Tears in Schmuckland

A riotous adventure in musical bastardry, by Wade Ozeroff, esq.

Musical taste is a very personal thing, is what I have learned from some of the videos I see my friends post online.

One person’s Poison is another’s Led Zep, in a manner of speaking, and it is only through experience that I have learned to watch what I say regarding a particular tune or band that suddenly pokes it’s musical head out in the background ambience, when I am out among the decent people.tears

This is silly, of course, because I know damn well that I am the arbiter of what is good and what is dreck; and it galls me no end that others do not recognize my opinion as being vastly superior to their own. I mean, can’t they see that if they just shaddap and listened to me, their lives would be so much better, or at least filled with tolerable music?

Nevertheless, take heed, my friends, for there is a lesson here that I refuse to learn.

Years ago, at some newspaper I worked at, I had returned from photographing a Def Leppard show at a big bar in my fair town. It was one of those ‘surprise concerts’ (remember those?) where they would bring out a band, but no one knew who it would be until they took the stage. They had had some pretty big names at some of the previous shows across the continent.

The audience was milling about, writhing in anticipation, practically preemptively taking off their shirts as rumors swirled about whom the act would be. I heard its Aerosmith! one excited fellow exclaimed; another piped I heard its Kiss!

Well, long story short, it was Def Fucking Leppard. The Molson surprise concerts were losing their momentum by the time one came to Edmonton, and in a lazy piece of casting, they had picked a band that was already in town to play a concert the very next night. So it was Def Leppard. And they sucked the roof off the dump.

I returned to my newspaper to process my film and print up a shot (this was millions of years ago, we still had ‘film’ and made ‘prints’, which were then scanned by our Imaging department).

It was into the imaging department I sallied, with my print in hand; and the technicians on shift that night asked me so who was the band?

”Def Fucking Leppard”, I replied.

I inhaled deeply, preparing to make a big speech peppered with obscenities detailing exactly how much I didn’t care for the band; but an alert staffer caught my arm and walked me out the door of the department. “Def Leppard is Brad’s absolute favorite band in the world”, he hissed. “He loves them more than anything. He’s seen them multiple times, and has tickets to their show tomorrow night”.

Good advice delivered in a timely fashion, I must say; for Brad is a large fellow, bigger than two of me. His arms are the size of my legs, if I had really big legs. I altered my tone and re-entered the department.

“How was the show?” Brad beamed, excited as heck to see the first images of his band from their latest appearance in our town.

“Oh…Oh. They were… in top form… yes indeed. Exude Some Glucose on Me, and all that. Yes” I replied, pumping my fist and shaking my imaginary mullet in pop-metal solidarity with my friend.

The image I had selected for the paper showed their lead singer, Schmucko, sopping wet and spitting mad after someone in the audience had thrown a drink at him, immediately after they took the stage and band’s name was announced to a chorus of boos and disappointment. An ice cube was still in his hair. Brad was aghast.

“Who the hell would do something like that?” he asked rhetorically, personally wounded by the attack. Gosh, I said, I just don’t know…

You might think that would have been warning enough for me, but I am not a quick study, my friends.

*   *   *

In 1993 I went to the Grey Cup game in Calgary with a bunch of photographers, to cover the event because Edmonton was playing in it. The night before, we all went out to one of those ‘kitsch’ restaurants, the kind with, like, plastic rhino heads and whatnot on the walls.

We sat at a table, maybe eight of us, telling stories about how cool we were; and plowing down ribs and beef and beer. At some point I got up to go to the washroom.

When I returned, scant minutes later, Eric Clapton’s execrable Tears in Heaven was warbling from the sound system, much louder than it should have been. I knew at once what I had to do.Tears3

I inhaled deeply, and made a big speech for the assembled photojournalists, wherein I explained in a lengthy diatribe (peppered with obscenities) just what a crappy tune it is.

