Wednesday, March 7, 2018

#IWSG - MARCH 2018 CHECK-IN - MUSINGS AND NO PROMPTS



Apropos of nothing and with no prompt, this month's check-in is basically, a half-baked melange of what I've been attempting to work on, in terms of fiction writing. As I think a lot of writers do, I try to incorporate real-life events around me into whatever I think will make my writing a bit more exciting.

It did, however, get a wee bit too exciting around here in October and November of 2017 when, along with the usual drug-runners, brain-dead meth-heads tearing around loose with guns and knives, we had a real serial killer pop up in our midst along my bus route. He approached and killed his victims in the one way I would never be able to defend myself against. From behind, and he'd put a bullet in the back of his victims' heads.

I'm not physically afraid of anyone or anything; I've fought off two muggers and chased two idiots out of my house who had the audacity to interrupt my sleep during a wind storm, when my stupid door blew open. A crime of opportunity became a humbling lesson indeed for two young men who didn't think that someone smaller than they were, could be so bat-shit crazy or ferocious. My only reaction to the invasion was one of pissed-offed-ness, as I have trouble sleeping.

But this scenario truly scared me. The TPD had grainy photos of some guy, who could or could not be the shooter, but who knew. That was when I started ordering food online and having it delivered for a short-time. I could think of no way to counter an assassin like that, short of developing eyes in the back of my head, and I'm not going to be around enough eons for that development. We did start pairing up and people were no longer walking alone; always a good thing around here, but I'm also used to my freedom and I hated this.

He quickly took three victims, beginning October 9th, and then, went to earth for about three weeks. Then, one night, in early November, an older man was crossing Nebraska Ave., about a mile north of me, and the shooter got him. The older man was meeting his Pastor to discuss the food kitchen they ran in that sector, and the police nearly caught the shooter, but he got away. The older man died and once again, another part of our community died.


This is what happens in any situation where a life is just wantonly taken. It's not only the man's family or his relatives and friends, but there were others in the kitchen who depended on him to deliver supplies, help prepare the food and serve the homeless. The damage is immeasurable and, while it can be replaced, it's never the same. The person is gone.

Two days following the fourth killing, the shooter, who was working at a McDonald's in Ybor City, handed a bag to his manager and said “Don't look in this bag”. Well, of course, she looked in the bag and saw a .9mm Glock handgun. She called TPD detectives and the shooter was taken into custody. Apparently, there had been some kidding between one of the detectives and the manager that the composite looked like this kid who worked for her who in fact, did turn out to be the killer.

Our Mayor, Bob Buckhorn has been hot about this from the start. He's a good Mayor and a good man. He's determined to see this man go to Starke, which is where our prisoners are put to death in Florida. Mayor Buckhorn was angry from the beginning, as the first victim was a young autistic boy, who had gotten on the wrong bus and was confused. I understand the Mayor's anger in this. Once again, the weak are preyed upon.

Here's what I don't get; this is such a mystery to me and there are so many questions. The shooter bought the gun in his own name, and waited the mandatory 3-day waiting period before picking up the .9mm Glock. Three days later, he committed his first murder. Shortly after that, he committed two more and then stopped. Apparently, the heat wasn't hot enough, so he shot the fourth victim, then two days later, gave the bag to his Mickey D's manager with the admonition “Don't look in this bag!” Who among us, wouldn't look in the bag? We're all curious. This whole murder scenario from gun purchase to arrest is like a connect-the-dots, and I take NOTHING away from the fine TPD. They work their tails off, put up with asses like me – I yelled at one of the officers for having his back to an open door, like I was his mother – and they work under a constrained budget. PLUS, they get out and they know us. I can't think of a finer force of men and women in this job and I'm so grateful for them, but just what was the killer after here?

The shooter was a recent graduate of UVA, in Sports Administration and he was not working in his field. He had been working at UMA at their call center and did so for two months, when he was fired for absenteeism. He then applied for and worked at McDonald's. He had grown up in Tampa, and recently re-located back to this area, after graduating from UVA, but claimed not to “know it very well”, yet as a killer, he appeared to know it very well. He also lived with his parents. For him to commit these types of crimes in Florida seems so reckless (it does anywhere), but, he HAD to know that this is a Death State and the death penalty will be sought. I cannot see him getting out of this by “temporary insanity”.

