Saturday, November 29, 2008

We know not the time or the hour.....

Early this morning while wearing my Paramedic hat my partner and I were sent to the typical early Saturday morning call for an unconscious man. Before even leaving the driveway we were updated by the local BLS agency that CPR was in progress via phone instructions by the 911 operator.

When we arrived the BLS was attempting a resuscitation on a man in his forties. It was apparent to even the most casual observer (the BLS excluded) that he was far beyond any reasonable means to resuscitate. After we confirmed the necessary physical findings and ceased all EMS activities, the cops, BLS and my partner went outside to restock, etc and I was left in the presence of one freshly minted widow. She asked me what we would do next. It was at that moment I realized that she had no clue that her husband was dead. She watched the BLS do CPR, saw the cops stand idly by with a look of consternation on their face and was in full view while we unplugged our machinery and obtained a pronouncement from medical control. When I told her it was likely he had died sometime during the night she was utterly shocked. At first I don't think she really believed me.

All the more reason to have a life firmly grounded in reality and not reality TV.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey, stuffing and faith in action

Its not hard to be thankful. Usually a quick look in the local paper is enough to provide a story heart wrenching enough to temper any bad feelings about your lot in life. Today was the annual Thanksgiving fiesta at our home. I think it was a record breaker in that we hosted thirty eight dinner guests. Friends, family and an overabundance of food.

Life has its way of throwing the occasional curve ball our way. But looking around the crowd today it struck me more so this year that I am a very lucky man. Yes, we get on each others nerves occasionally, or someone may feel slighted over a a misdeed (either real or imagined) but in the scope of things that's all small potatoes.

I was happy today that my Mother in Law's two sisters were able to join us. Due to distance it is sometimes difficult to get all three of them in the same room. They are all in their eighties and the oldest is not likely to see another Thanksgiving at our home. Yet, despite the "crepe hanging" most people would engage in faced with what inevitably will be upcoming sadness, they were content to spend time with each other, talk about some old times and just enjoy being together for what may be the last time. That is where faith comes in to play. Armed with the knowledge that God loves us and the that this life is the beginning, facing death is not a time to be sad. Surely when a loved one dies there is a sadness but one of a selfish type. If you live by the rules and practice your faith you know that you will live again. After watching these three ladies today I saw the absolute application of that faith in action.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Can't we all just get along?

Caught red handed.

A girl and her dog. I wonder who wants the pool open more.

Bastard Child

Whatever your profession I am sure that at some point you have had to endure the idealistic pursuits of someone new to the fold. You know the type, young, full of enthusiasm and dreadfully annoying to anyone who has been on the job for more than twenty minutes. In the uniformed services (Fire, Police, EMS) this type of behavior tends to be magnified and as a consequence is exponentially more annoying. Each year various EMS agencies celebrate EMS week in one form or another. Usually some public observance involving service awards is involved and employers usually provide a token "gift" for their loyal EMS staff. Routinely the attitude of most is that they would rather have the $4.95 instead of the "gift". In 2006 one particularly upbeat neophyte attempted to organize a party for EMS week. What follows is my response to the E Vite.

Thanks for the invite but I will be quietly ringing in EMS Week this year at home with my family. After our traditional meal of SPAM and deli scraps collected from generous local benefactors we will stare directly in to the sun until our eyes blink at such a velocity that we will begin to truly believe, if only for a few moments that our employer pays us a competitive wage and that Human Resources is not some ironic oxymoron. Then we will go door to door to collect funds to assist those less fortunate than us (perhaps the local fish monger this year) after which we will retire to our humble home where I will sob quietly in to my pillow while I contemplate one particularly bad choice in my life.

What the uninitiated probably don't understand is that the Emergency Medical Services is the bastard child of the Uniformed Services. Most of us who have done it for any length of time understand and accept this. And in many ways that is OK. After all, the Fire and Police Departments have a much more dangerous job and are obligated to provide most of the "Hero" services. We are usually around to just pick up the pieces. But for the men and women that provide this service as a full time career there is an issue of wages and compensation that lag far behind the other two legs of the tripod. This rookie just caught me on a bad day. I wonder if I should have apologized or billed for tuition.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Harvest Time

Back in 2005 I was part of a Police Task Force that deployed to New Orleans after Hurrican Katrina. A member of my team and a great guy just returned from a trip to Kentucky and presented me with a bottle of Buffalo Trace Bourbon. Review to follow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lead, follow or get out of the way

This evening several of us travelled to the Diocesan Center to participate in a Q and A about the Latin Mass. Despite the fact that it has been a year since His Holiness cleared up any lingering questions about the ability of Priests to celebrate in the Extraordinary Form there really hasn't been that much brewing in the Metuchen Diocese. To his credit, our Bishop has arranged for daily and Sunday Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the Shrine Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. The unfortunate element is that in a Diocese of over one half million with 108 Parishes, one chapel in the middle of a diocese that spans four counties doesn't lend itself to the easy or even practical possibility of attending daily or even Sunday Mass.

