INN: MINUTE NEWSBIT

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“FU-EE-2-UU,” Mr. Charles Sandwyche said to the Lynnwood, NJ DMV, when his request for a specific vanity license plate inscription was denied.  “I was totally shocked–because it wasn’t obscene or anything.  It’s a violation of free speech–if you ask me.  They offered me “KA-BLU–EE,” “NUTZ-2-YW”, “EE-I-I-OU,” and “QAA-POWE” as alternatives.  Those weren’t anywhere near what I wanted.  So, I guess I’ll mope along with random letters and numbers.

“We try to give registrants what they want when we can, said Robyn Batson, Secretary of NJ Department of Vehicle Registrations.  We thought “FU-EE-2-UU” could potentially incite someone to violence.  Especially with the amount of road rage incidents these days.  Don’t get me wrong–I’m not putting any of that on Mr. Sandwyche.  I’m sorry Mr. Sandwyche was disappointed.  There were many viable and creative alternatives available. One of my favorites ones is “DT-DU-DOG-DU”–it’s humorous, and a public service message at the same time.  So far, there’s been no takers.

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1-19-15, Lantz Walters, “Minute Newsbit”–Imaginary News Network©

MESSAGE FROM A BOTTLE

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It was more about frustration, than hate–a desire for perfection.   Impulsive fires of youth no longer raged in Larry’s heart.  Deep down, the embers still smoldered.  Larry and Martha’s dream of semi-blissful existence on the far fringes of suburbia, wasn’t fully realized.

An empty whiskey bottle sailed out the window of a speeding Lincoln Town Car.  Black smoke spewed from the tailpipe.  The bottle landed near Larry’s feet.

“You ignorant son-of-a bitch!”  He yelled.

That was deliberate.  That jackass tried to hit me!

Larry palmed the bottle; pitched a high, hard one at the back window–not enough to shatter glass.  …Just enough to get the driver’s attention.  The bottle glanced off with a loud bang, rolled into the weeds.  Good throw Larry–pat yourself on the back.  

The Lincoln skidded to a stop.  Larry watched from the shadows.  A heavy-set, red-faced man stepped out and looked around.

 Just as I expected–some fat ass, lazy dude.  What do you know–he found the bottle.  I didn’t give him enough credit.  Does he know where it came from?  Did he get my message from a bottle?

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The Lincoln, weaved from side-to-side back down the hill.  Larry’s heart beat fast as the car rolled to a stop.  The enraged driver spotted Larry–wanted his pound of flesh.

“Did you see who threw this bottle at my car?”  The man held the whiskey bottle like a trophy.

“People throw out trash all the time,” Larry answered.

“That wasn’t what I asked–Mister.  Did you see who threw, THIS, bottle?  It scared the bejesus out of me.  I could have been injured or had an accident.”

“Maybe it was from a lawnmower?” Larry offered.

“No, it was thrown too hard–too straight for that.”  Answered the angry man.  “I think you know who did this.  “You’re just not saying.”

“Are you calling me a liar?” Larry asked indignantly.  “Because, if you are, you can get your ass back down the road and off my property.”

“I got no proof–if I did I’d file charges, ” The heavy-set man’s anger turned to frustration.

The heated discussion became less about a whiskey bottle, more about who had the moral high ground.

“What gives you the right to file charges?  You tossed out the bottle in the first place.  The bottle almost hit ME.  “I’M the one that should file charges–against YOU!”

“Larry, Jim’s on the phone, ” Martha called from the house at just the right moment.

“I’ve got to take this call,” Larry explained.

The Lincoln driver left in a hurry–unsatisfied.

“What were you guys talking about?  He seemed angry,” Martha asked.

“Someone threw a whiskey bottle at his car,” Larry answered.

“Who would want to do that?” Martha asked.  She knew Larry had a fiery temper.

Mournful siren sounds wailed in the distance.  Larry looked up at the night sky–clutched his stomach.  Burning, searing pain subsided.  Was this how it felt to die?  The Lincoln’s rectangular headlights slowly disappeared as the car backed down the driveway.

It started with a knock on the door sometime after midnight.  The knocks became louder and more desperate.  “Who could that be?” Larry asked Martha.  “It’s three in the morning.  …A car accident?  I’ll check it out. Call the Sheriff if I’m not back right away.”

“I’m coming–don’t beat the door down.  What are YOU, doing, here?” Larry asked the man from the previous afternoon.  They stood silhouetted in the car’s headlights.  “What do you want?”  Larry asked.

“You know why I’m here,”  The stranger answered.  “What do I want?”  “I want you to admit you pitched this bottle at my car yesterday.  Take the bottle–I’m not joking!”  There was a chrome plated revolver tucked in his waistband.

“All right–I did it!  I threw this bottle at your car!  I didn’t mean anything by it.”  Larry pleaded. “Now, can I go back to bed?”

“No, I’m not done,” The stranger replied.  “You know you really pissed me off!  Was this whiskey bottle worth your life?”

“No,” Larry answered feebly–clutching the bottle tightly against his chest.  Why did he pick my yard?  There were plenty of other yards.

