Tuesday, December 23, 2014

No Smiling

"No smiling."  

That's what the cop taking the photos you see above tells you when you sit down in a uniform shirt 8 sizes too large that probably has the germs and sweat of thousands of cops on it.  It's a odd statement because you take this photo soon after you start the Academy, when really you're all smiles because you're looking forward to doing amazing work and helping people. It's also why there's no collar brass on your shirt, because you won't know what command or precinct you're going to.  

"You know why you can't smile?", the old timer taking the photos asks me. I don't.  "Two reasons.  First, if you shove an umbrella up some guy's ass and you're smiling, it looks like you wanted to do it.  Second, if you get killed, this is the photo they put in the Daily News or the Post"  

His first example, though crude, was a lesson from 1997 when a savage named Justin Volpe wearing an NYPD uniform sodomized Abner Louima with a plunger causing internal injuries.  His second example didn't need much explaining I thought. 

Their names are Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.  

Liu was 32 and had been with the NYPD for 7 years and had just gotten married 3 months ago.  

Ramos was 40 years old and had been on the job for 2 years, coming over from School Safety.  He was married with two kids, one of whom is an eloquent 13 year old.  
Both were Sons of New York City, Princes of Brooklyn.  

I talked about in an earlier post what I thought some of core issues between the protesters and the police are, and it's literally like looking at that picture that's an old lady or a young lady depending on how you look at it.  The issue here is that no one is helping the other side see it any differently, mostly because the rhetoric stakes are so high.  We have a war on cops or the government sanctioned murder of thousands of black men.  See how it's hard to find a common ground there?  

When a cop is killed, it is devastating, but especially for the police.  Because honestly, even though there are dangers in the job, you don't constantly confront them mentally because that would make you pretty useless as a cop.  So you end up confronting your mortality when another officer is killed. What makes the death of Officers Liu and Ramos so especially cruel is how they were killed.  They were assassinated.  See, when cops are killed, you try and put yourself in their shoes to see if maybe you would have done something different.  Cop killed on a traffic stop?  I may approach stopped vehicles on their right side.  Cop dies of a heart attack chasing someone, I may think that won't happen to me because I'm in shape, etc.  But every cop has sat in their car somewhere talking about something trivial or talking on the phone to a loved one, and so all of us are terrified of an ambush.  The only way to prevent that is to not go outside, though even that might not work.  

Allow me to say off the bat that the only person who killed those officers was one man.*  The Mayor didn't do it.  The City Council President didn't do it.  Pat Lynch, the PBA President has gotten into hot water for saying that the Mayor has blood on his hands.  Listen, Pat is a cop from Brooklyn who rose through the ranks of the PBA many years ago.  His job is to bring in money in the form of raises, which he does by making sweet love to the NY Post and giving them awesome quotes.  No knock on the guy.  He does a good job, but he's not a national media kind of guy.  However, cops can't talk about these issues which is why its done through union presidents and these guys aren't known for their nuance or hidden messages.  

Quick Story:  Once got accused by a gentleman I arrested of stealing money from him and so there was an investigation and IAB came and my union sent their guys.  This happens a lot, not to me, but in general where people feel like it will help their criminal case if they lodge a complaint to tarnish the officer's reputation.  So no big deal.  We're all in a room, tape recorder is rolling and IAB asks "Officer, can you explain where you were on June 1, 2002?" At which point, my Union Trustee who I met 3 minutes ago says, "He wasn't eating cheese like you, you fucking rat." At which point the tape stops and it's clear that the IAB guys and the Union guys see each other all the time and they're going back and forth.  But my point here is that the union is like the id for the police department.  Perhaps like Sharpton or other community activists are to the community.  

While I don't believe that Mayor DeBlasio is a murderer or has blood on his hands, I do feel that he has chosen the easy way out every step of the way.  And to me, that's not leadership. He ran a campaign against aggressive police tactics like Stop, Question and Frisk and when elected Mayor, he got those policies pulled.  I wrote about how SQF is a sham that had roots in a good place, which was sound police work and instincts.  However it was his public comments where he said he gave his son the talk about being careful around cops that really started the split. Look, I understand the issue, but to say this while men and women of the NYPD's Intel Division are protecting Dante DeBlasio with their lives seemed a little obtuse.  The split continued as the protests began and continued.  I also get it.  He's super liberal, and he's not a centrist.  [Honestly, the only reason he's Mayor is because Mike Bloomberg bent the rules to get a third term, thereby upsetting the delicate ecosystem that is term-limited NYC politics.  Which is also why he DeBlasio beat Joe Lhota so handily, because Joe wasn't supposed to be the candidate.  And DeBlasio is the un-Bloomberg.]  But his base is not the police or their staunch supporters, so it was an easy call I think.  

Let me say this about the protests.  They're great. NYPD is awesome at handling them.  Just look at the NYPD response compared to the response in Ferguson.  Thousands of people get on the street and find it empowering and addictive when they get to walk in the street wherever they want, while cops hold traffic.  But its not sustainable.  People can't block the Holland and Lincoln Tunnel every day for months at a time.  And the longer it goes on, the more it becomes an expected outcome.  So when it's not addressed 2 months later, the cops tell people they can't cross the  Manhattan Bridge or stand in the street, people object because they think this is how it always is and should be.  Discussions should have been had early on with a plan voiced by the Mayor about how long it will go on for.  

Recently Mayor DeBlasio said that the protests should stop while the officers bodies are being laid to rest.  Bullshit.  Don't hang this on Officers Ramos and Liu.  They're gone and can't speak for themselves, but I'll say it for them.  This is bullshit.  If the Mayor thinks the protests are healthy and fine and a wonder of democracy, then let them continue.  Or if he feels like they've gotten unruly or out of hand as the rhetoric has gotten louder, in some cases calling for cops to be killed, then put on your big boy Mayor pants and say so.  Take a goddamn stand, but don't put this on the cops.  This is your job as Mayor of the City of New York, you need to walk the line between the police union bosses screaming on behalf of their members and the community activists screaming on behalf of the dead. And there might not be a good way out, but sometimes life is hard.  Just ask Eric Garner, Wenjian Liu or Rafael Ramos. 