I ranted that Eric hadn’t done anything worthwhile in years. I vouchsafed that if it weren’t for J. J. Cale writing songs, Clapton would have disappeared altogether after 1970. I accused the song of playing cheap emotional badminton with the death of his child for a radio-friendly hit by a marginally talented, uncomprehending junkie too stoned and dumb to keep his own son away from the balcony of a highrise, rockstar condo.

I opined that the Clapper should have died while he was still cool; that my handsome ears would never have been sullied by the elevator-dreck now coming from the muzak system. I believe I made a jerk-off motion with my hand.

Finally, I was able to calm down, and waited patiently for a round of applause from the assembled media weasels. It was at that point that the manager of our group got up and bolted from the table.

I mean, he ran from the table; with such alacrity that I though maybe he had drunk too much, and was racing to the can for a frantic purge.

“What’s up with Schmucko?” I inquired of the strangely silent group, “he’s had like, two drinks”.

Some of them burst out laughing, others just sat shaking their heads, as one of them explained to me the situation. It wasn’t the muzak system, it turns out. The place had a jukebox.

He had personally chosen the awful tune, but more than that, he had made a big speech about how deeply the song touched him.

The overwrought sentiment spoke to him personally, it seems, and each word held deep meaning for him and blablabla changed his life forever and made him a better human being, just because it existed. It was his favorite tune, man.

Apparently, he damn near had tears in his eyes as he blurted this confession to the group, about the incredible meaningfulness that Tears in Heaven held for him. All this happened while I was in the loo, and had only just concluded moments before I returned.

It was an unnaturally frosty Grey Cup game that year, let me assure you, but don’t worry.

I learned nothing from the experience, of course, and neither did you, gentle reader. Now please enjoy this link to Paul McCartney’s Helen Wheels, because I think, if nothing else, we can all agree that he was the most talented Beatle.

 © Wade Ozeroff 2014

Tween Choice Terror

Oh gawd. Oh my guh-huh-huh-hawd.

They pre-empted my Sunday night cartoons for something called the ‘Teen Choice awards’. It opened with an act called One Direction; so now I can say I have seen them, and I’m hip to the kidz and in touch with the beat of the street and all that.

Bunch of lip-synching kids in Beiber haircuts, all choreographing in unison to their ‘hit’, as an audience of tweengirls screamed and held up their cell phones. Gave me the willies.

‘Boy bands’… shudder…

It reminded me that, back in tha day, I used to shoot a lot of concerts for some newspaper I worked at.

I went to lots of them – first one I ever shot was Iron Maiden (actually, that’s not true; the first one I shot was Mojo Nixon but it was in a lounge. I’m talkin’ about the bigger shows here). I remember stepping over legions of passed-out-drunk metal fans in the hallway leading to the concert venue.

The AC/DC audience was like Planet of the Apes, with bestial fights breaking out n the parking lot as legions of scruffy guys in baseball hats and sleeveless denim vests went at each other in a contest to determine whose mullet was prettier; or who could scream ‘woo’ the loudest.

I got punched from behind at a Neil Young show by some goofbag ‘fan’ who disappeared into the safe anonymity of the crowd, had stuff thrown at me at Metallica (it seems to upset a certain type of person that the photogs get to stand right in front of the stage), and threatened by some country-tonkin’ fancy walker at a Dwight Yoakam show after he drunkenly bumbled into my 400mm 2.8 in the lobby.

None of that really qualifies as scary, frankly, but I tell you what, citizen, I have never been more concerned for my safety than I was at a boy-band show.

I can’t remember which one; not New Kids, but one of the legions that came after them around the same time… I want to say 98 Degrees, or maybe N Sync.

There was an aisle between the security fence (that was the only concert I ever shot that had a ten-foot security fence between the audience and the stage) maybe five feet wide, where me and a TV cameraman were ushered in for out three-song window (the way it works is, you get three songs and you’re out).

The fence was bulging and straining under the weight of a thousand teenyboppers, their little painted nails poking through the 4″ mesh. Deafening screams filled the air, and the absolute, rabid animal madness of the crowd, literally inches from my face, was terrifying.

