(The Kevin Carroll Literary Blog)

Because life isn't always fairways, greens and tap-in putts. The more interesting challenges and responses are the ones which take place in its hazards and from the rough.


"NCIS" is billed as America’s top-rated TV show. It is currently in its 11th season and re-runs air most of the week. Within the crime procedural plot lines are life lessons, though. The following are some of the things I have learned from watching "NCIS," from the humorous to the serious (all quoted material is taken from dialogue in the show).

1. If a good-looking woman invites you to have corned beef sandwiches and beers with her, chances are she’s a guy. At least it was for Tony Dinozzo, who didn’t find out what, apart from a gun in a purse, she was “packing” until after he tongue-kissed “her.’

2. Do not open scented, S.W.A.K. letters from strangers. Tony did and instead of an invitation for an assignation got the pneumonic plague.

3. Forensics is even cooler when performed by a hot, Goth girl.

4. Sometimes the good Catholic girl ends up on the wall - of a Panama City bar Wet Tee Shirt Hall of Fame.

5. Military transports are rough flying, especially for women. You have to pee into a plastic bag because there are no bathrooms.

6. Tea bags merely contain “ground up tea dust.” Instead, steep tea leaves in boiling water. Taste the tea, not the paper. (That last admonition comes from “NCIS: LOS ANGELES”.)

7. Gibbs Rule No. 23: “Never mess with a Marine’s coffee if you want to live.” (Or mine, for that matter, especially in the morning.)

8. Apples and crackers help ease mal de mer.

9. When someone dies on a submarine they put the body in the freezer and the Skipper orders the crew to eat all the ice cream before it melts.

10. Gibbs Rule No. 9, “Never Go Anywhere Without A Knife,” is actually pretty handy. Except it needs a 9(A): You’re not an agent, you don’t have a badge to flash, so don’t bring a knife to a government building or the airport. (Or to a gun fight, but that’s from “The Untouchables”.)

11. Government agencies don’t play well with others, don’t want anyone else in their sandbox. Of course, we knew that from the lack of inter-agency cooperation and exchange of information in the lead-up to 9/11.

12. Every now and then we all need a smack upside the back of the head to get us back on point, re-focussed.

13. Someone who is divorced from your ex-wife can become your best friend. You have so much in common.

14. For Women: If you remind him even only a little bit of his murdered first wife you have no shot at truly capturing his heart.

15. Having a father who is both manipulative and abandoning can result in the daughter having terrible taste in men. (See, Ziva.)

16. It’s not a bad thing to have a retired, close friend mentor living in Mexico. That way, when things get too crazy, you can take a trip, maybe even a sabbatical, to drink some cervezas, chase some senioritas, or just have a much needed siesta.

17. There are dangerous, crazy and/or evil people out there: criminals, terrorists, cleaning out the bank accounts before leaving you ex-spouses.

18. It’s always good to keep people guessing. For Gibbs, it’s everyone wondering how he gets the boats he builds by hand out of the basement. For the rest of us who perhaps aren’t so working with our hands handy, just find something to do which creates some mystery about you.

19. Always be on the look-out for good people to add to your team, to bring into your life. Gibbs Rule No. 23: “You don’t waste good.”

20. Sometimes you get lucky and tragedy occurs on someone else’s watch. Don’t beat yourself up over what might have been, over life’s unfairness in its randomness.

21. Just because you come from a dysfunctional one doesn’t mean you can’t still have a family. You just have to create one from and with the friends who have become closer and dearer than the purely by accident of birth blood relations.

22. It helps to have someone “watching your Six.” Not just when chasing criminals and terrorists but when confronted by angry ex-wives.

23. You will make mistakes. When you discover that you have screwed up, do everything you can to make it right even if doing so likely still won’t be enough for you to be forgiven. Then let it go.

24. Gibbs Rule No. 18: “It Is Better To Ask For Forgiveness Than Ask Permission.” You should heed your instincts, follow your gut, and take risks because most people will try to rein you in, limit you, because they aren’t as free-thinking and adventurous as you. Although occasionally you gut instinct will lead you awry. Hence the asking for forgiveness part of the Rule. Just don”t be wrong too often or you’ll be taking your gut and instincts to another job or relationship.

25. Gibbs Rule No. 42: “Don’t Ever Accept An Apology From Someone That Just Sucker-Punched You.” While we are taught to be forgiving and accept apologies, anyone who sucker-punches you is inherently untrustworthy and will try to take advantage of you again if you let them.

26. Gibbs Rule No. 36: “If It Feels Like You’re Being Played, You Probably Are.” A good one to remember for all kinds of situations and relationships.

27. “You can’t save them all. Sometimes you have to pick one …Focus on the ones you can save.” (Tony to someone he saved from a burning building when that guy was a child about being unable to save his sister, too.) In doing so, you can make a difference even if it’s only in one person’s life.

28. “Do not let anyone tell you when it’s time to move on.” (Ziva, on grieving and coping.) All of us have, or will, suffer the death of a loved one. It is part of life. Each of us must grieve in our own way. Each must heal at his or her own pace, come to terms with the aching absence in our own time and place. Give those who are grieving some space.

29. There have been two Gibbs Rule No. 1 (the writers and producers failed on continuity on that one). The first Rule No. 1 to be introduced was a boring crime investigation one with no broader application so I’ve chosen to ignore it. Instead, I have opted for the second one as the proper Rule No. 1: “Never Screw Over Your Partner.” A good Rule to live by, be it in personal relationships or business.

30. It is good to make lists, from your life experiences (a/k/a “mistakes”) create Rules. The most important one of Gibbs Rules to learn and always remember is Rule No. 51:





I had my suspicions about you

Even before the package pics,

Such a narcissistic personality,

You’ve always been an egotist.

You thought you were god’s gift

To Congress, the City, the Earth,

Thought you were bullet-proof,

That you could treat people like dirt.

Somehow convinced yourself

That you were oh so hot,

Now you’ll get to wallow in all

You’ll forever have and be not.

You thought you were entitled,

Could get away with being crass,

All you did was toss away a career,

Consigned it to the trash in a flash.

Everyone around you is saying

That you’re now so out of luck, 

We’re not letting ourselves be dragged 

Down into your self-inflicted muck.

When all the laughter dies away

It will not end up in sorrow,

No one will take pity on you,

There will be no more tomorrows

Time to take up residence in that

Vast unmarked political grave,

The one in which politicians are interred

When a mess of their lives they have made.