Thursday, December 31, 2015

Twenty Fifteen

Question: What ended in 2016?

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then let me flatter a few people. Twenty fifteen was a tough year personally. There is no need to recap - it's all been here. But...

We're happy and healthy, and so are the kids and grandkids. Bikecopblog hit forty kay visits, and has picked up a lot of new, consistent readers. Two more novels hit the "shelves," both of which are selling well. Got no complaints.

Happy New Year, from the cast here at Bikecopblog.

(Who did I flatter? That meme is from Ranger Up Military and MMA Apparel. And the "What ended in 2016" is a Facebook post that is actually "What ended in 1896?")

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Simple Gifts

Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free
Tis a gift to come down where you ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
we'll be in the valley of love and delight

1.5 oz Smirnoff� No. 21 Vodka
6 oz orange juice

(Crested Butte, CO): This was the first Christmas without either my mom or dad. My memories of many Christmas mornings past flooded into mind as I opened the box of gifts from our oldest daughter...

Our tiny three bedroom house in suburban Philadelphia fit a family of five in cozy comfort. It was the kind of boxy post-war structure meant to offer housing to returning vets, costing somewhere in the neighborhood of $5000, which worked out to a mortgage of perhaps $55 a month. We walked to school, and the nearby rec center, in blissful ignorance of what we now might believe was terrible danger. The moms were all home with toddlers.

Christmas was always more than just a few days off. We three sons had spent the better part of a month poring over the Sears and Roebucks Christmas catalog.  This tome of vivid color and hopeful possibility was our guide to the inevitable, unattainable list of gifts "Santa" might deem us worthy of receiving. We made so many trips through it that the spine would split, and the pages scatter.

Christmas Eve often found us at church. We would arrive home in time to put up the tree. We never decorated it - it was green and bare when mom and dad tucked us in. Dad would hang one of his old Marine Corps blankets in the hallway to shield prying little eyes from watching the festivities - of our parents trimming the tree, setting out gifts and, hopefully, shielding our tender ears from the purple language that inevitably resulted from toy assembly chores by a handy but impatient father.

In the morning, reluctantly and sleeplessly waiting until some appropriate pre-dawn moment, we were turned loose into a world of light and color and bliss. Mom and Dad would watch in loving amusement as we tore into the gifts.

Years, and a marriage, and children of my own, we assumed different holiday traditions. Yet, there was always one that remained, right up to the point that my father was gone, and my mother fading.

Every year, my mom bought me a screwdriver.

I don't really know how the tradition took hold. Apparently, as a child I was a tinkerer. I would take things apart and, often, put them back together correctly. Although any number of different tools might be required, it was the screwdriver that my mom settled upon.

This went on for decades - sometimes a high-quality precision instrument, sometimes a QVC gimmick. No matter how much they spent on other gifts, how old I became and how many of my own tools I had accumulated there was always a screwdriver.

Last year was the first time in over forty years that I did not receive one. It was a sign that the end was approaching for Mom. Our family would soon face a Christmas, and every one after, without her. When the time inevitably came, it left a hollow feeling inside.

This year I vowed to remember her even as we moved ahead as a family. We were spending Christmas in Crested Butte with our son, daughter-in-law and their two children. This was not so much an escape as the beginning of a different tradition.

So I opened the box from our daughter. Tucked inside a "tactical" Christmas stocking - a screwdriver. Christmas morning, celebrating with our son and his wife and children in their hotel suite, a carefully-wrapped package contained another screwdriver. This one a gift from a man who has truly become a son. It had been a conspiracy, the kids getting together and deciding that they would remember their grandmother with the gift of screwdrivers to their father. Arriving home from our trip - a third, from our youngest, whose kindness had come even as she remained attentive to her own family and their traditions. Each different...but the resulting tears of remembrance and love were the same for each.

It is truly the simple gifts that matter.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Not Death, but Life

 "My brother wants to know when he can get back to work. That's him -go, go, go." Meghan Lopez, sister of wounded Denver Police officer Tony Lopez.

Donald Trump would like to have a mandatory death penalty for individuals who murder police officers. I am, of course, opposed to murdering police officers. Leaving aside the death penalty debate (about which I am an unabashed hypocrite), if society would like to do something nice for law enforcement officers, they should examine what happens when one of us is injured in the line of duty.

Hollywood has left us with grave misconceptions about individuals who have survived gunshot wounds, especially those involving extremities. The wounded officer ties a bandana around the affected area and resumes his or her normal life, with nothing but a temporary limp to show for the experience. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The wounded officer has endured the trauma of an attempt on their life. They may wonder if they will die, right there in the street. They have, more than likely, had to face the possibility that they will never see loved ones again. But, somehow they made it.

Federal law has, in many ways, tied the hands of a department’s Human Resources office in the manner in which wounded officers are treated. For example, after a relatively short period they are placed on disability, initially the short term variety, which reduces their pay significantly. Although benefits at this point are tax-free there is still a deficit to make up.

