No!! Bentley?! No!!

So. The other night I’m in a musical mood and find myself watching an old Jeff Beck video from Tokyo in 2014.

These are always fun to watch and I am always driven to want to amputate my fingers and mail them to the Mayo clinic, where they could be donated to a worthier cause than my sad forays into what was once called “fusion” . Lately, I’ve heard a new term being tossed about- ” rockjazz”. That must be an entirely new thing, because millenials would apparently rather be thrown screaming off the cliffs of Dover than admit interest in the Mahavishnu Orchestra. ( That has undoubtedly happened, but the Irish press keeps it under wraps thinking it would hurt tourism. Or, they could just blame the British).


Jeff is not a “great” guitar player. He ‘s not as fast or fluid as a lot of other people.He likely doesn’t care. He shouldn’t, if he does care.

No one can play like Jeff Beck. Because no one can think like Jeff Beck. He plays guitar, but thinks more like a conductor. It’s all about color, and tone, and texture. Everything is very carefully composed and assembled. Very extensively rehearsed. And always sounds  completely fresh, as if it is being improvised at that very moment.

Brilliant. And nearly impossible. Which explains all the fingers in manila envelopes that show up at the Mayo clinic. Hell, I barely use mine as it is. All I need is an index finger to push the stupid icons for my stupid apps on my stupid phone, and I could do that with a pencil in my teeth.

So, just as my mom apparently boxed and shipped many suppers I wouldn’t eat as a kid to deserving kids in China, so go all the fingers..? I once quipped that I would love to swap my meatloaf for some egg rolls and chow mein. I got popped in the ear for that. One simply should not offer one’s mother’s meatloaf in trade.

So anyway again.

Jeff has this wonderful simple thing he does with the vibrato/ whammy bar. He uses it to lower the pitch on the last note of a phrase, and it produces an almost spoken- sentence vocal quality. I love that. No guitar player has ever thought of that before.

 My faithful dog Bentley, however, does not. When this happens, he will pace nervously, make all manner of guttural throaty noises in response, and finally start to howl and bark. I’ve never known him to be so opinionated.
This can mean only one of two things.

Either my wonderful companion has a vehement dislike for Jeff Beck (unthinkable) or maybe it’s Fender Stratocasters in general. ( generally thinkable) We’ll try a bit of Hendrix or SRV to test that theory.

Or  maybe he just prefers my Les Paul- based approach ( somewhat thinkable ) Yeah, that’s probably it. 

Or…Maybe he doesn’t like my playing at all, and Jeff Beck has now  magically replaced me as alpha male in my own pack. With a simple turn of the whammy bar.( Highly probably thinkable)

In reflection, not the worst thing by far.

Could have been Yngwie…( totally unthinkable)

Speaking of… 

There is a video on YouTube of Yngwie supposedly playing Ravel’s Bolero with an orchestra and breaks in as soon as he can and starts running arpeggios until the conductor finally screams at him to stop.

As anyone would. ( perfectly thinkable)


New(er) Guy…

There are only two people on the planet who will get the reference that I’m about to make here. The absolute essence of obscurity.

So today at work, I am having my initial sit-down with yet another ex-police captain who has been brought onto our work site as a new security account manager. This makes three times that I have been overlooked for a promotion that I truly no longer care about, would no longer accept even if offered, from a company that I no longer have any particular regard for.

Disgruntled? Hell, yes.Just want to get in a few more years and fade into blissful obscurity.

I don’t see that happening now. This guy is a six- figure idiot. And I somehow have managed to hold onto the quaint notion that there shouldn’t be any such thing.This guy would have been better off being appointed an acting something or other for Trump.

So …. Who am I  to be so judgemental? You tell me.

He starts off by asking me…If I like my sneakers ( black, suitable business attire, as required in our post orders ).

Yes, thanks. Quite nice, as sneakers go, I say….??

That was his idea of an effective lead-in…. to start to explain why all of his shoes are custom-made and very expensive…( as I begin to wonder what any of this might have to do with my little slice of reality…or maybe even our jobs, God forbid…)

Apparently, many years of police work can result in bad backs and bad feet.

Okay, fine. And while I am hoping that there is something, anything even vaguely resembling a point to any of this in the near future… he pulls out his phone.

And promptly starts showing me very uncomfortably graphic photos of a foot procedure he had done recently. ( selfies??) Lots of them.

