Remembering the People’s Princess

It was about this time 20-years ago that my wife awoke me so I could get ready for my overnight shift at KOZZ. When she did, she also told me that Princess Diana had been killed in a car crash.

At midnight September 1, I went on air, and all through the morning I gave report after report as the news continued to unfold. For me, her death is like asking where were you when Elvis died, the space shuttle exploded or the World Trade Center tumbled to the streets of NYC?

All are historical events with a personal twist. I am sure, should you be old enough, that you have the same events in mind and your own memories to go with them.


Three-times ‘Round

The trio had been together since primary school in Ontario, Canada until Jorda decided to get her green card and move to Northern California. And finally, after two and a half years of being apart, Colleen and Theresa were going to visit her.

Once united, the three young women planned to drive to San Diego and the nerd-fest known as Comic-Con. It was something they had always wanted to do as kids, and now was the perfect time.

It took nearly two-days travel for Theresa and Colleen to pull up to the curb in front of the apartment complex on Harding Avenue were Jorda lived. While the apartment wasn’t very big, it was enough room for the soon-to-be new American citizen.

Furthermore, the second room offered enough space for her two visitors to act as if they lived there too. That’s exactly how Jorda wanted it – like old times.

“I can’t wait to show you ’round town,” Jorda told her friend’s over a cup of coffee, an American taste the other two had not yet grown accustom too.

Colleen remarked, “It’s so small for a big-city girl like you, don’t ya think?”

“Yeah,” Jorda responded, “But it really grow on you. You’ll see.”

“Didn’t you and your folks come to Crescent City to go salmon fishing?” Theresa couldn’t help ask.

Jorda shook her head ‘no,’ as she sipped from her cup, “That was Klamath, south of here.”

She had originally come down to go to work at Pelican State Prison, but the venture fell through when she couldn’t pass the physical on the count of her severe asthma. Instead, Jorda ended up going to work for Del Norte County as a file-clerk.

‘File-clerk,’ it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. It gave her a decent paycheck, though she still had to get used to paying taxes, and she also got to look through old record upon old record of the history for both the county and city. And aside from photography, history was one of Jorda’s personal loves.

“I know it sounds a little twisted,” Jorda announced, “But one of the first places I want to go is the local cemetery at the bottom of Cooper. Plus, I want to test out my new camera.”

“Twisted?” Colleen complained, “More like mental.”

All three women laughed at the statement, knowing the phrase came from the Harry Potter series. They also knew not to argue with Jorda when she had her mind made up.

As Jorda drove them, she explained, “I heard a rumor about one of the headstones being haunted or something of that nature.”

Theresa interrupted, “Really.”

“Well, maybe it’s more like a myth,” Jorda began, “But I haven’t wanted to go near it by myself. It ;sgrave of Peter Darby, one of the town’s founding-fathers.”

Colleen, aware that Jorda might be putting them on with another one of her jokes asked, “You’re making this up, aren’t ya?

“No,” Jorda answered a little too quickly.

“Oh, yes you are,” Colleen continued, “We’re going to get there and you’re going to scare the be-jesus out of us – I know it.”

“Let her finish,” Theresa demanded, “Joke or not, I want to hear the this.”

Colleen sat back in her seat as Jorda continued, “You remember that game we played once where we closed ourselves in the bathroom, turned out the light and repeated, ‘Bloody Mary,’ three times, like in that movie?”

“Yeah,” Theresa answered.

“And look how that turned out,” Colleen injected, “You scared the shit out of us – Theresa literally.”

“No she didn’t,” Theresa shot back, “I only pee’d myself — a little.”

The trio busted into raucous laughter, not only at what Theresa said, but also from the memory. Jorda continued as soon as they calmed down.

“It’s like that,” she stated, “Only you’re supposed to run around the headstone three-times as fast as possible.”

“What happens then?” Colleen asked, finally curious.

“You disappear,” Jorda answered flatly, “And I don’t want any of us to try it ’cause several kids have supposedly disappeared since the thing was put up.”

“Oh, whatever,” Colleen responded, not believing a word being said.

“No, I’m serious — and promise me you won’t test it,” Jorda said in a sober tone.

“Okay,” both women replied in unison.

“The other strange thing is there are no photographs, drawings or paintings of him,” Jorda continued, “There’s several stories claiming that he went around collecting and destroying them.”

“That’s weird,” Colleen stated, “I think ya should look into that part of the story and not this headstone thing.”

“I wonder what would make a man to do something like that?” Theresa asked, voicing what they were all thinking at the moment.

Within minutes, Jorda drove through the front gate and up the narrow roadway until she came to the first crossing. There she turned left and shortly made another left, which led to an area where she could park safely near the headstone of Peter Darby.

Once out of the car, Jorda started snapping pictures while Theresa tagged along. However, Colleen walked further up the hill, wanting to get a better look at this supposed haunted headstone.

