Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Methy Methy Christmas!

Quote of the Blog:

Brook to her four year old niece: You saved the day!

T: I’m not a super-herio.


A few weeks ago my sister and husband asked their bishop if there was anyone he knew that needed help for Christmas. Without telling them the name of the family, the bishop let them know of a family that needed assistance - especially for their sixteen year old son. My brother-in-law, Jeff, decided to sell one of his Gerber LMF survival knives and use the money to get gifts for the son and the family.

Jeff didn’t have any trouble selling it online and it was purchased by a drug task force police officer in Missouri who planned to give the knife as a gift for his son's college graduation. Jeff sent the package via FedEx but a few days later the officer called Jeff because the knife still hadn’t arrived. Together they tracked the package – the address that was provided to FedEx was correct. They were connected with the FedEx delivery driver and she described the home where she dropped off the knife. The officer realized it had been delivered to an empty house two blocks away from his home. He called Jeff back a few days later to tell him the events that happened next:

The officer had stopped by the empty house, rang the doorbell, looked in the window and then saw the open FedEx packaging with his name on it in the trash. The house was “abandoned” but he got a search warrant and came back with his team. When they entered the house they found a METH LAB! While they were in the house a car pulled up to the house, saw their cars, and zoomed away.

They found the license plate on the dash cam and tracked the license and registration. When the officers visited the home where the car was registered they ended up arresting a mother and daughter. The mother/daughter had been using the empty house to run a meth lab. When they searched their car they found the missing knife under the driver’s seat. The knife was held as evidence. The Officer asked for its release and since the daughter’s fingerprints were on the FedEx package as well and they could use that as evidence they released the knife into the hands of our officer in time for the graduation.

I told Jeff he’s a Christmas Hero. Through helping a family with Christmas he started a chain of events that shut down a meth lab and led to the arrest of two drug dealers. Maybe we should have gotten him his own theme-music for Christmas. Perhaps one for the druggies: "Have Yourself a Methy Little Christmas", "I'm Dreaming of a High Christmas," or, our personal favorite, "Christmas in Kilmainham."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pedicab vs. Cabdriver

Earlier this week my coworker and I manned a table at a Summer Opportunities Fair at a high school out in Long Island where we talked to junior high and high school kids about our programs. We didn’t get back to midtown Manhattan until 10:00pm and I decided to take a cab home. I hailed a taxi. It was a mid-size SUV with tinted windows in the back.

I got in and called my niece, Camri. It was her birthday and we started talking about what she had done that day (she had just turned 13). As we drove across town towards the West Side Highway we got stuck between two pedicabs (cycle rickshaw) were riding side by side. They blocked our lane and we, and the cars behind us, had to slow down as a stream of cars zoomed past us in the other lanes. My cab driver honked and gestured and yelled. The pedicabs didn’t break their side-by-side formation – they looked like they were casually chatting as they biked along pulling the empty seats behind them.

Camri was in the midst of telling me about her birthday dinner when there was finally there was a break in the traffic and my driver, all the while yelling, pulled around them and made eye contact with the one closest to us and swerved to almost hit him! I heard a yell and a thud and we drove on. I couldn’t believe it! About the time I thought I should get another cab (on principle) we stopped at a stoplight. We had just stopped when the two pedicabs rode around our cab, yelling, and they pulled in front of our cab. Every time the cabbie tried to drive around them they'd swerve in front of the car. Finally we shot around both of them and the cabbie drove half a block, fuming, then pulled to the side of the road and opened his door to get out of the cab.

I was in the midst of asking Camri, "Where did you decide to go for dinner?" When I, instead, said firmly, "NO. You can get back in the car, there is no need to get in a fight. I want to go home. Get back in the car. We’re going to keep driving." Camri giggled.

The cabbie grumbled but got back in the car and we kept driving. We hit another light and all of a sudden a pedicab pulled in front of the cab - lengthwise so the pedicab driver could look in my driver’s eyes. Another pedicab pulled up next to the driver's side window and leaned in towards the window, yelling. The pedicab driver that the cabby had swerved to hit pulled up next to the driver’s window.