Mind you, I’ve only known this guy for about seven minutes.

And as I am trying to conjure up something in the way of a suitable reaction to wherever this is supposed to go?…a little voice in my head from several galaxies to my left says, and I quote… ” shit…look at his crooked feet… “

And I start to giggle, which in turn approaches actual laughter.

I, of course, can offer nothing in way of an explanation.

Seems that ex-police captains don’t care to be trifled with. He was somewhat offput by my callous reaction, and we will discuss this further on Tuesday after the MLK holiday.

And I still have no earthly idea what any of that had to do with anything at all. Should I have pulled out my old MRI of back injuries and bonded accordingly?

Got off on the wrong foot, as they say…

Tuesday at 0700 should be a real hoot. Maybe I’ll bring some dental X-rays for show and tell…

Published in: on January 19, 2019 at 4:17 am  Comments (1)  


No, not that…

To musicians, inclining wannabes and used-to-bes, GAS stands for Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

Of which I recently got, and recently succumbed to.

It all started with me poking around in the toy store where I have absolutely no business being. I am officially retired, and only play my resonator for a few hours a year, maybe, and mainly because I really like the variant tones from different slides ( brass, kiln-fired ceramics, glass, etc. ) Hadn’t seen one of my electrics in five or six years.

But I still like to peruse the online stores just to see what new toys are out, and if anything ever really changes. Most of the time, I could only clearly identify about half the stuff that appears in a Sweetwater catalog. Or why someone sitting at a laptop would want convincing sample programs of instruments he doesn’t know how to play, to misuse in ways he doesn’t understand, to create synthesis that convinces no one.

Anyway… and then… an ad appeared for a small Marshall combo amp.

The DSL40CST.  40 watts of Marshall driving a Celestion 12′ speaker.

( There is a secret musician joke in that last sentence. If you need to, please watch ‘This Is Spinal Tap”, and I envy you if you have never seen it. It is phenomenal, and almost completely true. Stonehenge Forever…) And although I’ve known many a drummer with emotional issues and prone to dramatic outbursts, I’ve never actually seen one explode. Only in the figurative.

When I saw the ad for this amp, I was flooded with fond memories of playing my Les Paul through my 1974 JMP 50w MKII into my fawn 4×12 cabinet, and how that is more fun than anything else on this planet. And if a 40w combo could get me a little of that back… just a touch…well worth $699, you would agree. So GAS happened, and I began diverting funds from anywhere to support the endeavor. Girl Scout cookies… eating, not selling… while I tried to figure out how to divert mortgage funds to a better cause. And if I looked a little more convincing in a Girl Scout smock, I would have been out there pushing Thin Mints. Smocks are a little tight, and don’t typically run in XXXXX size…

And finally the day came…time to place the order.

I called Sweetwater, got a guy named Dennis, and explained my GAS attack. I was almost done… just seconds away… and I suddenly had to get all mature on him.

I asked him if he were a guitar guy…yes, he was…I asked him if he’d ever tried this amp…yes, he had, as soon as it arrived…did he like it?…fucking awesome, he said…well, not entirely in those words, he was after all on a monitored sales call. But the sentiment was quite loud and clear.

And did he think it was still too much Marshall for in the house, I said. Even at the 20-watt half- power setting?

Yes, probably, says Dennis. After all, a Marshall is always a Marshall. But it’s way quieter than a 100-watt stack.

Damn it, I thought to myself. Am I about to purchase a great little amp that can live out in the garage with my great big amp? That I don’t even use there because I’m a considerate goddamn neighbor?

Fucking maturity. What I was really hoping was that I could somehow revert to one of my many totally immature former selves and gleefully indulge in some modernized Marshall folklore. Fuck the neighbors. I hate them anyway.

And then Dennis, possibly sensing that it might be slipping away, earned his phone rep wings. I commented that I really knew all that the whole time, and there’s no real substitute for a killer tube amp.

Hold on, there, says he. That’s not the case any more. We just got a new one in that would surprise the hell out of any tube junkie. And you never have to replace tubes…

Ten minutes later, and I bought a Boss Katana 100w head. 5 amp models to build on, 15 effects onboard, a variable power output down to 0.5 watts, and a 5- in. speaker built in so you can practice very modestly. It has a matching 2×12 cabinet that I may get later, but it can easily drive a 4×12. Plus a nice set of AKG headphones, and I’m good for a while. You also get software access to any of 58 Boss effects pedals, so you can completely rebuild the effects chain if you like.

