Saturday, July 25, 2009


I spent a week in Sacramento along with my wife being nannies for our ten week old grandson. In spite of the over one hundred degree weather, we had a great time getting to know our little grandson while our daughter-in-law was in rehearsal for Into The Woods. It’s amazing how one little kid can keep two older adults fully occupied. Whenever he got fussy, I’d take him for a ride in his stroller and that would calm him down or put him to sleep. His favorite attraction was a large blue vending machine that glowed and hummed. Watching this seemed to put him in a happy trance as if communing with something on another plane. I did take off one day to drive over to the Bay Area and give a talk and sign books at Ed Kaufman’s wonderful bookstore, M Is For Mystery, in San Mateo. This was also a chance to catch up with old college friends and cool off from the hot Sacramento weather.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Arrogance and Lighthouses

I’ve never been able to get away with being arrogant. Whenever I’ve started feeling I’m hot stuff, I’ve had a comeuppance. When I played competitive tennis as a kid, I would start thinking I was really something, then I’d get beaten by an unranked player. At school I’d think I was pretty smart, then I’d do poorly on a test. At work I’d feel I was better than everyone else, then I’d do something dumb that put me back in my place. Arrogance is the flip size of inferiority. Feeling better than or less than takes away from just being. I’ve ping-ponged back and forth between these two frauds, first feeling on top of the world then after a comeuppance feeling no good, like a squished bug. So why not just be? I know for me it’s getting in the trap of comparing myself to others. Am I a better writer than the other guy? Am I smarter? Am I a better husband, better grandparent? We, as human beings, seem to always be classifying people. This person fits in this pigeonhole and that person in another. Why do these things matter? I started asking this question in high school where we had all the cliques such as jocks, popular kids and brains. I hung out with some of the jocks since I was a good athlete and the smart kids because I did well in school. Then my senior year I made a random group of friends who weren’t classified. We just enjoyed each others’ company without any labels. The truth is we can always find someone who is superior or inferior to us in some dimension. So rather than trying to feel better than or worrying about being lesser than, we just need to be what we are. My favorite story about arrogance is this. On a stormy night two men looked out and saw each other’s signal lights. The first sent a message, “Move aside.” The second sent a message back, “No, you move aside.” The first puffed out his chest and said to his first mate, “Nobody orders me to do that.” He sent out the message, “You move aside, I’m a battleship.” Then the response came back. “You move aside, I’m a lighthouse.”

Friday, July 10, 2009

What happens if you swear at a police officer

What happens if you swear at a police officer? This morning I participated in another police training exercise in which another volunteer and I exhibited strange behavior and the use of fighting words. The strange behavior came easy for me. I wandered around the park where we conducted the exercise waving my arms and acting zoned out. Then when the pairs of police officers-in-training showed up, my roll playing required that I swear at them until they warned me against using fighting words and when I continued, they arrested me. During the morning I insulted six police officers, got cuffed four times, picked up a knife which I was told to drop, and had a concealed gun in my pocket. All part of a day’s work. As role players we were given driver’s licenses that had been previously confiscated. When asked for identification, we turned over these licenses which the officers used to call in our identification. One interesting coincidence occurred. One of the police officers-in-training actually recognized the name on the license that my fellow role player was using. It was someone he had gone to school with in Ohio. Talk about a small world.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Police Training Exercise

I had an opportunity to participate in another police training exercise. This time I role played someone illegally camping. I spent most of a sunny morning sitting in a reclining camping chair while new police officers in pairs showed up to give me a ticket. It wasn’t stressing work and the intent was to give them a first experience in writing tickets and calling in information. I had been given a driver’s license that they used to check out my identity. In a second scenario my buddy and I roll played drinking and being obnoxious (I don’t drink but the obnoxious part came easily). In one instance the police officers had to cuff me. We ended the morning with a picnic just as a thunder storm rolled in. I encourage anyone who is interested to volunteer for this type of exercise with a local police department. It provides a needed service for the police and also insights into what police officers have to deal with.