Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Wait is Killing Us

The object of war is not to die for your country. It is to make the other poor, dumb bastard die for his. George S. Patton, General, US Army.

They are starting to come one right after another. Manchester, now London. Nail bombs at a teenage concert. Now another vehicle attack, coordinated with mass stabbings. Twenty-two dead in Manchester, the youngest eight years old. At least seven in London.

Churchill famously said "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last." Reagan remarked "Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction." A CNN host's comment, regarding President Trump's statement that America must take measures to protect ourselves - the President is a "piece of shit."

Suspects are in custody, others were killed by police. Fine. In 1991 the world mobilized because a madman invaded Kuwait on a pretext. ISIS has invaded Europe, without pretext or apology, and the world prays for the victims, awaiting the next mass murder as though it's a flu epidemic.

These are bad people. They occupy territory, advertise themselves as sovereign, wave their flag and make actual, violent war on civilizations with whom we are (apparently) friendly and here we sit.


An American platoon leader, surveying the results of a firefight in Iraq in the early 2000's, told a reporter asking about the war's progress: "Well, we've killed all the dumb ones. Getting to the smarter ones will take some time."

Let's make time for the smart ones.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Respecting the Rank

"Captain Sobel?" Major Dick Winters (Damian Lewis), as Sobel tries to avert his eyes from Winters'.
"Major Winters." Captain Herbert Sobel (David Schwimmer), nodding.
"Captain Sobel! We salute the rank, not the man."
 Points, Band of Brothers,  (2001)

Dad was a patriot, in the strictest sense. He had once written the blank check to Uncle Sam every military member tenders - "Payable, up to and including my life." He'd fought as a Marine on Saipan, and Iwo Jima. In 1946 he returned home to Philadelphia, to finish high school.

He was also a Republican. He understood and accepted the need to stand up to communist aggression in Vietnam, but didn't much care for the way it was being handled. President Johnson had made glaring errors, he thought, and American kids - he always called them kids - were paying with their lives. LBJ was the object of derision during the inevitable dinnertime discussions.

My brother Dave and I picked up on the vibe. One afternoon, intent on putting a few holes in a target, we repaired to the back yard, BB gun in one hand and the cover of Time magazine in the other. A cover featuring President Johnson and VP Humphrey. We didn't get very far.

"I don't care for your selection of targets," Dad said, using a hushed tone that signaled disappointment. "Find something else."

That was the lesson for the day. No yelling, nothing belaboring the point. We were 14 and 12. The message - respect the office, don't cross the line - was read loud and clear.

Which makes the recent internet hoo-rah about the red-haired woman and the Trump mask all the more puzzling. Didn't anyone teach her manners when she was young? If not, why not?

Maybe she's lucky, I guess. If I pulled an asshole stunt like that, it would be on me. I was taught better growing up, by a guy who knew how to respect someone with whom he disagreed. Maybe, at some point, somebody forgot to teach that to her.

Or, maybe she's just an asshole.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Article II, Section 2, Clause 2

The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur...  The Constitution of the United States.

It really is that simple. Legalistic pretexts have arisen within the last generation, to avoid the complexities of actually conferring with people and convincing them you're right. Nevertheless, the "Paris Accords" are an agreement to which the Obama Administration was a signatory. The United States was not.

Maybe the PAs are stupid, evasive and a pretext for the waves of ever encroaching globalism that carries before it the banner of "Everything not obligatory is forbidden." Maybe they are sensibly-negotiated and scientifically defensible accords leading to a better future. I'm not Mark Ruffalo - I don't pretend to be a scientist. I read the conflicting experts and am very confused.

The treaty was never presented to the Senate, let alone approved by a 2/3rd vote. Consequently, if Mr. Obama wants to reduce his carbon footprint, that's his decision. The rest of us are no longer bound by the treaty he and his administration negotiated. That's the way this works.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Lost, Never Forgotten

Flight crew of “Lady Be Good,” from the left: 1st Lieutenant William J. Hatton, pilot; 2nd Lieutenant Robert F. Toner, copilot; 2nd Lieutenant D.P. Hays, navigator; 2nd Lieutenant John S. Woravka, bombardier; Technical Sergeant Harold J. Ripslinger, engineer; Technical Sergeant Robert E. LaMotte, radio operator; Staff Sergeant Guy E. Shelly, gunner; Staff Sergeant Vernon L. Moore, gunner; and Staff Sergeant Samuel E. Adams, gunner.

