Without each other we have nothing

There comes a time when every one of us will need somebody. It is unavoidable. No City Life_eBookCovermatter how independent, isolated, or self-sufficient a person wishes to be, there is no escaping that fact. None of us can do it alone. Many have tried, and ultimately failed.
City Life is a book about people needing each other. There is no shame in that; there is no more basic human condition, for without each other, we have nothing.
I began writing accounts of my interactions with people who had called 911 for help when I realized that my position exposed me to worlds that most of us would never experience. Being allowed into a person’s home, or into their lives when away from home, during a moment in time when their need is greatest, is an honor, and not something to be taken lightly.

There is dignity to be found in just about every encounter we experience, and the people I have helped are the root of inspiration for the book. Their stories help unravel the mysteries of the human condition, and by telling them I hope to create a better understanding of the people we share this existence with, and how our differences need not keep us separate, or alone.
Some of the stories in the book are disturbing, others heartfelt, and many will leave you with a grin or scratching your head, much like I would do when responding to people’s emergencies in the city of Providence, Rhode Island. The people at the “other” end of the 911 calls are what matter. I am simply telling their stories.
It is my privilege and honor to have the opportunity to do so. I do not take this honor lightly. Few are fortunate enough to be allowed into the innermost essence of others. Being one of the few has made my experiences more vibrant and my understanding of the people I share this time on earth with far deeper than I would have ever dreamed possible.

Most of us get through our lives sharing ten percent or less of the thoughts that run through our minds. In times of crisis that ten percent expands exponentially; the whole person is exposed. Sharing these experiences with the people who need help, my family, the people I respond with, and even the city itself gives me the opportunity to be a better husband, father, friend and firefighter.
Even now, somewhere somebody is in trouble, a call is being made, a dispatch transmitted, lights flashing, bells tipping, horns blaring . . .

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Glorious

It’s a Friday in September. It’s comforting to know that Alpha Dog Transport is on the way home, a truckload of rescued dogs with them. Their first stop is Haggerston, Maryland in the Toys R Us parking lot, where the first bunch of refugees will meet their new families, either foster or forever. On to the Turkey Hill gas station in Harrisburg, PA at two in the morning, where bleary eyed people meet their bright eyed friends for the first time. The pictures on the

Jeff Bringing them Home
Jeff Bringing them Home

internet where most of these previously homeless dogs were seen do them no justice, and the crowd that has formed will attest.

Parsipany, New Jersey at 4:30 is next, and the dogs feel the excitement in the trailer, and they communicate with one another, tails wagging, hearts pounding, knowing that something great is happening at every stop. For it it truly great, this lonely tractor trailer chugging through the pre-dawn stillness, pulling a cargo of living, feeling creatures who now have a second, or third chance at happiness.

Off to Waterville, Connecticut where even more people eagerly await the arrival. People are kinder somehow, and conversation among them flows freely, some familiar faces from the world of animal rescue joined by those new to this world, where the well-being of others takes precedence. Volunteers are waiting to take the dogs for a walk, give them love and water and make sure they are okay, and ready for the next leg of the journey.

Moosup/Plainfield Connecticut waits, and the people there are making connections, making friends and finding out first hand that there is a well-spring of good will here on earth, and that people are good at heart, and right here, right now is all that matters. When their dogs arrive they go their seperate ways, but the memories of those precious moments will stay with them forever.

The journey continues into Brattleboro, Vermont and the excitement is just as strong here as it was at 0ne in the morning in Haggerston. The weary travelers finish their journey in Kittery Maine, and the last of their passengers are home.

Everybody needs a dog in their lives, and there are thousands waiting to be seen, and heard, and saved. Life goes fast, every moment is ours for the taking, if we choose to live it to the fullest. Even those moments of boring routine that we all must endure is better lived with a faithful companion by our side.

Adopt a dog today, for the experience is truly glorious.