And Dennis says this is a really simple example of a modern amp…

So far, I like it a lot. I can’t quite get the software working yet, not Roland’s strong suit, or mine either.Goddamned BIN files.

And the last bit to consider…I have been out of practice for so very long now…that I really do kind of suck at this. I have a lot of work to do.My audience consists mainly of my dog Bentley ( a Morkie, the cutest thing ever) and I can sense his disappointment. He barks plaintively and piles all his toys at my feet…as if to say…please, this is all I have, just stop, for God’ sake, stop the madness…

So apparently, I play guitar again. I guess that makes me…a used-to-be-hope-to-be…

Cat Escapes Bag…

Well, then.

A ways back, I put up a post about, and how much fun I had poking around in the dustbin of my family history, such as it is.

That trend has continued, and I have found much more stuff since then. But there also have been setbacks. Inexplicable setbacks.

For instance, I have two branches of aunts/uncles/cousins that don’t seem to exist. And yet, I can verify their existence because I was there, and knew them as a child. So I am forced to possibly conclude that:

  • My parents inexplicably lied in great detail about them
  • is riddled with errors
  • They did in fact exist, but went to great lengths to avoid the authorities, especially census- takers
  • I might have made a mistake in my family tree somehow ( as unlikely as that seems, with me being almost infallible…yet, I must remain objective…)
  • Maybe they really existed, and I am just a figment of their imaginations ( I like that, it easily explains away any shortcomings of mine…not to say there are any, but… )

And to really complicate matters, I received a DNA kit as a Christmas gift. Didn’t see that coming at all. So I spit in the tube like the Nigerian girl on TV says to do, and sent it off to the Geneaology Elves in the mountains.

There must be an awful lot of freaking elves out there.

The results got back yesterday.

Were I better at using WordPress, I would simply insert an emoji here. The yellow one with eyes wide open and mouth agape.

I sort of expected the percentage results- 86% Irish, trace amounts of 6 others. Been there, knew that. But I didn’t know about the interactive map.

The one that shows where your DNA genome matches ever started from, and where they ever went. And when. And shows little icons of people to click on along the way when written records ever started being kept.

That’s how I confirmed James and Ellen Duggan, both born app. 1800, married around 1820, emigrated by 1840. Both buried in St. Patrick’s cemetery in Pawtucket RI. My 3rd great-grandparents.

Now I have to go find them.

But wait…there’s more.

They are just the earliest written records.

The earliest genome matches go back to 1700…from France. ( insert frightened emoji here) Not frightened, really. More like unsettled. I may not be as Irish as I have always been led to believe.

But then again, Mom and Dad may have been lying about those cousins too, so…

So the earliest indication is that they went from France to Canada, settling around the St. Lawrence seaway. They were fur trappers, roughly around the time of the French and Indian war.

They lost the war with Britain, and were driven out of Canada. To all over the Northeastern states ( sorry…colonies, then)

And so the next plateau ( ooh, look, I know a French word ) will be to find a trace of how that all happened and how the Irish cousins and French trappers ever got together. Somebody went way outside the lines.

And I just got an Ancestry email from a French guy  who has built a tree to almost 40,000 people and invites me to investigate away. Seeing as how we’re cousins and all.

That, as the saying goes, is a lot of fur trappers.

The journey continues. The emoji says it all.


Published in: on January 30, 2018 at 2:42 pm  Comments (5)  


Jeez, I am really getting tired of this…Tom, now Malcolm… Jack Bruce…Mitchell and Redding… Johnny Winter…etc…

I remember very distinctly studying a practice cassette tape  for a band I was in around 1980-81. One of the songs on the tape was AC/DC doing ” It’s A Long Way To The Top”.

The song was ( is ) incredibly straightforward and starkly simple, as are all AC/DC songs.

Being a token hot guitar player in the 80s, I was not terribly impressed by this song, and was not very familiar with this band at the time. I listened along, presuming the all- pervasive format of two verses, obligatory guitar solo, one more verse and out.

Man, what a surprise. Two verses and then… bagpipes. Lots of them. And then, bagpipes doing trade-offs with Angus’ guitar. Then another verse, and out. And bagpipes along the way.

It was lucky for me that I was home alone, because I actually stood up and cheered. Very out of character.

And then listened to it again about 6000 times.

