Thursday, May 29, 2008

When I was a rookie sergeant the policy at the time was to assign you to supervise the place and shift you were least familiar with. That meant, for me, a big jump from maximum security and booking to medium security. The skills and flow of the two environments are very different. Max is all about taking control and crisis management. Medium is about managing group dynamics and maintaining the generally good status quo.

So i was in a position of learning to be a supervisor AND learning a new way of jailing. Ralph was the crusty old sergeant who took me under his wing. He was old school enough to be hell on wheels in a fight, but smart and old enough to know that talking was better- there is no healing time after talking someone down. They started the experimental psych unit shortly after that and Ralph and I stepped in, and he was a wonder to watch work there. Big, gruff old guy who had been doing the job long enough that he knew the cons and often their fathers and sometimes their grandfathers too.

He had a ritual with new deputies that came to the shift. He would take them aside and sit them down and talk about the job- what they would see and how it would change them. He talked with heartbreaking honesty about mistakes he had made and what he learned from them. Shortly after my arrival, he got me involved, too. It was unofficial and really due to the initiative of one man, but I believe that those quiet little sessions in the conference room were some of the most valuable training ever provided in any agency.

I've seen him angry and sad and surprised. Cleaned up after he survived a close-range ambush. Went for lunch after he had his knee surgery. I always listened when he talked, always watched him when he was talking with or watching the inmates. He was my first real teacher after I became a sergeant.

Yesterday I watched this crippled up old man on his last full day at work- pitching in, helping the escorts, dealing with problems. Except for a radio call, "243, for the last time, radio check," it was just another day. A good, hard working day.

In a little over an hour, Ralph retires. He was one of the good guys. I'll miss him.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pieces and Wholes

And holes, now that I think about it.

This Saturday I've been asked to drop in at a weapons seminar.  KJ is going to teach some basics- ways to move, ways to make and keep contact, what to do when bad things happen too close.  I'm supposed to step into the middle and mess everything up.

The problem is that in any training for bad things each piece by itself is not only incomplete, but actually wrong.  Siniwalli is an arnis drill. As a stand alone it is purely a collection of bad habits- you target the weapon, you maintain the movement pattern instead of finishing, some of the pattern ignores a better, faster, more decisive move that would finish the encounter- but encounters need to be finished and drills need to be prolonged and repeated.

Don't start down-talking arnis, I can point out something like this from any training.  The training isn't wrong, unless you take it out of context.  Each piece is important, but the piece isn't the thing.

What KJ will do at this seminar is teach patterns, patterns that keep your weapon a constant threat to the enemy and keep the weapon in your strong zone and don't expose you to much.  I will be showing how the killing attack will be an escape from that pattern from one side, from the other side how to exploit those strengths and turn them into weaknesses.

What we have to be careful is that the students understand that this is not a contradiction.

It boils down to time.  Battles (especially with weapons) are won in fractions of seconds. Training is conducted about a half minute at a time.  So patterns are learned, but they are exploited by knowing, in a flash, exactly where your body and weapon and the threat's body and weapons are, where they are going (recognizing the pattern) and deciding to continue or break what you recognize is happening.

Sensitivity drills, like chi-sao can last a long time and they teach you a lot- how to read just by touch power and motion and balance and intent... but in application it is the ability to know and exploit those things in a single instant of contact.

It takes a lot of time and a lot of repetition to develop that skill.  It takes big chunks of time to learn tiny slices of time.  Where some martial artists get trapped is trying to take big time skills- drill skills- and apply them as they stand in a fight.

That's another special training: to apply your skills at superspeed, to get the information that normally takes a few seconds of feeling out your partner in a single touch... but if not, you get stuck in an imaginary world where you have plenty of time.

So training, from one perspective, is spending a lot of time ingraining tiny separate pieces (studying them like they were big pieces or maybe even the whole thing) with the hope that you will be able to put them all together, ruthlessly, without any time at all.

It sounds hard and maybe counter-intuitive, but it isn't.  Reps are good. Refinement and nuance are good.  The only thing that is sometimes (often) missing is the actual context of the application, a good understanding of what the skill looks like in its end-state.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Begging the Question

I like it when people argue, sometimes.  They think they are demonstrating how they think, but more often than not they are demonstrating how they choose to see- their own prejudices and blind spots.  Not just because it is fun to laugh at people, but because they almost always phrase things in specific ways for specific types of blind spots- and if you pay attention, when you catch yourself using those phrases, you can find some of your own.

