Our weekly illustrated chronicle of wacky, dude-based news items continues, this time with a guy vacuuming quarters out of washing machines and a stinky shotgun corpse.
Let’s face it: times are tough. Things are fiscally wobbly. America, at the moment, is a country full of desperate people. America, at the moment, is also a country full of men. And men devise intriguing ways to solve financial conundrums, if by “intriguing” we mean “insane.”
William Logan, 40, is no doubt a fine man. He hails from Lincoln, Nebraska (population roughly 255,000), “The Prairie Capital City,” which, the Convention and Visitors Bureau website notes, “offers the exhilaration of a big city and the serenity of the countryside all in one place.”
But Lincoln’s charms are likely out of reach of its economically challenged citizens. One of these appears to have been Mr. Logan.
Recently he allegedly devised an intriguing (insane?) way to fatten his piggy bank: obtaining laundry-machine quarters using a vacuuming device.
Lincoln Journal-Star reporter Cory Matteson reported April 5 that city police “ticketed a man who they believe used [a vacuum] to suck a bunch of quarters out of several apartment house laundry machines,” and that security video footage showed the man, who wore a backpack with a vacuum attachment, “prying open the coin tray, plugging in the vacuum and sucking out the change.”
Mr. Matteson’s ability to remain straight-faced while using some form of the word “suck” twice in a six-paragraph story shows that he is a professional of the highest caliber.
When Dudes in the News writes “suck,” we collapse on the floor in a puddle of giggles. This suggests that we are amateurs of the lowest caliber, who possess the emotional maturity of a 13-year-old boy—a thought that, indeed, may be an insult to 13-year-old boys the world over.
A police officer with the torrentially fascinating name of Katie Flood said police cited Mr. Logan on suspicion of misdemeanor theft, which he adds to three prior theft convictions.
That Lincoln police merely wrote Mr. Logan a ticket shows a commendable level of sophistication. There are in the world, they obviously realize, bigger fish to fry, such as, for example, squatters.
What do you call someone who allegedly uses a “For Sale” sign to smash the window of an empty $500,000 house in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. (population roughly 18,500), then moves in and makes it his home?
You call him an intriguing (insane?) man employing desperate measures in desperate times.
Or, if it is April 8 and you’re the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, you call him Frederick Cooper Harris III, 43, of Wilmerding, Pennsylvania. (population 2,016).
Alerted by a caretaker to an interloper’s presence in the upscale home on April 6, police found Mr. Harris hiding in a bathroom closet. They charged him with burglary, criminal trespass, and criminal mischief.
“He had personal items in the home,” Murrysville Police Chief Thomas Seefeld told the Trib-Review. “He basically was making a home there.”
“Usually, people pay money when they buy a home and move in,” the chief added, displaying the irrefutable common sense and bone-dry humor typical of police in Murrysville and across the land.
Prior to settling into the house, Mr. Harris had toured it with a realtor. While doing so, the Trib-Review reported, he “wore gloves.” Had he donned these in combination with a top hat, morning coat, striped trousers and spats, one could only have concluded that Mr. Harris was a boulevardier of exceptional elegance.
But he did not. He likely wore them so as not to leave fingerprints while casing the joint.
True, this sort of prudence is practiced only by the world’s most advanced criminals. But that Mr. Harris had an outstanding warrant in the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office on similar burglary charges suggests that he is, alas, not one of them.
In their search for Mr. Harris, Murrysville police were aided by their trusty canine companion, Argos, whose name is as delightful as it is bewildering.
Whatever Mr. Harris’s other malfeasances, he did not bark at the animal.
This distinguishes him entirely from Ryan James Stephens, 25, of Mason, Ohio (population 30,000), an intriguing (insane?) man charged with a misdemeanor after “making barking noises and hissing” at a police dog enclosed within a cop car, according to an April 5 Associated Press report.
When an officer with the terrifically casual name of Bradley Walker asked Mr. Stephens why he was harassing the animal, the young man replied, according to the AP, “the dog started it.”
This excuse is on a level with “the dog ate my homework.” It hints at a dimwittedness perhaps only explained by the fact that, according to Officer Walker, Mr. Stephens appeared “highly intoxicated.”
