Driving across Country along Route 40 and what remains of Route 66 is a very eye opening experience. As you watch the mile markers flash by you’re transported back in time, a time of imagination and wonder as people began to cross this great Country of ours, first in covered wagons and then in cars as the mighty Route 66 was born.
As we travel down the road in a car inundated with all the modern world has to offer, we are starkly reminded of what it cost us to get here.
It’s easy to glimpse a dream in the now dilapidated, crumbling boarded up buildings along the once wondrous road. A life or lives that once were. The unbridled excitement of the weary travelers that travelled down that road and faded into history.
The glint of the sun reflecting off the dusty broken windows reminds us of the brightness of hope in the young couples hearts as they travelled west to start a new life. The solitary sadness of the lone tumbleweed blowing across the road reminds us of the son headed east to bury his father. The brightness of the neon signs that remain, shine a light on the memory of the mom and dad, with kids in tow, travelling to some far off exciting vacation destination.
The endless signs that beckon you to travel just a bit further, to sleep here, to eat there, to visit the Petrified Forest or the Meteor Crater. The signs that count you down mile by mile and entice you to see the wonder of some place only to discover, to great amusement, that you’ve stopped at a place that sells cheap reminders that Route 66 once existed.
A drive through the heartlands, the mountains and the desert of this remarkably empty Country shows you the potential that it still seems poised for. The diversity of the people you meet along the way shows us the melting pot that America truly is. The silliness of the Cadillac Ranch reminds us of the uniqueness and good spirit that still permeants within us.
The storm in the distance quickly becomes the storm in the rear view mirror and the sun shines brightly on your face. The open road lies before you, get out and ride it, before its too late.
I envy you, you’re young and just starting out in comedy. When you’re my age you’ll already have 25 maybe 30 years into it. Imagine where that experience and time might take you. So smart to recognize early what you want to do and chase that dream. I started with young comics that no longer chase the dream. I wonder what kind of regrets they’ll have when they are my age, probably the same ones I have. The difference is I’m chasing it now.
Life got in the way of my dreams. Circumstances pointed me in a different direction. 6 years in the Army and 25 years as a Police Officer, but my creative juices were always flowing. I was able to become creative while a police officer. I produced several PSAs on drunk driving and domestic abuse that aired locally. I produced a popular Cable access show called local police view that dealt with issues of the day between police and the public. I wrote articles that were published nationally. I developed anti bullying programs and police suicide prevention programs before they were buzz words. I even worked part time in radio at 94.3 FM The Point as an On Air Personality. I did National Radio Voice Overs and had a very successful syndicated Internet Radio Show called The Retro Lunch Show all before podcasts and Internet Radio were what they are today. I tell you this, young comic, because no matter where you are in life NEVER let your creativity die. Throw coals of creativity on the fire, poke it with the creativity poker, stoke it and always keep it burning. Never let complacency and regret replace fire and desire.
There is always an outlet for what you want to do, to have your voice be heard to become who and what you want to be. I wanted to perform, I didn’t know in what venue I wanted to perform in. In all honesty, stand up comedy was not on my list of things I dreamed of doing. I enjoyed acting, I enjoyed informing the public, I enjoyed public speaking, I enjoyed introducing music, but never considered myself to be funny on a stage. Like everyone else that gets into it I was told, you’re so funny you should do stand up. I stumbled into stand up because I took a class to help me get better with my writing. I wanted to write funnier copy. But once I got on stage for the first time I was hooked. I chase the laughter, I’m on cloud 9 when I get it and want more and I’m despaired when I don’t and wonder what I did that they didn’t like. It’s a form of validation. I, like anyone else, long to be accepted, to be “validated” and it doesn’t hurt to enjoy being the center of attention, I want that attention to be positive but am learning that when I don’t get the laughs is when you become a much better comic. I analyze, mull over, lament poor performances. I wonder what it is I did wrong. I may complain but I always look for a way to fix it. To get better, to make my jokes better, my delivery better, make me better.
I’m a young comic in an old mans body. I haven’t even been doing comedy 4 years yet, I wish I started earlier. I wish I could go back to my young self and say go get on stage anywhere and everywhere you can. Fail, learn, get better. I don’t have the luxury of time so much as you do, in 20 years I’ll be a drooling mess, but I’ll be drooling on a stage somewhere. Don’t waste it, get up, get out and chase it. You’ll be glad you did.
Second guessing is easy, we all do it. We watch football games and second guess the play called by the coach, or the penalty made by the ref. we can watch the instant replay over and over in super high def slow motion from every angle possible. Second guessing is easy, until it isn’t. Until it involves a split second decision that involves a matter of life or death. Where even the slightest hesitation can end in the death or serious harm to the officer needing to make the decision.
