commuterchroniclesdbh

Driving and Biking in the Big City

Posts Tagged ‘Texas Tech

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.

cub-reporter

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.

Yard art and other decorative thoughts

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Bruce

Bruce

I just renewed my blog name “commuterchroniclesdbh.com” on Word Press and looked back to discover I haven’t written a new installment since January. A writer’s work is never done, of course, and it is not my intention to slack off this blog. I see more folks reading every day and that encourages me outside of my day-to-day writing life in the Texas Medical Center, not to mention the rewrite of a novel at the urging of my best agent yet.

My life has taken a twisty turn since “Proof of Life Sundays,” filed in January — the most huge change being that my  only daughter’s wedding is coming up this summer. Also surprisingly time consuming has been the construction of my first and only swimming pool. (Both subjects I hope to discuss in blogs later.)

I return today with some thoughts out of the commuting realm and into the yard-decorating arena. I recently acquired a contemplative frog for poolside (Bruce, at left) and it reminded me of my constant inner struggle with my country girl roots and my sophisticated city evolution. I always have been drawn to unusual — some, especially my husband, might call tasteless — forms of artistic expression, especially in the way of yard decorations. I don’t know if this stems from my humble beginnings, the influence of “The Beverly Hillbillies” or just my soul’s code. I can remember some of my first memories and longings as a Texas girl of having those spectacular lions adorn the sidewalk to my palatial home some day. I don’t even know who would have had such concrete lions in Port Neches outside of Beaumont, Texas, equally distanced from the ocean, Houston and the Cajun influence of Louisiana.

Lion

First purchase of yard art is traditional lion.

When my husband and I acquired our perfect paradise in the ‘burbs from where I would commute to Houston every day, I longed for a lion to decorate my lawn. John made this first purchase, coming home with a perfectly acceptable example of concrete artistry. However, by then, I’d spent some time covering the Vietnamese immigration to Port Arthur and Kemah after the fall of Saigon and also had become heavily influenced by Asian writers including Amy Tan who wrote of superstitions and traditions that remind me of my East Texas, cotton-picking pioneer mom on the other side of the world. My heart was set on Chinese lions, something unique and more a reflection of the cool souls who resided with me.

That’s when the honeymoon was over. At the same time John came home with a concrete lion, I fell totally in love with a green concrete gargoyle at a favorite gardening store and, despite him weighing more than 100 pounds, brought him home and placed him on the porch beside John’s lion. I promptly named him Verdecito, the little green one.

Verdecito -- the little green one.

Verdecito — the little green one.

My more conservative husband with Bible study at our home on Thursdays freaked. That’s putting it mildly, and, I must admit that Verdecito has a bit of a demonic appearance. I reject such superstitious nonsense and have tried hard to keep my mom’s many omens and traditions out of my kids’ psyche even while they torture me daily. Still. I loaded up Verdecito and took him to work with me where he resided for months in the backyard of my friend’s communications company on Quenby in the city.

It took a while before John could convince me that, on second thought, Verdecito was wanted. It felt like a kidnapping adventure for poor Verdecito who experienced many “proof of life/concrete” days before I brought him home.

Then, I, too, compromised. After buying a series of gargoyles, John suggested I should add variety. I bought a long skinny dog who reminded me of my German short-haired pointer, Andy; a beautiful huge snail who I named Paul and a happy relaxing frog, named Cecil.Andy

When my daughter started going to Texas Tech, I’d saddle up my old ride,  Vinny, and trek the eight to 10 hours west, stopping at garden shops with concrete art along the way. I acquired a huge green horned toad, among others. John was frustrated, and I must admit now that I may have had a yard art problem. He suggested it would be different if I had a theme.

“A theme?” I cried. “I had a theme. It was gargoyles. You said, ‘no more'”

I promptly and surprisingly ran into the exact same gargoyle as my original, only in gold. Orocito joined the family and John acquiesced somewhat. Clearly, I couldn’t be deterred.

Horned

Yikes! I’m thinking as I write this. He may be right. I hate when that happens.

I have ventured into other yard decor since the controversy over concrete art and none have really pleased my beloved mate’s sensibilities. When we added the backyard pool recently, he took the redesign to move all of my favorites into an area that he now calls my “English garden.” As we say in Texas, “that’s just putting lipstick on the pig.”

My goal is to let my spirit soar in the English garden. My humble roots and untraditional taste will out and prove to be so artistic it is kitschy. Meanwhile, John has allowed my one recent purchase, the meditative frog who I’ve named Bruce (after Lee as much as Springsteen) to remain poolside. Hoorah for small victories.

Weathered birdhouse

Weathered birdhouse

Butterflies from North Carolina

Butterflies from North Carolina

These three glow-in-the dark creatures have not aged well.

These three glow-in-the dark creatures have not aged well.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

June 28, 2015 at 2:31 pm