Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Calendar Story cont.

So I’m in my blues, literally and figuratively. There are enough gaps in the staging to see the crowd, which I later heard was over 2500 women and six guys, what they were doing there I can only guess about, so I won’t.

The stage is my friend, I have never had any kind of stage fear and adore the klieg lights and I think they have some affection for me. I have never seen a more intense bee hive in my life honey was in the mix.

The stage was wide and the long catwalk gave it the appearance of a large capital “T”. At the far end of the catwalk were the judges, they were seated and each had a microphone in front of them. My group was up and we went into the pit alone.

As I emerged from back stage, the master of ceremonies introduced me to the audience as the oldest contestant for the night; I’m thinking what the F. I do not look my age, most people guess me at ten years my junior. Heaven knows why because I have put some hard miles on my odometer.

But it’s out there now, so I know my age will be part of my story for the night, no big deal. The crowd didn’t react poorly to the news, I actually got a pretty (pun intended) loud response.

“Tell us something about yourself Tim.” I was beckoned to the mic. I gave the usual song and dance I did at most parties or school functions, blah, blah, blah.

Then came the questions from our esteemed judges. The first was from I believe the weather girl at channel 9. “So Tim does being the oldest firefighter here give you an advantage or put you at

“Well Brittney” or whatever the hell her name was. “I see it as a decided advantage. My younger brothers here are taken in by the show, where as I’m not affected by the circus, in my life I have been to many circuses and carnivals as well as many fires and emergencies. I don’t suffer from any anxiety in this setting.”

“As Kipling put it.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise”

“I don’t tend to lose my head.” Utter silence for a few heartbeats. That Kipling shit works.

The next question was what I had been prepared for. The sports guy from channel 6 was up next. I think the guy was a bit envious, and not accustomed to being so low on the food chain.

“Tim pretend the microphone is an ice cream cone and show us how you would eat it.” Okay translation, pretend the microphone is a woman’s body. I have eaten many ice cream cones in my life and have a sweet tooth no doubt.

I lowered myself to that level, not that I’m proud of that, and really enjoyed the mic, and I think the mic enjoyed it as well. The collective gasps from the assemblage gave me some assurance that not all the attendees had been to my kind of ice cream shop before.

I returned back stage to some admirers and some haters, seems some of these pee brains were suited for the gym and firefighting, but not so much for the live interview world. Take that boys. Now where’s the beer?

I watched the others take the spotlight and do the whole dancing bear routine. For that was all I kept thinking, we were like dancing bears, big, stupid, slow, and waiting for our reward.

The next phase of judging was the physique competition. All of the sudden the other men around me began what at the time seemed some weird combination of a day at the beach and a gladiator locker room. They disrobed down to small shorts and began rubbing oil all over each other’s tanned bodies.

All while engaging in very manly dialogue, a hard visual for my slightly pickled mind to absorb. Should I ask someone to rub oil on me? Do I need oil? My mind was spinning with options. Then a very nice fireman from Denver FD looked at me.

“Fricking weird man isn’t it? If my wife and daughters saw this I’d never live it down.” Sanity in the midst’s chaos. “So I’m not the only one a little freaked out here?”

“Kevin.” He stuck out his paw. “Tim.” We shook hands. “Kipling? Really man? Breaking out Kipling here?” “Dude what else am I gonna do?” This man was gigantic; at least 6’ 4” 250/270 pounds and I had more fat in my mayonnaise at lunch than this guy had seen in weeks. “Your wife let you do this?” I asked. “She pushed me to do it, all her girlfriends are already jealous and me being in the calendar will just make her cubical all the more of a shrine. She likes showing me off. Here look.”

He opened a crack in the curtains and indicated a front row seat. “That’s her, the blond in the red dress.” Wholly crap Mattel had lost the original Barbie and Ken and here they were. She was absolutely a stunner and knew it. Her whole deportment just screamed to those around her, you ain’t seen nothing yet ladies.