Those that think the police aren’t trained properly are the ones that have never taken a moment of time to research what police training is all about. They have no idea what it’s like to go to work everyday and have to wear a bullet proof vest because there are people who will harm you. They close their eyes and don’t want to believe there are bad people out there who will not hesitate to hurt you. Police train constantly in the use of force, they are trained in the use of deadly force. They qualify with all equipment they carry. They go through simulation training in which little pellets are fired at them that hurt, this raises the stress level during training and simulates as closely as possible the stress in making those split second decisions. Police are pepper sprayed so the can recognize the effects of pepper spray, realize it won’t kill you, and be able to work through the effects. They are tasered so they can recognize the effects the taser has on an individual and understand the pain it causes. They practice hand to hand combat, and grappling techniques because in a struggle they need to know how to fight for their lives and prevent someone from getting their firearm. They also train on how to save your life. They train in CPR, Heimlich, how to stop bleeding, they carry Narcan to reverse the effects of heroin overdose, they can immobilize people to lessen the effects of serious head or neck injuries. They train in verbal judo to try to calm a situation before any of the tools on their belt need to be used. They train in psychology so they are able to tell a person a love one has just passed away, or to talk someone out of harming themselves. Police train, train and train again. Over and over, not just with firearms but in every aspect of the job. Constantly evaluating, revising, improving and becoming proficient in their profession. Unfortunately they don’t have the benefit of instant reply, the call can’t be reversed. They have to live or die by the decisions they make in a split second.
Imagine for a moment, you’re on patrol duty. You’re on the overnight shift. 12 hour shift. 6 pm to 6 am. Your area of responsibility on this night includes residential areas, business areas and a major highway.
Earlier you stopped a car for going through a red light. You made contact with the driver who was very annoyed that you stopped her. She is in a hurry and doesn’t have time for this. She demands to know why you stopped her. You try to explain but she cuts you off. That light was yellow, there is no way she ran a red light. Yet the fact is the light had been red for well over 4 seconds and in fact was green for traffic on the cross street. She’s a good driver she yells at you, but when you check her license she has 6 points. You issue her a summons, she screams she’ll see you in court. You tell her to have a good evening. You move on patrolling your area of responsibility.
You had worked the night before, the same shift, quiet night. You had a couple of false fire alarm calls and a DWI arrest at 2 am. . During your 12 hours off you got some sleep, but had to be up to take your son to soccer practice and your daughter to her orthodontist appointment, your wife or husband, which ever the case is for you, works so you have to pitch in even when sleep is at a premium. You can’t sleep as soon as you get off in the morning, who can as soon as you get home from work, you’re wound up, you get your workout in, take care of a few household chores and lay down to try and sleep when the rest of the world is awake and demands you be awake as well. Lawn mowers, trash trucks, dogs barking, door bells, phone rings all contribute to your lack of sleep.
You decide you need a cup of coffee to help you stay more alert. You stop by the dunkin’ Donuts. You don’t want to because it only furthers the silly cops and donuts stereotype, but hey who doesn’t like a donut every once in awhile. You walk into the donut shop and immediately you hear “ oh oh the cops are here, I didn’t do it officer arrest her” you smile and fake laugh at the same line you hear every time you walk into anywhere. You’ve heard it now for 10 years. The shop insist on you not paying for the coffee, they want you to stop by for free coffee because when cops are there they aren’t likely to get robbed. Instead of arguing and insisting you pay, you just leave a couple of dollars in the tip jar. It’s the right thing to do.
Just as your about to take your first sip of coffee, you hear your call sign on the radio. “ central to 506” you answer. The call is an unresponsive male in a bathroom in one of the apartments. You activate your lights and siren and Rush to the scene. You’re met at the door by an elderly woman who is shaken but frantic. She says her husband went to the bathroom a half hour before. When he didn’t come back out she checked on him and found him wedged between the toilet and the bathtub, she says he must have passed out. You enter the bathroom, and struggle to move a 290 pound man that is stuck in an awkward position. Once you are able to get him out into the open area of the bathroom, you asses the situation and determine there is no pulse. . You radio to all responding units that CPR is in progress. You begin, the training you’ve done over and over kicks in. You don’t hesitate you know exactly what and how to do it. You hear and feel ribs break as you do compressions, you know your compressions are deep enough. You struggle slightly to get a good airway but after repositioning the head several times you are able to get air into the lungs. You do CPR for what seems like 20 minutes before anyone else arrives. In reality it’s been 3-4 minutes. Another officer arrives and he takes over breaths while you continue with compressions. After another 5 minutes the volunteer EMTs arrive and you turn over CPR to them. Later you find out that Mr. Johnson did not survive and was pronounced dead in the ER. It saddens you so close to the holidays.
