A “Lot” To Complain About

A PARKING LOT!

Not a specific one, but parking lots in general. At least the ones I encounter in my daily life which are in front of business open to the general public (stores, restaurants, etc)

I am no spring chicken, so I can compare today’s parking lots with those that go back as far as the mid-1950s, going forward.

I have come to the conclusion that you can judge a society and more specifically, a neighborhood, by its parking lots. For example, if many of the parking lots in an area are showing age and need some major pot holes filled, the area is probably distressed and the store owner probably leasees instead of owns the building and lot.

If cops consider the parking lot as part of their patrol area (beat) its probably a distressed neighborhood with more than average shoplifting and holdup events.

In my lifetime I have seen many changes to parking lots over the years. Some changes were for the better. Other changes are indicative of a society going wrong. Let me explain…

Handicap spaces:
The most obvious change to parking lots is the addition of handicap parking spaces for vehicles that display a handicap logo. In the United States, this change came about in 1973. Every parking lot in this country is required to set aside handicap parking spaces. Unfortunately, there is abuse associated with these spaces. Drivers who have a sticker because of a family member’s handicap can get away with parking in a handicap space. But it is difficult to identify the perpetrators. This is a moral issue, as well as a legal issue. If you use someone’s sticker because you’re lazy, you have just interfered with a handicapped person’s access rights.

Speed Bumps
These annoying bumps in the road were introduced in the 1980s. I supposed there were drivers speeding in parking lots, but I just don’t remember too many incidents of that, not even in the student parking lot in high school (class of ’72), where all the immature, stupid, daredevilish drivers parked.

Patrol Cars:
If I saw a cop car in a parking lot in 1960-something, the cop would be writing a ticket for speeding. But, now days many of the bigger parking lots are considered a “beat”. I imagine the cops draw straws to see which one will get the job of sitting in his patrol car all night in a far corner of the parking lot ready to spring into action when the store reports a shoplifter. I wonder if there is a direct emergency line between the store and the cop.

BagBoys:
When did the bag boys stop bringing the groceries to your car? When my mom bought a weeks worth of groceries for a family of eight, two cats, and a german shepherd, there were a lot of bags. The bag boy packed your groceries, put them in the cart, and then offered to bring them to your car and pack them in the trunk. Mom gladly accepted the service. Now, in the big box stores, a bag carousel has replaced the friendly bagboy. But even those stores that still hire bagboys don’t offer to bring your bags to your car and put them in your trunk.

Shopping Carts:
When I was a kid, I was taught to put everything in its place when you were done with it. To this day, I push my cart into the cart corral, making sure to add it to the line of carts. However, it seems that people have forgotten that these things were meant to be pushed together, or stacked as I call it. This is such a pet peeve of mine that I will take an extra minute or two to straighten up the mess of carts. I know that the cart wranglers who transport them back to the store with that motor driven cart pusher appreciates the work I put into it.

Maybe these observations are unique to where I lived then and where I live now. When I was growing up, I lived in San Jose, California. And, now I live in semi-rural North Carolina, within commuting distance to Greensboro, a mid-sized city.

Maybe I am comparing apples to oranges. That reminds me, I need to go shopping.

Cats and Other Critters

We have three cats. Butterfly is a 16-year-old cantankerous old female. If she had her way the other two cats would disappear. If she was younger and still in fighting condition, she would make that happen. Our other two cats are mother and son, a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old. The mother is Daisy. The son is Shady.

We used to have four cats. Several months ago Shady lost one of his eyes in a cat fight. The cat that attacked him was his own father, Grady. There was too much competition between these two neutered males and we decided that one of them had to leave. We found a great home for Grady. He is the only cat in his new home, but shares the three acres with a dog and a bunch of chickens. He is very happy there.

With the help of a vet, Shady recovered from his injury very well. I thought having lost his 3-D vision might curtail some of his hunting, but I was wrong.

Recently, I was awaken by a persistent click-click noise. I figured it was some sort of critter, dragged in by one of my cats. My first thought was a bird, but I had never heard a bird make a sound like that before. I got out of bed, followed the sound and ended up in the livingroom. I turned on the light and found Shady lying on the couch, facing the wall, his focus near the ceiling. I followed his gaze and saw what he was watching.

possum 2

Shady’s prized capture escaped to the top of the livingroom curtains.

Perched on the curtain rod a few inches from the ceiling, was a little furry fellow about 4 inches long. He was dark-gray with a white face. His pink hairless feet grasped the fabric of the curtain. I even saw his curled up pink tail. I recognized the species right away. This little cutie was a baby opossum, except down here in North Carolina we say ‘possum. He appeared unscathed and seemed rather content on his perch. I’m sure he was relieved to discover that cats don’t climb curtains. At least, not this one.

Obviously, Shady’s plan was to wait patiently for the possum to come down from its safe haven. My plan was totally different. I wanted it out of my house, but alive and safe.

I couldn’t just reach up and grab him. I would surely be bitten. So, I considered my options. The best idea would make use of his instincts, and that meant coaxing him onto another perch. A broom handle was long enough, but too slippery for him to grip. I didn’t want him falling into the jaws of the ever vigilant Shady. I needed to give the handle some texture.