The Lady Be Good, a B-24 Liberator, set out with it's crew in April 1943 to participate in a bombing mission over Naples, Italy. Bad weather scattered the formation. Although radio contact was made with the bomber late into the evening, the plane did not return and was presumed lost at sea. 

In fact, the aircraft had overflown its base. Fifteen years later, the remains of the Lady were located deep in the Libyan Desert. The crew had bailed out, one of whom was killed in the process. The rest found each other and began the long walk back to the coast.

The never made it.

All but one of the crew were eventually recovered and returned to the US.

This Memorial Day, we remember this crew for their service and sacrifice. Thank you. May God bless you.


Monday, May 22, 2017

To A Degree

How many times had she been through the dissertation? One might as well ask how many grains of sand were on the Santa Barbara beach the afternoon we flew in for her defense.

The small commuter airliner (redundant?) had barely lifted from the runway before the tray table was down, the markers out. More edits, several margin notes - clarify this, revisit that... There has to be another way to write this. While I gazed at the Earth below and listened to an audiobook, she went over a document she knew well. Only too well.

My friend and mentor told me years ago that writing for publication was an exercise in literary masochism engaged only by intellectuals too obsessive to relent. "By the time your novel is published, you'll recreationally write a horrible death scene for your main character. And then, delete it and move on." It was true.

I watched, fascinated in the between-the-fingers way one views GoPro clips of spectacular Russian highway accidents on YouTube, as my wife began her pursuit of a PhD in Leadership and Change. There was the initial question about acceptance into the University. Technical writing skills needed honing. Residencies, reading, group on-line chats. This person dropped out, that person has moved to candidacy. The dissertation proposal...proposal...proposal. Revise, resubmit, rinse, repeat.

One morning our truck was - literally - idling in the driveway. Bags packed, dogs packed. Somewhere off the coast of Florida a cruise ship made its way to the harbor where we would board. An airplane taxied to the gate, our seat about to be vacated, just for us. Her advisor, on the phone, told her "Take a deep breath, you can do this." And she sent a revised document, closed her computer and rushed for the Tacoma. We raced to the kennel.

And forgot the dog food.

"Advancing to candidacy" is a cruel euphemism drained of the horror in store for the candidate. A committee of kind souls is there to shepherd the soon-to-be doctor through the process. Often, they do so with a carefully studied stoicism, knowing the rigors of preparing the document for a proper defense. Writing, writing, writing. Missed grandkid time, preoccupation, sleepless nights, vacations scheduled around deadlines. Vacations spent in front of a laptop. More reading, more research. As the end nears, less sleep. Indispensable, heart-felt calls from close friends - classmates - urging her on, encouraging her. Commiserating about their own harrowing journey. Finally, the fateful day comes. Get on a plane, and explain why one is deserving of a PhD.

Fewer than half who begin the journey are successful. Two percent of Americans have climbed this mountain, and breathed the rarified air of an achievement so demanding that horribly bright people are routinely denied success.

My wife is one of the graduates. We stood in our kitchen, several days before we flew to Santa Barbara. We stared at each other, and the tears just flowed. Happy tears, proud tears, profoundly respectful at an accomplishment of enormous import tears. She stepped back, threw her arms in the air and yelled "It's going to happen!"

Never in doubt. Nicely done, Doctor Greer.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Cue James Earl Jones

I mean, how would I feel if somebody come runnin' in the gym and bust me in my ass while I'm on the treadmill? Detective Edwards (Will Smith), Men in Black (1997).

I just want to be left alone. I'm an introvert, late middle aged and tired. I have to get some miles in my legs so I can try to keep up with a bike class next month. There is a foot of snow on the ground.

So I make my way to Planet Fitness, dress out and sit on a stationary bike. Perfect, except...

No matter which of the five upright bikes I choose (they don't have spin bikes) I am staring at four TVs, with the following channels:

Some business channel

All of them are non-stop politics.

I'm all for being up on political discussion. Facebook friends know that I'll engage from time to time - often succumbing to a contrarian streak a mile wide. Fair enough. But this shit doesn't ever stop!

I get it. This guy's a menace. Well... They all are. And so are you. You are the reason people can't agree. You are telling them 24/7 not to!

This is where I was last week. I had no cell coverage, no FB. (HT Sara Patterson Bright).

I want to go back.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Odd Couple

I took my phone off of airplane mode as we taxied in at Dallas Fort Worth airport. It "exploded," as is the common expression denoting a cacophony of tones and vibrations. I'd received a number of text messages. One, from a cycling companion, gave chilling news.

A friend - a cherished work friend - had taken his own life.