I like stylistic partisans.  If somebody blatantly states that their style is the best, I probably won't buy it, but I will listen to them.  The really committed will show me the best of what they have and intensely argue its value, and I will learn more faster than from someone more equivocal.

One of my friends is ranked in (and loves) a chinese dueling system.  He found out I'd been exposed to it and wanted to know my thoughts.  That's a lie. He wanted to hear me gush about it's great superiority over everything else and how I had become a true believer. He asked what I thought.  That's what he got: too linear; very easy to throw them into walls; fast hands but pathetic power; most damning, it was a dueling system and trained for face to face challenge matches- the guys I played with had absolutely no idea what to do if attacked from the rear or flank.

He argued everything (I had, after all, insulted his holy thing) but to the last point he just said, "You just turn into the attack, from that point on it's just like dueling."

This is called begging the question.  If you are getting pounded from the rear or sides- or grabbed- turning into it is not something you 'just' do.  It's difficult and it is a skill, a critical skill for ambush survival.  

Watch for that word 'just'.  When you catch yourself saying "Just do it" (sorry, Nike) and you have no real idea how to do it, that is a blind spot.  The mechanism of that little 'just' is to convince yourself that whatever it is is easy.  It's just turning.  Just hit the guy. Just move.  Don't just stand there.  Just be yourself.

It's not just (I had to) a martial thing.  Look for it in politics, in overly-simplified morality, in finance... all the places where answers are easier than facts to base them on.

Just Whining

First day back to work in a while.  I've been out with pneumonia.  First time. Interesting.  Went to work less because I was feeling better than because I was going stir crazy.  I spent last evening (when I wasn't rescuing the dogs from the scary thunder or watching the beautiful storm) pacing in tight circles.

So- work hasn't changed much.  An inmate who used to be one of the biggest (and most obvious) manipulators has been in custody for almost a month and finally got the courage to ask me for something he knows is against the rules.  He's three weeks behind schedule. Normally he would be in the hole by now.  An alarm went off that doesn't seem to be connected to any known system.  Fire alarm, HVAC, everything normal... just a very loud, very obvious audible alarm that our facility engineer says doesn't exist.  It's a mystery.  And this mid-forties old man recovering from pneumonia still has the fastest sprint in the building.  Three back-up alarms tonight. None serious.  But after each sprint as soon as I could be alone, I coughed my lungs up.

Another entry on the Big List of Things that Suck: Coughing so hard you puke.
That's probably too much information. 

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stupid Moves

Kevin wants me to drop by the seminar he is teaching at the end of the month.  He'll go over a lot of weapon stuff and he had me look at his curriculum.  The man doesn't need my advice, but he's polite enough to ask for it.  In the course of the conversation, he described some of the techniques he would have them do for warm-ups.  Very simple stuff- slide in kicks; jab cross combos.
"Oooh, oooh," I said, "Make them do this one!" I held my right hand in front of my stomach, brought it in a circular action in front of my right hip, leading with the back of the hand and then up to eye height just in front of my shoulder, fingers facing forward like a hissing snake in a bad kung fu movie. We were seated. Standing, it would have been accompanied by a slight step forward with my left foot.
"An inside joke?" Kevin guessed.

There's some stuff that I never saw until I did it- things that have been taught for ages in older martial arts that have been laughed at and lost in more modern times.  That's partly okay.  The snake circle above looks like something out of a bad movie.  If you were to make the action sparring it would look like the stupid circling and posturing from a seventies martial arts flick (I've been sick for the last week, so I've been watching a lot of those.)
But dirty, close and ugly, the technique is completely different.

When a threat is at bad breath range and slams something towards your stomach (fist or knife, if you take the time to look it is too late) that snake circle parries  it across his body, comes up under the elbow (to give away one of the biggest secrets, there is a point on the elbow where you can control a threat's entire body, often without using your hands) and the circle continues, controlling that elbow as you take the threat's face and (using another leverage point) lever his head back beyond his point of balance. When it works right, he is forced to fall straight back without being able to move his feet.  Very hard on the spine.  When it doesn't work right it still controls the weapon hand, the spine, and breaks his balance while leaving you a free hand (as well as knees and feet).  That's kind of useful.