So, is this an elaborate new way to commit suicide by Fiat? By justice? I really don't understand. What about his parents? Maybe I cannot relate and as a parent, if I KNEW my kid was running around killing people willy-nilly, and saw someone who looked and walked an awful lot like him, wouldn't I be curious? Would I not say something? Or would I, as lots of parents would, instinctively want to protect my child? So, I cannot put too much blame on them. They seem truly, truly shocked and hurt by this. Their son did not even look like himself, at the time of his arrest, so maybe there is a physical reason; a brain tumor, as in the case of Charles Whitman in the Tower of Texas A and M University, in 1964.

I was looking for a way to work this into my “Nebraska Creepers” series, but it is way too soon. People are too raw and skittish. If I do, it will have to be through some miraculous prose-y legerdemain that I do not yet possess to pull it off. But, that's what's been going on in my world. I have deliberately left names and place names out of this post; it's lurid enough, without dredging up more pain for the victims' families. My health is continuing to improve and I have another rent-a-kitty. This one's a mooch. She comes in the house, sits on my furniture, eats my chicken and leaves. All in all, pretty funny cat! Anyway, I hope you all have a productive #IWSG!


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

#IWSG CHECK IN FEBRUARY 2018 - WHERE THE HELL HAVE I BEEN?


Good question. I've mostly been depressed and when I wasn't depressed, I was sick, or in the hospital. This finally culminated with what (I swear) is going to my last hospitalization for quite a while in early January, due to mis-calibrated medication, which resulted in pancreatitis, followed by a nasty case of this flu that has been going around in Florida, two days after my hospital discharge. I also had a flu shot, so the three weeks I spent in bed with the flu was a best-case outcome. People younger and healthier than me, are dying of this in Florida and in several other states and the flu has not peaked yet. It's pretty frightening really. It also helped me to appreciate that fact that I'm really in relatively good health and reminded me that I need to start being grateful for that and get my head out of my own ass. 

So, it's back to the orchestra and back to writing. This month's question is a good one, and when I write fiction, which I write very little of, but am trying to remedy THAT situation, I tend to write in a science fiction-fantasy type mode, as Alex J. Cavanaugh would say, and for many of the same reasons. 

I think, too, that writing speculatively also helps to relieve some of the stresses of the modern world's problems and that thinking in an alternate universe kind of way, is another way to approach solutions to things that may not seem so solvable. People seem to be so intransigent now, but I think they're just really scared over nothing. It would be so great if we could just all put our differences aside and think rationally about the really grave problems that we're all facing in this world. Writing speculatively is one way to get through that, I think. 

Anyway, that's my take. It's really good to be back on my feet after such a prolonged bunch of craziness and misery, but I'm here for the long haul. Thanks, everyone for a great #IWSG experience. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

#BLOGGING #AMWRITING – ODE TO TAMPA HARTLINE ROUTE #2

courtesy:hartline.org                       

This is the current iteration of the bus, and #2 route. There have been many different bus "stylings" over the years.

It's hard to say goodbye to an old friend. It's even harder when that old friend isn't really a person, or a thing, or a place, but a state of mind, if you can call it that. When I found out that our old Tampa Hartline Bus route #2 on Nebraska Avenue was going completely away, I felt sad. I don't know why, because there will still be the sleek, MetroRapid that courses along Nebraska Avenue briskly. There won't be as many stops and it will all be very efficient and time-saving and money-saving, I suppose, but I am going to miss the wheezing blue bus that was full of God-Knows-What. It just always made my day and I've written about this route in several posts.

Missed the movie “Deliverance”? Never fear. It got on the #2 bus every day around 2:30, after the M.D. 20/20 had run out, and it was time to head back down town to the Salvation Army, where dinner was served at 4:30 pm. There'd be a hootenanny, a hoe-down AND a ho down in the aisle, if the driver just didn't give a shit, which most of them didn't as they were pretty jaded by all of this after years of driving this route.

courtesy:history.com                   

This is NOT who was running up and down the aisle, drunker than a coot screaming he was Apache and Geronimo and had a broken leg. Not even close! 

Last week, “Geronimo” got on the bus. I'm not too sure what this dude's deal was, except that I'm pretty sure the real Geronimo didn't sport Nikes, support hose, a broken leg - which he loudly proclaimed he'd just gotten and walked out of the E. R. with - a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey, and a porkpie hat, and proceeded to tomahawk his way up and down the aisle during our bus ride loudly proclaiming he was an “Apache and fuckin' Geronimo!” with a whiskey bottle hanging out of his back pocket. He got off at the local Drunk Park, or whatever it's now called. It's the one place I actually cross the street and pass at a stiff trot, brandishing my cane. They usually haul one or two out of there per day. Whether or not they survive is an open question.

