Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Gift

And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. John 11:26 (King James Bible).

Mission Chrch, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
The Resurrection story. To a Believer, it is a promise, a covenant...a contract. He died, that we may know eternal life in the presence of God the Father.

In a very real sense, it is more than just the key to a great beyond. The writer in me reads a challenge, not just to believe but to live up to the promise.

Jesus does not say "believeth in only me." That some individuals might read it that way isn't his fault. While taking classes to be confirmed into the Presbyterian Church in Pittsford I was taught not just to revere the words in the Bible, but also to respect other faiths, other religions...other ways of coming to the Lord. I was taught that faith is an individual pursuit, one that begins in the heart of each person.

The Resurrection is also about life while it is being lived. Much of the Jesus story is about how the future is not yet written for us, even as his father had plans for him. Nothing in history, said historian David McCullough, had to turn out the way it did. A new day can dawn, not just literally but in the way they are cherished, and in how we see ourselves.

Happy Easter, not only for what was, but for everything tomorrow could be. 

Is It Peacetime?

"We popped over a little ridge, and there was a Bedouin camp on the other side. I watched a boy about nine or ten come running out from one of the goat hair tents. We were so close I could see his expression - thrill and fear and awe and wonder combined. His whole life he'll remember the the moment that sky-blackening, air-mauling, thunder-engined steel firmament of war crossed his face. And I hope all of his bellicose, fanatical, senseless quarrel-mongering neighbors, from Tel Aviv to Khartoum, from Tripoli to Tehran - remember it, too." PJ O'Rourke, embedded with a New Zealand C-130 crew at the end of Desert Storm, 1991. Give War a Chance, PJ O'Rourke, 1993.

"Can you tell when it's peacetime and wartime anymore? [...] 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. Pregnant women are delivering bombs. You talk to me about international law, the laws of nature don't even apply here. I've been a soldier for thirty-eight years, and I've found an enemy I can kill." Admiral Percy FitzWallace, "We Killed Yamamoto," The West Wing (2002).

Washington DC, December 8, 1941 (AP): Today, in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed Congress. "December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy." He went on to tell the assembled representatives, and the world, that the United States would respond quickly and decisively. "I have directed my attorney general to, with all due haste, investigate this heinous act and bring to justice the perpetrators. At this moment, officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are with a District Court judge, obtaining an arrest warrant for  Isoroku Yamamoto and his staff. This foul and despicable deed shall not go unpunished. We have also targeted for assassination the Japanese Emperor, and key members of his government."

 Over the past decade, America has been cautioned about its response to "terror." We have heard that the men and women perpetrating these acts are unaffiliated, ragtag extremists unrelated to any modern belief system, or nation/state. We will target individuals, lead from behind... Getting upset about an American couple blown up in a European airport is disproportionate.

Next year, the ILA conference my wife attends every fall will be he held in Brussels. If that was the love of your life, how would you feel? What does it say about our civilization that a barbaric, medieval system occupies territory and wages war against us, and our response  is to arrest the perpetrators of individual acts?

Many years ago, in a letter to my grandmother and grandfather, my dad expressed a hope shared by most members of our armed forces - that his endeavors in the Pacific would not be in vain. That the risk to his life was so that others could live free lives in peace. I would venture to say that our contemporary military feels much the same.

Is it peacetime, or wartime? What do you think?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Two Tickets to Paradise

I got two tickets bought there won't be no second thoughts
The weather's always nice down there in paradise
We'll find that little man who owns that taco stand
We'll be drinking margaritas while we're working on our tan. 
Good to Go to Mexico, Toby Keith (2002).

The forecast for the Denver area was two to four inches of snow. We got seventeen. A tank and a half of gasoline later I'd used the snowblower to clear three driveways and about a hundred yards of sidewalk. The snow was mushy, spring snow that clogged the chute. This morning, I slipped and fell on a patch of ice on the driveway. I think the shoulder is only sprained. But...

Last Monday, I bought two tickets to paradise - Occidental's Grand Xceret resort, just south of Playa del Carmen. The October weather there is generally gorgeous, temperatures in the eighties or low nineties, with the warm Caribbean unfolding before us. 

By camping on Travelocity...all first class flights for a few bucks more than coach.

