Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Melodies and Meanings - Dedicated to Scott Sorensen, Reno PD

"Bang the drum slowly and play the fife lowly." A Cowboy's Lament.

Have you ever had a melody stuck in your mind and couldn't shake it? I'm not talking about a passing fancy for Mambo Number Five, or the jingle from some commercial. Decades, a most haunting bit of a song....

I saw Bang the Drum Slowly when I was in college. It's the story of a baseball pitcher, a star. He befriends - is really the only friend of - a simple young catcher played by Robert De Niro. The catcher isn't all that talented, is teased for his limited intellect, mostly is shunned by teammates and he is dying. The pitcher insists on a contract clause linking them during the catcher's last season. "He goes where I go." No one knows about the catcher's illness until one day the pitcher screams at someone in frustration that it is the last season, in many ways, for his friend.

Of course you know what happens next. Everyone treats him better. Isn't that just human nature?

The movie uses "The Streets of Laredo" as a theme, the sad lyrics and haunting melody a part of the underlying message. Too soon, the cowboy - the catcher - is gone. I've sung it softly to myself more than once, and remembered the often frustrated loyalty of the pitcher. I searched fruitlessly for this song (I didn't know the title) but today found a number of versions. None is as impressive as that contained in the movie, when a player tries to sing it in the locker room to a hail of derision from teammates. But he persists, his song carrying a deeper meaning than he could know.


*Scott Sorensen is a Reno police officer and friend of my friend Laura Hutchings Baker, a captain for Reno Fire. He lost his fight on 8/26 and passed away. Godspeed, Brother.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Seasons Change

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die.  Ecclesiastes 3

We found them in the window well of our home, three kittens barely older than a week. Mom had made a nest for them but abandoned it after our dogs, and our kids, discovered it. We took them in, hand-feeding them with eyedroppers, brushings with a toothbrush and burping them on our shoulders. The cat we already had regarded them suspiciously.

They were three different cats - one rambunctious, one aloof and one...nervous. Nervous stomach, eye twitches - I swore a friend to secrecy when I took him to acupuncture. That was Freedman.

We lost him today, victim of kidney disease. A quick end, really, a blessing but not unmourned. He was our big guy. We will miss the deep, rumbling three AM purring when, standing on one of us, he let us know he appreciated the cuddles. It made him feel secure, something of a rarity for him.

Fair winds and following seas, Mr. Freedman.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fins Up

"Music is a common language." Multiple sources.

Dispatch sent a teammate on a welfare check. Someone was concerned for the well being of a man stretched out on a park bench. He was, the reporting person said, "Baking in the sun."

I sent a text message to the officer - "See if he's a tourist covered with oil." The immediate response "If he cut his heel on a pop top then, yes." Apparently, the man was fine. On the radio, my cop called back into service reporting that the man was "Going to cruise on back home."

Not everyone got it. But late on a "Friday" after an exhausting week it made me laugh out loud.

Ever-ee-ting gonna be all right.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Theodore - Updated

We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.
Mother Teresa 

Christmas gift for homeless man Stock Photo - 16334609I first met Theodore in an alley beside a liquor store. He'd fallen asleep next to the shopping cart containing his worldly possessions - shoes, a pair of pants...a dirty blanket. Dressed in a soiled, tattered waist-length coat, his half-consumed can of Steel Reserve sat nearby, warmed by the summer morning heat. My bike patrol partner roused him, explaining that we had to pour out his beer and move him along. 

Theodore blinked at her, bloodshot and watery eyes trying to focus. Leathery skin. His flattened nose made him appear an old prize fighter, but the battles that made it that way were for honors much closer to the ground. Win, and he kept the six or eight dollars in his pocket and the can of beer hidden in his coat. Lose.... Police officers like us would watch as his mortal remains were zipped into a bag. Affable to a fault, yes ma'am, no ma'am, he did what we asked. 

I ran into him often last summer. Too drunk to walk, sometimes. Fewer and fewer possessions. Then, he disappeared.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Hittin' the Gym

"You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She's 97 today and we don't know where the hell she is." — Ellen DeGeneres

Writing is often a solitary pursuit - hours spent at the keyboard watching little black letters appear on a white screen, hoping that from them ideas and emotions arise. With loving craft, or sheer happenstance plots evolve, characters spring (or ooze) to life and what was once a notion born of boredom during a long solo bike ride becomes a short story, a manuscript...a novel.

Words have meaning. Obvious, huh? Valuable for implanting something in the reader's mind, getting them to see, or feel. Adam slips his arms around Karen as they cook dinner, and the words put the reader in Adam's mind, witness to the first time they say "I love you" to each other. Done well (the reader is always the judge) it is a life moment shared.

A manuscript's first draft isn't tossed off to just anyone. Stilted phrases, wooden characters, plots that zig-zag if they have any direction at all.... I'm sure there are the gifted and talented whose rough stuff comes out smooth as a new baby's rump, but I'll never get there. So when someone agrees to wade through it and offer suggestions - that's a friend. I have one who is helping me through my latest project.

I also employ a writing teacher, a fabulous woman I've actually never met. I send fifty or so pages of text to her at a time. She edits.... Such a sterile word for a dynamic enterprise. She is kind, she is professional - she wastes no words when she offers her opinion. She and I have seen three novels and several short stories to successful conclusions - two published, one in the process. We've started working on Cici 1, title "A More Perfect Union." I got the first fifty pages back the other day.

I'm out of shape.