“When you were training did you notice any stones in the jungle?”
Everything had been a blur.
“Hmm…” Cook said furrowing his brow.
“Isn’t the rainforest famously rockless?”
“Si…yes…for the most part but…you are telling me that you did not see the huacas?”
“Huaca… WAKA?” Sam quipped.
“Yes, you can also say waka. It is a Quechuan word.”
Sam laughed. “Holy shit I’m a fucking shaman. And you guys think I’m the dumb one. None of you had sudden god damned blessed burst of halleluiah glossolalia. I’m Quetzalcoatl bitch!”
Sam waved dismissively.
“As I was saying,” Cook continued. “All roads lead to Cusco.”
“Yes, you have no doubt heard the saying: ‘All roads lead to Rome?’”
“We’re familiar with the concept.”
“So haucas are all over South America but mostly concentrated in Peru.”
“And you’re saying that we should have seen some, that they’re rocks?” The doctor responded by placing a glossy picture book of various Andean glyphs on the table. I passed it to my right.
“Well…a Huaca can generally be anything but is often a stone or stones sort of like Menhir in England.”
“Anybody see anything?” I asked scanning the faces of my comrades. Every expression was blank.
“Huacas are shrines, that served various purposes, many of which had to do with pilgrimage. They are sort of politico/religious outposts of the Inca civilization leading to its center in Cusco.”
“Do you think we should have seen some?”
“O certainly, yes….they were right beside your camp. I was going to give you a lecture on them when I returned but of course, you know I was interrupted..and…actually…about that interruption…”
There was a long silence.
“Apparently that uncontacted tribe wasn’t ever supposed to be there. They were from deep deep in the jungle to the East. Coming from the direction that we were heading. The Kuikuro chief told me that these strangers had chased some very strange looking folk who they had describes as enemies and thieves…”
None of us were sure what this had to do with rocks. Despite several days of airconditioning and rest, we were too tired to make even the most basic deductions.
“Lot’s of weird stuff going on lately.” Anna chimed in. “Doc thinks these ‘enemies’ have been stealing sacred items.”
“Yes, which is very strange because most of these things aren’t worth much and even less when moved from their original location.”
Chuck looked especially lost in thought.
“Say, didn’t Sam’s sketch have a pile of stones in it?”
The doctor paused a bit, obviously trying to recall the subject.
“Si! As a matter of fact, it did.”
“I thought it was ruins but …maybe it’s one of those Waka thingies?”
“Yes, your little drawing there, you said you’d made it under the influence, in a sort of shamanic state?” Dr. Bohm’s urbane voice inquired.
“Coupled with the map Hoyt brought along this has all the hallmarks of an authentic vision…which makes me think…that someone out there in the wood has heard…and is destroying what remains of an ancient road.”
“Did a vehicle…land somewhere out there …in the Andes….” Sam sang under his breath.
“Hah, Inca roads!” I exclaimed. This was getting interesting.
“I don’t know what song that is… but yes that is my latest theory…. that Cusco was the epicenter of a far vaster empire than we ever imagined. Though of course, Manco Capac was a rediscoverer of that sacred place. The scion of a remnant who returned and kindled the last flicker of memory before the arrival of Pizzaro.”
“Alonso are you guys familiar with the cosmic bellybutton?” Anna was fond of calling me Alonso…how that arose from Alan I guess only a Suomi would know. I had no idea what she was talking about.
So I was doin a bit of studying and stumbled on a U2 song with a sweet and simple (somewhat trite) lyrics ‘you’ve been everywhere.’ Which got me to pondering the funny way music and glib phrasing allows us to overlay our own lives and interpretations over a piece.
I chose to cover this story column style in my online magazine because it’s one of those things with lots of intersections. Which is very ‘fractal.’
Mr. Fred Reed is a Vietnam veteran, expatriate who continues a long career of writing books, and columns from Mexico. I stumbled on his material many a year ago and have never regretted it. He is able to provide accurate insights with a caustic wit as spicy as any salsa in his new home.
He spent some time riding with people in what he terms ‘The Street Trades’ (Police, Firemen, Paramedics). Something particularly salient to the current discussion and invaluable in navigating troubled times.
