Needles In My Arm

I distinctly remember the first time the needle went into my arm. I am not talking about those pesky mandated vaccinations I was required to endure as a child. No, this time I was a consenting adult, and the needle was not going to be administered by any kind of doctor whatsoever. I never would’ve imagined, at least not a few years beforehand, that I would one day aspire to voluntarily have a needle inserted into my arm, but that is precisely what happened. I never thought I’d take such drastic measures either, like driving for an hour and a half, just to satisfy an urge, but I absolutely did. I was forced to make the trip to the big city because my modest hometown did not offer what I had been desiring.

I can recall a slight hesitation in my steps as I climbed up the stairs to the second floor of the rundown building. I was not reluctant because of what I was about to partake of, but I was somewhat worried about being in an undesirable part of town. I know it’s a pretty lame excuse, but I really hadn’t given the situation I was about to experience as much thought as I should have. I definitely had not taken into account any future consequence I might be confronted with, possibly for the rest of my life, after the often times scorned procedure was completed. I was solely fixated on the yearning I had acquired…and nothing else. As the needle pierced my flesh, for what turned out to be the first of many more times to come, it just felt right. Of course, I have been referring to my initial tattooing experience.

Soon after turning 18, I decided to have my firm body (obviously, things have changed since then) inked with the manliest of manly tattoos: a small rose. Paul Stanley, vocalist and guitarist of the legendary rock ‘n’ roll band, KISS, sported one on his arm, so clearly it was a cool thing for me to emulate. I suppose many people take to the needle after being inspired by another person, place, or thing. The rest probably get tattooed after encountering some life altering event they then deem necessary to pay homage to somewhere on their body. For me, a rose tattoo seemed like the best option when considering what the other most popular designs were “back in the day.” The other choices were a ship’s anchor, usually inked on the forearm (like Popeye), and the word, MOM, commonly inscribed on one’s bicep. I was neither a sailor man nor a mama’s boy, so I believe I made the only logical decision I could’ve at that time.

Receiving my first tattoo was initially a bit daunting; however, having my girlfriend (aka lovely wife) there by my side put my mind at least somewhat at ease. Although the tattoo artist’s appearance was unrefined, probably due to the fact he was blanketed in tattoos, he was very personable. Who was I to judge anyway especially since I was just about to get some artwork on my skin as well. There does seem to be a fine line though between artistic expression and the “freak zone.” The tattoo artist did an excellent job of explaining to me in detail what to expect during the tattooing process. More importantly the guy did not bat an eye when revealing to him that I wanted a rose tattoo on my bicep. Maybe my tattooist had mastered the art of “holding his tongue,” or possibly he just “bit his lip” to keep from laughing. Maybe he too was familiar with Paul Stanley’s ink and thought I would look cool, or perhaps he simply was a true professional in his chosen line of work.

I selected a specific style of rose from a couple of stencils the tattoo artist had on hand. He shaved off what little hair I had on my young bicep, applied some rubbing alcohol to the smooth surface, and then placed the chosen pattern onto my arm. Before I could say, “ouch!,” the gentle humming sound of the artist’s tattoo machine had encompassed the small but sanitary room. The tattooer’s tattoo machine used to be called a tattoo gun “back in the day.” That terminology is now frowned upon by not only those who enjoy surrendering to political correctness but by those working in the industry as well. Regardless, I intently watched as the tiny needles rapidly punctured my skin in one small area at a time. Every few seconds the tattooist would wipe away the seeping blood, pooling on my skin’s surface, so he could continue tracing the rose stencil on my bicep.

I’m quite certain the entire tattooing process lasted for only about 30 minutes. Being continuously pricked with needles, for about half that time, wasn’t nearly as painful as some would have you believe. The best way I know how to describe the feeling of being tattooed is also an explicitly gross way. I compare the sensation to someone picking your zits, one after another, for the duration of the procedure. I warned you my description wasn’t going to be pretty. At least I didn’t mention oozing pus. I left the big city completely gratified with the $35 addition to my body. My urge had been fulfilled, and I no longer desired the needle…until the next time.

