Did you happen to record Monty Python’s Flying Circus
when it was shown on PBS back in the 1970s?
Do you still have the tapes?
Is there a TIME LIFE logo at the end?
If so, please write to me. Thank you!

Click here to learn the story.


A Rough, Preliminary Index of Theatres, Halls,
Convention Centers, and Cinemas
from the early 1800s through 1929

Various people keep asking for this electronically, and so here it is. But before you get too excited, please understand that this is just a very rough outline, and not terribly accurate. It is impossible to write a readable history following this outline, as I discovered later. Before I made that discovery, I compiled this first attempt to organize my thoughts. It’s a mess. These files are in Word 2003 format, and they electronically cross-index one another, so they probably won’t work properly unless you download them all into the same folder. If when you open these documents you see that your screen is filled with coding, simply click on the pilcrow ¶ button at the top of your screen and that will clear things up. I also have crates upon crates upon crates upon crates of clippings (mostly photocopied from microfilms) and programs and whatnot, most of which I shall never post. If you want to purchase my collection, the price is $2,000,000 plus taxes. For those two or three of you who might be interested in the topic, I have the “back story” below the links.


1. Entertainments in the Village of Buffalo

2. The Early Days of the City of Buffalo

3. Mid and Late Nineteenth Century

4. Assembly Halls and Lecture Halls

5. Museums

6. Outdoor Performances

7. Specialty Theatres

8. Concert Saloons that seem to be of the wilder variety

9. Concert Saloons that seem to be of the more respectable variety

10. Concert Halls

11. Legitimate Theatres

12. Burlesque

13. Vaudeville

14. Convention Centers

15. The Earliest Movies

16. Storefront Nickelodeons

17. Purpose-Built Nickelodeons

18. Downtown Cinemas

19. Neighborhood Cinemas

20. Neighborhood Movie Palaces

21. Specialty Cinemas

22. Downtown Movie Palaces

Address Index

Theatre Index


A Small Sampling of Theatre Programs and Other Nice Things

A Few of Buffalo’s Forgotten Theatres and Cinemas

(Autobiography Volume Six)

In the summer of 1994 I finally got curious enough about all the disused, abandoned, shuttered cinemas I kept passing by that I decided I would go to the downtown library and ask for the books that had been written about them. The librarians insisted that there were no such books. I was convinced that they were mistaken. They were right. I was wrong.

So I set about, first, looking through the telephone books. I chose 1914 as a random year and was surprised to see how many cinemas were listed. I began to jot everything down. I followed this by jotting down all the listings in the city directories. I followed that by photostatting the three volumes of theatre scrapbooks (except for the few articles that had fallen out when the glue had dried decades before, of course). Then I started raiding the vertical files, microfilms, and various antique periodicals on file. I went to the BECHS and started furiously transcribing (by hand!) everything listed in its index cards. That was one job I was never able to finish! Then came the antique shops, especially the weekly antique mall in Clarence. After all that, the project simply took on a life of its own. You must understand, please, that I had no idea at all what I was doing. There was no order, rhyme, or reason behind what I was gathering. I was just gathering everything I could get my hands on. I did not understand most of it. I still don’t understand much of it.

To encourage others to contact me with their superior knowledge, I ran off a copy of my skeletal notes and placed it at the Buffalo and Erie County Library’s Special Collections Room in downtown Buffalo. It was a great way to make friends! In no time at all I had people clustering around me and I enjoyed picking all their brains. It was heaven on earth. Through other connections I met Dr. Charles W. Stein, who invited me over for some unforgettable evenings at his condominium, where he regaled me with endless stories of the old days. I still haven’t written down most of what he told me. I must do so before my memories get completely stale. And Charlie introduced me to Dan Harter, another wealth of knowledge, who knew pretty much everything there was to know about theatre in the US — historically, culturally, artistically, technically, architecturally, financially, and in terms of business practice. I became a sponge, soaking in everything I could.

There was one incident — or actually nonincident — that only now, in retrospect, has come to take on a symbolic significance. One day as I was turning the Broadway/Ellicott corner to walk into the library, I saw a guy, half a block down, crossing Broadway. He was wearing military fatigues and was cocking a rifle, getting ready to aim. I had no idea who would be his random target. I was the closest pedestrian and thought I might be his prime choice, but like so many people he seemed not to be aware of my existence. Luckily I never heard a shot. I told the security guard at the library, but I don’t know that anything ever came of it, as the rifleman was probably long gone by the time I said anything.