Officers are sometimes prevented from re-engaging peers in the workplace when on a disability status, as opposed to “light duty.” It’s one thing to visit “the station,” but quite another to do something – anything – in the company of friends.

Eventually, the injured cop must prove all over again that they are fit to serve the community for which they almost gave their lives. There are medical exams, requalifying at the range (after weeks or months of enforced absence, without practice) and an obstacle course to run. Some organizations do not facilitate the officer’s preparation.

All of this is easily changed. With all due respect, an officer who is injured in the line of duty (especially one who is assaulted) did not smash a finger in a desk drawer. They deserve distinctive treatment because the nature and manner of their injury is different. You want to change federal law, Mr. Trump? 

Extend the period of time during which an officer receives a normal paycheck. Allow officers to perform casual duties in the workplace (at their own pace) while on injury leave. Create and maintain funds to defray transportation, child care and rehabilitative services while officers prepare to return to work. Make range instructors and personal trainers available so that the officer is ready to successfully complete the return-to-work tests.

It shouldn't be too hard to figure out what needs to be done. Ask any officer who has fought to return to duty. They will tell you what it took, how hard they struggled, and how the process could have worked for them, instead of against them. The military has done it. It's time for Federal law to catch up. Imagine, member of Congress, the great press generated by a hearing where police heroes tell their stories, and help you craft the Police Hero Rehabilitation Act.

I’ve been lucky. The injuries I’ve sustained in the line of duty have been minor. Some of my friends have not been so fortunate. We owe it to them to make sure they are treated as heroes, and returned to their place along the thin blue line.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Four Hundred and One

"You write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first rule of writing is to write, not to think." William Forrester (Sean Connery), Finding Forrester, (2000).

Four hundred blog entries. With this one, four oh one.

Every one begun with the heart. Some - among the most popular with readers - never made it to my head. I've written some in deep despair and anguish. Others, were tendered in the shadowy aftermath of a duty death, one in particular that still stings. May I presume for a moment?

We, a faithful group of readers and I, have laughed together, cried together and held (in the most satisfying of virtual senses) each other in difficult moments. I have the the honor of being read by friends with whom I've shared decades, and some very special ones with whom I've shared a recent classroom.

I've tried to keep the law porn to a minimum, which (you must admit) is an impressive, if not entirely successful endeavor. I love writing about baseball, but the minuscule hits on those pieces... It is America's past time, right? The stray gadfly political efforts are done mostly knowing that some readers will agree, some disagree but most will pass, thank you. Probably a good plan.

Friend pieces were the easiest to write, and often the most fun. Ever the introvert, I have a small but loyal group, mostly associated with work, or bikes, or both. Coincidentally, they are the ones to whom I often turn when Karen, or Amy, or Cici are involved.

I've had so many opportunities to write about family. Some of it has been celebratory, while others  announced the passing of an irreplaceable parent. It has been those moments when readers have shown their greatest support, their kindest words and their respect for my loved ones.

In all of it, I owe a debt that I cannot repay. I write with my heart. You have allowed me to do that.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

From the Heart

"What would you do if I sang out of tune?
Would you stand up and walk out on me?"
"With a Little Help From My Friends," The Beatles, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. (1967).

Release day.

A number of very famous, totally wealthy writers have written about writing.There are the successes, the funny stories about meeting this person or that person and, of course, what it was like on the movie set when the film based on their book was in production. Well, la-di-frickin'-da.

For a freelancer, release day brings a period of celebration unlike many others. Okay, the birth of my children (and the day my stepson took my last name) are better. Wedding days are totally important. But...

Release day means that others can experience the story over which the writer has slaved, toiled and wept. This is not just a novel. It is a labor of love.

My first published novel, Out of Ideas, took shape during a trip with a good friend to an airshow in Wisconsin. The story evolved before I had really decided on the characters. Karen Sorenson evolved, for the most part, as a melding of many of the strong women I've known. Once that book hit the "shelves" it was imperative that her story continue.

Our daughter Beth... Okay, this part of the story is a confluence of irony and fate. Beth is an attorney who has a private practice, in addition to working for an organization in DC. She's an extraordinary person, married to a veteran with multiple recent deployments. When she was in high school - a wild child. So when I was looking for a publisher and I saw "Wild Child Publishing. Break wild." What would it cost?

Marci Baun, the publisher, has been nothing but supportive. She offered a contract on a short story, then a novel. Then another.

Writing a novel takes a lot of focus, a degree of denial and a hide thick enough for an NFL football. The payoff? I'd love to make millions and retire to the Bahamas. But, in reality - The Heart of the Matter is a really good book. It says, about police women, exactly what I want it to say (and how many publishers will let that happen?). A lot of good people have helped make it happen along the way.

