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.

A Day Just Like Any Other

Lose weight. Eat healthier. Start exercising. Start a new career. Save money. Spend more time with family. Stop smoking. Those are the predictable New Year’s resolutions pledged on December 31st, of each and every year, by well-meaning saps. Typically, a New Year’s resolution is simply another failed attempt, by the majority of people making them, at bettering one’s self. Anyone who makes a resolution that begins with the word, “stop,” is most likely doomed from the start. The chances of stopping any behavior, whether it’s smoking, overeating, or acting like a jerk, just because it’s the first day of a new year is pretty slim. If discontinuing an undesirable action was easily attainable then I would think a person would’ve already made the transformation, from smoker to non-smoker, from fatty to a lean machine, or from acting like a scoundrel to being a kindhearted person, without needing a specific day of the year to do so.

I understand envisioning January 1st as the day for making a brand new start, or turning over a new leaf, in one’s life because that is what’s commonly associated with the holiday. I myself have fallen prey to what is expected from the gullible at this time of year. The pressure of sustaining a New Year’s pledge is almost unbearable particularly when you’ve made your intentions known to others. Sure, being accountable to other people may help in your new endeavor for a while, but there’s no way around being thought of as a failure, by those you’ve shared your resolutions with, when inevitably you break them (usually within the 1st week). That’s precisely why I keep stuff like that private: so if I happen to fail then only I will know. In addition, I pride myself on being a man of action (not talk), so I prefer to begin losing the weight, eating healthier, or increasing the amount of weight I can bench-press before anyone else in my life even knows what’s going on.

I have been guilty, time and time again, of breaking weight loss “resolutions” all year round and on my own without needing “the man” (whoever that is) telling me to try again on January 1st. Besides, I always start my diets on a Monday, regardless of the time of year, and much more often than not New Year’s Day is not ushered in on a Monday. I suspect my lovely wife has the same theory as I do concerning diets because if we’re going to have fish for dinner sometime during the week then it’s almost always served on a Monday. By the time the weekend comes we’re both up to our armpits in pizza. The sad thing is I don’t care all that much for the Italian cuisine, but I’ll eat it if it’s placed in front of me. On second thought, I should be happy I am not a fan of pizza, or chocolate for that matter, or else it would be even more difficult for me to maintain my girlish figure. Who am I kidding? I haven’t been that slim since… never.

I make no bones about the fact my weight has radically fluctuated, like a guilty man’s lie detector test results, for most of my life. I can be a man of extremes, so it’s no surprise I’m usually in either a sumo wrestler frame of mind or in full-blown supermodel mode regarding my diet or lack thereof. I’m either polishing off a dozen doughnuts within a 24-hour period or keeping my calorie intake to less than 800 a day. You won’t ever hear me blaming slow metabolism or bad genes for my times of plumpness. I simply like food, especially sweets, and I lack any reasonable self-control once I begin consuming. Starting a weight loss program on the first day of a new year is absolutely the worst time for anyone to begin such a venture. The likelihood of a person overindulging in everything the previous night is too great, and surely there are still some Christmas goodies scattered about the house to tempt even a normally disciplined individual.

However, this New Year’s I will once again attempt to give up smoking although I already know it’s a battle I cannot win. The last several years I have taken up smoking cigars on New Year’s Eve so that I actually have a legitimate resolution to make for the coming year. The only problem is I’m destined to fail since the following New Year’s Eve I’ll be lighting up again; therefore, breaking my resolution on the 364th day of the year. It is a vicious cycle but one I do enjoy. That leaves me with only one serious resolution I can make in which I know I will be very successful at keeping. I resolve to continue being the same awesome person that I am in the year 2015. Let’s raise our glasses this New Year’s eve and toast to what this special time of year is really all about. Here’s to a day just like any other.

Who Would You Wanna Be?

If you could be any character from a Christmas movie…who would you wanna be? That’s the question I asked my wife the other day. I think that may give you a glimpse into what my lovely wife has to put up with on a daily basis. I can’t help it if that’s the way my mind works, and I make no apologies for having a curious nature PBS assuredly would be proud of. My wife has not yet gotten back to me with an answer. Either she’s still contemplating the philosophical question, or she has forgotten all about the proposed nonsense. It has been a few weeks since I asked, so I suspect it’s the latter. When I proposed the question I had no preconceived answer in mind because I had not mulled it over myself. Boy, sometimes I really give myself something important to think about.

My initial thought was Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. He certainly is fond of Christmas, and all of the traditions associated with the glorious holiday, just as I am. Some people may be a bit skeptical when Clark brings home a Christmas tree that’s way too big for his house, but let me assure you it’s not so far-fetched because I’ve done exactly the same thing a time or two. He builds up the special time of year so much in his head that he’s bound to be at least a little disappointed after its all been said and done. I have been guilty of that as well. Clark also has an idiotic cousin-in-law to contend with, so I decided I should explore some other possibilities.

