Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Paradise found in Port Townsend, Washington

Looking to get away from the triple digit heat, the wife and I traveled up to the Evergreen State and boy is it sure evergreen! We stayed at a B&B in Port Townsend named the Holly Hill House. Our hosts, Greg and Nina were wonderful. After staying there and sampling Nina's great gourmet breakfasts, I'll never look at that morning meal in the same way again. If you're a history buff, Greg has the parlor decorated in WW II aviation memorabilia. He also has a website about WW II combat aviation books from his private collection.

A great town with lots of history. We used this time to not only relax and sight see, but to check out a few other towns and cities along the Olympic Peninsula.

The views of Puget Sound were spectacular! Not far from our stay was Whidbey Island, Marrowstone Island and Indian Island. The San Juan Islands are not too far away either. Whidbey Island is accessible from Port Townsend via a ferry. Being my first visit to this beautiful state I learned that it really helps to make a reservation for the Port Townsend to Keystone ferry as they fill up fast. I figure not making it to Whidbey Island is a good excuse to "have" to travel up there again.

It's nice to wake up to the sound of crying seagulls, looking out my window and seeing the blue waters of Puget Sound. The Town is not really big, but it sure has a lot of character. The uptown area is filled with many historic Victorian era homes which are beautifully maintained. It's referred to as "uptown" due to this part of the town is located on a bluff overlooking the downtown area (although I'm sure the uptown reference was related to the influential and affluent folk who settled here).

There's a weekly Farmers market held in the uptown neighborhood. Great tasting goodies, fresh organic vegetables grown locally.

The Town is filled with Artisans. If you ever want to see what happened to some of the Woodstock generation, some are living right up there which gives this place it's unique flare.

The downtown area still holds that 19th century charm as most of the buildings are from that era. Great restaurants, shopping and oh yeah, sea kayaking!

I'm used to seeing the murky waters around the Sacramento and San Joaquin river deltas as well as the Carquinez Straits. It was different for me to see such blue and clear waters. I can't explain what my attraction to water is. Maybe it was from growing up in Southern California and playing in the surf at the local beaches, or maybe it could be from my Navy days. Either way, I have a yearning to be on and near the water.

The days are longer there being much farther north than we are here in the SF bay area. It was still light out past 9:30 PM. The drawback is during the winter according to the locals, it's dark by 4 PM. Not everything or place is ideal. You give and take with different geographical places. I think I could deal with it.

We do plan on visiting the area during the off season, just to give us a better idea of what it is like there with the summer tourist season over.

To drive down a two lane road with towering evergreen trees surrounding you, makes you feel like your driving through mother nature's "sky scrapers". It definitely is a sight better than driving down a two lane road with towering concrete buildings surrounding you. While driving on these roads, you have to look up to see the blue sky.

As usual with "get aways", the time passes much too fast. It was nice though, not to be a "slave" to the clock, to breath clean air and not have to deal with the urban hustle and bustle.

I know there are plenty of other beautiful states and places but I was drawn to the area for it's slower pace, scenery, weather and yes of course, it's spectacular local sea kayaking destinations.

I found myself really relaxed and not really wanting to leave such a wonderful, beautiful place and would not have if it wasn't for those things in life such as a mortgage, career, children, school, etc., etc.

So if you find yourself planning a trip up to the beautiful Olympic Peninsula, specifically the historic seaport town of Port Townsend, consider staying at the Holly Hill House B&B. The hospitality is first class, the historic Victorian "Hill House" is beautiful inside and out. Your just a short walk down the steps from uptown to downtown. Greg & Nina will make you feel welcome. And if you're a history buff as I am, you'll enjoy the WW II military aviation decor.

Take a look at their websites; www.hollyhillhouse.com and www.dortchsmilitarysales.com

What a nice break from the daily grind, now it's back to "meeting and greeting new and some old 'friends'".

Friday, July 24, 2009

You're Looking for What!!!!