The X-block also gets a lot of heat in certain circles.  It's not a good sparring technique.  It's a big obvious move that leaves your head wide open.  It pins your weight forward. There's no finesse to it.  But up close it has a lot that you want from a quick emergency technique:  All gross motor skill.  Fast. Covers a wide area (aiming takes time, precision takes more finely skilled motor muscles).  Works on most linear or rising attacks- foot, fist, knife... even a gun draw.  There is a big clue here. A lot of things that are stupid for sparring or dueling have elements that make them good for assault survival.
There are problems.  Too many people throw their hips back when using this technique and too few have been taught to transition out of it while closing, but it gives you a lot of options, usually including getting behind the threat easily.

There is another move that looks like a bad imitation of a bird's wing.  Worse, a bad imitation of a city kid's imaginary idea of what a cranes wing moves like. The one I'm familiar with is done with both hands simultaneously.  It looks a little like the reverse of the snake circle, the thumb edge of the hand leads as the hand makes a circle from the same side hip, to the navel (then little finger edge leads) and then up to finish at shoulder hight with the wrist bent like the snake's head and the fingertips cocked out about 45 degrees from the body.  (Someday, I'm going to figure out how to post pictures here.)
Silly looking, but I wonder how many times from both clinches and punches I've come up under the threat's arm like that, forcing it across his body (and sometimes over my own head) and wound up with my hand exactly in that position before I grabbed the upper sleeve or collar and yanked him off balance.

Just be cautious before you discard something that doesn't work in your context.  It may be perfect when you need it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


There has been an internal shift lately.  It's been a long time coming, something I expected, but for the first time I'm noticing what it feels like at the moment when the world shifts.

A few years ago a lot of very intense things came very close together.  It was a lot of hard, deep experience.  It left me feeling very separated from other people- I couldn't expect them to understand the world that I see and live in.  It was completely alien to their experience.  At the same time, I remembered living in their world, but didn't see it from the same place.

The sense of alienation was summed up when I was looking for a new martial arts instructor and he started talking about "application" and "street practicality" and violence, and I got a feeling like an artist was trying to sell me a painting of my home and he had never seen it.

The sense, for the last years, has been a feeling of poking at the experience.  Thinking and writing about it, exploring it.  I knew that it would settle, that I would be past that treacherous zone where PTSD or "psychological scarring" or other self-important labels were a danger when the events ceased to be events. No longer things I did or things that happened to me, but simply part of who I am.

I've done this before. I've made that transition before, many times. We all have.

With age or experience or sensitivity or an increase in my navel gazing time, I felt the click.  The first thought that showed a transition had happened.  It was simple and profound.  KJ called me up to ask for some input on a seminar and my first thought was: "Why is he calling me? I'm nothing special."

Nothing special.  I can make the list- I know the difference in sound of tendon or bone snapping; have talked down psychotics without even a common language; taken point on an entry with a severed ACL; drunk chichu with a reformed cannibal.... intellectually, I know some of that stuff is rare.  It just doesn't feel rare or special anymore.  My default now is to converse from the assumption that everyone else has similar experiences.  Ho hum.

Neither side of this transition is or has been intellectually correct.  The experience is not normal; at the same time it never really turned me into anything unique.  Both were feelings, impressions. Maps of the world.  

This transition feels healthy.  Like it might be a good springboard to push another edge of the envelope.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Scientifically Validating Experience

I don't have a fever, which feels strange. Soon it will feel normal again, but for right now it's a bit odd. And I'll miss the dreams. Somewhere around 103 degrees the dreams get very interesting.

Epistemology is a really interesting concept and a useful tool to analyze cultures, people, opponents. It is the study of how a group or a person comes to believe that things are 'true'. In some cultures, tradition is truth.  The night ascension of Mohammed or the midnight ride of Paul Revere are simply facts.

In martial arts, the epistemology can get really weird.  People have a need to validate their skills, but are rarely sure how to safely do so.  We can't line up ten thousand slaves and strike each one on a different point and see what happens (though in one kwoon I was told that this was exactly how their  vital points chart was derived- an unnamed Emperor experimented on 10,000 slaves.)  So do you take that story as truth?  If you do, can you then take the conclusions, the list of effects, as truth?  Maybe. Depends on your epistemology.  Can you 'experiment' or 'pressure test' in the ring or the octagon?  Sure, you can experiment anywhere you want.  Doesn't mean the experiment is valid, however.

In our culture, generally, we feel more comfortable if someone in a white coat with a PhD after the name gives us the green light.  Not always- the scientist has to agree with what we already believe or he will be accused of "selling out to big business" or being a "tool of special interest groups" but generally, we like it when scientists confirm what we want to believe.