My Valentine

I first laid eyes on my valentine (aka lovely wife) when she was a sophomore and I was a junior in high school. I saw her across a crowded room (actually, a gymnasium) while attending a girls’ Varsity basketball game. I just happened to notice her sitting in the upper balcony, amongst a few familiar faces also of the female persuasion, and I was instantly smitten with her. I could not take my eyes off of the “new girl,” and at that moment I became oblivious to anything that may or may not have been happening on the basketball court right in front of me. My future valentine was absolutely stunning from what I could surmise from that distance.

I could tell she possessed a nice figure, an alluring smile, and long, feathered auburn hair. When she initially stood up she appeared to be somewhat statuesque although upon further investigation I concluded her tall stature was at least partly due to the fashionable hiking boots she was wearing. She definitely seemed hip to the times: sporting a pink Izod shirt with a white sweatshirt draped over her shoulders and tied loosely around her tan neck. I wanted to meet her, but before I knew it the game was over, and the intoxicating young woman was gone. However, that did not stop me from thinking about her every now and then.

A couple of months later a good friend of mine, I had not been hanging out with for a while, invited me and a few others to play a game of basketball outdoors at the junior high school. When I arrived the “girl of my dreams” was leisurely playing a game of one on one, in a flirtatious manner, against my friend. I found out that day how she looked in a pair of shorts, and I certainly was impressed. It quickly occurred to me why I hadn’t seen my long lost friend for quite some time. I too had been guilty of dropping my buddies, like lead balloons, in pursuit of female companionship although I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth I missed that one. In any event, now being so close to this brown-eyed girl my suspicions were confirmed: She truly was ravishing. I did not see my future valentine very often, while she was dating my friend, except when occasionally bumping into her in the hallways of the high school.

I vividly remember her coming up to me at some point and running her fingers through my hair. I had just gotten a perm from my mother’s hairdresser, and I guess she wanted to acknowledge the fact that my hair was different. I was not an expert at being able to decipher a woman’s signals, at the tender age of seventeen (or any time since then for that matter), but I thought surely some physical contact from the opposite sex, regardless of how minor, was an encouraging sign. Therefore, when her boyfriend foolishly broke up with her, during the summer of 1983, I did not hesitate to move in for the kill. I did have other options, not to toot my own horn, because at least two other girls were chasing me at the time, but I was not about to let the opportunity for pursuing the “girl of my dreams” pass me by. Alright, I suppose I was tooting my own horn a bit.

In no time I was dating the brown-eyed beauty although it did not come without a few challenges. Two weeks into our relationship my valentine’s ex-boyfriend came to his senses and tried wooing her back. He sent her a fancy, heart-shaped record, of some mushy love song, which he had addressed to her from him on the record’s sleeve. My valentine must’ve already fallen hard and fast for me by that time (and why wouldn’t she have) because she voluntarily showed me the unique present she had received from her ex. She assured me she no longer had any interest in him, so I promptly returned the sweet gift, now broken into many tiny pieces, and I re-labeled the sleeve to him from me. I assume the message was received loud and clear since my valentine did not hear from him again. My girlfriend’s loyalty to me, after only a short amount of time, was extremely refreshing.

If truth be told, I probably fell much harder and faster for my valentine than she fell for me. Cupid’s aim was undeniably perfect. His arrow successfully pierced the bulls-eye on my chest, and I knew in my heart shortly after we met that there would be no turning back. I remember our first summer together when she had to go on a family vacation to Tennessee. I cannot recall if she left for a week, ten days, or two weeks, but it might as well have been a million years because it seemed like an eternity to me. In hindsight, it was either very romantic or quite sickening how miserable I was while she was away. My heart ached the entire time she was gone. I wrote my newfound love numerous letters to keep myself somewhat occupied during her absence, and I’m embarrassed to admit I got teary-eyed every time I heard a love song being played on the radio. To this day, I immediately think of my lovely wife, and the loneliness I felt being apart from her, whenever I hear the love ballads “Faithfully” by Journey and “Don’t Let It End” by Styx.

Our courtship was probably not what most people would refer to as exciting, but it did seem to fit our simple nature to a tee. When my valentine and I first began dating I was working very part time (5 hours a week) as a janitor at a small office building. Thank goodness she wasn’t the diva princess type or we would’ve been doomed from the start. My wages were just enough to cover the cost of our weekly date night out consisting of dinner at Giovanni’s Family Restaurant before catching a movie at the Capitol Theatre. Our regular waiter at Giovanni’s, J.R., knew our order by heart: a small taco pizza with a dish of sour cream, an order of french-fries with parmesan cheese sprinkled over the ketchup, and a pitcher of pop. Of course, we eventually replaced the pitcher of pop with a pitcher of Michelob Light once we both reached Iowa’s legal drinking age. It was nineteen back then.