Two days ago, I tried to engage people on Twitter on this issue, but I just ended up getting blocked because there's no air in the middle, much like our current national political environment.  The group Black Lives Matter recently wrote condemning the linking of the murder of Officers Ramos and Liu to the protest movement and said they shouldn't have to apologize.  This makes sense, as I said above, because only one guy pulled the trigger.  However, what if I said that as a cop, I shouldn't have to apologize for the actions of my fellow officers. That when I pull a car over and the occupants of the car yell "Hands Up, Don't Shoot"  as I walk up, that I'm insulted because I would never shoot someone who has their hands up.  Why?  Because I'm a professional and I take my job seriously and I did take this job to save lives, and because we're all not the same beneath the kevlar and non-breathable, highly flammable uniform fabric.  

Their names are Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.  They are Sons of New York City and Princes of Brooklyn.

* I'm not going to list the killer's name, because he needs no more column inches.  Fuck that guy. 

P.S.  I'm only claiming to speak for me.  I no longer work for the NYPD, though it was an honor to wear the shield and serve the city I was born in and love. I often get asked what I think about events like this because most of my friends don't know any cops, and also because there usually isn't a voice from the police side save unnamed sources or union officials.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dispatches From The Road: Hong Kong

So a week or so ago, we returned from our 10 day trip to Hong Kong and Taipei.  The trip was prompted by a desire to see my eldest brother and sister-in-law and their three kids.  The secondary desire was a need to use my US Airways miles before their award chart goes through another devaluation.  Right now both airlines are operating under their own carrier license with different pilots and crews, and different mileage programs.  Once they begin using the combined certificate, which is assumed to be next year, then the remaining miles program (AAdvantage) will certainly want more miles for the same trip.

If you want the history of Hong Kong, you can read this article.  The short story is that is was Chinese and then became a British colony in the late 1800's with an agreement that the three separate territories comprising Hong Kong (Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories) would be handed back over to the Chinese in 1997.  The Chinese have controlled Hong Kong since 1997 and it is one of two Special Administrative Regions in China, the other being Macau, a former Portuguese colony.  Government under the Chinese is like the government under the Brits,  a Governor is appointed by the controlling country.  Hong Kong had scheduled direct elections for Chief Executive in 2017, however recently Beijing said that there would only be three candidates and they would for all intents and purposes pick those candidates.

I'd only been there once before and it was for the Rugby Sevens with my other brothers, so suffice to say I don't remember much as I was pretty drunk.  So it was nice going back and seeing things with non-blurry eyes.  A few thoughts about The Kong

  • Hong Kong is easily accessible to Southern China which has seen an explosion of money thanks to our need for cheap electronics and clothing.  This means that there's lots of people shopping there.  Store after store in Kowloon.  People even bring suitcases to put their stuff in. 
  • It was typhoon season, when we visited.  If you want to know the difference between a hurricane and a typhoon, what matters is the location of the storm.  Seriously. Also they hoist the typhoon flag, which is way cooler than issuing a Typhoon warning. 
  • The food is amazing.  We gorged on dumplings and dim sum and pork buns.  If you come here, you need to eat your face off and then nap.  

  • It was hot there.  Like Washington, DC in August but with more sun.  I didn't pack correctly for the trip, meaning not enough for two wardrobe changes a day. Which means we would duck into malls with air conditioning. Malls that have ... dumplings!

  • The subway system is awesome.  They have ads for science and math tutors that make them look like movie stars.  See for yourself.  It also shows that these kids will all be our future bosses. 

We had a terrific trip, and after the Kong we went to Taipei.  I'll write more about that trip in the next post.  Good seeing family and hope we can get out there again soon.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Law Enforcement is Grey. So is life

So like the rest of the world, I've been following the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri over the past few weeks.  This event, which many people are saying is not just a singular event, is incredibly hard to dissect.  It's like pulling a string on the biggest sweater ever knit.  However, between the media I consume and enjoy usually (Gawker, Twitter, etc) stating that cops are abusive and corrupt and murderers, and my Facebook feed which alternates between condemnation of Sharpton and the looters, condemnation of a brutal police state,  and ice bucket challenge videos, I decided to get some thoughts down.

Where I'm From

I want to start at the beginning, because the reality is that I'm just one guy and I have one perspective.  I was raised in New York City as a white kid who was afforded all opportunities in the world.  As proof, I should tell you I attended sleepaway clown/computer camp in Avon, Connecticut for 2 weeks one summer.  My all-boys private elementary school was mostly populated with the offspring of incredibly wealthy WASPs from Park Avenue, and it had a conservative ethos where sports were just as important as grades.  As a theater kid, who never seemed to "reach his potential" according to my report cards, it wasn't a great fit.

Then I went to high school at a more liberal  co-ed institution, but still not that liberal.  Our Gay/Straight Alliance club seemed to consist of straight kids eager to ally with any gays who wanted to make themselves known.  We did have a lot more black students thanks to a terrific program called Prep for Prep.  It was here I got to talk with and hang out with students of color, which was sadly and belatedly formative for me.

Then I was lucky enough to get into Vassar College, and majored in Urban Studies and spent loads of time reading about poverty, gentrification and spending priorities that never seemed to prioritize people who needed help.  Also my personal ideology shifted more left as I recognized my own privilege surrounded by friends on financial aid.  In junior year, I applied to the New York City Police Department, which had been a lifelong dream just like many of my friends had wanted to be astronauts or cowboys when they were little.  My obsession just stuck.  I halfheartedly looked for jobs in government, but prepared myself for the police department.

I completed the NYPD Academy in 2000 and was assigned to the 28th Precinct, which is in Central Harlem.  If you took the east/west boundaries of Central Park and went straight for another 17 blocks that was my home.  It's the smallest precinct in the city.  .68 square miles.  Solidly African-American at that time.  I was warned that the black officers and the white officers didn't get along.  What I noticed was that there are more black officers than white officers there which was unusual given that white officers were still the majority.

Observations as a Cop

A few thoughts on race as a cop. I learned that the white cops and the black cops who actually did work got along fine.  The zips (NYPD vernacular for do nothings) were generally disliked by everyone.  We did have several leaders from 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement who worked in the 28, which could make things tense when they had press conferences outside the precinct condemning the department.  Some of them were good cops,  some of them were better at their positions in the organization than their jobs in the department.  But overall, we were cool.  My partner for 4 years was a handsome Dominican lad from Brooklyn.  He remains one of my best friends.  I was best man at his wedding.

White people would ask me sometimes if it was hard being a white cop in Harlem.  I came to realize quickly that it was harder being a black cop which seemed to surprise them.  But I didn't live in Harlem or grow up playing on those streets and I got to home to Queens when my shift was over.  And though I would hear the occasional but still humorous "cracker ass cracker" thrown my way, I heard black officers called "sellout" or "Uncle Tom" and worse.  And many of them still had friends and family there, and that had to hurt, and is wonderfully explained in this Root piece. 

