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Thread: Daily Bread

  1. #241
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    “Life is a dream. Death...an awakening.”
    Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy

    You are sitting with your oldest son at the Market House diner. Built in 1870 and run as a place for local farmers to sell produce and wares, it has operated continuously for almost a century and a half. A two story brick structure with a portico completely around the outside for vendors to display their vegetables.....it’s a taproot that refuses to be pulled out of the ground of history. Your father-in law used to ride a mule ten miles from a little farm into this place when he was a child. You keep looking at the pictures hung on the wall from that era expecting to see him there, city slicker hat tilted down over one eye, worn out shoes clinging to his toes.

    But today you sit at a a small table, your son thumbs his smartphone chugging a root beer and you sip hot coffee from a white mug. It’s a tradition. He helps you with some errands, you buy him lunch, you both get to stay informed on any new details of life. You’ve ordered one of your favorite meals, a short stack of blueberry flapjacks with link sausageand real maple syrup milked from a stand of trees on the outskirts of town. He gets what he always gets. A bacon cheeseburger, onions, lettuce, tomato and fries. You’ve never been disappointed in the meal or the price tag. The waitress is efficient and timely.

    You never can be ready for this sort of thing, it always comes from out of nowhere. Your son looks up from his phone, hesitates for a moment and ....then tells you your childhood hero is dead. It sort of takes your breath away but he passes the phone over and the headline confirms it. The font seems especially dark and bold.

    Your mind immediately goes back to a small baseball field of your youth and a team of scraggly looking ten year olds coached by your father. One of those ten year olds is you, one is the son of your childhood hero. His dad plays Major League Baseball. That makes him a God of sorts. Your teammate is wearing an old first baseman’s mitt that is four times too big for his hand but he plays brilliantly with it. It belongs to his father. He also has his father’s ability to play.

    One game the regular catcher fails to show up. You get volunteered to catch for the son of your childhood hero. No problem, this is going to be fun. The first warmup pitch is like nothing you’ve ever caught. He’s left handed and the pitch tails left to right. It also is passed your mask before you get your catchers glove up. The ball sticks in the fencing in the backstop. That’s all you remember about the way he pitched. But you never forget the way he hit.

    You play on baseball teams with him up through high school. Every year it was the same. Line drives repeatedly sail over the fence. He gets drafted out of high school but goes to college. He is the best college player in the country one year, and wins an award to prove it. He plays Major League Baseball just like his dad, your childhood hero. And he manages Major League Baseball and wins two World Series Rings.

    As a child you saved every baseball card he ever appeared on. Your youngest son now has them framed on his wall at home.

    What makes a real hero to a boy? He's someone the boy wants to be like but not someone bigger than life itself. He’s honest, true, committed and maybe not so immortal after all. He returns to his hometown and works to make things better for new generations of kids simply wanting to be the best they can. He’s the kind of guy who would show up at your father’s funeral and tell you what a great person your old man was. He would apologize for his son that he could not be there. He might walk out on the mound of a World Series game and throw out the first pitch and the next day share a chili dog with you at the hometown hot dog shop.

    You finish your last blueberry pancake sausage maple syrup combination and chase it with a swig of coffee. You leave a twenty dollar bill on the table with a tip. Your son says, “You ready?” and you reply, “ Yeah, .....I think so.”

  2. #242
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    You've been in the criminal investigation unit for ten years. There’s not much you haven't seen. It’s been a big trade off. Even after all these years you can appreciate not having to wear the uniform, not carrying the weight of body armor and a gun belt that pulls your hips down like a ball and chain. How are you supposed to chase the bad guy with all this on?

    Twice a year though, you have to get that uniform on and stand for inspection before a Major. If you’ve been working diligently in cases, you likely haven’t paid attention that you put on ten pounds since the last inspection. Standing in front of your locker, you pull out every pair of uniform pants and Discover that’s the waist is about two sizes too small. You place a call to the supply officer at Troop Headquarters and arrange for an upgrade. You start to think that you are getting too old for this even though you are barely 50 years of age.