And, if a lot of someones buy it, I get to write something else.

Enjoy Karen's story. She's a very good friend.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Birthday Boy

I wrote about the little boy named Graham Patrick Gaffney several years ago, after he was nearly one. He'd been born early, and spent his first ten weeks in a NICU. At some point his mom, who is a gifted writer, will fully express the dread of a birth so dicey a nurse told her "Just because he's not crying doesn't mean he's dead."

He's five. He's in school. He thinks he wants to be a chef. For Christmas he'll get a bike jersey because that's what a bike cop buys one of his grandsons on his birthday.

Happy birthday, Graham.

Monday, December 7, 2015

One December Morning

Oahu residents were awakened, 74 years ago, to the sounds of warplanes, gunfire and explosions. Although Americans had been fighting and dying in the war against Axis aggression for several years, December 7th brought the attack that catapulted America "officially" into the war. Nearly three thousand people - soldiers, sailors, hospital personnel, civilians - lost their lives. Many of them fired the first shots of our war, and didn't live to see the world they helped make free.

Americans remember those sacrifices and struggles. In a sense, remembering that awful morning brings us closer to understanding just how vulnerable Americans felt. Much of the Pacific Fleet was in ruin, damaged or sunk, in the harbor. Half of our military aircraft stationed there were destroyed. An invasion, first of the Hawaiian Islands and then of the homeland itself, was not just theoretically possible but expected. It looked as though an irresistible force would soon overwhelm the West Coast.

President Roosevelt, unlimbering polished rhetorical flourishes appropriate for the occasion, called December 7th, 1941, "A date which will live in infamy." An enraged America went to work, and to war, with a single-minded purpose. Victory. Total, complete, unconditional victory.

Sixteen million Americans served in uniform. Nearly half a million died, some only now being found and returned home to their final rest. We were a country mobilized to fight, sacrifice being the word of the day.

Seventy years have passed since the instruments of surrender were signed on the deck of the battleship Missouri. Can we cherish the heroes, remember the sacrifices and be in awe of the courage without recalling the rage with which we greeted the surprise attack? Japan has been a trusted ally, valued trading partner and friend for nearly 70 years. In the many decades since WWII ended our countries have found peace with each other. Every day an airliner lifts off from Denver, raising its gear and pointing its nose west. The next time the pilots extend the landing wheels are as they prepare to land in Japan. Its cargo? Souls, going about their lives in glorious freedom. Every day of the week.

None of this is to devalue the horrors of our war with the Imperialists in Japan. It was ferocious, savage, with no quarter asked or extended. Americans died by the thousands for crumbling atolls whose names were barely known then, but are now etched forever in our history. The attack on Pearl Harbor signaled the start of a war so vicious its lesson - we must resolve our differences without slaughtering each other - has, between our countries, withstood the test of time.

I remember this day as one of honoring those Americans who fought, especially those who died, on a Sunday morning seventy-four years ago. Theirs was a battle, ultimately successful, to keep us safe, and free. At great cost our enemies were vanquished, the men who initiated the war of conquest gone forever. We bask in the blessings of liberty today because of those who fought there, as does so much of the rest of the world, including the men and women who are descendants of people we once called "enemy."

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Sacred Promise

"Dave, I would have taken a bullet for you." Secret Service Agent Duane Stevenson (Ving Rhames), Dave (1993).

"Try to relax. I'll take a bullet before you do, that's for damn sure." San Bernadino officer to people he was shepherding to safety in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.

One, a work of fiction. The other, a cold and hard reality of what police officers have sworn to do.

In Colorado Springs, a gunman begins a shooting spree in the parking lot of a busy complex. Arriving officers come under fire. Several are hit, and one dies, but they continue to engage the shooter. Why? In San Bernadino, officers have possible terror suspects under surveillance after fourteen people are murdered. The heavily armed assholes jump into their vehicle, apparently intent on a second attack. Uniformed officers pursue them, resulting in a running gun battle that sees terrorists fire 76 rounds at the police, two of whom were wounded but they just keep coming. Why?

Someone once wrote that this is a terrible time to be a police officer. That could not be farther from the truth. Right now, our country, our society, our culture, needs people who are brave, skilled and  willing to confront evil, in whatever form it presents itself. America needs the men and women of law enforcement.

Cops have responded with honor.

A terrible time to be a cop? Not a chance. The best our country has to offer apply for cop jobs. The competition is fierce, the training is demanding. The pressure never lets up. Still, people of character arrive by the thousands. "Pick me, let me help." And when the alert tone sounds, and the mass casualty event takes place? Every officer available rushes to the scene, ready to do what has to be done.

Ready to take a bullet, if that keeps someone else alive.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Over It

Trigger Warning - bad language.