Much has been made of officer-involved shootings and with snipers set up on armored vehicles, the issue bears discussion.  Many people say it's not a dangerous job.  And statistically this is true, as law enforcement doesn't even break the Top 10 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, coming behind fields like professional drivers, loggers, garbage collectors, roofers and others.  And to be honest, asides from the occasional foot chase, wrestling with a perp or standing in the August sun at a parade, it's not really a physically demanding job.  Many cops will tell you that roofing in the summer, construction, road work all work harder than they do, in terms of sweat produced.

But what you can't see, and what creates this deep rift in relations between cops and their loved ones, and anyone who's not a cop, is the mental toll the job takes.  Let's take the danger aspect.  We know the job isn't the most dangerous, and as of today, there have been 67 reported line of duty fatalities from local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement.  But the threat of danger is always there.  When you're logging, trees can fall the wrong way and chains can snap and kill you in an instant, but the trees don't become self-aware and try and kill you as you log.  The roof doesn't decide to become slippery and send you to your death.  These other occupations are dealing with inanimate objects while cops deal with people.  There are sadly more and more cases of officers being ambushed while they ate or sat in their cars or returned from calls. Now, does this happen every day?  No.  Not at all.  It's an isolated incident, even if it's sadly becoming more frequent.  The chance is small that I will be killed as I sit in my car.  But I have no way to mitigate that risk because it depends on another human being's state of mind. Hurricanes are incredibly rare in New England, but it doesn't mean that planners and meteorologists don't worry about them and plan for them.   So all I can do is be on guard and make sure I see people's hands, because regardless of the whole "Guns don't kill people...." trope, police officers know that hands are the only thing that kill people.  Until the bad guys develop shoe guns or something.  So cops treat most people as a possible threat, until they determine otherwise.

In addition to the ever present threat of danger, there's another more insidious threat to the mental health of a police officer, and that's the community they serve.  So, when I worked in the 28, I'd say 93-95% of people in that community woke up, fed and clothed their kids, went to work, came home from work, read their kids bedtime stories, watched a Knicks game (they lost) and went to sleep.  And that majority of the population we rarely saw.  We did see, interact, and help the 5-7% of people that for reasons larger than ours to fix, required police intervention.  A few of my favorites:

  • Amanda M., 65 years old, who called the police every day drunk because her live in roommate, 40 years old wouldn't have sex with her.  
  • Guy at the fish market who believe he was ripped off and his Jumbo shrimp were not jumbo enough. 
  • Couple who have three kids together and fight all the time but stay together even though there's a restraining order in place, so he gets locked up while she yells at us not to.  
  • Guy on PCP who bit my neck while fighting me in the middle of 116th St, which is how I still remember my last tetanus shot was in 2003.  
  • Sisters who couldn't decide whether to watch Ricki Lake or Maury Povich and called 911 to have an officer settle the dispute.  
These calls are every day, 5 days a week, for 8.5 hours a day.  The screaming in your face, the parents with babies outside at 3AM in November with no coat, the shooting victims who never see who shot them, like ever.  People lie to your face all the time, and they're terrible at it, or maybe you're just good at reading it because you're lied to for a living.  It gets old and you begin to withdraw and think of people as less than who they are because they refuse to act with any respect for you or their fellow man/woman.  I should say that the only time you normally get to interact with the 95% is for burglary calls, and it does help to remind you that there are hard working people who care and invite you to watch the Knicks lose on TV while your partner takes the report.  

Everyone loves firefighters.  They have a dog.  They have calendars.  They always seem so nice.  Why can't cops be like them?  Well, for one, they get to see everyone.  Sadly, everyone's Aunt Milly can have trouble breathing at Thanksgiving or anyone can get into a bike accident, so they get to handle the public at large, instead of the smaller subset like cops do, which improves their overall demeanor.  Also, the amazing thing about firefighters is that people love them even if they don't succeed.  As a volunteer firefighter in the Hudson Valley for two years in college, I literally watched a fire on a back deck spread due to poor tactics and consume the house.  You can have a firefighter bust out all your windows, saw your couch in half and you'll still bring them cookies to thank them.  This is no knock on fire guys.  They are brave and have a demanding job and I think being burned would be 100% worse than being shot.  The same public that asks "Why didn't you shoot the knife out of the guy's hand" will never ask "How come you didn't vent the roof or stretch another Inch and a Half line around through the bedroom." That's just the way it is.  

Where To Go From Here

I want to be clear that there are other non-environmental issues that create indifferent or troubled officers.  A Lieutenant gave us this speech on the first day of the Academy that has always stuck with me. 
      10 percent of you were meant to be police officers.  You have it in your blood and bones and you will excel in this profession.  For 80 percent of you, this is a job.  Its a job you will do well and honorably for your career with the NYPD.  10 percent of you should never made it this far.  You are too dumb, too damaged or too criminal to be police officers and you very well will be hurt, killed or arrested in the years to come.

Indeed, I have met terrible officers.  Sexist, racist and generally awful people.  The smartest person and the dumbest person I've met in my entire life have had NYPD personnel tax numbers. If every department has a few bad apples, then the size of the NYPD guarantees it an orchard of assholes and misfits.  But they are, on balance, the exception and not the rule.  I have amazing friends and incredibly hard working and caring individuals that many people will never get to know behind the exterior of the blue uniform and the badge.  I was once driving with a friend and got pulled over and my friend couldn't believe how the officer's demeanor changed once he saw my badge.  My friend kept remarking how nice and interested the guy was compared to when he didn't know me from Adam. While some of this was probably because I was a cop, it was mostly because the cop knew I wasn't a threat and could let his guard down and be himself, which is a rare occurrence on the street. 

Also, I think given the small segments of the general population you serve that you end up resenting and often times stereotyping the communities you work in.  Regardless of whether that's an African-American population in Harlem or a liberal white population in Manhattan or Brooklyn.  It's why I think cops should rotate their precincts, so they get to work in different communities with different constituencies.  I realize the union will never let this happen, but even taking officers off the street and giving them an administrative assignment with decent days off every few years could help reset some of the issues.  People do wonderful research on the effect that poverty has on communities and the children that grow up in severe poverty.  You can't tell me that working in incredibly depressed communities for 40 hours a week for 20 years doesn't take a similar toll, regardless of where the officer calls home.  