Over the course of the next hour, awaiting our flight to Nassau and vacation, I processed with other men and women who knew my friend well. In the early hours there was little additional information. No explanation.

We taught Report Writing together at the police academy. We had for a number of years. We'd polished and honed, examined and reexamined the curriculum. He called us The Odd Couple. 

I was Felix, fastidious and exacting. He was Oscar in the blue collar sense. It had less to do with our personal preferences and more with our presentation styles. I am contained, controlled. Structured and refined. Liberal polysyllabics, virtually no profanity. Decades in the classroom teaching law has gotten me there.

He was six feet of "In Your Face." He told stories painting with a broad brush. Were it not for a liberal use of profanity he might have been struck mute. He could make a point the way street cops make them - bark on, zero quarter. It was the way he saw it - like it, don't like it...all the same.

Of course, like all couples we fought. Like all writers, too. I'd express a point of order. His eyes would light up, his back straight and he'd take a sip of his omnipresent iced tea. "Oh?" he'd say. But that was never the end. He was profoundly patient with his little friend. He would listen, we would discuss. In the end, it wasn't an uneasy truce. We had an accord.

We would begin every new academy with a story he told, the moral of which was to write good reports. It was of his best friend, a young man with his whole life ahead of him. His friend committed suicide at age 16, something that still haunted him all of those years later.

I thought about that, gazing at the stunning waters off Nassau, Bahamas. Beside me, the love of my life. We touched glasses and made a toast to my friend. When I got home, clearing on-line messages, I found an exchange between my friend and me. Early April, a promise to get together for margaritas and Mexican food. To discuss business, but...also, just 'cause. It would have been today.

Fair winds and following seas, partner.

Do Epic...Stuff

Our Bahama sail aboard the Liberty Clipper defies easy description. It was unlike any vacation we have experienced.

We are veteran “big boat” cruisers, used to the kinds of amenities major lines offer. Options – lots of options, lots of glitz, everything done by crisply-dressed crew members who bring game faces to every encounter. Schedules of events slipped under the door very very AM and adhered to with nautical precision. Port calls done with military efficiency, ashore at zero whatever and don’t be late getting back. The Captain is a voice on the intercom.

Our first impression of Liberty Clipper was of a vessel who spends her days primarily at sea. There was rust. Many of the fittings showed wear and repair – probably multiple times. So many feet, both shod and bare, have walked the deck that the wood is nobly worn in all the right ways, including those imperfections that would be immediately cured on a mega-vessel. The crew had made this a comfortable home, without pretense or affect. If a towel was useful as a shade in a porthole, well that’s what they used.

The week started with a meet and greet, where we were introduced to both crew and guests. Again, zero pretense. Do you want a beer? Let me show you to the ice chest. Snacks? Laid out for the gala, but once underway there are bags of chips and granola bars in a basket. Make yourself a mixed drink in the salon.

The safety briefing was delivered in person by the Captain. No frills, but also no nonsense. This schooner was built to be sailed, not to be ridden. Everything had a purpose, nothing was illusion or sham. Substantial booms moved with heft, thick lines were under tremendous tension. The “ladders” were just that – and we were reminded that “toes grip, heels slip.” We were shown to our cabin by the steward.

We had paid for an upgraded cabin, with our own shower, sink and toilet. Helpful amenities, to be sure, but the quarters were cramped. We found it impossible for two of us to maneuver through dressing – we did it in shifts. Bunk beds, the top narrow and not easy to get to. Experimentation finally led to a solution that could be accomplished in the dark (not using the ladder, on which we hung wet beach clothes). When the company says, “pack a sea bag,” believe that. There are no closets or dresser drawers. There is no AC. Small fans and an overhead hatch provide ventilation.

A few down sides. For some reason, a noxious odor often accompanied running the engines. It dissipated soon enough, but for a while our cabin was unpleasant. Even with a reduced passenger load it was generally difficult to find privacy, as we shared the common areas with off-duty crew. The bilge/sea toilet system was temperamental, needing tinkering to keep things from backing up. Finally, if long, hot, luxuriant showers are necessary to keep a person in good spirits… Look up “Navy shower.”

On our last night aboard, the Captain thanked us for helping to keep the idea of life under sail alive. Truly, it brought tears to my eyes. The whole boat – THE WHOLE BOAT – was about celebrating an intimate relationship with the sea that no mega-monster-floating hotel can replicate. We went places because the wind and the tides were right. We visited stunning beaches on uninhabited islands. We tucked into coves and sheltered anchorages at night surrounded by miles of ocean under a billion stars. We ate meals together, created by crew members (primarily “Mom” and “Dad”) with world class culinary skills. On our anniversary - a pan brownie personalized just for us.

