Drug Raid – The Cupboards Were Bare

Drug Raid - in Dudley, United Kingdom

By Judy Berman

Minutes after an undercover police officer made a drug buy from the back window of a house, I heard him over the police radio.

“It’s a go. There are three people in there.”

Then, six police officers, dressed in black, ran down a city street and around the corner.

With guns drawn and two mighty whacks with a battering ram, they knocked down the door and ran in.

The suspect tossed $350 and 12 baggies of crack cocaine out the window. Investigators said the suspect had 11 baggies on him, and he’d just sold three.

It was like the movies. Only, this time: no guns blazing or suspects jumping out of windows to avoid arrest.

This is from the way-back files when I was a cops reporter in Utica, New York.

It was a rare behind-the-scenes look for me at what goes down during a drug raid. Utica Police Chief Benny Rotundo gave the go-ahead to me and to one of the Observer-Dispatch’s photographers to join the investigators.

We wanted to be in on the action from the get-go. But they were overly cautious – and with good reason. What if something happened?

“You never know what’s behind that door,” said Sgt. Angelo Partipelo, the department’s senior investigator of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

Liability concerns and safety are the reasons why many police agencies hesitate to grant this kind of access to reporters and photographers.

I told the police chief that a story I was working on – about 7 ½ years of drug arrests by SIU – would look a lot better if it was tied to a drug arrest – with me and a photographer along.

Rotundo was a savvy man. He agreed.

Once inside, the investigator, who wore a Stetson, smoked a huge cigar as he searched for evidence. He wore plastic gloves because “these places aren’t the cleanest,” and to protect himself if one of the suspects was bleeding.

He’s hearing nothing but polite denials and excuses from one of the women in the house.

“No, officer, I just came here to see my cousin, Angel,” she claimed.

The officer disagrees.

“You’ve been seen coming to this drug house several times and were inside when a drug buy was just made,” he said.

Then, he starts singing “Angel in the Morning.”

In the kitchen, there’s a box of baking soda on the counter. A cigarette butt is out in the drain.

I gingerly open a fridge door by using my pen on the handle until one of the investigators gives me plastic gloves. Inside, there’s only a can of Sprite.

Utica drug bust - UPD Sgt. Angelo Partipelo and me (Judy Berman)

Other than salt-and-pepper shakers, the cupboards are bare.

After the raid, Deputy Chief Nick Yagey joked that I was a con artist and had hoodwinked investigators into letting us go inside the drug house.

“You weren’t supposed to take any photos identifying SIU members,” he said.

Yagey claimed he could ID one who was bent over searching thru a couch for evidence.

“You couldn’t pick that face out of a crowd,” I challenged, knowing that SIU had vetted the photos before publication so no undercover officer was put in jeopardy.

“His butt, maybe,” I laughed.

Fortunately, Yagey was laughing, too, when I left his office a few minutes later.

 

Kudos to the police officers in the Utica Police Department who often assured my safe passage as a cops reporter at some very dicey scenes – especially Utica Police Chief Benny Rotundo, who died in 2010, and Sgt. Angelo Partipelo, who died in 2001.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie Trailer: The French Connection (1971) – Undercover cop Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) in his famous high speed chase in pursuit of a criminal – great film. But this is reel life – not real life. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nP_7ZopT6oM  

Music Video: Bad Boys (1992) by Inner Circle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVBB2upbVys&feature=kp  

Video: Dragnet (1951) – TV show starring Jack Webb as Sgt. Friday. The just-the-facts ma’am detective. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj-qhIGTXdU  

Main Photo: Drug Raid – in Dudley, United Kingdom – taken Feb. 22, 2013 by West Midlands Police from West Midlands, United Kingdom  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3a/Day_53_-_Early_morning_drugs_raid_in_Dudley_%288497719406%29.jpg/640px-Day_53_-_Early_morning_drugs_raid_in_Dudley_%288497719406%29.jpg

Photo: Utica Drug Raid – Sgt. Angelo Partipelo and me (Judy Manzer Berman) at the scene of a drug bust in Utica, New York.

 

Homicide: Life on the Streets

Arrest By Judy Berman

For some people, urban violence is as remote as the Himalayas.