After I hit the big-time, landing a job at McDonald’s, I was then able to treat my lady to a night on the town more often and provide her with the more finer things in life. That’s right. I could now afford concert tickets to the likes of Bon Jovi, Poison, and Motley Crue, and I could also buy my valentine better gifts throughout the year. We spent the remainder of our dating years renting VHS movies (Beta was for losers), picnicking at Mariposa Park (sunbathing included), and hanging out with the McDonald’s gang. However, most of our evenings were spent on my bed engaging in countless exhilarating games of rummy. No, rummy is not a euphemism for something else. In fact, the door to my bedroom was always to remain open, for my parents’ peace of mind, whenever my girlfriend came over.

My valentine and I were practically inseparable, spending every waking hour together, with only school and the occasional after school activities (E.g. baseball and pacesetters) keeping us apart from one another. We even worked side by side at McDonald’s for a time. Surely, we didn’t spend too much time in each others company. I would be amiss not mentioning that we did have numerous breakups along the way, but the majority of them only lasted a day or two. Ahh…young love. Jealousy, immaturity, and the lack of communication. I’m not positive where, or even how, a marriage proposal transpired, but it must have nonetheless. The peculiar thing about having the same valentine for so long is that the years and the memories tend to bleed together, and some of the details of momentous events seem to get lost along the way.

I do remember my mother suggesting I should either propose to the “girl of my dreams” or let her go so she could pursue other options. My mother thought dating someone for over three years was plenty of time to have already figured it out concerning the future. I don’t know whether I seriously pondered my mother’s words at that time or not, but we did get married the very next summer. Regardless of not knowing the specifics, leading up to our engagement, it doesn’t really matter now because as they say, “the rest is history.” Only by the grace of God, and my wife’s willingness to overlook my selfish ways during our courtship and early years of marriage, have we been able to endure for all these years. I’m simply one of those guys who was fortunate enough to “marry up.” I know I have truly been blessed beyond belief. This February 14th, will mark the 32nd consecutive time I’ve had the pleasure of having the same valentine on Valentine’s Day…if she’ll once again say yes.

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

I did not watch any of this year’s Super Bore (I mean Super Bowl) as promised in my previous blog. However, I have since seen the majority of the commercials initially aired during Super Bowl 49 (I knew I would), and of course I have now seen the play (numerous times) that everyone is still talking about. The Super Bowl appears to be lingering in the minds of many as there has been much criticism over a particular play called by the Seattle Seahawks’ offense during the waning moments of the championship game. The Seahawks elected to pass the ball on 2nd and goal from the 1 yard line instead of handing the ball off to their talented running back, Marshawn Lynch. The quick pass was intercepted by the New England Patriots’ defense which ended Seattle’s final offensive possession along with their hopes of winning the game.

Those questioning the decision of passing the football instead of running it, under those circumstances, includes football analyst, Jesse Palmer. The ex-NFL backup quarterback and former contestant on the reality television show, The Bachelor, seems to think that specific play call was the worst in Super Bowl history. The still single, 36 year-old would be better off expending some more time and energy on finding a mate rather than jumping on the “haters'” bandwagon and fostering such nonsense. Once again, I feel that it’s left up to me to be the voice of reason, amongst a sea of bandwagon jumpers, and explore the other side of the controversial call. I think I am the perfect person to look at this situation objectively since I would have preferred both teams losing Super Bowl 49, if that were at all possible, but I don’t think a game of that magnitude can even end in a tie.

The truth as I know it is the play sent in to the huddle from the Seahawks’ sideline, whether approved by the offensive coordinator or the head coach himself, was not a bad call whatsoever. In fact, if that play would have resulted in a touchdown (as intended) I’m positive most of those “armchair quarterbacks” doing all of the complaining and second guessing would instead be using such adjectives as ingenious and brilliant in describing that particular play. Whether the play was successful or not really isn’t the point. The play called by Seattle on 2nd and goal was a good one. It just wasn’t executed properly, and that’s very unfortunate for the Seattle Seahawks and their fans. The sport of football can literally be a game of inches as was quite evident in this year’s Super Bowl.