Without warning, Colleen pulled out her cellphone, touched the button to begin filming, then took off running as fast as possible around the piece of marble, breaking her promise.

“One,” she yelled to her friend below, followed by, “Two.”

Less that four seconds later she raced pass the two woman, laughing, “See nothing yet…three!”

But, Colleen failed to reappear from the other side of the monument. The stone, though the largest in the cemetery, was not so big that it could fully obscure a person moving around it.

Theresa and Jorda scrambled up the hill-side to the stone. On the far side they located Colleen’s cellphone, laying in the grass, still recording.

They called and searched for her, even looking down into the swampy area west of the cemetery, but Colleen had vanished. The thing had moved from a joke to a serious situation as the pair played back the video their friend was in the process of recording.

It showed Colleen, mischievously smiling into the device right before she began to run around the headstone. Less than ten seconds, and no sooner than had she announced the completion of the third lap, a bright light flashed in the camera’s iris and the cellphone tumbled into the grass where her friends had found it.

Missing the Social Media Mark

Recently I posted a comment to the Daily Triplicate under a photo they had posted to their FB page that was of a blaze in Lolo, Montana and not of Brookings as some folks were claiming. It should have been a secondary item as the Shaker Church in Smith River had jus’ burned down earlier in the morning.

“You post about this,” I wrote, “And nothing about the 1910 Indian Shaker Church blaze. WTH?”

After all with the Internet, interaction with subscribers and the fact that it is a big story for Del Norte County, posting a mention with a ‘tease’ saying ‘more in Thursday’s paper,’ isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.

However, the Triplicate’s editor, Robin Fornoff decided to be snotty by responding, “Suggest you buy Thursday’s paper for the front page story about the church fire.”

Obviously, he has no connection to the readers of her FB page because as I relied back, “Suggest? I live 400 miles away and this is about servicing your readers and not only paper sales. Geez!”

He assumes too much and it’s shown by his trite ‘suggestion,’ that the bottom-line is far more important than connecting with a readership that pays the bills. I don’t think this is a good way to run a business.

And the silliness kept on coming…

A few hours later, Fornoff responded, “It’s not about paper sales for us either. It takes time for reporters to gather information. Tony spent much of his day at the site of the church, talking to many folks affected and reaching out to fire and law enforcement folks about the fire.”

(I broke our comments down into bite-sized paragraphs, making it easier to read.)

“So what you have at the end of the day’s news cycle a few hours later is a complete, factual, vetted story about it all,” he continues. “We are not the LA Times or some other large organization with a bevy of folks to chose from.”

Fornoff concluded, “Often each dedicated member of our small staff is working on three or four stories a day, among them to significant wildfires that present a real and dangerous threat to thousands of people. The wildfires are the priority.”

He’s stuck in the ‘old school,’ of newspaper reporting, so I answered back, writing, “I understand. I’ve been in the biz for years myself. But you are doing yourself and your reader a disservice by having a social media presence and zero outreach/in-reach to keep them active in your reporting.”

“And while, wildfires are a priority — discrediting a photo is not newsworthy in itself, I added, “Losing a 107-year-old church on the other hand is newsworthy. It takes very little time to ask followers to submit photos to a FB site.”

As a lone-writer, with zero organization behind me, I managed to get people to share their pictures, both before and after the torching of the church. So there is no reason that Fornoff’s “small staff,” couldn’t do the same.

I suspect that’ll find myself ‘blocked’ from the Daily Triplicate’s FB page, but that is the price for trying open the eyes an organization that appears to be willfully blinding itself to its ‘extended resources,’ namely the folks the paper claims to serve.

The Veteran and the Protester

Having survived his drunken attempt to get a whore he only knew by sight to marry him, Cheese decided to drag Mack downtown to see the American Legion parade. It was a nice walk for a hot Saturday morning as the pair made their way from the Jungle to Main Street, where all the action would take place.

“Well, I’ll be a fucked-duck,” Cheese exclaimed, “They’re offering a free drink to vets.”

“Oh for christ-sake,” Mack complained, “Are we gonna have another repeat of last night? I mean…”

Cheese interrupted him, “Naw, I’m over that overindulgin’, nut-crackin’ slut-bag – besides I think she gave me crabs bigger than the one’s they pull out of Pacific near Crescent City.”

Having no idea what Cheese was talking about when it came to crabs or where ever that place was, he chose to ignore it, instead responding, “Good, I’m lookin’ forward to this parade and I ain’t in no god-damned mood for your shit today.”

“Well, fine,” Cheese shot back, “And fuck you too in the asshole, Asshole!”

Being a bit slow witted from the night before, Mack asked, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means I’ll be standin’ right here, waitin’ for this shit-hole to open so’s I can collect my free drink,” Cheese huffed.