The crew… Dreads, tattoos, bare feet and character. Early in the cruise one of the deck hands engaged the captain (an amazingly experienced, capable and approachable man) in a philosophical math discussion with overtones of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Another answered an innocuous question with such deep thought and conviction I will use his insights to be better at my own job. “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start now” became a rallying call. Beach coconut bocce. An hour discussing Eastern Europe with a crewman who doubled as “Pig Bar” proprietor, with him using the word tautology to describe some of his ink.

We parted at the end as unceremoniously as we’d arrived. But, we were different people than when we first came aboard. This may not be an every vacation. It certainly isn’t for everyone. I have to tell you…

My wife was invited to take the helm under the superb guidance of The Boss. We were “sailing reach before a following sea” in the words of CSN, 4-5 foot waves having a little fun with us. She observed to her mentor that keeping a steady course resembled the firm but soft hands required on horseback. For the next half hour she and our captain discussed that as the ship sailed onward toward Nassau, my wife in total sync with the wind and waters.

Mere money cannot purchase moments like that.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Those Magic Moments


I've been away from Bikecopblog for nearly three weeks, busy with things. We are putting together a web page, which is a lot more work than I thought it would be. Then again, it's probably going to be a lot better than I could have made it, struggling alone. It's something like writing for publication - a demanding, detail-oriented editor always pushes the writer to do better than they could manage on their own. It isn't fun. It works.

We will soon be on vacation, one where we intend to unplug, unwind and unlimber. Vacation...

The best thing about vacation is - everything.

Initial planning, the decision to actually go! For this one we talked at great length before deciding on a windjammer cruise. There were some complications, but they were solved by a simple expedient... American Express.

Packing is an introvert's way of previewing the experience. With each article rolled up and tucked into a cube, one's mind envisions where it will be worn. A "Hawaiian Shirt" for the relaxed dinner (with cocktails). The sun shirt perfect under the bright tropical sun. Flip flops easily shed for the beach. Even the frantic last-minute trip down the checklist only means departure is at hand. Oh - I can explain leaving the unique battery pack in the box on the bed at home. Really.

Departure day is stressful - I won't lie. Weather worries, dogs to their respective caretakers... Once, we got halfway to their destinations when we turned to each other - "Did you put the dog food in the car?" 

Modern commercial aviation is a pain, but they mostly get us where we are going close to right on time. Mostly.

We had booked a week at the Occidental Royal Hideaway, a five-star all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We had planned no excursions - beach, bar and books (we both ended up reading six or seven). It snowed the morning we boarded the flight, but hell. It snows in Denver. However, the pilots apparently were based in Miami and had little experience navigating the deicing lines. We waited for our turn. We waited some more. We waited for 90 minutes, which was just long enough to miss our connection. So, instead of upscale accommodations, margaritas on the beach and my lovely wife wearing a fabulous summer dress, it was The Bayfield Inn and Suites.  Houston, in the pouring rain.

Suites - ha! We had Sonic, mini bottles of Sutter Home chardonnay and a miserable night's sleep. Honest, the toothbrush they provided had about six bristles.

But... The next day we flew first class to Cancun. Arriving at the resort - isn't it always the best day, checking in at the beginning of a week away? So much possibility, everything fresh and new. One of the staff handed us flutes of excellent champagne, the bell guys left with our luggage and we got through the paperwork in short order. Except - no cheesy plastic bracelet. I inquired.

"Oh, senor," the woman said with a chuckle. "We know who you are."

It was that kind of place. We were greeted by name, taken care of with graciousness and treated to (now) six days of the finest food and wine we could ever imagine. One night, after an extraordinary meal, we decided to follow a piano player as he made his rounds. Formal dining room to lounge area to night-life bar... As the drinks accumulated we unsteadily trailed the fellow, who was dressed in white formal attire - tails, in fact. Only, he appeared to be drunker than we were becoming. No worries, we weren't driving. He played beautifully, the waiters were attentive (Grand Marnier for me, chocolate martinis for her) and finally, we decided to call it a night. Except - "Which one of these eight identical buildings is ours?"

Departure day is sort of a bummer, but it sure is nice to see the dogs and cat. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

To Market, To Market

If you're not familiar with the movie 'Tommy Boy' you may not quite understand the title of this article. Well, basically there's a scene in that movie where Richard (David Spade) is telling Tommy (Chris Farley) that his father could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves. Selling A Ketchup Popsicle to a Woman in White Gloves, Justin Seeley, (2015).