Try explaining that your main objective as a cops reporter is not getting caught in any crossfire. Someone’s bound to question your sanity.

That danger was not confined to some dark alley. It also lurked on a sunny street, during a quiet chat in an apartment, and even back at the office where I worked.

In one neighborhood, rival gangs competed for the drug trade. That the violence claimed one of their own – in broad daylight – was inevitable.

On the TV shows and the movies, it looks so easy. It’s all wrapped up, neat and tidy, at the end. But life is not always well scripted. Like the time I was sent out to follow up on a fatal drive-by shooting in Utica, New York.

Two colleagues went with me in my car. We split up to talk to potential witnesses. We’d agreed on a time to meet back at my car.

I stopped to talk to some teens hanging out on the corner. One came over wearing a towel wrapped around his head. I started to laugh.

“You mocking my religion?” he asked. I could tell he was joking, and we continued the banter until another guy suggested I move on. While he wasn’t menacing, his message was clear.

Where to? I couldn’t leave my co-workers behind. So I walked down the block to my car – which just happened to be parked across the street from where the young man had been gunned down – and waited for them to return.Crime Scene tape - Do Not Cross

A car cruised slowly up to the house and then quickly moved on when a patrol car went by on a side street. Then, another car crawled to the curb. Someone in the house ran out. That car also left moments later.

Great, I thought. I’m betting they’re not well-wishers for the dearly departed.

I was relieved when I saw my colleagues heading my way. The drug dealer, who had asked me to leave the area, walked across the street to talk to us.

He asked my male co-worker, “If someone robbed you, what would you do?”

“I’d call the cops,” the reporter said.

Wrong answer, I thought. Drug dealers don’t look to cops to resolve things. They don’t want the cops messing in their business. No, they settle the score themselves. The drug dealer talked about “street justice.”

That’s the MO (modus operandi) of the drug trade. Keep the “shorties” (those that sell drugs on the streets) and the competition in line thru violence and intimidation. If you met him, you’d see what I saw – a polite young man, easy to talk to. That’s what jurors see. They don’t see the victims, or law-abiding neighbors who live in fear.

In another murder case, I was by myself, going door-to-door in an apartment building looking for someone to comment on the shooting.

A man, who lived across the hall from the victim, invited me in. He seemed pleasant enough.

As we sat across from one another, he confided that he’s been classified as a paranoid-schizophrenic. He told me that “If I’m in a hostile situation, I could kill a person one minute, and, the next minute, not even realize what I’d done.”

My face was a blank canvas. What are you supposed to say after that?

Then, as if to reassure me, he said: “I haven’t killed anybody yet.”

I leaned over, patted his arm and said: “Keep up the good work.”

My response was instinctive. No doubt, it threw him off balance. Then, I changed the subject, and we resumed talking about his neighbor.

I tried not to think about the “What if’s?” Like the man who was unhappy with a story I wrote, believing I was working with detectives to implicate him in the death of his former girlfriend.

It was midday and he looked like he’d been drinking heavily when he came to the paper demanding to see me.

Reporter Bill Farrell went downstairs with me to see the man. He threatened to sue the paper. Then, he nearly knocked a woman down as he stormed out. Farrell saw the man had a sharp, shiny object in his back pocket and offered to walk me to my car after work.

“But,” he joked, “I won’t start your car for you.”

I miss that edgy newsroom humor … and knowing the stories behind the headlines.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original
content.

Video: Homicide: Life on the Street – Luther Mahoney. Det. Meldrick Lewis (Clark Johnston) outsmarts Luther Mahoney in the box.  Shows like “Homicide: Life on the Street” (1993-1999), based on an award-winning book, “Homicide,” by David Simon did show some of the gritty reality that cops go thru.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZ-k4DQqNic 

Photo: Arrest by Danish police in Copenhagen. Taken Oct. 2007 by Riemann.  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/94/Danish_police_arrest.jpg

Photo: Crime Scene tape – Do Not Cross – Uploaded by Diego Grez, Taken by Yumi Kimura, Yokohama, Japan on March 25, 2009 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3d/Do_Not_Cross%2C_Crime_Scene.jpg/640px-Do_Not_Cross%2C_Crime_Scene.jpg

Photo: Crime Scene – FBI Evidence Response Team  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/23/FBI_Evidence_Response_Team.jpg/640px-FBI_Evidence_Response_Team.jpg

The Body and the Toaster (fiction)

Crime scene

By Judy Berman

Jenn is far too honest. Always telling more than she should – like now, for instance.