I remembered a roll of shelf lining that I bought recently which is designed to prevent dishes from sliding. It has a mesh design and would be easy for this little guy to grip.

I cut off a few inches of the fabric and wound it around the broom handle. Then secured it with rubber bands. Voila! I had my extraction tool.

possum 1

It was such an awesome moment when the possum curled his tail around my finger.

Now, the hard part, convincing this little critter to move onto the stick. I climbed onto a chair to meet him eye to eye. I spoke to him in a soft voice. He was already calm, I just didn’t want to do anything that would change that. I dared to touch his fur and allowed his tail to curl around my finger. This just might have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

He was quite calm for a critter who had climbed the curtains to avoid being eaten. Yet he seemed to trust me not to eat him. I positioned the handle next to him and gently nudged him from behind and he slowly moved toward the broomstick. It took only a few moments before all four feet were securely gripping the handle. He remained calm the entire time. I think he recognized me as his rescuer.

possum 3

The little critter held on for dear life as I transported him to a safer environment.

It was time to transport him to a safer place. I carried the handle horizontally through the house and through the backdoor, careful not to make any sudden moves. I considered the cat too late. I should have locked him in a bedroom. Because, now, he was following me with his eagle eye on the possum, just waiting for it to fall.

Shady followed me the good long distance I walked from the house to one of our smaller trees. It was actually harder to convince the critter to move onto the tree than it was the broom handle. All the while, Shady was watching and waiting for a mishap.

The critter finally moved on to the tree and clung to a branch. I said good-bye and good luck to the precious little creature, saying a silent prayer for his or her safety and a family reunion by daybreak. I then picked up the cat, carried him to the house, and scolded him for bringing home yet another critter.

I then locked the pet door so he couldn’t run back out to the tree that our little friend was clinging to. I was determined that the poor little thing would be safe for this one night, at least.

