Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Last Hours

A friend put it best - the lead story on tonight's news is the Bronco Super Bowl Parade?

It probably says a lot about where a TV station's priorities stand. Forgive those of us who wear uniforms and serve our communities. One of our own is living out the last hours of his life hooked to machines, the victim of gunshot wounds. Several lucky people will live on, recipients of the generosity of his family even as they mourn a loss too horrible to contemplate.

That is not to say the tragic end to a noble life should elbow everything from our consciousness but mourning. One of the results of an officer's final efforts - and the professionalism of his teammates to apprehend the asshole who shot him - is that the people of his or her community continue to live out their own lives in peace, security and freedom. 

Maybe we could have thanked our lucky stars for the life of a warrior before moving on to celebrate a game. Farewell, Deputy Geer. To many of us, your honorable service and ultimate sacrifice will live on in our hearts long after the echos of a parade have faded.

Monday, February 8, 2016

His House

"The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things." Ronald Reagan

It was a peculiar exercise in leadership, Payton Manning's Super Bowl performance. Without looking at the stats, it seems obvious he generated modest numbers. At moments when a first down might have kept an oxygen-sucking defense off the field for a few more minutes he misfired on throws (which often appeared labored) or handed the ball to a running back who made...a yard. The punter trudged onto the field, with Carolina's potent offense awaiting yet another opportunity to strike.

The Denver defense - Vonn Miller being just their most obvious star - received richly deserved accolades while the strips of confetti cannon paper were still falling. They were the stars. They seemed to relish the opportunity to make Cam Newton run for his life, to mangle the young star's dreams.

But there was a moment in the waning minutes of the game that spoke very clearly of Manning's leadership and character. The ball was changing hands again, and a Panther stopped him on the field. The Carolina player appeared animated, insistent. He had something to say and did not want to await the cacophony of cameras and microphones at the end that would sweep up Manning. By the body language, it was heartfelt praise. A young man, inspired by the old warrior's lifetime of nobleness, acknowledges a quarterback who just happened to play for the other team.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Good Bye to a Beloved Riding Partner

“In the short run, technology many be more efficient than man, but it will never be perfect. Every piece of equipment will eventually reveal an error code. In the long run, man will never be perfect, but prove to be more reliable than technology.”
― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

The telltale rattle and erratic power surges were inescapable evidence not of decay or decline, but of destruction. It behaved as does any machine when wear and tear have deprived it of usefulness, a once-proud device now a collection of parts.

My turbo trainer was damaged beyond repair.

It took almost twenty years to break it. I've not been entirely faithful, cheating (after a fashion) with spin bikes and electronic trainers. It sits for eight or nine months a year, retrieved and resurrected as snowy weather makes riding both dangerous and uncomfortable. 

It served a useful life. It saw me through several rehab periods, including one on the heels of a spectacular wreck. I built fitness for a number of events. Turbo training is mind-numbing, but there is no denying its usefulness. Watching TV while on the thing is to double up on virtues - riding positions true to the coming summer, and being less slug-like about viewing habits. A favorite DVD and an hour of riding. The Broncos or Rockies. Bobby Flay.

We had a tough moment together, several years ago. I'd found a heart rate book that contained proven workouts. It had remained hidden in boxes we'd not yet unpacked after moving. I hungrily set up to ride, heart rate monitor in place. I could read neither the book, nor the monitor, without reading glasses. Undeterred, I got started. Seeing my reflection in the big-screen...an old man with gray hair and reading glasses chugging along, going now where. It seemed metaphorical.

The new one arrived this week, complete with sweat tray and front wheel block. A transient upper respiratory born of long hours, stress and prolonged exposure to single-digit temperatures may keep me from doing more than assembling it. Nevertheless...

I have learned one thing about my riding partner. Take an angle on the TV. That way, I can't see my own reflection.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Hell Yeah

        This is a Karen Sorenson short story. If you enjoy it, please stop by Wild Child Publishing or Amazon for the Karen novels Out of Ideas and The Heart of the Matter.   

