“May you live in interesting times.” -Chinese Proverb

My alternate title was “Can I Get a Fucking Break Here?”, but that seemed a bit much.

They say that things happen in threes. We can but hope.

A few weeks ago, I sat in my lovely backyard, talking to my new sometimes-roommate, Derek. As I looked around, peacefully enjoying a realtively warm fall afternoon, Derek suddenly said, “Hey, where’s your ladder?”. I looked around and, sure enough, my A-frame ladder had gone MIA. I tried to remember… had I loaned it to my neighbor to cut my branches off her satellite dish? Brought it in the house?

The answer, as you may surmise from the title of this entry, was no, I hadn’t. Someone had come into my backyard and secured it as their own. Since my backyard is currently only 95% fenced in AND I had left the ladder out in the open, I felt like I was asking for it. I sighed and resumed looking at the sun and the clouds.

When I came home from rehearsal a few nights later, I let my adorable mess of fur and neuroses (you may know her as Madison or Mad Dog) out in the back to pee and enjoy the cool night air. That’s when I noticed my Rubbermaid shed had its doors open and my spreader was in the middle of the yard, not in the shed. Upon looking around, I noticed that my really cool bamboo chair had gone missing as well. I hadn’t locked the shed (stupidity is doing the same things and expecting different results, right?), so I sighed. Again. Oh, and I called St. Pete’s finest. I knew I would never get the stuff back but I figured what the hell, give them a break from arresting teenagers at peaceful anti-war demonstrations down at Baywalk. They assigned me a community service officer. I’m not entirely certain exactly WHAT purpose these officers serve, save for making the general public feel better about the police department’s inability to actually solve any crimes. That’s not fair to Officer McCoy; he’s a very nice gentleman. But a “community service officer” is a poor substitute for getting your donut-eating ass out to my house after a theft and actually looking at the crime scene.

I swallow this aggression, because one, I was REALLY stupid about leaving the shed open and the backyard not fenced in; B, I have a brand-new motion detector light for the backyard that, at the time, sat in its shiny purple box in my laundry room; finally, I know that a $20 lawn chair really shouldn’t bring out the SWAT team.

The next day I noticed that the spare carbuerator for my Volkswagen Thing had also disappeared from the shed. When my CSO calls, I add this bit of information. Then I go buy locks for the sheds.

Simple, right? Make it hard for people and they’ll move on, right?

(Insert deep sigh here)

Fast Forward: New Year’s Day. I return home that morning, buoyed by the promise of a new year… to find one of my two rubbermaid sheds broken into. They left the lock intact but simply popped the side off and took my barbeque grill and trailer lights. I don’t even bother calling the police, just my CSO. I leave a message. Until…. (insert climactic music here)

On his way home from a challenging day of towing banners, Tom stops by my house on his new Verucci scooter (you know, the one of stingray infamy?), parks it outside my front window by the door, and asks to take a look at the “crime scene”. We go out back, he looks at it, shakes his head, and walks back to the living room. Five minutes, tops.

“Hey, my scooter’s gone!” I think he’s joking and make some wiseass remark. Then I look out the window and see his flight bag on the walk, which my mind finds odd as just a few minutes ago the bag was on his scooter. While he goes outside and starts looking around, asking the guys down the street if they saw anything, I call 911. Tom takes my car and starts driving around looking for the scooter while I look around helplessly, waiting for the police and hoping that somehow, the scooter will magically appear. After I get off the phone with 911, I call my CSO and leave a not-so-nice message, although I DO have the presence of mind to say that while I’m angry, it’s not with him. Never piss of guys with guns and the ability to shoot you and make it look like a drug bust gone bad, that’s my motto!

While waiting for the police, a teenage kid comes by and offers to rake my yard for ten bucks. I tell him no, but that if he finds the scooter someone just stole from my yard, it’s worth $100. He asks what it looks like and hops on his bike in hot pursuit (I hope). When the cops arrive, he comes back for more information while they’re taking the report.

The police are very nice but tell us that we have a better chance of getting the scooter back by asking neighbors than they do. So, for the next few hours, we drive around and around and around and around, asking everyone if they’ve seen the scooter. We make our way towards downtown, ever widening the circle, and just west of Roser Park (you know, the “good” area), people start calling out to us, telling us they have what we need. I do not believe they meant the scooter. Actually, they probably think we’re the dumbest people in the world, because we drove around (in their minds) for three hours, unable to find drugs.

Plans at this point are to go get Tom another scooter. “Now we need to go back down to the Keys, you need to step on another stingray…”

He’s funny, isn’t he? My sides hurt from laughing so hard.

So… fast forward to Tuesday. No luck on the scooter or Tom’s cell phone, Palm Pilot, or iPod. Thankfully, the thieves were too stupid to look in the flight bag before they kicked it off the scooter, or they would have gotten a GPS, flight headset, and radio (pilot radio, not a music radio). Out of desperation, Tom starts flying a banner over my neighborhood, It reads “$200 reward- green/white Verucci motor scooter” and his phone number.

Within twenty minutes I hear a knock at my door. On the other side, the kid from Sunday. In my yard, a green and white Verucci scooter. Tom’s green and white Verucci scooter, to be precise. I call the AAF (Advertising Air Force) and tell his boss the scooter has made its way home. Then I call the police, because according to the kid, he stole it from two guys at the BP and they chased him (on foot and on bicycle, but still, they saw the banner and they know where they got the scooter, so I’m a little concerned they might show back up). Then we move the scooter up the stairs, into my house, and lock the door behind us as we wait for the police.

When Tom showed up about twenty minutes later, he said he actually saw the scooter racing down the street to my house. It’s only a little dinged up, has less than 15 miles on it, and seems in pretty good shape. Of course, his wallet and electronics are gone, but at least I’ve escaped the fate of a stingray (for now).

So, there you have it. My CSO called me yesterday, and I apologized for sounding hysterical on his voicemail Sunday. He was very kind, refraining from lecturing me or, asking me as the officer Sunday did, “What made you decide to move to this neighborhood?” He told me that the rental down the street had some new tenants that he was having problems with- he used the word “crackheads”- and asked me (this is funny) not to move, that they were going to get the problem taken care of.

He also said Mad Dog was a big deterrent to people and would keep anyone from trying to break in (we’ll just forget that she sat on the couch and watched out the front window as somebody rode off with Tom’s scooter Sunday).

Sad thing is, I believe him. I WANT to believe him. I have seen some new faces the past few weeks, and they- forgive me for judging a book by its cover- just look like trouble. I really haven’t had any problems here until the past month, and I love this house. Wood floors, an attic I can stand up in (well, I could, if I ever got a ladder for it), big yard… I don’t want to move. I just want to change the world around me. That’s not impractical, is it?

Below: 673 (the plane that towed the banner over my neighborhood), Tom, the recovered scooter, and GriGri (official scooter guard dog). Note the basket for Gri on the scooter.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.