Saturday, December 31, 2011

With the Old Breed*

"John Wayne said the hardest thing about wearing a badge is knowing when to give it up."

With those words, my friend said good bye to us, and to a police career spanning almost forty years. He was one of the old breed, retiring yesterday with seven others. It was a bittersweet moment.

The old breed walked beats, worked alone and came of age under tumultuous circumstances. When they were young, beginning their careers, law enforcement struggled to become a profession, to shrug off the deserved criticism of racism, favoritism, intolerance. Many had come home from war in the Sixties and early Seventies, only to be thrown onto battle lines at home with little training, rudimentary tactics and uneven support from society. Most of them were determined to serve, to give everything to they had.

There wasn't a lot of money in the job then, perhaps five or six hundred dollars a month. Free coffee, half-priced meals, the bottle at Christmas - gratuities - stretched the family budget. The practice was easily corrupted, and fell into disfavor among progressive organizations trying to weed out dishonesty. Today, the veterans fondly remember the generosity, decades removed from the tiny gift.

Some officers walked beats alone, communicating with their department through a system of call boxes, not radios. If the light on the call box was on, it meant that a citizen needed police service. The phone inside connected the cop to their headquarters. Paychecks, memos.... dropped off at the call box.

Police officers, then as now, learn their craft by watching and listening to the "jurassics," the men and women tempered by experience. The war stories, peppered with invective and profanity, don't just tell amusing, often self-deprecating tales. They are cautionary, instructive. Teaching moments, over coffee at work, or beers after. Sitting beside them, we learned from the old breed.

Years ago, two of us went to a house, to secure it while detectives (my friend among them) obtained a search warrant. The sole occupant, a middle-aged woman, waited impatiently with us, sipping from a glass of water. At least, it looked like water.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thank You

Marines pray over a fallen comrade
"The real heroes are the fellas still buried over there, and the ones who came home to be buried."*

The American military mission to Iraq is over. We asked a great deal of the men and women who served there. Despite great odds against them, they can be rightlfully proud of a successful war. Some of them gave everything they had.

At some point, better minds than mine will sort out the reasons we felt compelled to go there in the first place. Maybe they were excellent. Maybe they were misguided and foolish. The final chapter has yet to be written.

Welcome home. Thank you for your service. Merry Christmas and godspeed.

*Edward "Babe" Heffron, private, 101st Airborne Division, 506th PIR, Easy Company, "Points," Band of Brothers, 2001.

A Caring Human Being

Utah police officer Kevin Peck crawled under a city bus to comfort a woman trapped after being run over. He stayed with her until the fire department extricated her, holding her hand and reassuring her that she was safe. It's not just a wonderful visual, but a caring, empathetic moment by a professional public servent. His TV interview reinforces the selflessness of his act - matter of fact answers about why he did what he did.

Nice job, brother.

http://video.foxnews.com/v/1333759282001/beyond-the-call-of-duty

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Welcome Aboard the Oceans Eleven

"They were built as labyrinths, to keep people in."*

Our recently-concluded five-night voyage in the western Caribbean was relaxing, energizing and enlightening. As a first cruise, it answered many of the questions we had, and several we didn't. For example:

It's easier to get on than to get off.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Boat Drinks

"Twenty degrees and the hockey game's on
Nobody cares, they're way too far gone, screaming
Boat drinks, something to keep 'em all warm."*

We set a plan in motion - many months ago - to see if cruising is for us. Lots of our friends recommended it highly, others either indifferent or had strong negative feelings. Alaska beckons, and a glide up the Inside Passage seems only too alluring from the deck of a ship. But.... Who knew if it was for us.

Our just-completed five night voyage was, among other things, a wonderful learning experience. Over the next several entries I'll share some of our discoveries. To wit:

Many of the boat drinks contain alcohol.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"South Forty, Traffic" UPDATED

"I guess the officer didn't make it because they covered him with sheets."

Traffic stops. They're like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get. Most of the time the violator pulls over, sits in their car and suffers through the contact. Occasionally, the driver or another occupant argue about something - the officer's eyesight, perception, parentage.... Sometimes, someone in the car has a gun.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wooden Ships and Iron Men

December 8, 1941 - a date in family infamy.

My grandfather Adam James Greer enlisted in the US Navy during World War I, in 1917. He served on several ships, among them the Druid, a harbor defense ship. Converted from a civilian yacht, she served in the Atlantic until Armistice Day, when she returned to civilian ownership. Who can say what grand and glorious adventures she witnessed. His uniform, hanging safely in my closet, makes him about 5'4" and maybe a buck twenty. Maybe.

The day after the Pearl Harbor attack, he arrived bright and early at a recruiting station (possibly the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard) to reenlist, but was turned away due to his age. He was forty-one years old.