I look around the kitchen. Something is out of place.

“Jenn, where’s the toaster?”

A long silence follows before she speaks quietly, hesitantly.

“It’s in the back yard. Under the porch. Along with the body,” Jenn says.

The memory chip in my brain is about to explode. While I am busy computing what one has to do with the other, I can only say …

“Body?”

She nods her head, her blue eyes downcast and brimming with tears.

I begin to measure out the coffee grinds and water. The answer is sure to be extensive and complicated. I prepare for a long night.

Earlier, when I returned home, I saw her ex-boyfriend’s car in our driveway. The hood is cool. Not a good sign. That means Johnny has been here for a while. I decide to make myself some toast, tea, and escape to my bedroom until he leaves. The fewer words we exchange, the better.

Now, Jenn slumps over the kitchen table. Her head is propped between her hands. The usual nagging questions race thru my head while I retrieve the coffee mugs, spoons, milk and sugar.

“Who” and “why,” I already know the answer to. “How” is still kind of fuzzy.

“Maybe,” I say gently, “you better, as they say in those cliché-ridden novels, start from the beginning.”

As if there is an alternative. Jenn shakes her head. She wants me to go out and examine the body. Admire her handiwork? I balk. She insists.

Outside, the view is like any other where there’s a body and a toaster under the deck. Dusk or dawn? Flowers in full bloom? Or, trees, stripped down to their bare limbs?

Nothing registers. Except for those inevitable, awful, taped-silhouettes police always make when they try to recreate the crime scene. And, those annoying flashing lights on patrol cars at the edge of my driveway.

Crime scene tape – Do Not Cross

Only the feet are under the deck. Johnny’s body is in full view. My eyes dart nervously to see if anyone is watching. Then, I walk down the deck’s steps for a closer look.

“Well, we can always get another toaster.”

Jenn shoots me a dark look.

Let’s face if. Of all of her beaus, Johnny is my least favorite. He has been stalking her ever since they broke up several months ago. The odd thing is, he broke up with Jenn to date another girl.

He’d borrowed Jenn’s brand-new car without asking. Then, he cleans out Jenn’s checking account to buy the other girl a diamond ring. Then she ditches him for another guy.

If I’d known Jenn was going to dispatch him, I’d have offered to help.

“It was an accident, Mom,” Jenn protests.

She explains that she had been sunning herself, and brought the toaster out to the deck to have lunch. Suddenly, Johnny barges around the corner and runs up onto the deck. He is yelling at Jenn, blaming her because the other girl jilted him.

Startled and frightened, she picks up the toaster.

Startled and afraid, she picked up the toaster.

“I don’t know why. It was just the nearest thing to me. It was like the toaster had a mind of its own and I … I,” here, Jenn falters, recalling what she did.

“When I threw it at him, the toaster struck his head and he fell backward off the deck,” she pauses.

Our silence is jarred by a groan. When the “body” moves, Jenn screams.

Johnny raises himself, leans on his left elbow. His right hand gingerly touches the bruise left by the errant toaster. When he sees Jenn and me, he cringes. But he makes a quick recovery.

“How could you?” Johnny shouts as he leaps toward her with his fists raised. “You could have killed me.”

Jenn freezes. I step in between them.

“Maybe, the next time, her aim will improve,” I smile as I reach for the unplugged toaster.

It begins to spark. Johnny backs away. Slowly, at first. Then, he takes off in a dead run.

A malfunctioning toaster is the least of Johnny’s problems. Just wait until he sees what’s in store for him when he gets that car going. I hear the pop-pop-pop of that contraption he calls a car as it backs out of the driveway. Then, I hear the engine roar and Johnny yelp.

“Mom, why are you smiling?” Jenn asks.