Today while I was parked at one of my local duck ponds and heard my razor cell phone ringing in my shirt pocket. So thinking that it's the "Boss" (synonymous for "wife") calling, I pull out my cell phone. The display on the front of the phone which would normally show who's calling just shows a Tye dye of colors after it survived a 40 mph drop while motoring along and trying to tuck it up into my helmet.

I flip it open and see it's a "1-800" number. The conversation went something like this...

2WT; "Hello."
Anonymous female caller; "Hi, I'm looking for 'Dick.'"

Wow! I've never had anyone straight out proposition me like that. The mind was quickly working..... what to say back to the AFC.

I thought of replying, "Cut or uncut." or how about, "With pith helmet, or would you like an ant eater?" or "if the sight of what looks like a baby's arm holding an apple doesn't gross you out."

I thought that maybe she was a past customer of mine and used one of the many terms of endearment I've been called over my career. I knew she was actually calling for a "Richard".

I thought I'd keep it clean and just laughed with my reply, "I think you've got the wrong number."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Big Brother in the Bay Area

I was perusing the local paper when a headline caught my eye. It was about the Town of Tiburon wanting to have all car license plates photographed which enter the town. They say of course that it would only be used to aid the "authorities" with a lead for solving crimes which occur there.

So where are the checks and balances here. What and how many "security" programs are already in place by government in the cause for "our safety"? We're already caught on "security" cameras while conducting our daily business going about our lives. Good old "Fastrac", makes going over any of the bay area bridges easier. It's also convenient how it transponds your location just like our dash mounted GPS systems.

It'd be nice that if Tiburon passes this "security" system, that all tourist would just boycott that place. Like it's a high crime area... NOT! Maybe its just a case of the "haves" not really wanting the "have nots" in their town. Maybe Tiburon should help the economy and just place a gate with a red and white striped pole which has to me manually raised as well as a little guard shack. Oh yeah, and how about uniforms for the guards...... and twisted cross arm bands and symbols all over the place. It'll create some needed jobs.

To begin and end your visit to the "Fatherland" of Tiburon you're asked, "Your papers please."

It's seems there's examples everywhere of our country getting close to that utopian society depicted in George Orwell's book "Nineteen Eighty-Four".

We allow our legislators to pass laws which take away our individual freedoms. Some of the laws have good intentions behind them, for instance, the helmet, seatbelt laws and the hands free law for cellular phones, but lost individual freedoms none the less. Next thing you know, we won't be able to listen to music or drink coffee while we drive. What's after that? No talking?

What about several of the big name cellular phone plan providers who blindly and willingly handed over the telephone numbers of their thousands of customers just because Big Brother came knocking on the door and said "hand them over." Thank God one of the company's had the balls to tell Big Brother to come back with a warrant. So much for unreasonable search and seizure.

Gun control...... Now lets allow our legislators to pass stricter gun control laws. The only people which gun control laws affect are honest, hard working Americans. So eventually our legislators pass laws designed to take away or severely restrict our ability and our right to "bear arms". Do you think criminals are affected by these laws. Do you honestly think that criminals walk into gun stores and fill out the required paperwork and patiently await their processing time to pass by?

All these laws passed to create a safer society! For whom? My opinion is surely not us. When you disarm the law abiding people as most of us are, things like freedom of speech, freedom to gather and free thinking will shortly fall victim in the cause for a "safer society". Simply put, you disarm the people, you control the people.

There are plenty more examples around such as our financial institutions and automotive business being pretty much owned by Big Brother.

The scary thing is it's being done slowly to the point where your typical person doesn't see it coming and thinks that the soapbox standing people making all of the racket are just crying wolf.

Most of our conformists society don't and won't see it coming until it's too late. You'll be like sheep being lead to slaughter.

Question our legislators and their actions, we're the ones who vote for them and put them in political office. Government is supposed to work for the people not the lobbyists, big business or special interest groups. Remember elementary school history, "by the people, for the people." Oh that's right, most adults can't even pass a 4th grade history or geography test.

