Friday, January 22, 2010

Working my beat, looking for ladies walking the street

As a fan of "Overheard in the Newsroom" the following entry brought back a couple memories. First the entry: "#2776: Layout Designer: “When’s that story going to be done?” Crime Reporter: “The one on prostitutes? The research is getting expensive.”

During the 1990s we had a series of homicides involving prostitutes, many of them working on Dort Highway.

My editor, Roger, asked that I go find a prostitute working on the street and see if I could get a comment about whether they were fearful of the recent series of homicides and if they knew any of the working women who had been killed.

So there I was driving north and south on Dort like any regular John looking for a hooker. There were certain spots where they hung out, usually places with an easy access to motorists, like an abandoned store parking lot.

The women would appear and disappear almost as quickly as you were able to turn around and try to talk to them.

Finally, I spotted a would be worker and pulled up next to her, identified myself and asked her if I could simply interview her for a minute. For a Dort Highway hooker, this lady looked pretty nice, but she was not interested in an interview.

Finally after several attempts to get a comment, she leaned in and said "you're messing up our decoy sting, Jim, I'm a cop?" Should have known by the lack of needle sticks in her arm and the fact she was attractive.

Later, my cop sources at the Flint Police Department had a good laugh at my expense as they recounted my conversation with the decoy that they had been listening to over the wire worn by the female police officer. No doubt some of them were salivating over the potential of arresting a Flint Journal reporter on a soliciting charge, but were disappointed when they discovered I was only looking for a comment not something else.

So my patrols began again, this time I found a "real" prostitute, but she insisted that I was costing her money by being parked next to her and asking questions. She said I either had to pay the equivalent for a "session" or get away from her.

When I told her I couldn't pay her for the interview, she told me "I could use some cigarettes." I found out what brand she smoked and went to the nearby 7-11 to buy her a "gift" of cigarettes. In my own mind I justified the "gift" as different from a cash payment for the interview. Probably a bad decision.

By the time I returned about 10 minutes later, she was gone. My patrol continued and about 20 minutes she was back at her spot. So I gave her the packs of cigarettes and she gave me an anonymous statement on how "a girl had to work" and that she wasn't worried about any killer because she had a pretty regular clientele that she knew and trusted.

Then she let me know that I had overstayed my cigarette bribe.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bulwer-Lytton bad fiction contest rides again

Some people wait for their favorite awards shows, The Golden Globes or The Academy Awards, but for me I like the annual Bulwer-Lytton bad fiction contest sponsored by San Jose State University.

Sometimes called the "It was a dark and stormy night...contest" the judges honor the worst opening book lines that people submit. Even I once entered with a dramatic opening that I had actually witnessed at a crime scene outside the Carriage Town Mission in Flint.

My line, which did not win, but got an honorable mention postcard from the judges was:

"Beer mixed in the blood oozing from the knife wound in the drunk's abdomen was so fresh that it still had a head on it."

A detective at the scene pointed out to me that the bubbles I saw in the gutter was actually the fresh beer foam that was leaking from the victim's belly. The fight, as I recall some 15-20 years later, was over a 40-ounce bottle of beer two drunks were trying to share.

Man was I wrong

Guess that Senate seat in Massachusetts doesn't actually belong to the Kennedy family or the Democrats. I'm not one that tends to believe media hype and this result may have been a combination of voter remorse, but also a factor of a really, really bad Democrat candidate.

Next time, learn your baseball Martha. President Obama invested his own political clout in the race by going there at the last minute, so he has to be a little upset today. CNN said last night that Obama won Massachusetts a year ago by 26 points. That's a stunning reversal by any one's estimation.