This was the first time that the notion of ” no guitar solo” ever presented itself to me, and it was a revelation. And this from a two- guitar hard rock band. It changed me.

They were sometimes very raunchy and politically incorrect, sometimes joyously anthemic, always fun to watch. Malcolm’s chord riffs played on an old Gretsch through a mountain of Marshall amps. Angus running around like a possessed schoolboy… well, he actually is a possessed schoolboy. But those great gigantic chord riffs from Malcolm…

Should you ever find yourself doubting Malcolm’s power, just try taking a walk through a graveyard while playing ” You Shook Me” on your portable whatever. Hear that scratching sound? That’s the sound of deceased girls clawing their way to the surface, because they absolutely must dance whenever they hear it. So be ready for that. They will not be denied…

Thanks for everything, Malcolm. Have a safe journey over.Malcolm-gear-650x304 (1).jpg


Into The Great Wide Open…

A world without Tom Petty.
How can there be no Tom Petty?? There has to be a Tom Petty. There can not be a no Tom Petty. There must always be a Tom Petty.
Almost five decades of filling a very particular musical need in the American music landscape, and all the better for having created the need to begin with.
Like the Beatles, Stones, Springsteen… you invent a musical world that only you can occupy. Timeless, classic, and eternal.
Tom was not a great singer…didn’t need to be. Not a great guitarist, either. Didn’t need that at all. Tom was a phenomenal songwriter. And like Lennon and McCartney, Dylan, Bruce, etc, had a very memorable voice. Once you heard it, you knew it. And once you ever heard a superbly crafted Heartbreakers song, it was stuck in your head for all time.
And I feel really badly for the Heartbreakers. They’ve been gigging forever, and now they can’t. Any more. Maybe not ever.
Just maybe, way down the road, they might do something with another guy fronting the band, like Paul Rodgers fronting Queen. It would have to be done respectfully, reverently, almost religiously. And just like Rodgers and Queen, no matter how good it actually was, it could never be the same, and never be right. But it sure would be nice to see those old Vox amps in line again and hear those jangly Rickenbacker guitars. Maybe, someday.


Tom Petty is gone. My God.

Do You Know These People??

There have been a ton of ads this year from for DNA testing and new sign-ons. A two- week free trial is very enticing, and you’ll soon discover that you are a direct- line descendant of George Washington!

Most, like myself , probably figured they could find what they were looking for pretty quickly and get it done before the two weeks was up. Then, just to contact the modern-day Washingtons and schedule a big re-union barbecue.

Yeah, right. I now have a year-long subscription and a family tree that has 658 members and counting. Thoroughly addicted. No sign of George Washington, though.

I am of Irish ancestry, and have been not totally surprised to find the bloodline to be quite pure back to the late 1700s. Most migrated in the decades following the Famine in the 1840s, but I have found direct descendants back to 1760. Curious as to why they would have migrated so early on. I’ve even found a spelling variation on my last name that is French and dates to 1601, and now it’s just a matter of figuring out how that happened.

This kind of research allows answers to a great many questions, and raises countless new ones. The main challenge is to find the time to sort through it all. You would be amazed at the amount of pure data that prescribers are presented with, and you quickly realize that a two-week trial is like giving an alchoholic just a small bottle of Jack Daniels.

It ain’t happening. You’ll either abandon it very quickly or start signing on for the full-tilt ride and a DNA test.

I have resisted the DNA test, although it’s on sale right now for 69.95. I don’t think I can handle the truth. I’m frightened enough of what I’ve found so far. Here are a few excerpts-

  • I have a descendant whose name is on the  gigantic Civil War monument in downtown Providence (Rhode Island). He served in the 3rd RI Cavalry and was killed in action in Lousiana in 1864. ( I’m born, raised and have lived here most of my adult life, and never knew that. Kind of cool.)
  • On the other hand, we have a deserter from the 2nd RI Infantry; he bolted as soon as they got paid, and probably went on to enlist in other regiments to collect the sign-on bonuses.
  • A distant great-uncle from Somerville MA who fell out a third-story window and impaled himself on a picket fence.
  • A much closer great- uncle who was divorced ( huge no-no for Irish Catholics, especially in the 1800s) and then, shortly thereafter, lay down in the path of an oncoming train ( an even bigger no-no )
  • A great-aunt who after having raised several kids in turn-of the-century East Providence, spent the last month of her life in a small Catholic hospital in Burlington, Vermont. In 1932, this must have seemed like being shipped to Siberia…these people tended to stay within a ten-mile radius of where they were born. She was listed as having uterine cancer, and I suspect that the societal response of the time was to banish the gravely ill to what they saw as a nether region out of a sense of superstitious terror. No offense to Burlington, I’ve been there and thought it was spectacular. But I didn’t have to spend two weeks on dirt roads to get there…