It might be hard for some or most of you to believe that a cop, yes a cop has this opinion. I'm not a liberal, just a very concerned conservative.

Question authority.

If you don't the "Thought Police" will be coming for you in the middle of the night......

Monday, July 20, 2009

Unreasonable Retirement?

Lately I've read several articles and "opinions" pertaining to the retirement benefits of public safety persons. Our local paper, "The Times" have featured articles bashing public safety retirement benefits.

The articles really haven't specified if it was CALPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System) or the 1937 Retirement Act which some California Counties still use.

For those of you not familiar with the Public Safety retirement in California it goes basically like this.... 3% @ 50. This formula is at age 50 (if you plan on retiring at that age) they take the number of years worked (usually using your single highest year) and multiply that by 3. The result equates to what percentage you'll receive of your "full time" income.

So I'm leaning more toward the articles relating to the 1937 Retirement Act because CALPERS has a 90% cap on their retirement benefit.

With the 1937 Retirement Act, you can have a Law Enforcement Officer retire out in excess of 100% of his or her salary. It's basic mathematics here... how can a retirement system sustain itself when people can make more money retired than when they were working full time???

Of course the author(s) of the article(s) from what I've read has never distinguished which retirement system they're writing about. So much for unbiased journalism (and you thought cops were bad!). What a way for these "unbiased, truth seeking" journalist(s) to get the uninformed public on their side to have our "lucrative" retirement scrutinized.

My brother-in-law has the same uneducated view, but hey, he doesn't really work anyway.

To those of you doubting ninnies out there, think about it. I didn't pick this profession for the retirement and I won't argue with you that it is a great retirement, but you chose what ever line of work you do and the benefits which come with it. What other profession in this world other than the military does one's occupational hazard include being killed by some other person?

I chose this profession because I truly felt that I could make a difference out there. And if during my years of service I've only changed the life of one person then it has been worth it. This profession over the years takes its toll on your body. Years of working shift work, holidays worked, family time missed, and sometimes even mandatory overtime due to being understaffed. All of this not to mention the personal toll which many Officers pay for dealing with the scourge of society, those in dire need and even some of the horrific things we experience.

How many of you would chose a profession which has a higher divorce and suicide rate of the general public?

For the doubting ninnies, how much is your life worth to do the job which all of us working the "thin blue line" risk daily? And to be middle aged, which I am, and chasing thugs half my age who often don't just say "Uncle" and give up without a fight?

Let me put it this way, when you're getting the shit kicked out of you, would you want an old cop holding on to the magic age of 65 or 70 to collect his social security benefit to save your ass? My guess is NOT.

And if that (those) jealous, pansy journalist(s) is (are) reading this, GET A CLUE. Oh and try something which has gone to the wayside in your line of work..... ETHICAL UNBIASED REPORTING, now there's a concept.

Be thankful there are people like us in this world to protect you from those which would prey upon you and yours. Let "us" get away from the often thankless things we do daily. Let "us" have our peace in retirement. Allow "us" to enjoy and experience what you have never had to sacrifice.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Working hard or hardly working?

I remember during my military service I worked a ton of days. Those long days of standing watch sucked! A typical day at sea for us engineering types (people who work in the engine rooms and auxiliary engine rooms) was 18 to 20 hours long. The normal engine room temperatures would run around 120 to 130 degrees.

By the end of your 18 to 20 hour day it came down to a choice..... do I shower and eat, and if so I'll lose about an hour's sleep. Needless to say I'd always take the shower option and only lose about 10 to 15 minutes of sleep.

After I became a civilian I did the usual Monday through Friday 8 hour a day grind which usually turned into a 10 hour day. God I hated that job!!!! Every time Monday rolled around I'd try and think of an excuse I hadn't used before to get out of work. The bad thing was, it was a small business and I only got paid when I worked. There was no such thing as sick time.

