Saturday, August 23, 2014

Gilda's New Home

"Of all of God's creatures there is only one that cannot be made a slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat." Mark Twain

Today we welcome Gilda, a one year old short hair. We thought our remaining window well trip Rowena needed a playmate. Okay, the hissing and growling notwithstanding.... At some point they may actually want to be in the same room with each other. Or at least on the same floor.

We think the introduction of new animals into our home signals something. We are afraid to pose the question to mental health professionals, however.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Thousand Words

A cop, a lost autistic boy.

Skin Deep

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.

The call began like many - a woman called a friend to report that her husband had struck her...again. The friend called police. Officers responded, intent on contacting the couple who were fighting. An alert cop eavesdropping on the conversation between victim and confidant heard "Put that gun down." Instead of knocking on the door of the house, officers deployed more defensively.

Good thing. The husband emerged with a thirty caliber rifle and shot at everything that moved. 

A fire team moved their squad automatic weapon - a 5.56mm machine gun - into position. They laid down a base of fire, successfully suppressing the suspect's efforts to kill them. In the meantime, another group flanked the house. One round from an M203 grenade launcher devastated the porch area where the gunman had made his sniper nest. Another, for good measure, set fire to the single family dwelling. The suspect was killed, as was his wife, who had taken refuge just inside their front door. Fortunately, the children inside survived after emergency medical care.


Friday, August 15, 2014


Even after such milestones as Kathryn Bigelow winning an Oscar, there still seem to be few women in leadership roles.

Bikecopblog passed twenty-five thousand hits yesterday. The traffic that got us there seemed a bit confusing and obscure. I got a nice bit of traction with The Egg and I. An old post - The Sentry - burst to life. I cannot account for it except to say that, whoever you are out there, I hope you enjoyed the story of a strange man who did an awesome act of kindness for two tired travelers.

In addition, I finished A More Perfect Union and prepared the last seventy pages to be sent to Terri Valentine, my writing coach. In essence, this means that the manuscript is finished. Terri has been generally positive about this project. The next step is to try to find Cici a home, someone who will publish it.

For this moment I have a number of people to thank. As always, my wife Pat has fielded thousands of questions, endured countless moments of "If this was Kevin and Cici" and accepted my hours in front of a laptop instead of a lawn mower. She is my best friend and strongest supporter. Writing would be impossible without her.

Friends have lent an amazing array of talents toward this project: Wil Cochenour is my go to guy for all things involving tactical training - he and I have wiled away thousands of cycling miles putting Cici into peril and then getting her out. Jason Maines has walked me through so many practical scenarios and commended so many reading assignments that I'm thinking, in addition to adding depth to several battle scenes, I deserve a certificate of course completion. Matt Shay tried to explain the world of sniper craft to me. He was kind - not once did he say anything about teaching a pig to sing. Work friend Jason Jewkes's willingness to discuss his experiences in Afghanistan has made Kevin a more realistic character. 

Several service members have helped me flesh out some of the peculiarities of their branch. Danielle Weichert is a former Marine officer who lent not just language, but depth to what Kevin might think in a number of situations. Often, Kevin's words were hers. Naval Officer Rob Dethlefs, also a Marine veteran, gave me a succinct answer to the question posed by this novel. Both of them were instrumental in getting the tone right. Anthony Gherardini's descriptions of life in an MRAP set the stages for the novel's conclusion. Mike Ruckdaschal's many hours walking me through his experiences in Iraq gave me a blueprint for what martial law might look like.

Finally, if you ever read this manuscript (I will be glad to email it to you for feedback) and think Cici is three dimensional, it wasn't me. Alicia Harris graciously lent hours of her time reading the first draft (a difficult process) and suggesting places where Cici could be improved. Without her help, I might have abandoned this story.

Twenty-five grand and a completed manuscript. And it may stop raining long enough to mow the front lawn!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Egg and I

If it's the Psychic Network why do they need a phone number?

Robin Williams's recent death is irreconcilable. 

I first noticed him as Mork, the visitor from the planet Ork in the sitcom Mork and Mindy. His frantic humor, jackhammer dialogue and pithy observations ("Why is it called rush hour when nobody moves?") made the show eminently watchable. I'd moved to Colorado the year before the show began, so I was already familiar with M&M's setting - Boulder. It seemed an apt landing spot for his spaceship - a giant egg.

I saw a few of his movies - Awakenings, for example. He played a doctor whose therapy gave catatonic patients a new, if brief, lease on a more active life. The pain on his face as the patients begin slipping back into darkness cannot be described. It takes a gifted actor with a personal relationship with despair to pull that off.

