Tuesday, December 31, 2013

From the Heart

Curly (Jack Palance): Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger] This.
Mitch (Billy Crystal): Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the "one thing?"
Curly: [smiles] That's what you have to find out.

This is blog entry two hundred, one hundred and ninety-five of which have been posted. Four sit as drafts, a sort of holding pattern for the day I need them. One - in what can only be described as a fit of blatant presumption - was a private gift to a friend. What follows is a retrospective, a chance for me to revisit some of the posts that are dear to my heart. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Be My Guest

“For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.”
—Catherine Drinker Bowen

This has been an especially successful year for Bikecopblog. I want to grow this site in 2014, and that involves many of you. Who that is specifically isn't up to me, though.

I have approached several writers to "guest" on these pages. Just this morning daughter Katy and I discussed a blog about a Christmas 2013 package that seems to have gone on vacation. Daughter Beth and I have discussed writing a book together - what better way to preview some of the chapters.

The next chapter in this blog is the chance to host other writers, therefore - an open invitation. If you'd like to put something together and have it posted here, I'd love to host your writing. Points of view different than mine are not just welcomed, they are solicited. Writing a book? Appearing in a magazine? Links and cover shots are also welcome. Send me an email at painterpublish@comcast.net and I'll get you hooked up with the simple ground rules.

Happy writing!



Sunday, December 29, 2013

By The Numbers

"The original heuristic argument that such a limit should exist was given by Werner Heisenberg in 1927, after whom it is sometimes named the Heisenberg principle. This ascribes the uncertainty in the measurable quantities to the jolt-like disturbance triggered by the act of observation. Though widely repeated in textbooks, this physical argument is now known to be fundamentally misleading. While the act of measurement does lead to uncertainty, the loss of precision is less than that predicted by Heisenberg's argument; the formal mathematical result remains valid, however." Uncertainty Principle, Wikipedia.

"Two plus two equals four...ish." Greer Math.


My original plan, as an adolescent, was to be an engineer/test pilot/astronaut. Unfortunately, I am math-challenged and I understand all three professions require a lot of number-crunching. Count me out.

But, to quote Jack Swigert*...I can add. This blog will pass 15,000 visits within a week or two, averaging upwards of 1600 hits per month. It began modestly, the first post garnering four visitors, one of which was probably me checking it for spelling and punctuation. Lately, I am disappointed when I only get 45 or 50 visits for any one post. Often, topics I care deeply about are largely ignored by the small but loyal cadre of readers I've developed. Other times I'm deeply moved by the number of FB shares a blog announcement gets. Occasionally, a long string of single visits to a number of older articles tells me I've secured a new guest.

The numbers tell a lot of different stories, but one thing is certain. As 2013 draws to a close I'd like to thank everyone for making this writing endeavor one of the great joys of my professional life. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

And My Wife Shakes Her Head in Dismay

The one thing women don’t want to find in their stockings on Christmas morning is their husband.
— Joan Rivers

Christmas movies - we have a whole stable of them. Watching each one before the Big Day has become a moral imperative, a holiday rite akin to Candlelight services and eggnog. Lately, I'm wondering what subliminal messages we've been permitting.

Take How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Every house in Whoville is burglarized and not a single cop from Whoville PD is around to take a report? Seriously?! What the hell? With some crazy neighbor living in the hills and no locks on the doors.... Come on, folks. Do your jobs.

I can't be the only one creeped out watching Miracle on 34th St. A guy hangs around his apartment wearing a suit, smoking a pipe and drinking coffee from a cup with a saucer on his day off and the mom lets her daughter watch a parade with him...alone? "I'm awfully fond of Suzie" the guy says to Mom and.... Nothing happens? Mom should be the one being examined by the amateur shrink, not the kid who loves playing Santa. Although, now that I write this....

White Christmas? The Haynes Sisters are wanted, the sheriff outside their door with a warrant for their arrest. What do Wallace and Davis do? Spirit them out a window, stall law enforcement long enough to ensure their getaway over state lines and then barricade the door? We arrest people for interference and harboring fugitives for a lot less than that.

But the grand prize goes to It's a Wonderful Life. As George Bailey's life unravels, he comes home and smashes things in his house, in front of his wife and kids. He leaves, goes to a bar and gets drunk. A fistfight ensues. Climbing into his car, he smashes into a tree and then walks away. Let's see.... DV criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, DUI hit and run TA and this is our hero? And what's with Mr. Gower slapping the shit out of young George? 

After thirty years in law enforcement, these are not charming Christmas movies. They are fact patterns. Although I have to admit a certain collegial admiration for a lawyer who can prove a deluded old guy is Santa Claus with a bunch of letters the Post Office had refused to deliver.