Maybe I should wait on this. I spent the day with forty-two men and women about to enter this particular maelstrom. I'm not all that patient, right now. So, given the events today in Colorado Springs:

I'm awfully tired of innocent people being killed by assholes. I'm particularly tired of putting black tape over my badge.

This guy shot five cops, killing one of them. He killed at least two citizens, people who were probably minding their own business, looking forward to Christmas, and shot a bunch more. And the great cops down in the Springs took him into custody. No revenge, no bullshit. Put handcuffs on him and loaded him into a police car. That's what the pros do.

All lives matter. Even this piece of shit.

Although, hey dude, from me to you? Fuck you.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Big Five Oh

It was fifty Thanksgivings ago - fifty years ago...on Thanksgiving.

This little bit of nonsense, set in the bucolic Stockbridge, Massachusetts, was a staple when I was "coming of age." Law enforcement is the butt of the minor joke, the draft being the actual target of Arlo Guthrie's ire. Thanksgiving 1965 (which is when the Massacree occurred) was on the leading edge of a very difficult time for America. Arlo's wry observations are in the best tradition of the age.

If you have twenty minutes give it a listen. It is a Thanksgiving tradition that can't be beat.

Back Up

It's snowy and slick this morning. It's dark, and early. Police Spouses and Partners are at Roll Calls serving food to those officers at my department lucky enough to work Thanksgiving. They were present in force with Halloween treats. They have put together thank you lunches.

Not everyone is cut out to be the significant other for a police officer. The pay has gotten better over the years, but the hours still suck. The time away from family on holidays is particularly difficult.

The partner, and the kids, know "the look" when their cop comes through the front door. Something happened at work, and the officer was in the middle of it. They saw, or did, something that would deeply trouble citizens unused to the horrors human beings perpetrate on each other. Yet, the cop got through it, somehow, and made it back home again.

Police families are a special group. One of my daughters has befriended a cop wife, whose husband works in the quiet tidewater community of Baltimore. The friend was wondering what effect the tumult of having a husband in law enforcement would visit on her children. My daughter reassured her that cop's kids learn how to handle the situation. "Thanksgiving started when dad got up. Turkey tastes the same Friday as it did on Thursday."

This has been a particularly humbling year for law enforcement. Behind the thin blue line continues to be the spouses, the partners... The men and women who understand us, and understand what they have signed up for. And love us anyway.

Thank you, Pat.

Thank you, spouses and partners. We can do what we do because we can come home to you.

Monday, November 23, 2015

With Thanks

They fell, but o'er their glorious grave
Floats free the banner of the cause they died to save. 
Francis Marion Crawford, American author

Our Family Protecting Yours  - Colorado State Patrol motto.

One of my friends, a coworker whose tenacity in the face of adversity I admire, has written upon these pages thanks for another day that found him arriving home, safe. This morning we give thanks for the painfully short, but heroic and meaningful life of Trooper Jaimie Jursevics of the Colorado State Patrol. We are profoundly aware of the anguish caused when an officer does not come home from work alive. May her family and friends derive comfort from the many who respect the work she did. Fare well, Trooper.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Heroes, Horrors and Hope

The news hasn't been very good for us, lately. The events in Paris have reinforced a fact - the fight against Radical Islamic-based terror, if it really is that, may be global and involve the military, but cops end up being the ones shooting back when the attacks begin. France had several of her cops get wounded, and a police dog died when a terrorist blew herself up. The ferocity of the firefights is reflected in a shield used to protect officers entering the concert hall.

Here at home, a State Trooper was killed in a hit and run DUI accident. She was married, and had a small child at home. The suspect is a retired military veteran. He was briefly held in jail, but will probably spend some period of years in prison for his act. Suspects also murdered a California cop, apparently in an effort to rob him. He was a combat veteran described by his chief as the kind of guy you'd like to clone. Three people are in custody, perhaps to spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

Amid the tumult, I read a Facebook post yesterday. It is the story of a young officer I know, who responded to a shoplifting call. This petty crime opens an array of doors, from encountering professional thieves, hardened criminals and those who steal because it their nature to the true hardship cases and everything in between. It really does happen that a person, down on their luck, steals because they have no money and are hungry. Sometimes, they are taking something for someone else in need. Illegal, but as a human being the "choice of evils" is evident.

My friend encountered a "person in need" situation and reacted the way good officers do. She investigated, did what she had to do and then bought the item for the individual with her own money.

It is the second such response in recent memory. Another of our officers arranged social services for a homeless man living with his young child in a vehicle. That situation included the officer digging into his own pocket to pay for lodging.

It is not unusual for officers working among homeless to pay for their lunch from time to time. Most us us carried a "Throwdown Five" for those situations where someone we knew was hungry and totally broke.

In a world filled with horrors there is hope. People behind the badge continue to be human beings who reach out to others, and each other, in tough times. If those of us in blue stand together, it is because we represent, at our core, the notion that service to our communities, be it running to the sound of guns or to the sound of a citizen in need of a few bucks, raises us all up.