My late father remembered the aftermath as the only time he'd ever seen his dad, a hard-drinking Irishman, drunk. "I was in this man's Navy when there were wooden ships and iron men!" he bellowed. Later, as an employee (a foreman, for some of the time) of a defense contractor he served by making the things needed for his sons (David - USMC, and oldest Jim - an Army tanker) to fight. He was issued a pistol for self defense (now residing in my gun safe).

I remember him as an old man, with impressive girth and white hair. Once - he was a sailorman, a patriot and a hero. Thank God for him, and all of the others who stepped forward, seventy years ago, and offered themselves to the grim task of defeating the world's bullies. Forever in their debt, I pray that we may live honest lives, raise loving children and be worthy of the memory of those men and women.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Honest, Sarge, I was Typing a Police Report When Suddenly....

"The defendant shall enjoy the presumption of innocence."

I wrote an especially angry rant today, something that may or may not ever see publication. This recent cavalcade of sexual miscreants is getting on my nerves, and everyone knows what writers do when they acquire a case of the tight jaws. They...write!

Things are not always what they seemed, however. My research suggests that most allegations result in nothing at all. I reflected on the source of my anger as I ran pre-cruise errands. "Everyone knew" erupts from each day's fresh allegations, but when push comes to court - what everyone knew turns into "Well, I heard it from a guy who heard it from a guy who said he was there." Although huge sums are paid out in civil court settlements, criminal cases either vanish, or the trial turns into a circus.

So I set my tirade aside; the college coaches, the retired sheriff, the Hollywood predators - the whole rogues gallery. Nobody wants to read that shit. Then, I got home and booted up my computer.

A Boulder County Sheriff's deputy, a thirty year veteran, has been arrested for sending sexually explicit...allegedly sending sexually explicit computer messages to a juvenile female from his POLICE CAR COMPUTER. To steal a phrase from a very funny friend - you're shitting me, right?

We are reminded by our chains of command every year that our computers are audited, that we have no expectation of privacy, that the police department can set limits to how we can use police computers. Aside from the obvious question - who has the f*****g time for idle chat on the computer.... Really? Really?

Somebody should write a book.

Monday, December 5, 2011

But, Why is the Rum Gone?


"May it please the court."

The judge asked if “The People” were ready, the normal beginning to any criminal trial. Daughter Beth, impeccably dressed in a dark suit and heels, stood with her co-counsel.
“We are, your honor.”
Courtroom 8, Justice Center, Portland, Maine. Criminal court, a man on trial for his life. Sort of.
My daughter is a 2L – shorthand for a second-year law student – at The University of Maine. Their trial practice final involved four budding attorneys, two each for prosecution and defense, an array of pretend witnesses (I was an eye witness to the crime's aftermath) and a collection of friends and family sitting in the jury box. We were there to support our lawyer, engage in the process and share these magic moments. It wasn't my first chance to watch Beth in action.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Young Kid with a Dream - BUMPED


UPDATE: "He believes in what he believes in." Vonn Miller, on Tim Tebow.

I bumped this because it's a story that just won't go away. After yesterday's thriller in San Diego, I brought this post back, with a question.

Isn't this kind of fun?

Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post suggests that pro sports could use a little bit of enthusiasm for something other than "showcasing my skills" attitudes. Isn't it nice to see a group of professionals rally around the idea that "they" make each other stronger?

From early November:

"It's not show friends, it's show business."*

Tim Tebow. Has there been an equally polarizing sports figure in the last decade, at least here in Denver? Even I - did he ride the Tour de France for Radio Shack, or Garmin? - I have an opinion.


Last week's game against Detroit, he was pretty bad. This week, he made a few plays, got the ball to open receivers and did a bit of running. Got knocked on his butt a few times, too. In the end, he did what professional athletes of all shapes and sizes do - he contributed to his team's victory.

There was a poignant little moment, right at the end, where a few of the Raiders had some after-the-battle comments for him. I couldn't hear them, of course, but the facial expressions and body language said - "Nice game, kid. You did fine today."

Maybe he won't make it. Maybe he has the wrong skill set for the NFL. But, damn...a young kid on a cloudy Sunday afternoon in especially hostile Oakland did the job he's always dreamed of earning.

What a great moment.



Saturday, November 26, 2011

SOL? WTF! - UPDATED

Racing engines, flashing lights and a rain of spent brass ringing like tiny bells as they fall to the asphalt - those are the stuff of police dramas. Also...long legs, plunging necklines and double entendre. Is that the plural?

Largely forgotten, unless made compelling by a sad story line in search of a cause, is the arcane world of criminal law. Every officer operates under must/may/cannot statutory language which is often tortured and confusing. While we have repeatedly advocated laws of general application (Misdemeanor "Guilty of Something"; "Driving with Head Up Ass") we are compelled to apply the laws our legislatures (in their infinite wisdom) have written in a way our courts (in their infinite inventiveness) have interpreted. Mostly it works, but sometimes it doesn't and cops aren't the ones who suffer. The victims are.

