319. Parking Tickets and Murder

So back on Pine Street I had on-street parking in front of my run down building, and I parked the old Ford Falcon there 95% of the time. However, one morning as I was coming home from work, some punk college commuter had wedged his/her little weasel vehicle into my semi-designated parking space, forcing me to park down the block  on a meter near Bruce’s up and coming restaurant. I was torqued off as a ghetto dweller could be. When you don’t have much and someone takes the little crumbs you do have, well, dang it, you need to hit something. I hit that meter with my empty hand as I pulled it out of my empty pocket. Not even a slim dime for the meter could I find. I stomped off indignantly and humiliated that I didn’t even have a dime. It’s much cooler to act angrily undignified, however, than to fall to your knees in front of a blank faced parking meter, crying “Why? Why?”

The next time I looked at my car, there was a $3.00 parking ticket under the wiper. Ahhhhh!!! Now I was bolt bustin’ mad!  I tore up the ticket and said to no one, “I’ll never pay this stupid ticket. I’m the victim here. The punk stole my spot and I get the ticket?  Ahhhhh!!! This is America. I am going full Liam Neeson, and I will find you and keel you, punk!!” It was a very dramatic though pathetic solo performance on the uneven brick sidewalk with crabgrass growing out of the joints. (I was nominated later for Best Public Jerk Wad Tornado Hissy Fit by a male at the prison talent show.)

Some time elapsed as I pouted in my wet emotional diaper, chafing at the cruelty and injustice of this world. A formal letter came from the City of Richmond, telling me that my $0.10 meter fee which had turned into a $3.00 ticket was now being billed at $25.00 plus court costs. I could appear in court at such and such a time on such and such a date if I wished to contest it, or I could simply concede and pay the $25.00.  I was rebar bending, steel girder grinding mad. I was going bankrupt over a stupid parking violation. I didn’t have $25.00 to pay the incentivized ticket, so I resolved to go to court and contest the whole thing.

About a week later I showed up in District Court and tried to educate the cranky old judge before me. He simply said, “Pay the ticket. There is nothing else to do. Add the court costs. Next.” I was numb and in shock. I was up to $77.50 in unpayable fines. If this had been a stock instead of a debt, I’d be rolling in the dough. I’d have run around town collecting these magic tickets to wealth. But it wasn’t and I wasn’t, because ‘FuzzyWuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy, was he?’ I hung my head down and shuffled to the cashier’s window. I told the guy there that I didn’t have any money and was unsure of what else I could do.

He told me, “Well, you can appeal it, basically roll the dice. If you win, no cost. If you lose, it’s double.”

“Heck, I can’t pay what I owe to begin with, so let’s go with double or nothing. So if I lose and can’t pay….?”

“Jail.”

“Lovely.”

The clerk filled out a form and I signed it, affirming I’d appear in a week to appeal my conviction to another judge.

A week later I realized while I was reading a textbook on Renaissance Art or Greek Philosophy that I was late for my appeal. I quickly tried to make myself look respectable. An impossible task on any day. I knew at least I should dress for jail. I chose tight and durable material that would send the right signals to hardened criminals when they asked me why I was in the slammer.

Image result for prison bully pictures

[“Yo, kid. How long? What for?”

“Sixty days. Parking violation.”

“That’s funny. You ought to try for the annual talent show. That’s some prime material there.”

I imagined my prison street cred would be solid from that point forward.]

I hopped on my bike and coasted to the court, unable to afford another parking violation, I was being ultra-cautious. I walked around naively hoping my legal fairy godmother would show up and cut me loose. I went from one official court person to another trying to find which courtroom my fate had been decided in. I also wondered about my bike being locked up to a utility pole for two months. Not likely to be there when I got out of the Big House.

Finally I was directed to Courtroom 3 where a trial was in process for a rape/attempted murder case. I was blown away that I was even allowed to spectate. It was pretty tough stuff going down in there. I knew something was off, but I was not going to get right back up and risk alienating, i.e., pissing off another judge. So I sat respectfully till there was a lull in the action. I quietly tip toed out of the courtroom and sought clarification from another clerk.

“Oh, yeah. The judge already dealt with your case first thing.”

“I was late due to a near death experience…”

“He threw it out.”

“What does that mean?” I asked, expecting that it meant I was going to be thrown out to the human wolves in the penitentiary.

“It means it’s legally done, over, cancelled, kapoot, nada, gone, dead, etc.”

“What about court costs, community service, probation, parole, restitution?”

“Kid, it’s done. You lucked out. How your parking ticket crap ended up on appeal ahead of a major felony is like fairy godmother stuff. Now get out of here, you lucky bastard!”

I was stunned by this mis-miscarriage of justice. I was released into society almost unscarred and maybe unrehabilitated. Suddenly my clothes felt too tight as I remembered I could breathe freely again. I wanted to break out in a victory dance right there, but I reconsidered I could be arrested for lewd and lascivious booty dancing in a government building. I wanted to be humbled by this stroke of luck, but I also wanted to get that parking spot punk thief and jack him up like Liam would…. “Don’t ever believe that this is over, Bucko.”

