John Corson's Blog

WRITING & RANTING
for October 14, 2020

Hi! I Am Jesse Stone

In 1997, author Robert B. Parker, known for his series of novels featuring detective Spenser, began a new series of novels based on the character of one Jesse Stone. Other than the fact that he was once a Homicide Detective in Los Angeles, an alcoholic, a divorcee yet still in love with his ex, and now a police chief in a small tourist hamlet on the Massachusetts shore line, his life very much resembles mine.

However, there are more things we share in common than not. In fact, there are so many parallels.

In Parker's books, Jesse begins the series at about 35 years of age. He had a promising career in professional baseball. He was already a couple of years into Triple-A ball when he suffered a major shoulder injury which ended his baseball journey. He went on to the Police Academy through the Los Angeles Police Department and a couple of years afterwards was promoted to Detective in the Robbery-Homicide Division. Because of his drinking which became a major problem after his divorce from his beautiful wife Jenn, Jesse was fired off the job.

Showing up drunk to an interview for a job as police chief for the small town of Paradise, Massachusetts (loosely based on the real town of Marblehead, Massachusetts), Stone is hired because the corrupt president of the town board of selectmen thinks he will be easy to control. Stone quickly notices that the town has big league crimes, struggling with the mob, white supremacists, wildly errant wives and a triple homicide, and that his job will be more difficult than he expected. But he proves up to the task, beginning with making a corruption case against the town council president and arresting him.

It would appear that Jesse is on to a successful career in Paradise; and he does. As the novels progress, each one begins with a crime being committed and, on each occasion, it brings him out of boredom.

But as we see on the television movie series, Jesse (who is played by Tom Selleck) has more bouts with boredom which leads to more drinking and restlessness that he "mulls" a lot, because thinking is all that will keep his brain from atrophy. There have been nine movies and except for the ninth, each contained a sub-plot and a second issue facing Jesse and/or the police department.

The novels say that the Paradise Police Department has 15 employees, the movies tell us there are never more than 5, including the chief. Either way, the PPD is a small department. This is where many of the parallels align with me.

Like Jesse, I am a "washed up" baseball player. He played shortstop, I pitched. We were both injured. We both persued a career much different from baseball. Unlike Jesse, mine was the ministry. He drank himself out of a job, I had a "move-up-the-ladder" attitude which led to an arrogant spirit. We both ticked off people. We both had marriages that ended sorrowfully, although for different reasons, his led to drinking, mine lead to meaningless and reckless behavior other than drinking. We have both been fired from jobs, we both have bad habits, we both are lonely, we both like remoteness, solemnity, and solitude. But we both hate idleness, we both want to feel like we are accomplishing something, we both want to be successful at something.

Follow these parallels ...

In three of the nine movies Jesse says: "Paradise is my last stop" twice he finishes the statement by saying "there is nowhere else to go from here", and the other he says "I get off the bus here."

Four times he says: "I'm a small-town cop, I mostly write parking tickets." Three times he says, "I'm not a good basket to put all your eggs in." When asked by people to see his badge, he always responds: "It's in a drawer." When he reviews his life and problems with his therapist it goes like this: You lose your job in L.A, You take a job you are over qualified for, nothing ever happens here so you stirred the pot to make something happen, up may pop a couple of rats, both nothing big happens, you live where no one can find you, you drink alone, you talk to your ex-wife every day.

Well, here is why I see myself as Jesse Stone:

  • Windsor Baptist is my last stop, there is nowhere else to go from here ... meaning I have been reduced to a small, non-growing church because of my shortcomings and failures of the past. When he says "I get off the bus here" he means this is his last stop, only retirement or death remain. And so, it is with me.
  • I am a small church pastor, I mostly preach sermons, or I mostly hold hands.
  • I am not a big-time large church pastor; I cannot be counted on to have all the answers you are looking for.
  • Sometimes, when I tell someone that I am a pastor, they ask to see my card, or my Bible and I will tell them the card is in my office or my Bible is in my head.

And when I review my life (I have no therapist at this time, so I review my life with Reggie, and before him with my late-Princess) I lost my job in Bluff City, TN and South Norfolk, VA. I have taken positions I am over-qualified for (small churches), nothing happens in them (little of no resources to work with), I stir the pot, but church folks only see that as breaking traditions and trying something new that threatens the status-quo, up pops a couple of successes but the results do not last long, otherwise nothing big happens. I often hide in my home or church office, where no one can see me, I read and watch TV alone, and I talk to my dead dog Princess every day.

Now, the above paragraph reveals a depressed soul. But I am not depressed. Over the years I have discovered that depression basically comes in two forms: chemical and environmental. Chemical depression is caused by a metabolic or chemical imbalance in the brain and most of the time can be treated with therapy and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (anti-depressants).

