Saturday, August 31, 2013

Earthly Treasures

A friend recently sent me a unique news story out of Las Vegas. On June 27, homeowner Terence Delucia received a 6:20 AM visit from a couple of Mormon missionaries. After gaining access to Mr. Delucia’s home, they briefly discussed salvation before beating him at gunpoint and demanding to know where he kept his valuables. They absconded from his home with $3,000 in cash, three iPads, and one iPod. 

The suspects, described as one white male and one black male between the ages of 22-28, apparently dress in the white shirt / black trousers combo often associated with the door-to-door mission work of the Mormon church in order to gain access to people’s homes. Authorities do not believe they are affiliated in any way with Mormonism and have issued a reward for information leading to their capture.
The Suspects
I find myself somewhat conflicted when I hear something like this because while I detest aggravated robbery, it is refreshing to see budding young criminals put some thought into their craft. Any degenerate can pistol whip a homeowner, but it takes aptitude to do so while successfully impersonating a member of the LDS church. Keep in mind, these enterprising future inmates were on the job wearing neckties at 6:00 AM on a Thursday. I consider myself an upstanding citizen and I have never been that well-dressed that early in the morning.  

I also thought it was nice that they continued the charade for several minutes before relieving Mr. Delucia of his liquid assets and Apple devices. I wonder how they worked that transition:

Hello sir, my name is Brad and this is my associate David and we would like to take a few minutes of your time to discuss eternity. May I ask your name?

Terence Delucia.

Mr. Delucia, where would a man like you store his “treasures”?

Well, I suppose the scripture tells us that a man’s treasure is in heaven but I must admit that I am as guil….

Yeah that’s great (producing handgun) how about you point me in the direction of your Earthly treasures before my companion helps you locate some blood in your urine.

I also found a silver lining in the ethnicity of the suspects. In the wake of the George Zimmerman trial, it is reassuring to see racial harmony and cooperation even if it is within the context of felony assault. While the media would have us believe that distrust between Caucasians and African-Americans is steadily increasing, we should allow these two young men to remind us that given a common purpose we can still overcome the petty differences that threaten to tear us apart.

I do feel sorry for Mr. Delucia. Not only does he get worked over by a couple of thugs, it appears he was actually open to the idea of spiritual intervention. After all, why else would he agree to open his home for a pair of unannounced visitors that early in the morning? Now he may never again have an opportunity to discuss the ultimate fate of his soul because of this traumatic experience. Just the sound of an alter call or the sight of  BYU t-shirt might send him into a violent rage   In fact, if I were in the Nevada chapter of the Jehovah’s Witness I would go ahead and mark his residence off my list.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Family Matters

July 11th probably began as a typical Friday for Utah resident TJ Brewer. He was undoubtedly looking forward to having dinner with his father, his wife, and his four children in his home that evening. The Brewers had a long and distinguished record of public service and TJ’s dad, Wesley, has served as Moab’s Fire Chief since 1989. The municipality had even named the Fire Department Headquarters after him. So it came as a surprise to the entire community when the events of that very evening would lead to the end of both their careers and destroy the family.

According to police reports, Wesley, TJ, and TJ’s wife Logan were sitting around after dinner and having a few drinks when Logan announced that it was time to put the “children in bed” and disappeared upstairs. At some point thereafter, TJ realized that his father had vanished as well and he went upstairs looking for them. Discovering that his son’s door was locked, TJ forced his way inside only to find his father and his wife fornicating in his son’s bed.
Wesley and his son TJ
Understandably chagrinned by this turn of events, TJ immediately began beating his father before taking a brief respite to retrieve a handgun. Reentering the room, TJ pointed the firearm at his wife before backhanding her and then pistol-whipping his father. At some point, Loagn was able to escape to her parent’s house and Wesley returned home to retrieve his gun. Upon his arrival, Wesley’s wife (sensing something was amiss) attempted to hide his firearm in a car. Thwarted, Wesley grabbed a butcher knife from the kitchen and began stabbing himself eventually puncturing a lung and his liver.
TJ and his wife Logan
Wesley was rushed to the local hospital for emergency surgery where TJ reappeared (sans shirt and shoes) to “finish the job” of killing his father. Outside the hospital TJ was confronted by his uncle Curt (also a sheriff’s deputy) and a physical altercation ensued. TJ was finally taken into custody and charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, two counts of domestic violence in front of a child, assaulting a police officer, intoxication, and disorderly conduct. However, since it appears that the Brewer family comprises half of the town’s public safety workforce the case was handed to the Utah Attorney General who reduced the charges to assault and assault against a peace officer.TJ and his father have both resigned their positions. TJ recently plead guilty in exchange for a suspended sentence, probation, and an $800 fine.

