As we all struggle to understand “our” sense of self, it’s important to look back and remember where we came from. To understand our past we don’t always have to regress to adolescence, but to time in our lives that upon review and reflection represented a tipping point; a chnage in our personal cosmic scale. For me it was living home for the first time; first time away from mom, away from the guilt of parental rules and boundries. College was that time for me. I brgan to expereince new things, new people, new ideas, new relationships, and, for the first time I was thinking ahead. What represents the tipping of the karmic scales for you?
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As I walk around my university campus I am humbled when I see students, some known to me , others not, carrying the book or sitting around reading and talking about Drifters. For me it’s surreal, an out-of-body experience.
Contributing to that interest I think is the fact that so many seniors are graduating in the Spring of 2014. I teach a senior seminar that is called a capstone class, in other words, seniors need to take it to move onto and into the real world; onto their personal quest for ma career in law enforcement oft the boarder field of criminal justice. Continue reading
OK, now it’s real. I have held the book and processed the entire “process,” if that’s even possible. Friends say they love it and those that I expected to be a bit adversarial have not disappointed me. Questions about the authenticity of stories; critiques and questions about the reasons for this and that, and of “me” crossing the lines of confidentiality and circumventing the legal process are in a word, entertaining. You would think those schooled in the First Amendment, oh, never mind.
It’s only been a week, but as a realist and self-prophesied medium of cultural dysfunction; the jabs and barbs whispered and rumored are errant shots across my brow. Continue reading
I was surprised when I found this out, because everything was quiet on the home front. I was building my website, blogging and anticipating November 16th. Then, family and friends began to call, blowing up my phone and bombarding me with questions and comments laced with and confusion; confusion about why I never mentioned writing a book. Fear of failure was my quick answer, opening the flood gates and becoming public once again after two years of self-imposed exile was another.
Now, Drifters is out. A happy accident, a premature release (get yours minds out of the gutter). It is now day two. I’m amazed at the expanse of social media. I’m reconnecting with friends from Europe and far-away places, and friends who were always close by, but closed off somehow. It seems that the initial drift of Drifters is in very friendly waters. Waiting for day three, tomorrow and beyond. This is fun.
It’s Alive! said Frankenstein to no on in particular except his creation, his monster, his baby! I got Drifters yesterday. I held it and turned it over, and shook it up and down, feathered the pages and looked inside. It’s a real book; looks like a book. WOW, no shit-who knew. Something very surreal about holding your book for the first time. Hard to explain. In the moment I wanted to write another one, hold that one too, but as stress and anxiety melted into contentment, I took a breath and sat down. Now what?
Give me a few days…………………………………..
After 52 years, I returned to my elementary school. I was asked to talk to the 4th and fifth-grades about bullying and respect and empathy and anything else I wanted to share as a special guest speaker. When I walked into the school I was transported to 1963. I was in the second-grade again. We were let out of school early because something had happened on the news and the adults were upset. I was, we were, too young to understand anything about a Presidential Assassination. All we knew was that school was over for the day; a couple of days actually.
As I walked through the school that day it was obvious that the school was smaller than I remember. The doors not as big, the auditorium not as spacious, the bathrooms not for giants. I remember we stood for prayer every morning, and nobody seemed to care. We hide under desks as a drill against the big bad Russians and their bombs. We quivered as planes and jets broke the sound barrier and the bang and boom sent us under our desks again. The floors still squeak. The smells are the same. The school was once again alive in my mind and in my senses. I recalled old friends long since forgotten; memories of fun and laughter and sour milk and lunch boxes.
What a great day! Oh Yah, the kids were great with their laptops and cell phones and media rooms and electronic resources, and their ideas about society and friendships and history and all things, good and bad. We talked a lot, and I listened a lot.
They were the special speakers I had come to see, not the other way around. And they had me at hello!
Bob Segar wrote a song called Against the Wind, an anthem I can appreciate, as can any adult who has struggled to keep moving forward.
Trying to think ahead and organize book chapters so that they progress in a logical and sensible way is not easy; what to leave in and what to leave out became a battle of ideas, some that begged for teachable moments, some that lead to new revelations and opportunities for growth.
I wanted my book to follow the central idea of proactive solutions to past behavior, an oxymoron that closes the barn door after the horses have run off. I wanted the behavior that I talk about in chapter one to be relevant in later chapters, an progression of discipline; ideas about redemption and restitution, both psychological and monetary.
With my Drifting characters finding teachable moments was like shooting fish in a barrel, knucklehead behavior is often boisterous, transparent and ridiculous, the foundation of which is spontaneous and damning. Easy to identify on the face of it, but more difficult to address because the remedies and recipes for correction are not always effective. So with each delinquent I studied their responses, investigated their life outside of school, monitored their friendships and spoke with the adults in their lives. Still, understanding the architecture of their souls was hit and miss.
Humans right? And I’m very human and not an expert on much, if anything. So as I talk about my chapters and character’s within, you will see my human side in all its glory; its dysfunction, its perception of things, its faults; its funny reactions and serious interventions, life experiences-good and bad.
There are many layers to my onion, that just sounds wrong doesn’t it.
To be continued…
Each day patrolling the high school halls was an adventure, and each day I confronted and was confronted by knucklehead behavior. That is, behavior that made me ask: Are you serious? What were you thinking? Are you kidding me? Sometimes I’d laugh, sometimes I’d yell and curse, sometimes I pulled my handcuffs and other times I wished I had a ray-gun, one touch and the offenders would be toast, obliterated -out of sight.
