops, readings, or full performances across the country. Watch this You Tube link to a three- minute trailer of our recent reading. Pass it on to anyone you know in theater. Let’s put on a show!

How Will We Live Tomorrow? Trailer


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Tomorrow! Live! On Stage!

Everyone is invited to the first public reading of my new play…

Staged reading of How Will We Live Tomorrow?

7:30 p.m. on Thursday May 3, 2018

at Boston Playwright’s Theatre – 949 Commonwealth Ave – Boston, MA

Admission: FREE!

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Tomorrow Finally Arrives at Amazon

After several months and many snafu’s, the full color, coffee table version of How Will We Live Tomorrow? is available to order through Amazon.

I apologize to all who ordered the book back in December, when Amazon named it a #1 seller and then cancelled all orders, for reasons I have never been able to determine. This time ‘round I ordered one myself and tracked it just to make sure.

Still – ordering it not for the feint of heart.

Here is how to proceed:

Go to Amazon and search How Will We Live Tomorrow?

You will encounter one of these unappealing messages.



This is a print on demand book; the only way to trigger an order is to place an order. I don’t know why Amazon doesn’t offer a message block that explains this, but there you have it.

Next – wait! It will take 4-6 weeks for your order to go from Amazon to the printer, get printed, and then get delivered to you.

Can’t wait? Order How Will We Live Tomorrow? – ebook edition in less than a minute. It includes all the same stories, without images, accessible on almost any mobile device.

Want both? Folks who purchase the hardcover can order the ebook at half price.

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How Will We Live Tomorrow? Geek Edition

The MIT Reunion Committee asked me talk about my bicycle trip at a TIM Talk (TIM = MIT backwards. Same Same but different from TED Talk. Get it?) I took a rather math/physics angle on my trip for the fifteen minutes, which worked well for that crowd. You can decide how it appeals to you.

MIT TIM Talk 6/9/17 – How Will We Live Tomorrow?

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Sharing the Data

If getting there is half the fun, I ought to have quite a bit more joy left in my exploration of ‘How will we live tomorrow?’ Since completing the ‘data gathering’ phase of my adventure in December, and stowing my bike, Tom, in the basement for the long, cold New England winter, I’ve been figuring out how to share my experience with others. Since I often wonder if I’m the only American who emerged from the past two years with positive energy for a nation bent on divisiveness, I want to do my part in fostering balance and tolerance, maybe even acceptance and respect. I found plenty of it on my journey, and I want to spread it around.

Asking for something is not a sign of weakness, it is an invitation to connect. And so I am asking all of you to help me share ‘How will we live tomorrow?’ as it evolves from conversations in specific places to discussions that span time. To tell the stories of the folks I met on my bike to people who did not have that opportunity.

Here’s what’s brewing:

Speaking Engagements: I have delivered keynote addresses to conferences focused on sustainability, emergency protection, and healthcare. Upcoming talks will focus on water and technology. Do you know an organization that would like to hear a uniquely formed perspective on where we are going?

Performance: Somewhere in Alabama – a state I visited three separate times on my crazy route – I realized that a journey about conversation needed to be performed rather than read. This inspired me to write a two-act play that can be performed as a one-person or varied-cast show, complete with original songs, familiar standards, a dramatic accident at the end of Act One and levitation in Act Two. Angels in America channels Leonard Cohen on his way to The Wild Party. I’m hoping to find an innovative theater group or fellowship seeking to collaborate on this new and innovative theater piece.

The Book. At least once a week while I cycled, someone asked me about the book I was writing, as if the pen were the logical extension of the pedal. Riding the rails north from Jacksonville after my cycling was done, I could not envision how to cohere my anecdotal journey. The play required I boil a half million words worth of blog posts down to under 20,000. During that process, I discovered a narrative arc that makes sense, a hybrid of chronology and evolving themes. I have a 70,000-word manuscript ready to share with agents or publishers, though I may decide to simply put it out there myself.

Other Shares. I am also preparing a submission to The Moth, and a TED Talk and will consider submitting to any other forms of group sharing that people might suggest.

One thing remains consistent. While I enjoy writing and reliving my journey by shaping stories and images to various formats, I’m less savvy at promoting and placing my stuff. So, anyone out there who knows a hungry marketing-type or agent who wants to raise the visibility of tomorrow; please let me know.