I think it would be safe to classify this as the worst dinner party ever. This is a series of events that would offend even Maury Povich’s delicate sensibilities. With the combination of guns, alcohol, and familial affection; it is a miracle that no one was killed. While I believe that a mixture of counseling, prayer, and forgiveness can be a potent recipe for healing; I am not sure there is anything that could prevent the Brewer’s next Thanksgiving meal from devolving into a fisticuffs. Moab, Utah has 5,000 residents crammed into less than 4 square miles. TJ probably violates his probation just getting the morning paper.

It is unclear whether or not this is the first time “The Chief” and his daughter-in-law have become close, but I am willing to bet this is an ongoing issue. I find it hard to believe that they simply got carried away in the moment. As a general rule, tucking a child into bed lacks the erotic overtones that would lead to an opportunistic tryst. Most likely, this evening was simply the inevitable culmination of a series of bad decisions made by two consenting adults that should have known better. I have to believe that their affair didn’t begin with the comment, “seems like a real shame to let that bottom bunk go to waste..”

 Regardless of how it began, the effect on these four children is inexcusable. Their world has been irrevocably shattered by the very people they would look to for consolation. Life is hard enough without discovering that your mother cheated on your father with your grandfather in your bedroom. Who are these people? It is as if an entire Greek tragedy moved to Utah and its characters decided to pursue careers as first responders.

Aside from the children, I feel bad for grandma. Here her husband heads down the street to have an impromptu dinner with their son’s family and the next thing she knows half her relatives are legally prohibited from being within 500 feet of one another. I imagine that was an awkward conversation when she finally got around to asking “The Chief” for an explanation in the hospital:

Wesley dear, once you are feeling strong enough, could you give me a little insight into why you attempted to remove your own spleen with our Pampered Chef cutlery set immediately after announcing your intention to shoot our son in front of your common lover.

Don’t worry yourself honey. It was just a little misunderstanding about dessert.

While I can sympathize with the fact that TJ was acting under emotional duress, I am not sure $800 and a restraining order is exactly bringing the judicial hammer down. I have seen municipalities that distribute tougher sentences for first offense littering. At the very least, he should spend a few Saturdays on the side of the road collecting evidence to use in the prosecution of the litterers.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Stand Your Driveway

While not much of an outdoorsman, I feel confident in offering one important survival tip: if traveling through the Southeast this year you should never, ever turn around in the driveway of an elderly white person. This danger is typified by several recent cases.

In January, 22-year old Georgia resident Rodrigo Diaz (accompanied by his girlfriend and another couple) mistakenly pulled into the driveway of Phillip Sailors after their GPS led them to think it was the address of a friend they had planned to go ice-skating with. The 69-year old retired Bellsouth employee and Christian missionary emerged from his house carrying a .22 revolver and fatally shot Diaz in the head. Sailors maintains that he believed the car’s occupants were potential home invaders and that he only fired because they “accelerated toward him.” The vehicle’s occupants (along with the subsequent police report) indicated that the vehicle was in the process of leaving the driveway when the Diaz was shot.  Sailors is currently awaiting trial for murder.