“You want some oil on you Tim?” Kevin asked as he pulled me away from staring at his wife. “I’m thinking no Kevin. You?” His face said it all, he wanted to win. “You have some with you man?” “Yeah.” He said in almost a bashful way, as he retrieved his bottle form his gym bag.

“I wouldn’t ask, but I don’t know any of these other guys.” “Me either.” I said as he handed me the baby oil.

Sorry to stop more tomorrow or Monday.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Calendar contest cont.

It was too early to drink in the bar at the hotel, and probably a little too public as well. I headed to a nearby liquor store to grab a bottle and ran into some other nervous contestants. You could tell they were firefighters, because they were wearing tee shirts from their departments. See I notice that because I’m an alcoholic and would be worried someone might say something to me about being a firefighter and buying booze.

They didn’t care because as far as I knew they weren’t alcoholics. They were guilt free about what they were doing, I wasn’t.

I returned to my hotel, the crowd had swollen in the little time I was gone. My goodness I had never seen so many hot women in one place in my life. I hurried to my room. To get prepared.

Following the infusion of some liquid courage I was feeling better. Now I’m an outgoing guy even without booze, but pour a little Jack, Johnny, Jose, or Jameson’s on my ego and watch what happens. The potion works or I should say used to work.

There were required meetings to educate we contestants on how this whole thing worked. I reported to the grand ballroom at the appointed time ready for my training. There were I believe 24 or so of us, so I had a 50/50 shot at making it.

The business lady was back to instruct. She was impervious to all of her charming recruits; this was business to her and the single largest source of income for her cause. We were props plain and simple. Don’t get me wrong here; she was funny, kind, understanding and knew that she was dealing with TNT.

This much caged testosterone was uncontrollable at best, even with a whip and a chair and she knew how to use the whip. As they say this wasn’t her first rodeo. She was frank and honest about how things would go. We would be displayed in a two rounds of judging. The first was modeled on the Miss America question and answer get-to-know-me interview.

We would dress in uniform and be presented to the celebrity judges, mostly local news personalities and to the paying public. Next phase of judging was the meat and potatoes round and there was some meat (the potatoes were less visible probably due to steroid use) trust me. In this round we would walk the catwalk and get as close to our screaming fans as possible.

No big deal. We broke for lunch, they had catered a nice meal for us and I knew a needed a beer sponge in me if I was gonna get through the entire night. I was busy filling my plate when I noticed most of the dudes weren’t. I asked a couple of my junior contestants why they weren’t eating. I shit you not, they didn’t want to blow their diets at the last minute.

Diet I thought? Wholly crap I was in over my head. I looked a little more closely at the competition (it had donned on me by now that this was a real competition) under the fake tans and 9-11 tattoos was nothing but pure fatless muscle. I looked down at my now mustard stained belly and I did have a bit of a belly, not a 12 pack a day belly but what I thought was an acceptable 50 year old belly. Once again came the sensation of slipping under water.

Oh well I wasn’t going to lean out in the next four hours so I had another brownie. I spent the next few hours in walk thoughts, orientation and instruction on how to play it up to the crowd. I had a little down time for before things got started so I had a few more drinks and then decided to watch the crowd.

The ever expanding crowd was gathered in the lobby and I could watch their show from an open mezzanine above. I love people watching and this was the single most interesting throng I had ever observed, I felt like a scientist. A fat old scientist. The women were not only posturing for each other but also for the half dozen great whites sharks that circled them in a lazy display of uninterested hunger.

The women dressed as brightly as tropical fish darted and flashed displays to the predators in their midst. Quit fascinating really, I persisted in my sequestered observation blind right up to prep time. Back to the room a couple of quick shots, change and off to the ball.

We were brought in from a side entrance to the stage out of sight. Back stage there was more liquor supplied for inhibition reduction and space for us to prepare. The only other representative from my job was a lady firefighter and we didn’t really hang together. I was on my own, but not the vast majority of my now opponents.

They all knew each other it seemed and were encouraging and supporting one another. I found my group, we were assigned to a particular grouping and staging area.

The audible murmuring of our audience was quit loud and decidedly feminine. There was an intense smell, a vast pool of ingredients a real witches brew. The smell of aroused alpha males, the perfumes and pheromones of the ladies, very erotic.