After being hired by my first law enforcement agency I had a chance to work day shift, swing shift and graveyard. Day shift was a 5 day, eight hour shift. Swing shift and graveyard were only 4 day, ten hour shifts. So graveyard worked just fine for me. Later on during my career my last agency tried something unheard of and progressive.... the 3 day, twelve hours shifts just for the weekend crews, Awesome! The only drawback was that we would have to work additional hours during the month to even out the hours.

My current agency has a similar schedule, 3 day, twelve hour shifts with no make up time. Having a four day weekend every week is a wonderful balance between work and family.

We keep track of our statistics every month, meaning we count how many citations we've written. Call it what you want, a quota, performance objective, personal goal or what ever else you can think of. Part of this bean counting also includes "shifts worked".

I was not really surprised when I saw the number of "shifts worked". It turned out that I worked approximately 120 days for the year (not including vacation days).

But believe it or not one of my family members beat me out on the number of days worked for the year and they're not even in a public safety profession. That would be my unemployed brother-in-law.

A lot of people probably think this is a pretty great deal and I agree. Even though I have a four day weekend I do get driver's who chose to exercise their constitutional right. This usually means having court one to two days each week (the off-duty court pay is great too!). But once in a while it is nice not to have court and to be able to enjoy the whole four days off.

Someone once told me, "If you love what you do, you'll never work another day in your life."

If that's true, then I haven't "worked" for a very, very long time.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Yep, that was me.

As a motor cop I get the chance to meet quite a lot of people. Our customer base is huge. On occasion we come across previous "customers".

Sometimes they come out with the "Hey you gave me my last ticket" while others try to remain anonymous not knowing that they've been recognized by you until you let on that you know who they are. And some are just plain oblivious that you are the one who gave them their last ticket.

I guess that disguise of helmet, dark sunglasses, mustache really does work. I always get the "All you motorcycle cops look the same"

One bright sunny day I was parked at one of my local duck ponds when a motorists stops and tells me that there was a broken down vehicle over at Mockingbird Rd and El Corporal Dr. Mockingbird lane is what we affectionately refer to as one of our several speedways in South City.

I arrived at the intersection and luckily the broken down vehicle was on the less traveled El Corporal Dr which is actually the jurisdiction of North Town. I figured since I was there I'd handle the detail. I parked behind the disabled vehicle and had my motorcycle rear flashing emergency lights on to warn any approaching idiots that the lane was closed.

The driver was grateful to see me park behind her (now that's really a change!). Thankfully the driver was a member of AAA. Problem easily solved. I contacted dispatch and advised them that I had an owner requested AAA tow and to expedite as the vehicle was blocking the roadway.

While waiting for the tow truck the driver asked if she could ask me a question. Her question was how much was a cell phone ticket going to cost her.

For those of you not in California, we have this "hands free device" law which prohibits drivers from holding their cellphones in their hands and talking on them while driving a motor vehicle.

She relates to me that she was driving on Mockingbird Rd and had driven by a fast food restaurant where she guessed a motor cop had been "hiding" because she heard his siren a few times moments after she drove by it.

I told her I believed the base fine was something like $20 - $25. She replied "that's not bad." I told her "Yeah, but then you have all of the state, county and court enhancements." The driver asked "What does that mean?" I answered "Oh a total fine of around $147."

Obviously she was not happy to hear that news.

Now the place where she told me she was caught was one of my "duck ponds". I asked her if she remembered the motor officer's name who had given her the ticket. She told me she didn't remember but excused herself as she said "He was a real asshole!"

The oblivious driver remembered she had her copy of the citation still in the center console of her SUV. She goes and gets it, walks back to where I'm standing. She looked at the ticket and said "It was an officer 'Two Wheel Terror'" as she handed me her copy.

I looked at it and said "Yeah, it sure was. I'd recognize my signature anywhere."

You talk about a Kodak moment.......