I was surprised to find that officers fire their weapons far less than I thought. Police funding often proves inadequate and departments aren’t left with too much ammunition to shoot down a range. There is also the thing that if one takes the trouble to notice has always made sense.
It’s pretty surprising…I feel a tad odd writing it but..you don’t want cops to be used to combat situations. As a rule, an officer will try to avoid using his firearm. Though some troubled areas of the country may indeed be battlefields, and many officers former soldiers, the police are not soldiers. Live fire, and mortal struggle are things that they avoid. Descalation is the better part of policing.
Readiness can vary wildly from department to department each having unique degrees of perennial public sector problems of recruitment, retention, funding, and corruption.
Fred Reed enlightened me to the fact that policemen often mutter ‘I’m going home tonight.’ Going home is something we don’t think about. It is something we don’t think about because the police think about it.
I’m as far removed from hero worship and starry-eyed delusions about ‘our boys in blue’ as Mr. Reed (a tireless critic of all stripes of OO-RAH culture despite being a former Marine). This is because while the details are fuzzy and likely over-romanticized by my writer’s brain I experienced something in Moscow.
Yes, twenty-nine years ago I was born in Russia. Which is a place like any other with wonders and horrors sprinkled in whimsical arbitrary quantities throughout the land. One of the wonders is the Moscow theater one of the horrors, a commonplace among metropolises ‘fucked up cops.’
So when I wax lyrically about ‘our streets are safe due to their sacrifice’ I’m not doing it from some hickish Carolina naivete.
As a boy of six or so about to descend the stairs to the subway station, I saw two strong young looking officers man handle an old woman. My mother told me to turn away. Pulling me along and muttering something about staying out of trouble with the government.
I’m absolutely certain that this is not the rule for police in Moscow or anywhere. But I do have eyewitness experience of what certainly looked like police brutality and the cultural unwillingness of bystanders to intervene. While details may be fuzzy I vividly recall this episode as being the very first time I was mad at the whole world.
More recently I witnessed the overzealous prosecution of a close friend following a domestic dispute. I am not entirely certain that the officers didn’t fib. The plaintiff lost thanks to a level-headed judge but nonetheless, I have a sufficiently nuanced experience with law enforcement to say…
It is inarguable that policing is necessaryand (along with an educated populace functioning in a relatively health economy) the reason why our streets are for the most part safe, most of the time.
They are safe because the police despite their many shortcomings are an effective deterrent.
The current political climate has thrust cops from one extreme of the spectrum to the other. Rather than erring on the bumpkin’s default idolization of the police they have painted them as overwhelmingly incompetent and evil.
This is a wrongheaded and very dangerous sentiment. All I need to cite for evidence are the murders of five police officers at the Dallas Police Protest in 2016.
Portraying the police as malicious, pig-headed racists can lead to no other outcome.
Which is why it is important to present the reality.
The reality being that the police are human, they vary wildly, in creed, color, and favorite pizza topping.Yes, we should expect them to set a high ethical bar. But we can’t expect them to be superhuman.
Fred Reed asks a very good question in his column ‘Test yourself in a dark alley.’
Imagine chasing a suspect down a dark alley and he pulls something out of his pocket, or whirls about, or lunges at you. It’s dark, many departments are understaffed, you’re likely overworked and tired…this guy might be somebody over reacting to a breakup or it might be a guy with a knife, gun, hell a machete isn’t unheard of. What do you do as the adrenaline builds?
Obviously, this problem is a sad reality of life. Excessive force and deadly violence are not you see just a police problem these are human problems.
Solving these problems will prove to be as complex as the story I found in the August 27th, 2018 issue of The New Yorker.
The story (Shock to the System) is by that publications former editorial staff member and active staff writer Dana Goodyear who covered the transition of LTL manufacturer Taser into Axon. Axon is Taser 2.0 with a stated mission of becoming the ‘public safety nervous system’ via cameras, databases, and AI-powered analysis.