    There are some important cases that need work but it seems there is a constant requirement for you to do distractions. Twice a year firearms qualifications, legal updates, vehicle maintenance, the list goes on. Meanwhile, everyday new stuff happens. The corporal walks into the unit room with a stack of reports submitted by first responding Troopers. He tosses a report on each desk. Sometimes he has to make two rounds before they are all distributed. The real time killer is the background investigation for new cadets. It takes two weeks to rid yourself of that cement block.

    And stuff keeps happening. It is a relentless barrage that refuses to stop for any reason. Doesn’t matter what your resources are, handle it the best you can. So your life becomes a triage unit for other people’s problems, and tortures. You will be second guessed by supervision, coworkers, victims, suspects and the legal profession all the way up the the Commonwealth Supreme Court.

    You havent survived ten years of this without developing coping strategies. Some of them are better than others. The drinking is not one that helps in the long run but is wonderful for temporary relief. You become very detail oriented. It’s a matter of putting in the work so you don’t have to face the second guessing. Of course, sometimes you make quick decisions that commit you to one thing or another without a safety net. That’s just part of the job. But many times, you create your own destiny by either failing to be diligent or working like a mule. You prefer to work like a mule. It helps you sleep at night.

    Eventually all this detail become obsessive. You go out of your way to nail down one last piece of evidence or the testimony of one last witness. A lot of it never gets used in court. But the sheer volume of evidence and the obvious diligence in reporting is notice by defense attorneys. They get their clients to plead before trials are even scheduled. It keeps you off the witness stand and clears out valuable time for working on still more cases.

    Thats great. You avoid plenty of hassles related to due process but the closed cases just make room for new ones. You can’t help but think about the Lucille Ball routine in the chocolate candy factory. The conveyor belt speeds up until Lucy is eating the chocolate and stuffing it in her blouse in order to keep up.

    All this in your own back yard but the world at large is having its own set of problems. Buildings falling from terrorist attacks, planes dropping from the sky, federal agencies in standoff’s, ......it’s a jungle out there.

    You dont realize it but your skills in criminal investigation and doggedness has earned you a reputation. They are starting to call you Monk, after the television detective with obessessive compulsive disorder. Yep, it’s a jungle out there.

    https://youtu.be/xBdF3E2NVI8

  3. #243
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    There are incidents that happen while working that don’t cause you a stack of paperwork and aggravation. But not many. You are working the 3-11 shift and you are the only criminal investigator on duty in the county except for possibly one working for the city police department in the county seat. At the start of the shift you attend roll call.

    Roll call is a meeting of all the officers and their supervisor where current information is passed out. Zones are assigned and their respective property checks. As a criminal investigator, you have no zones. For the most part, the county is your zone but adjacent stations often ask for assistance in order to beef up manpower for a particular mission. You might be asked to collect probable cause, assemble it in an affidavit and call out a district justice to issue a search or arrest warrant. You might be asked to interview a witness or victim and prepare a statement. You might be assigned an interrogation of a suspect.

    The uniformed officers do the grunt work and are usually the muscle. Unless there is a serious incident like a barricaded gunman ....then a Special Emergency Response Team will assemble by driving 110 miles per hour from their residence to the incident command center where they will meticulously plan three strategies to deal with the problem. One will involve the termination of the suspect. The most favorable outcome is that the negotiator develops a repoir with the suspect and he surrenders peacefully. This all take a long time. Meanwhile, you wait or you obtain search warrants for them.

    At the end of roll call you are the last to speak. You remind everyone of serial burglaries that are occurring, provide them with information relative active warrants of arrest or you say that you have no5hing for the good of the order. Usually, somebody says, “Be safe out there.”

    There are few jobs you can think of where at the start of art of the day, you have no clue what is going to be required of you. In a way, it is exhilarating. For some it is an intoxicarion, they glory in it. For you, it is simply something you do to the best of your ability. It is mostly about helping people not being a super hero. Thats fortunate because your weaknesses are always just under the surface of that thin skin of authority. Not everyone appreciates your efforts.