In many instances a football game will generate an array of shoulda, coulda, woulda comments by the time the last whistle blows. Maybe Seahawks’ quarterback, Russell Wilson, woulda been better off not trying to force the ball into the hands of the receiver. Perhaps he coulda spyed a more open player on the field if he woulda just held on to the ball a little longer or if he had looked a little harder. Maybe the quarterback shoulda taken advantage of his God-given athleticism and tried to scramble into the end zone himself, or perhaps he simply shoulda thrown the football out of bounds to allow for his team to regroup and set up for another play. The consensus seems to be, amongst the naysayers, that Seattle running back, Marshawn Lynch, shoulda been called upon when the team was so close to the goal line.

I can’t entirely disagree with that assessment because Marshawn Lynch is a beast! That, by the way, is a good thing in football. He undoubtedly runs with authority and surely coulda scored the winning touchdown, in the League’s most coveted game, if only given the opportunity. Maybe. Maybe not. Common sense tells me if the majority of sports analysts, football fans, “Monday morning quarterbacks,” and everybody else and their mothers, thought Marshawn Lynch shoulda been the player getting the football in that situation then most-assuredly the Patriots were also aware of that probability, and in all likelihood their defense would’ve been prepared for precisely that. I would think when a defense is solely focused on stopping a certain player, and indeed that player gets the ball, then the chances of him either fumbling or being tackled for a loss significantly increases.

I have seen many, many, many NFL games in my lifetime and a number of them materialize into pretty much the same scenario as what transpired at the end of this year’s Super Bowl. Numerous times I’ve witnessed an offense, near the goal line, hand the ball off to their running back, sometimes four times in a row, and many times they find their efforts resulting in only a field goal attempt or losing possession on loss of downs. Marshawn Lynch may or may not have scored the winning touchdown, if given the last opportunity, in Super Bowl 49. We will never know. I just hope if New England’s Head Coach, Bill Belichick, or any of the Patriots’ players are found guilty of deflating footballs this past season, after the NFL’s so-called “Deflategate” investigation, that their Super Bowl win will be deemed null and void. If not, I will be disappointed and feel somewhat misled if the adage, “cheaters never win and winners never cheat,” does not ring true.

The Super Bore

I won’t be watching the Super Bore (I mean the Super Bowl) this Sunday. I need to like at least one of the two teams playing in the championship game, or at the bare minimum be able to whole-heartedly root for one of them, to be enticed into viewing the 4-hour plus spectacle. That criteria definitely was not met this past football season. I’m about as thrilled to watch Super Bowl 49, as I am at the prospect of sending either Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton to the Oval Office during the next presidential election. I can’t bear the thought of another Bush or Clinton running this country, but on the bright side at least they’re not Ted Cruz or Donald Trump.

The Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl last year, and I don’t particularly care for “repeating” in any sport unless of course it’s my team. Whether when speaking of politics or professional football I say, “give somebody else a chance.” However, if the New England Patriots win we’ll never know for certain how legitimate their season truly was leading up to the big game. More on that later. I’m sure my lovely wife will be watching this year’s Super Bowl since nowadays she seems to be a bigger fan of the National Football League than I am.

I used to crave NFL game days, but I think watching overpaid athletes constantly showboating and heaping praise upon themselves ultimately grew too tiresome for me. I’m sure you know the type of person I’m speaking of because they are a dime a dozen in the NFL. A player makes a touchdown, an interception, a fumble recovery, a sack, or even a nice tackle, and his teammates are wanting to congratulate him, but more often than not the individual pushes them aside (literally and figuratively) to find an open space on the football field to celebrate alone. I assume the player does this so there’s no mistaking, to anyone who may have blinked, who he thinks deserves to be applauded for the previous play. Hellooo…it’s your job!

Someone did ask, after hearing my intentions for not watching the Super Bowl, “but what about the commercials?” I momentarily considered taping the ballgame, so I could fast forward through the boring matchup and enjoy the annually heralded commercials at a later date. I then quickly realized how asinine even the thought of that resonated in my head. Was I actually going to purposefully expend some of my time and energy on watching an array of mostly overrated advertisements, that are force-fed apparently to an eagerly willing audience, aired during the National Football League’s biggest game of the year? No!