Ralphie Parker from A Christmas Story quickly came to mind as one of my favorite Christmas movie characters, but the more I thought about his life the less I wished to be like him. The youngster is constantly being chased by bullies, before and after school, and he is forced to suck on a bar of soap as punishment for swearing (Lifebuoy is the worst). Ralphie’s also made to wear pink bunny pajamas and anything else Aunt Clara sends his way, and let’s not forget he nearly shoots his eye out with his official Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle. Next!

How about Ebenezer Scrooge, from A Christmas Carol, I wondered. Now there’s a magnificent ending to a classic Christmas tale, and the thought of living in simpler times is very appealing to me. A world without cell phones and reality television would be an absolute dream come true. Of course, Mr. Scrooge spends the better part of his life alone and wallowing in bitterness, so maybe he is not someone I would want to be. However, he is tremendously wealthy, and who wouldn’t want that, but Ebenezer doesn’t do anything with his acquired fortune, so what’s the point. Besides, the question I specifically had asked was, “If you could be any character from a Christmas movie…who would you wanna be?” I made no mention of being afforded the opportunity to change any of the chosen character’s traits, or the way in which they had lived their lives, so the search continued.

I thought about Davey Stone from the not as well-known seasonal movie, Eight Crazy Nights, but only for a second. Adam Sandler’s character is Jewish and celebrates Hanukkah instead of Christmas. I’m not even sure what Hanukkah is. In addition, Davey Stone is a cartoon character who I would assume lives in an entirely different world than what I am used to. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, or if I’d ever cross paths with other cartoon characters (like Scooby-Doo and the gang), but regardless I decided to omit all animated characters from consideration at that point. Unfortunately, that decision left The Grinch out of the running, and that’s really too bad because I’ve been told I look good in green. However, spread out over the entire length of my body might be a bit too much. I then considered Santa Claus, from either Miracle On 34th Street or The Santa Clause, but being the jolly old elf simply seems like an awful lot of work and very time consuming as well.

My mind wandered off to Peter Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s kind of funny how a movie character can appear to be so perfect at first, but after further examination we discover they are just as flawed as the rest of us, and their life is not so wonderful after all. We all probably tend to focus on Peter Bailey’s epiphany and his change of heart, in regards to taking his own life, instead of realizing he will still be working at the Building and Loan (a job he loathes), and residing in the town he has grown tired of, at the end of the day. Bedford Falls is simply too small for a man who would lasso the moon if he could. The disgruntled man yearns to travel abroad, but there is always something keeping him from leaving and pursuing his dreams. Peter Bailey still lives in a drafty old house and has too many children (if you ask me) by movie’s end. Finding a seemingly easy answer to my question had become quite the dilemma and much harder to answer than I had anticipated.

Kevin McCallister! Of course. I can’t believe it took me this long to recall the adorable little boy who gets “lost” during his Christmas vacations in the Home Alone movies. Kevin is thoughtful, intelligent, very independent (for a child), and he possesses the ingenuity similar to that of MacGyver. He sometimes gets into mischief (we all do), but overall he’s a pretty decent kid. The youngster loves all of the traditions associated with Christmas, especially decorated Christmas trees, and he thinks cold weather should be a requirement at Christmastime. The rest of his family would rather be in a tropical setting somewhere during the holidays. Whenever Kevin gets “lost” he doesn’t shirk from household responsibilities like grocery shopping or doing the laundry. He has an uncanny ability to overcome any obstacle that may get in his way. That’s precisely why the “Wet Bandits” (aka “Sticky Bandits”) are no match for the cute blond-haired, blue-eyed Kevin McCallister.

When the child is left to fend for himself he chooses to live a luxurious lifestyle. He indulges on his very own cheese pizza and a 3-scoop sundae because as he shamelessly puts it, “I’m not driving,” and Kevin has no qualms about charging everything to his father’s credit card. Priceless! He has a tendency of getting “lost” at Christmastime, but inevitably he is always found no worse for the wear. Even though sometimes the youngster is disappointed, with his large extended family, in the end he realizes he would not want to be without them. One of my mottos is, “without God and family…a person really has nothing,” so I whole-heartedly can relate to Kevin’s sentiment. If I could be any character from a Christmas movie…I would be Kevin McCallister from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Who would you wanna be?

Protesters (aka The Grinch)

What’s the deal with all of the protesters? The concept of protesting in public seems foreign to me, yet in this day and age organized demonstrations have been increasing in popularity. Sure, in the past I have protested a new experimental meal (or two) created by my lovely wife, and I certainly voiced my displeasure with some of the punishments handed down by my father while growing up. However, the thought of voicing my dissatisfaction, anger, or frustration (about anyone or anything) beyond the privacy of my own home has never even occurred to me. I simply haven’t had the inkling to take to the streets, for the rest of the world to see, on behalf of any cause.