Just as you clear that call and enter the information in the in car computer, you notice the time 2335 (1135pm), you hear a request for back up on a traffic stop at the edge of your zone. You swiftly proceed to the area the officer called for a backup. As you arrive, you meet with the other officer. He tells you the driver of the car has outstanding warrants for assault and he wanted someone there in case things went bad. You never want to make an arrest alone if you can help it. There are other people in the car. You see besides the driver there is a front seat passenger and someone in the back seat. You position yourself at the right rear window so you can clearly see the front seat and rear seat passengers. Your partner asks the driver to step out of the vehicle. The driver protests, asks why, the officer just wants him out of the car before discussing the matter in front of everyone in the car. It’s best to separate them so he can’t get bolstered in confidence by their protests. The driver exits and meets with the officer at the back of the car. The officer explains that there is a warrant outstanding from the next county over for assault charges. He states the bail is $2500.00 the person says he doesn’t have that kind of money. He then starts yelling that this is all “bullshit” that you stopped him for no reason, when you can clearly see a broken taillight. You, as the backup, are watching this transpire but also are aware of movement by both of the passengers in the car. You see the front seat passenger reaching under the seat. And the door begin to open, you yell “stay in the car and show me your hands”! They don’t comply. Again you very loudly yell, “shut the door and let me see your hands” they again don’t comply, you draw your firearm and point it in their direction. Now you ratchet up your command in a language that there is no mistaking what you mean. “Show me your fucking hands now”!, they see the gun pointed in their direction hear the tone of your voice and comply. While this is going on, your partner has already advised the driver he is under arrest and is attempting to place handcuffs on him. The driver pulls away as the officer reaches for him. You get on your hand held radio and request more units, everyone else is currently tied up on other calls. You ask dispatch to have a car from the next town over roll down the highway. You see both the front seat passenger and rear seat passenger talking. You can’t hear what’s being said, but they seem very agitated and keep looking at your partner and the driver and you at the back corner of the car. You can hear the front seat passenger yell “ this is fucked up” and “fuck this fucking bullshit”, “this is over today”!. Meanwhile your partner is still attempting to gain control over his subject. You need to assist your partner in gaining control, but are also weary of what’s going on in the car. You tell dispatch to get backup out now, that you have three non compliant. You’re advised that one unit on the other side of town has cleared up and is rolling code 2 in your direction. You can hear the siren wailing in the distance. Your partner is now hands on with the driver, they are on the ground while your partner is trying to gain control you now see he front seat passengers hands are down and again they are reaching under the seat, you yell again let me see your hands motherfucker” it’s the language of the street, you use it to convey urgency, it doesn’t seem to phase them. Your gun is drawn, it’s pointed in their direction, you step closer to the car yelling show me your hands. The backseat passenger is yelling don’t shoot don’t shoot. You’re unclear if he means you or the front seat passenger. You glance back at your partner who is still in a struggle on the ground. You need to help over there, but you can not leave your self and your partner exposed to what might be in the car. You should have got each person out individually secured them and then effected the arrest but things don’t always work out that way and now shit has hit the fan. Your mind is racing a mile a minute playing out all scenarios that you’ve trained for, that you’ve replayed over and over in your mind. You think WTF is taking backup so long to get here. You look back at your partner, who is struggling with this other person. You can not let that continue. You yell back at the car, stay in the fucking car or I’ll fucking blow you away!, it’s all you got at the moment and you hope it buys you time. You head over to your partner and see that the perp is clearly reaching for the officers gun. You point your weapon at him and yell get on the fucking ground! The subject looks at you momentarily, which is long enough for your partner to gain the upper hand. He’s able to get the subjects arm behind his back and apply pressure. You hear the subject yell you’re breaking my arm. You know he isn’t. It’s a move that’s designed to cause pain and to feel like you’re arm will break. It’s a pain compliance move, one that you’ve had applied to you countless times in training. You know how it feels, it hurts, but it won’t break your arm. Your partner is now able to get handcuffs on the subject. With that you immediately get an uneasy feeling as you hear that passenger car door opening, you turn your attention back to the car and immediately yell show me your hands, show me your fucking hands. Adrenaline is coursing through every square inch of your body. Everything seems to be moving slowly, as the door swings open. You yell stay in the car and show me your hands, you see the passengers legs begin to step out of the car, you yell again stay in the car, you can see the backseat passenger yelling “ no no no”! Now the front seat passenger is placing both feet on the ground, everything is moving so slow. Your command now changes. Get the fuck on the ground, get in the ground mother fucker! No compliance, the passenger is standing up now, slightly turned away from you. You can not clearly see their hands. You’re yelling to show me your hands, no compliance. In your mind you’re actually asking yourself, why aren’t they showing me their hands, what are they doing? You clearly have a weapon pointed directly at them, you are no more than 20 feet away as you continue to yell commands. Show me your hands, get on the ground! The passenger takes a step to their right turns towards you and begins to raise their right hand. You see a black metallic object in their hand that they are raising in your direction. You yell one more time to stop, they don’t and you pull the trigger, as you are trained to do you fire until the target is no longer a threat. In this case you fired 7 rounds in rapid succession until the threat dropped to the ground. You can hear the backseat passenger yelling Oh my God you shot him, for nothing, you shot him for nothing. He didn’t have a gun! You command the back seat passenger to show you his hands he complies, you hear the backup officer arrive on scene, things are speeding back up again. You realize that all of this transpired in the matter of 90 seconds from the time the driver was asked to leave the car. As backup arrives and secures the backseat passenger you see that the black metallic object was a metal box containing drugs and drug paraphernalia. The front seat passenger was the drivers father and he knew his son needed help and wanted to give the drugs to you to get the whole thing cleared up and his son some help. You now ask yourself why didn’t he just do as I said, why didn’t he just listen to me?
