Friday, August 28, 2009

Creepy Phil - There's one near you.

PLACERVILLE, Calif. A woman who was snatched from a bus stop as an 11-year-old child in 1991 turned up Thursday after being held for the past 18 years in isolation in a backyard compound (above) by a convicted sex offender who fathered two children with her, police said.
I don't know about you (and never will) but when I'm driving or walking along the street, I look at the houses and wonder, "What's going on in there?"
Part of it is my instinctive curiosity and part of it is fueled by that scene in "Silence of the Lambs" when Agent Starling stumbles on Buffalo Bill's house, which is a seemingly innocuous suburban dwelling, but instead is the center of oddball behavior.
As it turns out, Jaycee Dugard and her two children were living there as prisoners, authorities say. The heavily wooded compound was arranged so that people could not view what was happening, and one of the buildings was sound-proofed and could only be opened from the outside.
Neighbors knew there were children living there. Damon Robinson has lived next door to the Garridos for more than three years and his then-girlfriend in 2006 told him she saw tents in the backyard and children.
His neighbors knew he was a registered sex offender. Kids on his block called him "Creepy Phil" and kept their distance. Parole agents and local law enforcement regularly visited his home and found nothing unusual, even after a neighbor complained children were living in a complex of tents in his backyard.
Tents in the backyard. You can see them in the photo above as little blue squares. Sure, the neighbors. I can't get away with playing my stereo too loud and this jackass fathers a family in tents in his backyard. That makes good nonsense. Neighbors reported the sounds of children playing, but neglected to report anything because they didn't want to get involved. Nobody wants to cause trouble. Or, if they did, it didn't do any good.
A neighbor called 911 in November 2006 and described Garrido as a psychotic sex addict who was living with children and had people staying in tents in his backyard.
The investigating officer spent a half-hour interviewing Garrido on his front porch but did not enter the house or search the backyard, Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren E. Rupf said. The deputy, who did not know Garrido was a registered sex offender even though the sheriff's department had the information, warned Garrido that the tents could be a code violation before leaving.
Well, a stern warning should take care of it.
"Hey, those tents are a code violation."
"OK. I don't want to violate any codes." God forbid the codes are violated.
"None of the children have ever been to school, they've never been to a doctor," El Dorado County Undersheriff Fred Kollar said. "They were kept in complete isolation in this compound, if you will."
Yes, I will. That's the part that confounds me. I'm not big on doctor visits, but in 18 years I've had 36 dentist check-ups, a few caps and fillings and at least ten trips to the doctor for some illness or other. How does one get away without seeing medical help for 18 years?
So here's the other end of the deal. If this nitwit could figure out how to keep a young girl captive for 18 years, don't you think that there's a sicko manual for such behavior? This guy isn't the Louis Pasteur of weirdos - it's some sort of thought-out systematic behavior of which he probably isn't the only practitioner.
The next time you're wandering around, checking out the neighborhood, maybe you too should wonder, "What's going on in there?"

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dying to get in.

BOSTON – Sen. Edward M. Kennedy began his final journey Thursday, first past landmark after landmark bearing his family's famous name and then to his slain brother's presidential library where mourners lined up by the thousands to bid farewell to him and an American political dynasty.
Crowds assembled along the 70-mile route that snaked from the family's compound in Hyannis Port to the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, where his body lay in repose.
We're funny with the dead. Funny strange, not funny ha-ha.
We trot them around, put them on display and, the more famous you are, the longer it takes. Often they wind up on trains or long car rides.
Most of the time we don't like dead bodies. The ones that lie in the street or wind up washed ashore are gross and disgusting, and we turn our heads - after we get a good look. But we seem to relish the opportunity to look at a body in repose. Bodies made-up with sticks inside and the blood drained out are somehow appealing and even some sort of social event where we invite people who knew the deceased so they can stand around and gawk at it too.
I wonder what the mourners get out of walking up to a flag-covered casket after waiting in line for a few hours. They say they're "saying goodbye" but I figure they're satisfying some inner feeling that has nothing to do with saying goodbye to someone who couldn't possibly know you're there.
Then, they'll put the box in a hole in the ground in a cemetery. I figure we'll eventually run out of room for cemeteries. They're already pretty much maxed-out at Arlington, and one wonders if they'll start stacking them at some point. At this stage in our development as a species, I'm surprised that we still box-up the dead and bury them. Some people buy those giant marble boxes and put the body in a little stone shed. That always seemed ostentatious to me.
I figure I'll die alone, so I'll need to plot-out my instructions so they don't screw up and bury me someplace. I don't take up much space in life, so why should I take up any in death? Burn me to bits and blow the ashes in the wind, back where I came from. No funerals or those morose viewings (visiting hours or whatever they're called) where the only people benefiting from it are the funeral homes. It all seems so pointless to me. Your well wishes do me no good after I'm dead.
But I'm funny that way.
Funny strange.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A child-proof blog post. Line up the arrows and pull.