While the average twelve-year-old presents little threat on her own, when you mass them into hundreds, all in shrieking, clawing hysterics, you are talking about a serious threat!

At one point, the barricades were bulging and straining so hard that one of the hired security guys came down and tapped us both on the shoulder (the TV guy and I) and pulled back the stage curtain to show us where the escape route was, and screamed over the din:

“Okay, if they take down the fence, GET UNDER HERE!”

And that’s my story about fucking boy-bands. Sheesh.

I absolutely refuse to conclude it with a link to a One Direction video, so please enjoy  the more appropriate  Asaf Avidan (Wanklemut remix). Cuz one day, baby, you will be as old as me 🙂

 

Last Night at The Beverly Crest

I, a bold and wild IT tech at some local newspaper, sauntered out into the newsroom the other night about 11:30 and was surprised to find a reporter there. It used to be pretty common for there to be people in the newsroom until well past midnight; but not so much anymore.

This one was a rotund ‘gamer’ kid, his Nintendo controller on his desk beside him, impatiently refreshing one of the two monitors he sat in front of – one displaying the newsdesk email inbox, the other his tweet-aggregator.

I asked him what was up, and he said there had been a stabbing at the Beverly Crest Hotel, and he was hanging around for an update from the police media liason.

Unsurprising, that.

The whole Beverly area has always been one of the skeeziest ‘hoods in the city, aside from maybe Inglewood, McCaulley, Boyle, Abbotsfield, Eastglen, Londonderry, Rundle Village, or pretty much anywhere near a transit centre in Millwoods.

The Crest’s rundown hotel has changed names, is what I learned from talking to the reporter-gamer. I think it’s a Travel Lodge now, but it’s still the divey two-story walkup I remember.

I was once present in a Beverly Crest hotel room where the World’s Tawdriest Gang-bang™ was taking place, as some Mac’s Convenience Store clerk-ess worked out her attention-seeking behavior and daddy-issue disorders in a tequila fog.

(And, before you ask, hell no I did not take part. Not only because “ewwwww”, and “disease”, but because I won’t participate in someone else’s downward spiral; just like I wouldn’t offer my lighter to a street-corner lunatic who was trying to blow himself up).

The place was also home to a sleazebag bar, which is what I and my typical teenage friends were referring to way back in the day when we said “the Crest”.

The bar is gone now, I learned from the reporter/gamer. Closed due to public pressure and replaced by a public library.

A tear formed in me one good eye, and I wiped it away with me hook. “Shit, man. The ‘Crest is closed?” the re/gamer nodded affirmative.

“That used to be a real good place to buy drugs”.

*  *  *

The Beverly Crest hove into view, big red neon sign marking its location at the bad end of 118 avenue.

The parking lot was full, the parking lot was always full back in 1980, but you could always fit one more Chevy Nova with a pack of underaged-ne’er-do-wells in it, and we snaked our way in.

I had somehow drawn the short straw and become the ‘designated scorer’, between my high school pals – the Ginger Pizza-Face, and The Guy Who Would Be Dead Before The End of the Year – so I got out of the car, carrying the money.

We were on our way to some party… somewhere… I dunno. I’m not even sure what time of year it was; I want to say summer.

Our mission was to buy some acid (or LSD, if you prefer – do the kids still call it ‘acid’? I want so much to stay current here) and for various reasons, I was the buyer this night.

Personally, I think we should have sent The Guy Who Would Be Dead Before The End of the Year, because he was tougher than both of us put together; but he had this baby-face that would have got him ID’d immediately. The Ginger Pizza Face was exempt because it was his car, so into the Beverly Crest I went.

The Crest was basically one big bar, but it was split. Divided in half, at the time, into two drinking rooms; and with separate entrances for each.

The way the neighborhood demographics worked, it was kind of local lore that half of the place was the “cowboy” bar – a country and western themed lowbrow dump – and the other half was the Indian Bar, which mostly served natives. Indigenous peoples, if you will.

It was understood that a person of my hue did not go into the Indian bar, unless you were really, really, ruh-huh-huh-heeeally, looking for trouble.