Let it snow. In my heart, we're already sitting together in Mexico.



Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Decency and Honor, Behind the Plate

"Not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues, I wasn't even the best catcher on my street!" Joe Garagiola, on growing up across the street in St. Louis from Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra.

Noting the passing of baseball player, commentator and all around nice guy Joe Garagiola.

 For all intents and purposes, Joe Garagiola is a minor figure in Major League Baseball. He played in fewer than seven hundred games over nine seasons. It is an amazing achievement for an individual to play at all in the majors, significantly impressive that they last nine seasons and, yet, Mr. Garagiola was perhaps a journeyman player, a decent hitter and passed from the playing field a couple of summers shy of thirty years old.

He worked on radio and TV, calling games or acting as the color commentator. His quick wit and self-deprecating sense of humor made the game the thing, not incessant patter from the booth. Cheerful, positive - he was at the ballpark with his buddy Tony Kubek, the sun was out and actual baseball was happening on a gorgeous field in front of him.

I remember another Joe, the guy who stumped for President Gerald Ford during the 1976 campaign. Republicans, in the wake of the contentious Nixon years, were out of favor with the electorate. The Ford-for-President aircraft landed at the Rochester/Monroe County Airport for a quick appearance. How quick? The candidate and his assembled staff stood outside, playing to a supportive, if modest, throng. Joe whipped up the crowd standing on the tarmac (it was 1976, after all) with his usual broad smile and positive energy. Ford made a speech and they got back aboard, bound for more fertile pastures.
In the end, it was a vain hope.

This picture says a lot - the nice guy who gave it his all, and the experienced politician lighting his pipe, prepared to accept the judgment of a country ready to move on. Both were decent, honest men who may not have been the best on their block, but they were good enough. 

Joe was good enough to stand on the field of dreams for nearly a decade, and to describe what it all meant to America until he was eighty-seven years old.

Yours was a life well lived, sir.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Kung fu Birthday (On Being A Cop's Kid)

Why wouldn't a cop kid birthday party involve a pinata, a police baton, a kid delivering strikes to the fallen candy vessel and cop parents yelling "Stop resisting, stop resisting!"

Okay, I'm going to profess, admit and otherwise accept that police officers find humor in things others do not. The above scene - a real situation - probably caused at least a few readers to recoil in horror. "What are they teaching those poor children?"


Cop kids are different. Mom (or Dad, or both) work crazy hours, wear uniforms and generally view the whole world through wary eyes. The child of a police officer has seen their parent(s) stiffen at the sight of something too subtle for most citizens to notice. Dad (or Mom, or both) stand a certain way, choose a certain booth at a restaurant and watch, watch watch. At birthday parties they find each other through pure body language, congregate somewhere private and start talking. And laughing. There is always laughing.

Law enforcement on the ground is about the stories, and the gruesome humor involved. A local psychologist whose practice includes treating officer trauma, tells this story:

Officers responded to a traffic accident that involved a horrible injury - one of the driver's eyes has popped out. In spite of (or, perhaps, because of it) he fights with the officers. One of them turns the eyeball toward the guy and says "Look at yourself. Stop resisting."

That's not the funny part. As the laughter in the room full of cops died down he said "I told that to a group of psychologists and they didn't think it was funny. They stared at me, speechless."

My daughter related the pinata story and we both laughed ourselves sick. She was introduced to several off-duty officers (one of whom is called "Potato" because that's what his name sounds like on the police radio). They acknowledged her guardedly until they were told her father and brother are both cops. Only a cop kid would note the change in body language. "Oh," the officers behavior as much as said. "You're okay. I can let down my guard around you."

So... Stop resisting? We are all taught to keep up that patter when a person is violent with us. Hit them a couple of times, put on a twist lock - if the person gives up then the fight is over. Until that moment, keep telling them what you want them to do. "Stop resisting!" Years ago, a friend confronted a suicidal man with a knife. He'd carved himself up pretty thoroughly, and was threatening anyone who approached. So, she dropped him with the taser. As he convulsed on the ground, "locked up" as the saying goes, she yelled "Stop resisting!" 

You don't think any of this is funny?

