Friday, April 28, 2006

Time Changes

I hate the time change. Being an "early to rise, early to bed" person, I'm usually up drinking my coffee and plinking around on the computer by 4:00 a.m. By contrast, I'm shuffling upstairs with my book by 9:00 and by 10:00, I'm normally asleep. Now as I lay in bed, the sun hasn't even completely set. Even though I sleep the same number of hours as before, going to bed before dark feels sort of shameful and weak. If someone calls and asks me if they woke me up, even if they did, I lie about it. "Me, in bed this early? Heaven's no!"

I was always rather proud of the fact that Indiana refused to do all the hysterical springing forward and falling back other states did. To me, it symbolized a kind of sturdy Midwest independence against conformism. Time is what it is, after all, and it seems rather foolish of humans to believe they can twist it to their advantage instead of simply cooperating with it.

I'm not sure who the time change benefits. Terri said she thinks she's going to have to extend her hours at GoodFella's Pizza because more people are calling late for pizzas. She doesn't really want to have to do this as the majority of her employees, including herself, also work a full-time day job at which they have to be at work early. It would be a hardship for them to stay open an extra hour. She said Kelly's Ice Cream said the time change was probably going to force them to stay open later as well. Kristina said she and her girlfriend like to walk early in the morning as soon as it gets light but now sunrise doesn't come until too late.

I've been told that farmers prefer the later sunset but I don't see why. Regardless of what the clock says, there is daylight for x number of hours out of every 24. You don't get an extra hour of light by changing time.

I resent having the time change foisted off on us by Governor Daniels. It seems as if he came back from his sojourn in Washington determined to yank ole' backward Indiana single-handedly into the 21st century. Being so caught up in national and local politics, I hadn't been paying too much attention to the wheelings and dealings at the state level so I didn't even know this change was upon me until shortly before it happened. I very grudgingly set my clock forward on the dictated night but my internal clock still hasn't adjusted.

I don't really care what time schedule we are on. I can get used to this one, I guess. I just don't want to have to change twice a year. I want to set my clock and forget it, knowing it will be that time forever. There is nothing inherently superior about joining a popular club if it stands for something stupid.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Lake Erie Day Trip

Brenda and I went to Lake Erie Easter weekend, staying at Port Clinton, Ohio. We were looking for a quickie get-away - a one-nighter. We don't always go where there is Big Water but it tends to be our preference. We also usually end up in places out of season, not because we plan it that way, but because we don't... plan in advance, that is. For instance, we went to Eureka Springs, Arkansas in November, slightly after the close of their tourist season. We ended up in Port Clinton in April, somewhat before their season starts. There are advantages and disadvantages to this method of travel. One big advantage is that rates are cheaper. Our room in Port Clinton, overlooking Lake Erie, cost us $62. The same room, according to the sign posted on the door, rises to $169 after the start of the "official" season A second advantage is not having to fight hordes of other visitors. In Ohio, streets weren't busy and shops weren't crowded. Although, of course, this brings up the main disadvantage of being either early or late - places that aren't open. When you travel out of season, you are often met by gates barring the way to tourist attractions and signs on shop windows that say - "see you in May!".

We didn't care much. Lake Erie itself was open and the weather was perfect for sitting at a picnic table, watching the sun gleaming on the water. I know there are probably parts of Lake Erie that are crowded by factories and utility plants, befouled by industrial waste and sundry other pollutants, but all we could see from our Port Clinton perspective was clear, blue water, ruffled by white caps and dotted with islands.

We took a 15-minute ferry ride to Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island for lunch. You can rent a golf cart for $50 a day to be able to traverse the island but we just took a taxi to town. The downtown part of Put-in-Bay is mostly populated by bars and restaurants and there, it seemed, were most of the rented golf carts, parked in front of the various eating/drinking establishments. We saw tee-shirts that advertised Put-in-Bay as a "drinking village with a fishing attitude", and it did seem that partying must be the big draw there. (Put-in-Bay bills itself as the "Key West of the North"). Almost all of the bars feature entertainment so when the season is booming, I expect hordes of people roam from place to place (there is a special party package that ferries people over from Cedar Point). I wonder if the local cops make lots of Operating While Intoxicated golf cart arrests?

