The most disturbing Unsolved Mysteries segment I remember watching

It’s strange to me just how the mind and memory work. Both are extremely fallible. As I spent three days scouring my apartment for car keys, it occured to me that my memory of things longterm is often much better than my memory of things in the immediate past. I have no clue what I may have done with my keys, but I can recall names and faces pretty darn well. Even batting averages and the birthplaces of ballplayers (for some reason whenever I think of Nebraska, I think Wade Boggs).

Still, time does have a way of warping memories. I’m not sure if it is in the initial moment of processing information or if weeks, months and years can insert new features or redact old information on any event.

For some reason this morning, which already has escaped my memory, I attempted again to find information on an Unsolved Mysteries episode I watched nearly 20 years ago when I was in the fourth grade that scared the living daylights out of me and in many ways bothered me for many years to come whenever I remembered it.

Because I only remembered a few specific details of the episode I had trouble locating information on it. Had I accurately recalled a few details about the abductions of two kids, I may have not had so much trouble finding information on the case. The search terms I’d entered over the years in the Google search engine were mostly accurate I suppose but certainly didn’t bring me any closer to finding information that was probably pretty readily available online. Finally today, on a whim I found more information than I thought existed on the 1988 disappearance of Tara Calico, a 19-year-old college student from New Mexico and Michael Henley, a 10-year-old boy also from New Mexico.

At the time of the broadcast it was believed by some investigators that a photograph linked Henley’s April 1988 disappearance and Calico’s vanishing, which occurred  five months later.  Because of the circumstances of the cases, Unsolved Mysteries broadcast a story on the missing persons and the discovery of a Polaroid in Port St. Joe, Florida that was believed in the fall of 1989 to possibly be of Calico and Henley bound and gagged, laying next to each other with looks of noticeable fright upon their faces.

It was the photograph that really upset me when I watched the episode as a nine-year-old.  Though the specifics of the case receded from my memory – for some reason I thought the boy had disappeared in Tennessee on the same day as Calico – the image of the two frightened people in the picture stuck in my mind. Today, the picture seemed to look the same as when I first saw it on TV 20 years ago and I was a bit chilled by it.  I recall that for several weeks after I watched the program, I slept directly underneath my bedroom window, so as to be out of sight of anyone who may look in to my room to try and snatch me.

Without getting into too many specifics – for that there is plenty on the Internet – it appears that the photograph doesn’t link the two cases as Henley’s body was found several months after the Unsolved Mysteries broadcast and investigators had determined he had died of exposure after wandering off on a camping trip with his father and uncle in the New Mexico wilderness. The brand of Polaroid film the picture was developed on was not on the market until after he first went missing. Investigations into the photograph have lead to different conclusions on the young woman, with no clear consensus on weather it was Calico.

Sadly, Calico’s mother, who maintained it was indeed her daughter in the photo, passed away three years ago. Last September, on the 20th anniversary of her death, there still was no conclusion and not one arrest made. The Valencia County Sheriff Rene Rivera, who took over the Calico case years after her disappearance apparently believe he knows who was responsible, but understandably without a body has not been able to make any arrests. W ithout disclosing names, he believes rather than being whisked away in some elaborate kidnapping, Calico, who vanished during a daily bike ride, was killed along State Route 47 by teenagers who may have been trying to harass her and perhaps went too far. Rivera says he believes her body could be buried somewhere in the New Mexico desert not far from her hometown Belen.

Seeing the photo that disturbed me as a kid was still a bit unsettling, but getting the chance to read about it for a while – even the erroneous chatter of people on the Net – was interesting and a little comforting. It turns out that Calico’s younger sister has been able to make a decent life for herself and though her mother passed away with dementia, the woman had and her husband had also tried to get on with their lives, relocating to Florida of all places.

As for the most chilling feature of the case, whether it was fraudulent, or the frightened young lady in the photo was Tara Calico, or the subjects are two other people who were abducted,  it  is a mystery and it’s unlikely anyone  will ever know. That’s sad and disturbing to me as I am sure it is to most people. Certainly there are plenty of cases out there that will never have closure, and attached to them are real people who may never get to see justice carried out.

Losing your car keys sucks

…I lost mine, my only set Friday night as I went back out to my car to grab some things I’d left in the front seat. I didn’t realize it until yesterday morning when I went out to get some coffee. I searched my apartment frantically. To add a turd to the punchbowl, yesterday was the first day we’ve had any good hot weather in months. It was sunny and clear and great for running in. Unfortunately, because of the frantic and irritating state I was in searching futily for the keys, I didn’t get a chance to run.

