“It’s a Cop!”

Today’s writing prompt actually made me laugh: “Have you ever had an encounter with the police?” Yes. Yes, I have. I have had a few …. as a matter of fact …..

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My First Ticket

It was probably my junior or senior year and there was a very cool record store in Ferndale called “Sam’s Jams.” They had everything, including some very hard to find vinyl albums. I remember finding old Soupy Sales albums, rare Tom Lerer albums, and stuff I didn’t even know existed on vinyl there. I spent many hours there before they closed their doors.

I was driving in my dad’s 1979 Caprice Classic (I loved that car!) through Royal Oak and Steve was with me. It was in November, so it was already dark out. The speed limit was like 30 and I was going a little faster than that. I remember when the flashers went on behind me – I was terrified! I had never been pulled over before. There were butterflies in my stomach and I was sweating as the policeman approached the car.

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He asked for my license, registration, and proof of insurance. He asked if I knew how fast I was going and if I knew what the speed limit was. I didn’t know either. He said he’d be back. I became more and more nervous the longer he was in his car. When he returned, he asked, “Do you know you are driving on expired plates?” My dad’s birthday is the first of November, and my dad insisted that he had until the end of the month to renew. I told the cop this and he said very sternly, “You’re dad is wrong. Are you aware that I can impound this vehicle? Where are you heading?” I told him we were going to Sam’s Jams. He told me, “No you are not. You are going home. I would recommend that you not do any driving until your dad gets these plates renewed.” He then handed me my ticket, and told me I was lucky he wasn’t impounding the vehicle. I turned around and drove home (where my dad insisted that he had until the end of the month to renew those tags!).

No stranger to tickets

Don’t take that heading the wrong way, I just have had a few tickets here and there in my 30+ years of driving. One of them came on Thanksgiving.

ERIK ESTRADA & LARRY WILCOX CHIPS (1977)

We were leaving my dad’s house and heading to my ex’s family’s house for dinner. We hadn’t been driving very long, because we were technically still in my dad’s neighborhood when I got pulled over. If my memory serves me correctly, we had stayed a bit longer than my ex wanted to at my folks house. When we left, she was angry and we were arguing in the car. I was driving in a 25 and probably doing 40-45. She was telling me that we were going to be “so late” and the more she yelled, the angrier I got.

The cop was going the other way and he swung around quick and turned on the flashers. This, of course, led to more of an argument. The cop walked up and asked for my information and I believe my ex said, “I knew he was going too fast, sir.” My son asked the cop if I was going to jail – LOL. I got a ticket and an earful that continued all the way to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

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One ticket I got was while driving to work one night. There was an accident at the intersection of 12 and Woodward. I took Woodward to work every night and had to turn right onto 12 Mile. Driving toward 12 Mile, there was a wrecker with a vehicle already on it just before you reached 12 mile. The cop was on the other side of 12 mile and his flashers were on. There were cars going the opposite way on 12 mile, so when I got to 12 mile, I turned right. (So the cop is on my left on one side of 12 on Woodward, and the wrecker is on the right side of 12 mile on Woodward). As I pull into our parking lot at work, he zips in behind me and turns on the lights.

Keep in mind, there are no flares or cones or anything on the street AND there was nothing blocking me from making the turn, so I figured I was ok to do so. Nope. I was informed by the officer that I had drove through “an accident scene” which I guess is a TON of points. He wrote me up instead for “impeding traffic”, which was a little less points, but still a few more than I ever wanted on my record.

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I am a creature of habit. I take the same way to work every day. I like to travel familiar roads. When the GPS has me take another way, or I am in unfamiliar surroundings, I start to get nervous. Especially when the roads are back roads that twist, turn and wind all over the place.

Friday, I was driving to an appointment and the GPS tells me that the road ahead is closed and has me get off and take another route. The roads are twisting and turning all over the place and before I know it, I am in a construction zone. The GPS is yelling at me to turn in like .2 miles and because I am not paying attention to my speed, you guessed it – here comes the Oakland County Sheriff.

He had every right to cop the attitude that he did. “Do you realize you are in a construction zone?” “You do see that there are workers present and that there is no concrete barrier, right?” My heart was pounding. I am always careful – especially in construction zones. My wife can tell you, I usually have the cruise control on. She even jokes about how slow I drive. I was given a break (thankfully) because I had no points on my record. I was told to slow down and he wrote me up for 5 over. I am one lucky guy!

My favorite encounter with the police – October 1987

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I have probably blogged about this before, but when I was a senior in high school the big thing to do was toilet paper houses. There were many groups that went out together – the cheerleaders, the football players, the choir members, and of course, us band people. The band was large and there were three or four groups that went out and TP’d. My group was the TP Bandits.