Over this weekend at least four American police officers have been shot. Two have died. Even in the face of it, cop's kids say good bye to Mom (or Dad, or both) as they leave the house to get once more back into the fray. They, of all people, understand why. Cops (and their families) are special people who do the necessary work of protecting honest citizens from the predators who would victimize them. And, along the way, find a little bit of humor where they can.

Still not amused? Stop resisting. It''l come. 

In Facebook, Quod est Doctrinae

Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes.

I discovered Facebook several years ago. I probably spend way too much time perusing it, getting bogged down in the weeds of drama about which I should care...little, if anything at all. Memes (if that is plural for a word whose definitions is probably longer than the thing itself) that cleverly attribute expressions to the famous are often exaggerated, if not wholly fabricated out of wishes. Political salvos fly overhead with breathtaking frequency, expanding the battered term "election cycle" to begin the day following the march to the polls, ending, well, never.

But, in Facebook there is learning. Pictures of my children and grandchildren are instantly available. I see a photo of grandson Graham, laying on his back in a snowdrift, moments after the event occurred. He is in Perry Hall, MD - 1700 miles away from my computer screen. I post a photo of my dear wife, beautiful smile gracing a table at the Rio, and one of the first people to "Like" it is a young woman friend of hers who lives in Suriname. Even now, Pat posts something about how complex a woman's mind is and I comment. We will exchange a laugh that connects us even as we sit at laptops writing in different parts of the house.

So I am not surprised that this morning I have accomplished a great deal, just sitting in my usual spot. I have (unfortunately) let my friends know, via an FB chat room we call "Bike Rides" that I woke up ill this morning and would not be riding with them. I read two articles, one of which brands establishment Congressional Republicans as idiots for their hapless handling of Obama's Supreme Court nomination (they are being pigheaded only because the Constitution does not prohibit it). The other?

America is a big dog when it comes to economic matters. Kevin Williamson points out in his column that one Scandinavian country's largest company would be a modest subsidiary of Proctor and Gamble, an American corporation headquartered in Cincinnati. His writing lends credibility to the notion that the leading candidate for president not a woman is in fact a snake oil salesman preying on people's fear and anger. But, that isn't necessarily all I learned.
De gustibus non est disputandum. Williamson references this in his column merely as "De gustibus, and and all that." Of course I looked it up. It is translated as "In matters of taste there can be no disputes." It is a perfect Facebook quote.

All of Facebook is taste. You like _____________? I don't. So what? 

Have you seen the latest picture of my book? Beth posted it on Facebook while reading it at the beach on Estero Island. You don't like police women in SWAT clothing? 

De gustibus, and all that.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Friend for Karen

Daughter Katy, who lives in Perry Hall, MD, had arranged the ride-along with her friend. "He says to bring your vest," she wrote in a Facebook message. "The loaners aren't very comfortable."

She wasn't trying to be funny.

It probably seems unlikely that a thirty-plus year cop would take time out of a badly needed vacation to ride with another police department. Getting out of town, away from the hustle and bustle of work... Just to ride in a police car?

I have my reasons. Sometimes, I pick up something I can bring home, like a warrior mindset in an unusual context that saves lives. I meet good people, and get to see how they do the cop thing in their town. I love this profession, and I get to rub elbows with some superior officers.

Also - did you read the acknowledgments at the beginning of The Heart of the Matter? Heart finds Karen and her husband living in Florida. She begins her career with the Collier County SO. They live in a small house, in a place called Naples Park, and she works out of North Naples Substation. I won't spoil the rest.

The beginning pages of Heart had taken shape (Riley is almost killed in a helicopter crash) when I went on a ride-along with a Collier County corporal named Vinnie (really). His nickname was "Skinny Vinnie" because, so the story went, there was a not-so skinny Vinnie. He was a great guy, a fabulous cop and a perfect friend for Karen. All I had to do was put them in proximity to each other, give them something to do and - sha-bing - they hit it off. The rest, as they say, is $5.99 at Wild Child Publishing (Amazon and B&N, too). Riley's accident? Maybe she'll have it in Karen 4. Or, Riley 1.

I hit Katy's friend Amos up in a text message and made all of the necessary arrangements. Vest on, flashlight in pocket... I was ready upon arrival at the cop shop.