Is the shoot justified based on what you just read, you are the cop. What do you think? If you wouldn’t have fired what would you have done? Things slow down but all of this happens in seconds, split seconds to make a decision. If you wouldn’t shoot, what if it was a gun? When would you shoot? The scenario can not change, no one tells you their intention You have no idea what or who are in the vehicle. Is it ok to die there on the highway?
I want to hear from the folks that would use pepper spray or taser. Or think they would have shot to wound which officers are NOT trained to do. The only thing in this situation that is changeable is if it were a gun or not. The time, lighting, and all circumstances can not change.
Almost every day I post a link on Facebook to a memorial of a Police Officer being killed in the line of duty, only a handful of people acknowledge that it’s been posted, yet the outrage and outcry when an officer, in the course of performing his duties, kills someone is unmatched and unheard of. That somehow it’s expected that an officer will get killed in the line of duty and an officer should not be expected to defend himself with deadly force even against an unarmed man. Let me be the first to break the news to you in case you didn’t know, it is NOT an officer’s job to die for you just like it is NOT a soldier’s job to die for you.
It is a police officer’s job to protect you from the ones that mean to do you or your property harm. We place ourselves in harm’s way knowing the risks and excepting the fact that with that comes the possibility of death, but at no time does my sworn oath say I HAVE to die in the performance of my duties. If it comes down to me or the person who means to do me or you harm, it’s going to be them. Plain and simple.
There seem to be people that find it outrageous and unlawful for a police officer to use deadly force against an unarmed man. That somehow an unarmed man cannot do bodily harm or cause death to a police officer. That somehow the one thing everyone complains about when it is deployed is the saving grace here, the Taser. When it’s used properly, you complain that the officers should have gone hands on, when officers go hands on its brutality and they should have used the Taser. You cannot have it both ways. You either want us out there doing the things you would never do or you need to get out there and use those fantastic verbal skills to quell the situation. Make sure you videotape that so I can watch and learn.
Police are trained for many hours on the use of force and are continued to be trained every year. The other thing I hear is he had a knife why did the officers have to use their guns, or they didn’t even see what he had in his hands they should never have shot. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? At what point am I supposed to say in a split second that this individual is carrying a comb, a fake gun or the real thing. How can I know that? We are supposed to wait and get shot before we make that determination? You have the benefit of being a Monday morning quarterback, to watch a tape over and over and evaluate what is going on over and over. Split second decisions are being made on the scene, mistakes are SOMETIMES made, but often those mistakes are deemed justified because of the behavior and non cooperation by the suspect and the perceived threat the person poses. If you are commanded to STOP then STOP. If you are commanded to show me your hands SHOW ME YOUR HANDS. Your contempt for police officers or your quotation of the Constitution does NOT give you the right to interfere or not comply with an officers lawful orders. And your rights do NOT give you the right to threaten or do an officer harm or place an officer in harms way. The place to argue that is in court not street side when an officer is tasked with clearing an area, or securing an area or on a call or a car stop.
Don’t come at me or my brothers complaining that every police officer in America is a thug or a bully that likes to throw their authority around. There are some, but they are a tiny MINORITY. If you truly understood what it takes to do the job you’d understand a couple of things. It takes a set of balls to do the job, an ALPHA personality is who excels at the everyday job. Anything less is opening themselves up for a can of whoop ass on every call. Police have NO IDEA the situations they are rolling up to and going in on edge has a lot to do with how they react. Let your guard down for one second and that’s all that’s needed for another Alpha personality to pounce. Roll your eyes, I did the job for 31 years I learned about getting familiar at a scene, relaxing and giving someone the benefit of the doubt. One brief crack in an otherwise unbreakable appearance and the fight was on. So police rise to a level that doesn’t allow a crack to be seen. A casual encounter is different, police are pretty great people, but once called to a scene and dealing with unruly, uncooperative uncaring people a wall of control comes up and you will not get beyond that.