I never saw the possum again. I checked the tree. If I ever see it again it would have been because Shady had found it. It may not fare as well a second time. I like to imagine that the little cutie found its mother and siblings by daybreak.

~~~

Not surprising, this episode did not end Shady’s hunting. Early this Saturday morning I took an injured bunny away from him with the faint hope of nursing it back to health. But, sadly, its injuries were too severe. It died less than 24 hours later.

These adventures don’t always end with a “happily ever after.”

No Alibi for the Rabbi

How many of us have been betrayed by someone we trusted, a betrayal so unexpected that it knocks you off balance. Most people have experienced some sort of betrayal. Common themes include a spouse having an affair or a trusted friend revealing a secret.

But, what if the one you trust, the one that betrays that trust, is a person of authority. It could be a boss, a teacher, a civil servant, a banker, someone you trust because he or she holds a position where trust is intrinsic to the profession. Is this a bigger betrayal? Do you think that this sort of betrayal is more vile, due to the position they hold in the community?

Try to imagine how the victims of a one Rabbi Barry Freundel felt after he betrayed their trust.

The Crime

Rabbi Barry Freundel is a 62-year-old rabbi who, until recently, was associated with Kesher Israel, the prominent Washington Orthodox synagogue he led for some 25 years. He was renowned in the religious community as an authority on Jewish law and ethics. He was also considered an intellectual giant.

And yet, this Rabbi was arrested in October 2014 after police seized two clock radios equipped with hidden cameras, linked to a motion detector. One of these devices was found in his home office and the other one was found in the shower area of a mikvah, a ritual bath used by women who are converting to Judaism and by Jewish women as a way of becoming closer to God.

An affidavit stated that police believe the rabbi had been engaging in the criminal act of voyeurism in several locations, with the use of several devices, over a period of time. Other items removed from his home included, six external hard drives, seven laptop computers, five desktop computers, three cameras, 20 memory cards and 10 flash drives.

Not surprisingly, Freundel pleaded guilty in February to 52 counts of misdemeanor voyeurism.

Besides the betrayal that his victims have experienced, the community as a whole has been betrayed as well. A former member of the Kesher Israel Synagogue voiced his anger, “One of the things which galls me the most and really got to me about the prosecution’s memo was just how much time all of this took. All that time was stolen from Kesher and from the community. There were so many cases of smachot (celebrations) and shivas (funeral wakes) he missed. I have had dozens of people complain to me about that. I used to make some half-hearted excuses, but now that I know what horrible things he was doing with his time, I feel used.”

The Trial

Several dozen recordings of the 152 women who were positively identified fell outside of the criminal statute of limitations. Many women who could have testified against Fruendel, chose not to press charges for reasons of privacy.  In the end, only 52 women took the stand and told their stories—stories of how their lives had changed for the worse.

No charges were pursued for unauthorized and unlawful use of the mikvah, nor in connection with his transport of the illicit recordings across state lines.

A week before the sentencing, prosecutors submitted a 25-page memorandum to Judge Geoffrey M. Alprin. In that memo they requested a prison term of 17 years. This is the equivilent of only four months for each of the 52 counts included in the indictment. 

In the 12-page response, Freundel’s defense attorney asked that his client be spared prison time, stating “He has already been punished, in that he has lost his employment as a rabbi, and is never likely to be so employed again. He has been publicly humiliated and his prior reputation as a Judaic scholar, teacher, and counselor have been destroyed.”

The Punishment

The courtroom was packed on the day of sentencing. The silence was so thick that when the judge began to speak it was a like a knife in the heart.

The former Rabbi stood next to his Defense Attorney as Judge Alprin read the sentence. “Six-and-a-half years in prison and a fine of $13,000.”

Red Shoes

Tavin Terrel Price was a 19-year-old African-American man. He stood just under 5 feet tall and weighed only 100 lbs, so he was often mistaken for someone several years younger. He was developmentally disabled, but he was excited about starting a new job at a warehouse in just a few days.

On Friday, May 29, Tavin and his mother, Jennifer Rivers, were on their way to the beach, but took a quick side trip to a South Los Angeles car wash. Tavin left his mom for a moment to buy some cigarettes. That’s when a man in a black sweat shirt approached him, accused him of being a gang member, and demanded he take off his shoes.

Tavin was wearing red running shoes. The color red is associated with the Bloods, a Los Angeles based street gang made up of primarily African-Americans. Members of that gang wear red clothing, such as shoes and hoodies. Rival gang members, such as the Crips (whose gang color is blue) might target someone wearing red with the assumption that they are a member of the rival gang.

Tavin told the man he was not in a gang and refused to take off his shoes. He then hurried back to his mother and told her about the episode.

As they rushed to get back into the car, the unknown man shot Tavin four times in the back and chest.

Tavin’s mother called 911 as she began chasing after the gunman. Unfortunately, he got away. Authorities are still searching for him.

Surveillance video and witness accounts will hopefully help detectives in this case. They are working on several leads, but so far no arrests have been made. If the gunman is a member of a rival gang, his own gang might take care of him first. Its against gang code to kill anyone, even a rival gang member, in the presence of their family members.

Tevin Price

Tavin Price’s killer believed he was a rival gang member just because he wore red shoes.

Tavin’s mother told reporters, “I wish he would have just shot me instead of my child. That’s cold for a mother to watch somebody just gun down her child in front of her face. That’s a hard, hard thing to deal with, believe me,” Rivers said, “I can’t even sleep at night since my son died.”

On Monday, Tavin would have been celebrating his 20th birthday and the first day on the job he was so looking forward to. Instead, a vigil was held at the car wash where he died. People sang “Happy Birthday” and released balloons in his memory.

Tavin didn’t deserve to be gunned down. He was murdered for his red shoes.

Mistake #1: Giving The Groom An Important Task

St Georges Hall

A bomb threat called in to St. Georges Hall  delayed the McArdle wedding.

Neil McArdle and his fiancee, Amy Williams had been planning to get married. Nothing elaborate, just a city hall ceremony with a few family members to witness the event.

The couple lived together, but getting married was still a big thing, especially for Amy. Neil later commented, that in the days and weeks leading up to the big day she talked about nothing else. She was so excited about getting married.So, with the constant daily reminders, watching Amy as she prepared and planned their big day, it boggles the mind that when the big day finally arrived Neil slapped his forehead and suddenly remembered he had forgotten to fill out paperwork at St George’s Hall that was required before the wedding could take place. Just a technicality, but a necessary one, for sure.

How could Neil face Amy and tell her the wedding would have to be postponed because he forgot a small, but crucial, detail. The day of the planned wedding, he tried to muster the courage to tell Amy, but she had gotten up at 4am and put on her wedding gown.

She looked amazing.” Neil later recalled. He just could not get out the words to tell her that the wedding would have to be delayed.

Not surprisingly, Neil panicked. If he admitted to being so forgetful, Amy would cry, get angry, maybe throw something at him. He’d never live it down. He needed to find a way to postpone the wedding without implicating himself and his forgetfulness.

Lots of crazy ideas entered his mind. But the one that made the most sense, in Neil’s panicked condition, was inspired by the recent bombing that happened only 11 days earlier at the Boston Marathon. He concocted a plan. On the morning of the wedding, he called St. George’s Hall from a payphone near his house and told the receptionist, “There’s a bomb in St George’s Hall and it will go off in 45 minutes.”

St. George’s Hall was evacuated and searched by the bomb squad. Nothing was found and it was deemed a hoax. After the building was checked, the staff tried to help Neil and Amy to go on with their ceremony, but it was discovered that no booking for the wedding had been made.

McArdle’s soon-to-be in-laws were becoming suspicious and the bride’s sister was overheard telling a flustered McArdle: “You probably done the bomb scare yourself.”

Police quickly traced the call and he was arrested the same day. He sheepishly admitted to his “embarrassment and shame.” He explained that he had panicked over bungling the forms and staged the bomb scare.

It was just a ridiculous thing I did,” McArdle told the Daily Mail. “It might be funny to other people, but not to me. It’s wrecking my family’s life. I’m still together with Amy, but she’s got high blood pressure and wants nothing to do with a wedding right now,”

McArdle pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months in jail.

This incident occurred in October, 2013, so Neil has completed his jail sentence. But, now, he has to deal with Amy. This is one fairy tale that has not ended “happily ever after.”