Amos turned out to a delightful police officer. He works in a decidedly difficult part of town, known for abandoned buildings, street crime (including broad daylight, in public shootings). The violent nature of the sector led the sergeant on duty (a serious, no nonsense guy I would follow anywhere...which, in fact I did) to snap at me about not having a sidearm with me. Did I have a flashlight? Yes, my duty one. A radio? No. The LT (the watch commander) lent me his. Did I know what to know...if? Amos had a shotgun in the trunk of the car. I could always "access" it.

Roll call? It began with a salute and moment of silence in the direction of photos of fallen officers (a beautiful gesture). The sergeant introduced me, to dispel any notion that I was from internal affairs, or maybe a Fed. I was "OK," a cop just like them. If you've read the papers lately, you know what that would mean to a room full of Baltimore officers. 

Room full. The exact numbers are not relevant, but they are working short. Very short. I expected them to be dispirited, aloof and not especially interested in doing police work. They would do what they had to do to get home, and that was about it.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Every one of them was solid. They raced to calls, looked out for each other and did their dead level best. They were professional, even when laying down the law with street crooks. Amos was sincere and empathetic with a widow whose home had been burglarized. He asked good questions, did a thorough investigation and treated her as though he had nothing else to do but take care of her situation.

In the meantime, his radio blared with serious calls. We ran hot, we blew through red lights. Amos missed a box spring set in the road as we hustled to an armed robbery. Later, dispatch sent a car to take the "mattress" out of the road. We both howled, laughing even harder when my car partner pretended to radio dispatch "It's actually a box spring."

Karen finds herself in Baltimore, of course, her next adventure. A Baltimore officer is detailed to assist her.

Any guesses? He'll be a character based on a guy I'd work with, in real life, without hesitation. Only, on the next ride-along, I'll bring my Glock 34. That way, when I'm his cover, I won't be regretting the shotgun being not quite at my fingertips.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

On Gossamer Wings

The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley
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The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley
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The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley.

Time doesn't fly. It slips past while one is changing diapers, pressing clothes and driving to work. It is the whisper more felt than heard, while paying bills or standing on the sidelines at marching band competitions, swim meets and drinking beer on beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. Time is marked not on a calendar, but by events - graduations, dances, weddings...funerals. It is gone, without ever having been palpably present.

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of Bikecentennial, a ride conceived by two couples from Montana. Their vision - that thousands of cyclists spend the Bicentennial summer riding across the country, filling small towns and country roads. To that end they created an enterprise of breathtaking expanse, a series of bike inns and campgrounds spanning the country via a predetermined route they had explored, and mapped.

I was barely twenty-one when I forwarded about a hundred dollars, earned as a security guard at Xerox Corporation, to be registered as a participant. Others did the same, many signing onto groups led by experienced bike campers. Ever the introvert, I was an "Independent" - free to ride the route at my own pace, seeing after my own needs. It mattered little to me that I had never ridden a loaded camping bike to the end of my own driveway, let along 4400 miles from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

I had no idea how things would turn out. I made dozens of mistakes, some fairly significant. In the end... My life would never be the same. Over the course of 2016 I will recount the struggles, hardships and triumphs of my ride across America. With forty years of perspective, I can say that nothing I've done since, with the exception of marriage and having children, has made me feel so vulnerable and so alive.


Nancy and Ronnie

"Our relationship is very special. We were very much in love and still are. When I say my life began with Ronnie, well, it's true. It did. I can't imagine life without him." Nancy Reagan, about her husband Ronald. At the time, he was receiving full time nursing care due to Alzheimer's Disease.

Noting the passing of former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Ronald Reagan was elected 40th president of The United States during a period of profound uncertainty. Confidence in America's military had eroded, distilled into one difficult moment memorialized by the photo of single helicopter perched on a roof, evacuating people from Saigon. It was further damaged when, in an attempt to rescue embassy personnel held captive in Iran, two special operations aircraft collided while aborting the mission.

Our economy struggled along under the weight of both inflation and unemployment. Once proud companies closed their doors. Our President, a good and decent man, told us (while wearing a sweater, to demonstrate the proper response to lower thermostats) that we would all have to make due.