Future of this blog. was created to document this particular project. I will add posts directly related to speaking engagements, the play, the book, and any other sharing formats. However, I will not be adding new original writing to this blog. If you would like to continue reading my essays on yoga, Haiti, architecture, and this wacky place we call the United States, please follow my personal blog,, which contains over 800 essays from the past six years and will contain any new essays. As always, will contain up-to-date schedules on all of my endeavors.

Thank you for coming along on the ride.

How will we live tomorrow? Asking questions, sharing, and caring for one another.

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Profile Response: Paul E. Fallon, Cambridge MA


HWWLT Logo on yellow“Riding your bicycle fifty miles a day is not difficult. The trick is to do it every day. Discipline and organization are the only real skills I have.” Paul Fallon got on his bicycle in May of 2015 with the objective of pedaling through the 48 contiguous states, asking people he met along the way, ‘How will we live tomorrow?’ He took one planned break over the winter holidays, an unplanned one to heal from an accident, and completed his journey in December 2016. He pedaled 20,733 miles, stayed with 269 different host families over 397 days, profiled 436 individuals and organizations, and documented over a thousand other responses to his question.

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-8-27-36-am“Every day I got to do three things I love: ride my bike, meet new people, and write.” The three activities nurtured each other. Paul meditated on his conversations while he rode, which shaped his writing. “By the time I arrived at a new place, I was refreshed to meet new people.”

Prior to bicycling all over the place, Paul was a healthcare architect. He volunteered to design a clinic in Haiti in 2007, an endeavor that, after the 2010 earthquake there, consumed more of his time and energy. By 2013 he had designed and supervised construction of two earthquake resistant buildings in Grand Goave. The following year, Architecture by Moonlight chronicled his projects as well as his evolving views on philanthropy and development. “Everything you hear about Haiti is true, but it is only part of the story. Haiti is culturally and socially rich in ways that our country is impoverished – no one there believes they can make it on their own. But Americans are not particularly reflective; we don’t think we have anything to learn from others.”

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-8-35-22-amPaul decided to explore his own country in a visceral way, traveling slow, asking a question that has no correct answer. “Everyone I met was equally expert on the subject of tomorrow.” He ducked responding to his own question, “I didn’t want people to think my insight was any more valuable.” But now that the journey is over, he can’t put it off any more.

During his adventure, Paul saw little wildlife. “I never saw a deer, a big horned sheep, or even a moose.” However, he observed a fantastic array of birds. “A bald eagle swooped down on me in New York State. Three condors glided on thermals along Big Sur. I know that was rare, so I verified it.”


What entranced him time and again were the ordinary black birds, lined up near landfills, pastures and processing plants. They framed his response to his own question, with a little help from Leonard Cohen.


How will we live tomorrow?

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-8-26-04-am“We will live like birds on a wire, tethered to the technology that holds us above and apart from the rest of our world. We will balance our tenuous perch scanning a horizon that appears ours alone, despite sitting shoulder to shoulder with our brothers.

“Thermal delights will lift us in joyous dance. Harsh winds will drive us to sheltering roots. We will move in concert with one another, some leading, others lagging, clumped tight, more afraid than we ever admit.

“When the sun returns and the breeze grows calm we will return to our wire. Precarious balance is the price of dominion. We will stare out on the vast expense and imagine that we are free.”


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Profile Response: Evan Wilhelm and Conor McBride, Wakulla FL

HWWLT Logo on yellowThis is the final of four posts profiling Floridians affected by restorative justice.

Correctional Institutions in the state of Florida are named after their locale, however ironic. Evan Wilhelm began his twenty-year sentence for manslaughter at Century. Conor McBride was incarcerated Liberty. Both Evan and Conor applied to the faith and character-based prison at Wakulla and each got transferred there. Wakulla offers many programs and perks in exchange for high behavioral expectations. Any infraction will result in transfer. However, random transfers are also inevitable: Florida Corrections’ routinely reassigns inmates to minimize gang influence. Evan and Conor could be whisked away at any time, and they know that any other prison will be less amenable than their current placement.

wakullaThe two young men do everything they can to inculcate themselves into Wakulla. They each attend programs and are working toward online degrees. Conor has become a certified law clerk and teaches classes on ‘victim rights’ to fellow inmates. When Wakulla’s library needed a clerk, he was able to move to a lower security environment to take that position. Evan has developed a beautiful drawing style, reflective figures rendered with a single number 2 pencil.

