Monday, June 25, 2012


At 1:30 AM the other night at the fire house, our engine was dispatched on what is called a service run. Basically, that means we have a call that isn't an emergency, but the person who called 911 didn't know how to handle whatever fix he found himself in. This call, we soon learned, was a water problem. And by water problem, I mean water was pouring through the ceiling into this guy's apartment from the apartment above.

Yes, people call 911 for everything.

Anyway, we told the guy to call his landlord and he said his landlord didn't answer. He also said that the upstairs resident didn't answer when he pounded on her door.

Although we aren't plumbers and this was anything but a life-or-death emergency, we figured we'd try and help. We went into the basement and turned off the water to the offending apartment which after a couple of minutes stopped the heavy flow of water into the caller's apartment.

But that wasn't the end of the call. What if the water was from an overflowing bathtub and someone was injured or worse?

We needed to check.

Before we bashed down the door, we tried knocking and yelling with no response. Our last attempt before smashing in the door was to check for an open window. Luckily, one of the windows was cracked open and, since we are the fire department, we happened to have a ladder.

I sent the new guy up the ladder so he could open the door for the rest of us. He shouted into the room before he climbed through the window which was a good thing. We wouldn't want him to have a run-in with a dog, or a gun, or both. He found his way through the dark apartment to the front door and let us in for our search.

The old, weathered hardwood floors were flooded with at least two inches of water. I felt a little on edge walking into her hallway with a flashlight. I have to tell you, I had a little hesitation as I walked through the hallway in anticipation of what I might find in the next room.

That's because a few years ago, I was doing the exact same thing after a woman called and asked us to check on her family member since she hadn't talked to him and was worried that he had been depressed. When I went into this guy's basement, I turned the corner from the stairs and almost walked face-first into his body. hanging from the rafters. It didn't take much experience to realize he had been dead for quite awhile. The only way I can explain walking into something like that is comparing it to seeing a ghost. Not in a spiritual way, but in a surreal, somewhat creepy and unexpected way.

But back to the other night. As three of us sloshed through the apartment and rounded the hall to the bedroom, we found a young lady lying unconscious on the bed. She was as naked as the day she was born, but that didn't seem too out of the ordinary since it was very hot and humid outside and the apartment didn't have air conditioning.

My first reaction was that she was dead, or had OD'd or something of that nature since we had made a ton of noise getting into the apartment. One of the other two firefighters shouted, "Hey," with no reply. I dug through my bunker pants for a pair of gloves so I could check her pulse and sent someone for our EMS kits. The other firefighter shouted, "Hey" again and this time the lady nearly jumped through the ceiling with a screech that startled the hell outta me. She screamed over and over, "What are you doing in here?" like a vinyl on permanent skip.

We turned away as she wrapped herself in a blanket. I tried to explain why we were in her apartment, but her panicked shouting drowned out my voice. Calmly and repeatedly, we told her to relax and that we were the fire department. Slowly, she settled down. With her mood changing from panic to embarrassment and ultimately to understanding, I explained, "You've left water running somewhere and you're flooding your downstairs neighbor." I told her we would step out of the apartment to give her some privacy while she gathered herself and that she could come out and talk to me when she was ready.

When she eventually came out, she was obviously embarrassed, as anyone would be. We talked for a few minutes and I apologized for scaring her.

That wasn't our last call of the night, but definitely the strangest. To make our night even more odd, we were called for another service run where a young lady had taken out her trash and locked herself out of her apartment. Making things worse, she had two young babies still inside. Luckily, she too had a slightly opened upstairs window for us to climb through.

That's the way the fire department works sometimes. In the last year I haven't had a single call where we needed to climb into someone's window (other than if their house was on fire, that is), yet last shift we did it twice during one night. All in all, it was an interesting evening, with no fires and no injuries—just a lot of ladder climbing, a naked lady and 2 babies oblivious of the goings on in their homes.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Have you ever wanted a tattoo?

If you were going to get your first tattoo, what would you get? Would it have to mean something special to you? Simply look cool? Would it be somebody's name? I ask this question as I prepare to take the plunge for my first tattoo. I've always wanted one, but could never settle on exactly what to get. Since I'm a firefighter, there is always that theme, but I wasn't ready to get a tattoo about my job just yet.

Over the years, I've considered the Pittsburgh Steelers logo, tribal stuff, or just having an artist design something cool. Heck, when I was seventeen in 1990, I wanted the Queensryche symbol on my calf. Yeah, I know. But none of those ideas really pushed me into the tattoo parlor. (Thank goodness.)

And then when I was 37 I received a publishing contract for my fantasy trilogy, The Light of Epertase. Like being a firefighter, being a published author is something I have great pride in accomplishing. And that's when the wheels started turning. No matter what happens from here on out in my writing career, the fact that my story has been published and is out there for the world to read is something that can never be taken away. Even if I never sell another book, it has been a major accomplishment in my life and one that I would like to memorialize.

The question now becomes, what will I get to celebrate achieving such a major goal in my life? Well, I wanted to have something that represented my fantasy trilogy, since that was the story that secured my first publishing contract. And what better represents fantasy than a kick-ass dragon? I've always thought dragons were super cool anyway, which is why I have one in my Epertase trilogy. In saying that, simply having a generic dragon still wasn't meaningful enough for me to put something on my back that will be there for life.

So, I sat down with the cover artist for Epertase, Steve Murphy, and started molding the idea of a dragon with something that would make the tat personal to me. Together, we came up with placing a crystal ball beneath the dragon and having a small picture within the ball that represented one of the three books. We ultimately decided on the burning castle from the cover of Book Two, A Kingdom's Fall. The tattoo was looking pretty sweet, but I needed one more thing to make it really meaningful.

You see, my son created the word Epertase when he was first learning to talk. That's where I came up with the name for the book's kingdom, the book's title, my website, my email address and everything else I could think of. The word Epertase is as dear to my heart as anything I have created and having it on my body forever is the same to me as putting my son's name there.

With a banner reading Epertase, my tattoo design was complete. Here it is if you'd like to see. I will post pics when the tattoo is finished, sometime toward the end of July. I'd have it done today if it were up to me, but the tattooist I am using has this crazy thing called a waiting list. Hm. Oh well, patience is a virtue I guess. But I hate patience.