Hee haw. See you in the funny papers!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Rejuvenation

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” - Albert Camus

My wife and I rarely celebrate the new year on New Year's Eve. Oh, we find a restaurant having some kind of special, have an early dinner and get the truck into the garage before Amateur Hour begins. Staying up into the wee hours drinking heavily...not on our radar.

Winter solstice - there is something into which to sink the teeth. It represents the "shortest" day of the year (not to be confused with the actual shortest day, occurring about 620 million years ago, when it was about 21.9 hours. But I digress). Daylight lasting just over nine hours, making possible the phenomenon of working day watch and seeing both sunrise and sunset in a single ten hour shift. But, again....

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Refusing to Hate

Police officers realize that even with the best tactics, equipment and training bad things still happen to nice people. When they do, it is easy to feel anger and let it turn into hatred. I was greeted by these words this morning, written by my daughter Katy. I offer them as the best expression of how I feel.

"The easiest emotion in this situation is to hate; hate the kid, hate his parents, hate this society that seems to ignore another school shooting because "only" one person got killed. But as cliche as it is, an eye for an eye makes the world blind. His parents need our sympathy, prayers and kindness. Her parents need our sympathy, prayers and kindness. This society needs people to continue to raise their children with kindess in their hearts and empathy for their fellow man. Bad things will always happen but if we let it break our spirit and nothing good comes of it, the bad guys win. As hard as it may be and as much as it tries to break the collective spirit of this being a good world in which to raise children, we explain to our children that sometimes people do bad things but it's all the more reason to continue to do good."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Eyes and Ears

Stuff that's hidden and murky and ambiguous is scary because you don't know what it does.
Jerry Garcia 

The Christmas season seems to bring out the "huh?!" factor in people. Several days a go, riding on a bike path along the light rail line in full police cycling uniform, two older gents pulled up beside me on their road bikes. One of them looked earnestly at me and said - "I see you're on a bike. Do you patrol the bike paths?"

Yesterday, dispatch sent a BOLO to our MDTs. That's a "be on the lookout" on our "mobile data terminals." We were supposed to check a neighborhood for a man dressed in all brown, pushing a hand cart with boxes on it. The RP feared casing.

These, and others, are not measures of intelligence but matters of perspective. I'm sure the skinny guy on the bike wanted to say something to the police officer suddenly so...accessible. He may have ridden on wondering how the intelligent comment he had in his mind had sounded so silly out loud. The person reporting the UPS guy as suspicious may have decided burglars are wearing more clever disguises these days.

Nevertheless, on cold, gray days intervening at the frayed edges of our social fabric these little moments of mirth go a long way. Thank you, kind citizens.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Victims

"CENTENNIAL - Karl Pierson, a student who shot 17-year-old Claire Davis, took his own life afterwards on Friday.
His family is speaking up for the first time since the tragedy. Pierson's parents, Barbara and Mark Pierson, released the following statement on Monday:
"We are shattered by the tragic events that took place on Friday at Arapahoe High School. Our thoughts and prayers are with Claire Davis and her family. They, and she, have suffered unimaginably, and we pray for her full recovery. We also pray for the entire Arapahoe High School community, as we know your lives are forever changed by this horrific event.
As parents, we loved our son Karl dearly and we are devastated by what happened Friday. We cannot begin to understand why Karl did what he did. We ask for privacy during this unthinkably difficult time and hope that you will respect our need for time to grieve."
Davis remains in the hospital and is in a coma." From 9News.
If you think you know the private hell these two parents inhabit...you are wrong.

UPDATED: Today we learn that Claire has lost her struggle for life. We are saddened. Tonight is Winter solstice - a time to rejuvenate and let go. Can we - all of us - let go of hatred? Can we set aside violence as a means of settling scores, of asserting our independence? 

Helping Out a Sister

I'd love to throw a chunk of change into this. For any purchase of Out of Ideas, or Parasol in a Hurricane made anywhere in December or January I will donate the proceeds to her fund. Please, I don't want to hear any comments about the care she is getting, either in her native Canada or in the United States. I want to hear that you are going to help out a sister officer.

Facebook links to her fund and story here. Nothing stopping you from giving directly. Pass it on.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Scissors

"We heard the doorknob turn. The guy was outside our room, yelling. A couple of the guys armed themselves with scissors." An Arapahoe High School student commenting on 850 KOA.

The radio traffic on Metronet sounded like a drill, until the urgency in the dispatcher's voices came through. Asking for more units. Advising where the command post had been set up. A rally point. Ambulances. "The shooter is down." "Arapahoe, this is State. Confirm the shooter is down?" "State, this is Arapahoe. Affirm."

Copycat crimes are not unheard of, and we are all trained to prepare for multiple assailants at multiple locations. We headed for our schools. Additional information poured in - single shooter, one teacher his target, the lockdown procedures and active shooter protocols seemed to work.