During dinner at the Grosmaire’s, and again at the Wilhelm’s, the phone rang about 7:30 p.m. A recorded voice iterated the procedure for accepting a collect call from the Florida Department of Corrections. Each family knew exactly what to do.

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-5-59-39-pmDuring evening hours a phone line is open in the barrack. Prisoners line up for fifteen minute collect calls. If everyone participated, an inmate might be able to make two or three calls a week. But prison is no more equitable than any other aspect of our society. Evan and Conor often call every day, as many prisoners have no one to accept their call. The evening we spoke with Conor no other inmates were in line; we enjoyed a pair of fifteen-minute conversations.

Conor was full of news. He had just applied for an IT position, which he considered a good career move. Four sets of parental eyes shifted to one another, questioning whether that job would offer Conor the same preferences that his clerk position provides. For my part, as father of a twenty-six-year old free worlder, I marveled how my son and I might have a similar conversation. The parameters of opportunity are different in prison, but Conor still approaches life from the perspective of an educated, affluent white person. He optimizes the system, rather than being a victim of it.

Which begs the question, ‘Do Evan and Conor get special treatment because they are white? Because their families are so involved in their welfare? They answer is probably ‘yes’ but also, ‘so what.’ When a prisoner from Evan’s barracks at Wakulla sent an anonymous threat to a guard, every man in that dorm was wakulla-eagletransferred back to his base prison. Bob Wilhelm wrote a direct appeal to the warden at Wakulla. It worked. Evan was the only inmate returned to the faith and character based facility.

We live in a world of white male privilege. Why should we be surprised that transfers to prison? Kate Grosmaire has reached out to people involved with prison reform for the Black community, a group disproportionately impacted by our penal system. “They understand that what happened to Conor could not happen to one of them – yet. But they tell us, ‘because the legal system did this for you, they will have to do it for us as well.” That’s how change happens, from the bottom up, from the privileged to the disenfranchised.

Wherever the cyclist with the question shows up for dinner, the conversation turns philosophical. Michael McBride asked his son for perspective on his prison time. Conor replied, “I’m doing well considering a lot has changed in the past six years. It’s been a mental and spiritual journey, a strong one. The love and forgiveness the Grosmaire’s have shown me allows me to accept responsibility in a way that shame and guilt could have never allowed.

“Taking responsibility on killing Ann really let me focus on what was driving my anger. It comes down to acknowledging my faith, accepting that God loves me, not just in a slogan way, but that He ‘likes’ me. It’s more personal. It allows me to learn how my anger grew from insecurity. I also have the opportunity to be responsible. In prison, I have a job that is responsible.”


His mother Julie followed up, “Where do you see yourself in twenty years?”

“Out of prison. Possibly with a family, my own wife and kids; probably have a job. I have a lot of things in mind that would honor Ann’s memory. Maybe get involved in wildlife work. Ann loved that.”

Fourteen minutes into the phone call, a recorded voice cuts in to inform everyone there is one more minute. The McBride family tradition is to use that minute for one person to lead a prayer. This night, Conor leads all of us in praise and thanksgiving.


How will we live tomorrow?

evan“I have a hard enough time living day to day here. I try not to look to tomorrow. The farther down the road I look, the darker it looks. So I try to take the short view. I have twelve years to complete here. If I think about that, I cannot see my way to do it. So I reason, ‘You don’t have to do twelve years right now. It’s 7:37 p.m. I only have to do the next few minutes, the next few hours, until morning.’” – Evan Wilhelm

conor“From a restorative justice perspective I would hope we live more responsibly as a society. We look at crime as a mistake and we put away criminals to get them out of our lives. But the guys here are more than their mistakes. We regret our actions and want to get back into the mainstream society. When people are defined by the worst action of their lives, we are missing the full picture of who they are and what they are capable of. I am much more than a murderer. Other guys are more than rapists. I would like us to live tomorrow with more understanding that people are people first.” – Conor McBride


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Profile Response: Darlene and Robert Wilhelm, Ponte Vedra Beach FL

HWWLT Logo on yellowThis is the third of four posts profiling Floridians affected by restorative justice.