When I was in college and I had a big exam or a paper to write, I'd go to the local library. However backed-up I was creatively or stymied by the material, I always found solace in the peace and quiet of the books and ceiling fans, away from the distractions of home.
My new creative outlet is the supermarket. It's almost as quiet, save for the occasional announcements of lost children or a pizza sale in the deli aisle. I find that I can wander, and as long as I have my hand cart and quizzical look I can stay there as long as I want. Nobody bothers me or asks, "Can I help you?" [an open-ended question if ever I've heard one] I can browse uninterrupted, alone with my thoughts, as insignificant as they may seem.
I needed aspirin. I get maybe three headaches a year, and every time I get one, I don't have any analgesic to take to alleviate the pain. What I notice when I open the package is that it's sealed as though it contained Plutonium.
There's a plastic wrap around the cap, an arrow with a groove to flip it open, then a foil seal on the bottle followed by a cotton ball to protect the pills from ... something. Child-proofing, I think they call it. A knee-jerk reaction to the Tylenol incident and a necessary (so they say) device to protect our children from the evils of aspirin and other over-the-counter pain relievers.
Meanwhile, I can open a bottle of vodka by merely twisting the cap.
Have at it kids.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Keep a lamp burning in the window for my wandering boy.

Police in Delaware found a 3 year-old boy wandering a busy Newark highway early on Tuesday. The kid was under the (alleged) care of the Little Scholars Center, whose sign proclaims "Where your childs lifetime learning begins."
Apparently, the child's learning will not include the proper use of the apostrophe. Something tells me the kids are smarter than the people running the joint. Child is possessive, which is a concept lost on the Center, where no building is big enough to hold them.
Maybe a better slogan for the center would be, "Your Child's Journey Begins With a Single Step - Out the Door and Into Traffic." Or, "Where Your Child's Lifetime Ends." Better. You'll find the story here.
In several ways I'm glad I'm not a single parent. I'm way too neurotic to leave my children with anyone who isn't directly related, and even then, I'm probably on the phone every five minutes asking, "Is he still breathing?"
But I'm old, and come from a time when one parent worked and the other stayed home and reared the child. When dinosaurs roamed the earth. Unless you're an elected official or in pornography it's impossible to bring up a child on one salary. Ironically, often a second income is used to help pay for the day care. Strange. What happens when two salaries isn't enough?
Meanwhile, let's take bets on how much longer the Little Scholars Day Care Center remains in business. Thursday?
Jiffy Lube is hiring.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Entering the gates of Hell.

I don't get many perks at work. Sure, my job is easy and I have a great boss, but the freebies usually go to the upper-level management types, which ain't me.
Wednesday's Air Show invitation was an oddity, but maybe a sign of things to come. Today, I was treated to a Luxury Box at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets for their game (we'll call it a game) against the defending World "f**king" Champion Phillies.
Here are some photos I took. I think clicking on them will make them bigger, which is more than I can say for a lot of things.
This is the main entrance to the ballpark, into something they call the Rotunda. The bricks where those loser Mets fans are standing contain the names of people who paid to help them pave the sidewalk, the latest trend in cheapskate architecture. The way the Mets are playing, I envisioned the namesakes at the ballpark under cover of darkness, prying their bricks out with a chisel.

Cliff Lee was on the mound for the Phillies against future minor leaguer Bobby Parnell. Guess who won?

This is the fisheye version of the view from my seat. I'm just below the press level and, from what I heard, above Jerry Seinfeld's suite. I'm guessing Jerry had the common sense to stay home.

This is the Empire level, near the entrance to the suite. Those are replica baseball cards of Mets greats hanging on the wall. There is a lot of empty space, but it sure is clean.

The view from inside the luxury suite. Number 220, for the record (as if there is one). Also, for the record, I did not leave the refrigerator door open.
They serve more food than 30 people could eat in three days. Thick burgers, fries, chicken fingers, pretzels, cookies and um ... beer. Lots of beer. Well, maybe not more beer than 30 people could drink in three days ... but a lot of food, to be sure. A lot of it was left over, and I'm hoping they took it to a homeless shelter and didn't just throw it out. If they want to throw something out, start with the Mets.