Besides, the viewing of Super Bowl commercials aren’t a once in a lifetime event. I’m sure eventually I’ll see all of them a time or two whether I want to or not in the coming weeks. Admittedly, I absolutely am an admirer of the majority of Hallmark commercials. The sappy ones they show during Hallmark movies, a combination of new commercials as well as the classics, are well worth turning on the television set to watch. I’ve been known to shed a few tears (okay, streams of tears) more so during those darn commercials than during the Hallmark presentation itself.

Now for the elephant in the room. I recently have heard the New England Patriots’ Head Coach, Bill Belichick, referred to by some as Bill Belicheat although I’m not entirely sure he’s the only one in the organization deserving of such a demeaning nickname. However, Coach Belichick and the entire Patriots’ Organization does seem to be adding to their reputations as cheaters (ala “Spygate”) in the NFL. “Spygate,” in case you haven’t heard by now, was when the Patriots were caught illegally videotaping their opponents’ defensive coaches’ signals during a 2007 game against the New York Jets.

In addition, during the “Spygate” investigation, it was discovered that New England had been conducting similar videotaping of their opponents since Mr. Belichick took over as head coach in 2000. This quite possibly means the Patriots had an unfair advantage against their opponents in Super Bowls 36, 38, and 39, too. Coach Belichick was fined $500,000, the Patriots were fined $250,000, and the team was stripped of their first round draft pick the following season for their indiscretion. The fine incurred by Mr. Belichick remains the harshest penalty ever handed down to an NFL coach. The Patriots advanced to the championship game during the “Spygate” season, but they did lose to the New York Giants in Super Bowl 42. I can’t complain.

The latest allegation against New England, cleverly deemed “Deflategate,” has encompassed the team, tarnishing their reputation even further, as they are trying to prepare for the upcoming Super Bowl. Supposedly, 11 of the 12 footballs provided by the Patriots’ offensive unit were found to be under-inflated after their latest playoff victory against the Indianapolis Colts. Something happened to the pigskins between the time the referees checked them, approximately two hours prior to game time, and the kickoff. I don’t exactly know where the buck should stop when attempting to lay blame: the Patriots’ Owner, the General Manager, Coach Belichick, or the players themselves. Maybe some astute ball boy summoned his courage and ingenuity, however ill-advised, in hopes of trying to do what he could to help the home team.

The fact is that rules were allegedly broken by the New England Patriots’ Organization…again. A reader of mine (yes, I have a few) replied to a prior blog claiming, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” in disagreeing with my particular stance on an issue. I will use that same adage in this circumstance although he surely won’t appreciate it because, if I remember correctly, he is a Patriots’ fan. If you are an Indianapolis Colts’ fan please cover your ears at this time. The Patriots undeniably obliterated the Colts on the football field, and it would not have mattered whether the footballs were slightly under-inflated, over-inflated, or as flat as a pancake. New England obviously would’ve kicked some major butt that day regardless which then makes trying to gain the slightest edge by illegally deflating balls seem all the more ridiculous.

That being said, I do not know how in good conscience the NFL can allow cheaters to participate in this year’s championship game if they desire to maintain a shred of integrity. The League is more than willing to suspend players, based on allegations alone, yet it’s painfully evident they’re enacting some sort of “the game must go on” mentality when it comes to holding an entire NFL organization accountable. The right thing to do would be to banish the Patriots from Super Bowl 49. Unfortunately, I’m certain that wasn’t even considered because trying to find another team on such short notice, and deciphering which team is most deserving to fill the vacancy, would be nearly impossible. The Colts? I don’t think so.

A case definitely could be made for the Baltimore Ravens to fill the vacant slot. They lost to New England, the previous week of the playoffs, but only by a measly 4 points. That game was also played on the Patriots’ home field, so there’s a strong possibility New England’s offense was using deflated footballs then as well. This discussion, as riveting as it may be, is pointless since surely the locker-rooms of the remaining 30 teams have already been cleared out, and many players are probably vacationing, fishing, or camping out somewhere in the wilderness by now. Some players possibly may be out of shape by this time while others may have already begun a necessary recovery process due to a very punishing, long season.