The ones I wanted out-of-sight were my knuckleheads. Drifters introduces the reader to a gaggle of individuals. I had an ODD menace, a fight promoter and his stable of fighters; a deviant pirate; a haunted bus; a gambling, dice rolling group; a couple of fake gangs; a Goth-filled room of alternative life-styles; a gypsy kid and his clan; a loan shark, leg-breaker want-a-bee and rugby team full of barbers; several other knucklehead candidates will be introduced in spite of their deviant malfunctions. Auditions for a place in the pages of Drifters was often spontaneous, like a rogue thunderstorm that bangs constantly, but never goes away.
These were my usual suspects. I loved these kids and at times I hated them, alright I never hated them, I hated their behavior. I worried about them, stuck up for them, knocked a few down a peg or two and always had their backs (when I could), even when they hated me and I was outnumbered. At school, for about seven hours a day, they were my dysfunctional family and because of that, my life changed- in a good way.
They brought a certain light to my life and I brought life to their stories.
Knuckleheads exist everywhere. They invade our personal spaces, television and video screens, our conversations and cause us to roll our eyes and shake our heads. Some days I was a knucklehead. I knew it and as I grew older I learned to embrace it. We’re human after all, but some are better at it than ours; that is, realizing our faults and frailties and moving on.
Within each chapter of Drifters you will meet a new knucklehead. You will experience their malfunctions and hopefully you will understand why I did what I did with each. All their problems represented teachable moments and I tried to interact with them on a basal level, you know, look ‘em in the eyes and use commonsense tempered with a combination of threat-laced consequences, compassion and compromise. I never talked down to my charges.
My tone was usually soft and direct, but my surprise was never filtered as I reveled in their stupidity. Yes, knuckleheads did stupid things. They were not necessarily stupid, but their behavior was often new to me, their drift too fast.
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Each school day was an adventure and I loved every minute of it.
Jack, why a book and why now? Relax; you’re not a cop anymore they would say. Just teach, you like teaching right? There are no easy answers to internal questions; questions of the soul. For me, anyhow.
Too many questions and not enough fortune cookies holding the answers.
You’d think that once someone reaches retirement age, they’d cruise into the sunset and relax while doing very little. No deadlines. No 4am wake-up calls and no more 18 hours days. No stress. No jealousy. No superior-subordinate tensions. No more soap opera rumors. No hurtful lies. No moles making mountains out of their tiny hills.
For me, it was difficult to give up police work. It had been my routine every day since late 1978. All of my experiences and accomplishments and good work reduced to the rush of air through an open door and then, with the breeze, you’re gone. I had put myself through school to improve my interactions with at risk kids and their families. And as I aged with my job, you’d think that I would be sought out, not banished. Respected, not pushed aside like dirty laundry.
But in the end, it was a narrow vision of power that pushed me toward the light, as in the fading twinkle of my career light.
There were many subtle and not so subtle warning signs that hastened my escape to civilian-hood that were like bright-light omens. A favorite was a display of newly acquired power by a new boss; his ascension to power a game-changer for many. These displays were always one-on-one and behind closed doors. Many were on days that my health was fragile. Defensible Deniability. More of a face slap. I was being replaced by another officer who had a run-in with a supervisor. I was, like the knuckleheads in my book, drifting. Classic insult to injury stuff. Now, as I think out loud, I wonder where the management theory was that emerged with the new administration. Aligning yourself with experienced, professional employees is basic leadership 101; cutting highly trained employees has a disastrous history. It’s like rearranging deck furniture on a sinking ship.
And in a Boston-minute, my tenure and time as an SRO had ended. It was done. I was dumbfounded because I thought it outrageous to believe that just anyone could be a school resource officer. So many years of training, in and out of school; a dedication to be proactive and progressive and informed. That’s what was expected of me and through three administration’s it evolved. Gaining the trust of kids and faculty and entering the flow of another organization is a slow, deliberate melding of ideas and personalities and compromise. And it takes time. But, a warm body is a warm body. Period. Job assessment notwithstanding. In other words, you could do a bad job but if you showed up, you’re good. Injury or sickness not tolerated.
I had been on light duty awaiting my return to the schools. I worked in severe pain, and I doubt [and this is just my opinion] that there are any of my peers who would have worked with the medical issues I endured. But I wanted to go back to school, back to my programs back to my drifting friends. I had a comfortable working personality, something that can only be learned over time, up close and personal. It cannot be transferred like a baton being handed off in a relay race.
I was shocked. Hurt actually, but there is no room for emotions in police work. I got up and left. No benefit of the doubt. No help or support. A career reduced to sick time and innuendo and resentment. Everything in life is fragile, but even the smallest of creatures protect a sick egg or shelter a ailing member of the flock. I was not that lucky. I was no longer psychologically safe.
Narcissus is indeed alive, and for me, that is both a literal and prophetic truth.
Many police departments, in my opinion, become houses of hate riddled with internal strife. Too many Type-A personalities refusing to give in. That’s the locker room scuttle; the place where heads butt and personalities clash and soap-operas have nothing on real life antics. And I was just another victim. I knew the schools would suffer under this new world order. I knew that helping drifting kids would stop. There would be little attempt at course correction, there would only be the snap of handcuffs. Changing a culture is hard. I get it. I didn’t relish the fact that the pawns in this ever-changing chessboard are the first to go. Being out front and vulnerable was not a game I was good at.
There is a lot more to disclose and talk about, but when the love of power is replaced with the power of love, or compassion only then can we dispose of our internal baggage. And we all have it.
Do I sound bitter? Cynical? Scorned? Betrayed? As you get to know me, Jack, things are not always as they seem!