 Then again, maybe I should just swallow the humble pill. They only cost a dime.

 

 

 

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250. “Heck yes, I would!”

I don’t even know the precedent to this title, but I figured that I could comb through my thinning synapse farms and glean a memory or two where that line would fit as a response to a distant call. [In case you are wondering what a synapse farm looks like, it’s sort of like a catfish farm where fish swim through chutes and ladders and finally are selected for market by a dimwitted minimum wager with a net when they are plump and delicious, and exhibit just a tinge of orange around their gills.] Sort of like the Amazing Carnack routine of Johnny Carson, where he gave an answer to a sealed question and then opened the envelope and read it aloud for the punch line.  It’s harder than you might think to challenge yourself with such an open-ended gauntlet toss. You can wind up smacking yourself with the glove of challenge. You’ve heard of Russian roulette, yes? But have you heard of Russian bocce? Since it snows so much in Russia, they throw the polina ball straight up and pray it does not hit any of the players assembled below. And then they roll their balls at it as if playing horseshoes with bowling balls.

The line reminds somehow me of the terrible old joke from childhood that was told to me about the dance where the boy with a wooden eye worked up the nerve to ask the girl with the harelip to dance. When she responded excitedly, “Would I? Would I?” He could not help himself and yelled back, “Harelip! Harelip!” Why anyone would tell a kid this joke is beyond me, but somehow these cruel jokes filtered down to junior high kids who told them to elementary age kids, who lost some of their innocence in the process. Would you repeat such an awful joke? In a male-dominated neighborhood in the 1960’s, the answer “Heck yea, I would!” was a fairly common response to any challenge.

Across the Parkway lived Pat and Dougie Fontaine. Mean boys in a lower middle class community. Pat was older and in high school as I recall. He built himself a little putting green in his side yard, the Dorset Drive side. That was quite an accomplishment now that I think of it, and smelled of social climbing. Well, one day the prison road crew were working on the street just beyond the intersection of the Parkway and Dorset Drive. The prisoners watched Pat putt very self righteously while they sweated away picking at asphalt on a humid Virginia summer day. We younger boys were enthralled with these convicts and the one guard with a shotgun.

“Mister, is that loaded?”

“Wouldn’t be much good if it weren’t, kid. Wanna hold it?”

“Heck yes, I would!”  That did not happen. Laughter erupted in the gap between innocence and corruption.

One of the prisoners drew a bottle of chewing tobacco spit from the tailgate of the truck. He said to me, “Hey kid, you want to pour this prison juice into Arnold Palmer’s golf hole over there?”

“Heck yes, I would!”

I did and later on Pat beat my butt. Hey, I deserved it.  The prisoners got a kick out of the whole scene. I guess I got a literal kick out of it. I was destined for smart assery, I suppose.

We Hillians used to roam the woods near our neighborhood back in old Virginia Hills, which was situated between Kings Highway and Telegraph Road in Fairfax County, Virginia. 300 cookie cutter houses laid out on identical quarter acre lots. Those woods have all been plowed under and built upon, but back in the 1960’s they were wild and wooly. The eager young boys in my circle of friends just about lived in those woods, which may have preserved the little bit of sanity left to our stay at home mothers. “Go play”, they’d tell us, without any concern that we might wander literally miles in any direction. And we did wander with regularity. We caught lizards and turtles and snakes and toads and frogs and salamanders and crayfish and baby squirrels and birds and anything slower than we were. It was great suburban adventure to climb trees or have a little campfire wherever we chose.

Across from the Methodist church on Kings Highway was a dirt lane that ended at an old run down farm house from the 1930’s covered in clapboard that needed paint twenty years ago.  It could have been a set  piece for “To Kill A Mockingbird”. I don’t know the occupant’s name, but we had some tall tales about him being a drunk and a crazy man. It was quite a challenge to go down near his house where he had apple trees growing on either side of the lane. Now this may not seem too exciting to kids who play Call of Duty on X Box today, but back in the world of three dimensions this old cuss had a real shotgun with rock salt instead of lead, so the legend went. We knew about the dangers as we quietly snuck down the lane toward his apples, hearts pumping and adrenaline pulsing through our bored little suburban brains.

Now it wasn’t enough to simply slide in through the brush and the tall grass at dusk to snitch some apples in early fall or late summer. Someone always had to push the envelope and throw down a dare. I don’t know which kids dared which other kid. I just know that I was neither. I was along for the adventure not the record book. Anyway, let’s say Michael dared Steve to run up to the old man’s porch and knock while we ran to a safer distance to duly verify the completion of the dare. Steve ran like a bat out of Hell across the crumbling wooden porch and knocked rapidly on the old guy’s door as he also turned to run for his life. It was all in one fluid motion as my memory recorded it. Anyway, as we all held our collective breath, the old man came to his door, flung it open and began shooting some sort of gun at Steve as he scampered away like a zig-zagging jack rabbit through a briar patch. It’s amazing what adrenaline can do to ten year olds’ nervous systems.  When we finally got to a safe place on the other side of Kings Highway and lay on our bellies in the leafy carpet of the woods, we laughed and caught our breath again.