Talk to victims, people who have been wronged by other people who then call the police. They will tell you that the police are caring kind understanding people. Cops feel and see pain. Cops hold the hands of people as they lie dying, cops hold wounds together in futile attempts at saving lives. Cops do CPR, dive into water, run into burning buildings, climb trees, pull people out of burning cars, comfort lost children, stop traffic for animals crossing the street, come into your life when needed and run towards any danger, no matter what it is, because THEY CARE. Not because of any personality disorder, not because they are bullies, not because they were picked on as kids. But because they have a desire to serve the public and want to help their fellow man. They want to believe good outweighs bad but so rarely see good. I have worked with and know so many police officers. More than any of you can imagine in the programs I ran and became involved in. I know these men and women, I know what’s in their hearts and frankly I’m sick and tired of defending them to people who will never understand, who will never see that a police officer has a duty to protect you, but he also has a duty to protect himself, to get home to his family, to enjoy a day off. An officer will never gladly lay his life down for you, but he will do it without hesitation. He will fight the monsters and keep them from under your bed at night just give him the benefit of gathering all the facts before you judge the methods he used.
When I moved into my house years ago there was an elderly gentleman named Jimmy that lived across the street from me. Jimmy was in his late 70s then. Jimmy was a WWII vet who saw plenty of action all across Europe and was very proud of that. Jimmy took a liking to me because I was former Military and a current police officer. We spent a lot of time sitting on his patio in his back yard sipping cheap beer Jimmy always had on tap. He would regale me with stories of his exploits and adventures during WWII and many times he told me the same story a few different ways. I enjoyed those times with Jimmy and I know he did as well.
He was up there in age, obviously, so I felt it my neighborly duty to shovel his walk and driveway when it snowed, they always offered money but I never took it. They would always sneak a bottle of spirits between my door at Christmas time and that’s how we left it. During the summer Jimmy had a riding mower and he enjoyed getting on that thing and mowing his grass so I never had to mow his grass. It was always after he mowed his grass that he would look for me, call me over and we’d sit sipping that cheap beer.
Jimmy passed away about 10 years ago and it saddened me deeply. I really loved his stories, even the ones I heard over and over, because each time he told them he told them like it was the first time he ever told anyone. Jimmy was a GREAT guy.
His wife remained behind and as my kids got older they helped her with things. We mainly kept to shoveling her walk in the winter, she had grandsons that mowed the lawn. As the years passed she became more and more frail and it got to the point that she could no longer care for herself and she moved in with her daughter. They asked us if we could mow the grass. We said we would mow the grass and shovel the walkway. The house has been left empty for three years now, the son in law pops in a couple of times a year to make sure everything is alright but mainly the house sits empty.
My kids have been mowing the grass for the past three years and while we told them we wouldn’t accept any pay, they send a popcorn gift basket to my kids every 2 or 3 months. My kids have grown up, they have lives and the grass was getting out of control. It’s a big yard, bigger than ours, and I was dreading mowing it but knew today I had to get over there and mow it. I mowed the front first and went into the back yard. I stood on the patio where Jimmy and I sat and shared a few cold ones and he shared his great adventures with me. I had been in that back yard a few times since Jimmy passed away but always with someone with me. Today I stood alone and remembered Jimmy like I hadn’t in a few years. The grass was so high in the back and even with it raised to the highest position I struggled with the mower to get through it.
I kept getting a strange feeling like I was needed some where or someone was watching me. I looked up to the back of the house and Jimmy was in the window looking at me, smiling. I looked at him for a good 5 seconds not believing what I was seeing but feeling really cool about it. I didn’t move, I didn’t wave I just smiled and Jimmy faded into the curtain that hung on the window.
I have to admit I got a little emotional over that, I finished mowing and walked back to my house feeling at first creeped out, but now feeling totally at ease. Jimmy is there, in the home he made as a young man. The home he raised his children in, loved his wife in, shared a cold one with friends and ultimately died in. He’s been lonely for a couple of years and I think today him seeing me gave him comfort and he was happy. I wish I could walk over there now and sit with him, sip a beer and listen to his stories again.
In the end seeing Jimmy brought some semblance of peace to me, I don’t know if you believe in ghost, I sure do, I’ve had too many encounters in my life not to, but today was special and good and it affirms to me that there is something so much more going on than we can ever really know, something beyond this life, whatever it is you believe in sometimes it takes a Jimmy to remind us.
My kids don’t believe me when I tell them that a Calculator was once State of the Art technology. That a simple calculator that added, subtracted, multiplied and divided cost over $100.00 at one time and was the stuff of wonder. That we used them as sort of video games to entertain ourselves by typing 8-0-0-8-5…because in primitive calculator days that looked like BOOBS (he he)…ahh the way we entertained ourselves.
They cannot imagine a time without IPods, videogames, cable television and cell phones. I found a simulation of Pong on the computer once and showed my son…he laughed at me and called me a Caveman. I showed him Mattel’s old hand held football games, you remember, the one with the little red blips that you maneuvered around other red blips to try to score a touchdown. We entertained ourselves for hours looking at red blips; a red blip now means I better head off to the doctor and get some ointment…damn I got the red blips!
