Friday, June 13, 2008

DUI Donkey: Film At Eleven

I've always enjoyed reading small regional newspapers. Whenever I travel, I make it a policy to hit a newsstand and pick up the local sheets and see what's going on in the community. If anything, it humbles me in remembering that not everything we are agonizing over in this town is of the slightest interest in other parts of the world. One autumn, I was leaving for Boston the morning of the Million Man March (MMM.) D.C. media had been speculating about "what's going to happen." Resurrection City Redux. Getting over to National Airport was a logistics nightmare. That night I turned on the news and the MMM was a blip on New England radar.

When I used to spend longer periods of time in London, I would leave via Dulles with some political issue raging for weeks, then hit W.H. Smith for the newspapers (and London has many,) and their big news was that some low-end grass (snitch) and his son in Hoxton had been run through a grinder, (including the little boy's teddy bear,) and whatever it was I had been hearing about in D.C., was two inches on page ten.

I subscribe to several small community newspapers in Massachusetts, and one of my favorite things to do is to read the weekly crime reports. There's always been a lot of DUI in these places; where the teenagers are intent on wrapping themselves around the unyielding trees of Route 6A. In the past ten years, my feeling is that crime has increased there, and I'm reading more about stolen iPods and GPS systems out of cars. For the longest time (but not anymore) the locals would tease me about locking my house door, or car door, and I always responded in pragmatic city girl tones that I had been securing these things all of my life. Why would I break the habit just because I'm in an allegedly safer environment? Bad behavior crops up anywhere.

One thing I learned over time in becoming part of a smaller community is that I can't disappear as easily in the city, and things that happen to people hit the chatter circuit with a rapidity that would put Google to shame. You have one too many drinks, you fall off the stool in Bobby Byrne's Pub, and the next day everyone knows it. Not only do they learn what occurred with lightning speed, but then that incident becomes part of your history. A bad deportment mark in second grade can follow you a lifetime.

You learn to be circumspect in discussing your personal business, and in what you say of others. Complain about a cashier at the Stop N' Shop while getting your nails done and the next thing you learn is you just told her cousin. The bar stool incident happened to the woman who does my hair. She told me this story and added that 1) if she's drinking, it's at home now; and 2) she doesn't have any close female friends because of this pervasive small town gossip circuit. Even though she told me the story herself? I heard it from others. "Who does your hair? Oh. She fell off a barstool in Bobby Byrne's Pub." We'll put this aspect of small town life in the "con" column.

I was reading last week's crime reports and I wish I could tell you it was abnormally off up there, but these are pretty much what you see when you read the news. I'm leaving out the bulk of the drunks and smash-ups and abuse and giving you some of my favorites:

...And One For The Road

M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Donkeys)

A forty-year old donkey was hit on 6A, near it's owner at Loring's Farm, when a man came upon the donkey at 12:35 AM. The donkey was standing in the middle of the road, and the driver was unable to stop in time. The driver was uninjured, but his car suffered extensive damage, and the donkey died on site. No citations were issued. (I would add--I know this farm and the road is Route 6A (oldest road in the country I think.) It's a twisty, turny narrow two lane country road. When you're out there at midnight it is dark, dark, dark, and you are always seeing critters run in front of the car. I saw a horse out once on Route 149 and chased it off the road, then went to the general store a few yards down to have the shopkeeper call the owner. That's another thing about small towns. You know whose horse it is.)

A resident at Lakewood Drive called the police at 9:57 PM to report a suspicious vehicle parked in front of her home. Police determined it was a Domino's Pizza delivery man. ("Put your hot pack down and step away from the vehicle." Knowing how things can go up there...she probably called in for pizza.)

A resident called police at 3:53 PM to report children throwing rocks at the old freezer plant (which they are tearing down, I might add.) Police found that it was not children, but the security guards who were throwing rocks.

A resident of Greenville Drive called police at 4:50 PM to report a $600 table saw had been taken from his back yard. The resident called the police back a second time to report that his wife had brought the saw inside the house the night before and it had not been stolen.

A resident of North Shore Boulevard called police at 10:23 PM to report 50 to 60 youths drinking alcohol, urinating in the sand dunes and having bonfires. Six police were dispatched to the area, but the group had fled. The fire department extinguished the bonfires. (This road is a dirt road running parallel to a large body of water in a beach community. So much for Having A Wild Weekend.)