The truth as I know it is people have the right to peacefully protest about anything in this country if they so desire. Peacefully! The problem is, more often than not, not everyone follows that simple rule, so those picketing and marching in protest usually come across to the rest of us as ignorant fools. I think they’d be much better off expending their time and energy elsewhere and in a more constructive way. Those who feel slighted or unheard could engage in a civil dialogue with the powers that be. The demonstrators should individually lobby for change at their local courthouse instead of disrupting life for everyone else.

Recently, the right to protest trumped my right to the pursuit of happiness. My mother-in-law wanted her daughter, grandson, and myself (her handsome son-in-law) to accompany her to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City once the tribute, to those who were lost during the attacks, was open to the public. She preferred not to visit “The Big Apple” on the actual anniversary of 911, so I suggested going to New York in December because talk show host, David Letterman, has said time and time again on his popular nighttime show that there’s no place like NYC at Christmastime. My family thought that was a good idea, so my wife scheduled our trip so we’d be there during the nationally televised Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center.

I even prepared myself for the glorious occasion by watching Home Alone 2: Lost in New York on the airplane ride to New York. Kevin McCallister, the “lost” kid in the movie, adores Christmas trees almost as much as I do, so it’s not all that surprising when…SPOILER ALERT…Kevin is eventually found standing in front of New York City’s tallest lit Christmas tree which of course is located at Rockefeller Center. We intentionally were staying at a hotel only a few blocks away from the site, for convenience’ sake, but what transpired the night of the annual tree lighting ritual turned out to be anything but convenient. After venturing out towards the famous event we immediately encountered a horde of people retreating from where we were intending to go. Our carefully thought out plans, for a fun filled evening of Christmas music and festive lights, were changed in an instant.

We suddenly found ourselves trapped amongst a sea of riled protesters, police donned in riot gear, and hundreds of confused tourists (not unlike ourselves). Wooden barriers were being put into place, by the local police department, in an attempt to contain the escalating situation, and to keep protesters away from the nearby renowned tree lighting ceremony, although some of the demonstrators were leaping over them. Everywhere we went, no matter how many streets over or in what direction we trekked, we found ourselves blocked off and unable to continue our jaunt to Rockefeller Center. The new experience was chaotic, unsettling, and extremely irritating. We were able to duck into an Irish pub for dinner and drinks (I know I needed one), and adding insult to injury the establishment was showing the tree lighting event on all of their television sets.

After dinner and arriving back at the hotel I noticed the all too familiar scene from outside, I had barely survived, up on the hotel lobby’s jumbo television screen. It was only then when I became fully enlightened as to what actually was taking place on the city’s streets and the magnitude of the situation. A Black man, Eric Garner, had been killed by a White police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, back in July; however, the news that the jury assigned to the case had decided there was not enough evidence to indict had just been released; hence, the reason for the angry mob outside. I only mention the skin color of the victim and the New York City police officer involved because apparently the majority of the protesters think the unfortunate death of Mr. Garner was racially motivated. I do not. They are also profusely trying to connect the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown (and now others) with the Eric Garner case as if they are one in the same. They are not.

In fact, I think it’s a travesty to mention all three of the aforementioned Black men in a single breath. Each case is entirely different and should be treated as such. I was not a witness to any of the killings, mind you, nor was I privy to any additional information that may have been provided to the juries, but I would like to offer the following. Eric Garner’s life ended when Officer Pantaleo applied a chokehold while trying to restrain the large man. The use of a chokehold is a clear violation of NYPD policy, so obviously Mr. Pantaleo deserves to be punished in some capacity for the infraction. I really don’t know if Officer Pantaleo was purposely abusing his authority or not. I’m also not so certain that maybe the police department needs to revisit their current policy.

Michael Brown, on the other hand, has been portrayed by many in the Black community as a loveable guy with a promising future that was negligently cut short, but his actions on the last day of his young life would suggest otherwise. A video shows him manhandling a store clerk, while stealing from a convenience store, shortly before a police officer fatally shot him. The Trayvon Martin incident happened almost three years ago, but he hasn’t been allowed to rest in peace since his name is continually resurrected anytime a Black man is killed by a White cop. The problem with linking Trayvon Martin to the others is quite evident considering the high school student was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman (not a police officer). The shooter, George Zimmerman, isn’t even White. He’s Hispanic.