When I tell them that the lunar module that landed on the moon had less computer power then a digital watch, I see that blank stare come across their faces…”A Digital watch isn’t a computer, Dad”. (SIGH)
I have a USB turntable, I bought it to record my old albums digitally so I could listen to them on my iPod…again my kids cannot believe we would listen to music that had Crack, Snapple and Pop singing background on every song we listened to.
The concept of going outside and actually playing Army is a concept that is not understood…why would you go out and play Army when you can load it up right there on your Play station and kill someone on the other side of the Country?
When I tell them that Cable Television once meant we were lucky to get 20 channels and that the cable box on top of the TV consisted of buttons we had to GET UP and push to change channels, they drool as they flip through over 900 channels on crystal clear Fiber Optic Television…Fiber Optics to us? That stupid tree looking thing in the plastic case that the ends changed colors on.
My very first computer, a commodore 64, had 64 BITS of memory…my first computer with a hard drive had a whopping 40 Megabyte Hard Drive and I was told that was all I would ever need…all I’d ever need?, the games my kids play online are Gigabytes big.
I still have my first “cell phone” remember the big giant Bag Phones…reception SUCKED, they didn’t work half the time but we carried them because we thought we looked cool. My kids complained to me until I got them a phone that had the slide out keyboard so they could text…I was cool for 5 minutes after they got them.
We entertained ourselves with things that kids would never be caught dead with today…anyone remember Squirmels? How about Lite-brite?…shrinky dinks?…Incredible Edibles?…doodle art?…Shaker Maker?…GI Joes with the Kung Fu Grip?…Yo Yos?…Frisbees?….Slip and Slides?…HECK a stick that looked like a gun!
We have these things because my generation and the generations before had dreams and ideas and inventions and breakthroughs came from these dreams and ideas. What you have before you today was born out of thousands of years of dreams and ideas. From the abacus to the ipad…from the wheel to the Segway…from balloon to exploring the cosmos. it was dreamed, it was invented and it’s changed our lives for better or worse.
My kids will never truly understand how we kept busy, how we made our own fun and God Help us if we EVER said we were bored; there were plenty of chores to be done. Yes times were simpler and I certainly do miss them, but looking at Boobs on a computer is a hell of a lot more fun than looking at boobs on a calculator!
I’ve spent almost a year watching you as a civilian with cops eyes. You see when I was a cop, you saw me and you straightened up, flew right so to speak. You slowed down, you put your phone down, wore your seatbelt, stopped at stop signs, got out of the left lane and did all the things you were supposed to do because you didn’t want a ticket. “Fuck that Cop, man”.
But when cops aren’t around you drive like assholes. Stop Sign? Who cares! Cell phone? I’m talking or texting you other people be damned! Lines on the road? Pfft, not for me!
I’ve been watching and I’m amazed that many of you ever arrive at your destination in one piece. I always say it’s a matter of time and unfortunately for some of you that will be true.
When I was a cop I always heard “Don’t you have anything else better to do”? My answer “Not at this moment”. “Why aren’t you out catching real criminals”? “Well I would be if you weren’t driving like a total douche”. No I never said that but man did I want to. You see traffic laws are in place for a reason, its proven that if you STOP at a stop sign, properly look both ways and YIELD to oncoming traffic it’s 99.9999999% non-fatal. Sure a tree branch could fall on you and crush your car even if you do everything right. It’s when you don’t do any of those things that you begin to run into trouble.
You don’t have a God given right to drive in the left lane, in fact the left lane is for PASSING only. Look it’s not enforced as a passing lane all that often, but if you are one of those “I’ll show them” type of people doing the speed limit in the left lane while people are whizzing by you on your right giving you the stink eye…YOU ARE A DOUCHE! Not the people speeding, they are moving with traffic YOU are the hazard and YOU will be pulled over. “I was doing the speed limit officer”! YOU were impeding the flow of traffic dummy. MOVE! If the speed limit says 55, it’s realistic to expect traffic to be doing 65, maybe even 70. Anything more than that you’re asking to get pulled over. But if you’re doing 55 or 56 in that left lane you’re going to have issues.
While we’re on the topic of speeding…if you’re going fast and suddenly see a police car running radar on the side of the road. Looking down to pretend you’re adjusting you radio doesn’t work. “If I don’t see him he can’t see me” is just wishful thinking. If we don’t pull out after you, consider yourself lucky. You either weren’t going fast enough for us to create a safety hazard tracking you down or we were asleep (WHAT? Cops never sleep!) There have been plenty of nice sunny warm days where I set up radar only to be lulled into drooling by the rhythmic sounds of traffic and the warmth of the sun. You of course pick that time to be lost, stop, get out of your car and tap on my window to ask for directions. For the record I was NOT asleep, I was using what’s known as the mind to radar unit technique in which we…aw forget it it’s complicated and you wouldn’t understand.