In February, a 71-year old North Carolina resident named Ralph Barker was charged with murder after killing 67-year old Danny Bowman with a shotgun. Bowman, tired of people turning around in his driveway, had placed cinder-blocks in a shared cul-de-sac to deter motorists. Barker took it upon himself to move said cinder-blocks and when an irate Bowman confronted him; Barker opened fire. He is currently awaiting trial for murder.

Just last month, Virginia resident Oscar Scott (accompanied by his wife and 5 children) were taking a scenic drive though Rogersville, TN when the road they were on became too narrow for their Chevy Tahoe. Oscar put the vehicle in reverse and was about to turn around in a nearby driveway when 72-year old homeowner Margie Ramey opened fire on the vehicle. Scott’s wife screamed out the window that they were just attempting to turn around when she fired a second shot. Although one of the shots struck the vehicle no one was injured. After being charged with seven counts of felony reckless endangerment, Margie explained that she had some trouble with people “tearing up her driveway”.

These troubling incidents have led to a facetious movement called “Stand Your Driveway”. The idea is that anyone with an AARP card and a private residence should be able to defend their driveway without fear of pesky legal repercussions like arrests or trials. Sure every now and then some innocent motorist with a woefully outdated GPS might take a round to the chest, but that is a small price to pay for the knowledge than some punk kids won’t be backing over your begonias.

It would be interesting to analyze why so many “driveway avengers” are elderly. Does a greater percentage of the populace utilize their driveways because they are well-maintained and more inviting than their younger counterparts or are they just more likely to perceive a driveway turnaround as an unprovoked act of aggression? Either way, it has to be easier to get an acquittal when your client can plead the “infirm & in-fear” defense. It is a shame that any of our elders find themselves living in constant fear, but perhaps the prudent course of action would be to observe before engaging. Otherwise their front porch is likely to become the scene of a massacre next Halloween. The police report would likely read something like this:

Suspect states that immediately after sundown on October 31st an unmarked van pulled adjacent to their home. As the engine continued to idle, several masked assailants emerged from said vehicle and converged upon his front door in a suspicious manner. Suspect advises that at least one of the aggressors was brandishing a trident and all of them appeared to be carrying bags of dry goods pilfered from unarmed neighbors. Once the mob began pounding on his door and making references to “Paydays” and “100 Grand” the suspect felt that he had no choice but to toss a grenade through the mail slot and then hit the getaway vehicle with a mortar round.

While not yet retired, the idea of someone turning around in my driveway is not particularly troublesome to me. Personally, I would be happy if my neighbors would stop throwing Black & Mild wrappers or blister packs of laxatives into my yard as they pass. There is even one guy up the street whom I suspect has trained his Labrador retriever to defecate just within my property line. Does that make me angry? Sure. Will my tolerance for such inconsiderate behavior erode as I age? Most likely. Does that given me carte blanch to shoot these people in the face without repercussions? Not really.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The American Dream

During a recent interview concerning “the American dream”, President Obama bemoaned the societal shift from aspiring to a good job and a good home to seeking the ubiquitous celebrity excesses appearing on television. Further elaborating on the point he said, “Kids weren't monitoring every day what Kim Kardashian was wearing, or where Kanye West was going on vacation, and thinking that somehow that was the mark of success."

This prompted Kim’s mother and manager Kris Jenner to publicly respond by saying “Kim Kardashian is the hardest-working young lady in the world. She never sleeps, she never stops, she never slows down and works so hard for what she's got." 

The absurdity of such a claim, even if it is taken as a hyperbole, validates the very criticism it was meant to repudiate. Your entire business model exists only because your daughter was willing to film herself having sex with a marginally-successful R&B singer and then accept $5 million to allow an adult film company to globally market it. Since then the Kardashian empire has become a self-sustaining enterprise of material excess and televised narcissism that nets its flagship member over $6 million each year while contributing nothing more to society than an obligatory fragrance line and enough reality programming to keep Ryan Seacrest’s accountants busy.