The only real correlation I see between them is that in all three occurrences the victims were resisting authority figures which ultimately enhanced the situation and led to their demise. Tragic? Yes! Is there some sort of conspiracy amongst cops going on against today’s Black man? No! Obeying the commands of law enforcers, whether one feels denigrated or not, is sound advice for everyone to follow. At least then the accused would have their day in court, and at the very least they would live to see another day. Therefore, the rash of demonstrations currently taking place around the country would not have even been a consideration, and law-abiding families could have attended a once in a lifetime Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center.

Imagine the disappointment of not being able to partake in something so unique when you’re only a measly couple of blocks away. Instead of seeing a giant Christmas tree lit for the first time I saw a throng of enraged minorities and “New York’s finest” trying to keep the peace. Instead of listening to the soothing sounds of Tony Bennett I was forced to hear the chants of, “Black lives matter,” by the surge of protesters taking over the city. I concur with their sentiment that Black lives matter, but White lives matter too, as does every race on God’s green earth. As I previously stated, “people have the right to peacefully protest,” but the protesters in New York City will forever be known to me as The Grinch who stole my family’s Christmas.

NYC (2014)

The Manhattan skyline is unmistakable when heading into New York City. The Chrysler Building is easily recognizable, with its unique architectural design, and the Empire State Building is surely familiar to those who’ve seen the classic movie, King Kong. Noticeably missing from the skyline are the Twin Towers, but just as discernible is the recently constructed Freedom Tower that has replaced the former national landmark. I suppose the array of prominent buildings, both old and new, is what distinguishes “The Big Apple’s” impressive skyline from all others in the United States. The old Chrysler Building and the new Freedom Tower were born of different generations (84 years apart), yet both have a storied past although the Freedom Tower undoubtedly conveys a more significant meaning not only to the citizens of New York but to the rest of the world as well.

It is almost impossible for me to fathom New York City coming together as a community and supporting one another during difficult times or when tragedy strikes. However, I witnessed precisely that from afar on Sept. 11th, 2001, and for many months thereafter, in wake of that tragic period in our country’s history. Our nation’s newspapers and television stations portrayed New York as a caring place whose residents were genuinely concerned with the well-being of their fellow man. That admirable quality seemingly has disappeared, or at the very least has been placed on hiatus, probably until another disaster arises. I know this because my family and I just got back from New York. “The City That Never Sleeps” has reverted to an “every man for himself” mentality. Apparently, everyone is very important and has somewhere they need to be, and if you’re a tourist you had better keep up with the fast paced crowds or move clear over to one side.

Shoulder bumping, hip checking, and unfriendly games of “chicken” are not an uncommon sight, and if it’s raining then you just might as well “fa-get-about-it.” The sea of umbrellas only makes the city’s sidewalks that much harder to navigate, and if you don’t lose an eye in the process then you should consider yourself lucky. I’m not so sure a New Yorker wouldn’t be willing to trample a visitor, to their fair city, if given the opportunity. I wasn’t willing to find out, so I purposely was highly aware of my surroundings at all times whilst out among them. I reckon I could give the citizens of New York City the benefit of the doubt and assume not all of them are impolite and self-absorbed. Maybe they were all simply trying to get out of the dreary weather and back to the comforts of their homes and to their awaiting families. Maybe. The only thing possibly more irritating than the rude people occupying the sidewalks was the relentless sound of blaring car horns all day and all night long. Here a beep, there a beep, everywhere a beep beep.

I’ve never seen the kind of hustle and bustle of a big city quite like what I saw on display in New York. I had a nice time in “The Big Apple” nonetheless. I certainly can’t complain about time spent with family. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum was a tasteful tribute to those who perished. The exhibit was educational but mostly sobering. Even now, 13 years later, the entire situation is still so surreal when reflecting on 9/11. The Statue of Liberty is a magnificent sight to behold. My sometimes blasé attitude towards our nation’s freedom was replaced with heartfelt gratitude while standing in her presence. The Rockettes’ Radio City Christmas Spectacular was in a word…spectacular! Five days in New York City was probably the ideal amount of time because on the last day of our vacation the thought of home had never been so enticing.

When my family and I walked out of The Hotel @ Times Square, for the last time, an obvious commotion of some sort was transpiring around us. As we placed our luggage into the vehicle of a local car service, our hotel had arranged to transport us to LaGuardia Airport, the source of the ruckus became crystal clear. Our hired driver was arguing with our hotel manager. Aawkwaard! I’m not entirely sure what the heated discussion was about since I had some trouble dissecting the pair’s Jamaican accents. I understood enough though to know they were threatening physical harm upon one another. Our driver finally got into the vehicle, with his now stunned passengers aboard, but he continued bickering with our hotel manager, who would not retreat from the nearby sidewalk, for what seemed like a lifetime. I was pleasantly shocked when the uncomfortable incident did not end in fisticuffs; however, it did sound as though they scheduled a time for later in the day to finish what was started. What a fittingly perfect ending to our time spent in New York City.


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