Regardless, the biggest game of the year will go on as scheduled, pitting the Seattle Seahawks against the New England Patriots, amidst a cloud of speculation and deceit. For me, deciding which team to root for in Super Bowl 49, is reminiscent of the selection process I’ve encountered when choosing which candidates to support in many of the most recent elections. I’m usually forced to ask myself, “Who is the lesser of two evils?” I cast my vote for the Seattle Seahawks although I still won’t be watching the Super Bore (I mean the Super Bowl) this Sunday.

Flirting with Law Enforcement

My best friend in high school, John, and I had aspirations of one day working in the field of law enforcement. I continued to flirt with the notion, of starting a career in that noble profession, many more times thereafter. Surely, my childhood infatuation with the television shows Starsky & Hutch, CHiPs, and Hill Street Blues had no bearing on my longing to one day wear a shiny badge. Thirty years later, John is currently the sheriff of Jasper County, Iowa, and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. A few short years after our high school graduation I ran into John although I barely recognized him at first. My normally clean-cut friend was sporting long, shaggy hair and a spotty beard. After commenting on his newfound appearance he informed me he was working undercover in the narcotics division of our local police department.

Admittedly, at that moment I was a tad jealous of my former best friend: partly because I had spent the majority of my time since high school slaving away at McDonald’s, but mostly I was envious because the only thing (in my mind) that was preventing me from obtaining a lucrative career in law enforcement was the length of my hair. While living under my father’s roof I was forced to wear a “respectable” hairstyle, but now that I was free from his reign, and flaunting a fashionable mullet, I wasn’t about to let anyone else have control over the hair on my head, yet here John was looking pretty darn cool with his flowing locks and fulfilling his dream at the same time. To my surprise, John was living proof that there was obviously a need for a “hippie” or two on our city’s police force. I don’t know why I did not immediately bolt to the police station at that point in time, but I didn’t.

When my son was in high school we enrolled in a 12-week course offered by our local police department. The Newton Citizen Police Academy was a hands-on class meant to give ordinary citizens an overview of what a police officer typically encounters on a daily basis. The weekly, 3-hour class taught me everything I could have imagined (and then some) concerning all what law enforcement entails. We learned the proper procedures and techniques for questioning, arresting, and handcuffing alleged criminals. We were also given the opportunity to use a baton in self-defense (against a padded police officer), fire a handgun at a shooting range, and drive a squad car (including backwards) through an obstacle course. The tremendous experience once again ignited my thoughts of becoming an officer of the law in some manner.

A few years later, immediately after moving to Arizona, I had a scheduled interview with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department for the position of detention officer. I had already sent in my application and had a long-distance phone interview before leaving Iowa. This was not just another flirtation with the idea of pursuing a law enforcement position, but in actuality it was my first real attempt at achieving a life-long dream. My attempt was unsuccessful, much to my chagrin, for one reason or another. In hindsight, I can no longer even fathom working for the legendary (in his mind) Sheriff Joe Arpaio. “America’s toughest sheriff” assuredly did not get his nickname for nothing, and life’s too short to have to deal with someone like how he portrays himself to be on the TV screen.

More recently I took a Criminal Justice class during my one year of community college. I excelled in the classroom and was not surprised when my instructor (a retired police chief) was more than eager to be a future reference for me if I ever chose to pursue a career in law enforcement. I undoubtedly was thankful for his offered recommendation since shortly thereafter I found out the Peoria Police Department was considering hiring some new recruits. I enthusiastically attended an informational meeting about it at City Hall. I learned that part of the training at the police academy, if I was fortunate enough to make it that far, included being tased and pepper-sprayed. Supposedly, the reason for this was to allow the recruits to experience firsthand the unpleasant effects they most-likely would be heaping upon others at some point during their chosen line of work.

In addition, I was informed about a specific training exercise all recruits must go through, at least implemented at the Peoria police academy, which begins with the “wanna be cops” pairing up, getting on their knees, and donning boxing gloves. The recruits are then pepper-sprayed and forced to pummel each other to the point of physical exhaustion. At that precise moment, during the meeting, I was reminded of the famous line frequently spoken by Danny Glover’s character, Sergeant Roger Murtaugh, in the Lethal Weapon movies. I could not help but agree with his relevant words of wisdom, “I’m too old for this s**t.” Since then I have no longer toyed with the notion of having a career in law enforcement.

