Friday, February 14, 2003

Brushes With Mayhem, Part the Second,
Or,
Hey! There's an ATF Agent in My Den!


One year after the Summer of Police Protection, the soon-to-be-hublet and I were finishing up our degrees and working at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore to help with expenses. The big exciting Raleigh news event that summer was the attempted murder-by-mail-bomb of a female BTI employee, which served to remind everyone about the Oklahoma City bombing, and brought the usual complaints about our store stocking The Anarchist's Cookbook. Incidentally, we had moved that volume behind the register after Oklahoma City, in response to those same complaints.

I was coming home from work one day about a week after the BTI bombing, and as I got ready to turn into my apartment complex I noticed an abandoned car at the bottom of the driveway. Something about the vehicle made me think "unmarked police car," but I didn't pay any more attention than that. So I pulled into my parking space, hopped out of the car, checked my mail, and opened my door, expecting my fiance' to be there.

He was there all right, along with two ATF agents complete with guns and those blue nylon "Hey! We're ATF agents!" jackets they wear. I took in the scene, said "hi," and retired to the bedroom to quiet Gertie, the barking wonder. About thirty minutes later, they left, and I wandered out to politely inquire of my fiance why he was being questioned by federal agents.

Turns out that he had sold the BTI bombing suspect a copy of The Anarchist's Cookbook, and furthermore, he was able to pick the guy out of a set of photographs. Long story short, the bomber had come to the counter, asked hublet for a copy of TAC, and made small talk while he looked it over. He then purchased it from hublet, pretty much guaranteeing he would be remembered. Then, he left the book and the receipt in his basement, which his wife remembered seeing after she got out of the hospital. Did I mention his wife was the victim? Well, she was. Lost two fingers and the thumb on her left hand, but all things considered, she was pretty lucky.

About 6 months later, hublet and I got a free night's stay in Wilmington while he testified at the trial. I talked to some of the other witnesses for the prosecution while we waited, and it turned out that this guy did something memorable or stupid at every store he went to. The lady from Home Depot who sold him the pipe he used for the bomb remembered him because he was talking so much; he had recently upped the wife's insurance policy to $250,000--the list went on. Frankly, all I could think of was, "He was gonna kill his wife for a measly $250,000? Chump. That won't even get you 4 bedrooms in Raleigh!" But I digress.

The next summer was the last in our trifecta of Mayhem--Hurricane Fran hit. After that, I decided that maybe a house would be a good investment. Preferably somewhere a little bit out of the way of tangentally related criminal activity or natural disasters...so we moved. And I'm happy to report that neither the ATF, Raleigh PD, or FEMA have shown up at my door since then.
Best. Valentine. Ever.

From my pal, this lovely ode:

Four years.
Can you believe
we've been together that long?
It's hard to even remember
what things were like before you.
All I know for sure is
I had a lot more room for pizzas and ice cream.
And look at you.
You haven't aged a day.
And your make-up is still perfect.
I love you, head in my freezer.
All Hail the Mighty Talbert!

This man is an idiot. He's going to be successfully sued, and Shaw University will probably suffer for it. Read about his funny ideas concerning free speech and the importance of staff "loyalty" here and here. Now that he's finally stepped down, perhaps they could send him to work for Robert Mugabe. Sounds like they have similar ideas concerning freedom.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Brushes with Mayhem

All this duct tapin', water buyin', orange alertin' stuff has made me reflect upon my own brushes with mayhem, and because it's my blog, I'm gonna share. Plus, I'm not in the mood for the stupid just now--somebody opened the floodgates yesterday, and I simply cannot process that much idiocy. So for your reading enjoyment, Part 1 of Brushes With Mayhem, or, "How far are we from Central Prison, Again?"

Graduate school marked my first foray into independent living. I was fortunate enough to move to Raleigh before the giant mid-nineties boom, so I was able to procure a 900 square foot one bedroom apartment in a decent, convenient location for $400 a month. Yeah, I'm old. And?