I'm not sure anyone is still reading this (Hi Mom) and I recognize this is long and somewhat rambling. I'm happy to write more about the issues and difficulties surrounding putting officers on foot or making them live in the cities they patrol, or why perhaps more black kids get locked up for weed than white kids.  But I'll save that for another day.  I'm just one cop with an opinion and make no claim to have the answers for other cops or other departments.  In the past weeks watching social media explode with comments by people about police overreach and brutality, as well as those who seek to elevate us as heroes draped in the flag of the just and righteous, I just wanted to put together some of my thoughts.  I recognize that racism is alive and well and that black men do get stopped for driving nice cars all over this country or hanging out on the corner with their friends.  Just as I learned that I can't assume the community I serve is represented by those who call 911 over and over, I wanted to point out that you can't judge an entire profession or calling based on the actions of a few. 

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Remember Cardillo

When I arrived at the 28th Precinct in February of 2000, fresh out of the NYPD Academy, I remember walking into the locker room and on almost every single one was a faded sticker that said "Remember Cardillo."  It was a powerful and quiet statement that something terrible happened and was now part of the building's DNA.  And that feeling was right.  A horrible injustice occurred that practically no one knows about.

This is Patrolman Philip Cardillo.  He served with the NYPD for 5 years and was 31 years old when he was murdered.  He was survived by his wife, and his three young children.  I use the term murdered and not died or killed, because the incident that took his life was pre-meditated but sadly not as shocking as what followed it.

On Thursday, April 20th, 1972, NYPD Communications received a 911 call of Officer Needing Assistance inside Harlem Mosque Number 7, headed by Louis Farrakhan, and helmed by Malcolm X for a time.  The call actually just gave the address, not mentioning the mosque.  Cardillo and his partner ran inside along with two other officers.

I want to pause the story here and try and give some perspective.  While Fox News recently made much hay of the New Black Panther Party suppressing votes using one guy in a kufi, it's important to remember the early 70's would have made the anchors on Fox's head explode.  The Black Liberation Army had shot 6 NYPD officers in the 10 months leading up to the call that Cardillo got, and 4 of the officers had died.  Officers Piagentini and Jones were killed in May of 1971 in an ambush outside the precinct just above Cardillo's.  Officers Laurie and Foster were killed in Greenwich Village, shot in the back while they walked to their foot beat.

The NYPD Patrol Guide still instructs officers to space out when leaving the precinct to get your patrol cars, which was protocol to limit the amount of officers that could be killed in one ambush.  So there was a war going on in Southeast Asia and a war on the streets of New York.  This was not just a NYC phenomenon either.  13 years after this in Philadelphia, police dropped a bomb on a rowhouse to break a siege and arrest members of the MOVE Group.  Just think about that happening now.  Seriously.  Stop and just process that. A police helicopter dropping a bomb in a city neighborhood.  Alright, unpause.

So Cardillo and the other three officers were inside the mosque a crowd formed outside blocking other officers from assisting them.  Three of the officers were able to escape but Cardillo was trapped behind a gate that was closed to trap him.  He overpowered by many men and his service weapon was taken from him and he was shot with it.  Officers were able to break back in and rescue the mortally wounded Cardillo.  At this point, the crowd had swelled outside furious that officers, regardless of their skin color, had broken the sanctity of the mosque, or seeing an opportunity to hurt outnumbered police officers.  A riot roiled for three hours.  Requests for buses of recruits to assist went unanswered.  Below is a photo of Detective Randy Jurgensen, who had just been struck in the head with a brick, falling into the arms of the 28 Precinct Commanding Officer Deputy Inspector John Haugh.
So we have a mortally wounded officer, cops pouring in responding to cries for help on the radio and hundreds of people responding to fight them.  There were 12 suspects in the basement that they were searching to find Cardillo's gun, when Rep. Charles Rangel and Louis Farrakhan come downstairs and order everyone out of the mosque.  Rangel and Farrakhan promised police officials that the men would surrender themselves at the precinct for interviews later that evening.  No one ever showed up.    Deputy Commissioner for Community Affairs Ben Ward, who later became Police Commissioner, ordered all the white officers to leave the scene, to relieve tensions, further destroying morale for all officers, black and white.

I'm going to cut and paste from the excellent blog NYPD Confidential for the follow-up.

Six days later, Cardillo died. He was 32 years old, the father of three. The day of the funeral, his commander, Deputy Inspector John Haugh, resigned in disgust, blaming the NYPD for failing to affirm publicly that Cardillo had acted properly on entering the mosque.

Within days, the department issued written rules for 16 “sensitive locations,” including Nation of Islam Mosque Number 7, forbidding officers from entering such places without a supervisor. It turned out there had been an unwritten agreement with Mosque Number 7.

So strictly did the department interpret these rules that, because of objections from the mosque, ballistics technicians were prevented for the next two years from gathering evidence from Cardillo’s shooting.

It needs to be said that neither the Mayor nor the Police Commissioner attended Cardillo's Funeral.  That day was looked upon as an embarrassment by the Job and all attempts were made to sweep it under the rug.  Thankfully, some have done as the bumper stickers have commanded.  Randy Jurgensen, the same detective who was injured in the photo above, wrote a book called Circle of Six about the incident which is a must read.  

No one has ever been convicted for the murder of Philip Cardillo.  

The reason this post came up is because recently attempts have been made to one again name the street in front of the 28th  precinct after Cardillo.  This apparently is difficult because of the community and the sensitivity of the incident.  The only thing that happened that day on April 20th, was a NYPD officer was murdered and the city and a department colluded to ensure that his murder was never solved.  I think a street sign is the least, and I mean the very least, it could do. 

I know that currently in New York and nationally that there is an anti-cop sentiment.  The recent death of Eric Garner in Staten Island has inflamed simmering tensions that never seem to go cold.  I'm not going to say that all cops are decent people.  Some are even criminals in uniform.  But Philip Cardillo was a son of the city,  just like all the police officers who have been killed doing their duty.  As a nation we are shamed by our handling of returning troops after the Viet Nam war and now we bend over backwards to support our troops as a nation.  We should bend over backwards to correct this injustice.  

That faded sticker  on my locker was right.  I will always Remember Cardillo.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dispatches From The Road: Grand Junction Edition

So this weekend, I'm in Grand Junction, Colorado, which is on the western border of Colorado, halfway between Denver and Salt Lake City.  I was here to teach a class about emergencies to daycare and childcare workers.  The class is only four hours, so it gives me a fair amount of time in the places I teach it.