 

Streetlights

Back in the day things were different. We couldn’t get in trouble because we had to be in when the streetlights came on…

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“At least it wasn’t a rock,” I thought when the sting died down. An acorn to the forehead hurts plenty though. One of The Zola’s caught me beside the garage and made me pay, but that’s okay, my brother went inside to get the Daisy. I picked up a small rock, and went hunting. Fat Dean appeared next to a tree, a slingshot in his hand, pulling back, ready to let whatever he had inside the leather ammunition holder rip. It looked like Opey O’brien was the intended target. I reared my arm back, ready to protect my guy, but Crazy Tony broke cover, drew back his string and shot Fat Dean right in the stomach with an arrow. Dean screamed, and blood flew, and her ran away, probably toward home and no doubt a ride to the ER.

Grub Williams sat at a picnic table in the schoolyard, and my brother hid behind the schoolyard fence, gave the Daisy ten pumps, aimed and fired. Instantly Grub shook his head, jumped from the bench, saw blood streaming between his fingers and ran toward us. The Zola’s had us in a crossfire, their acorns now big rocks, and they hurt alot when they struck bone. We broke cover and ran around the house and into a hail of bb fire. Dave Dirt and The Other William’s Boys were staked out in their garage, and opened fire with their guns, mowing us down.

We weren’t quite sure whose side Crazy Tony was on, but hoped it was ours. His bow and arrow set was a little more than a toy, and he had a shitload of arrows in his sling. Darkness descended, but not quickly enough, the streetlights wouldn’t save us, we had to fight, or die. Surrounded by Grub, The Other William’s Boys, and The Zola’s things looked desperate. Even Crazy Tony seemed to be on their side, and started slinging arrows our way.

“Where’s Billy and John when we need them?” I thought as I shook off the sting of a dozen bb’s. Our last neighborhood war ended when Bill ran out of his bulkhead armed with a water extinguisher filled with gasoline. Somehow he managed to get the flamethrower working, and after a little scorched earth and a fence on fire the war ended with no signifigant casualties. John, on the other hand was our munitions expert, and saw nothing wrong with wrapping six bic lighters and six M-80’s with duct tape, atattching a fuse and bombing the enemy. Luckily, only one of his bombs actually worked, and that was thrown into a dumpster a minute before exploding. The dumpster lid flew thirty feet in the air and landed on a cop car, but by then the streetlights were on and we were safely at home, watching Happy Days on TV.

“Surrender or die!” came the shout from The Other William’s garage.

So we surrendered. It wasn’t a big deal, there were lots of acorns left in the trees, and another war would begin tomorrow. I just hoped that Crazy Tony would be on our side this time, and maybe even The Zola’s, they were pretty dumb but could take a lot of BBs and rocks before quitting…

Yup, those streetlights kept us out of a lot of trouble.

One more time

It’s 1977, I’m fifteen and inside The Living Room, a Downcity nightclub with a bad reputation. Drugs, fights, debauchery-the kind of thing that sucks any self-respecting high school kid in the seventies right in. It’s late, I had concocted an elaborate ruse to get the night off from the family, which by today’s standards didn’t need to be all that elaborate, what with no tweets, Facebook, cell phones and GPS we were pretty much able to lead the life of our choosing without much interference. This night, a week before Thanksgiving I chose to change everything.

I’m surrounded by people much cooler than me, dressed in black leather jackets, torn blue jeans and t-shirts. It’s mostly guys, but the girls there were just my style, a little dangerous, reckless and totally out of my league. I’m milling about, getting a feel for a world that was completely new to me, this being only  my second time here, last week being my first. Steppenwolf played that night, they of the famous Born to be Wild, and all that went with it. Tonight’s crowd is edgier, more vibrant, There is electricity in the air, I can feel it and have no idea why.