Anyway, my apartment complex was a good mix of graduate students and professionals--pretty peaceful, especially after the woman I affectionately referred to as Rodan moved out as my upstairs neighbor and a young married grad student couple moved in. It was a dog-oriented complex, so we all knew one another by dog names--oh, look! It's Maggie's mom! The new upstairs neighbors had a sweet but high strung dalmation who loved nothing more than to sit on my grumpy weiner beagle's head. Gertie (the weiner beagle in question) hated this dog with a passion, and we (the neighbors and I) would just stand around and laugh as the small brown curmudgeon tried to kill the gangly dalmation. All I knew about them was that she was from Iowa originally, and that he liked to skateboard and mountain bike. A lot.

So imagine my surprise as one fine summer afternoon I exit my car and stop at the mailboxes mounted on the wall of the entryway (it was all open air) to my building, only to notice two large men in dark suits sprinting toward me. I remember thinking, "Oh dear, this can't be good," because there was no way I could get to my door--which was about 5 feet away--and unlock it before they reached me. So I just decided to be nonchalant, and moved toward my apartment.

"Are you Wendy?" the shorter of the men asked when they got to where I was standing. "They told us that Wendy had brown hair and a dog." They must have heard Gertie barking through the door. Gertie was always barking. Still is, nine years later. Stupid dog.

"Um, no." It was then that I noticed the badges and sidearms. "Are you with the police?"

"Yes ma'am." They showed their badges and introduced themselves. "Does she live in this building?"

"Yeah, she lives upstairs, but probably won't be home for a few hours yet."

They thanked me, and returned to their unmarked car to wait. Later, I heard my neighbors return home, and shortly thereafter, two pairs of footsteps heading upstairs, a muffled knocking, and then voices. That evening, I was walking Gertie when I ran into my next door neighbor (who had an old, fat Cocker Spaniel that Gertie also hated. Detecting a theme here?) My next door neighbor always knew what was going on. I think she had the place bugged.

"So what's up with Wendy?" I asked. It turned out that her dad had just escaped from prison. NC Central prison, which was located about 3 miles from where we were living. And, oh, here's the kicker--Wendy's testimony sent him to jail, and he had vowed to kill her and her sister if he ever got out. So she--and we--were to be under police protection until they got the guy.

The irony was that Wendy's dad had no idea she was living in Raleigh. He headed out to Iowa, in fact, and Wendy told us later that her grandmother (his mom) had tried to find out where she was living--obviously to help with the "family reunion."

It took the cops about a month to track the fellow down. In the meantime, we moved a charcoal grill out to the parking lot and had impromptu cookouts with the detail assigned to our building. Once or twice the officers went charging around the underbrush near the apartment--guess they thought they saw something--but he never showed up, and was finally nabbed in Florida at his mom's house. Obviously, he wasn't too clever.

I never asked if he found out that Wendy had been less than 5 miles from him all along--she and her husband moved soon after her ordeal. It seemed like a random event, an interesting story to tell folks when making small talk. I mean, how many people have you known who were actually under police protection? I figured it would make a fun anecdote. Little did I know, the following summer would prove even more bizarre.

Next time, on Brushes With Mayhem: "Hey! There's an ATF Agent in My Den!"

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

The Grandmother's Script

Here is a list of phrases to keep on hand in the event that you become a grandmother. Because contrary to what you may think, your paranoia level ratchets up to about a million when you reach that stage of life, and you completely forget that you allowed your offspring to leave the house without a suit of armor.

"Are you sure he's warm enough?"
"Why is he crying? Did he get enough to eat?"
"No, I think he's (insert one: tired, hungry, wet, sick). Give him here."
"Is that water too hot?"
"Is that water too cold?"
"There's a draft in here, I feel it."
"I think he needs a hat."
"His little feet are cold!"
"He'll break his neck doing that."
"He's going to break his neck!"
"Why isn't he eating?"
"His room seems chilly."
"Don't let him play with that!"
"Zip his jacket all the way up. And here's a hat."
"I don't think he got enough at dinner."
"Don't get water in his ears! He'll get an infection!"
"Look out! He's going to break his neck racing around like that."
"Watch his head/arms/legs/body/face/other random part!"
"His little hands are like ice."
"Be careful!"
"Don't let him near the dog!"
"Get him away from the cat!"
"I think he's allergic to those animals of yours."