Grand Junction is the largest city in Western Colorado, which isn't saying a whole lot, as this area is pretty sparsely populated.  According to all knowing Wikipedia, while it is the King of the West, it's only the 15th largest city in Colorado.  It seemed like the cultural capital of the various small towns that are within an hour's drive.  It has an 11-story building and everything.

Everytime I come to places like this, I always wonder what people do who live here.  At dinner last night there were a few couples getting drinks at the bar I was having dinner at who looked like they could be at a trendy bar in DC. Except they all appeared to be in their early 20's and married.  On a sidenote, I forgot how fast meals go when I eat by myself.  With no talking and only chewing and occasional sipping, I blaze through meals in record speed.

Grand Junction has a cute and small downtown with a few brewpubs and other random stores that are closed on weekend evenings.  They have a really cool outdoor public art program, which was surprising for a smaller city.  The downtown is like many others is the midwest with the largest buildings being banks and the new parking structure for the revitalized downtown.

When I asked people what to do here, the responses were all outdoors-related.  And that makes sense, because Grand Junction is a city surrounded by absolute beauty.  I drove through the Colorado National Monument Park and walked a few of the trails within.  I'm a city kid.  As a matter of fact I'm such a city kid that when I was in rural areas visiting family or with family of friends, I would always read the local yellow pages to convince myself that civilization wasn't that far away.  "See, I can get a limo and computer repair out here!"

Though asphalt will always run through my veins, I was moved by the beauty out here.  You can't help but be.  It punches you in the gut with every hairpin turn that reveals another landscape that seems otherworldly.

Now I'm sitting in the Denver airport, being lucky enough to change my flight so that I don't return home at 2:30AM.  I really enjoy trips like this, even though I'm alone which generally isn't my thing.  The loneliness is tempered by the excitement of exploring new places and knowing that I probably won't be back here for a bit.  This country is an amazing and diverse place and its nice to have weekends to appreciate that.  

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Driving Advice: Free of Charge

So this past long weekend, we spent a lot of time on the road.  Some of it moving fast and much more of it moving slowly.  As I was driving and cursing in many languages at people for not knowing how to drive, it occurred to me that maybe they didn't know how.  They had their license and knew what a stop sign was, but never learned highway driving.  So may I present to you, my rules for highway driving.

Read the book Traffic
It's really good, and explains why traffic happens.  How we bizarrely conflate our auto with ourselves, and thus view merges as attacks on our personal space.  Also this book explains that late merging (when you see that the road goes to one lane in a mile, you stay in that lane until the merge point) actually is better for the flow of traffic.  So read this book before you attempt the next long road trip.

Cruise Control
Listen, this technology has been around since the 1950s. USE IT.  I'm not talking about the fancy radar cruise control you see on TV, or the one that stops your car if a truck backs into your lane.  I'm talking about the stick on your steering column that has the words Set, Accelerate, Resume and others written on it.  Not only do you save gas by not speeding up and slowing down, but you also can maintain a constant speed which helps not get speeding tickets.  Have you ever been in the left hand (high speed) lane and had the lane come to a complete stop and then speed up again like a rocket?  Yeah, its because some dumbass ahead of you couldn't modulate their speed and floored it only to slam on their brakes as they almost hit the car in front of them.  Also use this shit on hills where your foot naturally comes off the accelerator and you slow down by 10-15 mph.  I know you don't mean to.  You're simple.  Of course its not your fault.

Listen, the idea behind the passing lane is that it's used to pass vehicles slower than you. This means you pass the car or truck and then pull in front of them.  This does not mean that you want to go 71 when everyone else in the right lane is going 70 and so you slowly pass the cars on the right for 40 miles.  Also, if you're in the passing lane and someone is behind you, then you are not passing fast enough.  So pull over to the "slow" lane which I know hurts in your Toyota Sienna with three bicycles on the back because you're still a "man" and you're driving fast.  But seriously, let people pass you.

If ever you're in the left lane and you're passed on the right, then that's the universal sign that you need to pull to the right.  You're not that cool.  Suck it up.

If you are being passed on the left, please don't think this is some macho game and start speeding up.  If you want to go fast, and just noticed that you're not, let me pass you before you unleash your inner Dale Jr.  I'm not attacking you as a person.

If you're passing a car and notice that a mile down the highway, there's a truck you'll probably pass later, don't stay in the left lane.  Think of the passing lane as only existing in the present tense.  Not the future (You will pass that car in awhile) or the past (You did pass a car and so you get to stay in the lane 4evah)

We have covered my issue with feet, but please don't air your tootsies on the dashboard or out the passenger window.  First, no one needs to see this. And we all can.  Second, in the event that your vehicle leaves the roadway unintentionally, you are going to lose those things like an umbrella in a taxi.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tales the Unemployed: Day 147

This isn't a pity post.  I don't want people to feel bad for me.  I enjoy using this blog as a creative outlet and some of you bizarrely enjoy reading it as such.  So this is not a cry for help, promise.  It helps me process. 

Being unemployed blows goats.  And there are stages.  In fact if you Google "Stages of Unemployment" you will find plenty of articles.  Some say there are 3 stages, some say 5, some even say 10.  But they essentially are broken into the following parts:

  • Excitement: You've thrown off your drone cubicle/lanyard wearing shackles and you get to sleep in finally.  You can go to the movies and stand in line with the old people at the bank.  All of your errands happen super fast and drinking on a Tuesday night is no problem at all.  
  • Concern: So you're spending too much money going out at night and it's time to find a job.  You are calling all your work people to set up meetings and lunches and coffees and it's time to return to the workforce.  You're perusing the job boards, but you're confident and hopeful that one of your connections will come through.
  • Fear: So those initial meetings didn't pay off and you might have even had some amazing job lined up that never seemed to come to fruition after months of follow up.  You're now spending time in coffee shops because the couch at home is not a good place.  
  • New Job: Ta-da!! You got a new job and you have business cards and once again all is well with the world.  
I'm in the third stage right now, which is the problem with these lists.  They all basically say that it's terrible until it isn't.  I think the hardest challenge is the questioning.  Not that I question if I am qualified for any of these jobs that I'm applying for or if I could do the job that is posted.  I could.  I am a journeyman who gets along with most everyone, meaning that unless the job has complex math involved, then I could do it and do it well.  