I was supposed to go to a friend’s luau and I did end up there late at night with my roommate’s car. I was pretty hammered within an hour of arriving. I guess it was a bad response to the stress of knowing that I would be paying close to $300 if not more for a new set of electronically equipped ignition keys. To me it just seems so strange that technology goes the extra step of making certain things that should be easy enough are certifiable pains in the ass.

What the fuck is the point of a remote or keyless car entry anyway when you can just open the doors with regular keys? If per chance your battery dies and you don’t have a door key with you, you can’t get into the car. Whereas if you just had an old fashioned key, you’d be able to get in. The same goes for those stupid computer chip enabled ignition keys. How does that make life any easier when I have to pay an assload of money to have it replaced.

With all these thoughts swirling through my head, I embarked on my friend’s party, making a few stops in my roommate’s Audi to pick up hamburger meat, wine and coffee.

I ended up drunk quickly, chatting up random folks I’d never seen and then eventually joining some strangers for a naked dip in the lake and a gratuitous naked walk to her jacuzzi where it seemed there at one point were eight people crammed in. It was nice to have that experience, although the soon-to-be-married girl who grabbed my, errr, well, you know what I mean, that was kinda weird. I politely declined. I was there for the stress relieving jet aimed at the middle of my back and the sight of breasts! I’d like to believe I behaved. Some people feigned irritation at the nakedness and others were just squares. Honestly, I didn’t care of someone saw my junk that night. I wasn’t showing it off to anyone but I also wasn’t hiding it. It was fun though.

Still, there’s the matter of the car keys, of which paying for will certainly cut in to my funds for my trip to California. My booze soaked brain lead me to spend a good portion of yesterday asleep. A short, funny sounding Englishman who does maintanence for my apartment has been over for the last two days, cutting a hole in the ceiling of our bathroom to let the steam escape. I’ll show some photos of the mold that has been accruing for the last, I don’t know, decade. It’s only taken three years for my landlord to get someone to fix it and when he finally does pay this gentleman, he sends him over without telling us. My dog is a spas, but luckily the Liverpudlian with the long hair and cut off concert t-shirts has two “bitches” of his own and ‘don min ya, Marcus, cause I know I’d put ya down wit me fists, I add to. Right, mate?”

I feel sorry for this guy. He’s cutting through our ceiling into an attic space that is certainly littered with dead squirrels and other animals.

Street kickball

Most of the kids on my block are from working class or lower income families. Whereas where I grew up in the suburbs, most kids had summer camps or day programs their parents shelled out coin to send them to, for many families that’s not really an option. The weather in Albany – and for the Northeast in a whole – has not been very summerlike. Most days it seems are overcast and damp. Some days are chilly even.  I have to commend the kids on this street for maximizing the amount of time they spend outdoors each and every day. It’s unlikely many of them are going to an a day program let alone an Adirondack sleepover camp. Still, they seem to really enjoy being out in the street, running along the sidewalks on both sides and trekking over the red brick.

For the most part the kids are loud but pretty deferential to adults. A neighbor I know told me he’s had to jokingly threaten a few of them with his garden clippers for going through his shrubs. Still, as frustrated as he is with the damage they have done to his his backyard and the bark they have stripped on the trees he paid the city to plant, he stops to say hello to the them, smiles to them and is nice.

I find the kids to be admirable, particularly the two sisters who live next door. The police have been called over on a few occasions to break up domestic fracases between mom and dad, but the girls seem to be confident and can certainly hold their own in the rough and tumble boy dominated horseplay that goes on.

The softball diamonds are too far for the kids of the block – who range from 1 – 9 years – to walk to, so they’ve improvised their own game of straight line kickball. They use a slightly deflated soccer ball the family from Colombia has and they spread themselves narrowly across the street. The kicks are often errant and sometimes hit cars, but the ball is not heavy enough to dent or crack anything on the vehicles on the block, so it’s all good. I worry though about one of them getting clipped by a car sometimes. They’re young and not always watchful and drivers can be easily distracted.

Tonight they were at it until 8:30 p.m., six or seven of them, white, black, hispanic, playing their peculiar version of kickball. The days are shorter than they were last month and so with each day their quitting time gets earlier. Still, they keep themselves pretty busy with it and I respect that. It’s easy to forget what it’s like to be a child with so few responsibilities. There are days I’d rather be playing a game; kickball, softball, street hockey or even bowling than being at work.