Hell Yeah

“I’m going to kill you, bitch.”
The man burst out of the shadows, and never hesitated. He lunged at Deputy Karen Sorenson before she could fully dismount the sheriff’s department bike she rode to patrol her beat. The struggle was personal, instantaneous, vicious – a strong, determined man’s stale-alcohol grunts, insane eyes that burned in unrestrained fury, and a hand that clawed desperately for her duty weapon while his other savaged her. Her initial reaction – disbelief – soon gave way to an overpowering anger that the man would put his hands on her.
“You’re gonna die,” the man screamed, his meaty paw around the butt of her pistol.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

On A Mission Far From Home

"We Stand Alone, Together." Motto of the 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division, US Army.

The movie 13 Hours of Benghazi was both deeply disturbing, and heart wending. It has been heralded in some circles as an indictment of certain political figures. In others, it is largely ignored as "propaganda," an attempt to influence public opinion by dramatizing an unfortunate incident at a dangerous American outpost. It is probably neither.

The author, and the men upon whose experiences the book is based, (13 Hours). begin by saying that they express no opinions about things with which they have no firsthand knowledge.  The essential facts, which have tended to be obscured by overarching geopolitical realities: 

America had a consulate facility in the Libyan city of Benghazi. It, and the diplomatic staff (including the Ambassador) were protected by former military Diplomatic Security Service employees. In the film, the compound is elegantly beautiful, with a large pool and gleaming white walls. Interior touches - chandeliers, lavish furnishings and broad staircases, are Middle Eastern in flavor, upper GS rated American government posting.

About a mile away, a "secret" annex houses several dozen CIA operatives. Their murky mission involves arms of some kind, the ready availability of which is painfully evident throughout the movie. Their bodyguards are private contractors, Global Response Staff (GRS), all ex-military. A smattering of these burly, heavily armed men are former Tier One special operators, primarily SEALS.

The context of post-Gaddafi Libya is both confusing, and reminiscent. There are echos of the failed humanitarian mission to Somalia, (In The Company of Heroes) an attempt in the early 1990s to resurrect a country where casual murder, starvation and tribal fratricide survived the efforts of American intervention. The Libyan government and its associated operatives try to maintain order, and provide security for US personnel. Their efforts, and necessarily their results, are uneven.

The consulate is attacked and set ablaze by a hundred or more of heavily armed assholes. Embassy employee Sean Smith is killed. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, a popular figure in Libya, dies of injuries related to the fire. Remaining members of the diplomatic staff are evacuated by the CIA's GRS contractors to the annex.

The annex is assaulted repeatedly during the nighttime hours, resulting in sustained small-arms combat. Initial efforts on the part of the aggressors to move heavy weapons in place are stifled. A group from Tripoli arrives as reinforcements. One of them, former SEAL Glen Doherty, is killed in a mortar attack, as is GRS member Tyrone "Rone" Woods. As day breaks, Libyan forces friendly to America arrive in numbers sufficient to turn the tide, and evacuate the facility occupants to the Tripoli airport. An aircraft departs filled with the able and the injured, leaving behind several of the contractors, guarding the bodies of the four dead. A C-130 taxis up to exfil them. It is not a US aircraft.

"Still no Americans," one of the operators observes.

That is the power of this book, and this movie. It is a "bromance" of sorts, the story of rough men willing to do violence in the interests of peace and freedom. Most of them are married (to second and third wives) with small children at home. They are well paid, which explains in some ways why they are so far from home. But... In the book, one of the men ponders, as his plane approaches the gate at Tripoli airport, what sort of adventures await him. He has once again entered harm's way because that's what he does. In the end, when the bullets have temporarily stopped flying in that stricken land, they all wonder aloud if they haven't just accomplished something few men on Earth would even attempt. They, and dozens of others, are alive because the GRS members are fierce, accomplished, unspeakably brave warriors.

There is a scene, as the fighting reaches its crescendo, where a CIA agent begs for military help. A flyby of F-16s would rattle the attackers, and give the Americans some breathing room. The scene shifts to an airfield, six American fighters parked neatly in rows. A solitary individual stands guard at the otherwise deserted hardstand. The author, his contributors, and the movie makers offer a clear invitation throughout:

"This is what happened. Make up your own mind about what it means, and whether it matters."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

For Stuff

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." Hunter S. Thompson.