We talked to the lady who owned the taxi service about island living. I've always thought that I would like to be the kind of self-sufficient person who would appreciate holing up in an area that is shut off from the rest of the world for a significant period but I don't really think I am- spending months on a 2 mile by 4 mile island strikes me as claustrophobic . Like so many people who live in tourist areas, South Bass Island people love the visitors and their money in the summer but they are also glad to see them go in the winter when the island lapses into a quiet, peaceful refuge. You have to have a lot of foresight to live on an island with a winter climate. Our taxi lady said islanders make sure to have their propane tank filled in the fall as well as stocking their freezer (although there is a grocery there) and putting by other necessities. She told us she confines herself to the island all winter, not bothering to come to the mainland until well into spring. Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "what if you were stuck on an island during the winter and ran out of anything to read?"

Many of the Lake Erie people we talked to were concerned because the lake didn't freeze over this winter, for the first time that anyone could remember. Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and from what the residents say, the stormiest. The ferry, which usually doesn't begin running until May, started in January this year. This is a very unwelcome development because people in this area love their ice season. For one thing, it draws many ice fishermen and for another they like the ice themselves for snowmobiling and other icy entertainments. They wondered if this was just an aberration or if global warming meant it would continue to happen.

This part of Lake Erie bills itself as the "walleye fishing capital of the world". Brenda said the place her family used to vacation in Wisconsin also bills itself as the "walleye capital of the world" but the car parked next to us at our hotel had Wisconsin plates so if Wisconsin people are coming to Ohio, does that mean they are bowing to Ohio's superiority in this regard?

We didn't eat any walleye when we were there but we did have fresh lake perch for lunch at Put-in-Bay and it was excellent although maybe not quite as good as what we had in Southhaven, Michigan.....not that I want to get involved in any competition between Great Lake states.

The official tree of the part of Ohio we were in seems to be the Fountain Cherry (there is a Weeping Cherry too but I think they are two different trees) and they prune it so that the blooming part is like an umbrella over the top of the tree....very eye-catching. Brenda fell in love with them so we went to a nursery but it turned out the tree was longer than my truck bed so she didn't buy it. We wondered though why these trees aren't more popular in other places. Surely, any tree that could survive Lake Erie winters would flourish anywhere.

We visited the lighthouse at Marblehead and Cheesehaven (150 Different Kinds of Cheeses!); we drove along the lakefront of Port Clinton, admiring the beautiful old homes set far back from the water's edge on large lawns. We bought pewter thimbles for our memorabilia shelves and jackets featuring the Erie Islands. And then we headed home talking about visiting all the Great Lakes as a traveling goal for the future. The only Great Lake we've seen much of is Lake Michigan. We've only barely caught a glimpse of Lake Superior, have never been to Lake Huron and have only touched Lake Ontario from Niagara Falls. Brenda is our travel agent and collector of information on places we mostly never make it to see. I have no doubt Great Lakes tourist brochures are flooding into her mailbox as we speak.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Why The Deputies Left

At his announcement that he intended to run for Sheriff, Mike told us that he meant to mount a positive, honorable campaign and he has lived up to that campaign promise. I believe that attitude has won him much support. Many people have told me that they appreciated the fact that Mike has never gotten into attack mode, even when he might have been justified in doing so, as when he was suspended by Sheriff Striker, in what appeared to be retaliation for his decision to become a candidate.

Although being of a somewhat more militant mind-set myself, I have respected Mike's decision to forego negativity regarding the Sheriff's race.....until now.