“That’s not the point!  The angry man answered.  “This was just a bottle until you threw it–then it became a weapon.  Never bring a bottle to a gunfight.”

Two gunshots echoed in the night.  Larry crumpled to cold concrete clad only in underwear and robe.  A puddle of blood spread underneath his body.  Nearby was the empty whiskey bottle.

The Lincoln sped away.  Larry couldn’t move–struggled to cry out. Words wouldn’t come.  He awakened, breathless, soaked in cold sweat.  He checked the front door–then ran cold water on his face in the bathroom.  Going back to bed was pointless.

 

SYLVESTER, BIRD WATCHERS & THE RUMOR MILL

“Dammit!” Nellis Trueblood wiped dog excrement from his right foot.  Clad in house slippers, faded blue-plaid bathrobe, and pajamas, he bent over, retrieved the morning newspaper.  There were no secrets in the tight-knit community of Eastlake Meadows.  He had a good idea whose dog did this.  On the way back, Nellis rinsed off his slipper at the water spigot.

The feline triumvirate, Sylvester, Sam, and Sweetie waited in the kitchen; it was feeding time.  Sweetie weaved in and out between his legs.  Sylvester, a black and white “Tuxedo” cat, as always, dominated the food bowl.  Nellis read the paper and ate breakfast.  Since his wife Melba died, he seldom smiled.tuxedo 2

Was that the distinctive sound of a lawnmower–in the middle of January?  What neighborhood lamebrain mowed their lawn in winter?  Couldn’t they wait till spring?  A white lawn maintenance truck parked at the Finney’s, two doors down.  It was either tenacity or stupidity–he wasn’t sure which?

Nellis settled back in his brown, burnished leather, living room chair–newspaper and coffee close at hand.  He thumbed through the sports section, police blotter, and community news.  He stopped in amazement on page five.  HIs lips moved as he read aloud, “Alderman Cavanaugh, from Ward 4, proposed an ordinance requiring pets to be leashed at all times when outside–even cats.  Furthermore, cat owners would pay an annual license fee.  The issue was tabled, pending a public hearing next month.”

His jaw dropped in disbelief.  “If they pass this, I’m not gonna’ do it!  They can haul me straight to jail!  I’m knee-high in dog shit and they’re gonna’ leash cats?  What’s next?  …Leashes on parakeets?  …Licensed goldfish?  What’s with those idiots down at city hall?”  He was shouting; all the cats, except Sylvester, ran away and hid.  This couldn’t be happening, it just couldn’t be–or, could it?

Mr. Trueblood’s semi-reclusive existence was broken, by occasional visits to the senior center.  During a recent spirited pinochle game, Nellis, in an attempt at black humor, remarked to his neighbor, Harold Finney, “Harold, I need to put up more bird feeders.”  “Are you taking up bird watching?”  Harold asked–waited for the punch line.  “No, my cats need more exercise and plenty of fat birds to eat.”  The little group of guys guffawed in thigh-slapping laughter.

The joke didn’t stop there.  Doris, Harold’s wife, was an avid bird watcher.  She didn’t think it was the least bit funny.  In fact, she was horrified.  Had Doris and her bird watching club influenced Alderman Cavanaugh?  Nellis Trueblood had little doubt.  There was chilled resolve in the air.  They’ll certainly hear from me at the next meeting.  Nellis Bascombe Trueblood never walked away from a fight!  Sylvester licked his front paws, watched from a vantage point near the potted croton.                

THE MONSTER in my neighborhood.

It’s a great neighborhood with manicured lawns.  Out in the country, with two streets and forty-four houses.  My neighbors are a mixture of retirees and young adults.  You couldn’t ask for much more.  My street is under county jurisdiction.  The other street is in the city limits.  Because of this odd arrangement, those on the other street have sidewalks and curbs.  A happy neighborhood filled with happy people.  What more could a person possibly want?  Two years of idyllic existence was about to change.  A “Godzilla” like monster loomed over the horizon–ready to send frightened citizens fleeing in fear.

The Neighborhood Association monster, prepared to strike.  There was nothing that could be done.  It was mandated by state law.  …Like it or lump it.  How bad would it be?  We’d been kicked out of the nest by subdivision developers.  Responsibilities were turned over to property owners.  It seemed all cut and dried.  The newly formed homeowner’s group was registered as a non-profit corporation.  We’d elect officers and be on our way.  This was my first experience with a neighborhood association.  If I only knew then, what I know now.  What was a neighborhood association supposed to do?

Responsibilities included collecting annual dues, issuing liens in cases of delinquency, disbursing payment for expenses.  Another important function, enforcement of a set of rules called covenants.  Covenants set certain limitations on property usage.  This maintained zoning and appearance standards.  For example, a business couldn’t be established, in our residential area.  The number of outbuildings was restricted.  Outbuildings needed to be set back a prescribed footage from property lines.  The association provided a conduit to air grievances.  The charter included a limited security and public safety function.