So I hit the bar (cowboy side) and breezed past one of the giant bouncers that an upscale establishment like that inevitably employs: big boys who wear their skull-rings to work.

I bought a beer and cruised the joint, and hit the games room until I spotted a likely source. A man in a baseball hat (with broom-handle mullet sticking out, of course, this was Alberta in the 80s, after all) asked me if I was looking to score, and I said “Yeah. Got any acid?”

He didn’t, all he had was pot and downers, but he knew who did, and took me over to the right guy; another man in a baseball hat (with broom-handle mullet sticking out, ‘cuz Alberta) with a denim vest.

We became intsa-bros, and sat down at a table and talked money, and everything was going swell, but here’s the weird part:

For some reason, he took the goods out, and put them down on the table between us, right there in the middle of the bar. A five-gram vial, half full of Blue Mikes.

I don’t know if it was some sort of show-offy thing or what, but there it was: a little glass vial of microdots on the table between us in the bar at the Beverly Crest.

I only wanted five hits; two apiece for me and The Guy Who Would Be Dead Before The End of the Year (Ginger Pizza Face was driving, so he only wanted one. That should be funny, but for some reason, it’s not :)~

The bar’s band had started playing at this point (country music, natch), and things were getting loud.

I passed a wad of money to denim-vest and reached out to touch the vial, and everything went stupid, all out of the blue.

A gigantic bouncer’s left hand with a skull ring on it slammed down on the table between us (damn near split the cheap particle board of the Beverly Crest table), and a gigantic bouncer’s right hand picked me up – literally picked me up, mind you, I am not hyperbolizing here – by the back of my shirt, and a really scary man screamed in my face:

“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING? YOU DON’T PULL THIS SHIT OUT IN THE OPEN IN HERE!”

The gentleman had mistaken me for the seller, and my denim-vested cohort as the buyer. Don’t know why.

The bouncer was incensed, and hyped up to fightin’ levels, and in no mood to listen to reason, so I just said “bluh-bluh-bluh”, because I thought I was going to go to jail for sure, this time. Instead, though, one of the strangest things I have ever been a part of transpired.

The bouncer, still holding me by my shirt-back, picked up the vial and poked me hard in the chest with it.

He shook me hard enough that I can still remember it to this day, and yelled in my face “YOU TAKE THIS SHIT AND GET LOST AND DON’T EVER COME BACK HERE” and drag-pushed me toward the door. I clenched the vial and said, basically, yes sir! yes sir! as I was pushed through the steel doors of the Beverly Crest bar into the parking lot.

My friends were conveniently in front of the place as I was thrown thought the entrance – sheer chance, as it turned out, they had just been circling for half an hour – so when I ran to the car and crawled over them into the back seat and shouted GO! GO! GO! they weren’t ready for it.

“Did you get the stuff?” asked the Ginger Pizza Face, oblivious to the fact that I had been thrown through the doors after being frogmarched by a giant bouncer; and also that the real owner of the acid was being held back at the door, by more bouncers who had descended on the scene.

That poor bastard was the only real victim in this story.

As the additional bouncers kept him inside, he was shouting “Hey! Hey! Hey!” unable to properly explain the situation. What was he going to do, say that it was his acid?

We bolted from the parking lot, the Ginger Pizza Face, the Dead Guy and I. The acid was not especially high quiality, as it turned out.

I have not been back to the Beverly Crest since 1980.

*  *  *

The portly gamer-slash-reporter finally got his email notice from the police media liason, and copy/pasted it into the template that shoots our news onto the company website. He composed a quick “tweet”, as required by newspaper rules (they have to fulfill a quota of “tweets”)

“A guy stabbed another guy at the Bveerly ceRst LOL” and hit the send button, and his shift was, at long last, done.

I asked the tweety/gamey/reporter kid if drugs were involved.

He didn’t know.

I did.

© 2013 Wade Ozeroff

 

What America needs is some Canadian telling them what to do!