I take my Kevlar helmet out of my bag and set it on the seat beside me.  Fortunately today my only role is to wave and represent. Farther south, my brothers and sisters are taking care of business. A fifteen year old girl fights for her life, rescued by officers running toward the sound of the shotgun blasts. This is why we practice; why the lockdown drills, why the tabletop exercises.

One year since Sandy Hook.

Friday, December 13, 2013

It's a Jeep Thing

"It defines us, ever reminding us that life never is more precious than this." Moments Like This, Alison Krauss.

JeepOur day began with the morning drive along Florida's Gulf Coast. Usually it was Beth at the wheel, cursing her elders, reminding them that not everyone was retired. We pulled into the parking lot of whatever Naples business employed her. A hug and I was left to my own designs. Exfilling, I headed for breakfast and the beach, driving her Jeep.

I ran errands, I found places to read, or write. The bulk of The Heart of the Matter, what I hope will be my third published novel, was written in places where the Gulf's cool breezes and soft, supple sounds washed over me. I learned the navpoints, became familiar with the streets, all the while driving Beth's Jeep in glorious eighty degree weather.

Counting the fabulous tunes I heard from her CD collection as I motored Florida roadways would be impossible. I acquired a decided admiration for Alison Krauss's voice. Imogen Heap's Hide and Seek played so many times it became synonymous with Beth, Florida and the black
Wrangler I filled with gas.

We visited the mud pits once, meeting her friends for a day of off-road adventure. Several of them found their way into Heart, as much for their multi-purpose way with the F-word as anything. Finally, she would drop me off at the airport and I would wave good bye to the Black Jeep as she drove away.

It made it to Maine somehow, where it shed a side-view mirror on the interstate. Always the worse for wear, the last time I rode in it the muffler was shot, the deafening sound drowning out even our conversation. Sometimes parked, awaiting a part or the attention of a mechanic friend, it seemed always to rise to the occasion. Somehow it survived a post law school trip down the coast to end it's days in St. Petersburg, two hundred thousand miles traveled from the place it was built.

But, it's a jeep thing. Beth sold it to a young man who will strip it down, polish it up and resurrect it. It's only fair.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Larger than Life

"Gentlemen," said Washington, "you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country."

At first engaged in respectful, passive resistance to injustice. Finally, certain there was no other way he resorted to armed resistance. For Nelson Mandela, he suffered the fate spared Washington and spent nearly thirty years in prison. That he would have emerged bitter, angry and filled with hatred would have been understandable, human. But, like Washington, he had suffered in the service of his country. 

Nelson Mandela's love of country, his message of hope and reconciliation, his desire to see all men and women be treated with respect and dignity regardless of skin color stands as a beacon. He takes his place in history among the greats. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Said I Wouldn't Call - UPDATED

"I know it's two AM but ain't you still my friend? It's so hard to get you off my mind." Bat McGrath, "The Blue Eagle."
"It's a quarter after one, I'm a little drunk and I need you now." Lady Antebellum, "Need You Now."

Writing.

Cici has had enough. The things she's seen, the jobs she's been asked to do - everything has changed. She leaves him, them.... The pain of losses contemplated and completed. Fleeing to the mountains she loves, riding her snowboard while her helmet's sound system bathes her in music. Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley weave their voices through Lady A's megahit. On the lift Cici reminds herself that she need not be drunk to crave the sound of his voice one more time....

Outside my door temperatures fall below zero. I'm trying to get the right tone, open Cici's soul to what (I hope) are the hearts of future readers. If she isn't real to them, this scene will seem contrived. "She left him and now she wants him back on her terms. And...?"

Almost forty years ago Bat McGrath wrote and recorded "The Blue Eagle." It was (and is) a ramshackle bar tucked in a small Keuka Lake town. The subject of his song is crying on the "back room phone," spending one more few moments hearing her voice, and imagining holding her again. The song plays on my laptop - several generations removed from the vinyl disk I all but wore out, a lonely Denver transplant.

I learned to play "Need You Now" in the company of my wonderful music teacher. The chords were easy, the key just about right for my old voice. We played it as work, but also as recreation. In it's simplicity..."I'd rather hurt than feel nothing at all."

"I'll understand if you want to go" sings Bat McGrath toward the end of the song. Does Cici really understand why she left? If she calls Kevin, to hear his voice one more time, will he understand when she tells him she has to go?

I don't know. Neither has revealed enough of themselves, even to me.

UPDATE - I'm listening to the acoustic version of Need You Now, embodying an awful longing was missing from the original, polished version. I get it now. I get both of them.








Monday, December 2, 2013

Babe

Photo: A man died yesterday who didn't receive quite as much media attention as others...

'Band of Brothers' WWII Vet "Babe" Heffron Dies at 90

South Philadelphia native and World War II veteran Edward "Babe" Heffron, best known for the book and television miniseries "Band of Brothers," which portrayed him, died yesterday at the age of 90.