Yesterday I applied for a credit card through my credit union and was turned down. An old utility bill needed to be paid. It wasn’t much – $230 – but I’d let it go, pushing it to the back of my mind for over three years. I used to be in terrible debt because of my irresponsibility, but in the last two years as my income increased and became steady, I have been diligent about not letting debts go to long. Yesterday, I received a letter from a collections agency that I was advised to send on to the credit bureaus indicating I’d completed payments on an outstanding credit card – a card I first made a purcahse with in the summer of 2001 at an Gelatoria in Little Italy. After years of neglecting to reconcile the debts, I finally paid it off. I’m now proud to say I have nothing valid in collections.

The adult world can be a pain. I don’t feel like I’ve had much in the way of time off this year and my big vacation I’m planning for has become something of a stressful thing to plan for. I’m travelling for my 30th to California, spending time in San Diego, Los Angeles and then Santa Barbara before meeting up with my twin for our birthday and hiking around Big Sur. Hotels have already cost me about $700 and the car rental – for which I need a credit card  – will be close to $700 when all is said and done. It’s stressful to think of all that money or whether or not I’ll have money for my trip. When you’re an adult, it seems you have to plan your fun and pay for it. Kids on the other hand are free to entertain themselves with no money. Sometimes they just kick and old sagging rubber ball around and enjoy every moment of it. I really admire that.

PFC Bergdahl’s disturbing video

It was  pretty disheartening to open up today’s newspaper and read about Army Pfc.  Bowe Bergdahl of Halley, Idaho, who for nearly three weeks has been in the custody of  Taliban-affiliated militants on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. His captors have reportedly threatened to kill Bergdahl if the United States does not withdraw  its forces from Iraq – an extremely hefty demand, considering our presence there is now running on eight years and many billions of dollars invested in counter-terrorist actions and local development.

A video released by his captors shows the soldier in relatively good health, though he demands that the U.S. remove its forces from Afghanistan, calling their efforts their futile. Bergdahl laments that he’ll never see kiss his girlfriend again, just the sort of publicity his captors are looking for.

The 23-year-old, ballet dancer turned soldier appears to be in a very tenuous situation, barring some type of drastic military commando mission. The prospects for his safe release are very slim. Even nearly a decade after the brutal Taliban government was toppled, they are still very much a force to be reckoned with, particularly because Pakistan is politically much weaker than it was when we invaded.

It’s said to think of what may happen to Bergdahl. His family released a statement through the Pentagon over the weekend asking for people to pray for him. He’ll need all the prayers he can get if he is to make it out of there alive. Although I’m not sure I believe there’s anything real or lasting we can provide to the disparate people of Afghanistan, this man certainly does not deserve the indignity of being taken a hostage. Because the United States generally doesn’t negotiate with hostage takers, it’s unlikely much can be done diplomatically to free him.

I hate violence, but I suppose if it takes Army Rangers banding through windows and shooting men to get him back, I suppose that’s alright. It’s hard to imagine any type of rational negotiation that would be able to impress upon these guys to let this kid go.

There certainly is a big divide between us and the tribal-based Muslim world that is pinched between the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. We have a very hard time communicating them and have a different set of values that is hard to navigate, even with guns, tanks and jet fighters. Not to make judgments on the hard work of American and NATO armed forces, it appears that so little can be achieved that will last a long time.

It’s sad to think that this young guy may never see his girlfriend again or be back at home in Idaho with his family. I’m amazed at how serious some people take certain conflicts that they’d be willing to snuff out the lives of others with so little thought. Ultimately, killing PFC Bergdahl will do nothing to improve the lot of Afghanistan. It will only add to the tension. On the other hand, our killing Taliban people to get Bergdahl probably wont help much either.

“Don’t move! Get yo ass inside, right now!”

There’s a house on my block that likes to party each and every night. The weeks are when the loudest things are going on in particular. Back in May they chained their grill to a small tree and since then it’s been burgers and steaks and malt liquor at least four nights a week. Tonight they’re kicking it hard. You could be two blocks away I suppose and hear their most intimate conversations. If that’s what you want to call them, conversations. It’s really more like unnecessary shouting to no end.

I personally can tune it out because it’s two houses down, but I pity the people who are in closer proximity, like a woman who I speak to ocassionally in passing. She and her husband and their teenage son live right across the street. She’s asked them nicely to turn their beats down, but you know you can’t kill the music. To call them oblivious is an understatement. They have no fucking clue. Proof of this is what’s going on right now.

It’s nearly midnight and there’s close to ten small children playing in the street – the dark street. Every so often one of the adults shouts from the porch for them to be careful. Not so much a go to bed as a “hey, watch yo fuckin’ sister. There’s cars driving by, don’t you see?!” I’m not a parent and not sure if I’ll ever be or if I’d be a decent on for that matter. One thing I do know is that you don’t let your kids pla y in t he street unsupervised during the day, much less the nightime.