It was bright and warm back stage, I hadn’t felt that alone in a long time. Sorry this is getting long so more tomorrow.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Behind the scenes of a Firefighter calendar.

What is it with Firefighter calendars? I was selected as a finalist for the state wide calendar a few years ago. I was very excited to be in the hunt. I had just completed a divorce from a fellow firefighter; she had become distracted by another firefighter and was at a very low point in life.

My self-esteem had tanked and my alcoholism had come to visit again after a seven year break from the juice. Although trapped in the throes of my disease I was really in the best physical shape of my life ironically. I am 6’1” and at that point in time I was a very dedicated gym rat. My weight was just over 230 lbs. and my body fat was as low as my self image. I was also 50 years old.

The calendar selection was going to be held in Denver on a Friday night. So being newly single and not deeply entrenched in my disease yet. I decided what the hell go to Denver and see what would happen. I had never been before but I was aware the fairer sex found these things appealing and why not enjoy a little attention I knew it couldn’t make me feel worse about myself, so I thought.

Knowing I was probably going to get drunk and hoping I might garner the admiration of a lady I decided to get a room in the hotel where the event was being held. I could go up the day before, stay the night and not risk driving.

The event organizers encouraged the contestants to use a tanning salon in Denver free of charge and get a little color on us. This should have been my first clue I was in over my head. Having more than a tan face from skiing in the dead of winter in Colorado was the luxury of world travelers and apparently firefighter calendar models.

Now I had done some modeling in my youth, ramp work and hand modeling, I have great hands. So I wasn’t really worried about the whole “fashion” show aspect of the event. What I was unprepared for was the sheer magnitude of this happening. Having been happily married for most of my firefighting career I had never considered a calendar appearance before. This contributed to my naivety about the occasion.

I got to the hotel, a huge one in the tech center and went to check in. This was early morning and the actual show wasn’t until I believe around six that evening. As I checked in I noticed that there was already a considerable population of women in the hotel. I asked the clerk if there was some other convention or something going on.

He asked why I was there. I said for the firefighter calendar thing. He said so are they, with kind of a pissy tone. It’s not until tonight I said as I looked over my shoulder at the now obvious line of women, they weren’t milling around; they were on line for good seats. Second clue I was in over my head.

“Really?” I asked. “Yeah dude, they do it every year. You lucky bastards, just because you wear a badge, chicks throw themselves at you.” He was pissed.
“Yeah dude! It’s the badge. You want one? I got one of those sticker badges we give kids. If that will improve your shitty attitude I’d be happy to give you one.” Now I was a little pissed and easily a good 200 lbs heavier than this kid.

He handed me my room key without further comment or eye contact. As I walked to the elevator I began to become more aware of my environment. The women were all dressed for a Friday night on the town at 9:00 am and now I spotted my first couple of competitors.

Oh shit I thought, what the hell am I doing here. These other guys were serious. They were already performing working the crowd hours before the actual party. They bounced through the women like chinquapin balls. Tempting the women.

I had firefighting boots older than the ones a saw. I realized with absolute clarity that there wasn’t a whole lot of airbrushing being done on these calendars. These boys were tanned, ripped, manicured, coiffed and just out of diapers. Suddenly I was old, fat, slow, and as undesirerable as my ex had made me feel.

I wanted to run, just give up and go find a bar. But then I was cornered by a very attractive business woman.
“You one of our guys?” she asked. I’m guessing the phony tan gave me away.
“Yeah Tim Casey.” She stuck out her hand and I took it. I think she could see the terror in my eyes.
“This is your first time isn’t it Tim?”
“And last.” I said.
“Hey don’t worry you’ll be fine. Remember why we do this; it’s for those children you guys save from fires.”
I couldn’t believe she was dropping the kid thing on me. It’s for the kids. I thought if I’m staying I’ll need some help, I needed and old friend to hold my hand, the one that had always been there for me. Johnny. Johnny Walker.

I’ll finish tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hero my ass!