My platform:

• As an atheist, I don’t belong to any secretive, scary, hidden-agenda cults

• As a Canadian, I know exactly what the hell is wrong with you people, and how to fix you

It’s not too late to write me in!

I think I my campaign appeals to a lot of key demographics:

M.I.L.G.s (Mothers I’d Like to GetoutofthewaysoIcanseetheTVbetter)

Anti-psychotic drugmakers

Licketybeaver69@gmail.com and a Twitter user named

NObamaIsaSekretMuslinFromKinyaWakeUpSheeple

Psychotic drugmakers

“Undecided” voters

Don’t let my lack of hair frighten or annoy you! Check this out!

Gecko Patrol

I am on Gecko Patrol!

I am standing outside of one of the lounges at the Byblos Andaluz, smoking, at one of the highest-end hotels in the Andalusia province of Spain; and I’ll tell yuh what, friend, it is nice.

BMW is staging their launch of the third-generation 6 Series here, and the hotel and its ground suit the exotic supercar impeccably. This is a swanky place, with all manner of specialty staff, services and amenities, Hell, as part of my welcome package in the room I received a small personal sewing kit in case something went wrong with the cufflinks I don’t have.

I am told some of my colleagues have spotted actor Val Kilmer here; and also Meg Ryan (but not together), though I haven’t see either.

It’s also crawling with geckos, as is all of southern Spain. I’m watching one now, as I stand outside the lounge on the veranda. Geckos are pretty cool.

I think this one is a female, as I’m pretty sure the females are bigger than males, with wider heads  (is that the way it works with geckos?) Females have duller colors, as well and this one is mostly a uniform dark brown.

A woman comes out of the lounge and joins me on the veranda. She smells like Trophy Wife, in a cloud of expensive scent that may or may not contain actual ambergris.

She sports a giant rock on her finger, big dyejob hair, and is skinny to the point of eating disorder, and looks to be somewhere between thirty and forty; though struggling through the medium of surgery and dieting to look late twenties.

If I had to wager, I would say I can tell she’s an animal lover, cuz she’s wearing fur, ba-dum-tsssh! (Yes, I’m pretty sure I stole that joke from an old Henny Youngman routine, sue me).

Good evening, miss, is how I introduce myself, and I love Europeans because they are so much more skilled in linguistics than I…

She says something, first in one language, then another, and then switches to weak English combined with the universal communication tool of hand-gestures when she realizes I am a slope-bowed monolinguist.

Ah. She wants a light. I oblige.

Lit, she and I stand there puffing. The silence is uncomfortable, and boring, it feels like I should say something. So I point out the gecko, clinging to the ceiling above us.

“I think it’s a female”, I say, for some reason thinking she would find it as interesting as I did, “because its pretty big, and –“

And the woman recoils at the sight of the little animal, and makes an alarmed noise and says in curt and fractured Anglais something to the effect of:

“Ack! Leezard! Disgusto!”

I am saddened to hear this, as I like leezards, and there’s nothing more harmless than a gecko; but I can already feel the beginning of an icebreaking joke forming in the back of my brain.

So I say: “Oh, no, not at all. They are beneficial. They eato buggos and so forth”, and the amusing icebreaker forms fully in my mind, and I cannot help myself as I continue: “and what’s more, because they are small and light and fast, they can easily get through the transom windows and under doors, and they will clean your ears and nostrils while you sleep”.

I use the universal communication tool of hand gestures to illustrate the point, so that the language barrier will not impede my clever gag and I point at my nose and ears; and, once concluded, I stand there smiling, that we may larf together here in this exotic and luxurious location; and, dare I say, share a moment.

Now, have you ever said something to someone, thinking it was all in good fun and couldn’t end any other way than mutual yucks and good humors all ‘round; only to realize too late that you have inadvertently touched a nerve with them?

And then you have a situation where you have affected the other person to the core, in totally the wrong way, and you would take it back if you could, but you can’t?

That is what happens with Trophy Wife, out here on the veranda outside the lounge at the exotic Byblos Andaluz, from which I still have a souvenir sewing and cufflink repair kit.