One remarkable aspect of all this has been the difficulty of sorting out all the varied Irish descendants. First of all , there is apparently a very short list of names available for newly born Irish kids. You would very likely be named after a parent, and especially so with Irish mothers…much more so than on the paternal side. So the only difference between the six Alices or Patricks you’ve recently discovered may be just a middle initial, or a birth date. And that’s if anyone bothered to mention that. Ancestry gives you full access to census records, which help tremendously with those small but critical details. They also allow users to connect to others involved in ancestry searches that are looking for some of the same people, and you can tie right in to whatever they might have already accomplished. That’s how I discovered photos of a Catholic nun who I now recall sitting on the lap of when I was about four years old…my great-aunt Sister Assumpta. Would never have remembered that of my own accord.

So, it’s all been very engaging, and very illuminating. Heartily recommended.

Come on, give it a shot… I’ll bet you can find all your stuff in under two weeks…


Patrick McKenna and his children








Published in: on September 15, 2017 at 4:41 pm  Comments (2)  

Hi There…

Well, jeez. Haven’t been here in about 76 years. Seems like I became less than enamored with blogging for quite some time. It just suddenly seemed so…self-indulgent?

Plus, I’ve had other things to be self- involved with. I’m a really self-indulgent guy at heart, and certainly no one-trick pony. I’m a very well-rounded self-indulgent pain in the ass to a wide variety of citizenry. Just ask ’em. They’ll likely say something nice about me initially, but with that sardonic ” you know and I know” smirk that can only mean one thing.

And what is that, you ask?

I certainly don’t know. Not a shred of a clue. I’m way too self-whatever to take notice,  and cannot afford to sacrifice any ” me-time ” to an endeavor like that.

So… Mr. SI Poster Boy 2017 ( Self-Indulgent, not Sports Illustrated ) was online just this morning, invested in an odd little pastime that I’ve been toying with lately.

I’ve been perusing old Sears catalogs. Also some JC Penney and Montgomery Ward. I began by looking for an old guitar that I had as a kid in 1965 that my dad bought for me.

It was a Kay Vanguard that cost 69.95 with a vinyl cardboard case. They’re sometimes on EBay for roughly 700-800. This was my first electric guitar ( a very, very big deal ). My guitar teacher at the time made me re-string it with very heavy-gauge flat-wound strings, and it was all but impossible to play. Like trying to play ” Day Tripper” on a tennis racquet.

I never found it in the Sears catalogs. Turns out that my dad got it at a local retailer called Apex. Mine had two pickups, and the Sears version had only one, for 34.95.

Lest I forget to mention it; in the 60s’, the world was absolutely overrun with cheap, mass- produced mostly Japanese- made guitars. The British Invasion was at full speed, and any self- indulgent kid worth his salt was hammering their parents for a guitar. Any guitar.

So anyway. Back to the Sears catalog thing.

I fully get that this is an odd thing to do. But here’s why I really like it.

It was a pretty big event every year when the Sears catalog arrived in the mail, mainly because it meant that Christmas was on the horizon. Kids could start plotting and planning how to manipulate their parents into getting the cool stuff from the catalog. It probably didn’t work out all that often, but it was great to spend many hours going through the catalog. Very ” A Christmas Story”.

The catalogs themselves are/ were very distinctly recognizable. The very lightweight paper that still managed to print well, the layouts, colors, fonts… all went into creating the approximately 8-lb paper brick that would crash onto the front porch when tossed unceremoniously by a near-suicidal letter carrier. The catalog release was one of the biggest events in the USPS business year. Untold hundreds of thousands of them delivered by hand.

But the very coolest thing was the smell. They had a very distinct odor. To this day, I would bet very heavily on my ability to recognize a Sears catalog purely by scent in a blind test. And when I’m going through those old catalogs on a website… I swear that I can smell them. The imagery somehow triggers a smell memory. That’s why I like doing it. So that I can indulge in that small and barely discernable hallucination.

