Christmas, it seems, has lost it's luster.
I remember when I was a kid, spending Christmas Eve in my grandmother's living room. All the family huddled on the spacious, L-shaped couch making trips back and forth to the Christmas tree in the window overlooking B street. Music playing, from somewhere. My dad, with his mustache that's he's had longer than I've been alive, sat in a chair, knees crossed, enjoying the warm feeling of family.
The anticipation built up for weeks. The sun seemed brighter and the clouds closer. The wind always seemed sharp, but never cold, although it was always freezing outside. The days blended into one. Tuesday's felt like saturdays. Family, from far away places, arrived in stagnated groups bearing gifts from exotic places.
We gathered in the early evenings and ate our favorite foods. We had kitchen counters full of homemade food and cold pops were unlimited-a blessing if you're a kid. Games were played, music was sung, and smiles were bountiful. It was a month that always went too quick and saddened you when it was over.
Today, it's a little different.
The days still blend into one another, but everyday feels like a monday. It's still chilly outside, but the wind is cold, and cuts right through you. Family still travels from exotic places, but it's to another state-where the rest of your family awaits. Games are still played and homemade food is still prepared, all of which are heard about second-hand, or while on speakerphone to the family while driving to work.
Christmas Eve comes and go. Santa makes his rounds and puts you on the "essential personnel" list, meaning he swings by later, whenever the family can get together, whenever everyone is not working.
Christmas becomes scheduled. How about the thursday after? Or the friday before? When do you work? When do you?
Now, I'm probably just bummed because I have only had 1 Christmas off in the last 10 years, have worked nearly every birthday, and always work extended hours on New Year's Eve. But, it's something I miss. Why can't I be the guy sitting in that chair, listening to music, and watching the world, and those ambulances, go by the front window? Why can't I be the guy wearing the funny hat with a kazoo in my mouth shouting at the night's sky as another years passes? Instead of wrestling intoxicated individuals in the back of an ambulance as the New Year sneaks in, unnoticed by me.
They all seem like every other day, now. This job skews your outlook on life, stains your soul, and even worse-normalizes the majority of special days into mundane mondays.
Next year, it'll be different. Next year, I'm celebrating Christmas ON Christmas with people that I love, in a place that I want to be.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Christmas, it seems, has lost it's luster.
Posted by Josh Herrington at 12:48 PM
Sunday, December 24, 2006
'Twas the night before Christmas, and I had to work.
'Twas the night before Christmas...and two men living in a condo with no furniture, sleeping on the floor atop old comforters decided to get high. They filled one of the many syringes in the kitchen sitting next to the sink. They unwrapped their heroin, as if it were a gift from Santa, placed it on their bent spoon, mixed some vodka with it, put a flame underneath, and melted the two substances into one. They filled the syringe, tied off their arms, found a vein, slid the needle in - penetrating the oily, flushed skin, and shot that evil into their blood system. I imagine for a fleeting second it felt wonderful. Then, one vomitted into the sink. He became pale, sweaty, and slowed his breathing. He walked into the living/family/entertainment/bed room and collapsed. Not breathing. Overdosed. His high partner called 911.
'Twas the night before Christmas...and I had to work.
'Twas the night before Christmas...and everyone living in this apartment complex felt the need to go somewhere. A water main had broken, filling the already snow-engulfed parking lot with 3 feet of frezzing water. Cars with piles of snow on them sat inbetween the imagined yellow parking lines. Packed snow formed trails around the lot like a maze. Tonight, Christmas Eve, at 8:00 p.m. these people decided to try and move their cars so they could go somewhere. In this process, the one's not already stuck by the iced over snow drifts, flooded their cars with feezing city water. Someone, somewhere, decided to call 911. As this, to them, is an emergency. And due to the difficulty with the English language, 7 EMS vehicles were sent emergently to "parties trapped in a car, water rushing in". We found the source, as it wasn't that difficult to see the erupting flow of water from the ground, and informed them that they were not going anywhere, that they didn't need to go anywhere. It was Christmas Eve, stay home!
'Twas the night before Christmas...and I had to work.
'Twas the night before Christmas...and a father picked up his daughter from the state asylum so she could spend Christmas wit her family and experience "normal" life. As she sat in the packed, linoleumed bedroom watching gangster movies, she began to have another anxiety attack. Why? Because she left her room in the hospital, traveled 5 hours planning on spending a week, and never thought of bringing her anxiety meds. Hands cramped and lips pursed, she rapidly retained CO2 making her condition much worse. Her father, the elmo-slipper-clad construction worker had had enough. It's Christmas Eve, this isn't suppose to happen.