However, I definitely continue to admire and respect those who do. Most of them. There’s bound to be a few shady cops amongst us as there are shady politicians, doctors, priests, and possibly even McDonald’s employees as well. Regardless, I respect authority, that’s simply how I was raised, so whenever an officer of the law is compelled to pull me over (not that often) I have no problem obeying their orders. I know if I am wronged I will eventually have my day in court, so there’s no need for any resistance on my part. The thought never even crosses my mind. I’m usually clueless as to why I’m being stopped, but I certainly can’t blame it on the color of my skin because I am undeniably…White! I cooperate with the officers nonetheless.

I’m not sure where it all went wrong in our society, although I suspect negligent child-rearing, but apparently respect for authority is a thing of the past. School children hitting their teachers, or spitting on them, and police officers being forced into scuffles with the public are frequent occurrences nowadays, yet parents tend to blame the teachers, and families are more inclined to sue the police officers involved, the police department, and the city than to blame their loved ones (aka “victims”). I may have watched too much television growing up, or maybe I’m simply “old school” (I know I am), but I think a police officer has every right to shoot a suspect who doesn’t obey the officer’s commands.

I recently said that very thing to an officer of the law, and he thought I was plumb crazy for thinking such a thing, but that’s my sentiment nevertheless. I also know if I was in law enforcement I would shoot first and ask questions later. I’m enjoying life way too much, so if I thought someone was reaching for a weapon to potentially end my life then I would not hesitate expelling every single bullet from my Glock pistol. I suppose it’s a good thing for everyone that my on again off again dream of having a career in law enforcement never came to fruition, and I’m no longer even flirting with that notion.

An Open Letter To Nick Offerman

Dear Mr. Offerman,

I recently received your book, Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living, as a gift from my son. He knows I immensely enjoy watching your brilliantly portrayed character, Ron Swanson, on the hit television series, Parks and Recreation. I think I had even mentioned to my son how I presumed your New York Times Bestseller would probably be a hilarious read. Immediately after delving into the modest paperback I discovered I was right, but I was surprised at finding how much our childhoods resembled one another’s upbringing. We appear to be alike in so many ways it’s almost uncanny.

I hold the exact hierarchy position in my family of six as you do in yours. Even the sex of each sibling in my family’s birth order is identical to yours: girl, boy (me), girl, boy. We also spent the majority of our waking hours outdoors, and all my brother and I needed to keep us occupied for hours on end was a ball and a bat. I am the oldest male grandchild in my family as well, and my parents also married young (they’re about to celebrate 52 years of wedded bliss). My father was the sole breadwinner, and usual disciplinarian of the household, while my mother stayed at home tending to the needs of their four children. She fashioned some of our clothes from patterns, purchased at the local fabric store, and she cooked hearty meals on a regular basis.

We rarely ate out which made the times that we did all the more special to us kids even though our typical order wasn’t all that exciting: six hamburgers, six small french-fries and six small cokes. Nothing else. My father always did the ordering and thought customizing our order would be too confusing for everyone involved. If one of us didn’t care for ketchup on our hamburger then we could just scrape it off the bun, and washing our meal down with anything other than a Coke was…”fa-get-about-it.” When my younger brother was in high school he went to McDonald’s with a few of his friends to grab a bite to eat. He was utterly amazed when he perused the menu board and noticed there were other options (besides Coke) listed underneath the soft drinks heading. He then understandably was overwhelmed and felt compelled to ask his peers, “What’s Sprite, what’s Dr. Pepper?” A whole new world opened up to my brother that day.

I was raised in a small-town in the Midwest, not unlike your upbringing, but since Iowa doesn’t have any professional sports teams I was forced to look outside the state for my favorite baseball team. However, I did not fall victim to rooting for the Chicago cubs like you did, Mr. Offerman. Thank God. My father also plants a garden in his backyard every year, and he taught me several valuable life lessons, too. He possesses a love and respect for his tools like no other, and he commonly can be heard saying, “take care of your tools, and they’ll take care of you.” I was and still am a big fan of Prince, and like you I have no need for a firearm. I also love red meat, although I guess chicken and fish will do in a pinch, but I’d rather be shot than eat tofu for my daily intake of protein. I concur that all animals should be “humanely” killed before bringing their delicious carcasses to the table.