At a Candidate's Forum this week, sponsored by Farm Bureau, Sheriff Striker made the astounding assertion that he lost four seasoned, experienced deputies because when he came into office, he "made them work" and "some of them didn't like that and so they quit". This is so far from being the truth that there is simply no way I can let it pass without rebuttal. So, sorry, Mike, but this blog is my baby and I can say what I want here, so I'm taking off on my own on this one.

I worked at the Sheriff's Department for nearly ten years - eight as Tim Roberts' secretary and almost two as Leroy Striker's secretary and I am here to tell you that if ever there was a problem the Sheriff's Department didn't have, it was employees - be they deputies, dispatchers, jail officers, clerical staff or cooks - who didn't give their full level of commitment to the department. I remember being called in at 2:00 a.m. to write a press release on a fatal accident so it would be there for the newspapers and radio stations to give to the public first thing in the morning. And when I got to the department, 2nd shift deputies who should have gotten off at midnight would still be there, visiting hospitals, talking to families and completing reports. I can remember putting out pages to off-duty officers requesting help in serving a search warrant and having deputies from all shifts show up to assist. I can remember when extra surveillance was needed to catch the burglars doing a series of break-ins in the county and having officers who 'd just finished a shift on days, come back in to do patrol during the late night hours. I can remember riding with officers serving warrants on their own time to make arrests on drug cases made by the detectives. I can remember that jail officers came in from off-duty to help process through all the arrests made that night. I can remember dispatchers coming in voluntarily during severe storms, knowing that the dispatcher on duty would have her hands full with all the related storm calls coming in.

So Sheriff Striker's assertion that deputies quit because they didn't want to work is absolutely preposterous! He was right about one thing - overtime is rarely ever paid to deputies. Mostly they get paid in comp time, time off later for time worked now - except that they almost never got all their comp time either simply because there isn't enough manpower to let them take all the comp time they racked up. Usually, they finished the year by writing off many comp time hours.

And you know what? I never heard anyone bitch about it. They did what they did because they loved their jobs and the department, not because they saw extra dollars on their paycheck.

I know three of the deputies who resigned from the department - Bryan Cox, Jon Pace and Jason Truman. I was close to them then and I'm close to them now. I don't know what reasons Jeff Wells gave for coming to the Wabash County Sheriff's Department from the Marion City Police, staying for six weeks and then opting to bail back to his old job at Marion, because that happened after I left. Perhaps the Sheriff didn't warn him before he was hired that he would have to work!

I do know why the others left and it is for precisely the opposite reason Sheriff Striker gave. The Department, under his leadership, had become the kind of place where people felt discouraged from going the extra mile. Rather than being an agency where everyone pitched in, it turned into a kind of factory-ish, punch-a-time clock organization. For instance, I know that the deputies wanted to do extra surveillance to try to apprehend criminals who were stealing anhydrous ammonia for making meth but their request was denied.

I believe this environment stemmed from Sheriff's Striker's background coming from the Indiana State Police. The State Police are effective in their mission but their attitudes and policies don't translate to a small Sheriff's Department. The Sheriff's Department is more like a family than a rigid, hierarchal organization, such as the State Police.

When I first came to the Department, the first thing Dallas did was to drag the huge, old industrial-sized coffee pot from back in the squad room into the main office. He told the guys that he wanted them to feel free to pop in and have a cup of coffee and shoot the breeze when they weren't busy. He and Tim believed that communication and trust were the keys to making a small department (even a large department for that matter) function effectively. If third shift had been looking for a vehicle suspected in a break-in, day shift needed to know that so they could continue to watch. If day shift was unable to get a warrant served, they needed to pass it on to 2nd shift so they could try to find the suspect at home and arrest him or her. If a deputy had taken a call about arguments in a home, the next shifts needed to be aware that a potentially violent situation existed and could flare up. Back then, dispatchers and jail officers were encouraged to ride with deputies so they knew what the officers faced on the other end of the radio. We had a Department Christmas party in the winter and a picnic in the summer. All this interaction was meant to form a tight, trusted unit of friends and colleagues so when the stuff hit the fan, everyone knew they could count on everyone else to have their back, a critical attitude in a profession where danger often lurks.