The session was presented by Msgr. Michael J. Alleigro who is the Rector of our Cathedral. We were provided with three documents. The first was a chronology of "liturgical reforms" spanning 1962 to 2007. This was followed by a release from the Vatican Press Office and bore the title Observations on the use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the 1970 reform. Finally there was a list of several common questions regarding Summorum Pontificum. Pretty rudimentary stuff.

To summarize a very long and brutal story;

1) the Pope says any competent Priest can say Mass according to the Extraordinary Form.
2) We won't stand in any one's way but don't expect any help.
3) Good luck with all of that.

Certainly the presentation was longer and sugar coated a bit more but we got the drift. There were about seventy people there. Only about four Priests, a smattering of Directors of Music and then the laity.

There were a few really pointed questions from the group. Deflected ably. No great progress but no sign of stimulus from the Chancery. The party line seemed to be "there has been no great swelling of requests for the Extraordinary Form". The question remains...what will happen when there is?

Monday, November 17, 2008

When shoe leather is a delicacy....

A friend of mine was the officer assigned to the public meeting of our local government this week. At the conclusion of the gathering he was asked by the Mayor to escort an obviously blind gentleman to the parking lot. After guiding the man to the elevator and in an effort to be efficient in his assigned task he asked this fellow, "Sir, how far are you parked from the buildings exit?". Even the blind guy thought that one was funny.

Walking the Walk

Father Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, S.C , is alternately being praised as courageous and blasted as insensitive after calling Obama supporters to task for casting their vote in favor of a pro abortion candidate. I would like to link directly to a his comments but with the exception of excerpts on some of the bigger blogs it appears as though his original statement was pulled from his Parish site. Too bad. What an example of a courageous Priest! Pre election statements from the Bishop's conference should have been so clear. Anyway, a big emphatic twirl of Dirty Copper's hickory nightstick is in order. Strong unequivocal defense of the unborn, what a concept!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fat Guy Heaven !

Sometimes you just need a gigantic burrito.

Absence of reason in Flu season

The flu season is upon us. Why you may ask am I posting about influenza. No, I am not a physician, epidemiologist or public health official. In addition to being a Dirty Copper I am also a Paramedic. Nothing in the world aside from working the day after a major holiday stirs resentment in the heart of your local pre hospital care provider than the beginning of the flu season. Why? Let me explain.

As the season unfolds and the absence of good hand washing habits amongst the populace spreads the dreaded disease many of us are struck down with fever, chills and body aches. Those of us equipped with more than two brain cells stay at home, take ibuprofen and force fluids. If common sense was as contagious as the flu this rant would be unnecessary.

Invariably, dispatches for “trouble breathing” increase dramatically. After all, better to leave your home on a cold night for an unnecessary and expensive trip to the emergency room rather than follow conventional wisdom and ride out the storm. That would make good sense.

No, its probably better to call 911, have the ambulance respond and have someone drag your whining carcass to the emergency room loaded with similarly ignorant boobs to be ignored for several hours before being sent packing with a large bill and instructions to stay home, take ibuprofen and force fluids. Makes perfect sense. After all, while we are at your house the forty year old guy in cardiac arrest can lay dead on the kitchen floor in front of his wife and children. After all, the center of the known universe begins at the center of your febrile belly button.

Guerilla Chant

It all started innocently enough. My good friend and daughter’s piano teacher and I often run in to each other while waiting for the kids to get out of school. What is nice about our chats is that the Maestro and I have found how very much we have in common. He is a professional church musician (and an accomplished one at that) and I am a music lover. We share a love for the Church and have chatted at length about Church history and current events. Barbeque, distilled spirits and fine cigars traditionally round out our exchange. The list grows each time we steal those fifteen minutes from work and family obligations to just enjoy some idle time bantering about our passions.

One afternoon not too long ago I was lamenting the absence of the TLM in our diocese. While the Mass is offered in our Diocese it is only available in one rather distant location. The probability of making that trek on a routine basis is unlikely in the face of the realities of space and time. Thus I confessed I am a burgeoning yet frustrated “wanna be” Traditionalist Roman Catholic.

The Maestro too confessed his frustration at not being able to explore this rich liturgical heritage. Being bound to his schedule as the Director of Music at his Parish the possibility of his slinking away to join me in my quest was equally unlikely. It was at this point it happened. Like a member of the Underground cautiously giving a password to one who he hopes is a confederate and not a member of the secret police he told me about a project he was working on, a men’s schola. Did I really hear him say that? Gregorian chant here? In liturgical tambourine land? I kept my composure and with a soft conspiratorial yet guttural response encouraged him to continue.

Through some magic he convinced his Pastor to allow the inclusion of this most precious part of our liturgical heritage as a small part of the Masses for Advent and Christmas. While it will still be a Novus Ordo Mass the customary sights and sounds of worship will be edged aside to include both the Introit and Communio. In excited and suitably hushed tones he shared the location and secret meeting time with me and we hurriedly separated amongst the crowd of dispersing school children and unsuspecting parents.