That said, my candidate, Joseph Kennedy, the only Kennedy running for Kennedy's seat, trailed badly. My dream of a growing, influential third party, remains just a dream.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Daily Show on the Massachusetts race

While I still think it's a pretty long shot that the Republican will win in Massachusetts, The Daily Show reminded me last night why I love to watch.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mass Backwards
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Monday, January 18, 2010

First the layoffs, now the hiring

Just a couple weeks ago we reported the pending layoffs at Booth newspapers on the west side of the State. Today comes this ad. Hard to know if this is cutting too deeply, or getting rid of the high-priced help and replacing it with lower paid, part-time help.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hoping for the 'Kennedy' to pull out Massachusetts race

I keep hearing how the Massachusetts seat up for grabs is a "Kennedy" seat. Forget that it belongs to the people, but if it is truly a Kennedy seat, I'm hoping for a win for the only 'Kennedy' in the race, Joseph L. Kennedy, an independent candidate. That is one of those hope, beyond hope things.

What is really startling is that this is a race at all. Massachusetts is a pretty liberal state. But today, President Obama is leaving the White House, the tragedy in Haiti and concerns over terrorists to go there an campaign for the Democrat who was at one time 31 points ahead.

She hasn't helped herself with Palinesque gaffes like "there are no Taliban/terrorists left in Afghanistan."

Not to mention offending Roman Catholics in a State full of them.

But the really big gaffe had nothing to do with national or foreign policy, it has to do with the Boston Red Sox. During a radio interview Ms. Martha Coakley referred to legendary Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling as a "Yankee fan."

I can assure you, knowing Boston like I do, that this will not go down well. It was Schilling who courageously pitched the Red Sox to a key World Series game win over the St. Louis Cardinals with blood oozing out of his sock. It is a moment trapped in Boston lore and that frankly anyone in Massachusetts should know instictively.

Schilling who is backing the Republican candidate, Scott Brown, had this to say on his blog:

“I’ve been called a lot of things...But never, and I mean never, could anyone ever make the mistake of calling me a Yankee fan. Well, check that, if you didn’t know what the hell is going on in your own state maybe you could….”

I still think it's an uphill battle for anyone but a Democrat to win such a major seat in Massachusetts, but the fact that it is even this close should give some pause to the Democrats.

Pat Robertson, Danny Glover: When saying nothing sometimes makes good sense

Two lunatic versions on the disaster in Haiti:

Danny Glover (about two minutes in seems to blame global warming for the earthquake)

Pat Robertson blames the earthquake on a pact with the devil

Remembering the warriors today

'Til the Last Shot is fired' with Trace Adkins and the U.S. Army Glee Club.

Funafuti: A place of peace, a place I want to go

When I was a boy, my late stepfather Ray used to reminisce about a place he visited during World War II.

Ray was a Navy pilot, but from what I could glean from our rare discussions, not a combat one. He flew PBYs, a large plane equipped to land and take off on water. He visited all the hot spots, including Guadalcanal, but always after the islands were secured by Marines and Army units.

He had a Navy friend, Frank Ferguson who used to stop by our house in La Crescenta and they would talk about their war experiences. I was always fascinated by their talks. But one place they talked about that stuck with me was Funafuti.

Funafuti, the capital city of the Tuvalu atoll, was a small Navy base that both Frank and my stepfather had visited. When they spoke of Funafuti they would light up. It was obviously a place of fond memories.

When my stepfather would become frustrated with the routine and not-so-routine challenges of life he would often say: "God, I wish I was back on Funafuti."

For some reason I woke up thinking about those discussions between Frank and Ray in our living room in the early 1960s (Frank died of cancer in the 1960s). So thanks to Google I found out a little about the island nation.

According to the Funafuti travel website, (the chart for population and acreage is reversed) the island nation, one of the newest members of the United Nations, has a population of a little over 9,000 (as of 2002 census). Half of the population of the country lives in the capital city of Funafuti. The group of small islands are a part of a former volcano rim in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and it looks like it is only a couple city blocks wide in many places.

You can't find flights on Expedia, Priceline or any of the usual travel sites and it appears only Air Pacific flies there and only a couple days a week. I couldn't find a price or even an airport to fly from (there are no flights from any American airport to Funafuti listed on any travel site I checked).

There are 5-6 hotels, with the largest having 12 rooms. One motel has three rooms and a daily rate of $80 (Australian). There are wonderful excursions for the few travelers who do come there.

God, I wish I was on Funafuti, and I've never been there.