By contrast, Sheriff Striker came to the Department with different ideas. The deputies were moved downstairs and discouraged from spending any amount of time in the general office. To give him credit, he made our office much more attractive but at the same time, it seemed less friendly. I truly believe Leroy thought we were a department of country bumpkins who needed his expertise as a State Trooper to whip us into professional shape. That was somewhat laughable, really, because he had been a road troop his entire career whereas our deputies were cross-trained in almost every area of law enforcement. As Sheriff, Tim had put a premium on education so that the department's officers had logged hundreds of hours of training in everything from Interviewing Techiques to Critical Incident Management to Hostage Negotiation to Internet Crimes to Identify Theft to Field Sobriety Testing. Not only were our guys trained but they were so well trained, they were requested to train other departments, as well as at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

So the reality was that, under Striker, the deputies who resigned felt pushed toward the door by a sheriff who neither utilized nor appreciated their abilities. They felt the comaraderie and effectiveness of the department had been lost. Sheriff Striker once told me that he knew how to make the deputies' lives hell and if they bucked him on anything, that's exactly what he would do. I believe that's what he did do.

These were officers who, among them, had almost thirty years of experience. What that meant to you, the public, was that if you crashed your car on a small, almost-unknown, road in Wabash County, they knew exactly where to go and could reach you in a matter of minutes. It meant that they were familiar with the repeat offenders in Wabash County and their usual methods of operation and the friends they hung with - which meant crimes were often solved quickly. It meant the taxpayers of Wabash County had invested a great deal of money in their training, now lost. The new deputies who replaced the ones who left are good people and are doing a fine job....but when a department of 15 (including the Sheriff, Chief Deputy and Detectives) loses three of its senior deputies, it creates a real gap for a considerable period of time. It shouldn't have happened and I flat promise you that it didn't happen because of deputies who didn't want to work.

In the eight years of the Roberts administration, no deputies left the department voluntarily. Back then, we hired officers away from other agencies because the Sheriff's Department was considered a desirable place to come because of its progressive and congenial working environment. My fondest hope is to see the Wabash County Sheriff's Department become that kind of place again.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Rats!

I have lived in this house since 1991. A few times, always in the fall, I've found signs of mouse visitation though I've never seen an actual mouse. That was the extent of any invasion by wildlife until this year. Then a couple of months ago, I had a rat. I knew it was a rat because I saw him run across the doorway between the kitchen and the back porch. He was brown and he was sleek and he was big! I usually stick up for wildlife. I have written passionately in defense of coyotes, even when I suspected that they stole off with my cats. I am happy when I see rabbits gamboling in my yard. The sight of a raccoon waddling through the cemetery across the street pleases me. But none of those things are rats. My visceral reaction to a rat in my house was pure horror.

And, despite my somewhat PETA-ish tendencies toward respect for living creatures, in this situation, my moral principles could not be compromised quickly enough. I wanted the most lethal rat poison available. I could care less if the rat suffered. These grainy blocks of death were placed behind the washer, which is where I saw the rat run to. Mom and I watched to see what happened. By morning, the bait was gone. I put out another. We both left and while the house was quiet, the rat sneaked out and ate the second dose. That night, a third square disappeared.

Geez, this stuff was billed as so deadly, you aren't even supposed to touch it without gloves, giving the impression that mere contact would send you to the emergency room in mortal throes but our rat had consumed at least 6 ounces of the stuff and presumably, lived to eat again. This obviously wasn't just a rat but the Superman of rats, killable only by some unknown form of rat Kryptonite...or a silver bullet.

Mom and I were to the point of dreading the back porch. We kept the door shut. We didn't go out there unless we had to. The laundry piled up. The freezer remained unopened. When we had to let the dogs out, we banged on the door and warned the rat so he could hide. We both felt that if we came nose-to-nose with him, we might very well be plunged into cardiac arrest.