I suppose it’s because I’m actually dying, and this is just random electrical impulses firing off in my brain as I go. That’s OK, it’s still just fun. Or maybe I’m discovering a whole new uncharted level of self- indulgence. In that case, please feel free to try this at home…


While perusing today, I found what has to be one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen.

On page 233 of the 1946 Sears catalog, I found an ad promoting the apparently common idea at the time….that fur trappers could mail their raw pelts to Sears and receive not only fair market value for them, but use that value towards their Sears account if they wanted to. Sears would supply all necessary mailing materials and labeling…. so you could get the cool stuff in the catalog.

With the local Sears outlet here actually recently announcing its closing….maybe I should print that ad out and take it to the store with some road kill. Slap it up onto the counter and tell them I want to make a payment…







Published in: on August 4, 2017 at 2:55 pm  Comments (4)  


Took a drive to Connecticut today. It’s an hour to get there, a very nice day to be out, and Miss Daisy needed to make a deposit to the Random Mashantucket College Kid’s Fund.

Sandra selected a radio station after discovering that her brother had likely broken the CD changer a few days earlier. I would have gone with ” Says You ” on NPR, but we ended up with 93.3, a local commercial ‘Lite Rock ” format. I’m told that marriage is all about compromise.

It was a long hour’s drive.

Everything this station played in an hour’s time ( six songs in total ) followed the same song format; a kind of overstylized ballad, with either guitar or piano to accompany. Possibly some artificial percussion added as an afterthought. They only mentioned the name of one artist ( Taylor Swift ), All else went unmentioned, not even the titles of the songs. Nothing.

And rightfully so. This stuff is absolutely artificial mindless digital horseshit. It takes up some small space in between advertisements.

I wondered to myself if this is what the masses believe comprises music these days.

I think they do. That makes me feel a) sad b) angry c) disinterested. I find it very hard to believe that people can be so easily programmed. But they are entirely welcome to it if they’re that far gone. I’m too damned old to be concerned.

I find myself entirely in agreement with Jack White, who believes that the recording of music should be not only a completely analog process, but also as simple and straightforward as possible. Just to keep it honest. Likely to be painful sometimes, but worth the trouble in the end.

And also watched a Netflix documentary the other day of Keith Richards. He is a surprisingly positive guy, in spite of decades of every indulgence imaginable. He’s very happy to have survived, and realizes that he has found complete spiritual fulfillment through rock and roll.

This in turn led me to the library, where I checked out a few old Stones discs. I was hoping to be reminded somehow of how absolutely vitally important this music was to me at one time.

I was. And was surprised to find that, after being in a dozen cover bands that all totally overplayed ” Sympathy For The Devil”, the original actually consists simply of a voice, an upright piano, bass and drums. And how dramatically a simple thing can be built to great dynamic effect with a little skill and lots of self- control.

And that the always elusive guitar sounds of ” Street Fighting Man ” consisted of Keith playing a Gibson Hummingbird acoustic guitar into a Philips shoebox cassette recorder. Then add voice, upright piano, bass, drums. Voila. History.

Very fun to be taught a music lesson from the ancient past, as if listening to this record four thousand times at age 15 wasn’t enough. Never heard a goddamned thing.

I think I’ll order ” Beggars Banquet” and ” Let It Bleed” from Amazon this week.

Thanks, Keith. And Jack, too. It’s good to be Old School. Really old.

Published in: on October 4, 2015 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Chapter 38

Traffic on 95 North was not in my favor, but with a little luck and healthy disregard for the rules of the road, I figure I can just make roll call. Normally I kinda hate being late, especially to a meeting where I can’t get in un-noticed.  Even though Lt Giancarlo’s text said to report directly to him, (…at least I think that’s what it meant!),  I’m still an everyday patrol cop and that means be in the Squad Room  7:00 am sharp and listen to Sgt Flerherty tell all of us how to do our jobs safely and how it’s our duty to the citizens of the city of Providence and blah, blah.

I glanced at my phone and the text still showed: ‘Come in… G’    I started to grin,  goddamn! this just might be my shot at trading in my same olds for some real police work! Just gots to get to the station, and make that transition.