My degree is in experimental psychology.  Psychology has drifted very far from scientific rigor on a lot of points, but one of the best things about that course of study was some extensive work in designing experiments, analyzing experimental design and the number crunching once the results come in.

So I see some of the martial arts instructors and (especially) entrepreneurs who claim valid and deep scientific backing for what they teach... and it's largely junk science.  Sometimes the experiment didn't conclude what the martial artist claims it did.  Sometimes the design itself, though published, was fundamentally flawed.  Sometimes it was 'entertainment science' like the National Geographic "Fight Science" where apples are compared to oranges.  Often the person using the study never really understood it.

The weirder part is that it doesn't really matter- it's all for comfort anyway.  The guys in white coats won't be anywhere in the area when you need to apply your skills to keep crawling for one more day.  Some of the conclusions work, even when they back them up with junk science.

Yeah, because that's the way this stuff works, that's the way people work.  You talk to enough people, especially combat veterans and you hear things- "I was so scared I shit my pants!" "I couldn't remember how to pull a trigger." "My fingers couldn't work the bolt on my rifle." And you start putting things together.  This scared, this happens.  More scared, more happens.  Sometimes the martial arts instructor/entrepreneur (now a martial researcher! Yeah howdy!) does a study, often with no training in how to do a study or an experiment.  More often they start looking for research that supports their points, probably reading only the abstracts and not able to understand the actual experiment itself. So we have martial research on the effects of fear derived from the research based on running on a treadmill- because the researcher was looking at stress and he found studies based on a cardio stress test.

It doesn't matter because the researcher started with a good conclusion. Fact: the more scared you are the shittier you perform.  That is enough to start improving training.  Getting studies to back it up is largely window dressing.

But it can matter once it is established and starts to work the other way.  When you start extrapolating from junk science or irrelevant, poorly understood experiments and drawing conclusions from those.

One case, not related to MA because every MA case I know has the potential to hurt a friend's feelings:

Our local paper published a study a few years back about hunger in our fair state.  It had shocking and glaring conclusions that one in fifteen people right here were at grave risk of starvation. WTF?  I know some of the poorest people in the largest urban area.  If not for meth, the obesity rate would be astronomical. No one is starving to death. I was raised as a poor kid in the poorest part of the state. No one starved to death.  You would be hard pressed to find anyone who had starved to death, ever in this region who wasn't an elderly shut-in.  So I looked at the study.  Ever waited until a paycheck come in to do your grocery shopping?  That puts you at extreme risk for starvation.  Not for missing a meal, or living out of you cupboards, but starvation!!! Ever smell a restaurant and not go in because you didn't have money with you?  That's grave risk of starvation.  Buddy, you won't make it through the night.

The questionnaire was that poorly designed.  In and of itself it was a joke, just a tool for some folks to get worked up who wanted to get worked up. Relatively harmless.  Except people who either never read or couldn't understand the actual survey started throwing money at a problem that didn't exist.

They feel vindicated.  As far as anyone can name, no one has starved (other than shut-ins) in our fair state since the study came out... of course, no one did before, either.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Triggers and Stops

An author (and very nice lady) once said, "The only reason people ever resort to violence is out of great fear, great anger, or great desperation."  I smiled my snotty little grin and said, "I do it for money."  That might have gone really badly, but Jayel was wise and it became a talking point for a long time.  We both learned a lot.

Jayel is a good person and insightful.  I have no doubt that she did some deep soul searching and knew that she was capable of violence (a step up from a few friends who deny even that) and knew what her triggers would be- extremes of fear, anger and desperation.  It's a good insight.  It gets problematic when you assume that since those are your triggers, those are the triggers.

"I do it for money."  Not really.  Sort of.  Absolutely.  I deal with conflict and violent people as a profession.  I do get paid for it.  Far more often than not, I get paid for talking them out of making me use force.  But the force option is still always on the table.  As a job, though, it changes everything.  I can never use force out of anger.  If I use force out of fear or desperation (outside of an ambush) it almost always means that I let things get out of hand, or took chances or didn't see something coming when I should have.  So Jayel's triggers are there in me, but my triggers come into play at an earlier, professionally chosen time.

Violent people raised in a violent subculture have different triggers.  If you have seen the logic of violence- the first to attack the hardest wins- and have never been socially conditioned to see any moral problem with violence your trigger might be simple convenience.