To grandmothers everywhere, and I say this with love: On behalf of me and my overfull, overheated, surrounded by pillows and safety gear toddler, thank you for your concern. You'll find the Valium on the counter. Feel free to help yourself. He'll be driving in about 15 years, and you should probably start preparing yourself now.
Saw Sneak Preview of Daredevil

Eh. That's all. Just, eh. Maybe I'm too jaded by the whole angsty vigilante comic book thing now. Had some good moments--Michael Clarke Duncan was a nicely understated Kingpin, but still, overall, eh. It was free, though, so I'm not complaining. And the extended preview of X2 was very exciting. Deathstrike looks good, and at least from the preview, Halle Berry doesn't seem as stilted this go 'round.

Geek announcement endeth here. Now back to your regular programming, already in progress.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Yeah, You Heard Right. We're Willing to be Slightly Inconvenienced for Peace.

This article made me laugh out loud; unfortunately, I doubt that was the writer's intent. Fave quote:

"We want to provide a visible statement to people that there are folks who are willing to inconvenience their lives in some ways in response to the way that the lives of so many other people have been inconvenienced," said junior Dave Allen, one of the event organizers.

Yep, that pesky war surely does inconvenience people. Way to show solidarity through braving mild irritations! Hee! I could launch into a doomsaying tirade about the youth of America, but the endorphins from the laugh attack have mellowed me out too much. Hee!
Because I Have a Sadistic Streak

I give you this little exercise in "poetry" from the Poets Against the War site. Come, join the fun, as Tightly Wound presents: Poetry Corner!

Ari Fleischer the President's spokesman says all Americans need to watch what they say

it's easy for George W. to watch
when Ari is speaking for him

and for Ari it's easy to watch because
it's on the news later

but fulfilling this need
is harder for me

I devised a rearview speech mirror
and affixed it to my skull

but no one wanted to talk with me
while I watched what I said

in despair I abandoned the act of speech
and devoted myself to a life of text

I wrote: The President's appointment was illegal.
and watched

I wrote: Wilfully causing the death of others is the supreme failure of the human species.
and watched

Ari, as my fellow American
I am watching what you say too

so far I haven't spotted
anything new

Anyone up for a round of scansion? I'll give you a cookie! And people wonder why students rate poetry lowest of all the literary forms they study. Note trite e.e.cummings "look how cool I am! I don't have to punctuate!" affectation, which lends that air of intellectual gravitas to a poem that basically regurgitates Commandments 1 and 2 of the Indymedia Bible. Yeah, I'm moved. Wow, before I read this poem, I had no idea that there was controversy over the 2000 election! Thank you, brave poet! And watch your back--I'm sure that Ari Fleischer has your house bugged, what with you being a fearless dissident artist and all.

Laura Bush should probably reconsider rescheduling that poetry symposium, for the simple fact that no one attending it would be able to recognize poetry if it bit them. Hard.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Paging Irony...Irony, Please Dial 11

From the Corner, this little blurb about Martha Burk and her opinions on Augusta. Let me make this perfectly clear, in case any of you were wondering: I think that perhaps feminism, if it's serious about making the world a wonderful place for women, might be better served by spending less time whining about a country club and more time focusing on issues like, oh, I don't know, forced prostitution and slavery, genital mutilation, and regimes that brutally oppress women. Just a suggestion. But that's not my main point, this quote from Miss Thang is:

"It is because, when men get together, denigrating women is often a part of the social interaction. When women get together, denigrating men is rarely done. It's just not even on the radar screen. Even among the so-called strident feminists of the women's movement. We don't have anything to hide in that way, and men seem to."

Okay, now aside from the obvious fact that this is a lie if you live on this planet and have ever had any relationship whatsoever with the opposite sex, and that it presupposes omniscience on the part of Ms. Burk (unless she spends a lot of time in drag, eavesdropping on men's private conversations), it also--drumroll please--denigrates men by assuming that their motives are commonly base, sinister, and hidden.

Oh, hello irony! How are you today? Care for a cup of coffee while we discuss a moron? Nah, me neither.