Meanwhile, my dogs ignored the whole situation. Raleigh, who can sniff out an individual crumb of toast on the floor and who will sit and stare fixedly at a purse on the dining room table that contains a single Lifesaver, acted like he never noticed that a rat was living on his back porch. I would have thought that a rat track would leave a pungent scent to a dog with a nose like an odor x-ray but evidently not. Likewise, Caesar the Pomeranian.

The fourth rat bait remained untouched. We inspected it for several days in a row before we came to the conclusion, accompanied by heartfelt relief, that the rat was, indeed, dead. We convinced ourselves that some weird set of cosmic circumstances had brought the rat to us. It was an aberration, never to be repeated.

And then, a few day's ago, Mom told me she heard something gnawing in the wall behind the kitchen cupboards. I tried to convince myself that the previous rat visitation had driven her to paranoid hysteria, that she probably only heard the wind outside. Until she called me into the kitchen and whispered, "listen!" Sure enough, I could hear something actually chewing, eating its way into my freaking house! That night I saw it, just like before, running across the doorway. I assume this is a second rat and not the first one, recovered and now totally impervious to poison.

Back to Tractor Supply for rat bait which, as I write, is disappearing at a rate of one square per night.

This situation is twice as spooky as before. What could possibly account for this rat infestation when I never had a rat for 17 years? And what do I do about it? Are their any rat experts out there?

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Deja vu

In the April 17 issue, the New Yorker magazine reports that the White House is seriously considering going to war in Iran. An unnamed senior Pentagon advisor is quoted as saying, "this White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran and that means war." According to one former defense official, this scenario is based on the premise that "a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government."

My God, have these people not been paying attention to how badly they miscalculated the reaction of the Iraqis when we invaded their country? Speaking of which, 19 American have been killed in Iraq so far in April.

Meanwhile, back at the White House, it turns out, at least according to his testimony before the grand jury, that Scooter Libby was given the go ahead to leak classified information to selected reporters based on the instruction of the President and Vice-President themselves. The justification for this is that it isn't leaking when the president does it but Bush stood before the American people and, with a straight face, claimed to abhor leaking, claimed to want to find out who did the leaking and claimed anyone who was caught leaking would be dealt with! Sort of reminds you of "I did not have sexual relations, with that woman, Monica Lewinsky....", doesn't it? Oddly enough, that lie was considered by the Republicans as grounds for impeachment but they blow off this lie as much ado about nothing. (And the Bush folk stood by and kept their mouths shut about the truth as Judy Miller went to jail....and perhaps they will do the same with Scooter Libby, one of their own. With friends like these, you really don't need any enemies.)

Back during impeachment, the Republicans revered "the Rule of Law" and stated repeatedly that "no president is above the law". But they have ignored George's Bush's going above, around and under the law on so many occasions - in spying on Americans' phone calls and internet communications without a warrant (if anyone believes that this is confined to cases in which we are talking to Al Qaida, they are naive. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez was recently asked about just this subject and said he could not "rule out" wiretapping purely domestic communications) - in condoning torture in contravention of the Geneva Conventions which America itself was large responsible for writing - in insisting on their power to detain American citizens without providing access to family, attorney or courts or knowing what, if any, charges have been filed against them.

The main concern I have about all this is trying to decide what combination of political power provides the best system of checks and balances. When the Republicans rushed gleefully into impeachment, I came away with the feeling that divided government doesn't work very well when the party that controls Congress can initiate an endless series of investigations, essentially rendering powerless the president duly elected by the people. That seemed to me to be a perversion of how our political system is supposed to work.

So even though I definitely trend more Democrat than Republican, I actually thought that one-party rule might be an improvement. At least President Bush would have a cooperative Congress to help him achieve some of his goals, whether I agreed with those goals or not. But, the Republican Congress has gone so far the other way, ceding every bit of their own power over to the executive branch, that they have tipped the system almost into a quasi-dictatorship when the President can grab more and more authority and the branch of government that we entrust to exert oversight over the Chief Executive simply folds like a deck of old cards.