Nice job. Everyone.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Huddled Masses

"Uncertainty is the refuge of hope."

Child abuse.
No one likes these calls. Even the best of them involve that most disturbing of human suffering - a child who has been the target of abuse at the hands of someone they trust. I went to the call because I was close, we were busy and they are often complex calls. I had no idea.
A toddler no older than two was wandering aimlessly in the courtyard of an apartment complex. Mom and dad were no where to be found. Diaper dragging, a treat someone gave him in his hands...on them, and his face, too. Bewildered, he tagged along with several of the other children as they lead the "search" for relatives. 

Kids are like that. They have no real fear of the police. They understand authority figures, accept them far more easily than jaded adults. When an officer says "Do you know where...?" the neighborhood child posse forms spontaneously, everyone talking at once. They assured us they would find someone for us to talk to. In the meantime, the wayward two year old stood, deep brown eyes calm but wary. "What was all the fuss?" his expression said.

By and by the parents returned from their shopping trip. We questioned them fruitlessly, because they spoke zero English.

They were refugees from Ethiopia.

Never fear, our kiddo cops were on it. One of the delightful young ladies - dishwater blonde hair streaming down her back - spoke not just English, but Spanish, too. One of her playmates, dark skin, black hair and deep brown eyes,  spoke Spanish, and whatever dialect the parents did. Through this pre-teen daisy chain the story emerged.

The parents had seen adults out on their porches, mingling with the kids. The appeared to be undertaking some kind of oversight role. As was customary, they would just keep an eye on their son while they ran to the store. Wouldn't they? We patiently explained that, in the US, the parents must have a more definitive plan for the care of their children. Although they had technically broken Colorado law, we discussed their obligations in the new, confusing country in which they found themselves. With humble respect and gratitude they begged our pardon, agreed to abide by our laws and we left.

What does this have to do with today? I don't know. I'm on the side of those suggesting caution, as this new wave of refugees arrive from war-torn countries. There is little doubt that our enemies will take advantage of our generosity and sprinkle the huddled masses with war fighters intent on doing us Paris-style harm. We should be wary, cautious and have a plan for all of the contingencies this new and unique group presents. I'm with the men and women who don't trust - that's why one verifies.

Somewhere, there is a seventeen year old Ethiopian kid about to finish high school. Maybe he's a great kid. Maybe he's an asshole. But, because the United States took him and his family in he had the best chance to be who he wanted to be.

Just like my great grandfather Dave, from Donegal, Ireland. He told my dad, in the early 1930s, "Here, a man can keep what he earns, can make something of himself. Over there, the government gets half, and the church gets the other half." He was a laborer. His son became a machinist, his son an engineer and his son a lawyer.

Things are not so different eighty years later.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Peacetime or Wartime?

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Percy Fitzwallace (John Amos): "I don't know who the world's leading expert on warfare is but any list of the top has got to include me and I can't tell when it's peacetime and wartime anymore."
Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer): "Look, international law has always recognized certain protected persons who you couldn't attack. It's been this way since the Romans."
Fitz: "In peacetime. . . ."
McGarry: "I don't like where this conversation's going. . . ."
Fitz: "We killed Yamamoto. We shot down his plane."
McGarry: "We declared war. . . . I'm going to get back to the office."
Fitz: "We measure the success of a mission by two things: was it successful and how few civilians did we hurt. They measure success by how many. . . . You're talking to me about international laws. The laws of nature don't even apply here! I've been a soldier for 38 years and I've found an enemy I can kill."

"We Killed Yamamoto," The West Wing, (2002).

The cruise transfer bus dropped us off at Miami International Airport, where we would catch our flight home. We had returned to "The Grid" the day before, to check in with United Airlines. Shortly thereafter we discovered news reports about the carnage in Paris.

We strolled past the International concourses, on our way to board our flight. Two teams of uniformed ICE agents walked among the travelers, M-16s slung, plate carriers in place, black BDUs looking ominous. I felt better...and see them, here. It reminded me that the men and women with whom I serve represent the last line of defense, and the first to respond, when terror reaches our shores.

I feel anger every time I read an account of what happened. There is a sort of remorseless bitterness brewing just under the surface when I read accounts of young college students sitting with friends, sharing a meal, gunned down for no other reason than they represented a pointless statement made by men with hatred in their hearts for western values. I know that the perpetrators are cowards, and that they were killed in the gun battle.

Moments of silence have their places, and we should observe them solemnly. Solidarity symbols abound. They help us provide support, and join the millions of others in expressions of compassion for the victims, their friends and families. It is impressive how many people stand up when tragedy strikes.

I remember this feeling from 9/11. It is cold and calculating. We have weapons. The assholes who did this have self-identified in their announcement of responsibility. They have built an infrastructure in furtherance of their goals. The American military is the best in the world at breaking things and killing soldiers belonging to our enemies. We should let them.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

"So, What Do You do?"

Congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks): "Tell him. Tell him why we need him."
CIA Agent Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman): "I'm not saying anything."
Wilson: "Why not?"
Avrocados (gesturing): "I don't know who the fuck these two other guys are."
Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

Traveling. There are a multiplicity of pleasures, not the least of which is the brief, fleeting departure from real world adult responsibilities. No vacation has required me to mow lawns, repair bathroom sinks or pay bills. Shoveling snow seems to attend our every return to Denver, but that is a different blog.

I don't spend a lot of time thinking about work, either. One recruit asked, days ahead of this vacation, if I was going to be thinking of him. Let's see... How about, no.

One thing I have had to think about, though, is the question that always gets asked among adults thrown together in a restaurant, bar or cruise ship lounge,searching for common ground upon which to build a conversation.

"So, what do you do?"

There are advocates and partisans on all sides of this discussion. "I'm a cop," is probably harmless in most places in the US. Even in a world where the main stream media revile us, the average American respects police officers. Not a hard one, there.

But, in an environment where I will be entering another country?

Poolside at a resort in Mexico I overheard an officer of some kind telling cop war stories. Aside from being a shitty story teller, I think he was looking for unnecessary trouble. Maybe I'm being overcautious, but a good friend said she tells people she's a first grade teacher. "I live in fear that I'll meet a real first grade teacher," she added.

I tell people I'm a writer.

Technically, it's the truth. I currently have two novels and a short story available for purchase. A third novel is due for release on December 9th. I spend a large portion of my free time writing, marketing writing or alerting people that my stuff is for sale. It's not a lie to say I write.

This gets an amazing array of responses. Sometimes, it elicits "That's...interesting. Now, back to me," kinds of comments. Other times, silence. One guy blurted "Maybe you'll use me as a character!" Oh, there is no way I'd pass him up. Lightweight, loud, costume jewelry... He'd make a great villain. The other fellow at the table would be better, though. That would be the guy who flirted with my wife.

There were several people who wanted to know more, How do I create characters, begin novels. Do I have a plot in mind at the beginning, or do the characters sort them out (the latter). How much do I write, how do I concentrate?

It makes me feel vaguely dishonest, and a little bit guilty. "Bring cards next time," my lovely wife offers on the way back to the cabin. "You might make a few sales."

Spell broken.

I am a writer. I have a publisher who has invested time and money in me. I have books for sale. That other stuff? Long term, intensive research.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sixty Feet from Grown Up

"The outside corner belongs to the man with the baseball." From The Umpire Strikes Back, (Luciano, R., 1982).

The other night, a rookie Mets pitcher with a whole bunch of letters in his name (Noah Syndergaard, I looked it up) offered a quote concerning the brush back pitch with which he opened Game Three of the World Series. "Anyone who didn't like (it)," he is alleged to have said, "can meet me Sixty Feet Six Inches away." Cute.

Baseball fans (and certainly the opposing Kansas City Royals players) know that "sixty feet six inches" is not an anatomical reference but a term of art. The front of the pitcher's "rubber" (then, again...) is precisely sixty and one half feet from the "rear point of Home Base." Since the somewhat aroused batter dusting himself off after being entertained with chin music has to cover that distance to personally interact with the pitcher - well, Ole Noah is telling them to call the Whaaaaa-mblance if they want. He'll be on the mound, if they'd care to chat.

Well, okay Big Guy!

Coupla things. First, it's a far better story if the guy (whose nickname is Thor, after the well-muscled dude with the big hammer in the movies. There might also be a god in mythology by the same name - I'm not sure) had mowed down the Royals in order, all night long. Instead, the teams exchanged leads several times before KC's Franklin Morales showed up and pitched, fielded and behaved dreadfully. The Mets took full advantage and blew the game wide open. That's baseball, played by the two best teams on the planet.

Standing on the baseball field that night, dressed in Royals uniforms, were a collection of some of the most competitive human beings in the world. They are fighting for a prize that may be within their grasp only once in their careers. Every one of them has been knocked down, plunked, maybe even beaned over the years by pitchers as desperate to get to the the majors as they were. They fight for inches, any advantage - every play contested.

That is not to say some pitchers can't intimidate some batters. Randy Johnson, nicknamed "The Big Unit," (there it is again) threw so fast and so hard that some batters came down with flu-like symptoms the night before he was scheduled to pitch against them. Nolan Ryan threw with such velocity that many batters argued balls and strikes with the umpire by alleging that the pitch "sounded outside." Noah's pitches arrive at similar velocities as the aforementioned Hall of Famers. Maybe he thought he'd give it a whirl, see what developed.

What really would have helped was a Met win in Game Four, to bolster a solid Game Three outing.