The woman gapes at me in stark horror, and says “Ack!” again, only much louder. I realize right away that I have gone too far, and I try to backtrack, to explain that I am joking and haw-haw-yuk-yuk, but it is already too late. She hastily stubs out her cigarette and hurries back inside, clearly distraught.

Ooh, I feel disgusto as I stand there alone. Even the gecko has fled, crawling into a hole in the plaster wall above the ceiling joists over the transom window.

I can see her through the window as she re-enters the lounge, and runs to an older man who sits at a table maybe thirty feet away inside the lounge He looks wealthy, and is well-dressed in a suit of what looks to me like Italian tailoring; with a neatly trimmed moustache.

There is an excited conversation between the two. The woman leads.

I can’t understand what they are saying, of course, but I can hear the tone of the exchange, and it is worrisome. The woman is highly animated, and upset/angry, and the man is shaking his head back and forth in an exasperated manner that says “no, no, no, no, that is NOT true”.

Of course I can’t understand it, but I do distinctly hear the word “leezard”.

And then, of all times, we share our moment; as I am staring through the window, the woman suddenly says bla-bla-bla whatever and jerks her thumb toward the outside veranda – toward me – and the two of them spin and look out the window where I stand like a surprised burglar.

Our eyes meet, the woman’s hubby and I.

He glares at me with what I will generously describe as ‘fury’, and I just sort of hover there; caught-and-busted. The look on his face makes it clear that I will be hastily vacating the veranda outside the lounge at the Byblos Andaluz.

If I could kill you, I would kill you is what I understand, via the telepathy that men have with other men whose wives we have offended/frightened/annoyed.

I hastily stub my butt underfoot, in preparation to bolt in case the gent comes outside for some sort of vendetta resolution, but not before I make my face into a weak rictus resembling a smile, and communicate back to the poor guy (also via telepathy):

No sleep for you tonight, funboy; for tonight you are on Gecko Patrol.

(Malaga, Spain) © Wade Ozeroff 2003

 

 

 

 

 

The Time I was Late for Dinner, the Depressed Guy, and the Name of the One-armed Man

I have never been good at remembering names.

This is a real social problem and constant source of embarrassing faux pas for me, as I meet new people all the time at my job, and encounter many faces that I see only annually at meetings and whatnot.

The old joke about forgetting people’s names as you’re still shaking their hand is absolutely true, for me anyway; and it’s not that I am antisocial (or maybe that’s exactly what it is, I dunno), but it takes me several encounters with a new person before their name sticks in my tiny, tiny brain.

And yet.

One time, ten years ago, I was riding my bike over to the home of my friends Dave and Sue.

Excellent friends, hosts, educators and entertainers, worldly and erudite people who, if I’m good, I will come back as in my next life. I never pass on an opportunity to have dinner with them at their home, and it’s always great.

(And I mean seriously  great– I have had a lot of excellent food in my time, believe me, but there is little that compares to being a guest in the home of Dave and Sue).

Nothing beats good company and good times, and I pedaled out half an hour early to ensure my prompt arrival.

The great thing about bicycle riding is you can take a lot of shortcuts, and I always liked the atmosphere around the University, so I cut through the campus to enjoy the fall colors and collegiate atmosphere of students.

Not far from the hospital, which is just off the campus, I rode through a crosswalk.

A man, young-ish and bespectacled, sat in a wheelchair in the middle of the road between the painted lines. I sped by him and noticed he wasn’t moving, or rolling, in the crosswalk, but I kept on going.

For about fifty meters, anyway, and then the feeling that something just wasn’t right about the whole scene gripped me.

I stopped and looked back at the wheelchair guy and he was still there in the middle of the road. His head was tilted to one side, eyes closed like he was sleeping. He wore glasses and a baseball hat, with a white-guy mullet-fro sticking out the back.

It turns out I am not as antisocial as I thought, because I couldn’t keep on going and leave this dude sitting in the middle of the street. The wheelchair was marked property of the U of A hospital on the back-support band; I noticed when I rode past the first time.