“Want to do it again?” (Not knowing life would wind up far less exciting.)

“Heck yes, I would.!”

 

208. Full Fool Throttle to Nowhere

I don’t think too long about where to start posts. I just go. Extraverts do this:  we get in the car and drive for about twenty minutes before we turn to our introverted spouses and ask, “Hey, by the way, where are we going?” Occasionally we just happen to be headed in the right direction; for instance, if we live at the end of a long dead end road that has no turns for fifty miles or so.  Efficiency is boring sometimes, well most of the time. Racing to a familiar place is too. This may explain why I feel no attraction to NASCAR races. They just go nowhere really fast. If all goes well for all the drivers, they don’t crash, and a couple of hours later they wind  up in the order they left…. Okay, I know there are strategies and fuel stops and tires and little adjustments along the way to nowhere. But the goal is still the same place they have passed 100 times or more while making a continuous left hand turn for a few hours of a chase scene.  I’m surprised there are not more neck injuries in the spectators from whipping their heads in circles for hours. Full fool throttle, yeah, it sounds cool for a movie title or an energy drink, but if you add the small print (to Nowhere), it loses something.

Charlie Sheen comes to mind. Geez, I wonder why. I don’t know if he’s asked anyone for directions in life yet. He’s full fool throttle alright, and there have been plenty of crashes and shoving matches throughout his volatile life in the double zero car.  To begin with, he drives against the traffic, like he’s a Brit driving in the right hand direction. Oh, Charlie!  You may have tiger blood, but  your neurotransmission fluid is a quart low. A pit stop is in order.  Adolescence is a high energy phase of life. It ends, though, does it not? In a crash or a victory lap or just later in the pack. But eventually adult faculties are supposed to take over.

I don’t need to go to NASCAR or Hollywood for another example. I can recall a former friend “Darvon”. He was a couple of years older. We went to the same high school and then college, but I did not meet him until college. Sort of wish I’d never met him. He was full tilt, fool throttle. I guess it was my sophomore year when we met. I was living with three other guys on Grace Street in Richmond. Second floor. I posted about blowing up the gas stove in post 8 However Explosively. “Darvon” was a frequent visitor to our place. He was devious and cruel in his humor. He liked to play mind games with folks and then pretend he knew nothing about the very trap he had laid. For instance, he once broke into a friend’s apartment and moved all the furniture into opposite rooms. Later he acted surprised when Cliff told the scary story.  His apartment was about a mile from ours. One night I let him borrow my car to save him the walk home. Just my luck, a guy who was wasted on drugs or alcohol ran into my car, crushing the left fender and seemingly ruining the hood. My car was considered a total loss and I received a whopping $360 check from my insurance company. Much later on, I succeeded in fixing the fender myself for an investment of $60 and my labor, netting $300, which was a huge windfall for me in those days– 1975 or so.

Streaking had been popular on college campuses, my grandchildren. It was usually done by drunk males at night through a crowd. It died off pretty quickly. One night “Darvon” and various other guys were hanging out at my apartment drinking alcohol of some sort or another. We talked about the streaking phenomenon and how it had come and gone. In the stupidity of sophomoric self indulgence we decided to bring it back. We meaning my roommates and “Darvon”. They ran across the street. Then down the block. Then a couple of blocks over past the home for retired nuns. I pray for their pardon today, but they may have made a nun’s night back then. Who knows?

Funny Nun Caught Smoking -

Well, “Darvon” was competitive and had to be the alpha dog. He decided to streak the governor’s mansion, that would be the governor of Virginia. Fool throttle.

The mansion was about a mile and a half east of where we were domiciled, but “Darvon” was jacked up and ready. He wore only socks and red high top Converse sneakers, a floppy Caucasian afro, and a demonic grin. I know that my roommate Bruce drove the pace car next to him; that was a green Buick Skylark he called “the green snake”. Not sure who  rode along. But there they were at 2 or 3 a.m. putting down Franklin Street toward the Virginia state buildings and the governor’s residence. It must have been an interesting procession under the orange mercury vapor streetlights, only missing the Olympic torch.

I stayed home fully clothed, as I had throughout all of the shenanigans. The boys said I was their conscience or babysitter, or something halfway in between. Anyway, a blind man could see what was coming. As they drove and “Darvon” ran triumphantly onto the grounds of the governor’s estate, armed guards appeared with flashlights and guns. “Darvon” was taken down. A search was not needed. Why on earth Bruce was not also arrested, I’ll never know. He was taken to the police station, though. The next day he brought home a blank incident report that he’d swiped. He filled that out with outrageous details which we kept as a souvenir of the evening. “Darvon” was given thirty days in jail, I believe. However, due to overcrowded conditions, he only served a few days and returned to college to continue his studies in antisocial behavior.

I’ll just stop  here. I think I have supported my odd topic like a jockstrap.