Of course, no #2 bus route elegy is complete without “Shoe Sniffer”. This guy really cracked me up, but he pissed off most of the men on the bus. He was into sniffing shoes, but only men's shoes. When Jim was alive, he came home one day, and said, “Get this. I'm on the #2 bus just now and this guy comes up and asks me if he could smell my shoes. And then! Without even waiting for a yes or a no, he gets down and starts smelling my shoes! And then! He acted like he wanted to lick 'em! I told him to get the HELL away from me! Have you ever heard of such a thing?” By the time I stopped laughing and explained what a “shoe fetish” was, he was just aghast. Well, “Shoe Sniffer” was all over the place sniffing shoes on the #2 bus until he finally got arrested. It was such a shame, because it was so damn entertaining on the bus. You'd hear someone yell “GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME!” and just know “Shoe Sniffer” had struck again! Of course, to be fair and honest, if he was into sniffing women's panties, he would have been stopped a lot earlier than he was. Still; just sayin'.

     courtesy:hartline.org                 

This is one of the older "stylings"; a sort of rainbow swirl, that supposedly gave people motion sickness, but I think that's just an urban legend, kinda like those zombie poison trumpet plants, I made up a year or so ago for A-to-Z-Challenge! But the Checkers-of-the-Damned is for real!

Today, I thought we were just going to have a “normal” ride; one where there's just the usual din of 85 people yelling into their cell phones. Why bother using a cell to call the D. R., New York, or Nigeria, when you're screaming loud enough to be heard without the aid of one? I was also blessed to not have that random guy sitting next to me, just shouting out incoherently. I've had that and it always ends in a fist-fight; then, blood, tears and regret, but not mine. Keep your nightmares in your head; I have enough of my own, thank you.

But no, today we had this lovely gentleman get on the bus and he had a little posey bouquet of flowers; just so pretty. Everyone on the bus had to comment on the loveliness of the bouquet and the man explained that he had just purchased it, because he felt kinda blah, it was a blah day and he needed a pick-me-up. We all agreed that that would do the trick. It was a really nice moment, and there are nice moments on the bus, as well as the crazy ones. Alas, this nice moment was not to be lingered over.

At the very next stop, an androgynous person gets on the bus and sits on the opposite side from me and my roommate, but one seat ahead. This person then proceeds to take out their cell and with earbuds in, starts to watch what is just a stage on the phone. There are no people on the stage; there is no action or movement that I can discern, at all. However, this person is singing and miming and gyrating all over the place to music that is. . . in his/her head? Music really in the earbuds? Person hallucinating? What? I'm going for hallucinating, because after several minutes of this, the person jumps up and hollers out “WHAT IS THAT?” I, like the moron I can be, jump up and yell “WHAT IS IT?” Patty my roommate, who is actually sitting in the seat in front of me, looks up at me and says sotto voce “it's nothing”. I fold up like cheap kleenex and just laugh for 15 minutes. We're in the front of the bus, so the whole rest of the bus gets a nice treat of “Idiots' Delight”. I look back and the guy with the flowers is laughing his head off. I am such a dolt.

So, yeah, I'm gonna miss this wheezy old bus, although the MetroRapid will travel the same road; Nebraska Avenue, with fewer stops and will have the same idiots on it, it just won't seem the same. Everyone in town knows about #2. The #1 bus which runs parallel down another major artery just doesn't have the same trashiness and weirdness; nor the drivers. Who can forget Mr. “Safety Last”? The dork who couldn't make a 90° right-hand turn, and had to call the Supervisor when we got so rowdy, because I was threatening to tell the TPD he kidnapped us (they were only 50 feet away working a traffic accident and 2 other buses had made that turn) and it was frustrating folks, man! That was fun and Alex had a great time telling me to stop acting like I was 11. Incompetence brings that out in me.

courtesy:hartline.org                    


These are the new green monsters. The seats are hard plastic, with sprayed-on fuzz, or at least, that's what it feels like. They always keep these things at about a jillion degrees below zero too, which is good I guess considering who rides in them. It's also a good way to prevent the spread of colds and viruses during flu season, but I feel like a complete jackass getting on this thing in the summer time with a winter coat, if I'm taking a long trip. But trust me, you'll need it.

Anyway, I wanted to write about the loss of #2. It's been here for forever, I'm guessing, and it might even come back some day. They do change routes and schedules at a whim, but this is a huge overhaul for Hartline. As far as public transportation goes, it's okay; It's not BART or the NY Subway, but it's ours. We'll keep it!