In addition, as much as it pains me to say, I am a proponent of the separation of church and state as well. I most-definitely would like to see a manger scene on the Courthouse lawn at Christmastime, but I realize that opens the door for others to adorn their religious symbols on government property, and I would not like that one bit. The only major differences I can ascertain between you and I, Mr. Offerman, is that you were raised a country boy whereas I’m pure city folk, and our stance on Christianity is as different as night and day. Sadly, I now find it ironic I received your book as a present for Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior, since in it you refer to anyone who believes in creationism as an “ignorant fool” and a “silly motherf***er.” That was the precise moment when my enthusiasm for Paddle Your Own Canoe sank. It certainly did not take you long (by the end of the 2nd chapter) to make a broad judgment about all Christians and to in all likelihood alienate some of your readers.

I was enjoying your book, up to that point, although your overuse of expletives were growing a tad tiresome. I could even hear your unique monotone voice, good for a chuckle in and of itself, exuding from the pages as I read each word. With everything we have in common I imagine we could be best buds if you would just ease up on the name-calling. I may or may not finish Paddle Your Own Canoe (I probably will – it was in fact a very thoughtful gift), but I could not go any further until I penned this letter. I have been known to tell my lovely wife that if you hear something you do not agree with and remain silent then the person voicing their opinion will probably assume you concur with what they are saying. So, Mr. offerman, I disagree with your assessment that those who believe in creationism are “ignorant fools” and “silly motherf***ers.” I suppose there are some Christians out there who have earned those demeaning titles throughout the course of their lives; however, it does not make it so simply because they oppose your stance.

There actually are scientists amongst us who believe in God. It is possible to believe in science and creationism working in harmony with one another as part of God’s divine plan. You make mention in your book, “The thing that makes me mad is when a person suggests that I CANNOT be a nice person or live a life of goodness WITHOUT reading the Bible and attending church.” I don’t know who you’ve been listening to, but that has never been my sentiment towards non-believers. I have never heard any of my Christian friends say anything of that sort either. Agnostics and atheists are quite capable of being loving, caring, and all-around decent people. I would only argue that they could be so much more if they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Hopefully, by book’s end I will have learned that you came to your senses and accepted Jesus Christ into your life. Of course, I cannot in good conscience recommend Paddle Your Own Canoe to anyone, but this “ignorant fool” will sincerely be praying for you regardless.

James McCleary

Neighbor Story

When we moved into our new neighborhood, more than six years ago, no one came over to welcome us or to even introduce themselves. We watched as people moved in and then moved out of our neighborhood, and most of them left without us ever knowing their names. We did eventually meet and acquire the names of a handful of our neighbors, but for the most part we only knew most of those around us by what we saw. There was the “single-mother neighbor,” the “crazy neighbor,” and the “party neighbors,” etc. One Christmas, after years of just good intentions, I finally baked cookies for about 10 of our surrounding neighbors. As I delivered the cookies, packaged nicely in cheap but festive containers (with a Christmas card attached), I introduced myself and learned the real names of my neighbors. John, formerly known as the “crazy neighbor,” seemed the most appreciative of my holiday gesture.

One week later my wife and I were hurrying around so we could celebrate Christmas once our son arrived at our house. As I met my son in the driveway, to help him unload his car, I noticed John standing outside across the street a few doors down from his house. He was inquisitively looking at a couch sitting on the sidewalk with a “free” sign attached. He picked up one end of the couch and then immediately set it back down. He then just stared intently at the piece of furniture. I really wanted to ignore the situation as I walked towards our front door. I was all dressed up and eager to begin our planned festivities for Pete’s sake! However, I felt my body come to a sudden stop, and I heard myself telling my son, “go on inside, and let your mother know that I will be outside doing my ‘Christian duty’.”

I soon approached John and asked him if I could be of any assistance. He explained to me how he was attempting to figure out the best way of transporting the heavy couch to his house. He had thought about using a floor jack, to raise it up and into the back of his truck, or possibly using a dolly except that he didn’t have one of those. John also informed me of his many health issues which included a bad back. I told him not to worry, and after enlisting my son’s help we carried the furniture back to his house and placed it in his living room. We then put his old couch in the backyard for him. The “new” addition wasn’t in the best of shape, but it was better than what he currently had. John was once again very appreciative, almost shocked even, that we took the time to help a neighbor in need. He insisted we meet his wife, who was in the back bedroom under the care of Hospice, and he informed her of what we had done for him. That day I was reminded that everybody has a story, and every neighbor has a name.


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