Who owns the outside corner? The men who want it most. Right now, that seems to be the team Thor thought he could rattle from sixty feet six inches away.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Blame it on Sue

“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.”
Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho: Writings For By And About Groucho Marx  

Miracle was supposed to be my first novel. I'd gotten into writing accidentally, infuriated by the treatment a Colorado Springs journalist had received from his peers. I fired off the letter to the editor and forgot about it. It was cathartic - the guy from C Springs had done a great job for SWAT (I'll tell that story some other time). Of course, it got printed and that's where the fun began.

My wife pointed out a writing contest, of sorts. "Colorado Voices" is (was? Does it still exist?) a function of the Editorial page of the Denver Post. A group of people each year - average Coloradans looking to spread their wings a bit - compete for the opportunity to write a column every other week that is printed as if they are an actual columnist. It was a paying gig, too. Pat said "You should apply." Why not. I wrote the two samples, sent them off and returned to regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.

Sue O'Brien called a few weeks later. Well, I didn't know who she was, either. She said she was the editorial page editor for the Denver Post. She invited me to be part of the 2001 Colorado Voices writers. "This is an honor," I said.

Apparently I was unsatisfactorily effusive. "You're Goddamned right it is!" she growled. Thus, I was introduced to editors. I wrote six columns (seven, if you count the alumni one that attracted the attention of then Governor Bill Owens). I was hooked.

A conversation with a dear and trusted work friend began the very first manuscript. The main character would be a woman police sergeant. She would have a degree in journalism, and that would be the key to solving the mystery. My friend and I were involved in a computer project at the time, so computers would be key. I sat down, typed the title and began writing.

How does one write a novel? One keystroke at a time. Over the months, in the living room computer cubby, sitting at the dining room table or on the back porch, the Amy Painter novel evolved into a 150,000 word brute. Together with my writing coach and personal editor, romance novelist Terri Valentine (really), we cut it down to size and submitted it to various publishers and agents.

It went nowhere. Disappointed but not surprised, I wrote in a different direction, featuring a different main character, gaining the attention of the wonderful folks at Wild Child Publishing. Publisher Marci Baun has two (soon to be three) works for sale by "James A. Greer." Amy was still looking for a home.

The Tattered Cover book store, an indie with a huge following, will print an author's book for a modest price. I needed a cover, though. Wife Pat to the rescue. A work friend of hers, a delightful woman named Alison, agreed to  model SWAT gear and pose as Amy. It worked like a charm, professional photographer Heather Leider bringing out great facial expressions, one of which was perfect.

It went on sale this past weekend. How does it feel?

It feels like a whole lot of people helped me write this book. It was a learning experience that helped me attain a level sufficient for Wild Child to notice. Police officers were quick to offer help, stories and encouragement. I was the "Detective Harris" of LPD. It's a Barney Miller reference. But I digress.

I blame this whole thing on Sue (who passed away in 2003). Were it not for her encouragement and skill (we once re-wrote a column via cellphone while Katy and I watched the Rockies play) I would never have given writing a second thought. I found out later that hundreds of applications are received every year, that some people wait years before they make the grade. Well, no wonder...

Pat and I held a copy of Miracle the other day. We laughed, we got misty eyed - this had been a long road, taken together. But, if you're wondering if the hundreds of hours of work was worth it?

Damn right...huh, Sue?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Bud Man

“A ballplayer spends a good piece of his life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”
Jim Bouton

George Will is a political writer, Fox News commentator and native Chicagoan. He has written on baseball several times, but this book is unique. It is about how Wrigley Field, the Wrigley family and fate (which he disputes) have conspired to keep the Cubs from having a winning tradition.

Wrigley is a bucket list venue. To "sit in the stands in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon" and watch a game, set against the ivy-covered outfield fence... It is to remember a special summer.

My kids were young. Beth had just turned two, and Katy was mere months old. I worked day watch, but had mid-weeks off - TWT, as I recall. Child care wasn't any cheaper (comparatively) than it is now, so watching the kids paid huge budgetary dividends.

We walked, we played, and we watched the Cubs on WGN. It was 1984, and the team from the corner of Clark and Addison was playing uncharacteristically great baseball. Beth watched in between other adventures, her sister Katy quietly soaking it up as she went from being stationary, to crawling as the season unfolded. Whatever Beth was doing stopped for the seventh inning stretch, the late Harry Carey singing (if you could call it that) "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" along with the thousands in Chicago, a million or so across the country. Beth and me. The games were sponsored, in part, by Budweiser. Beth would heartily proclaim, prompted by Carey's pitch, that she was a "Cub fan,and a Bud man."

The eddies and currents of life can be delightful. Beth's relationship with baseball has been casual over the years. Although she often intentionally feigns ignorance (a home run at Camden Yards in Baltimore elicited the question "How many points is that?" to her outraged sister) she is, in fact, still a fan. She and her husband have joined the crowd, sung "The Song" and rooted for the home team whenever she gets the chance.