During World War II, Heffron was a member of the 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army called Easy Company, often referred to as one of the most revered companies in the history of the U.S. Army.

Heffron fought in several major battles with Easy Company, including D-Day, and the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star.

After the war, Heffron continued to live and work in South Philadelphia, impacting the lives of many who crossed his path including City Councilman James Kenney.Noting the passing of Edward "Babe" Heffron, 90, of Philadelphia, PA. A member of the 101st Airborne Band of Brothers, he uttered the words "The real men, the real heroes, are buried over there, or come (sic) home to be buried." My late father uttered those words before they were broadcast as part of the miniseries, having seen the black sands of Iwo Jima close up.

Years ago, my Uncle Jim, Aunt Mary, Cousin Carol and I stopped by a cafe in Bastogne, Belgium. Lunch time, and we took a table toward the rear of the establishment. We chatted after a fabulous morning touring the gorgeous countryside. The proprietor stopped by our table, literally hat in hand. "Americans?" he asked. We answered that we were. Our lunchtime bottle of wine was on him. "Thank you for what you did for us," he said.

Babe Heffron earned those thanks in a cold foxhole not far from where we sat. We bid you farewell, sir. You did your country credit and deserve to be remembered forever.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Bumper Sticker on my Casket

Me: What did you think when the guy shot at you?
Her: How silly was I, peeking around the corner like that.

He had a .308 rifle, shooting at the police officers who responded to his wife's call for help. Several of them were pinned down, exchanging fire with the suspect as a way of protecting each other. Only after he was wounded by a courageous officer firing a .223 A4 did the gun battle cease. In the midst of the firefight one of our officers asked that a Bearcat - an armored vehicle - be brought up to shield their retreat.

We didn't have one.

I've spent a few minutes this morning exchanging "pleasantries" with someone claiming to be a retired cop. He thinks that local law enforcement's possession of surplus military MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles represents the end of American liberty. I said dead cops is a pretty steep price to pay for being fashionable. Liberty, he says, used to be fashionable. Who knows, maybe he's onto something.

Officers being pinned down while trying to rescue colleagues happens far too frequently. Without protection from gunfire the attempt is near suicide. Nevertheless, officers rush from cover, or invite the gunman's attention, to save not just friends but citizens on an alarmingly common basis.

Let's not give them the tools to accomplish the rescue. Let's listen to the bumper sticker warriors about how tools, equipment and training equal repression. They know far better than thirty years of having my boots on the ground has afforded me.

UPDATE: This post tells you everything you need to know about the propaganda coming out of some quarters. Read the comments, too. Primers for attacking a police vehicle used to protect officers? Perfect.

Street Cred

"Education is an admirable thing. But it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught." Oscar Wilde

Unseasonable

The word is meaningless in Denver. Snowstorms in June are common, 70's weather every February a right. On the last day of November 2013 the sky shone bright blue, thermometer pushing sixty. Short-sleeved uniform and riding weather. I spent nearly three hours on the patrol bike.

The shopping center surrounding Casa Bonita has seen better days. The lot is rutted and poorly patched. Many of the businesses have closed their doors. It has a sad, slouched appearance, the bright pink restaurant's tower a beacon in an otherwise drab landscape. 

Men and women sit at various points on the sidewalk. Outwardly, they are as drab as their surroundings - threadbare brown coats, soiled jeans and boots with laces knotted like a measuring rope. All have deep furrows on leathery faces, and when they smile.... Gaps. These are the hardcore homeless.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Twenty Cents' Worth

"A Paradigm Shift isn't twenty cents' change."

Paradigm shift - a change in basic assumptions.

Our table mates at the wedding reception were family members of the bride. Nice folks. We chatted casually and enjoyed the excellent food and open bar. The inevitable question - "Getting together with family for Thanksgiving?"

No, I told them. I'm working.

Aghast, one of the folks exclaimed "You need a new employer!" Apparently he had no idea what I do for a living. He needed a paradigm shift. It won't just be me and fellow police officers working while our families eat turkey. So will:


  • Police Dispatchers, there to handle the millions of calls received each day all over the country.
  • Firefighters and their dispatch centers, ready to leave their dinner to fight fires, perform hair-raising rescues and tend to the ill.
  • Doctors and nurses in clinics and hospitals, miracle workers in scrubs.
  • Mass-transit workers, bringing families together even as theirs are miles away.
  • Pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers, gate employees and FAA Air Traffic Control professionals keeping the skies safe and giving folks a fighting chance to get home while football is still on.
  • Ambulance crews.
  • Retail workers.
  • Military members, deployed or standing watch at home.
This is only a partial list. The million or so of us learn one simple lesson. It doesn't have to be Thanksgiving Day to be thankful for the many blessings we enjoy. Our loved ones understand. We are thankful for them most of all.

Thank you to all who serve in big ways and small.