No, the issue is that after the first two months of talking to friends from the field I've been in and thus most suited to, I'm not sure that something will pan out there.  So you begin to open your search.  You start thinking of what else you could or would do for a living?  And where could you do it.  This is where the skills and abilities that allow you to accomplish all those jobs becomes a mind fuck as you wonder what should you be doing?  

It's hard not just on you but on the people you care about.  My girlfriend is supportive which is great, and she wishes she could do more, but she can't and that's okay.  I've got policing some evenings.  I give platelets every two weeks because there are tons of things that exclude you, including travel, and I'm sure that they won't want my anti-cancer juice forever.  But these things are busy things, even if they are awesome and well intentioned.  They don't get you closer to a new job, but they do keep you sane.  

I recognize that I'm very lucky.  I live with a wonderful woman who has a job and I even have done part-time consulting work that pays really well when it comes.  I recognize that I am in a way better place than thousands of other people who are in my position. I know this because sometimes when I think about driving for Uber or Lyft, I decide not to because I don't want to.  That right there lets me know that I'm not that bad off, and there's perhaps another stage down before I get a job.  I'm just hoping I can skip straight to the last one soon.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Reunion 2014

So this past weekend was my 15th College Reunion at Vassar College.  I have a complicated relationship with my college.  I wrote them a letter that I put on this blog, that got some views and they in turn called me to talk about it.  But I remain a proud Vassar alum and I went up to Poughkeepsie with my freshman year roommate who also lives in DC to check it out.

Overall it was a great trip and I'm glad I went.  The college raised a phenomenal amount of money from the returning alumni.  They have a tradition where all the classes march in a parade with the oldest class going first.
This young lady is from the class of 1934. She is over 100 years old. It must be slightly odd to be the only person from your class at a reunion.  I'm not sure if she was the only person still alive, but it still is always cool to see the older classes, especially when they are full of spunk.  

So this parade leads everyone into the field house and then you hear the speaker say, "We need to have a short meeting." I'm thinking this is brilliant.  Now they just need to lock the doors and display some photos of timeshare opportunities. That didn't happen, but we did vote in some new alumni association board members, though it was a voice vote and there didn't seem to be a chance to decline or abstain.  I guess given how hard it is to get volunteers, democracy has its limits.  

Then came the fundraising totals.  Starting with the earliest classes and ending with the oldest.  Our class gave under $20,000 to the Annual Fund, I think.  I do remember that we gave $50 in restricted gifts.  That number looked like a typo.  Especially when a few classes later, celebrating their 50th Reunion, this is the slide we saw.  
Right.  In the middle of this slide, the fire alarm in the building went off, which made me think in an instant that the donation had broken the college mainframe.  Or perhaps we won the largest game of Plinko ever.  So that was cool.  

But the best part of the reunion was seeing old friends, including a dear friend who I also went to high school with and now lives on the West Coast. I think hanging out with your friends at reunion is awesome.  But the much more awesome part is getting a chance to talk to people who I was friendly with but not friends with.  It harkens back to those nights when you would have awesome conversations with people who were acquaintances and then for the rest of your college life you would see them at parties and nod your head as an acknowledgement of that shared experience.  

Most of the people who I got to know more about this past weekend were members of the Girls Rugby Team. who in all honesty were somewhat terrifying in college.  I was an EMT in college and would staff the rugby games because they were a club sport and not eligible for athletic trainers through the college.  At first I was thrilled.  Getting closer to women who played sports seemed like a good thing.  I quickly learned two things: 1) A fair number of these women liked other women.  2) They were all tougher than me on my best day.  I remember starting to conduct an exam on one girl who had blood streaming down her nose, and she just screamed "GAUZE" in my face while I fumbled to open the jump kit.  She grabbed it out of my hands, shoved it in her obviously broken nose and growled at me before retaking the field.  We didn't cover that during breaks and sprains in class.  

I lost my voice screaming "Like A Prayer" at a giant tent at the All-Campus Party which is probably the most Vassar thing ever typed.  It was a good time.  I wish that more people from my class had been there.  I didn't bring my girlfriend because we had a low turnout but next time I won't make that mistake.  

The only downside was that I wished the college took an opportunity to talk about the money it raised and what it was going to do with it.  Our class clearly needs to step up its fundraising game, but it should be because the school needs it and not because we want to look better than another class sharing our reunion.  In many respects, our totals were probably more in line with what the college wants because we gave almost all of it unrestricted (Whoever gave $50, show yourself) A discussion about giving might be a good idea for future reunions, given that the weekend is built around that event.  

So great times and great reminders of why Vassar students are awesome, and reminders of how administrations can also always be a little more transparent.  

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Year of Fitness: Yoga

Her name was Lindsey, and she fit the central casting definition of a yogi: Cute, young, short with a calming voice and a confident pose.  The title of the class was Power Yoga, which didn't mean much to me, given that it was my first yoga class.  Well,  I did stream a Youtube video to my TV and practice breathing and lying still for 20 minutes or so.

I knew I was in for some trouble when she mentioned this was an intermediate level class, but I figured this is all about stretching and breathing right?  Ah, no.  20 minutes in, I was audibly dripping sweat onto the mat like it was hot yoga, even though the temperature in the room was cool and climate controlled.  Lindsey's voice was a constant and steady exhortation to breathe and elongate my body.  I think that between her tone and the sitar in the background, I was in a state of mind control.  If she had said the following, I totally would have done it:

"Now breathe in, feel the energy filling your lungs and opening up your back, and as you exhale through your mouth loudly, strike your groin three times and feel the pain radiate to your fingertips and your ankles."

Now I am one of the least flexible people I know, due to a combination of my height and whatever else conspires to keep my fingers from touching my toes.  I thought yoga would be a chance to increase my flexibility while also checking the fitness box, but I did not envision myself in warrior pose and then losing my balance and slapping the mirror to stay upright.  You know when people are talking and you can hear them smiling.  Yeah, that's when that happened.

I like going in the middle of the day because it breaks up my routine non-routine of looking for jobs and running errands.  It also means fewer people in the class, which can be good because less people means less eyes on you.  But it also means more special attention, especially in a class with four students.  I'll keep at this one though.  Not because I think it will have the pounds flying off me, but because it gives me some core strength and hopefully balance which I also have none of.

Namaste yo.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Wait, so you're a cop for free?

So as some of you know, I'm a Reserve Police Officer for the Metropolitan Police Department in DC.  The "reserve" part means that I collect no salary for this job.  DC is one of the few departments on the east coast that allows volunteer officers to be armed.  That was the reason I wanted to do it.