Now I wonder if the best option might be a president and one house of Congress of the same party and the other branch of Congress controlled by the other party to act as a speed bump in the road of executive over-reaching.

Or maybe it would just be good if our political leaders could find it in their souls to try to work together for the good of the country again.....

It was probably a good thing that Congress couldn't get its act together enough to pass an immigration bill before they left for their Easter vacation. This is such a hot issue and when passions run so high, the resulting legislation is seldom ever sensible. I doubt we'll ever be able to get a firm grip on our long border with Mexico. It seems unlikely we can afford a fence and the number of border patrol officers it would take to see that no one made if over or under that fence even if we built it. (Personally, I'd rather use the money to build a really effective system of dykes and levees to protect New Orleans, one of our most important ports, than a fence between us and Mexico).

Even if we manage to figure out how to police the border to reduce illegal aliens coming to America to a trickle, we still have the situation of the eleven-or-so million who are already here. Realistically, there is no way we are going to round them up and send them back to Mexico so I think we should concentrate on the criminals. If we catch them committing a serious crime, then by all means, send them back (after their punishment). If they are here for economic reasons, obeying the rules of our society, raising families, paying taxes, then they should be allowed to stay with a means of allowing them to gain their citizenship after a certain amount of time.

The worst possible outcome of proposed legislation is a guest worker program. This is good only for the employers who want cheap labor. It combines the ugliness of indentured servitude without even the ultimate pay-off of becoming a citizen in the end. It allows employers access to a plentiful labor pool who have no rights to decent treatment, a living wage or any benefits. This impacts American workers as employers have absolutely no incentive to maintain or improve pay or working standards. It is often said that illegals take jobs that Americans won't take but what jobs are those? My area of the country isn't very diverse. Our work force is primarily white and yet, it seems that everything gets done. White Americans here wash dishes and bag groceries and mow lawns and roof houses and dig ditches....If we suddenly had an influx of illegal aliens who were willing to take those same jobs for a lot less than the current American employees have been making, with harsher working conditions and fewer, if any, benefits, would people then say that Americans "won't do" those jobs? Probably so, but would it have been the chicken that came first, or the egg?

You can't expect people to come here and do our scut work for companies that want to pay them a pittance and then as they are beginning to get established, pack them back to Mexico. For one thing, they surely wouldn't stay within the system knowing what was going to happen eventually. They would go underground so as not to be found when their guest worker visas ran out. For another, they would probably produce children while they were here who would be Americans by virtue of being born in the United States. Would it be legal to pitch these young Americans out of the U.S. and to a Mexico where they might not have even been before?

Instead of flying into thise debate with emotions blazing, we need to give calm, serious thought to the best possible way of handling the situation. The ultimate answer is probably to assist Mexico to come closer to our own standard of living (although in the last few years, it seems we are going in the other direction with the standard of living of working Americans going down) so that people are content to stay in their own country. This would take bold, creative, long-term planning and where that might come from, I have no idea.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Call Me a Trucker

I am a trucker now. I became the proud owner of a truck in the same way I became the proud owner of a Cocker Spaniel and a Pomeranian. I didn't go to kennels in search of the perfect dog and I didn't go to car dealerships in search of the perfect vehicle. Both pets and truck came to me by way of being rescues. In both cases, I resisted at first before finally giving in. Actually, if I'd been choosing breeds, I'd own another German Shepherd and Pekinese and if I'd been choosing vehicle models, I'd own another Buick.

The truck was John's. Thankfully, it isn't a big, honking Crew Cab but a baby truck, a Chevy S10 Supreme. It has all the goodies, especially, because it was formerly my son's, a top-of-the-line c.d. player with extra-large speakers. It is quick; it is pretty; it is comfortable....but, it is a truck. When John got married, Lisa already had a new car. He also has a big work truck. They wanted to get out from under one vehicle payment. He suggested I use the truck as a trade-in because my car, the beloved Buick, was a 1990 and although it still ran like a dream, it had 108,000 miles on it and was beginning to show some wear. My future plan was to go down to see Chris Palmer at Denney's from whom I'd bought the Buick and trade it in on another Buick a few years newer. John's idea was that we could kill two birds with one stone. He could ditch the truck and I could get a newer car.