Countless times a true victim has brought a case to police only to be told that they arrived too late. We could investigate up a storm and nothing would come of it. Are we lazy, stupid or unfeeling? Hardly.

We, and our victim, are shit out of luck. Welcome to the strange world of the statute of limitations.

Bear with me - this isn't what you think.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Back at You

"And you guys...take some more lessons.*"

In what may be TVs version of the "make up call," Jimmy Fallon's (no clue who that is) band played a song titled "Lyin' Ass Bitch" as Michele Bachmann was welcomed to Fallon's show. It's a show, right? Because I'm not sure where to look for it or what his act is.

Really? Really?!

Enough. Like her or not (not especially) she's a congresswoman. At what point do we all stop for a second and ask ourselves.... Selves, does it make us better people, or schmucks, when we treat others shabbily?

Ha ha ha. And then you just look like a big dope.

*Al Czervick (Rodney Dangerfield) to the Bushwood Country Club band, Caddyshack, 1980

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cold Blooded Murder

My friend Mitch and I stood at the sixth-floor window of a nondescript building in Dallas. Below, the freeway ramp seemed within reach. I freely admit the lump in my throat was masking real tears.

Beside us, a Plexiglas wall guarded the corner window, boxes arranged before it in what could only be described as a sniper's nest. From that vantage point one man killed another in broad daylight, in front of the world.

The former school book depository, Dealey Plaza.

No one old enough to recall the events of forty-eight years ago is unmoved each November 22nd. Perhaps each generation grapples with the awful truth revealed that day - I don't know. I lack the wisdom to look before my years and feel. Even at nine I felt something hideous had occurred, something that transcended the vile nature of even a particularly cowardly murder. The man taken from us that day left children, a wife who witnessed the act, family. Something else was stolen.

I'd Rather be in Philadelphia

"Captain Sobel, we salute the rank, not the man.*"

NASCAR fans, apparently forgetting that Michele Obama is the First Lady of the United States, reportedly booed her at a track in Florida this weekend.

I'm not an O-Man fan (not forgetting that he's the President of the United States) so my tepid rush to the First Lady's defense can only be described as reflexive, at best. I've sent as many e-mails questioning the administration's policies as anyone working two jobs.

But.... C'mon, man! It's a car race. She's there to say a few words, hang out and do the grip and grin thing. How about a little respect?




*Major Dick Winters (Damian Lewis), "Points," Band of Brothers, 2001

For an explanation of the Philly reference, Wiki WC Fields.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Amy Painter

My first full length writing project was called A Parasol in a Hurricane. Written in the early days of my quest to gain notice - and a publisher - it didn't go anywhere, but generated substantial numbers of rejections. Rewritten, and then edited by my writing instructor, mentor and email friend Terri Valentine, it continues to garner little fanfare.

Except from me. I admire this character. While most hard-bitten police women one sees on TV or the big screen have a secondary feminine side, I wrote Amy to be the opposite.

One Amy Painter piece that received a bit of fanfare is Over Crab, which won honorable mention in a Writer's Digest short story competition. Click on the hyperlink.

Perhaps someday you'll be able to read Amy's story, now called A Miracle of Ones and Zeros. And pay a publisher a modest sum, which they will share with me. Until then, please enjoy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shameful

"Support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Michael Avery, professor of constitutional law at Suffolk University (Boston), believes it is "shameful" to send care packages to American service members during the holidays. Apparently, boxes full of sunscreen, carmex and nut mix so aid the war effort that those who send them support killers.

Oh.

Who would have guessed a backlash spirited enough to prompt the president of the law school to issue something of a "clarification," reminding everyone that faculty members' personal views, while protected by law, do not reflect the opinions of the law school. Also, that the school has a long tradition of support for military members, programs that aid veterans and educate future JAG officers and so forth. Also, that Professor Avery is an idiot.

Wait.... Strike that last sentence, he didn't write that. Let me.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy Belated

"That two battalions of Marines be raised."

I hate missing birthdays, especially this one. To that end, apologies to everyone to whom the wishes should have been timely addressed.

November 10, 1775 is generally considered the birthday of the US Marine Corps. Samuel Nicholas, the first Commandant, used Tun Tavern in Philadelphia as his headquarters and recruiting office. Given all of the Marines I've known it seems most fitting and proper.

My late father enlisted in the USMC during the Second World War and fought in the Pacific. An early wave arrival on the black volcanic island of Iwo Jima, he fought to the end of the battle sustaining one injury - a cut on his finger from a can opener. Evacuated when the island was secure, he returned to their camp in Maui to a tent city of strangers and empty bunks.