Now let me simply say that I don't think a firearm is the most important tool on the belt.  In many ways, outside of pepper spray, it's my least used tool I carry.  However in this country, the police are armed and not having a gun sets you apart.  And being set apart is not good when you're not a regular officer.  Also, not being armed can have deadly results.  In 2007, 2 NYPD Auxiliary officers, who wear similar uniforms but are unarmed, were shot and killed.  They were following a murder suspect who then stopped and started chasing them.

MPD Reserve Officers wear identical uniforms and carry the same gear as their career brethren.  The only way I'd come back, especially without pay, was if I could be seen as an equal.  Of course, a uniform doesn't make you a cop. Rather, what you do in that uniform and how you act, is what matters. When told that I'm working as a cop for free, both cops and civilians are dumbfounded.

For my friends, I tell them that this is an activity, like flying general aviation or rock climbing.  It carries certain risks and I enjoy it.  What befuddles them is why I would want to spend my Saturday evening getting yelled at by the public or fighting with crackheads.  The simple answer is that I miss it.  No, not getting bit, but the camaraderie and adrenaline and responsibility.  I'll admit it's strange to have a hobby that involves copious amounts of paperwork, but it is so different from my normal day that I look forward to it.

The cops are understandably confused by my choice as well.  I would be too in their shoes.  Working in a busy city can wear on you.  Seeing the same people over and over and realizing that you're not making a difference as much as you are playing a role can be exhausting and make a person very jaded. Why would anyone want to do this for free?  One of the great things about being a reserve is that it's not full-time, which means it takes longer to wear and grate on you.  This helps a tremendous amount on my outlook and personality while working.  Also, even the most jaded cops want to make a difference.  It's just that those calls are few and far between sometimes.

Of course another huge benefit is that I get to be a cop without any of the politics or the prison-like sentence that can come with pensions.  If I don't want to work on a certain night, I don't have to.
I get to serve the community I live in and laugh.  A lot.  I forgot how many laughs there were.  And laughs are the key to a happy life.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Year of Fitness: It's Still Happening

Perhaps you forgot that 2014 is my Year of Fitness.  I forgive you.  It was a cold winter.  And to be honest, I'm taking the approach to this that it's a marathon and not a sprint.  Some may say this is lazy.  I say it's strategy.

I returned to the gym today for a GRIT class.  This is a 30 minute high intensity exercise class and they have different versions, Strength, Cardio and Plyometrics.  I did the cardio class this afternoon and briefly saw my God I think at some point.  Here's a video of the class:

Whereas I looked like Mary Katherine Gallagher. Well her crossed with a drunken albatross.  Group exercise classes are odd to me.  In a room with strangers, being exhorted by another stranger to move faster and harder.  The idea behind Grit is that it's only 30 minutes per workout, and because of that you need to work twice as hard as hour-long workouts.  This means that I was pretty much done right after the "warmup"

You know how I know I was the biggest mess in class?  The instructor kept telling me I was doing a good job by name.  No one else got as many atta-boys as I did.  This only leads me to conclude that I must have looked like someone having a grand mal seizure to house music.  The instructor did break the news that she was going back to school and wouldn't be teaching the 5:30PM class in the summer.  I remember thinking that I didn't know that the CIA had a torture academy beginning so soon.

It hurts everywhere, especially the next day.  I don't know if I have GRIT.  I do have cramps and the body of a giant baby.  

Friday, February 28, 2014

Thoughts on Spike's Rant

So as a New Yorker, Spike Lee is a NY presence.  Certainly Do The Right Thing was an incredibly authentic and wonderful capture of what NYC was like in the late 80's.  He's also a Knicks fan, like our version of Jack Nicholson, except the Knicks are terrible.  So it wasn't really a surprise when Spike went on a tirade about gentrification and compared it to Columbus discovering an inhabited land.

And some of what he said was absolutely correct.  I did respond to noise complaints by new white neighbors next to Mt. Morris Park who complained about the constant drumming from a drum circle.  I vividly remember the conversation going like this:

Me: So you just moved here, right?  

Him: Yup.  

Me: And you probably would have rather lived on the Upper West Side or Upper East or West Village, but the rent was too expensive, right?  

Him: Uh yeah? 

Me:  These guys have been drumming in this circle for over 50 years.  This is what they do.  You can't come into this building and expect that to stop.  I can go down there and talk to them, if you want, but you might not find people very friendly.  

Him: ...

But I knew my attempt at street counseling wouldn't stop the influx and if the new residents did stop the drum circle at Mt Morris Park, then that's a shame.  Spike had the right concept, but the wrong line.  He made it about race, which of course made lots of people turn off, and that's all wrong.  Hell, he moved to the Upper East Side.  Along those lines, people on Park Ave could say the same thing about him.

This is not gentrification along national lines.  It's not like thousands of North Koreans are pouring into Brooklyn and replacing all the bagel and pizza shops with kimchi parlors.  That I would be more okay with.  This is a gentrification of money and boredom.

Let's take Grey's Papaya down in the Village which is closing after losing its rent.  It provided food and sweet papaya juice for thousands of New Yorkers, including drunk NYU kids and the homeless.  The landlord wanted to raise the monthly rent from $30,000 to $50,000 a month, which was too much for a place selling two hots and a drink for under $5.  It's being replaced by a juice place, offering cleanses and other high priced drinks.  It probably won't last, and then it will be vacant and might turn into a retail clothing store or some sexy maternity store.  But it will never be a place that sells 2 hot dogs and a drink for $5 ever again.  

This is happening all over the city.  Locksmiths, hardware stores, my local pizza place, diners.  All gone, to be replaced by banks and Duane Reades and boutique stores.  The trend though is the same, once these places leave, they will never return.  If they do return, you get some new take on the concept.  Take Empire Diner for example.  My mother would take me here as a kid and it was so much fun.  And it was a diner.  This new concept, headed by Amanda Freitag (No one knew who was the chef when I went there as a kid) will have matzoh ball soup with bone marrow and skate.

This is the existential threat that faces New York City.  It becomes a city that loses its sense of place while the chains and feel of Times Square creep outward until they're next door.  I don't need Lululemon to buy yoga pants.  I can do that online, but without a hardware store, how the hell do I fix my sink.  Sometimes Youtube videos aren't good enough.

If you want to be really sad,about NYC, then read this blog.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Car2Go = Maniac Behind the Wheel

So if you don't know Car2Go or haven't seen their blue and white Smart cars speeding around your city, then you probably don't live in one of the 25 cities around the world where they operate.  Basically, it's a one way car rental, which is much more useful than you ever imagined.  Say you're going to meet friends out at a bar, but you're late, so you can take one of these cars there and park it and then take a bus/cab or walk/crawl home.