The beats are kicking right now and some poor kid has been reprimanded inside the house. Theirs lots of cursing going on and clearly some people smoking weed and drinking 40 ounce bottles of beer in front of the kids. A car came down the road and apparently one of the kids was too close to it. After it passed, one of the guys on the porch screamed, “Don’t move! Get yo ass inside, right now!” The sounds of kids can be heard through the beats and the hollering of adults.

I keep wondering how this will affect these poor kids – that’s if none of them are hurt out there playing in the dark. I don’t know what’s worse, the lack of supervision and the blantant neglect or the complete disregard for the surrounding neighbors who may not want to hear Jadakiss blasted from someone’s car at 2 a.m.

Accepting emotions

I went out of my office in late afternoon to have a cup of coffee and sit in the park near our building. I brought with me a copy of Mark Bowden’s Killing Pablo. Everything about the setting was beneficial to anyone seeking calm and perhaps serenity. The sun was was out and a medium blue sky was above. Trees shaded the walkways and the benches lined along them. Sitting down and reading was a bit tough, though. I wanted to enjoy the setting and read maybe 10 pages or so, but my mind kept drifting inward to something strange, but hard to identify. It was a few minutes before I realized what it was that seemed to be percolating and that was unguarded emotion, something that I have been used to putting out of its misery like a wounded dog for many years with food and sometimes booze or prescriptions they give you that are easy to mistakenly take the wrong way and for the wrong reasons.

The emotions that I felt were of lonesomeness, fear and warriness. It’s been a while since I stared them in the face and didn’t blink. It’s strange how emotions are supposed to help us to navigate life and for the most part serve a purpose and yet we also can’t help but avoid some while embracing others.

Maybe it’s alright to feel a bit lonely at times. It doesn’t need to be ignored, denied, buried or obscured. Perhaps anger at loved ones, friends and even ones self are reasonable responses towards certain situations. It could be that self-doubt is something that can bring forth greater faith in one’s own life.

When we’re left to face the potency of our emotions without flinching, it’s kinda scary. Next year I turn 30, which is one of those milestones in life. It is my hope that a decade from now – or sooner – I’ll have a better grasp over my emotions and be more accepting of them rather than trying to push them away. Today felt like a good step in that direction. I got up from the bench, went back to my desk and focused on some of what I was feeling, inviting it to stick around in my mind’s eye for a while without judging or encouraging it. For some reason, it made me feel more alive, though frightened. Strange how things work.

Spiting things people like

On Sunday late afternoon I met up with two of my friends to toss around an Aerobie. I hadn’t thrown the pink and black nylon ring in a few years and so it took some figuring out to get it to sail the right way through even the light breeze that was moving through Washington Park. Because my throws and my friends’ throws were so errant and required chasing the Aerobie around a bit, the somewhat spacious lawn there felt smaller and people seemed to encroach on us more than if we were tossing around a baseball.

While we were there a group of Albany “hipsters” – there aren’t really hipsters in Albany – asked the three of us if we were interested in playing kickball. I immediately feigned disinterest. There was no way I was going to play kickball. Kickball might be fun but it’s ironic fun. Forget that I might enjoy doing it. No, these guys in their cut off skinny jeans and the girls with them were moving in on our grass. I muttered thanks but no thanks. I really didn’t want to be seen playing an ironic game with people who ride vintage bicycles, no matter how much fun they were having.

We moved to another spot not far away and were equally irritated with two sets of two people playing bocce ball. The day was very sunny and very beautiful outside. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were people out playing lawn darts or horseshoes earlier. For some reason, the people playing Bocce irritated me even more. I just couldn’t understand – and this is all on me – how anyone could possibly enjoy Bocce, especially if they were within range of our Aerobie tossing. The thoughts were really quite childish. I think it was that I was coming off of a medication and slightly cranky from standing on a ladder, taping and painting a room all weekend, but my emotional response was just slightly too dramatic.

All the while that I was struggling to catch this flying ring and trying to figure out how to make the thing curve the right way back towards my friends, I was fixated on how my space, my lebensraum was being consumed my dudes playing a game that only old Italian men in Howard Beach play.

It never once occured to me until I left that these people – regardless of their motivations for which I can’t discern – seemed to be enjoying themselves. I was the one taking umbrage in my own mind with what they chose to do or be seen doing. They looked like they were enjoying themselves while I was not not enjoying myself very much. Sufficient to say, I apologize to myself and to them for bad mouthing them under my breath, especially after I looked at some pictures I snapped of them. The did look like they were enjoying themselves.