'Twas the night before Christmas...and I had to work.
'Twas the night before Christmas...and this family of 16 decided to get drunk. After being couped up in a 2 bedroom house, drinking a bunch of Milwaukee's Best and Mad Dog, tensions began to flare. The gangster in them all came out. Someone, somewhere, decided to call 911. The tough one, held a knife to his face and threatened to kill himslef. A wonderful gift on Christmas Eve, don't you think? He eventually cut his face, causing us to be summoned. We get there, with the cops, and the holiday spirit increases even more. Ni**a, this, Ni**a, that, he screams. He defends the honor of the one he was just threatening as we, the paramedics and the police, take him down into a snow bank and wrestle around to get his hands cuffed behind his back. He spits, he bites, and he cusses. We poke hime with a needle and inject a wonderfully calming fluid that slurs his words and eventually causes him to sleep. A fight on Christmas Eve, isn't that what it's all about?
'Twas the night before Christmas...and I'm glad it's over.
Posted by Josh Herrington at 12:59 AM
Friday, December 22, 2006
A Colorado Hooker brought this city to it's knees a couple of days ago.
We had a blizzard the other day, this being my second ever. You see, when the storm originates in the pacific, traverses the southwestern states heading north and east, and then "hooks" back around west into Colorado, stalling over Denver because the mountains in the west, it is commonly, and surprisingly, referred to as a "hooker". A Colorado Hooker.
Anyway, as people rushed home in congested highway traffic, their speeds topping 30-35 mph, I was preparing for work. They had made all their calls, faxed all their papers, and put their computers to sleep. I ironed my shirt.
Kathy Sabine was telling us this was going to be a bad one. It was coming, and it wasn't going to be pretty (seldomly hookers are). Feet of snow, not inches, were suspected and all forecasts came true. Gas stations had lines around the block, snow shovels went for 5 times their orignal price, and the stores had no milk. I packed my lunch and a sleeping bag.
Everything you thought might happen in an emergency occured, all but that loud siren piercing the Denver skyline.
And I went to work.
Essential personnel. That's what I am. And frankly, I'm getting pretty tired of it. Everyone, everywhere is screaming to stay home, don't go out, it's miserable and it's dangerous. Me? I am essential. I have to.
So, I warm up the Jeep and pull out of my driveway. Not knowing when the next time I'll see my family. I was offered a ride by the division. They gladly would come pick me up in the Ford Expedition Monster Truck with chains on all four, knobby tires. But, if someone picks you up, someone has to take you home, right? And since that hooker was scheduled to get much worse, as it did, that means no more essential personnel can come to work. Which, in turn, means I have to stay even longer. I didn't want to be there in the first place, and if I'm at the whim of a supervisor as to when I can go home, I'll take my chances and drive myself. Me against the hooker!
It snowed all night. They closed every highway in every direction. The airport closed. They even declared a State of Emergency and called for reinforcements. The National Guard cruised the highways picking up stranded motorists and transfering them to Red Cross Shelters, where they nestled in and spent up to 2 days.
Hummers and Sno-Cats cruised Colfax picking up misplaced and distraught homeless people and frigid hookers. Hookers everywhere, huh?
As for me, I drove from one end of the city to another. Chains grinding on the snow to help our traction as we responded "emergently" to "emergencies". Like the guy who called 911 because he was hung-over. We sledded down 20 blocks in 30 minutes to render aide to someone who drank too much the night before. You wonder why essential personnel are grumpy? Because we have to deal with things, and meet people, like that.
Snow continued to fall. All night. Each hour the world seemed to sink into piles of white. The curbs disappeared, the front porches were gone, and even cars on the side of the road gradually melted into white, glistening piles of snow. Cars abandoned like landmines littered every street. And frenetic piles of Gore-Tex blew white clouds of smoke into the air as they slipped and slided down the middle of snow packed streets. Occasionally, a snow mobile would fly by. Reminding me how much I didn't want to be at work and how nice it would be to be snuggled up at home in the arms of someone you love.
What did this hooker teach me? Probably a lesson every hooker's taught before; It's times like these that you realize how nice you have it and how lucky you are to have someplace warm to rest your head, with someone you love.
Posted by Josh Herrington at 2:26 PM
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
I am sick and tired of these yellow walls, with the small, sandpaper bumps on them that look like snot sneezed on a bathroom mirror. This bed, this stupid futon that supposedly folds up into a comfortable couch, sucks. I hate the black tubular steel frame that bumps me on the head when I sleep on it. I wish I wouldn’t have bought it. I had no money, because I hate working, and bought this stupid futon, a lamp, 2 couches, a TV, some rugs, plates, a coffee table, a card table, curtains, dresser, and a 24 pack of mountain dew - all of which I bought 75 cents at a time from the vending machine in the pick-up area of my local furniture store. I put all that stuff on their charge account. No interest, no payments for 6 months. I just felt I needed to do it.