The case of Evan Wilhelm contains eerie parallels to Conor McBride, and revealing lessons of the potential, and pitfalls, of restorative justice.

Evan was a junior at Florida State University, a pre-dental student and member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity. One Saturday afternoon Evan accidentally fired a rifle that instantly killed Ashley Cowie, his girlfriend’s twin sister. Bob Wilhelm, Evan’s father, trembles and shakes his head. “Why did those boys go to a gun show? Why did they buy an assault rifle? Why was Evan fiddling with it in the fraternity house?” Unlike Conor McBride, who shot his girlfriend with purpose, however short-lived his intent, Ashley Cowie’s death was an accident. Evan was charged with manslaughter, a crime that typically receives a ten-year sentence in Florida.


Bob, an attorney, got Evan released to home on reconnaissance. The Wilhelm’s reached out to the Cowie’s to express their sorrow, to no avail. Amy Cowie, Evan’s girlfriend, came to visit, often. One day Bob asked Amy if her parents knew of her visits; the next day they received a restraining order against further contact. An intermediary contacted the Wilhelm’s, offering to meet in a neutral location; it turned out to be a rouse for Amy to see Evan again. During one hearing in Tallahassee Bob positioned himself in the lobby, and when Mr. Cowie went to the men’s room, Bob approached, offered condolences and extended his hand. Mr. Cowie said nothing. Another time the Wilhelm’s were walking from the courthouse parking garage. The Cowie’s approached from behind. When Mrs. Cowie recognized them she screamed and ran the other direction.

imgres-2Without acknowledgement, without communication, there is no opportunity for restorative justice. Quite the opposite. As the case evolved the Cowie’s position hardened. They began to refer to the ‘murder’ rather than the ‘accident.’ At the sentencing hearing Amy testified falsehoods, according to the Wilhelm’s. It took the judge only a few moments to sentence Evan to twenty years, potential for parole after eighteen and a half. Once the criminal case was settled, the Cowie’s sued Evan, Lamba Chi Alpha, anyone associated with the accident. Though no amount of money could ever replace Ashley they pursued a course of suits and settlements.

“I feel desperate that I can’t do anything to help Evan.” Darlene Wilhelm bemoans a penal system that freezes the relationship of everyone involved at the moment of a crime. Perpetrators are coached to show no remorse or regret; which exacerbates victim’s rage. Our worst moment defines us forever.

images-2With her son in prison, Darlene descended into prolonged hopelessness. Then one day she discovered a beagle on the side of the road, brought it home, nurtured it and sought a home for it. An Episcopal priest adopted the puppy and discerned Darlene’s loss. She invited Darlene to Ecclesia, a non-denominational church that serves Jacksonville’s poor. Darlene became involved in Clara White Mission, serving breakfast to homeless. “You look around you and see the difficulties that other people have. It puts things in perspective. They are real people. They are not objects. We care about them.”

The Wilhelm’s continue to pursue appeal options. They travel three hours each way to Wakulla every other weekend, where they are allowed a Saturday and Sunday visit with their son: one hug at the beginning and end of each visit. They are close friends with Julie and Michael McBride; being parents of promising young men who did terrible things is a powerful bond. “We have a key to their house; they have a key to ours. We are in this together.”

How will we live tomorrow?

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-5-33-07-pm“For me, and this has already started, I will be more sensitive to other people. I am so blessed to meet and be exposed to new people. For years, I found conversations tiresome exchanges of what people want of the other. Now, even the smallest conversations are gems of that individual and the greater human spirit. I am more open to understanding others.

So, how will we live tomorrow? Hopefully, personal conversations, talking around a table, will not be lost to our devices.” – Bob

“I will live tomorrow better than I lived today because of increased empathy, gratefulness, wisdom, and heartfelt sorrow for what happened yesterday. It’s hard to be the mom of a young man in prison and have two parents who are near the end of life. I worry about my son, a convicted felon for an accident, who will never vote, never get a job, never have an opportunity for full participation.” – Darlene


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Profile Response: Kate and Andy Grosmaire, Tallahassee FL

HWWLT Logo on yellowThis is the second of four posts profiling Floridians affected by restorative justice.

“Forgiveness is not a pardon. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. You own me a debt you cannot pay, but I’m not collecting the debt.”