Problem was the truck is a 2003 and he still owed quite a bit on it. In order to come out on the deal, I would have had to trade it in on a brand-new car, an expensive brand-new car, a more expensive car than I could afford. So, in the end, I did as Moms do (and as the owner's of rescue Cockers and Pomeranians do), I took the path of least resistance and accepted the orphan that needed a home.

I have not bonded with the little truck. For instance, in just a few expert motions, I could slide the Buick into a parking space not much longer than the car itself. I often got admiring comments from people who watched me park the Buick. By contrast, I can't get a feel for the truck's dimensions, either lengthwise or width-wise. I have gone from being an expert parallel parker to one of those people who will drive around the block twelve times to find a space I can simply pull into head-first. But even that doesn't help much, because once I've parked and get out, I discover I am nine feet from the curb.

Once, a man embarrassed me by yelling from the sidewalk, "hey, lady, do you know you're parked in the middle of the street?"

In the same way, I'm befuddled by where the front of the truck actually is. I pull into my space,and see when I get that I'm straddling two parking spots instead of being parked anywhere close to being within the lines.

And it is no better with head-on parking spaces. The truck is kind of a low-rider. It has this extra piece under the front bumper that comes almost to the ground. John pounded into my head that I had to be careful about pulling up too close or I'd smush that piece into the curb. I took his warning so much to heart that when I pull into a straight-ahead space, I end up a full car length from the curb. If you come to Village Pantry and see all the other vehicles lined up like soldiers and then a black truck with its rear end sticking far out into the driving lane, you'll know that's me.

The upshot of all this is that people probably think I'm crazy if they watch me making attempt after attempt to park the truck properly. I pull into my space and get out, eye my location, get back in and pull in closer to the curb, get out, eye my location, get back in and pull a little farther up, get out and eye my location, get back in and reverse a little farther back, get out and eye my location....well, you get the picture. I have to leave an extra ten minutes earlier for work now so that I can make my parking adjustments without being late.

And another bad thing about the truck is that we don't really match. The Buick and I were a perfect pair. No flash but still a little dash. Totally reliable in our undemanding middle age. No beauty queens but companionable on a long trip. "It doesn't look like you," many people have told me about the truck. Well, it doesn't feel like me either. Driving it, I feel much the same as I would if I showed up at work wearing a mini-skirt.

And, lastly, a big negative regarding the truck is that John still feels a certain amount of possessiveness and John and I are diametrically opposite as vehicle owners. When he had the truck, it never went a mile over the suggested time for an oil change. It gleamed from regular washings, sweepings and polishings. It was decorated sparingly. The glove compartment was bare except for the owner's manual. The extra storage compartment contained only a few selected c.d.s. The section in the back held one box of tissues. The bed of the truck is virginal. It has a covering thing over it which sort of defeats the purpose of having a truck as far as I'm concerned.

Now, the glove box is chock-ful of stuff - receipts and napkins and pens and lighters and phone chargers. The storage is over-flowing with c.d.s, some of them falling onto the floor. The behind-the-seat section is filled with books and sacks and political signs. I can see that it hurts John that I smoke in the truck which he never did although, in deference to his sensitivity, I bought an ashtray rather than using the truck's own ashtray (which, in any case, is about large enough for a single butt).

He tries to be un-bossy as he asks in a pretend-casual way, "have you had the oil changed yet?" or "you going to wash the truck any time soon?" He actually winces when I tell him I'm thinking of taking the cover off the bed so I can haul a load of mulch.

