I Prefer a Thief With Good Taste

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Pennington’s Hoax is available at Amazon or directly from W&B Publishers

Even if you had my address you might not be able to find the house. After winding around a state highway for several miles out of town, one must eventually leave the main road for a series of country roads that eventually lead to a curving path. Provided that one’s GPS is still getting a signal, there is still a ways to go. If one doesn’t miss the turn, which is almost as obscure as the one leading to the Bat Cave, the gravel path that seemingly leads to nowhere gives normal people pause.

There are only four visible houses at that point, and none of them are mine. The gravel path descends and rises beneath a double row of looming trees until one reaches the fork. GPS has surely gone out at this point, so does one take the direction posted with signs warning about the consequences of heading any further in that direction, or does one choose the other path with the gate and more signs about prosecuting trespassers? Those who continue on the correct path will wind through more foreboding forest while trying not to imagine the various creatures that lurk in camouflage.

My office window is on the front of the house, and a year ago I was typing away on Pennington’s Hoax and promoting Murdered Justice when two suspicious cars emerged from the last part of the wooded driveway and stopped at the garage as if they owned the place. They were foolish, if you ask me. This area is very pro-Second Amendment, and I hear gunshots on a regular basis. The wise person assumes that every household is heavily armed.

After a few minutes, the trespassers got a clear indication that people were home, so they drove away casually; too casually for someone who had made an honest mistake.

Until that point, I had let my guard down. I had abandoned my city ways of staying alert, being aware of anyone who might be watching my movements, and checking doors when leaving the house for even the briefest errand. My assumptions about spooky driveways and menacing signs as deterrents to unwanted visitors had been wrong! I dragged out all the security tools, put more items in the safe, inquired about security monitoring, made a list of potential house sitters, and devised escape routes should the house actually become invaded.

After that, I no longer left electronics on the kitchen table when going to the store or even going outside for more than a few minutes. I secured any documents that shouldn’t be in the wrong hands, and filed a sheriff’s report after alerting the neighbors. No one has come back in a year, but I was reminded of the incident when going through some papers and saw a reference number for the sheriff’s case that I filed.

If someone broke in, I have lately realized that they wouldn’t want what they would find. There are bigger and newer televisions in other houses, newer electronics elsewhere, and not much that would fetch more than a few pennies wherever they might take their plunder. I recently read a short article entitled “A Burglar’s Goal is Your Bedroom.” Supposedly thieves are looking for our cash, jewelry, and firearms.

I considered the article’s advice and began to wonder about the motivation of thieves. Jean Valjean took bread. When I was a little kid, someone broke into our house and stole our washer filled with laundry while we were at church. That particular theft was so odd that one wonders if the thieves might not have been innocent people told to drop by and pick up an old washer. Finding no one at home at the wrong address, they broke a window, climbed in and wheeled the old Norge out the door. Breaking the window was not the act of an honest person, but a washer? Who steals a washer—and an old one at that? The robber was surely someone who had grown so tired of using a Laundromat that they would beg, borrow, or steal to avoid one.

Loaves of bread, old appliances, electronics, and firearms all lack the elegance of an art thief. Jewel thieves, for that matter, are much more chic in books and films like To Catch a Thief because they are after some gaudy necklace or a specific stone. Whether art or expensive jewels, the thieves must love what they have stolen so much because they can never sell it, share it, or show it to anyone. Demanding a ransom is their only course of action, but laying aside their motivation, art thievery requires a level of appreciation and a clever mind to pull off a heist.

It’s difficult to imagine a modern thief scaling a tiled roof like Carey Grant in the pursuit of something exquisite. I once knew a private art dealer who never watched television, but decided to break down and buy one. He’d had it three weeks, and it was still in the box when the thieves slipped into the garage one night before he could close the door after pulling his car inside. They forced their way into the house at gunpoint, eyed the art hanging on every surface of the house, took the TV and ran. I saw him after insurance paid his claim. He used the money to buy another nice piece and never replaced the TV.

Apparently we can leave the front door unlocked and a Rembrandt leaning against the wall next to it. It can sit there for two weeks, but if you try hiding your laptop in the underwear drawer while working in the garden, you may never see it again. As I continue to lament the decline of civilization, I have to ask where all the tasteful thieves have gone?

We must solve the opioid crisis, address wage inequality, and improve education at every level so that those who are going to steal can develop an aesthetic sense and go back to nicking nicer things.

© 2018 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, especially the two featuring Maggie Lyon, visit my author page at: http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1

 

Headline Overload

I had a post in mind for this week, but with so much going on in the news I decided that I would save the article for another time. Like many people, the continuous news cycle has drained me, and I find myself stopping short of a complete self-imposed media blackout. I know enough to stay informed and involved, but I will not give parts of myself away as the networks chip at my soul in an attempt to leave me shouting at the television like a curmudgeonly shut-in.