One of my best friends, Steve (the same Steve who was with me when I got my first ticket) had a birthday in October. He was dating a gal at the time and for his birthday, we decided that we were going to TP his house. When did our “drive by,” we could see him upstairs in his room watching TV with the gal. We parked the car just a bit down from his driveway and Margaret, Ronnie, and I went to work. The three of us used a ton of TP on this huge tree in front of his house, wrapped bushes, the mailbox, etc…. it was a beautiful job!

Once everything was finished, we stood in the middle of his lawn and sang “Happy Birthday” at the top of our lungs. He came to his bedroom window and laughed. After the last note was sung, we turned and ran to our car … but we didn’t get far. As we sung Happy Birthday, a cop car had pulled up in front of the house. Ronnie and Margaret ran away first and I was probably making faces at Steve or giving him the finger or something. All I remember hearing is Ronnie yelling, “It’s a cop!” I then felt a very firm grip on my shoulder and was told to get in the back of the Warren Police Cruiser.

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As the officer closed the door of the cruiser, I could see Steve’s mom running outside yelling, “It’s a prank! It’s ok! They’re ok! It’s just a prank!” Margaret, Ronnie and I sat in the back of this cop car and I kept thinking, “We’re never going to get to go to graduation!” “We’re being arrested for TPing!” “What the hell am I gonna tell my folks?!”

The cop in the car went one by one and asked us our names, our addresses, our phone numbers, and probably a bunch of other things. I don’t remember much of it, but I know I laughed when he got to Ronnie, because he totally started rattling off all his info as fast as I have ever heard him talk! The cop told us that we could go to jail because of vandalism or something and I thought, “It’s TP! Are you serious!?” When the other cop returned the vehicle, he played “good cop.” He told us that he had all our information. He wanted us to go out and clean up as much as we possible could. They were going to drive back by the house later and if it wasn’t cleaned up “we know where to find you!”

Steve got quite a laugh out of the whole thing. I think the cops asked if they wanted us to clean it up and he probably told them yes. It was a huge birthday backfire. I also remember coming to school the next day and waiting for people to razz us. A few people had heard what happened, but surprisingly, no one really said anything. I thought we were totally in the clear. During band class, we were in the middle of a song and all of a sudden, our band director, Mr. Shaner, cut us all off and proudly yelled, “Hey! Did everyone hear what happened to our TP Bandits last night?!” The band erupted with laughter and Margaret, Ronnie and I were red with embarrassment!

Yeah … I’ve had a few encounters with the police …. some were more fun than others!

A Memorable and Unique Gift

When I started writing my blog, I knew it would be a variety of personal stories, thoughts on music and movies, and blogs about whatever happened to be on my mind.  I wondered if I’d actually be able to write new material often enough to even keep a blog.  So, I signed up for “daily writing prompts” which come to my e-mail.  These can be good “thought starters,” but they are usually things like “write about a baseball player who is in a slump,” “Write a story using the following adjectives…,” and such.  This is more “creative” and “fiction” writing.  I’m sure if I really sat down and focused, I could probably do this, but I would rather write about things I know.

My brother got me a book of prompts that I like a bit more.  They are more personal.  I have gone through that book and have jotted the ones that I want to write about in the future in my “blog notebook.”  Occasionally, the daily e-mail will suggest a prompt that I have on my “future” list.  That happened today.  Today’s prompt:

“Write about a memorable and unique gift that was not given as a birthday or Christmas gift”

The Horn Mug

After I graduated high school, my parents threw me a graduation party.  I provided my parents with a list of people who I wanted to invite.  One of those people was my band director.  As I have stated in previous blogs, he was a great mentor to me throughout high school, and we have kept in touch since I graduated (31 years ago!). I invited him to the party, but he was unable to attend. He did, however, send a gift.

Growing up, I had read a lot of poetry, and was familiar with Rudyard Kipling.  I had read many of his poems, and was familiar with his poem “If.”  The card that accompanied the gift had Kipling’s poem on it.  I had never read it in the context of a graduate before, but as I did, it was even more meaningful.  Here it is:

If – Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
But make allowance for their doubting too; 
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise; 

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master; 
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim; 
If you can meet with triumph and disaster 
And treat those two impostors just the same; 
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken, 
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools; 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
And never breathe a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
To serve your turn long after they are gone, 
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”; 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, 
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch; 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; 
If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run– 
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, 
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

I opened the box that accompanied the card.  Inside was a pewter horn-shaped mug.  I had never seen anything like it before.  Inside the card, Tom wrote the many reasons why they enjoyed giving the mug as a gift.  He spoke of the various things that the horn stood for and things that it represented.  That, in itself, made it a very cool gift.  What made the gift so special to me was what was engraved on it.