Midnight. Closing time is at one. The crowd is getting restless. I’m getting worried, it’s a school night and I have to show up the next morning or my entire fabrication of the night’s events will be exposed for the lie that it was. I can’t leave though, just can’t. Something is about to happen and I have no idea what but absolutely cannot miss it. The house lights are dim, a cocktail waitress gracefully slides through the crowd that has grown to capacity now, people shoulder to shoulder looking forward at the stage. The waitress finds me. Again. I’m almost out of money but I think she likes me so I give her five dollars for the two dollar draft and tell her to keep the change. I’m rewarded with a smile that stays with me to this day, thirty-five years later. Money well spent.

A chant begins from the back of the room, now packed with a thousand people. “Hey, Ho-Let’s Go! Hey, Ho-Let’s Go! Hey, Ho-Let’s Go! Its contagious, I join in, somehow making it to the front of the stage without spilling my beer. The chant continues, I’m shouting Hey, Ho-Let’s’ Go! The lights go down, it’s pitch black. The crowd erupts. A roar louder than any I had heard at any Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Steppenwolf or Foghat concerts I had been going to. Four silhouettes take the stage, the crowd gets louder, somehow.

Above it all come the four words that changed everything, Dee Dee Ramone gets things rolling..

1-2-3-4!

The lights come on, the crowd goes crazier still, pandemonium breaks out on the dance floor, my beer goes flying and I am in the middle of the original mosh pit, where I stay for the next hour, lost in blissful happiness as the Ramones crank out one two minute song after another, never taking a break, just letting it roll.

Then they left. A fifty minute set that left the crowd exhausted, covered with sweat and completely satisfied.

I asked for a black leather jacket for Christmas. Some days I wish I still had it, and could wear it just one more time and let everything go.

Thoughts

Feeling powerless and out of control, the world and everybody in it having their way, days followed by nights, then days and nights and days again.

So many people; all of them lost in their own thoughts and dreams, trying to get by, trying to get ahead, trying  to make a name for themselves, and getting trampled in the process.

There’s always the few that seem to get through it better than everybody else, and have it all, and it doesn’t even seem hard.

But it is hard. It’s hard for everybody. Everybody hurts, everybody cries. Nobody gets out alive.

But there is power to be had, and control over what seems uncontrollable. We all exude charisma, be it positive or negative, and the rest of the people we share this earth with feed from that.

The world we create is in direct correlation with how we act, and what we say, and how we say it. People who act poorly, and expect things to go badly more often that not get exactly what they project into their surroundings.

I don’t treat everybody the same. My interactions with people are directly related to the image they project, and what they say, and how they say it. Most of us actually speak a fraction of what we think, the filter works overtime, and lots of our thoughts are better left unsaid, but too many die a miserable death somewhere in our minds; thoughts of gratitude, respect, and love go away, fear of ridicule, of exposing ourselves to another person and communicating seems too hard, and hardly worth the effort.

But it is worth it. Every time. I’ve never been annoyed by a phone call, or some honest conversation, even if it’s brief.

Life doesn’t just happen. We make it happen. We have the power to control everything, and the most important ingredient in everything is the relationships we forge as we our days turn to nights, then days, then nights, then another day.

I cannot make anybody appreciate me, or even like me, but I have, through my actions and words, or more appropriately lack of words, molded exactly how every person I come in contact with responds to me.

Or not.

thoughts

Fishing

I’m not a fisherman, but that does not mean I can’t go fishing. We left at two, the ride to Newport RI lasted about forty-five minutes, and we talked about the fish we would catch, and the ones we would throw back, and the ones we would lie about.

Big 'ole Bluefish!
Big ‘ole Bluefish!

Turns out we didn’t have to lie at all. It was a good day, it takes a while to get the gear, the boat, the food and bait, hooks and all of that together, and to get underway. We fished near the Newport Bridge, in a spot “where the fish are.” It took a while, a couple of nibbles, a few throwbacks, and a lot of waves and eels, but patience persevered, and the Big One just couldn’t get away, not this day, and not from my brother.

Congratulations Bob, that’s a heck of a fish!