And little Katy? A grown women with children of her own. She and I have shared a number of baseball games, keeping score and rooting on the Rockies, a sort of latter day west-of-the-Mississippi version of the often hapless Cubs. Her husband played college baseball, and worked for Anheuser Busch. I was with them when they took son Graham, and then daughter Greta to their first baseball games - Detroit for little G-man, and then Baltimore.

Will's book is written gently, almost reverently. He is a fan of the game, a lover of its nuances and subtleties. He has attained a stature sufficient to watch in the company of presidents, be they of the club on the field, or of the United States. He concluded his book in this manner:

"I began this rumination on Wrigley Field with the words of a poet. I will conclude with words from another one: 'Life is a long preparation for something that never happens.' Forlorn Cub fans waiting for a World Series may agree with William Butler Yeats, but what he wrote is not quite right.Life IS what happens, whatever it is. Anticipation of what happens next is part of the fun. And life, which has its ups and downs, is leavened by the pleasure of passing time now and then in nice places, like the little one on the North Side."

Which is for him, of course, Wrigley Field. For me, it is wherever wife, children and grandchildren venture, to sit together again and glory in anticipation of where the day, and our lives, will lead us.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Fix

Welcoming back Anton John - my friend AJ - to Bikecopblog. He reminds us that, while we are busy tending to the needs of our imperfect society, we must also look to our own needs. It is impossible for a law enforcement officer to give their everything when they don't tend to the things that matter most - self, family, friends. It is a cautionary tale, that to be effective one must spring from a position of strength. That strength really comes from one place...those who love us, and understnd that ours is a calling unlike most others.
"I come home from another shift alive with all my body parts. However, I'm on a 9 day straight work week. Yes, 5 days were training to be CIT (crisis intervention training) - great class!

But I look at my family doing things I should be a part of. So yes, my training came into play for most of my calls, which is great. But, who fixes my crisis of not being there for my family? It's a total cliche we are trained to fix everyone's problems, but who is there for our own inner battles?

I'm just ranting but maybe that's the way we have to do things in this job. I always say it, but... Don't take your family for granted.

Be safe."

To which "Dani Z" replied: "Dani Z's We know in your heart you would rather be with us but in our hearts we are so proud of you for the sacrifice you make to take care of others. We will always be home waiting for you.... Thank you and all LEO's for sacrificing to take care of people you don't know and caring for them."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Miracle, Indeed

The first Amy Painter novel proof is in hand. The released book will be available from the Tattered Cover for $15.95, from me for $12.50 (plus shipping, if applicable) or as an e-book, once I can figure out Amazon's rules. I'll sign it, if you want.

I'm assuming a release date in the latter half of October. I'll take pre-release orders at, and then let you know when the book is on the way.

To everyone who made this possible, especially my loving, supportive and long-suffering wife Pat - thank you is not nearly enough to express my heartfelt love and appreciation. This has been a long journey, but it was worth it.

G Ride

'Cars' was about Lightning McQueen learning to slow down and to enjoy life. The journey is the reward.
John Lasseter

I awoke uneasily, pondering a question that sought no answer. Not rhetorical, in the most literal sense. Not a "soup" question, either. Just...wondering.

We donated our faithful Isuzu Rodeo yesterday - signed over the title, filled out the forms and waited for the tow truck. My wife, who was the vehicle's primary driver during its heyday, had to remove the tags. She took photos as the thing was loaded onto the flatbed. When I got home, there was a parking space where the SUV had been.

We gave it to the March of Dimes, as thanks for the work that organization does to further the interests of preemies. Little Graham, the miracle boy, benefited from the research MoD funds, so it seemed the thing to do. We'd tried to sell the beast a few times, had offers that fell through (one coming as Pat removed the plates) but the money it brings will help figure out how to take sick little bundles weighing less than a glass of water and turn them into healthy boys and girls. That's okay with us.

The Rodeo had done the job, to the tune of one hundred eighty five thousand miles. We'd had it a short time before it got tagged in a parking lot, the asshole who did it driving away without a second thought. A hailstorm in South Dakota had it looking like a golf ball - having it repaired was interrupted by 9/11. Another hail storm beat it down again, but the stones hadn't melted at all when I needed its strength and 4X4 to drive one of the Porties to the vet for emergency treatment. It pulled our pop up all over the west. It became a "rental" when adult children visited from out of town. It broke down only once, something about a fuel pickup problem. Otherwise, it always got us there...and back again.

So I woke up this morning wondering...where had it landed yesterday? Transported, no doubt, to some tow yard, surrounded by wrecked cars, jumbled collections of parts and rust. I hope it finds a new home, that someone else will take it off road, to the store or on an adventure. And the money it brings?

Tell them Graham sends his regards.