    So you grab your shoulder holster put in on like a shirt. The weight of a large caliber handgun rests in your armpit and the counter balance of two ten round magazines hangs under your other. There is one .45 caliber round in the chamber and ten more to follow in the magazine. You don’t ever consider what this really represents. It says, not everybody out there wants you to be safe. It says that you are willing to respond with deadly force if necessary. You have trained to shoot to stop the action. In reality it means placing two projectiles dead center in someone’s chest. It’s called double tap. And you train to respond this way.

    You slap a set of handcuffs into the small of your back hanging on your pants belt. That’s pretty much it. No body armor, no taser, no backup gun, no expandable baton, no pepper spray. This is the way you like it. Light and uncomplicated. Yes, one more thing....a notebook, a flashlight and a pen.

    Your self imposed mission today is to try to find someone you have a warrant for. Taking another uniformed officer with you would be intelligent. You don’t. Nobody ever accused you of being a extremely bright. You can’t afford to tie up a zone patrol just because you think you might find a wanted person. You wait until that probability is certain then you get one to back you up. Sometimes you stumble on the suspect and get lucky. You’ve probably gotten use to talking people into doing something they’d don’t want to. And you rely on that a little too much.

    As you travel you monitor the calls to the patrols. You don’t have to volunteer for anything. But you hear a unit dispatched to a residence with a young girl at home alone and a prowler at her door. She’s got a gun for protection but the guy is trying to get in. You happen to be passing close by. You radio in and pick up the call. The average response time is 20 minutes. A lot can happen in twenty minutes. But this time it only takes a few. The dispatcher remains on the phone with the girl. She is frantic and says she has locked herself in the bathroom near the kitchen. The dispatcher can hear loud banging which seems to be the suspect kicking the door down. As you pull in you do so without lights or siren. It is better to be stealthy. You see a figure flee from the front door and disappear behind the house. You have never been here before and don’t know much about the area. As you leave your car, you know the cell phone in you pocket is the only way you can stay in contact with the dispatcher. You give chase and round the corner of the house out into the darkness.

  4. #244
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    It’s been several weeks and I have been unable to complete the little story that resides above, though I thought I could and I have tried. The coffee pot percolates encouragement, it is powerless to bring this about. For now, I cannot let you go around that corner. What happened thereafter remains locked in a special room that provides its own safe space like the child who is hiding in the bathroom above. None of these stories are for entertainment per se.

    I can tell you that the girl eventually was given the all clear notice by other officers and she gratefully invited them into her life that night. They found her gun, a .357 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver, laying on the kitchen table loaded with .357 magnum hollow points with the trigger cocked and ready for action. She didn’t know how to uncock it or unload it but she could have pointed and shot it. And she would have had to had the suspect gotten in. How things could have happened differently had you arrived a minute later might drive you nuts if you dwelt on it. So you don’t.

    ***********

    The little percolator falls silent. The coffee is especially good today. Coming out of the gym it is mostly dark, cold and icy but the sky has a sliver of the moon hanging just above the horizon and the blue of the atmosphere is waiting to reveal itself. There are airplane entrails crisscrossing the sky. Business persons rocketing from New York City and Boston toward Washington DC or Atlanta. This winter has been especially harsh with accumulations of snow just under 200 inches for the season. A large front end loader works to remove tons of snow from the hospital parking lot. Instead of a bucket it is equipped with a giant sized box that lifts dump truck sized mounds of snow onto 15 foot piles. The piles obscure whole buildings that are usually part of the landscape. As it backs up an annoying intermittent beeping can be heard.

    As as I walk to the truck I hear two cardinals singing a duet. They are probably male and female and I stop to listen. The cardinal and it’s bright red plumage is a welcome addition to the stark winter landscape. When no other bird will sing....a cardinal will. If birds had police departments the cardinal would be an officer. With spring not far away but impossible to conceive of right now, I am thankful for the cardinal to remind me how life is never stagnant. I can’t see them but I can picture them sitting on a a maple branch with their feathers puffed out, their heads buried in the crease at the top of their breast and their bright red bill announcing that winter does not totally rule the day.

    At backyard feeders across the frozen northeast, cardinals are spreading their therapy.