Some years ago, I tuned in to a discussion by the late, great author Tom Clancy. He had - virtually single-handedly - created the military/political thriller genre during an era when American armed services still existed under the shadow of the Vietnam experience. His servicemen (and women - on one memorable scene from Red Storm Rising an Air Force F-15 Eagle driver with the apropos call sign of "Buns" splashes several bombers and a satellite a generation before the real military allowed women into combat roles) were virtuous, witty and supremely competent. He became an icon of sorts, the military loved him and he catted about in all kinds of regalia as though he had, in fact, filled the roles.

Except - he hadn't.

When the discussion began, it was amazing how reedy and shallow his voice was. He had, as the saying goes, a radio voice made for the newspaper business. Not all gallant warriors sound like Sam Elliott, or Lauren Bacall - given. Clancy sounded downright meek. But, that wasn't the most interesting thing.

His presentation had nothing to do with the military, or descriptions of guns or planes. It was totally about the business of getting published, and keeping the attention of your fans. That's what he found the most compelling part of his art. I turned it off. Who gave a crap about that stuff?

(Sound of throat clearing). Who knew, right?

Now that my novels have been released back to me, it's time to act like the small business person I am. I have engaged Heather Grady at Insit LLC (pronounced insight) to start marketing my writing.

Ketchup popsicle, anyone? 

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Truck Full of Love

Some years ago, I spent the better part of a week cleaning out the home in which my parents had spent the better part of their lives. They had raised three kids, created deep friendships with neighbors and become part of a community that grew from sleepy village to upscale suburb. Age and infirmity led them to sell the two-story colonial my dad affectionately called "Sixty-Three Park Road" and buy a town home. Once they had moved, it was up to my brother and I to sort, to discard and to say the final good byes.

I had finished my part, and stood in the back yard for one last look around. We'd played football there, and I'd broken my arm twice in mishaps. We'd had a hockey rink, and a pool. A maple tree split, and we used the sap to make syrup...which is another story. My dad and I built a deck - the forth or fifth - that finally stood the test of time.

Across the street, there is an elementary school. As I stood, in tears, I could hear the sound of children playing. Laughing, screaming, calling out to each other. It seemed an echo from many years ago, of the accumulated spirits of the love that had occupied every corner of the big house on Park Road.

I felt that again as we said good bye to the house where my wife grew up. With the passing of her father several months ago, she and her siblings, their spouses and children, and our family, had undertaken the daunting task of brushing aside a lifetime of memories, and passing on the structure to someone else.

One afternoon, we stared at a table full of knickknacks. You know - the salt shaker passed at countless family dinners. The dish that had contained mother Jean's special fruit salad. Cups, knives... No one wanted to part with them, but at the same time we all had our own totems, talismans with which we have marked the memorable events of our own lives. We let them go.

Today, we finished the physical task. I stood on the front lawn, and listened.

I heard laughter. Easter, twenty-five years ago, my new in-laws (of two days) had welcomed me, my daughters and my parents into their family. We were embraced by the numerous Carters with their traditional holiday ritual - a squirt gun fight. I'd watched dozens of baseball games on the TV with my mom-in-law, and picked her up there for dozens more. We'd (sons, daughters, husbands and wives) bricked in a corner of the side yard, planted bushes... We watched as our kids, and then our grand kids, grew up far too quickly.

We got into our truck, and drove away. That's what you do. But, we took all of the love we could fit in our hearts with us.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Like a Girl

I wrote this short story about eight years ago, when Out of Ideas was first published. I'd watched the scene unfold on a beach in Florida. I wondered how Karen Sorenson might react. This is what resulted.

Happy International Women's Day. This is for Pat, Beth, Katy and all of the strong women who keep on keepin' on.