“Highly intoxicated”—but not dead, unlike the woman, or former woman, whom a man named Jerry Maestas drove to a hospital emergency room in Espanola, New Mexico (population roughly 9,700).
An April 6 post on the website of KOB-TV in Albuquerque (population roughly 530,000), reports that Mr. Maestas, 64, had “the 33-year-old woman’s decomposing body propped up in the passenger’s seat” and asked hospital staff “to come outside and help his sick friend.”
A police spokesman saddled with the enthrallingly rhythmic name of Jeremy Apodaca told the TV station that hospital staff “could tell by the smell that the woman had been dead for some time.”
Television news will never be accused of exhibiting reportorial depth. Thus we are left with no idea why Mr. Maestas drove a dead woman to a hospital, who “she” was, what relationship the two had, whether hospital staff and/or passers-by vomited upon sight of the decaying corpse, etc.
Perhaps in an alternate universe events might have unfolded something like this:
Jerry Maestas, 64, is spending a pleasant evening in the company of his “life partner” Judy, 33. He stands behind a fully stocked living-room bar. Judy sits quietly in an armchair set before a roaring late-winter fire.
Mr. Maestas pours a drink for her and one for himself. It is his nineteenth of the night; he is, it is fair to say, “highly intoxicated.”
He places Judy’s drink on an end table by her chair. “Here you are, dear,” he says, or slurs. She does not respond; she only stares, glassy-eyed, into the fire.
Mr. Maestas wonders at her silence, but his musing is interrupted by the dawning sense that something smells pretty awful. He tries and fails to locate the source of the stench.
He shrugs. It could be coming from anywhere in the house, which is unfamiliar to him. He only discovered the place a few hours ago. It was empty, so he decided—why not?—to move in.
Doing so was simple enough, except for his struggle to get Judy inside. Mr. Maestas was bewildered by her inertia. He had to carry her in and prop her in the armchair. He failed to notice, as he did so, that her right arm fell off.
Now, alert to the fact that snacks always enhance cocktails, Mr. Maestas pours Wheat Thins onto a plate. He is carrying them across the room when his foot catches on a vacuum-cleaner hose. The crackers slide from plate to floor and then smash to bits when he falls on them.
“Goddamn it,” he mutters. “I wish I were wearing gloves.” He pauses. “Well, and a top hat.”
He wonders how he’ll clean up the crackers. Spying the vacuum cleaner, he cries, “Salvation!”
Alas, he fails to grasp the hose before turning on the machine. As the vacuum’s motor whirs, the tube and its suction attachment begin to whip round the room like a cobra teased from its basket by a snake charmer’s flute.
Presently the device twirls its way to Judy. Hissing madly, it “sucks” her facial skin clean off, leaving naught but a bright and shiny skull.
“Oh well,” Mr. Maestas mumbles, “sucking” at his drink. “I’ll get the life insurance money. That’ll make things less fiscally wobbly.”
Outside, a van screeches up and two men in white coats leap out. They rush in and seize Mr. Maestas, who protests by barking loudly.
The first orderly spies Judy, or what’s left of her.
“Well,” he says, “that’s a clever way to score thousands of bucks in insurance money. What an intriguing scam.”
“Sure,” the second says. “If by ‘intriguing’ you mean—”
In unison they cry, “INSANE!”
They strap Mr. Maestas into a straight jacket, pile him into the van, and head off to distant lands, aka Lincoln, Nebraska, where the serenity of the countryside heals all who may be collapsed on the floor in a puddle of giggles and restores order when, let’s face it, times are tough.
Dave Ford is a San Francisco writer whose work has appeared in Spin, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SF Weekly, The Advocate, and a host of other periodicals. He writes the blog First of All, and is a certified yoga instructor who teaches at various venues in his home city.
Illustration by Bion Harrigan. Bion Harrigan keeps his head firmly planted in the clouds and has done so since the earliest days of a youth misspent idly daydreaming, reading Mad magazine, and drawing scary monsters and super creeps. He continues to spend an inordinate amount of time daydreaming and drawing at his home in Maplewood, New Jersey.
Other dudes, who, previously, have been “in the news”: