Friday, April 12, 2013

Crazy comes to Cayucos, pretending to have a gun

We get our share of crazies passing through town. I met one yesterday at Kelley’s Coffee and Espresso Shop in Cayucos, and right away he took a dislike to me—and to just about everyone who crossed his path.

The sheriff’s deputies had informed window washers on the job across the street that they were looking for a scruffy fellow wearing a plaid jacket. Not an easy task in this town. There are a lot of scruffy guys wearing plaid jackets around here.

Apparently he had been spotted waving a stick in a threatening manner at the middle-school up the road, pretending he had a gun.

As the window washer described the character, a man, a stranger fitting the description, passed by the window of the coffee shop. “That’s him!” the window washer exclaimed. “That’s him! Should I call the cops?”

“You bet,” I responded just as a squad car drove by the intersection. I rushed out the door and flagged down the squad car.

The deputy turned the car and came back. He rolled down his window. “That’s your guy right there isn’t it?” I nodded.

“Yeah,” the deputy said, offering a look of irritation. He rolled up his window and drove away.

And suddenly there I was left standing alone, the deputy off to who knows where, and the crazy guy raging pissed off at me.

In this climate of gun crazies blowing children to smithereens I figured that I was doing the right thing. “Here’s your man, the one who was waving his hand like he had a gun at the school yard.”

“You got something to say about me, you say it to my face,” the stranger said.

“OK,” I answered, “apparently the cops are looking for a guy whose description you fit to a T, a guy who was seen menacing the children, like he had a gun up at the school.”

“Say gun again and you’ll be sorry,” he threatened.

“The police said ‘gun,’ not me.”

He stared at me menacingly. “Stare into my eyes!”

I snorted a smirk, trying not to laugh.

“I thought so,” he said, as if he’d judged me an easy target, a weakling. Then he followed me to Kelley’s. We sat out front at one of the tables.

I didn’t want him to feel threatened or challenged or bothering the other customers. I kept watching for the deputies to pull up any moment. 

“Where are you from?” I asked.

He stared me down again, said he was from Oklahoma, asked me if I’d ever seen the bloody Arkansas River. 

“No,” I answered. “How did it get bloody?”

“From people I took care of.”

“Are you telling me you’re a killer?”

“Just keep pushing me,” he threatened.

Where are the damned deputies? I kept wondering.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

No answer.

“What’s your name?”

He got up and walked away, rattled. Clearly he was insane and what I deemed a threat to the community. Apparently, the deputies thought otherwise, despite what they had told the window washers.

I went inside and moments later he came back and sat outside the window facing me, staring at me, giving me the Jedi mind control treatment, disturbing other customers.

I can take care of myself but I didn’t feel like getting into a scrape with him. I just wanted to finish drinking my coffee, reading the newspaper, unmolested by someone who belongs in an institution.

I felt annoyed and threatened. He caused concern among customers and staff. He reportedly made threatening gestures at the school. “He gives me the creeps,” an employee said.

Meanwhile, despite word from the deputies that he had threatened students at the school, he continued to roam free.

Finally, after nearly 30 minutes of staring me down through the window, he came in to borrow the shop phone, saying he had been robbed.

“Sorry, the phone is out of order,” a staffer said.

He went outside and got hold of a cellphone from one of the cyclists who stop in for coffee treats on their road trips up and down Highway 1, the same road that brings the crazies through town.

He called the sheriff’s office on the borrowed phone to report that someone had swiped a Rabobank pen, a freebie the bank gives its customers, from his jacket pocket. The deputies investigated, determined it was a false report and hauled him off to jail.

An arresting deputy said, “Mental health is the problem in this country, not guns. We’ll take him in, have him evaluated.”

The next day, the stranger was back, mad as ever and still raging and threatening.

He pretended again as if he had a gun, this time holding his hand behind his back, while confronting Kelley, owner of the coffee shop. She called the deputies and made a citizen’s arrest.

As the deputy pulled away, the nutter in the back seat threw his head in a jerking motion, lips pursed, as if he was spitting on me and Kelley through the shop window.

He’ll likely be back. Then what? And what about the deputy who left me standing there to confront someone who had been reported seen menacing the children?

I felt exposed and vulnerable, not protected by the deputy's response to my willingness to help. Later when I mentioned it to another deputy, he seemed perturbed, didn’t want to discuss it.

“We’re too busy," he said. "I wasn’t here yesterday. I’m here getting the story.”

“I’m part of the story,” I said. He gave me a look, irritated.

“Why is that guy back here?” I asked. “I thought he was going to be evaluated.” The deputy was clearly more irritated than interested in my questions or my side of the story.

As I say, when children are daily threatened in this country with violence, I feel a personal responsibility to do my part to protect them. But law enforcement's response to my willingness to help did little to assure me. I felt exposed, unsafe and unprotected by lending my hand to the deputy. 

Next time, I’ll think twice about it, wondering if the deputy’s action will leave me exposed to threats and danger from those they seek.

Clearly, if I want protection, I must be prepared to protect myself, with or without the deputy's help. §

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The strange mystical love logic of a former wife beater

The body is like a dream. When we see this and awake, not a trace remains. How much time is left for the looking?

— The Unfettered Mind: Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master

The preacher man
said this earth suit
will slip away
like a blade
of grass that withers 
under the scorching sun
and falls to the ground.

I’m a sinner
like you he said.
I used to beat 
my wife [and she
stood there next to him 
saying nothing 
with her mouth, nodding]

but I gave 
my life to Jesus
and now I’m a sinner
saved by grace who beats 
the Devil instead 
cutting him down
to size!

When this earth suit 
slips away 
I’ll put on
a new shinier heavenly
suit that will last

forever and ever, amen!

He shot his wife
a look and they smiled.

Come to the Lord!
Be healed! Be saved!
Glory, hallelujah! he shouted
kicking back a heel
and hopping up off
the other foot as if
struck by lightning.

Shecome Onahonda!
She come on a honda!

he said in a babbling tongue
his face contorted
the converted wife beater
channeling his anger
into a strange new
kind of mystical 
love logic.