Like a Girl

“I’m going to kill you, bitch.”
He burst out of the shadows, never hesitated; lunged at Deputy Karen Sorenson before she could fully dismount the Sheriff’s Office bike she rode to patrol her beat. The struggle was personal, instantaneous, vicious – a strong, determined man’s stale-alcohol grunts, insane eyes that burned in unrestrained fury, and a hand that clawed desperately for her duty weapon while his other savaged her. Her initial reaction – disbelief – soon gave way to an overpowering anger that someone would put their hands on her.
“You’re gonna die,” the man screamed, his meaty paw around the butt of her pistol.
Now and then, snippets of this harsh memory intermingled with the soft, balmy Gulf breeze that blew strands of her long blonde hair across her face. The images were still vivid enough, sometimes, that a tingle started at the back of her neck and caused her shoulder blades to press together.
But now as she stretched out on a fabric beach chair, with warm and reassuring sugar-white sand underfoot, the reincarnate feelings of violation subsided. A rejuvenating, balmy summer sun soaked into her skin as though she had solar panels and her whole body was a battery. Canvas and steel creaked and groaned, her lean six-foot frame searching for just the right position.
 She had reacted to the attack just as she was taught, tying up her assailant’s arms and driving her knee into him once, twice…half a dozen times, until he vomited all over her and let go. She threw him to the ground and handcuffed him before she called for paramedics. For both of them.
Her eye still had a bit of black and yellow beneath it, hidden under her sun glasses. At least it was open again. The arrestee laid in the hospital, guarded by grim sheriff’s deputies, his surgically-repaired internal injuries healing slowly.
It hadn’t been the first time she’d fought for her life, or injured someone who had attacked her. That fact only helped her to understand the healing process, not to avoid it. The emotions of the event would linger, but eventually dissipate into nothing. She would ultimately extinguish the residual feelings of fear, anger and invasion, of battling a man, alone, who was intent on murdering her. Only cold recollections would remain.
But, the injuries she had sustained paled in comparison to the cruel wound of a peer, passed on innocently by a friend. Women cops let people get too close – that was the locker room talk from one of her male colleagues. Chicks didn’t realize the danger they were in until it was upon them. They are soft-skill oriented, talking and reasoning with people. Guys played contact sports – guys knew when it was game on.
“A guy wouldn’t have let him get that close,” the male cop in the locker room had commented to her friend.
Now, ten days after the attack, she skimmed a brain-candy romance novel, while her husband Adam sat nearby, deep in contemplation. A work-related binder was open in his hands, to a section about flaps or wings or something. His semi-annual Federal Aviation Administration exam was just weeks away. If he failed it, the regional airline that employed him as a captain would let him go. Occasionally, he sighed or groaned, perhaps reminded of some arcane tidbit of aviation trivia he would need to have at the tip of his tongue.
Between them, their four-month-old daughter slept in a baby carrier, shaded by a kid thing she’d bought online. It was a sort of tent, shielding tiny Alicia from the direct rays of the Florida sun. She slept peacefully, tiny lips pouting from time to time.
“Honey, is today a metaphor for who I am?” she asked, setting her book aside for a moment and looking across Alie’s gazebo at Adam. “I’m a mommy reading a romance novel, and you’re reading about airplanes and stuff. I’m such a girl.”
“Yeah, you’re a girl. I think that’s pretty obvious.” Adam barely peeked above the binder.
“Maybe I should… I dunno, maybe I should be reading street-survival stuff or something. You know, some kind of rough-edged cop book. Do you think it would help me with my hard skills?”
Adam set his book in his lap and stared at the Gulf for a moment. Then, he peeked into the beach tent at his daughter.
“Why?” he said, sitting back in his beach chair. “I think you’re just fine.”
“You’re supposed to think I’m fine. Husbands are supposed to be supportive.”
“What’s the matter, Kit? What happened?”
She held out her hand to him, to give him a chance to touch her. The diamond of her wedding set sparkled in the morning sun as he reached to grasp her. He momentarily rolled her fingers in his strong, masculine hand and let her go.
“A guy at work…” The words caught in her throat.
She’d had no trouble telling Adam what had occurred, when he sat with her in the emergency room while the doctor fussed over one last stitch in her eyebrow. As the adrenaline faded, replaced with the realization that losing the fight would have meant death, strong emotions had begun the healing process. Adam lovingly absorbed them on his solid shoulder. The sleepless night that followed was memorable only because he had stayed up with her, celebrating the dawn with orange juice and pancakes.
“What guy?” Adam’s eyes galloped from questioning to alert…to provoked.
“Oh, a guy. Another cop. Vinnie said a guy in the locker room said I let the suspect get too close.”
“Was the guy there?”
“Then how would he know?” He snapped off the rhetorical question as though her accuser was standing in front of him – accessible, available…vulnerable.
“I don’t know.”
“You’re a talented professional. When stuff happens, you take care of business. That’s what you did.”
The way Adam said stuff – he wanted to say shit. She had to smile at that. But, it was never too early to shield Alie from a prematurely salty vocabulary.
