Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Local News

Yesterday evening, I almost blogged about two things.

(1)  As those of you know who are on my mailing list:  Last night, my wife and I witnessed what might have been the aftermath of a gruesome and macabre murder.  As nothing whatever appeared in the media for some hours after the discovery of the corpse, I considered at least mentioning it online.

[To be continued, D.V.  My wife needs the computer, and so I retire for the night.
However, should I (cholilleh) by any chance tomorrow turn up dead --
Don’t believe what you might read in the press:
It wasn’t suicide.
The finger points to …

=>   MR  BIG  <=

         ……………………..  ]

[Update]  To resume.

However,  abstention was in order.  For, interesting though the incident might be for those who have often walked that bucolic lakeside dock, improbably  overlooking the lieu des faits, it really is nothing more than a local police-blotter fait-divers, of which the world has millions every day.  To discuss the matter on this site would (especially as I have no inside dope whatsoever) to descent to the level of FaceBook, that venue of the ephemeral.

The only detail possibly worth sharing, as presenting a sign of the times, was the sight of a team of grim-faced burly firemen, carrying a long gaff suitable for fishing cadavers out of the slimy depths, incongruously decked out in pale pink shirts.  When I mentioned this to a friend at work, she explained that it was for “Breast Cancer Awareness”.  But in that case, why weren’t the gentlemen likewise decked out in sombreros?  (Hispanic Heritage Month.)

[Later update]  The story is getting weirder, so I’d better elaborate.  This, from an e-mail sent to friends:

Early this evening, S. and I walked to the library, via the dockside on Lake *****.   There were half a dozen people standing around, and a couple of policemen.  Someone pointed to what they thought looked like a human corpse floating not far from the dock.  I peered to make it out;  it looked like Hollywood’s idea of a zombie.
Now, today at work, a friend had given me a nice Halloween drawing, so the first thing that occurred to me was that it was a Halloween prank.  A couple standing beside us concurred.

Twenty minutes later, as we returned from the library, we saw: half a dozen patrol cars; two or three fire engines; a large inflatable boat labeled “marine rescue”; an ambulence or two; and various other vehicles with flashing or whirling lights.  Some firemen were trudging back from the scene, one of them holding a long gaff.  “Uhh… looks like it wasn’t a Halloween prank”, I said.  The fireman would neither confirm nor deny, saying only “The police are handling it.”
The dock was now surrounded by yellow tape.  No attempt had been made to fish the body out.  From a new angle, and now taking the whole thing more seriously, I could see that it was indeed human, or had been;  its hands stuck up from the water, rigid as claws.

[Update 10/10/13]   I shared this incident with some friends and coworkers, current or former residents of this town, and however slight it be in the larger scheme of things, it piqued their interest.  One of them today asked whether the “Flyer”, the local giveaway rag, had reported on the story (which is indeed a big one for our sleepy hamlet).   And so I dragged today’s issue from our sopping front lawn, dried it, and perused.
My heart gave a start, confronted with a large color photograph of the dockside area of that very lake!  Only -- no mention of the body.   Instead, a story about the little three-foot-by-three-foot artificial boxed islands, planted with tall grass, which have been dubbed “floating wetlands”.  Cute, but actually a silly designation, since the point of wetlands is to absorb excess water, whereas this particular lakelet, itself brought into being only by the labors of engineers, suffers rather from chronic aqueous insufficiency.

[Update, a couple of days later]  Finally, the briefest of mentions has appeared on the Web.  The deceased was in his thirties, race and name unknown, of no known address.  But -- get this -- the police are saying, “No signs of foul play.”
Corpse appears in broad daylight in six inches of water, looking like a mummy that has been dead ten thousand years.  No-one knows how it got there.  Hands turned into zombie claws.  “No signs of foul play.”

[Update, evening of 20 October 2013]  No -- Wait -- this is too weird.
My wife was driving home from the computer lab this evening, on **** **** Parkway, which runs by that very lake, and noticed two squad cars.  Between them, on the roadway … a large, compact pile of human intestines.  But no body.   “They looked fresh,” she said.

[Update 22 October 2013]  And again, no reflection of this in any news source that I can discern.
My wife commented:   If we just chanced upon these incidents, within a few days and within walking distance of each other, and they go unreported -- how much else might be going on that we don’t know about?

Both these bizarre incidents look less like accidents, or any sort of crime that makes straightforward sense -- more like warnings, like the horse’s head in the bed.

This hamster is for deliminative purposes only, demarcating between two unrelated topics.

(2)  Like several million other folks, I watched, more or less mesmerized, that video taken by the helmet cam of a biker, part of the wolfpack running down a motorist from out of town, in a car likewise containing his wife and young child.  But again, the interest of the incident does not necessarily extend beyond the confines of Manhattan.

But since this week’s New Yorker promotes it to its Talk of the Town section which goes out to the whole world,  presumably the proverbial Ladies of Dubuque are even now Tweeting about it, so I’ll toss in my dime (inflationary value of two cents):  the moreso as Mr. Paumgarten’s effort in that magazine turns out to be a strange, free-associational piece, by no means reportorial, but starting elsewhere (in the movies), then meandering into the incident, and back out again.

The streetscape is the sort to which we have become acculturated by video games:  featureless, depopulated.  And with the anomie common to such pastimes (such as Grand Theft Auto, where we are set into the driver’s seat of a criminal), human values mean nothing:  we can equally well identify with the biker posse of pursuers (Git ‘im!) or with the automobile driver (knock off as many bikers as you can -- pock, pock, pock).

Nevertheless, it is a real street, behind the shaded windows of which (we presume) actual people have been born, and have died, and have watched TV.   Which leads us to the actual mini-observation that I wanted to get off my chest.

Chase scenes are among my favorite things in movies;  the medium is suited for this like no other.   But for these to work, certain liberties must be taken with engineering realities and the laws of physics.   Thus:  Vehicles keep racing along despite sustaining improbable levels of damage;  traffic (when present at all) always obligingly lets the racers by;  and when the inevitable crash eventually comes, airbags do not deploy (since that would obscure our view of the highly-paid star).

Of the conventions involved in movies shot in New York City, one that most requires the suspension of disbelief, is that, whenever the hero needs to go out and brood, or the like, the streets are conveniently deserted.   That never happens in actual life, save perhaps the early morning of New Year’s Day.    So in this video, since it is a video, we don’t immediately cluck in derision at the fiction of their being no traffic other than that required for the chase, on this major street in broad daylight -- but then we realize with a shock -- Wait -- This is a real street, in real time, and the chase is real, and several people really did get hurt.

End-Of-Text hamster hereby ends this essay.

[Afterthought, 20 October 2013]  The reasons I blogged about the latter incident, were:
(1) The creepily intimate weirdness of having a first-person, helmet-cam view  of an ongoing violent incident.
(2) The increasing resemblance of life to a video-game.

However, the reason this story figured prominently in the media  had nothing to do with that, but rather the fact that  one of the bikers who attacked the driver  was an undercover cop.
A very tricky job, that;  we salute those who can pull it off.  His participation in the gang’s crime  is suggestive of the Stockholm Syndrome, but probably goes deeper than that.  After all, the hostages didn’t choose to be hostages;  whereas an undercover cop chooses that risky line of work, and already at the outset  joins the gang.

Further reflection would take this insight deeper still:  the way in which we are, each one of us, undercover in whatever environment life has currently thrown us into.  As:  An old antiwar guy, who finds himself in a work environment which ….


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