Does being a firefighter have advantages? In a word, yes. First off you are cool just because, that goes without saying. Your job is fascinating, exciting, dangerous, and no two days are ever the same. Can you buy into your own press? Oh yeah! Does God help keep you in check? Yes again. Today my all time favorite memory from firefighting.

You may not know this, but when we are sleeping the lights are off, strange I know, but when we get an alarm at night the bedroom lights come on automatically. It’s like being woken up for school by my dad. Sound asleep then, bright lights and loud noise. The only thing missing is someone telling you to get up.

Through Pavlovian training you become accustomed to leaping out of bed and rushing to the BRT. Some stations you do this 4 or 5 times a night, it’s one of the reason our lives are shortened, really.

Bang! The lights flash on one morning before sun rise and we get tapped out to a structure fire. This is good news we love fires. We are advised that a local pizza restaurant is involved and a second alarm is tapped before we get there, so it is gonna be a good fire.

That’s what we call it a good fire, a job. The restaurant was housed in an old train depot, it was a cool place and I knew the owners and had eaten there many times. You could sit there eating and watch the trains go by. Across the street from the bistro was a small park and the park had been set up with a theme in keeping with the depot. Old trains were set up on display and kids could climb around on them.

We could see the header of smoke as the sky was starting to pink up. Pretty cool way to wake up if you think about it, and you are a firefighter. So we get a few assignments, interior attack and then salvage.

While inside the sun had come up and a splendid spring day was under way. My wife at the time was a firefighter as well and she was pregnant with our second child, so she was on a light duty assignment at the time. She had come down to the fire with our three year old son.

She stood across the street in the little park holding our son and watching the proceedings. My crew got a break to get fresh air tanks and a chance to hydrate. As I came out of the still smoldering structure I spotted them on the curb.

It took my son a few seconds to recognize me in all my gear, but then he saw me and just lit up with a huge smile and began waving at me. Now this is pretty heady stuff for a father, here I am in all my firefighting glory. Wearing my gear, covered in still smoldering debris, steam rising off my shoulders and my little boy getting to see it.

At that moment I really did feel like a hero. I squared my shoulders, pushed out my chest, and made a slow deliberate turn toward them. My son became even more excited and my pride was let loose. I felt sorry for all those other fathers that didn’t get to do this. Take your kid to work day at the office, poor bastards they would never know this feeling.

So like out of a Hollywood movie trailer I closed the gap between us, I could just see it. Slow motion walk from me, chaos behind as fire trucks and firefighter fought the beast. That is how I see it in my mind, and then I reached them.

My son rushed his three year old tête-à-tête.
“Dad! Dad! Dad!”
Oh I was the bomb.
“Yeah buddy.” I said chest puffed to maximum size, and then he said it, or God said it, not sure.
“Dad, did you see the trains?”
He flipped his head back over his mother’s shoulder and pointed at those stupid old trains. My pride a popped balloon, if that balloon had a gondola under it a half dozen people riding in it.

Smack right between the eyes. I managed to recover my body posture from primate back to a up right man and smiled at him.
“Pretty cool trains buddy.” I managed.
“There are two, there’s another one over there.” He pointed his tiny hand in the other direction.
“Wanna see ‘em dad?” He was wiggling in her arms now trying to get down.
“Maybe later buddy, I still gotta help put the fire out.”
“Okay.” He said. “I’ll draw you a picture of them.” She let him down and off he scampered.

Hero my ass.
See you tomorrow.

Monday, January 30, 2012

I once found a baby in the trash!

I once found a baby in the trash. On a beautiful summer morning we were engaged in our normal coffee and BS session when an alarm came in for the engine company. The horn went off. I didn’t pay much attention as I was riding on the ladder truck that day.

The pumper bros rushed out of the kitchen while I continued to eat my breakfast of eggs and green chili. In double company stations there are generally two kinds of trucks, a pumper truck, that’s the one that carries the water and hoses and such and runs their wheels off all day and night.