“Oh. I wasn’t aware that I was.”

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo: Crime Scene2 – Crime scene in Central City, New Orleans. Photo by taken Sept. 26, 2010, by Derek Bridges. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/33/Crouching_Policeman_1st_Street_Crime_Scene.jpg/640px-Crouching_Policeman_1st_Street_Crime_Scene.jpg

Photo: Crime Scene tape – Do Not Cross – CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS / @CSI?cafe, Uploaded by Diego Grez, Taken by Yumi Kimura, Yokohama, Japan on March 25, 2009 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3d/Do_Not_Cross%2C_Crime_Scene.jpg/640px-Do_Not_Cross%2C_Crime_Scene.jpg

Photo: Toaster  – a two-slice Sunbeam toaster. Photo taken April 24, 2005 by Donovan Govan http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8f/Toaster.jpg/566px-Toaster.jpg

Runaway Justice or Face the Music

John Cusack in the movie "Runaway Jury."

John Cusack (as juror Nicholas Easter) in the suspense thriller, “Runaway Jury.”

By Judy Berman

Few things can speed up your pulse quicker than jogging, a one-third-off sale on designer jeans, or an order to appear in court.

I, of course, got the latter.

Imagine my surprise! I was being fined $25 for failing to license my dog. Only one problem – I didn’t have a dog.

Our neighbor called to tell us that she saw a summons had just been taped to our front door. I wondered how she could tell from that distance that it was a summons. One look outside explained it all.

There, prominently displayed was a summons nearly the size of a billboard. Discreet! I ripped it off the door and slinked back inside our house.

Should I contact the best criminal lawyer in town?

Judging from a scenario in the suspense thriller, “Runaway Jury,” that doesn’t appear to be the go-to option. Gene Hackman (as Rankin Fitch) is a ruthless jury consultant who will do anything to win in a court trial involving a major gun manufacturer.

Gene Hackman as ruthless jury consultant Rankin Fitch in the movie, “Runaway Jury,” based on a novel by John Grisham.

Hackman sums it up this way: “Trials are too important to be left up to juries.”

Despite the millions spent, there is a hitch, as Hackman battles Dustin Hoffman (as attorney Wendell Rohr) for the hearts and verdict of the jurors.

A juror on the inside, John Cusack (as Nicholas Easter), and a woman on the outside, Rachel Weisz (as Marlee), conspire to manipulate the outcome.

The tension in this film pales compared to my own dilemma. It appears the odds are stacked against me.

So, should I ignore the summons? I began to visualize the following scenario … (key daydream sequence gone awry).

I return to our neighborhood after a blissful afternoon of window-shopping. The block has been cordoned off. Patrol cars are lining the street in front of our home. A hail of bullets is riddling our home, and a cop is on the bullhorn shouting, “All right, scofflaw, come on out. We know you’re in there.”

I’d been the victim of a computer foul-up before. So, I debated with myself: Should I retaliate? After all, it was the principle of the thing. They’d besmirched the family name.

Briefly, I weighed the odds of challenging not only the bureaucracy, but a computer as well.

Only one question nagged at me.

Should I plead guilty and throw myself on the mercy of the court?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo: Gene Hackman as ruthless jury consultant, Rankin Fitch, in the movie “Runaway Jury” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rankin_Fitch_from_Runaway_Jury.jpg

Photo: John Cusack as juror Nicholas Easter in “Runaway Jury” http://www.fanpop.com/spots/john-cusack/images/8609499/title/runaway-jury-photo

Video clip: “Runaway Jury” – trailer

Late Night Intruder (Part 2)

by Judy Berman

Life on the third floor with a ghost is unsettling.

Sightings of my neighbor, Roger, become even more scarce after the incident of the angry woman who attempts to confront him by using the fire escape that ends at my window. (read: Part 1 – A Rude Awakening. Link below story)

But trouble seems to find a way to ensnare him – and me – again.

One Saturday evening in late summer, a stranger knocks on my door. I pull back the curtain on my door’s window, and eye him warily.

No one, not even salesmen, will venture up the winding staircases, especially at night, unless they are visiting one of the tenants. The man, I’ll call him Caruso, wants to get hold of Roger. Roger’s not home, so Caruso asks to use my phone.