A resident of Pondview Drive called police at 3:45 AM to report there was a group of youths playing basketball at the courts. Police spoke to the youths who agreed to go home for the night. (Don't you love it. Playin' some hoops at 4 AM. I guess it wasn't a school night.)

A resident from Shore Drive walked into the police station at 9:29 AM to report being assaulted by his roommate. The victim told police that he got into a altercation with his roommate because he drank his milk. During the altercation, his roommate bit him on the arm.

A shop owner at Merchant's Square called police at 11:14 AM to report a woman was lying on the sidewalk staring at the sky. When police approached the woman and asked her to get up, she reported she was sunbathing.

A driver called police at 2:15 AM to report a strange vehicle parked out in front of a store on Route 6A. Police determined it was a newspaper delivery man. (It is not easy making a living up there, I'll tell ya. Pizzas. Newspapers.)

I saved my favorite for last:

A resident from Tupper Avenue called police at 7:46 AM to report that her vehicle had been egged and also covered with yogurt and bologna. There was no other damage done to the car.

I think it's the bologna that did me in.

Now I'll tell you how I must have wound up in this newspaper last fall.

The Red Sox were playing for the Series, and the last game they played in Boston, fever was high. I saw banners all over town, and everywhere you went, that was the topic du jour. One night I was sitting in my house out by the water and heard a flare go off. A very distinctive popping sound. I saw the glare shoot across the water, and my first thought was "there's a boat in distress." Given as how I look out to where the big ships come in off the ocean, I had a long view to the horizon. The full moon gave me lots of light on the water, but I couldn't see anything of note. I hedged calling the police, but did it anyway. They asked me to go out on my upper deck with binoculars to look again. They also speculated if I should call the Coast Guard. We left it at that.

A short while later, another flare went off. Same thing. I called the police, checked outside trying to see if there was anything unusual. By the third time I asked the desk police, "Do you think it's possible some nitwit is shooting flares off his deck over the water every time the Sox score a hit?" He laughed and said, "Oh yeah. That could be it." We left it at that with me to check back if it happened again. By the end of the game, and many flares later (and, no, I didn't call back,) it was obvious that was it: celebration for the home team. What I didn't realize then, and now do, is that somewhere in this newspaper crime report archive is:

A resident called in at 8:12 PM, 9:34 PM and 10:05 PM to report flares going off in the vicinity of the Bay. Resident was asked to determine if a boat was in distress. Speculation is that there was neighborhood alcohol consumption and dune urination throughout the night. We're #1! We're #1!

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Blogger Gilahi said...

I moved from the Atlanta area to Cary, NC, in 1984. "The Cary News" was the local weekly. After a couple of weeks, I saw a screaming headline in the paperbox at the local convenience store that said, "WOMAN FINDS FAMILY OF RACCOONS LIVING IN CHIMNEY". I decided that I just HAD to subscribe to this paper. It seldom let me down.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My (former) hometown paper used to print the "Socials" section. It reported on events such as "Mrs. X welcomed her grandaughter to her home last Sunday for a birthday party." The editorials were inevitably so far to the right, I was amazed they didn't fall off the page.

-- grince

1:08 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Gilahi: I remember reading things in rural Ohio papers about the man who went hunting, fell out of a tree and shot himself, then his body was found where he had crawled back out to the road, or the Sheriff in a fight with a local and running over said local with his truck.

I used to get London papers that covered small areas in North London like the Hornsey Journal and they would have a pedophile case, or grave robbing, and list the person's name and address. I thought "Those blocks would be interesting to pop in on." Roses in the yard, "Shangri-La" on the gate post and some charred ruin mid-block, still smoking.

Kathy: I know. It's sweet, really. I've seen papers like that where they talk about four women going out for lunch, where, what they ate. It's the small town equivalent of the Britney Spears crotch shot. "Oh. So Ethel and the girls were at the Hilltop Inn for the chicken a la king special."