We here at Bikecopblog strive to maintain our relevance when the going gets weird. I have started...and deleted, several posts this morning that were simply awful. Maybe it was the late night doing absolutely nothing productive (unless watching YouTube clips of Tombstone meets some obscure productivity standard). Maybe it was the middle of the night piercing alert tone from Pat's phone about a "forced fondling" near DU. Or, maybe the current news cycle (I usually enjoy a good political exchange, but...seriously?!) leaves me with nothing to write about.

So I consulted the staff. No, not the several talented guest writers who appear from time to time. The office help. CJ and Jed. The dogs. Since dogs are generally positive creatures who dispense unconditional love and affection (when not gagging to the point of retching up the cardboard they just ate), rather than follow the lead of National Review and be against something, here is what we are for.
Warm, sunlit naps. Finding the one sliver of sunshine peeking through the window and basking in it is a simple pleasure. Better if it is on the back deck, where the fresh air soothes and rejuvenates.

Unexpected treats. The main meals of a day have their virtues, especially if you are spoiled silly by housemates who put pork in a crockpot and cook it until it is melt-in-your-muzzle tender. No - weekend breakfasts involving humans and their bacon are a little corner of heaven. Steaks done in the back yard, cut into tiny pieces and served after the humans are full. ANYTHING that lands on the floor.

Homecoming. Not football games and pom poms. Okay, maybe the return of the humans deserves cheers. When the humans walk in the door they are usually stressed and tired. Giving them a sleep ring (sometimes dragging the insulted cat across the floor with it) or a partially chewed up stuffed alligator toy as a token of esteem... Priceless. Tail wagging and nuzzling time!

Bedtime. After a long day, climbing into bed, staking out territory and falling asleep in the company of the most important beings in life.

Feeling loved.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Peaceful, Easy Feeling

"Twenty-one, and strong as I can be.
I know what freedom means to me.
And I can't give a reason why,
I should ever want to die."

Twenty-One, The Eagles (1973)

Noting the passing of The Eagles great Glenn Frey.

By all accounts, Glenn Frey was clear about his opinions. One comment in the immediate aftermath of his death suggested that the 1980 break-up of The Eagles was an inescapable result of his direct nature. Fair enough.

The Burgundy Basin Inn, circa 1975. In the tiny hamlet of Bushnell's Basin (NY) there were only a handful of businesses then. A strip mall contained. among other going concern's, Bert's Pharmacy and a small grocery store. Across a one-lane bridge and down a country road was the little bar and party room we all just called "The Basin." The day I turned eighteen my dad took me there for my first public drink. We chatted, I supposed at the time, as men do - that is, about women. Later, it became a place to meet friends when we had returned home from college.

My friend John and I frequented the joint, solving the world's problems while bartender (and ex-cop) Vinnie dispensed adult beverages and peanuts. We also discussed, in the awkward and self-conscious manner of recently post-teens, what it would be like to be...well...a grown-up. Uncertainty dominated the conversations, even as we made bold promises that we would go forth and do all of the things our graduation speaker had urged upon us.

The jukebox was, by modern comparisons, a relic. Actual records actually played - 45's ingeniously removed from an internal rack and thrust onto a turntable turned on its side. We both had a "theme song," something that seemed to lend words expressing things we couldn't otherwise say.

Mine was Ol' '55, from The Eagles' 1974 On the Border album.

Mournfully sung by Glenn Frey, it's about a guy who'd spent the night with his lover. He was driving home in his '55 something, as the sun came up, wishing he could have stayed a little longer. Never having had that experience, the moment seemed to me both elusive, and evocative. The slow tempo, crying slide guitar and Frey's echo-of-love rendering offered just the right tone for a painfully shy, terribly uncertain small town boy trying to garner hope for his future.

Those nights at The Basin seem a long way from Colorado in January 2016, sitting in my 4X4 Tacoma and seeing on my smartphone that Glenn Frey was dead. His voice, his music... In a little song on a big album I'd grasped at a tomorrow I fervently hoped would eventually be mine. I headed home, to the love of my life.

"Pulled away slowly, feeling so holy. God knows I was feeling alive."