“Yeah. It’s one of the dangers of solo bike patrol, riding around all quiet and stealthy. I surprised him. He was wanted, had a serious felony warrant. He thought he could take me.”
“Well, he was wrong.” Adam wrinkled his nose and went back to reading, having delivered his verdict on the subject of her work encounter.
“Why do you think—“
“You throw like a girl,” a voice behind her growled.
Twenty yards away, a ten or twelve or so year old boy stood in the sand, wearing a baseball glove. Slender to the point of skinny, he wore blue swim trunks and no shirt. After he’d received the ball again, he threw purposefully.
Across the beach, an older man stood awaiting the throw. He had on a Tampa Bay Rays baseball hat, an oversized purple short-sleeved dress shirt covering a significant belly and jean shorts that extended below his knees. In another era, the pants would have been called clam diggers. On him, they just looked stupid. White socks and black basketball-style shoes completed his wardrobe. Or, whatever the outfit might be called. There was just enough resemblance with the boy to permit the conclusion that this was Dad.
“Girl,” Dad repeated as the ball arrived in his mitt. “Total girl.”
“Kit, take a few deep breaths,” Adam said as he checked on their daughter. “At least he’s playing catch with his kid.”
“He’s telling his kid that girls are weak.”
“You aren’t. Don’t worry about it.”
“But, it’s the kind of crap women have to put up with all of our lives, and this is where it starts. To get a little boy to throw a stupid baseball harder, his dad has to tell him he’s throwing like a girl? Why not just say throw harder?”
“’Cause that’s not the way the dad was brought up.”
“Ugh – my point? Totally?”
“Uh oh. When you lapse into valley-girl speak… It’s the beach, it’s the weekend. Relax, unwind. Fight this battle another day. Do you want anything from the cooler?”
“Come on, girly girl,” the man implored. “You ain’t gonna hurt nobody. Wing it in here.”
“That does it,” she said, slamming her book closed.
“Honey, don’t.”
“I hear this all of the time. The guy’s were yelling at Megan the other day that she fired a shotgun like a girl. Then they said I… Have you ever told someone that they fly like a girl?”
“You know the difference between right and wrong.”
“Kit, is this about--?”
“Save my seat.”
She got up and walked toward the beachside snack bar. It would look, to anyone else, like she was going for a drink, or maybe a bag of chips.
“Babe,” Adam called after her. “Get me something, please?”
She ignored him as she walked up to the young man with the glove. Her timing was perfect, the ball sailing through the air to the kid just as she approached.
“’Scuse us, darlin’” the older man called out. “You almost wandered right into one of my heaters.”
“May I?” she asked the boy.
The young man’s eyes grew wide in comprehension. He looked downrange at his dad, and then a thin, sinister smile took over. He flipped the ball to her.
“Please don’t hurt him too much, lady,” the son said under his breath.
She turned and looked at the father. On the one hand, his face said he thought it a treat that an attractive blonde woman in a skimpy bikini was going to throw a ball to him. Maybe there was a part of him that wanted to say something suggestive. That would figure. There was also a bit of impatience in his expression, too, as though she had waded into the deep end of athleticism, and might drown.
No matter. She took a quick step toward the guy and snapped the ball at him.
The man’s survival instincts were just sharp enough. His glove arrived in front of his chest at the same moment as the ball. A loud crack signaled that it had found mitt, not midsection.
“Ouch,” the guy exclaimed as he pulled his hand out of the glove and shook it.
“Nice,” the kid said. “You play?”
“My dad had me in little league as soon as I could hold a baseball. I played softball on my high school team. First base, ‘cause I’m left handed, and tall.”
“You throw hard.”
“Thanks,” she replied. “Next time he says you throw like a girl, don’t forget – it’s a good thing.”
She returned to her beach chair and looked under the tent. Alicia was stirring, signaling the next round of changing and feeding and burping. It wouldn’t be long – next spring at the latest - before she was running around the beach, picking up tiny treasures and clutching them as she stood on fat little legs at the water’s edge. Eventually, she would spend beautiful beach mornings playing catch with her mom and dad. If Alicia was so inclined, there was little league in her future.
But, she would never let anyone compliment her daughter by saying she threw like a boy.
“Better?” Adam asked.
“Uh huh. Alicia won’t do anything like a boy or a girl. She’ll just do it.”
“She’ll grow up to be just like her mom – doing what has to be done. Doing what’s right.”
As if on cue, her daughter snorted her way into the conversation. Translated into mommy-language, Alie said that she was ready to eat.
She slid into the tent and picked her up. Discreetly, she covered Alie’s head with a blanket, undid the strap on her bikini top and felt the magic, her three month old suckling contentedly on her breast. A maternal glow sprung up from deep within her, feeding her soul just as surely as she now fed her daughter.
What a miracle, to have a strong, gentle, adoring man like Adam with whom to fall in love. They’d had a baby, a tiny spirit that made them laugh and cry and feel things for her – and each other – that seemed theirs alone.
The physical pain and mental anguish her attacker had visited upon her subsided. The betrayal of a peer was forgotten. In their place, the beauty of her life with this man, and this child, washed rhythmically over her in harmony with the waves nearby. No matter what she did for a living, and what it did to her, in her heart she was a mom, and a wife.
She was a girl. Totally.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Rookie Cookies