Maybe he was having some sort of medical trouble, or medication reaction, or after-effect of whatever had put him in the chair in the first place.

I had visions of reading about him in the paper the next day, when Local Diabetic Hit By Cement Truck As Callous Bystanders Look On would scream from the front page of the bottom-feeding local tabloid newspaper.

Not wanting that on my conscience, I rode back to the man in the crosswalk.

“Hello?” I said to him, as he slumped, eyes still closed and body unmoving, in the chair.

Taking stock of the situation more closely, he didn’t appear to be injured or crippled; in fact he looked pretty healthy.

It crossed my mind then that he might be some sort of joyriding yahoo, drunk or druggie or one of the many, many mental cases that swarm Edmonton streets; and I backed up a bit from the man in the chair in case he suddenly came to life screaming and swinging and stabbing and biting and yelling about little green men.

“Sir? Buddy? Everything okay?” I said, and reached out and jiggled one of the push-handles of the wheelchair. His eyes flew open and I stepped back again and repeated, “You alright, there, guy?”

He didn’t look at me, but sat with head supported in one hand and leaning his elbow on the chair armrest. “I will be”, he said without emotion “once a car hits me”.

It was then that I grocked that it was, indeed, some sort of mental situation. This is not the sort of thing I am good at dealing with, nor do I have any special interest in other people’s various demons, but at this point I was somewhat invested.

“Aw, look man”, I said to him, “nobody wants that”.

“Why not?” he said, clearly not a threatening guy at this point, but neither someone who would be easily helped. I looked at my watch, and still had a little extra time; but suddenly hated the idea of getting sucked into some stranger’s personal foible. I had no idea how to respond to this, but was suddenly inadvertently involved in this drama.

Now, my policy in dealing with people expressing emotional ‘episodes’ (whether this guy was in the grip of severe depression, withdrawal, or regret after whatever situation brought him to the hospital in the first place) is the same as my policy for dealing with hysterical, crying children when you encounter one in a mall:

Get Another Adult Involved, Immediately.

There weren’t a lot of people around, on the campus at seven o’clock at night, so Wheelchair Man and I remained there in the crosswalk until I spotted a portly, forty-ish guy crossing a parking lot not far away. I called out to him and he came over.

Our new player in this minor tragedy approached the two of us, myself and Wheelchair Man, in the middle of the crosswalk. He was wearing fat-guy shorts and a Tilley hat.

He was carrying over his shoulder a bulging satchel with what appeared to be a human arm sticking out of it.

I stepped toward him to be slightly out of earshot of Wheelchair Man, and said, “Hey, listen, thanks for stopping; but I think we have a bit of a ‘situation’ going on here. Do you maybe have a phone or something?” and that’s when I noticed our new participants’ right arm was missing at the shoulder.

It turned out he did, indeed have a phone (it was also in the satchel) and when I broke down the situation for him – wheelchair man feels suicidal can we get some sort of cop involved via 911 or whatever because I have a dinner appointment –he pulled it out, after we both made another attempt to get Wheelchair Man to become reasonable, to no avail.

We moved a few paces from the man in the chair so as to not alarm him, and the new participant pulled out his cel and started dialing (for some reason he knew the number of the U of A hospital off by heart, but I figured that may be something to do with his having only one arm, and a pretty lifelike looking prosthesis).

“My policy in dealing with people expressing emotional ‘episodes’  is the same as  for dealing with hysterical, crying children when you encounter one in a mall: Get Another Adult Involved, Immediately.”

The one-armed man completed the call to the hospital, they were indeed aware of the man and his recent departure from the premises, and were sending the campus police, and could we stay where we were.

I looked at my watch again, and sure, what the hell.

As we made the call, our friend in the chair took it on the lam, rolling off down the street in the hospital conveyance.

“I don’t want any help!” he cried, as he slowly got away, arms furiously pumping the wheels of his getaway device, “fuck off!”

The two of us watched this snail-paced escape transpire for a while, and Wheelchair Man rounded a corner near the transit center up the road and disappeared.