Many decades later, ill and suffering the effects of a failed knee replacement, he would summon himself every 10 November, put on a USMC cap and follow my brother out the door to the birthday ball. Treated like a rock star, flirted with shamelessly by women of all ages, he proudly accepted the sabre to perform the annual cake cutting - an honor belonging to the youngest and oldest Marines in the room.

He's gone, as all Marines must someday. Yet, in a very real sense, the men and women who carry on the Corp's traditions give him an eternal presence. As with any immortal, Marines believe that Iwo Jima's sands, Falluja's streets and alleys, the frozen reservoir at Chosin and the many other places Marines have shed their blood for our freedom are hallowed, sacred.... Remembered forever for the Marines who went before them in the service of a higher notion - that free men and women are strong because of the value of the thing they defend.

Happy Birthday, Marines. Happy Birthday, Dad. We miss you.

Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil* UPDATED

"I should have done more."

I profess no special knowledge of the sordid, sad, unbearably tragic events over the last several weeks at Penn State. The news accounts and talk-show discussions paint an especially disturbing portrait of a popular, talented and vile assistant preying on children. While prudence suggests a caveat - all of the individuals charged or suspected of wrongdoing are afforded the legal presumption of innocence - experience suggests more.

I worked as a child abuse detective for a short period in the mid-nineties. A temporary assignment, I got what can only be described as a chilling glimpse at the nastiness of sexual crimes against children. The offenders weren't readily identifiable (no raincoats or boxes of chocolates), were known to the victim and often justified their acts using variations of the phrase "he/she wanted it." Many of my closest friends passed through the Crimes Against Children unit, staying only long enough to gain investigative experience before accepting reassignment or promotion. The day my boss let me go back to my original gig (crimes committed by juveniles) was one of the best of my career.

Two things struck me while reading about the Penn State situation.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Young Kid with a Dream - BUMPED

"It's not show friends, it's show business."*

Tim Tebow. Has there been an equally polarizing sports figure in the last decade, at least here in Denver? Even I - did he ride the Tour de France for Radio Shack, or Garmin? - I have an opinion.

Last week's game against Detroit, he was pretty bad. This week, he made a few plays, got the ball to open receivers and did a bit of running. Got knocked on his butt a few times, too. In the end, he did what professional athletes of all shapes and sizes do - he contributed to his team's victory.

There was a poignant little moment, right at the end, where a few of the Raiders had some after-the-battle comments for him. I couldn't hear them, of course, but the facial expressions and body language said - "Nice game, kid. You did fine today."

Maybe he won't make it. Maybe he has the wrong skill set for the NFL. But, damn...a young kid on a cloudy Sunday afternoon in especially hostile Oakland did the job he's always dreamed of earning.

What a great moment.

UPDATE: "He believes in what he believes in." Von Miller.

Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post suggests that pro sports could use a little bit of enthusiasm for something other than "showcasing my skills" attitudes. Isn't it nice to see a group of professionals rally around the idea that "they" make each other stronger?

*Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr), Jerry Maguire, 1996.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Under the Influence

"Then I fell under the influence of Earnest Hemingway's short stories and Bob Dylan, and moved to Paris."

My dear wife, love of my life, listens to public radio to and from work. Whenever she hears something she thinks I'd like (NPR and I had a falling out when they canned Bob Edwards) she calls. This week, it was British actor Bill Nighy discussing his work, and his early life. He described moving to Paris "under the influence." I get it.

Good writing doesn't just tell a story, it moves the reader - to laugh, to cry, to action. Good writing empowers, it creates such intimate relationships that the characters become life-long friends, or mortal enemies. A local film critic wrote a fictional bicycle racing murder mystery that was brilliant. Two books later he killed off a main character, the wife of the original protagonist. I was devastated.

Even average books can leave a reader under the influence of a character, or a place. Shoeless Joe spawned the movie "Field of Dreams" but was an especially uneven read. Nevertheless.... A corn field baseball diamond that the spirits of dead players find? Incredible.

Almost forty years ago, a security guard working graveyard shift at Xerox Corporation in Upstate New York, I read Mitchner's Centennial. Suddenly, it was so clear - my destiny lay in Colorado. Don't ask me how I got from one to the other. In 1977 I loaded my meager belongings into an old Chevy and headed for Denver. Thirty-four years later - still here.

The writer in me celebrates these captivating works, and at the same time struggles to replicate those moments. If that seems a bit pretentious, it is the aspirational aspects of writing that drive my daily migration to the keyboard. Not for the notoriety, and the money isn't all that great for all but a few. The desire to move, to stir.... To have, for example, a J-school graduate daughter (I have two of them) effuse about something I've written, or to make my PhD candidate wife laugh. I'm often frustrated with my meager writing talents.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Feeding the Crocodile


Winston Churchill said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” Perhaps, where the various occupy movements are concerned we have met that crocodile.