President Reagan was no savior. He was a man who honestly saw America as the shining city upon a hill. Despite the turmoil of his administration he restored confidence, embodied courage and vigor, and facilitated a swagger that had been missing from his beloved country. And always beside him, Nancy. 

To Nancy, he was Ronnie. They wrote love letters to each other, held hands and acted affectionately toward one another in public. In private, she could be formidable, especially when she thought something reflected badly on her husband. A quarrel involving a Chief of Staff resulted in his resignation - he had wanted one thing and Nancy, fearing for her husband's welfare in the aftermath of the attempt on his life, wanted something else.

Entering a tired, dispirited White House in 1981, she set about returning it to its former luster. She wanted her surroundings to rival those of the Kennedy Years - Camelot. She gave lavish dinner parties, demanding nothing but the best, because "That's the way Washington works." In order to remake America's House she organized private funds.

She and Ronnie retired back to California at the conclusion of his presidency. She had contracted breast cancer, beating it. Years later, she stood by him as Alzheimer's Disease took him on "a long good bye." She became an elder stateswoman of America's Greatest Generation, standing by in remarkable humility and compassion as friends with whom she and her husband had changed the world slipped away. 

Former Prime Minister of Canada Brian Mulroney said the following at Ronald Reagan's funeral:

In the spring of 1987 President Reagan and I were driven into a large hangar at the Ottawa Airport, to await the arrival of Mrs. Reagan and my wife, Mila, prior to departure ceremonies for their return to Washington. We were alone except for the security details.
President Reagan's visit had been important, demanding and successful. Our discussions reflected the international agenda of the times: The nuclear threat posed by the Soviet Union and the missile deployment by NATO; pressures in the Warsaw pact, challenges resulting from the Berlin Wall and the ongoing separation of Germany; and bilateral and hemispheric free trade.
President Reagan had spoken to Parliament, handled complex files with skill and good humor -- strongly impressing his Canadian hosts -- and here we were, waiting for our wives.
When their car drove in a moment later, out stepped Nancy and Mila -- looking like a million bucks. As they headed towards us, President Reagan beamed, threw his arm around my shoulder and said with a grin: "You know, Brian, for two Irishmen we sure married up.

Now, Nancy and Ronnie are together again. Such is the nature of true love.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Donald Johnson

One of the failings among honorable people is the failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them. Economist Dr. Thomas Sowell.

It has long been the policy of the Bikecopblog editorial staff to avoid, when humanly possible, political discussions disassociated with law enforcement, criminal justice or law porn. Or bikes. And riding bikes with friends. Not only does it sometimes chill prospective book purchasers (a significant consideration on purely materialistic grounds), it often involves entreating on topics about which I know little, if anything. While that sometimes poses only a modest, perhaps negligible roadblock to waxing poetic and barbering on to and fro, in the case of the current presidential primary elections (and the barbarism masquerading as debate) I wish to remain on solid ground. Three things.

1) Anatomical proportions, despite the claims of charlatans and quack pharmaceutical outfits, are accidents of genetics. Discussions of same belong in either the New England Journal of Medicine, or a junior high school locker room. 

2) My understanding of business is rudimentary, at best. Much of what I know I've gleaned from one of Dr. Sowell's astonishingly readable economics books. One salient point, perhaps lost on a man who touts his business acumen as proof of mystic political powers, is that no one willingly pays for something they do not want, or need. One of the only times anyone parts with cash otherwise is when they are being robbed at the point of a weapon. It is likely that the candidate who believes his experience in commerce sufficient to persuade Mexico to build a wall for what he assumes is our benefit has conveniently failed to mention (the government of Mexico needing no such reminder) that he would be commander in chief of a military that spends six hundred billion dollars every year making sure our president holds a lot of aces. That makes the fellow not a business man, but a thug.

3) Someone running in a primary does not speak for members of the party whose nomination they seek. He, or she, speaks for themselves, and those who support them. Someone wishing to speak for me will count their blessings and then their lucky stars that they are an American. They will do their utmost to bring the blessings of liberty to their country. They will maximize freedom, encourage justice and, at the end of the day, hope we are a little safer, more prosperous and more empathetic to those less fortunate than us. They will understand the important distinction between ruling, and governing. You want to speak for me? Love this country more than you love yourself.

And, stop being a dick.
One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them. Thomas Sowell
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