If you have been conditioned to believe that certain tabus (the color of a bandana, someone saying bad things about your mom) must be dealt with violently or it will endanger your status with your group, your triggers for violence might be a complex web of social rules invisible to others.  That's a form of fear, too- the fear of being cast out or just losing status in the group.  I'm not sure it qualifies as great fear.

Fear, actually, is the primary preventative of violence.  For normally socialized people, a conscience is enough: fear of feeling bad, fear of disappointing parents and mentors and loved ones.  They would understand if you were forced to violence by great fear or desperation and maybe even forgive you for a great and justified anger.

Most of our violent criminals and even our low-level hustlers were never socialized in this way.  For normal people the concepts of guilt and shame are givens.  To learn that there is a large subculture without these feelings is jarring.  If you want some academic corroboration, pick up Fleisher's "Beggars and Thieves".  Personally after years of listening to criminals it took a long time to realize that outside of attempts to manipulate people I never hear them say that they "felt bad" about something or express any real sympathy at all.  Compassion is simply a skill used to find weakness in a potential victim.  When they do express sincere regret (talking to themselves or within their own groups) it is always for consequences to themselves.  Not for widows or orphans or scars that they have created but for time that they might serve.  Things they might lose.

Most prefer intimidation to violence because it is safer.  You stand a little too close and keep one hand under your jacket and ask for some money, you might get it.  The guy says "no" and looks like he's ready to fight, no harm in walking away.  You intimidate and the guy gives you money, that's panhandling.  There's an ordinance against aggressive panhandling, but that's at most a ticket and hard to prove.  You use force, and if a cop happens to see you that's robbery.  It will probably get thrown out: just claim the guy pushed you first and the money fell out of his pocket, but you still might spend some time in jail.  Which is okay, sometimes.  Worse, you use force and the guy knows what he's doing and you could get hurt.

When groups of people with that mindset are concentrated, as in the penal system, it would turn Lord of the Flies really fast if not for the officers watching, but they can't watch everything.  Groups form and one of their primary purposes is to provide a threat of retaliation should someone attack or cheat or steal from a member of the group.  The combination of fear of retaliation and fear of the disciplinary process is what limits the violence in jail (and jails/prisons are far more violent than most neighborhoods yet far less violent than they would be without this).

That's a huge and interesting divide between the population of citizens and criminals.  Socialized people need fear or something similar to trigger an act of violence.  For the criminals, fear is generally the only thing stopping them from resorting to violence as a first option.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

C is Back

C is without doubt my favorite violent schizophrenic.  At his worst, he smears himself with his own shit and attacks anyone who comes near.  At the mid-level he walks in circles, never making eye contact with anyone, every muscle tense.

He was my 'project' for a long time. When he started 'decompensating*' I'd get a call, "Sarge, see if you can talk to C.  He's about to lose it."  So I would walk in long circles with him, usually not talking any more then he did.  He eventually started talking a little and then a lot.  One custody, he shared a goal with me. He wanted to work in the jail kitchen.  That probably doesn't seem like a big goal to you, but for him it was huge.

He had to work his way from Severe Mental Housing to Mental Housing to Mild Mental to General Population and then to the worker dorm.  That meant that his behavior had to continually improve until he wouldn't 'ping' the radar of the other inmates in custody at the level he was going to.  He had to stay on his meds. He had to consciously watch and modify his behavior. C took it very seriously and we wrote a contract, which was actually more of a list of things that he needed to learn how to watch: a cheat sheet for faking normality (and are any of us normal? Is there a difference between faking normal and being normal?)

The problem came in the transition from Mental to Mild Mental.  I was talking to him every day.  He seemed to be doing really well.  At the bi-weekly meeting of the Mental Health Team I made the case for moving him on... it was soundly rejected.  I thought he was doing better. Everyone else thought he was losing ground fast.  I made the case at the next meeting and the next... it was imperative that he didn't get the idea that we were manipulating him.  He had to learn from this that controlling his behavior worked- it got what he wanted.  That goal setting and planning worked.  It would be a huge disaster, and play nicely into some of his paranoid delusions, if he came to believe that the people who had developed rapport with him had only done so for our own purposes, to make him easier to manage.

I made the case again and one of the deputies sighed. "Sarge, he's complaining about bugs everywhere.  We can't send him to Mild, much less General, if he's seeing imaginary bugs."