Last week, the mayor of Oakland gave city employees the day off to participate in the “Occupy” rallies. In return, she got a riot. Property damage, injuries, the Port of Oakland shut down. The only city employees not granted the opportunity to bite the hand that gorges? The police.

What was she thinking? Maybe, to quote Young Frankenstein’s Inspector Kemp, “A riot is an ugly thing. And it’s just about time we had one!” Maybe she figured to get out ahead, to appear hip and fashionable when the inevitable happened. Who knows.

Imagine yourself a police officer, on duty as a part of a team charged with protecting your city from the inevitable outcome of an out-of-control mob. Imagine further that portions of the horde throwing things at you are fellow city employees. You know some officers are going to be injured;



Monday, October 31, 2011

Be on the Lookout

Halloween is one of the three of my least favorite "holidays" to work. The others, of course, are New Years Eve and July 4th (both crazy beyond belief, with July 4th pyrotechnics only slightly tamer than the actual gunfire on New Years). For some reason, Halloween - and the parties that result - one up most other occasions.

Don't ask me why. Maybe its the chance to dress up, and act, like someone else. Dressing up as a ghoul makes one ghoulish, having an axe in the forehead a cause for crankiness.... Who knows.

On a Halloween night in the early Eighties, a bunch of us went to a reported stabbing. Blood everywhere - real blood - lots of yelling people...what we call a "good" stabbing. Not that the stabbee thought much of it, but he was on his way to the hospital. Of course, we interviewed the others for a suspect description. I had to broadcast the following over the police radio:

"Male suspect, five ten to six feet tall, husky build...wearing a skin wig, nose glasses and a toga."

There wasn't much else to say. Several weeks later (it was the Eighties, after all) someone had their film developed, shots taken at the party. The suspect was...just like everyone had described.

He was never identified.

Glad to be home tonight.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Inalienable Rights

"That among these are Life, Liberty and the per-fute of happy-neff?"
"That's pursuit of happiness."
"All your Ss look like Fs, here."
"It's stylish. It's in, it's very in."*

According to at least one pamphleteer in the Occupy Phoenix movement, among the "among these" is the right to shoot a police officer. Of course, they have thoughtfully offered reasonable restrictions to their pronouncement - the officer has to be engaged in conduct deemed to be unlawful.

Well, that's certainly a relief.

It's difficult to be agnostic over this whole "Occupy" thing when I hear about cops getting hurt (20 in NYC, according to the New York Post). I'm told that people are frustrated, banks and greedy investment houses are screwing people. Government is unresponsive, so we need...more government. Maybe I've gotten confused.

When a police officer is injured, that's not unfortunate collateral damage. That's a man or woman whose ability to provide for their family is jeopardized. It's a career possibly gone in the blink of an eye. And, no, disability insurance won't cover it.

I was at the Democratic National Convention, as were most of my friends. Which one of us deserved to have our careers ended, or our lives, in the service of "peaceful, non-violent protest?"

What a week that was. Six straight fourteen hour days, on my feet for most of it. The food provided for us required quite a hike, and meant leaving the confines of the Pepsi Center and going beyond the fence. One afternoon, several thousand very loud, obnoxious individuals descended on the gate we used going to and from the break room. They wanted.... Things were kind of chaotic, so I forgot to ask. At the point the situation seemed especially crazy, we spotted one of our cops on the other side of the crowd, hefting a large cardboard box. He would lean close to a protester and say something to them, they'd glance toward him and step aside. Pardon me, excuse me.... He worked his way through the crowd.

What the fffff.... They let him through, his box of sandwiches for his teammates intact. The unperturbed Vietnam Vet's explanation? "We were hungry."

This was the Recreate Sixty-Eight crowd. At least, on that day, they seemed harmless. They had their thing, we had ours. Nothing personal, no reason for anyone to get hurt. They yelled, our SWAT guys looked grim and forbidding and then we all went on with our lives.

For at least one of the occupiers, that outcome would be insufficient. I have to wonder - would he or she recognize my grandchildren's inalienable right to see Grandpa get old and fat while I watched them grow up into men?






*Declaration of Independence, Stan Freberg Presents the USA, Stan Freberg

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Crazy Train

"Bum bump. Bum bump, bum bump, bum bump - eye eye eye...."

Sporting event commercials. A family in an SUV mimics a song as they drive down the highway. Suddenly, the whole group is channeling - air guitars, rhythmic head nodding - who? I've heard the song a thousand times, and never knew where it came from. I text my daughter Katy, who lives with her husband and son in Michigan - what song is that? Crazy Train, she replies. Ozzy Osborne. Oh, that weird guy from the reality show? Yes, Dad.