The man with one arm pulled his phone out again, and said to me “I’ll follow him, and keep the security guys informed”, and then he handed me his satchel “Hold this, it’s heavy. Be back in a minute!” and he took off after the guy in the chair.

Then they both disappeared around the corner, toward the bus station, leaving me holding the bag.

I waited, holding the satchel with the very lifelike prosthetic arm sticking out of it, for several minutes. I looked at my watch. I was now late for dinner at my friends’ home, but there was little I could do at this point; I certainly couldn’t leave.

He was right though, my new friend with one arm, the bag was heavy. I could see why he took the prosthesis off when he wasn’t using it; it must have been uncomfortable to wear for long periods.

Twenty minutes went by before a “campus police” car showed up. Both Wheelchair Man and the man whose false arm and satchel I was holding had long vanished from view.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever dealt with “campus police” before, but in my experience, they are f*cking idiots.

Little junior wannabe-policemen who couldn’t make it to the actual police force, so they ended up in a sort of glorified security guard position where they get to wear a uniform and act important and drive a car with lights on it; but basically just dimwitted ex-jock dipsticks who like to throw their weight around but lack the grey matter to be trusted with actual authority.

Thus is was that when a Campus Police car showed up, I tried to wave it down but they drove right past me to the entrance to the transit center where they spun the car around and then stopped, looking all around frantically.

I ran down the street toward them, calling out and waving the whole time.

When they finally noticed me, running toward them yelling and waving and carrying a satchel with what appeared to be a human arm sticking hand-first out of it, they rolled up their windows and sat peering out at me as I hurried up to the car.

“Hey!” I said, more than a little annoyed at this point; and they rolled down their window a slight crack, “are you by any chance looking for a disturbed man in a wheelchair?”

Suddenly they came alive, and they bobbed their heads in unison: Yes! Yes we are! Have you seen one?

I sent the spiritual descendants of Joseph Wambaugh off in the direction of the armless man and Wheelchair Man, and as they vanished around the corner I reflected on how late I now was for dinner with my friends, and the fact that I couldn’t leave the scene; burdened as I was with a guy’s prosthetic arm in a bag and maybe the need to give some sort of statement to a magistrate later, if things got any weirder.

On the bright side, though, things didn’t. After about another fifteen minutes, the man with one arm reappeared.

The campus cops had never found them, it turned out; but fortunately a real police car had come by after his following Wheelchair Man for many blocks, and the matter was turned over to them.

We had a good laugh about it afterward, neither of us having dealt with anything like this before; and I gave him back his bag and arm.

We shook hands (left-handed, obviously), and introduced ourselves.

His name was Frank.

©Wade Ozeroff 2012

 

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Defacing hotel bibles is a big part of what I do

Now, some may find this sacrilegious, but I must respectfully and humbly disagree – it’s sacrilarious!

Roaming the length and breadth of the world, I spread the very cream of human goodness at every step. Sober, chaste and sane, I leave a trail of goodwill in my wake, and practically spew happy thoughts in all directions; like a fragmentation bomb made of teddy bears.

Thus it is that I have begun the Hotel Bible Defacement Project.

Every time I find a bible in a hotel, I draw a picture in it. This room, in Munich, had a three-language version in a drawer.

Unquestionably, this is a really good idea, and a kind of public service as well.

I figure anyone grabbing for the Gideon in a hotel room in the middle of the night has probably already got a note written and both barrels in their mouth; so why not give them something peculiar and funny to jog them back into a better mindset, rather than a bunch of mumbo-jumbo written by a pack of long-dead demagogues?

 

 

The next one will feature Jesus H. Christ hisself, flying around in a spaceship – you know those Jetsons-style ones with the big dome on top, so you can see inside – and stuffing seagoing members of the weasel family into his mouth and singing, to the tune of an old country standard:

“All day I race/ through outer space/ and stuff my face with otters”.

It may be years before anyone sees my illustrations, I have no way of knowing; but I’m not in it for fame. It’s all about the teddy bears.