This is the left field concourse. It's open to the field like our ballpark in Philadelphia, but the overhang from the upper level makes the view a little narrow. It's also dark. I had to brighten the contrast a lot to show the detail.

There's a fake steel girder bridge-type thing in right-center field. A little like our Ashburn Alley, but WAY more commercialized. There are shops, a Verizon booth and a market. Really - a market, with produce and stuff. See a game, do your shopping. I suppose that's supposed to give "mom" something to do while the men are watching the game? However, since the Mets are more like store clerks than baseball players, it seems oddly appropriate.

In Philadelphia, the open spaces are dedicated to food. In New York, it's all about retail. I think that's a big difference between Philly and New York and why I like it here.

The view down the left field line. See what I mean about the narrow view? At least they have wide-screen hi-def TVs down there. Nothing but the best for a zillion dollars.

This is a giant ... um ... advertising board in left field that faces out to the parking area and I-278. There are more ads in this place than your average magazine - and that's a lot of ads. The field is littered with them and everywhere you go there's another ad for something else. Maybe they should advertise for some players, because the ones they have stink.
Part of the experience is the shopping aspect. In addition to the market, there are apparel shops and souvenir stands up the wazoo. According to the local radio, they're making three times the money here than they did at Shea. No wonder.

This is the interior of the Rotunda that I showed you from the outside. Around the walls there is a tribute to Jackie Robinson, which is nice, but I fail to see the relationship to the Mets.

This is the Rotunda from the Empire level looking down. Quotations are carved into the marble floor.
The one around the inside wall says, "A life is not important except for the impact it has on other lives." - Jackie Robinson.
The Rotunda is probably responsible for a huge chunk of the cost of the place. It's nice, though. It's a great focal point for fans starting their journey into Hell.

On the floor of the Rotunda is a big blue 42, which was Jackie Robinson's number, now retired by Major League baseball (except for Mariano Rivera). It's a spot for fans to stand to snap a souvenir photo. I had to sneak this one in between guests. Once again, isn't it clean?

I couldn't resist a parting shot from the box, with my Phillies World Champions hat in the foreground. A closer view will show the tons of advertising along the outfield wall and the deck levels of the seating area. Ryan Howard hit a home run into something they call the "Pepsi Deck" which is probably why Pepsi paid for it. But I fail to see the point. There are signs for GEICO, Xerox, Verizon, Subway and Bud Light among hundreds of others. I'm aware of all of those companies, and I wonder if they get any benefit from the money they spend.
Does seeing a Bud Light sign make one scream for a vendor? Probably no more than not seeing one, which is my point.
Anyway, a good time was had by all. The Phils won 6 to 2, taking 3 games of the four. The Mets are a woeful bunch, to be sure. Shame. I was looking forward to another late-season collapse, but they're about to be mathematically eliminated. The fat lady is clearing her throat.
I didn't see everything, and didn't venture into the many retail establishments. My walk around the concourse only took an inning or so. Since I had free food and a great view from the box I didn't want to spend too much time goofing around. It is definitely worth another trip, though, and for a baseball fan, a must-see ballpark.
Just try to ignore the home team, and if possible, don't pay to get in.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lucky for US...

... the Koreans weren't involved in the Solheim Cup. All the Americans had to do was beat the Europeans. If they had to beat that bunch from South Korea and Japan, God only knows what would have happened. So, teary-eyed sentiment was followed by the grim realization that made-up sporting events, while fun, are just that ... made up. Make the Solheim Cup a true Worldwide event and you'll be saying something.
Nevertheless, it was a gut check by Paula Creamer, Juli Inkster, Stanford, Wie and the rest to get out of Illinois with that big glass trophy. Nice going ladies. My jingoistic figurative hat is off to you.
Meanwhile, the Phils managed to end a game in a way that had only been done once in 82 years. An unassisted triple play. Future "where is he now" candidate Eric Bruntlett caught a line drive off the bat of Mets' outfielder Jeff Francouer, stepped on second and tagged the runner coming from first to complete the trifecta. That's why you don't start runners with a 3-2 count and nobody out.
On Monday, I'll be getting one of the rare percs of my job. I'll be in a luxury suite at the Mets new dump, Citi Field watching Cliff Lee mow down the hapless Metropolitans. I'll have to contain myself, since my hosts are Mets fans.
If I'm not here on Tuesday, you'll know what happened.