Downstairs last night, watching Game Seven of the World Series "with" Katy. The game didn't go our way (not much of a Cards fan, even if they are National League like my Rockies) but that didn't keep me from hanging in to the bitter end. I say bitter, but who doesn't enjoy the first frantic minutes of celebration when an especially improbable victory first sinks in. The final out finally made - there is no clock to extinguish in baseball - and the players turn into little kids. Millionaire men hug each other like veterans of a protracted firefight, the obligatory bowling over of the pitcher by the catcher.... Even though I was rooting for Texas, the scene was moving. We text each other about the great baseball, thanks for sharing the evening and...a little over three months from now - Spring Training begins! I wish her a good night, tell her I love her, and begin the nighttime slumber ritual.

I love the twenty-first century. We can become tied together through common experiences we really don't have. Katy's big screen TV is a thousand miles away, yet we are sharing thoughts on a commercial as it's being broadcast. Amazing.

Come on. Really, isn't it? My first encounter with little gadgets was a transistor radio that only got AM. Maybe Red Rubber Ball sounded tinny, but it was portable. A pocket calculator seemed space aged because it could add, subtract, multiply and divide.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Frenchman Walks Into A Bar...

...with a parrot on his shoulder. The bartender says "Hey, where did you get that?" and the parrot says "France - there's millions of them!"

Maybe it depends on the delivery, but I think that's funny as hell. The misdirection aspect - the lull of apparent bar joke sameness coupled with an uncannily loquacious parrot - introduce an element of surprise. That's key to comedy, at least according to writer Rob Petrie (played by Dick Van Dyke, of course). The appearance of the nonsequitor is also imperative when it comes to cop humor.

This week I attended, along with a number of my supervisory peers, a class about emotional survival. We learned about trauma and it's long term implications, taught by a well-known psychologist who specializes in police-related areas. Among the topics he covered was an examination of humor, and how law enforcement professionals use it to defuse emotionally-charged situations. He cautioned us, however, to be...mindful.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Tough Ticket to Ride

We're told that Muammar Qaddafi survived the Predator attack, the French jet attack and was captured alive. Somehow, on the way to the hospital (video seems to suggest he was ambulatory...after a fashion, when he was loaded into a vehicle) he suffered a fatal injury.

I was a law student at Syracuse University in 1988 when Pan Am's Clipper Maid of the Seas exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. Thirty-five SU students on their way home for Christmas were among the 270 people murdered.

The passengers suffered unspeakable horrors in the last moments of their lives. Far from the blessing of instant death, many (including the plane's captain) were alive at the moment the debris fell to Earth. At least one flight attendant was alive in the wreckage, having fallen nearly six miles, when it was found. She died before rescuers could cut her from the "aircraft." A helicopter pilot claimed to have found a body clutching blades of grass.

I won't rejoice at the madman's demise. I don't feel closure.

But that must have been one hell of an ambulance ride.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pull Up the Ladder, I'm Aboard Updated

I don't mind admitting to being a shameless rider on the Detroit Tigers bandwagon. My baseball buddy, daughter Katy, moved with her husband to Livonia, Michigan last year. Not that I completely changed loyalties (my Rockies are still my Rockies...such as they are). When I went to visit Katy, Steve and grandson Graham we took him to his first ball game at Comerica Park, cheering the home team. A sports fan has to be flexible.

 I share other interests with our other kids. Matt and I are cops, comparing and contrasting the cultures of our respective departments. Law student Beth calls with questions, comments and Contracts class stories. But, during baseball season Katy and I keep an eye on the box scores.

The Tigers are fighting for their MLB lives tonight. I'll be glued to the tube, some kind of Motor City brew in hand (have any suggestions?) skyping with the Detroit Gaffneys and hoping for a game seven.

Sports can be such a divisive presence. This year, we saw a guy beaten mostly to death for wearing a San Francisco Giants jersey to a game in LA. Past years have seen the murders of officials and who can forget the Soccer War? Good guys/bad guys, us against them.... Unhealthy. Doesn't have to be that way. Competition doesn't have to set us at each other's throats.

Driving home from the hardware store today, I stopped at a Good Times for a burger. Of course I had on my Tigers hat. The young man at the window smiled, and said "So what do you think of Cruz?" Not asked - said.

Fishin' Blues

"We regret to inform you that your Wells Fargo debit card has been suspended."

Chilling words. The caller, a disembodied electronic voice simulating female (is there an app for that?), told me to press one to speak to an operator and reinstate it. I pressed one.

Who doesn't use their debit card to death? In fact, when my cell phone rang I had just pulled my cop car into the Great Harvest Bread lot, intent on a cup of coffee and a scone. I rarely carry more than a dollar or two in cash, and I don't take the check book out of the house. Everything is done with plastic.