    I found this New York Times article about the cardinal to be of interest.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/n...ching-nyc.html

  5. #245
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    It has been 20 days since last I posted. I am conflicted to even do so today. Twenty days ago I embarked on an experiment with silence. Removing myself from the noise of the internet except to pay the bills, I have relied on the local newspaper for my information on daily life, my wife checks the emails and I restricted internet use to research on “silence, solitude and calm” for the most part. This is not a total act of cold turkey.

    I only post in order to satisfy the imbalance I feel for having seemingly vanished without explanation but at the same time I did not want to break from my forum fast and start again. The first three days there was an urge to share thoughts and opinions. I will probably have to fight those off again.

    I dont mean to seem to be making a big deal of this. It is certainly not a deal at all to anyone but me and I have foolishly made that mistake in the past. Truth is I don’t know if I will be returning later today or never again. And after this first experiment with silence, I can say reflectively that I currently don’t hold some of the so called “truths” I may have posted in the past 2,698 entries on this forum. I have found that quiet contemplation and the reduction of the “noise” of the internet has allowed me to tear down some poorly design ideologies and face a landscape of opportunity to be a seeker and not a proselytizer.

    I am very fortunate to have an environment filled with relatively quiet spaces where I could exercise these investigations into the nature of silence and its relationship to humanness and the universe. For me, it will always carry an element of the Almighy simply based on my childhood exposure to silent prayer meetings. One way of describing God has been to place human characteristics of love, forgiveness, Father, Son and such but I have always since the first day as a child walking into the woods and sitting down aside a waterfall, understood God as silence.

    I also don’t mean to espouse that anyone else needs to carrying the same convictions. I only say this is right for me at this time in this place. As a resident of Penns Woods it is not lost on me that my early seventeenth and certainly eighteenth century ancestors hailed from Gloucester County New Jersey, an area populated by Quakers. And so I have investigated the unique take Quakerism has on silence and it’s use in worship.

    The internet is a loud noisy place not compatible with this type of adventure........a black hole of controversy and competing ideologies. It requires a great deal of self restraint to keep the negative aspects of the medium from overtaking the positive.

    And so for now, I will leave you with these words to contemplate until we again exchange ideas.....

    ”Never marry but for love; but see that thou lovest what is lovely.”

    — William Penn

  6. #246
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    William Smith, So glad to hear all is well and that your experiment in silence is fulfilling. Are you journaling? I'll miss your writing if you choose to leave, but it makes sense to do what you need.

  7. #247
    Simpleton Alan's Avatar
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    Hello darkness, my old friend
    I've come to talk with you again
    Because a vision softly creeping
    Left its seeds while I was sleeping
    And the vision that was planted in my brain
    Still remains
    Within the sound of silence
    "Things should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler." ~ Albert Einstein

  8. #248
    Senior Member KayLR's Avatar
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    Williamsmith---your words will stay with me all day, maybe longer. Good to hear from you, and I wish you peace.
    My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already!

  9. #249
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing that, Williamsmith. I can identify strongly. Silence is an oasis to me the older I get. I devoted a Lent to it a couple of years back.

    Today
    by Mary Oliver

    Today I’m flying low and I’m
    not saying a word.
    I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

    The world goes on as it must,
    the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
    the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
    And so forth.

    But I’m taking the day off.
    Quiet as a feather.
    I hardly move though really I’m traveling
    a terrific distance.

    Stillness. One of the doors
    into the temple.

    Oliver, Mary. “Today.” A Thousand Mornings. New York: The Penguin Press, 2012. p.23. Print.

    Godspeed on your interior journey, and know that you have friends here that will be looking forward to hearing from you from time to time.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
    www.silententry.wordpress.com

  10. #250
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Thank you, Williamsmith. It is good that you are finding your own path. It is less than good, in my view, in that we cannot be along for the ride. But these discoveries are, IMHO, what the simple life is all about. I would be glad if our patths can cross again someday. If not, I wish you the best in life.
    If Americans expended even a fraction of the energy on civic engagement that we spend on consumer ideology, our democracy would be much healthier. Can you imagine people camping out to vote? -- Charles Roberts, Amherst, Mass., Nov. 25, 2006

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