I grudgingly agree.

I must be certifiable.

Now, this guy is inside my tiny apartment. He tries to engage me in small talk. No dice. He tries to play with my dog, Paris. Paris, a small, gray French poodle, looks to me for guidance and then, intuitively, backs away from the man.

I tell Caruso it’s time to go, and he does without comment.

Whew! That’s the end of that, I think. But I am wrong. Caruso is back again 30 minutes later. This time I ignore his persistent rapping. Caruso begins to sing “O Sole Mio” – in the original Neapolitan language. I pull the curtain aside and tell him, again, to leave.

Calling the cops didn’t seem to be an option, given what happened with fire-escape woman who had kicked in Roger’s door just about two months ago. After all that, she is just escorted to the nearest corner and released. Besides, what am I going to tell them? Some guy is singing outside my door? Nah!

After Caruso leaves, I call another tenant, Tommy, and tell him about the nuisance visitor. Tommy says he hasn’t seen the guy in the building and invites me to join him and his friends at the Poorhouse, a bar and hangout.

I seize the opportunity to avoid Caruso and his serenades. We walk to the bar. Another snag. You have to be 21 to even enter. At the time, I am 22, but I have no I.D. Sorry.

So Tommy, ever the protective big brother, walks me back home. Then, he returns to the Poorhouse. I decide to call it a night.

About 1 a.m., another knock on the door.

“Not again,” I mutter groggily as I get up from my sofa bed.

“It’s the police,” a deep-voiced man announces. “Please open the door.”

I look out the window and, bless him; it is the police – more than one. He asks me if I’d been bothered by a man earlier that evening. I say “yes,” and the officer wants me to go downstairs with him to identify a suspect who broke into a first-floor apartment.

It turns out Caruso was going between our apartments by using a back hallway. It’s the first time I realize there is a back hallway between the second and third floors. This explains why Tommy never saw Caruso walk past his apartment that’s in the front half of the run-down house our apartments are in.

Caruso is caught after he creeps into the girls’ apartment. When one of them awakes and sees him, she screams. Her roomies tackle Caruso and hold him down until the police arrive.

We all go to the police station to file a complaint. The cops and girls laugh as I describe the “O Sole Mio” serenade – complete with the singing. But my smile quickly fades when I see Caruso leave the building with his attorney. Great! Caruso’s out on bail, and I’m still stuck at the police station filing reports.

When I return home, who’s outside our apartment building? Caruso, of course. Don’t they always return to the scene of the crime? This time, Roger’s with him.

The girls don’t want to stick around, and invite me to join them at the beach. Sure. Glad to escape this madness.

Fat chance.

At the beach, a good 30 miles from our apartment, we see Caruso’s attorney. I’d recognize that slicked-back hair a block away. He doesn’t approach us, but his presence certainly puts a damper on our outing.

I hear later that the charges against Caruso were dropped. The girls downstairs moved away. But Caruso still has another visit on his agenda – and, perhaps, a score to settle.

Maybe Caruso didn’t know a new set of tenants moved into that first-floor apartment. It’s late at night when he forces open the door to their apartment, pushing a bed and the girl in it across the room.

I’m told her screams could be heard in the next county. I was out of town and learn about the break-in when I return. I shudder. All I have for protection between me and any intruder is a flimsy door with a window in it and my faint-hearted French poodle.

Cold comfort. It’s time to move if I ever want any peace. But on a bank clerk’s salary, where?

Finally, I find a new place to live. But it has problems of its own.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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* man singing opera http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Opera_singer_icon.svg

* police – arrest – 1973 (photo not connected to arrest at my apartment)http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0a/STREET_ARREST_FOR_DRINKING_COMPLAINT_-_NARA_-_546658.tif/lossy-page1-640px-STREET_ARREST_FOR_DRINKING_COMPLAINT_-_NARA_-_546658.tif.jpg

* clock in the departure board in the main station in Hannover,Germany http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HannoverUhrInAnzeigetafel060415_p1040618.jpg

* link to: A Rude Awakening (Part 1)  http://earth-rider.com/2012/06/30/a-rude-awakening/

A Rude Awakening (Part 1)

By Judy Berman

My first apartment. I now understand why parents have sleepless nights.