My father phoned once to discuss a movie he'd seen. The main character was an airman for Armed Forces Radio, the scene Vietnam. The airman had encountered a number of troop trucks, all full of soldiers headed for battle. It wasn't the banter that got to him, or the expectant faces of the men. "The trucks starting up," he said. "I remember that sound. The trucks started up and they took us to the fighting. The main actor understands, too. You can see the dread in his eyes. A bunch of those kids are going to get killed and he knows it."

That was Good Morning, Vietnam. Robin Williams played Adrian Cronauer, an Air Force DJ.

Over the years he repeated that role in real life, entertaining troops all over the world. He was a man of varied interests, among them cycling. He was a friend of Lance Armstrong, and American road racing.

I don't know what it is like to be so discouraged, so distraught that suicide is the only viable option. I don't want to know. I've seen the aftermath of that decision and I don't much care for it. I've seen the other victims, how they struggle with the inexplicable hole in their hearts and their lives. How they try to answer the unanswerable, make sense of senselessness. It is a dark place full of dead ends.

Robin Williams's voice, intellect and talent are stilled. I can't make sense of it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Am I Blue?

"You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and... blow." Marie (Slim) Browning (Lauren Bacall), To Have and Have Not, (1944).

Noting the passing of film great Lauren Bacall.

For those of us whose birthdays sprinkle the 50s, Ms. Bacall's sultry voice, lithe outline and suggestive dialogue began an awakening that transcended pop culture. She was hot.

She burst onto the big screen as Humphrey Bogart's love interest in To Have and Have Not. At nineteen she played opposite Bogey, Hogie Carmichael and Walter Brennan and stole the show - the ingenue whose sexuality overshadowed the older, established (by twenty-five years) Bogart. She began an affair with him during the shooting of that film, and married him shortly thereafter. He gave her a gold whistle that she wore around her neck, until he died holding her hand in 1957.

Years later she played Ron Howard's mother opposite John Wayne in his last movie, The Shootist. In the 1990's she invigorated the role of Margaret Kramer, wife of former president Russell Kramer (Jack Lemmon). Kramer commented that something was a "kick in the balls." Apologizing to her, she replied tartly "Please, I'm a politician's wife. I have a set of my own."

No one.... No one.... Could have delivered that line authentically, except for Betty Joan Perske, born in the Bronx in 1924 and who set a standard for women who didn't take any shit from anyone.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Two Dots

“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.” 
― Christopher Hitchens

Today we say good bye to Winchester, the second of our window-well triplets to lose a brief battle with shitty kidneys. He gave us little warning. One day he was jumping the gate we erect to keep the dogs at bay during feeding time. The next he was lethargic. The following.... Done. Maybe that's the way it should be - ever at your best, leaving just enough time to say farewell.

He was named for Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester, III, from the TV show MASH. The kids called him Two Dots for the black markings on either side of his nose.

He was the most calmly affectionate of the trips, looking for a lap when he wasn't searching out a strip of sunlight to sleep under. He made few demands on us, requiring only a place under the covers on a cold night. Calling him a picky eater understates both "picky" and "eater." He liked very few canned foods - we went several years buying only flats of a vile-smelling mackerel mush the other cats tolerated. Everything else was greeted with a tentative sniff and then, nose held in high disdain, he would march out of the kitchen. He did like the dry food (usually) and stomped around noisily if we negligently let the dish grow empty.

He went with the same easy grace with which he lived. Though there were tears as his head settled into my hands I am pleased that he shared his life with us. From window well to our hearts...where he will always remain.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Travelling Ink

“There's something really the matter with most people who wear tattoos. There's at least some terrible story. I know from experience that there's always something terribly flawed about people who are tattooed, above some little something that Johnny had done in the Navy, even though that's a bad sign...It's terrible. Psychologically it's crazy. Most people who are tattooed, it's the sign of some feeling of inferiority, they're trying to establish some macho identification for themselves.” 
― Truman CapoteConversations with Capote

The young woman serving my friend his beer mispronounced "Greeley." Perhaps it was a matter of not really reading the tiny print on the label, or the common trait to juxtapose letters to create a familiar word. Whatever, it is in the manner of the beer hall to engage in a bit of playful banter. "Where are you from?" I ask.

"Ft. Myers, Florida."

She was petite and cheerful, with engaging eyes and flawless twenty-something skin. She has adorned one shoulder with an elaborate, colorful flower tattoo. I inquire if she got her ink in Ft. Myers. Of course she did.

So did I.