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!