It seems like an excellent choice, even though the home, which is converted into apartments, reminds me of the house on the hill behind the Bates Motel in “Psycho.” Rent is affordable. I can walk to work and save bus fare.

My third-floor walk-up, one-room apartment is quiet. That changes when a tenant moves in across the hall.

Roger is almost a myth. Let’s just say that Dracula makes more daytime appearances than he does. I rarely see Roger, and when I do, it is usually just his back as he is about to enter his apartment.

One incredibly hot June night, my apartment is like a sauna. So I leave my door open to let in what little breeze lingers in the hallway.

I am reading when I hear someone coming up the stairs. It’s Roger and a woman is with him. Roger is a quiet man who has never spoken a word to me. He’d brought a woman home with him once before. Nothing unusual, I think. Still, I close my door for privacy.

Within 15 minutes, I hear the muffled sounds of an argument across the hall. Then, there is a knock on my door.

From the window in my door, I see the woman who Roger brought home. She looks upset.

She asks if she can use my phone to call the cops because Roger kicked her out and won’t let her get all her belongings.

Her cool demeanor changes after she makes the call. The woman races across the landing and kicks a crack in Roger’s door.

I just stand there in shock, clutching my poodle. Paris is no guard dog. He’s quaking almost as much as I am.

While I’m still trying to regain my composure, my downstairs neighbor steps out into the hallway. Eva heard the commotion, and wondered what’s going on.

Minutes later, a heavy-set cop comes up our stairwell two steps at a time. After talking to the woman, he gives me a fleeting, reassuring smile. Then, he strolls over and pounds on Roger’s door.

“You’re puffing up my ulcer, Roger,” the officer bellows.

That’s all the convincing Roger needs. As he cautiously opens his door, I join Eva downstairs in her apartment. A grandmotherly type, in her late-50s or early-60s, she makes tea to calm our nerves.

“I swear I’ve never seen anything like that,” Eva says, “and I’ve lived here for five years.”

As we try to draw comfort from one another, we see someone climbing the fire escape next to Eva’s window. This is particularly unsettling because the fire escape ends outside my apartment.

Short hair. Masculine jowl.

“Hey, fella,” I yell. “Where do you think you’re going?”

The intruder ignores me and continues to climb the fire escape. The second time I yell, the “fella” turns, snarls and informs me in extremely profane language that she is a lady and not a fella.

I’d disagree on the “lady” part, but I’m not about to argue.

When I look closer, I realize it was the woman who’d been in Roger’s apartment. Apparently. when the cop took her away to end the squabble, he just dropped her off at the corner. She returns. looking to get a piece of Roger, but thinks better of it when she realizes she’s been spotted. The woman scurries back down the fire escape and runs off.

I’m hot. I race downstairs. I’m not even sure why. If I ran into the “fella,” well, I’m not sure I would be here to tell this story.

Roger is outside. sitting on the bottom step. He sits there, dejectedly, holding his head in his hands.

“You ought to be more selective about the type of person you bring home,” I say indignantly.

Poor, bleary-eyed Roger looks at me, as if through a haze, and watches as I storm off.

Two months later, Roger is linked to still another police visit. But. this time, Roger might be forgiven. He isn’t even home when it begins.

That’s all the wake-up call I need to find somewhere else to live. The rent may be affordable, but my peace of mind is worth a lot more.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Photo: Queen Anne-style home seen in the movie “Psycho” and the video clip “Thriller” – author: Laëtitia Zysberg. Date April 22, 2012 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/87/Sanders_House%2C_1345_Carroll_Avenue_%28_1887_%29.JPG/450px-Sanders_House%2C_1345_Carroll_Avenue_%28_1887_%29.JPG

Photo: This is a photo of Ray Simpson of the Village People (not of the officer who responded to the incident at my first apartment). Taken at Asbury Park, N.J., on June 3, 2006, by Jackie of Monmouth County ,N.J. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4e/Village_People-Cop.jpg/289px-Village_People-Cop.jpg

Photo: This photo, taken January 2008, is of a Delran, N.J., police car – not the one that responded to the incident at my first apartment. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/13/Delran%2C_New_Jersey_police_car.jpg/320px-Delran%2C_New_Jersey_police_car.jpg

Life’s Endless Possibilities

By Judy Berman

The days shortly after high school graduation – parties, drag races, broken hearts and promises, and new love. Adventure awaits.