So being told my debit card won't work is a serious issue. Once, sitting at Denver International on the way to Cancun, I discovered I'd failed to bring along reading glasses. No worries, a run to the gift shop solved that. When the clerk ran my card it was rejected. Three times. I called the financial institution, and the very nice woman who handles our account said she found a suspicious charge and had suspended use of our cards. She would overnight replacements to the address on our account. Great. We made due with one credit card and got stingy with our cash. Fortunately, we went to an all-inclusive resort at which we are members. The nice folks at Royal Hideaway took fabulous care of us. An especially gracious woman poured our coffee every morning (a rich Mexican brew), taught us some Spanish phrases, told us about the town she lived in....

But, I digress. Yesterday, the marginally feminine robot voice on my phone, juxtaposed with the obviously female voice on the police radio, told me that I needed to provide four pieces of personal information to reinstate my card. First, the last four digits of my social security number. Dammit! I picked up the mike and asked for a case report number. 

I don't have a Wells Fargo debit card. The phone call was a criminal act.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dear Publisher. Buy my Manuscript - Make Me Famous

"How would you cope with a stalker who controlled your work computer?" Nah, too bland. Answers itself - turn the sumbitch off, that's how.

I've written a second novel - polished, honed, endured countless forms of criticism ("I think you completely missed your own point!" Add arched eyebrow for emphasis.), and came up with something worthy of....

The dreaded query letter.

"A young mother juggles police work, a demanding husband and a focused stalker." Better, although demanding husband may be redundant.

Before a writer can ever aspire to greatness, or even a sort of obscure notoriety, there are several hurdles to overcome. The first, of course, is the actual act of writing, what one author called "sitting in front of blank sheets of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." We introverts are lucky - the skill to internally engage a story line is already there. All we have to carve of our lives is the time to turn our thoughts into keystrokes.

"A young woman police sergeant juggles...." And all the guys substitute jiggles, and it ain't that kind of book.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Can't See the Stars, Anymore

"Bring on the wonder, bring on the song. Pushed you down deep in my soul for too long."*

My reaction, to learning that the beautiful, haunting song called "Bring on the Wonder" had been used in a cop-ish show about reading bones (or some such, called "Bones") was not especially positive. I love the song, but don't spend a lot time watching police-oriented TV. Mostly, the technical stuff is just plain wrong. That's not the worst part.

The story lines tend to be so damn...emotional. TV cops either wring their hands and emote beyond all belief, or they are cold, cynical deviates taking perverse (sometimes bordering on sexual) pleasure at the misfortunes of others - often caused by the awful, evil cop. Men have substantial difficulties relating to their children, cheat shamelessly on their wives and engage in primitive, self-destructive behavior. Women either cry way too much or are so damned icy the screen frosts over. I saw an ad recently, a woman playing a cop and saying the first thing she thought of when she got stabbed was "I wonder where that knife has been?" Great line, but the usual response is disbelief, followed by extreme anger and a stream of expletives beginning roughly with "You motherf&^%er."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Victimhood, circa 2011

We're getting hardwood floors, and I'm ripping up carpet. The TV is downstairs and I'm up and I wanted to listen to baseball. I know Colorado is out, but I love baseball, so I went to get a radio.

Nowhere, in this whole frickin' house, is there an AM/FM radio. Nowhere.

I had to buy an app for my iPhone.

Really? REALLY?

I'm a victim. I'm deprived.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

An Introvert Looks at Vacation

"Seventy days until embarkation."

I misfired on my schedule this year. We twenty-plus year employees get 160 hours of vacation each year, which translates to four work weeks (almost five calender weeks, once you figure in regular days off). In addition, we work public holidays. Instead, I get about two and a half weeks of "holiday" leave, meaning I can aggregate that time into one or more blocks. I usually take a couple of weeks in early spring and a couple more in late fall. This year, for some unknown reason, I built in nearly nine months between vacations. Groan.

I know, I know. For some people (especially small business owners who get few hours to themselves) the idea that nine whole months pass between multi-week getaways must make me appear a little narcissistic. Maybe even a lot. Whining and sniveling from a public servant. Etcetera.

I understand. I could go on at some length about what it's like to work on Christmas (very quiet, until the eggnog kicks in and the family fights begin), July 4 (non-stop; lots of drinking, lots of brawls...and that's just among the cops) and Black Friday (really, in the Internet Age why the ffff....hell do people go shopping at one in the frickin' morning?). But, I get the time off when I want it and my wife is used to holiday's without me.

This year, it seems an eternity between trips. But, the vay-kay gods are smiling, and I've been saved. We've booked a cruise (our first). Wow, are there a lot of things to decide!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Look

Yeah, I'm playing around with the appearance of my blog. Brighter, easier to read (I think). Still a work in progress.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I'm Not That Guy


"Take off your hat."

I don't remember if the TSA guy half my age said that politely or even appended the word please. He was staring at my driver's license suspiciously, comparing my lined, tired face to the photo and...I looked different? Really?!