I knew Andy and Kate Grosmaire were ‘Vatican II’ Catholics before I even stepped inside; a statue of St. Francis stands among the trees in front of their house. Inside, I found more symbols of the church I grew up in; one devoted to humility and service rather Catholicism’s more recent preoccupation with moral rigidity. I looked forward to an evening among humble shepherds.

161214-anns-statueKate and Andy are from Memphis. Andy landed a first job for the State of Florida in St. Petersburg and transferred to Tallahassee in the 1980’s, “If you’re a state employee, the gold is in Tallahassee.” Andy is now Bureau Chief at the Office of Financial Regulation; Kate is an IT consultant for the Florida Department of Transportation. They live five miles east of town, on a three-acre lot adjacent to the Greenway Trail that traverses miles of lush Florida hammock. “Ann had a horse; being near the trail was the main appeal of this house.”

Ann is dead now – shot in the face at age nineteen by her boyfriend Conor McBride. Kate and Andy have two other older daughters, but these days their life is defined by Ann’s murder, and their extraordinary response to it.

Ann and Conor had dated for several years, in the on again / off again way of teenage couples whose magnetic attraction short-circuits burgeoning individual identity. One summer Conor fought with his parents so hard that he came to live with the Grosmaire’s. He was accepted to Stanford, but decided to stay local. College success, independent living, and devotion to Ann swaled and crested. Conor asked Andy for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Neither Andy nor Kate thought the couple ready for that commitment, but they liked the boy, loved him really, and decided not to buck the inevitable. Marriage seemed ordained until one weekend Conor and Ann had an aching fight whose anger flowed into the following day. Unable to resolve the issue or cool off, Conor found his father’s gun, contemplatimgres-1ed taking his own life, but shot Ann instead. He drove around Tallahassee in a daze until he turned himself in. Ann survived, comatose, for nearly a week. She died on Good Friday.

Somewhere in the fog of turmoil Kate realized that she would never understand the why of what happened, and didn’t need to know. Ann loved Conor; Conor loved Ann. Revenge and retaliation would deny that gift and cement their tragedy. Kate chose to honor the good between them. She forgave Conor. She visited him in jail. She learned about the penalties he faced. She embraced his parents. The two families explored options for a young man who made a fatal mistake.

imagesWhen they learned about restorative justice, they cajoled the Florida judicial system to apply it, if awkwardly, to Conor’s case. “The pre-plea conference was not a complete success, but it was something that had to be done. We hoped to reach agreement as to what Conor’s sentence would be. Jack Campbell (prosecutor, now Florida State General) listened, but he did not reveal what the sentence would be at that time.” Conor McBride received a twenty-year sentence, no reduction allowed, to be followed by ten years of parole, community education and service; possibly the lightest sentence for first-degree murder ever in the state of Florida.

imgresKate has written a book about their restorative justice experience, Forgiving my Daughter’s Killer. The four parents have been profiled in the NY Times, featured on Good Morning America, and speak to groups interested in alternatives in our penal system. “The story is so much more powerful when all four of us are in the same room. People ask me, ‘How can you speak?’ Every time I speak, someone comes up and says, ‘I really needed to hear that today.’”


How will we live tomorrow?

andy“Helping each other, teaching each other.” – Andy

“Andy wanted answers. He wanted to know what happened. I didn’t need to know. I knew it wasn’t going to make sense. I always knew it was bigger than the Grosmaire’s and the McBride’s and Conor and Ann. This can affect the world and the entire universe for the greater good.

“Anger is the easiest emotion to be in touch with, but we seek more. We understand that we need turmoil in order to bring us to the point we have to change. We cannot keep turning people away, which is what Florida does. We have to change.

kate“If enough people start to think in a certain way, it spreads beyond them. If six million people believe something, it can spread to the collective conscientiousness. We had never heard of restorative justice, but we have learned and we are spreading the word. Andy and I are not yet the snowball at the top of the hill, but we’re one of the people who are going to understand forgiveness in a way we cannot understand now.

“The core of what I believe is ‘God is love.’ If you are good with that, I am good with you. I feel like forgiveness has allowed me to transcend most of humanity. I reflected on that for a very long time. You become a teacher, you share your story, but you occupy a place that few other people do.” – Kate


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