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

I used to like to read the crime blotter here in Baghdad By The Bay, one entry read that "a woman was forced into a car at 2:30 am at the corner of Broadway&Kearny, taken to a man's apartment where she was forced to do the dishes." Can ya hear it ? "Momma git yo ass home and rattle those pots and pans!" Big cities are like small towns, I can never hide out here in The City That Waits To Die, I always run into somebody from Church, they ask in a round-a-bout manner if I'm still married, are my kids on drugs, am I still working, drunk again, or turned gay... at least they have my best interests and highest aspirations at the heart of their concern.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Dave: What do you expect living in a city where gay men lounge in the public parks in jock straps. You're Mr. Rainbow Free, Hon. Go to that diner you told me about and have some coffee and pie.

P.S. Come back to D.C. where your friends will take you to Pigtown and you can eat crabs.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

My small town isn't a small town anymore, but I do find enjoyment in the next best thing: the neighborhood "cop watch".

This primarily consists of neighbors accusing innocent people who wander into our neighborhood of being potential thieves, rapists, pedophiles, and ne'er-do-wells.

Work for the power company and come to repair a transformer? You are a burglar casing the neighborhood in your suspicious van (marked or not).

Lost your dog? A sex-deviant trying to lure women and children into your car by asking if anyone's seen this "missing" dog.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Phil: My neighbors glare at anyone on their street. Welcome to the block. No stoop sittin' or watermelon seed spittin' going on here. Lock and load.

10:57 PM  
Blogger dennis said...

Dennis liked the fact that you're famous in the newspaper for being the resident who called about the flares.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Dennis: When I return there, I'll have to visit the newspaper archives in a library and see if it's posted, since they're obviously reporting every crackpot call that comes in.

9:49 AM  
Blogger d. chedwick said...

I think you should always make a"concerned" call whenever you're there, and save your clippings!
That rustling noise you thought you might have heard? that little creaky noise. Could be something. You never know.

9:34 AM  
Blogger d. chedwick said...

Ps start each call with the words "I am not a crackpot, but..."

9:35 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

Yes, would it kill you to throw in a Bigfoot sighting every now and then?

10:25 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Brilliant as always Ms. Cube!

When I lived in the tiny village of S. Lake Tahoe, California, there was nowhere I could go and be anonymous. Sometimes my roommate and I would drive to Reno so we could have dinner in a restaurant where we didn't recognize anyone. That's an act of desperation!

I was co-editor of the Tahoe Reader, a monthly rag full of goofy reports, some of which were true, some of which we made up to fill in the empty space.

As Connie Soeur, I was also the restaurant reviewer (such as there are restaurants to review at Lake Tahoe.

I loved my years there in that small community. And, too, it was great to move to San Francisco where I could once again walk down the street, absolutely invisible.

GREAT post! Makes me want to light a flare and send it flying over Lincoln Park.

9:08 AM  
Blogger cuff said...

I used to read the Daily Collegian's Police Log religiously for the banal crimes that often involved getting too drunk and showing up naked at UniMart trying to buy hot dogs.

I grew up in a small town, and what you say is true: you can't disappear very well, and news travels like lightning.

11:21 AM  
Blogger d. chedwick said...

re-reading this and the comments--this is why I love nyc, I grew up in Brooklyn, with more than a thousand people on my block--I think I knew 12 families at most. but also I'd spend a lot of time in an Irish village pop. 400 and boy, every single person knew every detail about me --freaky once I realized it-- they knew everything. it was all good really, since you knew right off the bat who wanted to be pals and hang out, and who didn't.

8:30 PM  
Blogger d. chedwick said...

where you been? On vacation somewhere on a breezy beach>

11:13 AM  
Blogger A Beautiful Mind said...

Gotta love small towns and their newspapers. One of my favorites is My Backyard which seems to be all good news all the time. i find it quite refreshing. If you'd like to check it out:

10:21 AM  
Blogger edward said...

i'm new here.


1:27 PM  
Blogger Pigtown-Design said...

I swear, the thing i miss most about life in the UK is sitting down on sundays with all of the fabulous papers and plowing through them with my housemate and then discussing the articles.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

When you’re looking at nothing but numbers, a numerical field painting of sorts, an interesting thing happens in your brain. Its numerical center hums into operation, while the verbal and linguistic center shuts down. But the thing is, because you’re looking at numbers but not doing anything with them, your brain is essentially in the idle mode, and hence the relaxation. A very strange thing. And it always worked. There’s that urban legend about painting prison cells pink to lower the rate of aggression in inmates. They should actually use pi wallpaper.


3:41 AM  

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