For some reason, his request (if that's what it was supposed to sound like) infuriated me. I've endured the usual indignities associated with commercial travel. In Frankfurt in 1972, a bored German soldier motioned me to put my hands up with a mumbled "bitte." In Fort Myers, Florida an obnoxious TSA employee seized an entirely ordinary-looking bottle of water from a woman looking about seventy, waved it triumphantly and bellowed "People, this is not permitted through security. Okay, people?" I've done the shoeless shuffle, sometimes in the presence of sympathetic security folks trying to keep it endurable. Others seem to enjoy the misery they heap. So yesterday's hat tip should have been no different, just another petty request.

But it wasn't, and I think I know why. It's that I'm not the guy they are after. Really. I'm not that guy. And I know it, even if no one else does.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I'm Sure I Heard His Echo

Graham Patrick Gaffney was going to be born on December 9th, 2010. He had to be.

It snowed that evening outside the hospital in Ann Arbor, and also in Rochester, NY, where I tended to funeral arrangements for my father. He had passed away almost a week prior, losing a long battle (as was his destiny) to Alzheimer's disease.

I wanted desperately to be at my daughter's side. Her son was arriving ten weeks early, her own health failing as she fought to give little Graham every chance at life. A day, an hour.... Extra minutes of womb time might mean the difference between a healthy - if tiny - child and disaster. She called to tell me she was headed for surgery. Neither of us tempted fate expressing "if" thoughts. We'd left nothing unsaid, anyway.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The right thing, the wrong way

Politics make both strange bedfellows and lousy friends. I limit the number of times my political views are allowed public display.

Immigration reform is one exception. Our country has done an abysmal job of feeding our appetite for affordable craftsmen and laborers when times are good, then feigning shock at all of the illegal aliens in our midst during downturns. Far from working toward a shared solution, we stubbornly cling to "the law" on one hand, or ignore it on the other hand to rule by fiat. See this.

I add this short story simply as an illustration of what the problem does to those of us at the pointy end of the culture war spear. It is PG-17 (or whatever the 2011 equivalent). If reading my intimacy scenes makes you queasy, this is not the short for you. Just understand - until society starts to make a good-faith effort to do the right thing, some of us are going to hate these kinds of situations and exercise our discretion.

The Burglar

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Weekend Adventures

Say what you want about day trips to the mountains, motorcycle rides over Rabbit Ears Pass or avoiding collisions with drunk, insane boaters at Chatfield. Any weekend day that doesn't end in front of hot coals and hunks of dead fish and game is just another pointless, wasted day. To properly kit up, go to http://www.tacticalgrilling.com/ and blend.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Short Story


Still learning my way around this stuff. I think I've clipped a short story to this post. If I haven't, please let me know!

Short Story

Little Wars

I'm still reeling from the deaths of the service members in Afghanistan. I struggle with that war, having spoken to several people disillusioned by what they saw there. I think I understand what we're doing, but the means and methods are lost on me.

At the same time, San Diego PD lost Officer Jeremy Henwood this weekend to a gunshot wound. Three-tour GWOT vet, he was shot in the face at a stop light - ambushed. The suspect was later contacted and killed. I've seen brief articles, read a few things about Jeremy and thought about all of the times I've pulled up to stop lights, surrounded by other cars. I know I'm supposed to keep my eyes on everyone, that the kind of ambush that killed Officer Henwood could be awaiting me. Yet.... It's the "perfect" time to check my car's mobile computer to see what my officers are doing. Call my wife on the cell to check in. Fiddle with the AM radio. Daydream about chores, the weekend, vacation.

While a great big fight is occurring far away, little tiny battles with horrible people are fought right here. Politicians will use the deaths in Afghanistan to make points, or prove themselves right (again!)or announce why they are the sole repository of truth and should be elected. Meanwhile, men and women drive around with a great big bull's eye on them, trusting to luck that what happened in San Diego won't happen to them.

Well-intentioned speakers will try to plumb some kind of deeper meaning from Officer Henwood's death. For me?

What a giant waste of a good and decent man, gone in the blink of an eye and mostly forgotten just as quickly by everyone except friends, and family. There is one great big unfillable hole in their hearts.

A quiet casualty of the little wars fought 24/7, very close to home.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Out of Ideas

Not literally. Okay, I'm not the most prolific blogger. It always seems that, when I have something to say I either put it into a manuscript or text someone. Nevertheless, my new novel - Out of Ideas - is available at Wild Child Publishing, Amazon and at some point Barnes and Noble. It's the story of a California cop dragged off to Wisconsin by her jerk husband. She covers a plane crash and discovers.... Well, check out the cover and you'll see one thing she discovers.

http://www.wildchildpublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=88&products_id=334