Then there is the ladder truck, the one with the big ladder on its back, it carries lots of ladders hence the name. It also carries rescue equipment, the jaws, and truckies. For that day I was a truckie. Truckies are the well rested firefighters that are called out for rescue, fires and the random medical call while the pumper is unavailable.

At that point in time I was not a paramedic, I was an EMT as were all my co-workers, so we weren’t powerless on medical calls we just didn’t do as many as the pumper jockeys.

We heard the update from dispatch that the engine was responding to a female with severe bleeding, and then went back to our conversation and meal. About ten minutes later the phone rang and I answered it. It was my captain from the engine.

“Hey Tim give me Bob”, Bob was my lieutenant on the stick. “Hey Lou it’s the captain.” I handed him the phone to my lieutenant and watched. It wasn’t normal for an officer to call the station while on a call. “Okay Cap we’re on it.” Bob hung up the phone, “Let’s roll guys, Cap says there is a baby in a trash can over on (whatever street)”

We ran to the truck, babies in any emergency situation are scary for two reasons, one they are babies and most of us were fathers. Second because they are babies, they can’t talk to you, they can’t explain what is wrong with them, and they make a lot of noise. I worked with a guy that was always relieved when babies were crying loudly, because sick babies don’t cry. That is scary. So scream your little heads off, it’s a good thing.

Once on the truck the Lou explained that the patient they were with was a teenage girl that had delivered a baby that morning by herself before going to school. She thought the baby was dead and had put it in a brown paper sack and hidden it in the trashcan behind the house.

Your mind fills with so many thoughts at that point, first off how terrible for a girl to deliver a baby by herself and then have it be a dead baby. Then go off to school and be hemorrhaging in a dirty school bathroom. Tragic, where were the parents? How do things like this happen? Buy you get used to things like that on the job.

We got to the address, nice little house, well kept structure and yard, flowers were blooming, the lawn was mowed, perfect slice of Americana. The Lou says it’s in the trash behind the house.

We moved around back, it was a nice day bright sun, no neighbors watching, very quiet I remember. As we rounded the back of the house there was a short little wooden fence in front of us, as I went for the gate a dog charged me from behind the fence, we all fell back a bit startled and froze up for a second.

“It’s just a damn dog get in there.” the Lou barked right back. “We got the dog TimO, you get the baby.” said my old pal Tommy. We bunched up like a SWAT team at the gate, me at the end of the stack, Tommy and Greg the other firefighter in front of me.

“On three.” “Three” Tommy yelled at the dog and yanked the gate open, he and Greg charged at the dog and I slipped in behind them and went for the trashcan. I pulled the lid off the blue can and right there on top of the trash was a neatly folded brown paper sack. I could tell by the way it looked this sack hadn’t just been pitched in the trash; it had been placed there with care.

There was a layer of clean newspaper layered under the bag; I think to keep it from touching the real garbage. As the dog retreated snapping and barking with Tommy and Greg yelling and flailing I reached in for the bag and grabbed it.

I got the brown sack up to about shoulder height when the baby cried inside the bag. It scared the shit out of me and I almost dropped the bag. “It’s alive.” I yelled. The others spun around and looked. The Lou yelled “get out of there”. I ran from the yard and headed to the truck.

I opened the bag and there was a freezing cold, blue little blond girl, she was shaking and crying. I snatched her out of the bag to cuddle and warm her, I tried to get as much of my warm skin on her as I could, I yanked my shirt open and pressed her to my chest, talking to her the whole time.

She was making those wonderful little baby noises and I called for the baby warmer. We all gathered around her like four men and a baby. Here is this precious and not so tiny (over 8 lbs.) baby and four hulking truckies. Great day.

Turned out later that the mother was in fact the niece of one of my fellow firefighters that day. He had just seen the girl and no one had a clue she was pregnant, she had concealed very well. The mother and father were just kids themselves. They married had a bunch more kids are still together today. A couple of years ago I got a photo in an email that said “Do you recognize this girl?”

It was a high school graduation photo; there stood a beautiful young woman in her cap and gown, smiling a brilliant smile. The next sentence said, “You pulled her out of a trashcan 18 years ago.” Good day that one.