 Please welcome my friend, a "rookie" sheriff's deputy. To say he is a deeply and diversely talented man is to bleach out the essential meanings of both of those words. A combat veteran, a photographer and videographer. Here he describes vividly the feelings of a new officer when their trainer says "You got this" and turns them loose for solo duty.

   The patrol car feels awfully lonely when you first sit in it by yourself. For the past seventeen weeks I’ve had a mentor in the seat next to me... They are a hand in your back, guiding you towards the right answer, even if it’s barely even a nudge at times. They want you to succeed, even if they leave you out on a limb to figure it out for yourself. The best way I can describe this process might come across as a teeny bit obscure but that’s the way I was raised – I am British, after all.  
   Imagine jumping out of an airplane with no parachute. Your guide, the Field Training Instructor, is in a wing-suit next to you as you start to plummet towards the earth. He looks sleek his fancy goggles and bright smile. He gives you double-thumbs up, then hands you an unfolded cardboard box and says, “Okay, you’re doing great, now land with this!” As you tumble towards utter ruin, your FTI might snip at the cardboard box you’re holding, streamlining your descent as the details start to focus. The closer you get to stumbling, the more in-depth your perspective. Small things start to matter the faster you fall.
   The questions you will ask yourself, your preemptive decision making and your adaptability to changing situations, all the more clear as it becomes all the more urgent. Your cardboard box, over the course of your descent into the wild and wonderful world of public service, starts to look like it might become something more aerodynamic and soon, before you know it, your FTI will pat you on the back and say, “Good luck with your new team!”
   When I say “shape”, I mean beaten enough that you can at the very least land on your own two feet and work through the problems you’re going to face. Complicated and sometimes dangerous problems like; human crisis, mental disabilities, violent crime… The odd dog in the road.
   Field training really is as I was once told, “Like drinking from a fire hose.”
   Before I transferred to the patrol division, my Sergeant at the time told me that I’d start to see patterns as I progressed. That every call will be different but the principles of your response are going to be the same. Every call will have a reporting party and if it’s a crime, a victim and a suspect. If you’re lucky, you’ll get witnesses. If you’re unlucky, your victim will be uncooperative and your suspect unknown. If you’re very, very unlucky, your victim will be a child and your suspect, incarcerated for the property crimes that fuel her methamphetamine addiction.
   I’ve been a cop for two years but a patrol deputy for only a few months. As I write this, I am half way through my third week flying solo. Field training is over and I am figuring things out little by little. Your brain doesn’t stop, ever. Every single problem you’re given has a thousand ways to be solved and like it or not, we don’t live in the black and white contrast of our patrol cars. Every single aspect of law and the justice system is debatable. Only half of all lawyers are right, at any given time. The law is full of gray areas, a science that is subject to interpretation, and that’s the fun part. It is encouraging to see senior cops on my team debating back-and-forth about labelling each incident and how the solution was discovered. Even when it’s a heated debate about whether there is enough with which to charge the principals, it’s a bonding ceremony. Outsiders might see it as an argument. Insiders get excited and pull the small legal source-book from their shirt pockets, so they can join in.
   Seriously though, what do I know? I’ve been doing this job for about two hot minutes.
   I’m writing this because a good friend and leader encouraged me to share this new experience. He is an incredible person, who thinks logically, speaks carefully and has a deeply creative spirit. The level of intellect he exudes makes me feel smarter by proxy. He doesn’t know that I regard him as one of the greatest leaders that I’ve in my life. I’ve served overseas, on the front-line, with war-fighters and warriors. I am cautious not to understate the positive influence that and so many others have made upon my law enforcement career, short as it is. Pick good people to follow. They’ll take care of you. Even more so if you buy “Rookie cookies” at the beginning of each training phase.
   So here I go again: Off into a world of the unknown with already a full list of things to remember. It gets easier, once you find your rhythm. I’ve been told that this happens during your third year, so I’m doing alright! Everyone is looking out for me and supports me in my successes and my mistakes. As long as we are all doing that for one another, we will survive the day and get home to what is important…
   A Rookie