Volunteer organizations brought out the best and worst in people.  Associations functioned well as long as personalities didn’t get in the way.  A real-life horror movie was about to emerge.  The operation of our association was similar to an automobile with two steering wheels.  The steering wheels, operated front wheels independently, and turned in opposite directions.  Forward progress was difficult–if not impossible.  Officer’s personalities made it difficult to reach consensus on issues.  One officer, browbeat members, by shouting “Shut Up!” and “Sit down! when opposing opinions were voiced.  Another officer, an aspiring despot, got his “freak on” by selective covenant enforcement.  He did construction work on the side.  Persons not accepting his bids were fair game.

Most issues were minor, with some exceptions.  …Dogs and cats defecating in front yards.  …Caused by  people refusing to leash and confine their pets.  There’d been an overabundance of stray dogs.  A few cars parked in driveways with unlocked doors were broken into.  The most serious, was theft of a boat parked in a driveway, in broad daylight.  My neighbor was interviewed by a local TV station.  A teenage boy on the next street, was suspected of property damage.  He allegedly drove his pickup truck through landscaped yards.  Yard decor items were destroyed or stolen.  His truck, the next day, was covered in matching mud.  The parents were in full denial.  When the family moved away, the vandalism mysteriously ceased.  The association was powerless to act without absolute proof.

As in all volunteer organizations, there is a small core of the faithful.  They attend meetings regularly and volunteer when needed.  Some never attend or volunteer for anything.  Rebellious members would like nothing more than to disband the association.  That would entail considerable legal fees.  Individual homeowners would assume legal responsibility.  Some neighbors must have deeper pockets than I.  There was a recent turnover of officers.  The monster had yet to show its ugliest, most hideous behavior.  It was announced that new officers sought to review all financial records before taking over.  This was to determine financial health of the organization.

What ensued was like an old “Jimmy Cagney” movie.  Right away, outgoing officers got defensive.  “You got nothin’ on me.” “Youse got no legal status around here.” “Besides, you’re not in office yet.” Several contacted attorneys.  If they weren’t guilty, why the appearance of guilt?  Irregularities were found.  Most of it attributed to bad record keeping.  Too many expenses came out of petty cash.  There was no “smoking gun.” It was ironic that outgoing officers later refused to volunteer for projects proposed by new officers.  It seemed a bit hypocritical.  Our new officers have banking and accounting backgrounds.  There are worse examples of neighborhood associations out of control.  I take small comfort in that.  Faith in human behavior is often a letdown.  I expected better from my neighbors.  Will our monster stay placated for the next three years?

PROCRASTINATION MADE ME DO IT

The Bible lists “Seven Deadly Sins.” There are numerous vices, overindulgences, and bad habits to fall victim to.  One of these is procrastination.  I don’t think it gets enough credit.  Give credit where credit is due.

Why am I sitting here watching my grass grow to heights unknown?  Because it’s Saturday and I know I can mow it next week.  I’m well-known for starting things and not finishing.  I’m aware of my bad habit and keep it under control most of the time.  There’s no self-help organization available.   According to well-known sources… “Procrastinators Anonymous never got off the ground because meetings were continually delayed.”

Here are some hypothetical situations.  A potential state senate candidate missed the filing deadline.  As a result he missed the opportunity to run for office.  Why? Was he still collecting signatures on a petition?  …Poor planning?  Or was it procrastination?  Was he fit to be a state senator?  A routine traffic stop, a citation for speeding.  The night before, the driver watched a movie until the early morning hours.  As a result she was tired, didn’t hear the alarm and got a late start.  She procrastinated the time she went to bed.  Movie watching was prioritized over sleep.  Both were poor choices.  Additionally, her driver’s license was expired.  The renewal notice came in the mail.  A decision was made to delay renewal, after all, she had a month.  …Absent-mindedness?  …Maybe?  Pure and simple procrastination started the whole mess.  I failed to mention her “bad hair” day.  A young high school boy missed an opportunity to ask a special young lady to the prom.  His mother cautioned him not to wait too long.  Someone else beat him to the punch.  The young man rationalized, that she probably didn’t want to go out with him anyway.  Procrastination struck once again.      

—-The greatest amount of wasted time, is the time not getting started—-

–Dawson Trotman–

What role does procrastination play in our lives?  Have there been scientific studies made on the subject?  If not, there should be.  The cynic in me says they were probably delayed.  I suspect procrastination plays a greater role than we think.  The effects of procrastination are myriad.  We compromise, settle for second best–even do without.  Extra pressure is injected into our already complicated lives.  All because of a conscious choice.  Don’t let procrastination rule your life!  In my opinion, that’s a sin that could prove deadly.

Procrastination, I know thee well.  I’m going to mow my grass now.  I shamed myself into it.  It would be truly tragic if the neighborhood association sent out sheriff’s deputies.  Imagine my embarrassment, being ticketed for an “Unsightly lawn,” “Bringing down property values.” The kicker, would be the citation for “Excessive use of lawn ornaments and windchimes.” Is procrastination a valid legal defense?  “Your Honor, my client was under the influence of Procrastinational Forces beyond his control and is therefore not guilty!