I love the Cocker and the Pomeranian. Maybe I'll learn to love the truck.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Fast Forward

I have neglected this blog for a while because life seems to have been on fast forward lately, this last week in particular. First, we held an Open House to show off our new offices in Memorial Hall. It will be much more convenient for all of us to be in the Courthouse complex since we have to visit the Courts and the Clerk's office so often. Now, we just skip down the hall to file paperwork rather than getting in the car to drive up the hill from downtown. So, I'm glad of the move for that reason. Plus, the firm that did the remodeling did a great job and the new offices are spacious and bright while still maintaining the qualities that give them their antique character. Mostly, I'm happy that this unique old building is still a useful, productive part of our community. It broke my heart when we had to tear down the old high school. I understood the reasons. I worked for the City when it became vacant and I know the Mayor and Council truly did try to find ways to save it but it was such a huge old white elephant which would have been horrendously expensive to restore and maintain that none of the possibilities were feasible. I feel the same way about the old jail. I wish there was a way to turn it into a museum so people could see what it was like back in the day of no more than a dozen prisoners, when the sheriff lived upstairs and his wife cooked the meals and deputies were also jail officers and dispatchers.... but I expect it is too far gone and trying to save it would not make economic sense.

Another large chunk of last two weeks was given over to politics, Sheriff politics, in particular. Mike had a tendeloin dinner in Wabash and a chili supper in Somerset. Thank heavens, it was the last of the chili suppers. By this point in any campaign I've ever been involved in, I'm sick to death of chili. It isn't one of my favorite meals in any case (sorry, Bill Gerding!) but by the time I've dished it up for a thousand people, I really, really don't want to see it or smell it or taste it again - at least for a few months. You can understand why chili is a so often chosen for campaign fund-raisers though. It is relatively cheap to prepare so that if you estimate wrong and are left with a vat of chili at the end of the evening, you most likely haven't gone in the hole. Tenderloins are everyone's favorite but you have rather a larger investment in tenderloins. We also started putting out Mike's signs this weekend. There has always been disagreement about political signs. Some people hate them and say they aren't necessary but others believe you must have signs. I love signs myself and look forward to seeing how many there are and who is supporting which candidate. To me, signs are symbols of democracy in action with voters wearing their hearts on their sleeves for their choice. I think, in general, most of us are not political enough. We don't pay enough attention to who is running our government and whether or not we agree with what they are doing in our names and with our money, so to me signs represent voters who are involved in democracy and that's a good thing.

The last thing that happened this week was the death of my friend, Brenda's granddaughter, Tiffany. What a terribly sad event that was. Her father, Brenda's only child, died less than three years ago. And, now Brenda also has to face the loss of her only grandchild, a little girl Brenda never referred to without the word "my" in front of her name. How many times over the last 20 years have I heard the words: "my Tiffany". I have been to many funerals, some for people I loved dearly, like Dallas. But with Dallas, there was at least the knowledge that although we would have preferred he lived to be 100, his was a life complete. He had a long marriage and with Barb, lived to see his children raised and his grandchildren well on their way. His time on this earth was filled with achievements and awards....Air Force Officer, Fire Chief, Mayor, Major, Sagamore of the Wabash. At his funeral, I felt a terrible sense of sadness and loss but not of tragedy.

By contrast, there is such a feeling of wrongness seeing a beautiful little 20-year-old lying in a casket. It is a bereft young husband, an 11-day-old baby who will grow up without a mother. It is friends with tears running down their cheeks. The youth of today seem, over all, so much more sophisticated and worldly than my generation at the same age but in this setting, they were as lost and shocked as any kids of any era. It is grandmothers and grandfathers and great-grandmothers stunned because it isn't supposed to happen that the children die before their elders, although of course, it does. Tiffany did not have an ideal childhood. In semi-adulthood, she did not always make the wisest choices (though many of us looking back from our present perspective might remember that we did not always make the wisest choices when we were her age either). The girl I knew was sweet and generous-hearted and loving. I guess if people say the same thing about me when I die that is about as satisfying an epitaph as I could hope for.