Camri started telling me about shopping with her mom.

They started swearing and yelling and hitting the windows. They threatened and BAM! Hit the window. Swear and BAM! Hit the windows.

I sat in the backseat in kind of disbelief. I found myself wondering, “Did they call for backup? Is there some kind of pedicab backup hotline? Where did the third pedicab come from? Meanwhile, my niece, unaware of the situation on my end is telling me about shopping with her mom. I imagine I sounded somewhat detached but responded with, "That sounds like a lot of fun." As I watched the men's angry faces through the window and the cab driver yell back. The lead pedi-driver hit the window with the flat of both palms, as if pushing the cab itself in a fight, then he spat on the driver's window.

When the light changed they made a row of three pedicabs across the road so we couldn't get around. They tried to swerve in front of us anytime we tried to pull around. We finally zoomed around them a few blocks away. The cabbie stopped and opened his door to wipe off the dripping spit off with a tissue. Then we pulled on to the highway and we drove off.

I talked to my niece and then my sister for the next twenty minutes all the while thinking, WHAT just happened?

When he pulled up in front of my apartment building I asked, "Did you actually hit the bike or just swerve towards him? He said, "I didn't hit him. He hit the back of my cab! Did you see them in the middle of the street? They can't drive like that!" Then he smiled and wished me a good night.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Brad? Brad Who?

Quote of the Blog:

Mike in the Tate Modern: "Seriously? You call this Art?? I'm going to drink half a glass of water and put it on a shelf and call that art." Turns and points. "Oh wait. It's already been done."


Five years ago, just before moving to New York, I was the college advisor for the School of General Academics at Utah Valley University (then Utah Valley State College- and yes, I figure someday that will date me). I’d decorated my office with a few items including a small poster of Roy Lichtenstein’s Drowning Girl.

I fell in love with the painting Drowning Girl (1963) the first time I saw it in print – and even more when I saw the large 68” by 68” original at the MoMA in New York City. I think it’s very funny yet layered in meaning and social commentary. Lichtenstein used Ben-Day dots to create his famous comic book paintings. Drowning Girl depicts a girl about to be enveloped by waves. Her thought bubble reads, “I DON’T CARE! I’D RATHER SINK THAN CALL BRAD FOR HELP!”

Generally female students reacted with amusement or a knowing head-nod to the poster. Men, on the other hand, responded in one of three ways (often enough that I started to keep tally on a sheet that has since gone missing):

Reaction 1: “I don’t get it.”

Reaction 2: “I think I recognize this! Which comic is it from??”

Reaction 3: “Who’s Brad?”

While not the most common, reaction three was the most interesting, amusing, and surprising to me. I had never thought of Brad as a specific person and yet dozens of men asked about it. Some even asked, “Is that supposed to be Angelina?” Finally when a student asked, “Who is Brad?” I’d respond with, “Well. You could be someone’s Brad.” Sometimes that helped, sometimes it didn’t.

I’d talked with male and female colleagues about student reactions but none of them had witnessed a reaction first-hand…until one day when Cindy was sitting in my office during lunch. A student walked in and started to ask a question about his math class. As he spoke he saw the poster, stopped mid-sentence, and asked, “Who’s Brad?”

Cindy started giggling in delight and actually pointed her finger at him! I gave her a look and her eyes widened in self-realization - she looked at her pointing finger in horror and clapped the hand over her mouth to stiffle her (now) embarrassed laughter.

Cindy excused herself and went back to her office (which was next door to mine) and I casually tried to brush past the moment, quickly explained that “Who’s Brad?” is a common question and we aren’t exaclty sure who Brad is and isn’t it nice outside and what is it you wondered about the Math 101 course?

You know, just now I realize that students may have thought of the painting as just one frame out of a comic book set that would have provided more context. Hmmm, either way, I find the reactions interesting! If you have thoughts about it, I’d love to read them. The Drowning Girl poster is in my room and sometimes I idly wonder to myself if maybe I'm some boy's Brenda.