Monday, April 18, 2011

Boogie Men

When you were small did anyone ever warn you about the Boogie Man? Aside from rounding a few of them up and locking them down during my twenty years as a sheriff's deputy and police officer I had a few encounters with him during my childhood as well.

At least one of them chased me in a car when I was on my bicycle after soliciting me for sex one predawn morning while I was making my rounds delivering the Columbus Citizen Journal, another one robbed me of some cash I had collected from that paper route in an alley one night and still another one grabbed me around the waist when I was eight years old and then tried to stuff me into the back seat of his car.

Today such encounters might be worthy of stories told on local television news programs but mine happened in the 1960s in a time when such occurrences didn't usually make headlines unless they ended tragically. I survived them with no more mental scars than memories of a few close calls. I have had many of those. Nonetheless, I think I am glad I experienced these things because I truly believe it helped mold the character I had to become.

Not that any of them made me a tougher guy or for that matter a different kid than who I was, but I am certain that these experiences helped hone my common sense skills. And aside from what they can teach in the schools or the lessons our parents try to impart to us about bad people, that's something that cannot be taught. The same is true no matter our age or where we go in life. As a cop I walked away from one bad scenario after another wondering if common sense was a quality few possessed or just some lost art.

Whether it was a victim of a crime who became one out of apathy or the criminal who had no regard for anyone but himself when the pay-off for him was a few moments of pleasure or simply a few stolen dollars in his pocket. The latter came into focus again recently when a man in Columbus was found burned to death after being electrocuted while trying to steel copper pipes.

He was burned so badly that dental records were required to identify who he was and when what was left of him was found he was still gripping a pair of bolt cutters. Pretty crazy.

Criminals like that guy are also willing to trade years of freedom for a life in prison and immediate retribution from their victims if they target the wrong one at the wrong time. More of them than what is reported in the news get kicked in the balls or beaten to a pulp and even shot while trying to help themselves to something they shouldn't have. Yet those so inclined know that there are many common senseless people out their primed for the taking.

However I am not suggesting that all victims get hurt because they let their guard down or because they did anything else wrong, usually that is not the case. But we can minimize our difficulties in life and learn from our experiences and I think those earlier encounters with the Boogie Man that live in my memory have helped me better understand the world I have navigated through since. As a father of five I do know that they made me a more protective dad over my kids when they were small and during my years in law enforcement I think I had a better understanding about those on either side of the crime tape than I might have had otherwise.

And now that I have landed in the circumstances of being the old guy on the block I have to accept the fact that I must still worry about those around me who are bigger and stronger and who have less to lose in any confrontation they may have planned for me. That's not to say that I change anything about how I live or that I fear going anywhere I choose to go. I still enjoy playing on the edge of danger now and then and my better years aren't so far behind me that I don't remember how to play. And through some unexplainable osmosis I have managed to stay in pretty good shape physically.

My diet isn't what my doctor would probably hope it was, I smoke cigarettes but I shy away from alcohol and I rely on everyday excercise instead of joining a gym or hiring someone else to give me tips on staying fit. In short, I pretty much live as I have all of my life. I am the correct weight for my height, no sagging belly or breasts, I don't need to wear oversized clothing to hide anything, I still have my hair and my teeth are still good. But maybe just important as all of that I still possess a cockiness that leaves others sizing me up before they take me for granted.

A great deal of my playtime now consists of pecking on these qwerty keys recounting and pounding out stories that draw the attention of some of my peers and a few others who enjoy reading what life was like for some of us in an era they call "back in the day." Because like all good things my life will end soon enough and like one of my favorite bosses when I was a radio DJ once said to me... "Why just do stuff? Make it count for something and leave something behind besides rumors and hearsay. Document it. And of course, beware of the Boogie Man. Lord knows he's out there.

But now he might take the form of a politician or other well dressed con men hoping to take away a lot of what many of us have worked for all of our lives. Or he may be somewhere in cyberspace snooping into our lives and hoping that we slip up with information he needs to steal from us from afar. It can even be someone posing as a man of God on some television show asking you to let your guard down and send him money in exchange for prayers you might not receive or some that you do that probably won't help anyway.

He could even be a family member or just someone you call friend . All of us have something someone else wants. And that brings me to wondering why I often receive invitations to places to meet up with people who in earlier years could not have cared less that I even existed. I get those more frequently now than ever before and usually I decline them. Not out of resentment or fear of anyone but more because I don't see the point.

I stopped going to class reunions and family reunions for these reasons. I am more comfortable where people are less familiar to me and where I might learn something important that I never knew. I prefer going to places where I'm not likely to engage in conversations with anyone I may have tried to talk to in years past but who blew me off then. I never again want to sit across a table from an old girlfriend to compare notes about how our lives have gone and I really don't want to see photos of some one's grandchildren, especially if I really don't know the person who is showing them or if that person is someone I never really cared for anyway, and I get bored very quickly when the discussion begins to be about health issues.

And I certainly don't ever want to be in the accompany of anyone who drinks alcohol to help them remember the good old days. I don't fare well socially with people who need that to express themselves. I have always been more of a one-on-one guy and I believe that sharing thoughts that are written are forever. So I write books and blogs to do that and I don't ever have to dress to impress others, or put on airs or laugh at anything that isn't funny just for the sake of expected protocol. I have survived the Boogie Man and a few other unknowns.

But with all of this said I enjoy hearing from all types of people, those I may have known or some I wished I had. And occasionally I will sit down with a few of them and talk about what might be important to either of us, but at the end of the day all that really matters is what comes next. And since I still have some years left before I become eligible for Medicare I plan to remain who I have always been. Someone with one eye on my surroundings and the wit to expect more from life... so that when all that's left of it nears an end I will have left what I hope are some good stories behind.

Those boogie men from my past who tried to harm me physically are probably dead now but the legacy they left behind lives in my work and within my very being.

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