Thus not long after we met on a sunny fall afternoon in a location that for security reasons will have to remain undisclosed. I then was introduced to our co conspirators. Naturally we used pseudonyms in case our activities were compromised. There in our secret lair we plotted. The Delivery Man, Mr. Curie, The Student and of course the Dirty Copper listened attentively as The Maestro lay out our plan.

What a joyful undertaking! Often in the privacy of my thoughts I am saddened at the thought that there are so few of us out there, those who yearn for liturgical tradition, a tradition of which we were deprived. Yet here we all were. Despite having no direct experience or exposure to its graces, we collectively possess imbued knowledge that it is right and proper, a direct lineage to the time of the earliest Christians. A treasured gift of continuity, the uninterrupted path to the prize of our faith.

So there we plotted, and chanted with grateful souls. I know not where this path will lead us. Yet I know that it is right. It is comfortable. It inspires me to grace. Whether our venture will succeed is yet to be determined. With God’s grace and the efforts of like minded cells of conspirators, perhaps we will be part of the surge behind the Great Liturgical Reformation. Brick by Brick.


An irate citizen called to complain about the conduct of one of my officers. It seems that she called to have a radio car dispatched to her home for a neighbor problem.

She told the officer that every morning since it has gotten colder her next door neighbor starts his car ten minutes before he leaves for work, presumably to warm it up. Perplexed the officer asked what was wrong with that seemingly logical situation. As it turns out this fine citizen sleeps with her windows open no matter what the outside temperature because she likes the fresh air. Apparently the exhaust from her uncaring neighbor’s car has been drifting in to her window affecting the quality of her life. She expected the officer to do something about it. He did. He left. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Convert Bloggers

I am almost ashamed to admit my ignorance. While not having been exposed to the internet since birth like my lucky children I have tried to keep pace with the world of technology. Largely, I have had enough success to the extent that I can easily navigate the net to take care of my information gluttony and perform some household tasks. But I must confess that my exposure to the world of blogging has been brief. Allow me to explain.

It was only after having been promoted and being moved to the midnight shift that I had time to explore more of what the internet had to offer. While I am now an “inside cop” and have the benefit of climate control and an office of sorts I had spent the better part of the last twenty years pushing a radio car around the mean streets of suburbia attempting to keep my sanity and maintain the status quo despite the never ending influence that drugs, alcohol and extremely poor parenting decisions have on our little slice of American Society. And though I love to read it is generally bad form to show up for work with a bag of books or stack of periodicals. Thus, when moved to an office and actually being in charge I gained a great deal of latitude in terms of my “down time” and acquired unlimited access to the internet to boot.

But you can only read so many news articles. Even on a busy news cycle the stories become routine and there is very little deviation in the work of reporters, even on different coasts. The exception of course is political coverage, but that will surely be the topic of another post. It was then that I started to explore a bit and cautiously waded in to the vast ocean of over fifty million blogs. But where to begin? After a brief dalliance on matters more mundane I elected to stimulate my aging brain and attempt to broaden my horizons on matters more academic. Thus, my expedition in to the blogsphere where candidly, there is a lot of crapola.

As I have aged I find myself developing a more active faith life. Logic then dictated that I begin my adventure exploring ways to enrich that aspect of my being. Where better to begin than reading blogs by Priests? I was fortunate to first find a reference to arguably the best Priests blog on the planet. by the amazing Father John Zuhlsdorf. Suffice to say that if you are or aspire to be a serious Roman Catholic this is a daily must read assignment. Following his links I found many incredible blogs and those that I read daily are listed on this page. The interesting thread among them all is that all of the Priest Authors are converts to the faith. In one respect this troubled me in that as a cradle Catholic I could not be an insignificant bump on the derriere of any of these Reverend Fathers. Sound public education aside I find myself often times ill equipped to absorb some of what the good Fathers write about. Could it be that my not too far after Vatican II CCD education has failed me? After all, I could bang a tambourine and keep time with the guitars at 9:00 mass with the best of them. Sad really, but if nothing else these men have demonstrated to me that even if you arrive late to the opera, you can still get a great deal out of the experience if you take time to read the libretto.

The Doctors of the Church have left us a great treasury in their written works. Divine word is at our fingertips in the Holy Bible. God himself has inspired and provided us with Holy Priests. It is up to us; to nurture that spark of faith long lying neglected since the reception of our Sacraments and grow up. I have heard many homilies over the years that made the point that many of us who have been baptized in Faith since infancy have shirked our responsibilities and ignored a gift bestowed directly from God. It is shameful. When Great Aunt Annie gives you another ugly tie for your birthday, you smile politely and graciously accept the hideous adornment if for no other reason than she loves you. Shouldn’t we, inspired by the example of convert in general and these Priest bloggers in particular graciously accept the gift of our Faith from God? If for no other reason, he loves you.


The center of my work related universe. Ex puteulanus cathedra.