Here's how it works:

  1. You give them your credit card and drivers license info and they give you an RFID card.  
  2. You use this RFID card to open one of their 2-person cars, parked anywhere in a designated area (usually the boundaries of your city)
  3. You drive wherever you want in that boundary and then you park the car, and leave the key and use the card to lock the car up again.  As a city kid, the ability to park this thing almost anywhere is awesome and becomes a challenge to find how small of a spot I can find to put it in.  (Note, this is not my parking job, but I am very impressed.)
So what's the big deal? This is great right?  Well, mostly. Here's the catch. 
You get charged per minute.  41 cents per minute to be exact.  So basically, you are trying to get to your destination as quickly as possible.  What's that Grandma?  You want me to yield so you can cross at the crosswalk?  Do I look like I'm made of money?  This cost gets internalized like a mental taxi meter and turns the most thoughtful driver into Dale Jr.  I'm as guilty of it as the next guy, but maybe a different pay structure around pay bands might be better.  Like $5 for 20 minutes, $10 for 40 and $15 for an hour?  

It's not just driving.  There's a gas card in the car, and they will give you a credit of 20 minutes if you fill it up.  But only when the tank is at 1/4 tank or less.  This is dumb.  By that point, you're going to be using 10-12 minutes to fill the tank anyway, what with the weird payment card and inputting mileage, etc.  Why not just give everyone 15 minutes if they fill the tank, for anything under 3/4.  You would have more thoughtful customers and the next drivers would appreciate it.  

Finally, unlike the other great sharing system in DC, Capital Bikeshare, the maintenance issue is not great.  Yesterday, driving a Car2Go, I went to use the wipers and they didn't work.  Nor did the sprayer nozzles.  So I called using the in car SOS button and the connection was turruble, so she called back and I reported it and was thanked.  When I ended the rental, I noticed that the car was ready to be used again.  It seems like they could use a Maintenance Status so people don't keep getting in cars that have obvious problems.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Netflix and Bourbon FTW

There exists in the gym a thing that lurks silently and unassumingly in a corner.  Probably near the water fountain or some exercise mats.  Not the dumbbells or free weights or the Cybex machines with the straps that are across between some sexual training device and a medieval torture machine.  No friends, I am speaking of the medicine ball.

Yes, this small ball filled with some sort of granular pain.  It mocks you with small numbers like 8 or 12.  Who can't lift 12 pounds?  I found out after multiple reps that I am the guy that can't lift 12 pounds. I had my second personal training session this morning at 7AM.  It went well.  If well means rivers of sweat and gasping.

I realized while I was seated and tossing this medicine ball to the trainer with my skinny arms, and almost hitting some poor bastard doing chest presses in the head, that I need a back story.  I need a helmet.  See, the only way that this level of weakness is alright is if it follows some sort of tragic accident.  Or maybe I was teaching kids to read in sub-saharan Africa and caught Dutch Elm Disease or something.

Because when I'm dripping all over the ground and struggling with my pastel colored medicine ball, I can't be like "This is all me, baby!  Netflix and bourbon for the win!!!"

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Soy Americano

So I learned today at my Wellness consult that I have joined the ranks of 35.7% of Americans who are obese.  This is not shocking.  I knew when I held that not-X-Box controller thing that beeped in judgement that the numbers wouldn't be good news.  To quote one of the finest thinkers of our time, these hips don't lie.

Also, the scale at the gym is different than the one at home, and I'm fatter by 3 pounds.  But I'm taking a whole Biggest Loser approach to this whole thing.  The bigger I am the easier the weight comes off.  Finished the consult and then I was in the gym alone, and it struck me.  My hatred of gyms.  Take large amounts of people working out and add low self-esteem, and no idea how to use machines, and simmer until nervous gas.  Now I'm a bright fella.  I realize that most of these people working out joined this gym about 6 days ago and at least one of them is sitting on the machine backwards and is very close to putting an eye out.  But that objective reality doesn't mesh with the fake reality that I create in my mind.  

See, I don't like exercise.  It comes from a long history of loathing organized sports, brought on by attending a private grade school that put an emphasis on sports and academics.  I was good at neither.  With competitive sports mandatory, I simply would set the bar incredibly low and seek to trip over it.  The only varsity letter I received in my collegiate career was in gymnastics, because you compete against yourself, and it wasn't physically possible that I could be worse than my first day on the rings.  Thankfully, there were no cell phone cameras back in 1991, otherwise you would be able to see my floor routine which consisted entirely of forward rolls and skipping.

The issue I have is that I generally haven't given exercise enough time to show results and then make me feel like its worth it.  I don't get a runner's high.  I'm often yawning while working out which probably isn't a good thing.  I have my first training session tonight at 7:30 and I'm going to see the guy weekly and then go at least twice more per week on my own.  That should help me get past the sense of uselessness I feel at the gym.

I'll let you know how it all goes.  Stay tuned, sports fans.  

Sunday, January 05, 2014

YOF #1

Weekly Weigh-In: 233 lbs. 

Either I have been too busy toning my physique to blog or the Year of Fitness has gotten off to a slow start.  Tens of readers, it was the latter.  I cannot lie to you.  Between the holidays and my birthday and my general dislike of exercise I have gotten off to a poor start.

But today, January 5th, I went to the Y.  I spent 30 minutes on the eliptical and apparently burned 450 calories.  I don't believe that stat.  One, because how the hell does this machine which is showing my Maury (He's not the father, by the way) know how many units of heat I'm burning.  Secondly, its depressing knowing that 30 minutes of work was two bites of pizza.

So I planned to do a before photo.  You know the kind with the fat rolls and the frowns.  That will happen, but not right away.  I'm looking to get an Italian hero in the photo to highlight the gluttony. I've got a wellness consultation with the Y tomorrow.  I'm expecting to hear from them that I'm not very well.

In addition to my gym exploration today, I also had the chance to dine with Allyson and my friend Caitlin, up from Boston.  I met Caitlin years ago at a college fair where we volunteered for our alma mater.   We kept in touch since and I always give when she runs Boston for Team in Training. She's done 9 of them so far.  Anyway, she's awesome and it was great hanging out tonight for a bit.  If peeps want to help her out by giving to TNT, you can give here.

I will report back about the wellness consultation tomorrow.