Crap. "I'll tell him," I said.  So I did. I went up to his housing unit and told him that as long as he was seeing things, we couldn't move him.  Maybe a medication change...

No.  He was adamant.  There really were bugs and no one would listen to him.  I sighed. 'No one listening' fell right in with the paranoid aspect of his schizophrenia. "Show me." He brought me up to his cell.  It was crawling with little maggoty bugs.  The only cell in the whole jail.

Sometimes the bugs are real.  It was a good lesson for all of us.  Everyone had seen what they expected to see and stopped looking when they saw what they expected.  He made it all the way to the kitchen and did a good job until his release.

C is back in custody.  He's looking really good, keeping himself clean, holding a conversation. I even saw him play cards with other inmates.  Is he better or faking it? Does it matter?

*Mental health has almost as many cool euphemisms as law enforcement.  They don't say "Getting worse" or "Going off the deep end" the use "decompensating".  And restraining someone by force is a "physical intervention strategy."  Cool, huh?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Nikki Valentine

Most people's dark sides are pretty pathetic.  The evil that people imagine is sometimes great, but everyone imagines an open season on loud people or people who stop and block aisles in warehouse stores.  Few actually do it.  Then those who do are sometimes shocking in their...patheticness.  If that's a word.  More often than not the people who kill are whiners, needy and entitled.  Not getting what they want is a great injustice and they will do anything, without regard for others, to fulfill a desire.

This hit me in terms of tragedy today.  I was asked some weeks ago if I had ever loved someone so much that it made me cry.  I answered, without really thinking, that I had forgotten how to cry long before I learned how to love.  It probably sounds like a 'tough guy pretending to be deep' platitude. Sorry.

I remember the last time I cried and why.  Things today brought that memory very close to the surface.  Mirrored it too well.  So the memory was there and I poked at it... and it wasn't so huge a tragedy.  Remove the fact of living it and it is a very small story.  It wasn't "Where the Red Fern Grows" by any means, or "Brian's Song".  But, really, written with less skill would "Where the Red Fern Grows" have been what it is?  The story is small- a boy and a dream and his dogs and love and loyalty to the edge of death.  A small story, except to the boy, and to all the people who became that boy for a few hours while reading that book.

Goodbye, old girl.  I'm glad you had one last good spring.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Spinning Plates

Everything is quiet right now.  The last batch of training is finished and the next two phases aren't things I'm certified in so no more multiple extra shifts for a while.  The book theoretically went to the printer on Friday after a... I want to say marathon or epic editing session, but actually the editor made it pretty smooth and easy.  It took some time and most of the prep work on my end was done in a state of near exhaustion, but it went well.  The two other big things are pending, waiting.  Waiting drives me nuts, but it is a big part of life. The key is to do other things.

So I can relax, work on other projects. Maybe even bring this blog back to the more interesting subjects like bad guys and brawling.

Before I do, in this dead space, a couple of questions if anyone has input:

1) The publisher wants a list of organizations/reviewers who might be interested in the book.  Any ideas?

2) For some reason when I publish to the blog the first (or sometimes several) paragraphs are fine, and then it squinches down so that it is no longer double spaced. Any idea what is going on?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Death Poetry

A long time ago, with his kind permission, I posted some of Drew Rinella's poetry here.  A few days ago, Drew let me know about his websites, one for poetry and a new one for "stories".  Drew puts his heart in his poetry and laughs in his stories.  In the stories I see the gangly, sometimes goofy kid who walked into the garage dojo to learn some jujutsu.  In the poems I see the man who fights death and doesn't look away.

His blog had links, mostly people who do what he does. Some days that's holding a physical body together for just a few more minutes.  Somedays it is making hard choices while people scream and bleed. Some days it is making a little old lady feel a little less scared.

I followed some of the links.  Not poetry, not officially.  Just some stories about the job and lessons learned and fears faced and hope delivered.  Most people who get involved in Emergency Services don't write.  The ones that do often have a power.  I don't know if it is the intensity of the experiences one finds on the edge of death or a comfort and comradeship that I feel. They have stood over their bodies and I have stood over mind and we each felt what we felt.  Not so alien or alone when I read these stories.  Try this one

I know people who write poetry and sometimes describe themselves as poets who have spent their entire lives trying to write something with the depth and power of some of Drew's stuff.  I can barely read fiction because so much of it seems an inbred string of cliches with no connection, no comparison to the emotion or intensity of a real life.  I may be wrong, but I don't feel that a shallow life can produce deep poetry.