Mack waved him off in disgust and continued down the sidewalk to get a better view of the parade as it moved by. A block away he found an empty street corner in the shade and sat down to watch.

The delegation from Wyoming had jus’ finished passing in review when Mack heard the commotion up the street where he’d left Cheese. His spidey-senses went off telling him that his pard had somehow managed to get his saggy-ass in trouble again.

Hurrying back up the side-walk he could see Cheese sitting on the edge of the sidewalk, his hands cuffed behind his back. Not to far away, surrounded by a gaggle of brown-shirted Coppers, was a man’s body laying on it’s side, face towards the building wall.

Mack realized Cheese wasn’t going to get his free drink today, but rather a free trip to the local hoosegow. As the ambulance pulled away, it’s sirens wailed telling Mack that the man wasn’t dead – at least not yet.

Later that day, Mack visited Cheese in lock up, asking, “So what in the fuck did ya do?”

“He was in my face, yellin’ somethin’ ‘bout all vet’s ought pay for their own healthcare and quit leeches off tax-paying citizens,” Cheese answered, “And I asked him when was the last fuckin’ he paid taxes?”

“No, wait — I wanna know how he got on the sidewalk,” Mack cut in, “Did ya hit’em or somethin’?”

Cheese gave a half-smile, “No – the fat bastard jus’ laid down on the sidewalk and decided to take a nap!”

“Oh, well that’s good,” Mack responded, “I figgered you kicked the shit outta him or somethin’.”

Cheese rolled his eyes, knowing it was going to be a long stay. He also wished for that free drink he could be enjoying instead being locked up again.

What Day is It, Really?

“Why are you getting dressed for work?” I asked Mary after she got out of the shower.

She gave me a puzzled look, “Because I have to go in and open the store.”

“On a Sunday?” I asked with some concern in my voice, adding, “Since when did you make that change?”

“Tom,” my wife responded politely, “It’s Monday.”

Shaking my head, I shot back, “No, it’s Sunday!”

“No, dear…it’s Monday,” Mary said a little firmer than before.

“Then what the eff happened to Sunday?” I questioned.

She smiled, “That was yesterday. I think you’re confused because I did an open to close on Saturday.”

Since I hadn’t yet gotten out of bed, flopped backwards, grabbed my pillow, covered my head and screamed as loud and as hard as I could.  Awake now but still befuddled, I got up and fed the dogs as Mary continued to get ready for work.

So now, I know it’s Monday, my throat hurts from screaming, I’m hoarse and can hardly speak. Pehaps it would’ve been better had I remained addled.

Caught Between What’s Right and Regulation

Right or wrong…houses of worship are generally relegated to a secondary role in disaster situations. The reason being is that they must sign an agreement with their local municipalities that says they will not take in disaster victims until the municipalities primary facilities are filled to capacity.

It’s done this way so that the municipalities can be reimbursed by the state and federal governments, through your taxes, for services rendered. Often times the reimbursement far exceeds what has been spent, so it is in the best interest of the municipality to keep a tight control on churches, synagogue, temples, etc.

So, if your local house of worship doesn’t respond to your communities disaster needs, remember that they are forced to comply with agreements with local governments, who in the end have the power to shutter the building in which you meet. After all it is the local government that controls the fire marshal, the health department and other code enforcement bodies that can deny or violate a permit at their will.

Finally, if you are a Christian – don’t condemn other Christian’s or Christian organizations for failing to act as you believe they should — such action on your part shows that you have failed to ‘go that extra mile,’ yourself.  And we are all falling short of grace in one way or another.

The Struggle is Real

We sat quietly, hidden in the shadows of the room, accessing our situation; the two of us hoping and praying that reinforcements would arrive by the end of the day. It had been a battle alright, but not much in the way of a fight.

“How long do you think we can hold out, Chief?” I asked.

Red-colored, the Indian Chief shrugged, “I’m not sure Sarge, maybe a couple of days, but that’s only a guesstimate.”

Jus’ yesterday the dog had played with us and a couple of dozen figures lost their lives in the struggle, including most of the Cowboys. We both developed a thousand-yard stare, thinking while we tried not to think about the terrors we had witnessed.

Finally, I looked up and stated, “I’m sorry Chief, most of my soldiers got eaten as well. And that new tank I was bragging about — demolished beyond recognition.”

In fact, there were only six of the original bag of Army Men left; three riflemen, one with a mangled Springfield, a bazooka man, one with a pineapple grenade and me, with my 45-caliber pistol. Sadly, we were a compliment of 25 when we were first purchased and deployed.

How many Cowboy and Indian’s were remaining, I had no idea. Then I looked out the window and there in the backyard I saw the dog shitting little pieces of cream-colored Cowboys, red Indians and green Army Men – heads, legs, arms, a torso or two and weapons.

All I could do was bury my face in my hands and cry, “Those are my brothers.”