Hot rods cruising the streets of a suburban California town. Rock ‘n’ roll music blaring from the windows. Waitresses roller-skating to your car to get your orders.

Those are the images that the movie “American Graffiti” (1973) captured. The posters asked: “Where were you in ’62?” That question is as valid today as it was then. What do we hope for in the future? What are our next steps in life?

This was a time of innocence – one year before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The movie’s also a reminder that we don’t have to stop dreaming just because we’re now grown-ups.

The coming-of-age film focuses on four high school grads who meet at Mel’s Drive-in – Burger City – to share their last night together. In the morning, Richard Dreyfuss (as Curt Henderson) and Ron Howard (as Steve Bolander) will leave for college on the east coast.

Curt’s not sure he wants to go.

“You just can’t stay 17 forever,” Steve chastises Curt.

Steve tells his girlfriend, Cindy Williams (as Laurie Henderson, Curt’s sister), that maybe they should see others while he’s in college. She decides to take him up on that before the evening is over – almost permanently as a result of a drag race on Paradise Road.

The guys go their separate ways. While Curt’s riding around, he sees the woman of his dreams, Suzanne Somers, in a white Thunderbird. She mouths, “I love you,” before she disappears from view.

His search for her is interrupted when he runs into some hoodlums, members of The Pharohs (pronounced FAY-rows). They spot a police car in a parking lot that’s on the lookout for speeders. The Pharoh’s leader, Bo Hopkins (as Joe), convinces Curt to hook a tow cable to the rear axle of the police car.

Curt hesitates, afraid he’ll get caught.

“Look at it this way. Now, you got three choices. One, you chicken out, and, in that case, I let Ants (another Pharoh member) tie you to the car and drag you around a little bit, and you don’t want that. Right?” Joe asks Curt.

Right. Nor is Curt prepared to deal with the alternatives. Option 2? If the cops hear Curt, well …

Option 3? If he’s successful, Joe says Curt can “join the Pharohs with a car coat and a blood initiation and all that.” Uh, Curt’s not too keen on that idea, either.

After Curt hooks up the police car, the hoods race their car past the cops. Curt yells out, “Stand by for justice.” The cops start to peel out. The cable stops them, tearing the rear axle off their car.

Once Curt gets out of the gang’s clutches, he goes to a local radio station to appeal to Wolfman Jack to help him find his mystery woman. The man in the control booth claims he’s not Wolfman. Curt also confides that he’s not sure if he’ll go off to college. Wolfman advises Curt to go out and experience life.

“The Wolfman comes in here occasionally bringing tapes, you know, and to check up on me and what not, and the places he talks about that he’s been and the things he’s seen. There’s a great big beautiful world out there, and here I sit, sucking popsicles,” he tells Curt.

In the morning, all four guys meet at the airport. As The Beach Boys’ “All Summer Long” plays, only one of them is aboard the plane. From the plane, a familiar car is spotted as it threads its way through the street.

This captivating film has many funny, romantic, touching and scary moments and well worth the view.

And Wolfman’s advice? It’s one we all could heed, no matter where we are in life. Venture out there. Explore life’s endless possibilities.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Poster: American Graffiti (hanging in our office)

Movie clip of American Graffiti (1973) – Go to “Videos – Trailer” on IMDb data base: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069704/

Photo: Wolfman Jack in 1979 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wolfman_Jack_in_1979.jpg

Photo: Ron Howard (as Steve) and Cindy Williams (as Laurie) – dancing http://www.listal.com/viewimage/791092

Music video: The Beach Boys’ “All Summer Long” (with stills from the movie) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iOhxiO-ngc

Photo: Richard Dreyfuss (as Curt) and Bo Hopkins as (Joe) http://www.listal.com/viewimage/791095