The Providence Police Department is located directly over the Providence Fire Station. Combining essential city services into one location seemed like a great idea in the late 1950s, when the biggest public safety issues were:  a) the next hurricane and b) keeping up with the dead gangster calls from Federal Hill. Square grey granite, the front of the building had an unlikely  splash of red  from the four overhead doors for the various  trucks and fire engines.  The police department was on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The Squad Room was on the 2nd floor, a 12 x 14 (probably big enough for the entire Department when the place was built) room furnished in ‘Elementary Modern’ school desks, (the kind with the solid plastic desk top that looked kinda like an apostrophe? )… now that I think about it, the room looks like most 1950s classrooms, right down to the greenish floor tile. Every day, before each shift, special assignments, notes, new APBs and general schedule bullshit was announced, gripes were solicited and we were all sent out on the street.  I’ve only been on the force 3 years, but my least favorite part of the job was these daily meetings, mostly because the old veteran cops, who for the most part thrived on the shift meeting, it gave ’em a chance to be ‘wise old timers’…  always plenty of advice for rookies, which to them was anyone who joined the force after Carter was President. Sgt Flerherty seemed to encourage this, sort of a ‘bad cop, worse cop‘ approach to management. He’d stand at the front of the room and listen to some of the most arrant nonsense come from these guys and would only interrupt if it looked like someone was getting pissed off enough to start something, then he’d say, ‘gentlemen!! save that shit for the street!’  At least until the ladies started to show up in uniform. Then even he had to change. And, while most cops hate change, a career Shift Supervisor like Flerherty abhorred change. He knew that women are totally suited to police work… in administration or, if especially gifted, maybe back-up Dispatcher. Beat cop? With a gun? On patrol? no, no and ‘faith ‘n begorra’ no!!  Story has it that it was a young cop on the rise back in the late 80s who managed to help Flerherty to accept modern police work.  That kind of help is as likely to breed resentment as it is gratitude.

“Campbell! it says here that  you’re off today’s roster, you’ve been re-assigned to Lt Giancarlo up in the Detective Division.” Sgt. Flerherty seemed more put out by the change to his patrol  schedule than anything else.  He ran the pre-shift meetings like a male nun, eyes glinting behind wire-rimmed glasses, looking for any deviation from ‘the right way to start a shift’.

Your uniform looks like you slept in it!  I’ll not be having any of my men disgracing the uniform, so get yourself a little more presentable before you go up to see them plainclothes,” the scorn in his voice when saying ‘plainclothes‘, spoke volumes about the career that Flerherty had worked to achieve. ‘The real cops,‘ as he always concluded the pre-shift meetings, ‘…are them out there not hiding behind fancy clothes and un-marked cars. Get out there and do your duty.

Flerherty made a check mark on his clipboard and without another word, started passing out the day’s shift assignments. The laughing started at the back of the squad room, where the old timers always sat.  I figured I had just enough time to change back to my civies and be only moderately late, so I ignored them.  As I walked up to the front of the room, Henries leaned over and whispered to his partner, Jacobson, “What do they call a 3 year patrol cop in plainclothes?” I stopped, the muscles tightening in my shoulders, which for me is never a good sign unless I’m about to subdue a prisoner or bust up a bar fight. As I started to turn, I felt a hand grab my right wrist.  Jackie Carleone, a 7 year veteran, and my training supervisor when I started,  looked up and shook her head. I smiled at her and continued up to the front of the room, past Flerherty, who was so engrossed in something on his podium that he didn’t look up.  As I got to the door, I  looked back, flipped off the back of the room, in the general direction of Henries and Jacobson.  Jackie was studying something on the desk in front of her, the movement of her shoulders the only give-away to her laughter.

A quick change into my comfortable dress clothes and I was heading up the staircase to the 3rd floor.


Where the fuck have you been?!” the voice came out of an open office door at the far end of the room. From where I stood, I could see the open work space with the standard green metal desks, made even older looking by the computer monitors on each of the six desks, four of which were occupied. The Chief of Detective’s office was clearly marked by the wall of frosted glass windows that divided his office from the rest of the room. It’s occupant, Lt Robert Giancarlo didn’t bother getting up from his desk, “My note to your Sargent said to send you up here as soon as you got in!

Sorry, I stopped to change out of my uniform” I projected my voice so he’d hear me in the his office,  but was more interested in the 4 Detectives at their desks in the main office area. Not sleeping for 24 hours tended to simulate my throw-shit-at-people reflex and so, I figured a little of the humble-new-guy apology might not be such a bad thing.  But no one seemed interested and so I kept walking past them and into the private office of Lt Robert Giancarlo, Head of the Providence Police Department Detective Division.