I hate talking on the phone! I hate talking on a cell phone I hate YOU when you’re talking on the cell phone…What’s the difference between talking on the cell phone and talking to someone in the car. Your hand is holding the cell phone or you have it sandwiched between your ear and your shoulder so you’re driving down the road with your head sideways! Hands free I can deal with it, but not when you’re on the phone in the left freaking lane doing 25 in a 55 because you CAN NOT DO TWO THINGS AT ONCE! Hang the fuck up! And texting while driving…What are you a freaking idiot?!? Seriously, you’re 45 years old why are you texting anyone to begin with. But even if you are, because as you’ve told me when I pulled you over, “It’s an emergency” Something that was so dire required you to type each word in. It couldn’t wait for you to get home and break the news to the family that Grandma just died, NO you cold callous miserable person that was news you decided needed to be texted. Shame on you…GET THE HELL OFF THE PHONE and DRIVE!
Cops make you nervous I get it. You see a cop and suddenly its ass pucker time, but if you aren’t doing something wrong why worry. Guilty conscious? Shit I hope he didn’t see me do that. Or oh CRAP I was speeding where did he come from I didn’t see him. Then they pass you because theyhave better things to do or they’re going to catch real criminals and you just flat out disrespect us. “Fuck you, cop”. That’s so uncalled for and frankly it’s pretty darn hurtful. What? You don’t think the NSA is listening to you in your car and reporting to us? Silly, we heard you singing Jessie’s Girl at the top of your lungs!
And for the Love of GOD, those lines on the road they aren’t a suggestion, hey maybe drive here. Stay in those lines. Don’t straddle them, don’t put your tire on it as if it will magically guide you home. Only do these things when you are drunk. Always remember when you are drunk use the lines as a guide, straddle the lines. Weave back and forth in complete freedom, this way you’ll signal to the cops you’re drunk and you can have a party in the back seat of the cop car. It’s so cool, they take you on a ride along, and you get to see the inside of a police station (the inner workings) not the lobby like those other lame-o’s. You get to blow into a really cool machine and see the inside of a jail cell. And then you get to share the moment with a friend or a loved one when they come pick you up in the middle of the night. Sounds like fun. If you’re really special and you treat the officer poorly, and spit on him, and kick him or punch him you’ll get to see how officers use their hands to subdue people. More fun you say? Refuse to cooperate even when the officer tells you to stop resisting and then you get to feel and taste what really really really really really really hot peppers feel like…they feel like FREAKING DEATH! You don’t want that, unless you’re Goth and then maybe you do. I don’t know.
Hey but what do I know, I’m a civilian that watches you drive like an asshole every day, I’ll make it to my destination, unfortunately you’ll probably make it to your Final Destination. (Did I just reference a movie? I sure did!!!!!)
Move over, stop, yield, put the phone down, slow down or speed up, stay in your lane, don’t drink and drive, eat your vegetables, tell your family you love them and don’t have unprotected sex with a stranger, follow those rules and you’ll be ok kid!
I sat down to write a comedy bit about parenting and instead this was written. For My Kids
I spent the better part of my adult life not as happy as I could have been. None of that has to do with you kids, you make me happier than anything ever could. My greatest accomplishment in life is you three children. I am immensely proud of you and am astonished everyday at the people you’ve become.
I spent so much time feeling unfulfilled. I remained far too long in a job that while it was steady and provided for us left me empty and unhappy. I’m chasing it now and that’s good but for too long I trapped myself and there was no way for me to escape. So many things I wanted to do that were swept under the rug, put on the back burner and never fulfilled. I would hate for that to happen to you. I never want you to look back and say what if…Don’t Wait. Some of the advice here is stuff that’s been said countless times by others, but I want to convey a few things to you.
Besides laws that need to be followed there are NO RULES in life. Don’t follow any, As long as its lawful do what makes you happy. No matter what it is. If college isn’t your thing DON’T GO. IF you want to travel…GO! Find your way to the places you want to see and NEVER worry about leaving your parents behind. Experience life to its fullest. Don’t worry about what we might think, if you’re happy then we are happy. If loving someone of the same sex or a different race or nationality is what your heart tells you is right WHO am I to say your heart is wrong. BE with who makes you HAPPY. There is no greater joy for a parent then to see their children happy.
Don’t worry what others will think, be YOU. Never let lack of confidence stop you from anything. Summon the courage and do it. Get up and try it. Dance, act, sing, run, invent, run for president. You can never achieve anything if you don’t first take a step forward and try.
Everyday BREATHE in life deeply and chase the adventure. If you feel stagnant, MOVE, follow the dream, the adventure, and make your life exciting. When you have a family, place them on the top of your list and share the adventure with them. Instill in your children the excitement that is life! Encourage them to explore and watch them blossom. Enjoy every second. Take the time to smell the roses. Soak in a sunrise or a sunset. Take your headphones off and listen to the wind, the birds, the crashing of the waves the heartbeat of the one you love. These sounds are the greatest hits ever. Don’t get caught up in commercial items. Life is wondrous and beautiful…BREATHE IT IN!