I had seen the coolest shadow box one day.  I don’t remember where we were, but I told my mom that I wanted to get it and give it to my band director as a gift.  As I recall, it had musical notes on it and maybe a violin.  On the glass were the words “Where words fail – music speaks.”  Such a powerful quote!  I gave it to him toward the end of my senior year and included a note of thanks.

A few weeks later, I received his gift.  Engraved on the horn mug were the same words – “Where words fail – music speaks.”

It remains one of the most unique gifts I have ever received.

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31 years later and those words are just as powerful and the mug still is very special to me.

 

 

25 Things

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One of the daily writing prompts I read today asked to list 25 Things I’ll Never Do.  I grabbed a piece of paper and thought, “This will be easy.”  It was a bit harder than I thought.  I jotted them down one by one and stopped at 25.  I didn’t go any further.  I am sure if I thought more, I could expand the list.  For now, here at the ones that hit me immediately:

I will never ______

  1. Stop loving my wife and children
  2. Smoke a cigarette
  3. Go bungee jumping
  4. Stop writing
  5. Lose my faith in God
  6. Be perfect
  7. Beat my kids at that stupid Super Smash Brothers game
  8. Get a piercing
  9. Stop saying “I Love You”
  10. Take for granted someone’s presence in my life
  11. Give up on dreams
  12. Stop listening to music
  13. Intentionally hurt someone I care about
  14. Go downhill skiing
  15. Stop watching the Three Stooges
  16. Apologize for who I am
  17. Stop hugging my family and friends
  18. Forget those who have passed away
  19. Stop reading
  20. Sky dive
  21. Understand people who enjoy making other people miserable
  22. Act “my age”
  23. Ride in a hot air balloon
  24. Stop trying to make people laugh
  25. Realize how truly lucky I am to be living my life

How about you?  Can you list 25?  10?

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“What’s in YOUR wallet?”

My brother is the writer in the family. I’m the “wannabe” writer. I write for me. He writes for others. He’s actually written a few books. I mention him because a few months ago, in a conversation we were talking about writing. I told him about the creative writing class I started to take when I was in college, but had to drop out because of family reasons.

My brother, being the cool guy that he is, sent me a book recently to encourage me to write. You’ve probably seen it in Barnes and Noble – I know I had at least 20 times, but never picked it up. It’s called 300 Writing Prompts. It is just that – 300 random things to get your mind thinking and to write.

I usually sit down to write and have some sort of idea of what I am going to write about. As a matter of fact, I have two or three ideas that I am working on right now, but they are not ready yet. So, in an effort to keep writing, I have randomly opened up the book my brother gave me and what follows is the result. Today’s topic:

Describe one odd thing in your wallet

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Upon reading the prompt, I immediately knew what I was going to write about, without even opening my wallet! Now, I admit it is not odd to have a dollar bill in your wallet, but some might consider half of a dollar bill a bit odd. Yes, I carry around one half of a dollar bill in my wallet and have had it in there for years! Here is the story behind it:

My best friend, Jeff, and I have been friends since second grade! Our friendship has lasted over 40 years! I meant to write a blog about him on his birthday, and life just never seemed to give me the proper time to write it. I probably could write a book just about our friendship and the crazy stuff we’ve done over the years, but for this blog, I will just share one. (I probably will write the book …)

I don’t recall how old we were. We were probably just out of high school. I remember Jeff telling me that he was going to move to Nevada. He dad lived there and he had decided that he was going there to find a job or something. Now, for the better part of my life, he had always been around. Our friendship was something that I still have trouble putting into words. I was having a hard time knowing that he was leaving.

I don’t recall where I got the idea from. It may have been based on something I read, it may have been based on those best friend necklaces that girls were wearing, or it could have been something I saw on TV. At any rate, I took a dollar bill and wrote my name on one side of it and Jeff’s name on the other. I ripped the bill in half and before Jeff left, I gave him the half with my name on it. I told him that I was keeping the half with his name and no matter what, I’d always be thinking about him. I think this gesture was more for me than it was for him.

He didn’t stay in Nevada long, and returned to Michigan shortly after leaving. It didn’t matter, the “half” dollar always remained in my wallet. Any time I have had to get a new wallet, it has always made the journey into the new one. Not that I need it, but it is a reminder of a life long friendship that is worth more to me than any amount of money in the world.

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Of course, I think that bastard lost his half! I still love him like a brother!