Environmental depression is much different in that certain situations or places in which one finds himself can cause him to get down and when prolonged, will result in depression. The answer to this type of depression is a change of environment, moving to a different location or affiliate with different people. Therapy helps, anti-depressants may put you into an altered state of consciousness, but the treatment involves change. Change is that thing that most people, set in their ways and seemingly over 60 years of age, cannot abide by. A vacation to a different location (as opposed to a staycation wherein you stay at home and remain surrounded by familiar sites) often times helps, but you always have to come back to the mundane - to the thing you escaped from.

Environmental depression comes on more subtly and in stages. The various stages (alliteratively) are

  • Disappointment
  • Disillusionment
  • Disgust
  • Discouragement
  • Despondency
  • Despair
  • Depression

We all get disappointed when things do not go our way or when someone we know drops the ball, or a program we develop, start and oversee falls apart.

We all have disillusionment when disappointment begin to multiply.

We all get disgusted when the things that disillusions us force us to abandon or drop the program or thing we started and put our hearts and very souls into it. Disgust brings us to the place where we turn up our noses and do something else, but we might not truly abandon the original talk, maybe we modify the plans.

Discouragement comes when even the modifications or replacement plans fail and it looks more like anything we do will not go well, not be well-received, supported or nixed altogether.

Despondency comes about when you don't seem to have a better plan or program or have to rely on someone or something else to do what you wanted to do or wished you could do.

Despair is the state where you are afraid to try something out of fear of failure or lack of support from others.

Depression is the natural result of prolonged despair.

At 65 years of age and currently vacillating between despondency and despair, the natural cure before falling into depression is a change of environment. To me it would be to apply for or search for another church in nwhich to pastor. I will not go into all the barriers which preclude a successful search (too old, no big successes, no experience in a growing and/or large church, et. al.). In fact, people my age and experiences (or lack thereof) places me in the 1-in-1000 category. With the number of churches open and looking for pastors and the qualifications and expertise in each variable and different, it would take about 8 years to obtain a different pastorate and obtain that change of environment. The downside there is I would be 73 years of age and the church that would be willing to hire me would be one whose average age in near mine with no vision for the future and to cast a vision which mostly like would require changes would be rejected.

So, like Jesse, where I am now is my last hurrah and I get off the bus here, there is nowhere else to go.

What makes Jesse happen in his "dead-end" job are the people he works with - few though they may be - and the possibility of stirring the pot. I am no different than Jesse. I love my people and I can still try something new (albeit something that doesn't require change and a lot of effort to execute on the part of the people. I know there are a few things that people my age and older can and will do, even though it may not lead to a growth spurt in church attendance or participation.

In other words, I can stay where I am and merely stay busy forming plans that would make my people feel useful and happy in being a part of the plans. That is not easy, but it is stirring the pot. Jesse stirs the pot a few little things come up to occupy his mind, these little things turn his attention away from his boring environment and he has a success. When that happens, it becomes easy to move from despondency and despair, even though it may be temporary.

Three years ago, I personally went on a search for Jesse Stone. I wasn't looking for Tom Selleck, nor was I looking for someone with that name and background. I merely took a ten-day change of environment and went to Marblehead, Massachusetts (the place in which Robert B. Parker based the town of Paradise) and toured the various place that inspired the Jesse Stone series. Then I went to Nova Scotia, toured the places where filming of the movies took place. I toured the scene of the Paradise Police Department, the Paradise Townhall, some of the places in which crimes took place, the roads on which Selleck travelled and even went to the little red house used as home of Jesse Stone - remote and bucolic. I ate in some of the restaurants he ate in, walked the streets he walked, drove on the roads he drove and viewed the beautiful scenery that he would have viewed on a daily basis had he truly lived in Lunenburg, Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

I never found Jesse Stone, but I was able to put myself in his world and found that I could enjoy this change of environment that would take away my despondency and despair - at least for a little while. I took literally three hundred pictures as reminders and I look at those as a little bit an escape from things that would get me down. And, by looking at these pictures, I am reminded that although my life in many ways parallels that of a make-believe character, it does not have to be useless or depressing.

Windsor Baptist Church is my last stop. My hope and prayer is that this little church will bring happiness to its members and hope to those who have no church home. That there is peace in knowing that small and happy is not bad thing and it can alleviate depression.

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Blogging

Blogs are about the blogger. It's as if he or she merely toots their own horns about the things they do, say and love.

My life is boring. I read, I watch Glenn Beck and Mark Levin. I listen to Andrew Wilkow. I engage in some conversation with those who are willing to listen (they being masochistic and enjoy killing themselves with my banter).

I plan on just laying out the things that bother me and the things I love. Nothing in-between. I hope you find whatever I put here amusing.