Love and let yourself be loved. Don’t be afraid to give your heart to someone and, equally, don’t be afraid to take someone’s heart. Sometimes your heart or their heart might break but never let that stop you from loving. Your family and friends are your marks on life. Let them know how important they are to you.
Laugh, at yourself and at others (When appropriate). As you get older lines begin to show on your face, make those creases of laughter not of worry and frowning.
Above all, NEVER WISH you had something. Go out and get it. I did a lot of wishing and I regret it. Void your life of wishes, because you’ll spend too much time thinking of those wishes and not making them happen. Instead make them goals and go out and achieve them and you’ll never have regrets. When you wish upon a Shooting Star they burn out quickly and so will wishes. Capture the brightness of that star, however brief it is, and infuse that light into your life. You’ll be happier for it.
I’m not sure what I thought I’d get out of this trip; I’m not even sure what it was I was looking for. I thought maybe I was still seeking closure in my relationship with my father. It was 7 years ago last week that my father died; he was cremated and interned in Arlington. We kept some of his ashes and my sister and I spread some at the Vietnam War Memorial because my father was a Vietnam Vet and that war screwed him up something fierce. We also spread some at the Law Enforcement Memorial because my father was a great Police Officer and retired Chief of his Department. I struggled to be my dad for many years…I learned that wasn’t such a good thing, but I wanted to return him, well a part of him, home to West Virginia-a place he spoke fondly of often. I made that promise to take him home, it took me 7 years but that was my journey.
As we all are Dad was flawed and many of his traits were not the best, I loved him deeply but at times didn’t like the man. The relationship I had with my dad when it was good was cop to cop not father to son. I don’t think I ever got that father to son relationship. When I was 17 he told me I couldn’t stay at home any longer because he didn’t want me to be a lazy bum-he didn’t know what I would do because I was still in High School WHO KNOWS WHERE LIFE WILL TAKE US. So when I left for this journey as I took my father’s ashes out of the Lenox bowl he’d been sitting in for 7 years I said look who was lying around the house being a bum! I packed him up and off I went.
I thought I’d find something along the way, some revelation, that I’d have these imaginary conversations with my dad in the car and everything would resolve itself. Perhaps I’d even find some funny out there on the road that would make this epic comedy bit that I could craft into a killer set on stage. Instead I got BLANK. I thought of NOTHING, no conversations with Dad, and no funny stories. I found peace and solitude and comfort in my mind. I thought a flood of emotion would wash over me I didn’t get it. I got serenity. I feel emotionally drained but I think it’s because, believe it or not I found inner peace.
As I was leaving the hotel to deliver my father to his home soil “Dust in the Wind” came on. I posted that to Facebook and people said it was your father coming to you and speaking to you. I don’t think so; my father would have come to me with Mitch Miller or some Bluegrass. I don’t think it was a coincidence, I believe it was a sign to tell me it was ok, because Nothing Last Forever but the Earth and Sky. The message was clear to me. My hurt and pain is over…gone…finished.
When I spread Dad’s ashes I poured them in my hand first to touch him one last time, I had hoped I’d feel his presence, I did not, I had hoped I’d feel emotion, I did not. I felt wet feet from the dew, I felt the cool breeze on my face, I heard the birds singing and I simply said good bye.
I hope that if our spirits do roam in places we loved that my father finds those streams he fished and swam in as a kid. That he finds his favorite tree that he climbed growing up, that he finds his friends from his youth that have also passed and they run through country meadows and catch frogs and do whatever they did that made them so happy as children. That he finds peace and happiness home in West Virginia.
I found that I didn’t need closure after all, I needed opening.
I’ll head home tomorrow.
The countdown clock that I’ve watched to mark this moment has only hours left until it reads zero. When it reaches zero no confetti will drop, no band will play and no balloons will be released. It will simply mark the retirement of a police officer. My replacement is already hired; in fact I did the background check on him, a young kid, eager to start a career as a police officer and to change the world. I’ll turn in my badge and gun, say good bye to my co-workers and walk out the door for the last time as a Police Officer. The department will not miss a beat, the hallways may get quieter with me gone but it won’t miss a beat. Crime will not stop, investigations will need to get done, and people will call for help. It will all move forward without me. Someday the rookie hired to replace me will start counting down the days until he retires.
Can I sum up a career in several pages of type, no; there are tons of things I could never convey. Moments that are trapped that I don’t even remember yet. Faces I see, voices I hear, moments I relive. I will miss it. I will always be a cop, no matter what else I do in life I will ALWAYS be part of the brotherhood. I loved it so, even though at times it exasperated me.
I can, however with a quote from Robert Frost, sum up the police profession without me in it as well as my life without being a police officer in three words.
It Goes On.
Thanks for reading.