I’m not advocating for a media blackout, as I got an up-close look at such an approach when two of our summer visitors were unaware of a single current event, as if cultural ignorance is a good thing. I doubt that either will ever read this so I can write without worrying I’ve offended them, but if they do, then I’m thrilled they’re finally poking their heads out. Becoming aware of federal investigations, hurricanes and all the other recent tragedies will make them seem less like they’ve just emerged from a bunker.

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Murdered Justice by Patrick Brown is available from W&B Publishers, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

In Murdered Justice, Maggie writes about her frustration with the media, and in her next adventure due in early 2018, she’ll say even more about the news in Pennington’s Hoax.

I’m not sure that Maggie can help us, but what we need from the press is accurate information while we apply our critical thinking skills to the facts. That would be our own critical thinking skills, not some pundit’s idea after being processed by pollsters and propagandists. Figure out what’s going on and return to civil discourse. Many of us will never agree, and it’s a myth to think that Americans ever have. In spite of our differences, we once had respect, but I see very little evidence of it today. Our best bet is to turn off the TV and give the networks no incentive to shout at each other while the same footage plays repeatedly in the background.

Once I stop reeling from the headlines, I’ll be back with something more entertaining for you to read.

© 2017 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1

An Awesome Rant

There were several reasons I retired early from church music, my love of an extra gardening day each week being one of them, but I have to admit being asked to arrange a song called “Awesome God” for an offertory helped me realize that I no longer had it in me to stave off the flood of tackiness. The fight had gone out of me to maintain a higher standard while teams of amateur tambourine shakers calling themselves musicians stampeded to the microphones. I turned off the organ and tossed the key into a collection plate before heading to the garden store.

In the years since, people occasionally send me a photo of someone they know standing with other people at microphones with the caption: “Mickaleigh doing her worship.” Doing her worship? I could stand “Leading worship,” “Worshipping” or even “Performing,” but “Doing her worship” sounds like laundry to me. “Mickaleigh’s doing her whites.” I’m a stickler for proper terms, good pronunciation and accuracy, and like the advent of praise teams in churches, which defy the true purpose of corporate worship, I find myself frustrated at the falling standards of usage and spelling, thanks to social media and texting.

I have a great diatribe on modern worship, as well as the choice of Mickaleigh for a name, both of which I’ll save for another time, but in this post I’m going to rant about “awesome” and why the word can bring me to the point of cerebral hemorrhage when I hear it, read it or see any form of it. I came of age during the 1980s when Valley Girls, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and surfer language swept the country. Young people who’d never been west of Lubbock were interjecting “awesome” into their conversations with such frequency that the overuse rendered every accompanying noun to be less than awesome, and the word itself fails to convey anything remarkable.

When I announced that the choir would get a two-week summer break, the minister’s wife exclaimed “Awesome!” When I told a security officer that I’d need to stay parked in the loading zone for an extra 20 minutes, he drawled “Awesome…” As stated earlier, I was asked to forego the heavy literature in favor of an awesome arrangement of Awesome God. This little ditty is a 22-word mantra by Rich Mullins repeated on an endless cycle until the first person in a praise team collapses from lack of proper oxygen. I refused to give in and lost my reputation as an awesome guy.

Lately I’ve been noticing social media responses to photos of babies, puppies, kittens and deer playing with bunnies. Among the “Soooo cute!” and “Precious!” and “That is so sweeeeet!” I’m seeing “Awe” where I should be seeing “Aww” or even “Aw.” I won’t mention any names, but I brought this up with a friend because I thought my head would explode if I continued to remain silent.

“You’re wrong,” said the nameless friend. “It means that you find the picture incredible.”

“How ridiculous!” I replied. “What you mean to impart is that you’ve been touched by the newborn baby or the kitten snuggling with a bunny.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. To comment with ‘awe’ means that yes, I’ve been touched by the sweetness of the picture, but that I’m also reminded of just how special these helpless creatures are when compared to the vastness of the universe.”

“Now you’re grasping. You can’t admit that you’ve used ‘awe’ when you should have used ‘aww.’ Admit it; you know I’m right.”

“You’re the one who hates admitting when he’s wrong.”

“True. You won’t get an argument from me on that, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m right about this. I looked it up on Urban Dictionary just to be sure I hadn’t missed some change in current usage.”

We continued arguing to the point where I asked her if she thought that being commanded to revere God with awe meant that He was a cuddly being, but she cut me off after struggling to find a word to describe what she referred to as my extreme and unforgivable blasphemy, which defies description. Even so, I think I managed to convince her that I know what I’m talking about in this case. I don’t know for certain that I got through to her because I haven’t received any notifications that she’s commented on any photos. I’ve probably been blocked but just haven’t realized it yet.

© 2016 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1