My light sucks, it’s not bright enough. The one I liked, and the one that worked well in my room in this boarding house, was thrown against the wall in a fit of rage. I’m getting close to that tonight.
The carpet is worn. Beaten paths, like trails in a National Forest, show my routes around this small room. This stupid, small room that I loathe. Like roadways, they lead me from my table to my TV to my couch to my bathroom to my bed. Piles of cigarette butts form pyramids on my coffee table, the table that holds dozens of bottles of my full prescription meds. I don’t need those anymore, I don’t like they way they make me feel. I can get along just fine without them. I stopped taking them 3 weeks ago. I don’t need them. I hate them, and the doctors that gave them to me. They are trying to poison me. I know, for a fact, that they are slowly poisoning my body because they want to kill me. I think it’s because the manager here wants to rent my room to someone else. I hate him too. That’s why I stopped taking those medicines.
I’ve got to get out here! This smelly room is closing in on me. I know they are watching me. I’ve covered all the clocks with masking tape and, of course, put aluminum foil on my one and only window. The window that faces west towards those ugly, impeding mountains. I know someone is watching me and I have to be careful what I say, that’s why I write a lot of my thoughts down on paper, so they can’t hear me.
I’m leaving. I’m going outside.
I think I’m pregnant. I know so. My last child was the son of Christ. Has he done it again?
I’ve been poisoned. I drank that milk and now my arm is starting to itch. Is anyone in there listening to me? Call 911! I’m dying. I knew they would kill me. I should have known not to drink that milk from 7-11. I saw them watching me. They followed me.
Good, here come some sirens. Maybe I won’t die tonight. Maybe I should stop pacing up and down the yard, screaming out loud that I’ve been poisoned. I’ll quiet down now. Here come some lights. Those lights are so pretty. They make me so happy. What a wonderful night outside. Isn’t it so nice to know that someone cares about you?
Hello paramedics. Thank you so much for coming to save my life. I am so happy now. I feel so calm. I think that poison is out of my system now. I wish I could see those mountains. They are so pretty. But, the night air feels good and the lights flashing off the houses remind me of Christmas. I wish it would snow. I love the snow. I love playing in it and making snowmen.
No, I don’ need to go to the hospital. I’m better now. No, I haven’t been taking my meds, I don’t need them. It’s been 3 weeks. Certainly not! I would never think of hurting myself or anyone else.
I miss my mother. Please, someone get my mother. I miss her. I need her here with me. PLEASE, someone get her. That’s all I needed tonight, I’m O.K., all I want is my mother. PLEASE someone get my f*cking mother.
I AM CALM. I’M NOT YELLING!
Please, please stop hurting me. I didn’t mean to run. I was just scared. I jumped out of the ambulance and pushed that cop because I was scared. Please, officer, take these cuffs off. Please, sir, I don’t like crying. You’re not going to kill me, are you? Please, don’t kill me! I don’t like needles. What’s the needle for? PLEASE. Don’t kill me! I’ll be nice. These cuffs hurt. Okay, okay, I’m sorry. I’m better now. Can I just go?
Why can’t I leave? I have to go to the hospital? Why? All I want is my mother. Okay, you promise? You promise they’ll let me call her? Okay, let’s go. Which hospital? I like the hospital.
Posted by Josh Herrington at 1:16 AM
Friday, December 8, 2006
It was dark outside. The wind blowing enough to cut through my sweater and make me shiver. Flashlights cut through the darkness like light-sabers and the the flashing red and blue lights of all the emergency vehicles ricocheted off all the reflective street signs and decaled emergency vehicles parked randomly in the street.
At my feet, at the head of a stream of red, thick blood eroding the soil downwards to the street, was a dead woman. Face up, fists closed, and eyes open was a dead lady. Shot, somewhere, multiple times, she laid in the mud created by the melting snow dripping of the eve of her roof. Firemen rushed here and there, Police officers taped off the block with that theatrical yellow “crime scene” tape, and detectives arrived, hurriedly, scanning the beams of their flashlights on the ground, looking for clues.
She was dead. She was shot. But where? We saw one on her shoulder, above her heart. But there had to be more. That one was not bleeding, and the river of coagulating blood was originating from her head. I knelt down, careful not to get blood or mud on my uniform, and especially my shoes. Here a dead lady rests and in the back of my head all I’m worried about is getting my shirt dirty.
