Driving and Biking in the Big City

Posts Tagged ‘Austin

On the cop beat for life

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Recently, I’ve been listening to Harry Bausch’s adventures as written by Michael Connelly in “The Wrong Side of Goodbye,” and I can’t get past the feelings it evokes. “They” say your sense of smell is the strongest sense to activate your memories. For me, hearing can be equally haunting. Or is it sight and reading? A good book, read again, listened to again. A favorite author can feel like home and long ago at the same time. Or, in this case, a same character – Harry Bausch, the hard-nosed anti-hero and Los Angeles cop as written by another former reporter on the cop beat.

This book has me transported to the past. It has me reminded me of quick trips to the grocery store when I could rent a book on cassette tape, mostly abridged and somewhat unacceptable. But I’d take anything on tape to get me through a day of housekeeping or cleaning out when my kids were young and chores were routine.

Or it’s Sunday and the only library that was open was 10 miles away so I’d bike there and bike back – for 20 miles and two hours roundtrip at the minimum. I’d have to plan my clothes – light as possible but with a cover-up t-shirt, two waters and a light weight bag that would be book-laden for the trip back.

Or it’s a road trip to Austin where I would meet my friend from Michigan at her mom’s house so that we could keep up an important relationship for me where she was my rock while my son went through and out the other end of a heart condition.

Or to Lubbock for my westward bound road trip to visit my daughter at Texas Tech. That eight-to-10-hour trip meant a couple of really good books by favorite authors who would keep me occupied but focused.

concrete-blondeI’m transported by Connelly’s new book not because the book is about yesterday because it’s not. But because I’m reminded of some of the first books I ever listened to as an audio book addict. “The Poet,” “Concrete Blonde,” “Trunk Music.”  Ahhhhhh. I may need to listen again.

Listening to audio books is as common in my daily rituals as is my commute to work. Actually, I’ve been listening to read-aloud books far longer. I was first attracted to Connelly, now world famous, of course, long before the charismatic Texan Matthew McConaughey played the role of his “Lincoln Lawyer,” Mickey Haller, an attorney who works from the back of his car, so another commuter. Or before Clint Eastwood played a side character from the Harry Bausch books in “Blood Work.”

I may have listened to “The Poet” as one of my first audio books, if you don’t count the classics or old radio broadcasts that I could find on the car radio or at truck stops. Remember, this is long before the days of the internet or downloads and when libraries seldom carried anything but the written word.

the-poet“Death is my beat. I make my living from it.  I forge my professional relationship on it.  I treat it with the passion and precision of an undertaker — somber and sympathetic about it when I’m with the bereaved, a skilled craftsman with it when I’m alone.  I’ve always thought the secret to dealing with death was to keep it at arm’s length.  That’s the rule.  Don’t let it breathe in your face,” Connelly says in “The Poet,” back in 1996.

Connelly is back to his police procedural hard core in the “Wrong Side of Goodbye,” and I love it. It’s the routine of day-to-day police work. Keeping your notes in order. Working your sources. Doing favors. You scratch my back and I scratch yours. So I’m transported not only to my listening past but also to the heyday of my career as a cop reporter. Back in the day, I rode the beat with cops, went door-to-door with detectives and sat on stakeouts. I’ve discovered bodies, been shot at and, actually, solved a couple of murders myself. We were a team, on the same side mostly.

That’s the police beat as I worked it, back in the day of the press as Fourth Estate. My cop shops were on a rotation – whether it was Port Arthur, Beaumont, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston or a bit of Detroit. The bigger the city, the more often I visited the police station. But even the one-cop towns showed up on my calendar once a month. I called or dropped by. That way, when a body got dumped at Kennedale, a small town outside of Fort Worth, the dispatcher knew my name and would give me the story.


Working traps on my first daily, the Beaumont Enterprise, two years after I’d started my journalism career at a bi-weekly. 

“Running my traps,” my first city editor called it. Joe Broughton was a feisty hellcat of a newsman with a kind heart but a trashy mouth. I learned a lot from him and from running my traps, a work ethic that has served me well in a writing career that soon will have paid my bills for half a century.

So, on this rainy day when I can’t be running the roads, I think I’ll finish “The Wrong Side of Goodbye” while I do my house chores and then run through some repeats including “The Poet.” I think I may even have that one in hard copy.


Praise for free Wi-Fi and dip cones: a guest commuter

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Laura in her classroom

Hello, my name is Laura, and I am a commuter. My sweet little four-door Nissan Sentra is named Daisy. Most days the drive from my downtown apartment to the elementary school where I work takes us about 30 minutes. I am a reverse commuter; while everyone else is going into the city, I am leaving it. I miss most of the heavy traffic coming and going and will give my mom traffic reports as she heads into the med center.

One of my favorite commuting stories from last semester happened while I was heading north on U.S. 59. I got caught behind a car that was going 45 m.p.h. in the fast lane. I was thinking many not so nice things in my head as a passed the tan sedan. I glanced over to see if I could catch the eye of the driver to give her my “teacher look” of disapproval. When I looked over, I saw a nun in her full habit!  I immediately repented and have been trying to stop thinking mean thoughts about the driving of my fellow commuters ever since.

This year, a twist has been added to my life and my commute. I have started grad school to earn my master’s in Special Education from A&M. My classes are all online. I attend them through a web-based program and sit from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on my computer in my classroom on Mondays and Tuesdays and after my students have all gone home. Due to this change of schedule, I am learning the new way of nighttime commuting. Just as I was getting used to the rhythm of my new schedule, life took me on an adventure.

This week I had a workshop in Austin on Monday and Tuesday, which made attending my Tuesday class a little problematic. I went back and forth about missing class or staying in Austin until 7:30 p.m. and driving back home late.  Because I wanted to get home at a reasonable hour and  I had a quiz, I decided to embrace technology and hit the road.

I left Austin at 3:30 p.m. with the goal of making it to the Starbucks in Brenham by 4:30 p.m. As I drove through Central Texas, it became very clear that I would not make the hour and a half drive from Austin to Brenham in under an hour. As the start of my class rolled around, I decided to pull into whatever I saw next. I saw a few gas stations but didn’t feel they would be conducive to taking the first quiz in my grad school career.

Finally, I spotted the Dairy Queen in Giddings. I pulled over, took out my laptop and praised the Lord for free Wi-Fi and dip cones! I took my quiz with my ear buds on as customers came in to get their Blizzards and Hungerbusters. At 5 p.m., I packed up and drove the 45 minutes to Brenham where I finished the lecture with an iced mocha and an everything bagel at Starbucks.

I am proud to say I passed my first grad school quiz even with small children running around my table like mice looking for cheese.  Also, I made it home by 9:15 p.m. and saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in a long time.

I love my grad classes but have been a little anxious about figuring out how to make my life work with my new schedule. As I was driving home from a long day at work and school one day last week I was praying about how I was going to handle everything and asking the Lord for help. As I prayed, I saw a star shoot across the 610 Loop. I took it as a sign from the Lord that all of the stress and the long hours are going to be worth it, and that He will not leave me out here to do the commute by myself.  

Happy Commuting!

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

September 15, 2012 at 1:36 pm