Kim’s 2010 wedding to NBA star Kris Humphries was so well-marketed that she received compensation for allowing the E! network to film it ($15 million) and People Magazine to photograph and announce it ($2.8 million). They kept expenses down by having the wedding dress, wedding cake, invitations, and champagne donated in exchange for publicity. All this and she still managed to release a “wedding fragrance” before filling for a divorce a mere 72 days later. The brevity and profitability of the marriage led many to speculate that it was merely another publicity stunt (a charge Kim denies). There were even a number of gay-rights memes inspired by the nuptials.
The Kardashians were already wealthy before they became a pop-culture phenomenon and while there is nothing inherently wrong with economic security; our infatuation has allowed them to become the type of Americans who can have a discussion about cashmere burp cloths while being financially compensated for allowing us the privilege of witnessing it. To suggest, even for a moment, that participating in this entrepreneurial model is “harder” than working two jobs as a single mother is as insulting as it is delusional. A more correct statement by Mrs. Jenner would have been, “no woman is more adept at commercializing her public persona than my daughter”.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Messiah

Tennessee resident Jaleesa Martin and her child’s father were unable to agree on whose surname their son should have. Finding themselves at an impasse, they appeared before Cocke County Chancery Court judge Lu Ann Ballew to decide the matter once and for all. To their dismay, Judge Ballew decided that it was the child’s first name that needed her attention and ordered that it be changed from Messiah to Martin.
Magistrate Ballew
The judge's reasoning was that, “The word Messiah is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ". She further elaborated that due to the area’s large Christian population, the name could “put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is”. Jaleesa was shocked that the judge possessed the authority to rename her child on the grounds of religious belief and has vowed to appeal the decision.

While I would never name my child Messiah (or Lu Ann for that matter), doing so does not give a judge the legal right to rename said child. While there may be instances where a representative of the court must infringe parental rights for the well-being of their offspring, this clearly doesn’t cross that threshold. Perhaps if the young man’s first name was “Antichirst” or “Douchelby” the judge should have stepped in. However, in those cases the infant was clearly saddled with a negative moniker meant to convey disdain. If anything, Messiah burdens the child with unrealistically positive expectations.

Generally, a “messiah” is the liberator or savior of a group of people. While the judge may believe that the title was only “earned” by Jesus Christ, it was liberally applied throughout the Old Testament to anointed kings and high priests. Even the Persian king Cyrus received the title (presumably for the kindness he showed the Jewish people and his support for the rebuilding of their temple) so there is certainly historical precedent concerning the title’s application to those other than Jesus. In fact, Messiah was No. 4 among the fastest-rising baby names in 2012, according to the Social Security Administration's annual list of popular baby names. If the legal system did not feel it was necessary to intervene when Frank Zappa was naming his offspring, there is certainly no reason to tell Jaleesa Martin she cannot name her kid Messiah.

As far as the young man’s geographical location is concerned, I am not sure he is in danger of being any more “at odds” with the local population due to the prevalence of Christianity. It is hard for me to imagine a local women’s prayer circle arming themselves with clubs as someone yells, “It’s about time someone taught that Messiah some respect for the Lord!” Has there been a recent wave of Jesús beatings in the Bible belt I am unaware of?

This is judicial overreach plain and simple. In all likelihood he will be issued a nickname before he starts kindergarten and no one will be the wiser. If he chooses to embrace his first name it lends itself to some pretty original pickup lines:

  • Hey sweet thing, they call me Messiah and I’m here to resurrect your evening.

  • In my father’s house are many rooms (and he is in Indianapolis till Tuesday…)

  • Perhaps after this last supper we could have a first breakfast.

  • Let me get the bartender’s attention and I’ll turn your water into wine.

  • You must live around here because I felt the sudden urge to “love thy neighbor”.

  • Blessed be the tipsy brunettes, for they shall inherit my cell number.