My gloved hand palms her head like a basketball. As if I were giving a massage, kneading all the fatigued muscles of the head, I rummaged through the dreadlocks to try and find a hole. As if I were searching in a bin of numbered Bingo balls hoping to retrieve B-9, I poked and prodded all around her head. The blood clotted in her hair. The mud, clinged to each dread and confused my senses. What was skull, what was mud, what was blood? Where was the hole that created this river of blood?
We moved her to the ambulance and did our “paramedic” thing. We went lights and sirens to the hospital, even though we all knew it wouldn’t change the outcome. And it didn’t.
I was standing outside afterwards, the the ambulance bay. Scrubbing dried blood, vomit (I think), and who knows what of all the surfaces she may have encountered. Trash littered the floor of the ambulance. Bags, catheters, wrappers, bandages, stuck to the wet surface of the ambulance floor like a collage created by a kindergartner. Police slowly arrived, one after another. Some in blue uniforms with guns pasted to their hips. Some, in unmarked cars and in suits 5 years out of style. Their guns lazily “hidden” on their belts beneath their blazers. Clipboard in hand.
That’s when it dawned on me. I’ve thought of it before, but never really realized how important it was.
I need a hobby.
I take that stuff home with me. And, unfortunately, my better half sometimes becomes the outlet. Ever wonder why police, fire, doctors, and paramedics have such a high divorce rate? It’s because, and even though everyone denies it, this stuff gets to you. You’re not suppose to “watch your step” because you may be stepping on brain. People can’t look into the empty, soulless eyes of another human after some unfortunate, violent crime and not be affected. It’s not healthy to pick something up, look at it, and wonder if it’s brain or not. That just doesn’t disappear.
So, I need a hobby. Something where I can listen to some music, sit in a chair, and repetitively and mindlessly accomplish small, and insignificant goals. Something that I can look forward to. Something where I can sit in the ambulance and daydream endlessly about. Something, besides alcohol, that will take my mind off the brain, blood, violence, anger, sad stories, homelessness, randomness and unkindness of this world.
And that something. I found.
Posted by Josh Herrington at 6:00 PM
Monday, December 4, 2006
How did you wind up where you are right now? At this very moment in time, exactly where you sit? Did you set aside time to read this? Did you drive in the blistering cold, in rush hour traffic to your home office to do other things, then wound up in front of your computer reading these words. Or, were you eating dinner, watching the news, and then propped open your laptop and happened across this site? Regardless of how, or why, you decided this is where you want to be. And this how you want to spend your time.
Pat yourself on the back. Because you are one of the few. One of the few, in the millions of people in this country, that actually made a decision. You actually determined the outcome of your life. You are the master of your domain. Carpe Diem.
As for me. I am continually engaged by the “other half”. The one’s that couldn’t make a decision to save their lives. The one’s that when something happens unexpected, or out-of-the-norm, their world is tossed upside down - like a pineapple cake.
“Were you in this car?”
“This car. The one I’m pointing to. The one you’re standing next to. The one that has your name on the back window!”
“Are you hurt?”
“Well, I don’t know”.
You don’t know! How can you not know if you are hurt or not? It’s a simple question and your answer should be dependent on whether you are feeling any pain anywhere on your body. Pain, being something that doesn’t feel good. That hurts!
“I think my head hurts, but I’m not sure.”
“Does anything else hurt?”
“I don’t know.”
“How about your chest?”
“Well, I think it hurts. I’m not really sure.”
At this point, I’ve already realized that at this rate we will never get anywhere in this conversation. Kind of like talking to a drunk. It just never makes sense. I know it’s an emergency. And I know that you broke your little Dodge Stratus, the one with tinted windows, the bling bling on the wheels, and the huge Nike emblem on the back window. The one where the stereo costs more than the car itself.
“Okay, how about this. Do you want to go to the hospital?”
“I don’t know.”
Didn’t see that one coming, did you?
“Well, you’re a grown adult and can make your own decisions. Do you, or don’t you, want to go to the hospital?”
“Do you think I should?”
“I can’t answer that for you. You need to decide.”
“No. Yes. No, I don’t think so. Well, maybe I should. Can I call someone?”
“To see if they think I should go to the hospital.”
Make a decision. Make a decision. Make a decision. Sure, when it comes down to choosing a movie or a place to eat, I am usually wishy-washy. But when it comes to black and white, clear-cut decision making, I make up my mind. I’m hurt. Therefore, I need to go to the hospital.
So, you wonder what paramedics and cops really do? They make decisions for people. They call 911. We arrive, and make up there mind.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“Uhh, what should I have for dinner?”
Posted by Josh Herrington at 2:30 AM