The tale is long multifaceted and has more rabbit trails than all of Appalachia. Which is why in order to do it justice I must turn this piece into a series and promise to publish the rest within the coming week. I have a safety audit at my day job tomorrow and need to brush up all the little acronyms and mnemonics that spell job security for that marginalia known as management. Apparently memorizing lists satisfies inspectors more than a robust series of exercises. But I digress…
My next vlog about The New Yorker’s article regarding LTL company Taser’s transition to the weapons, data, and analytics firm Axon is currently rendering. Given the specs of my backup system this is going to take two hours…
So in the meantime I suggest you read some thought provoking columns on ‘The Street Trades’ (Police, Fire, Paramedics) by the Author, Veteran and Columnist Fred Reed.
This is not light reading and may ruin your evening. Not because Mr. Reed isn’t roguishly funny but because he is accurate when describing rather grim situations.
As Axon would put it: ‘Expect Candor’
The following is a list of columns by Reed that I read in preparation for this week’s series.
I was really confused. The exchange that had occurred seemed too easy.
It took a long time for me to understand. I had to piece it together from murmurs and hints.
It was a jungle. It was literally a jungle. And it was also metaphorically a jungle. Unlikely alliances are common in jungles of the latter variety. As any New York deputy would attest.
Interests had converged and what I had witnessed was merely a formality. A way for both Cook and Costa to assure each other that a mutual understanding was honored.
Nothing in the conversation could implicate either man, even if they were being recorded. This thought made my spooky soul giggle. You can lodge a bug right in your target’s colon but you can’t beat good old-fashioned bullshit. A turn of phrase, nonverbal codes, a list of blasphemies for the NSA.
I think they call it social engineering. I was always annoyed by this term even though it was technically part and parcel of my job description. I guess I’m old-fashioned in my disdain for euphemisms. Social engineering is just good old fashioned bullshit.
“What do you think about lying?” I shotgunned. Hoping to catch her off guard mid stretch.
She dropped on her back from the edge of the bed where she was sitting. Rolling over on her stomach and shimmying on top of me her lips found mine. Our tongues met and then suddenly I felt a slight pain. She’d bitten my tongue…
It was blessedly brief. In just over a second she’d shot up and giggled.
“What kind of question is that…you have asked…have you lied to me…I will bite off…off the tongue…”
My fears were somewhat allayed. There had been none of that tell-tale stiffening. One would think that a well-known ‘out’ for a honeypot would be ineffective and thus you’d have to find a new one. But actually familiarity made a reaction harder to mask.
Though I was still suspicious. This sudden tryst had gone a touch too smoothly. I’m not a putz but I’m no Casanova. I’m far too analytical to be a lady-killer.
“It was a test.”
“O…a tehhhst…well so what position are you to test me…” Her obtuse nordic indignation was more Swedish than Finnish.
Which was opportune since she basically handed me the keys to the mansion of sophomoric wordplay.
“How about sideways…let’s gauge structural integrity…”
‘Ewww…’ I was grossed out by my awkward banter but she didn’t seem to notice and I quickly remedied the chance of a spoiled moment with sheer physicality.
We went on for a few more rounds.
“There it was.” She said.
I turned my head to look into her eyes and raised a brow in question.
“You looked at me like you look at her… You were so hungry …but she does not get you…she always gets the fun…”
And it all made sense. It was a repeat of my last romance. Accidental jealousy. A surprisingly effective aphrodisiac.
Still…I was paranoid.
Like with the pow-wow full enlightenment would take some days.
It seemed that Anna, the dirty blonde doing her doctoral dissertation was Aada’s sister. I mean I knew that. They were both Finnish, treating each other with the sort of disinterested familiarity that was more common among families rather than friends. Years ago Saara had taught me some basics which in Brazil coming from an American was I guess…’sexy.’ Or probably just nice.
Anyway, I’d taken no care to mask my lust. I was undoubtedly a touch wild-eyed. Not that it was the least bit surprising considering how rarely female presence and how even more rarely female attention graced us these past couple of years.
Aada had smiled quietly in the corner. And though I favored her reddish blonde head to the more typical indecisiveness of Anna’s. Anna seemed absolutely taken with me. Which to a lonely man was like finding water in the desert.
But nothing had come of the exchange. She left abruptly after receiving a text. I did note that Aada had turned to look at me one last time before they exited Cook’s sitting room.
She was asleep now. I kissed the top of that auburn celebration that so reminded of New England autumn’s at my uncle’s cabin. Scarcely knowing the annoying secret that lay beneath those locks.