Unsurprisingly, in addition to earning me friends, my research earned me enemies as well, and that was perfectly understandable. In a way, it was even reasonable. You see, once upon a time, back in 1990 give or take, I had a moonlighting job working for — well, I refuse to name names — and I’d be sued if I did — so let’s just call this entity “Employer A.” Employer A didn’t pay much, but I liked the job. Then one day I went to work and nearly every face was new to me. The place had been purchased and put under new management. Click here for a nice parody of the new management. I was very much out of place in this milieu, but the lower-level staff weren’t at all like that — and I worked with the lower-level staff, not management, who generally left me alone. So I thought okay, what the heck? I’d love to tell the whole story, which is really fascinating and historically important, but the Sword of Damocles that’s hanging over my head consists of threatened lawsuits; so I had better keep mum. Fiddlesticks! After working under Employer A’s new management for a while, I accidentally discovered that something funny was happening to some money, and I was in a position to prove it if I so wished. I did not make a fuss about it, but within two hours of my discovery the wildest stories started to be told about me, with the most lurid details, and these were told seemingly to almost EVERYBODY. I never heard a story directly. I just heard lots of insinuating innuendos directed towards me from staffers and board members who were suddenly angry with me, obviously over stories they had just heard but that they chose not to repeat to me. By my next shift the atmosphere was entirely toxic. Nonetheless, I loved this job and I believed in what we were doing. I wanted to make a go of it, and so I pressed on for, I think, about three more months, hoping that all this commotion would die down. What a fool I was. The hatred just increased exponentially day by day, and so I resigned my position. Within weeks of my resignation, I found I was mysteriously on new mailing lists: hardcore-porn mailing lists. Once I resigned, I assumed that the stories would cease. I was wrong. They continued — for years. Lots of years. And there was evidence suggesting that these stories were getting crazier and crazier with each telling. I lost friends.

NOTE ADDED 30 SEPTEMBER 2013: Oh my. The phone calls! How could I forget the phone calls? Shortly before resigning I was on the premises very late, all alone, doing volunteer repair work. The phone rang. I picked it up and before I could even finishing identifying the name of the establishment, the person on the other end hung up. This was repeated several dozen times that night. After I resigned, the same thing began happening at home. I asked the phone company if there was any way I could trace the calls. The staff insisted that there was not, but hope was on the way, as caller ID would soon be made available in my area. As soon as it arrived, I purchased a device and subscribed to the service. It was fun at first to know which friend, relative, or acquaintance was calling before I answered, but I noticed that some calls did not register on the caller ID. The read-out did not display “UNKNOWN” or “ERROR” or anything similar. It did not display anything at all. It did not recognize that a phone call was coming in. So I would answer the phone and before I could finish saying “Hello” I would hear a click. Soon enough I learned not to answer when the caller ID did not register a call, and thankfully after several months the calls finally stopped. I asked some technically minded acquaintances if they understood what was happening, and they said yes, of course. The incessant caller was using a filter or scanner to bypass caller ID. I shall never know the exact identity of the person or persons who were playing this pathetically childish game of gaslighting, but I can narrow down the suspects to five or six.

On one unforgettable evening, more than two years later, I got something I had never had before: an exact date and time and place of another repeat of these stories. And I got the name of the person who told the stories — and, most importantly, I at long last got precise details of what he had said. I got this from an acquaintance who shouted at me over the phone to end our acquaintanceship over the matter. This shouting session was quite lengthy. I can’t remember now, but I think it was close to half an hour.

Looking back on it now, I wonder if there was an unspoken motive underlying her rage. You see, a few weeks earlier — or was it a few months earlier? — she had tried to snuggle with me. It was nothing sexual; she was just trying to be cozy. I was flattered, but hey, she was only 17. Uh-uh. No way. Maybe she felt rejected? Heck if I know. Whatever she felt, and whatever her motivations, and whatever else was on her mind, may or may not have had anything to do with her all-consuming rage that evening.

Okay. I might as well reveal the opening sentence of that unforgettable phone conversation. For nearly twenty years I have refused to repeat any part of this conversation because I knew it would function as a virus, taking on a life of its own. Nonetheless, I think that now it is time I repeated the conversation, come what may. It began with “You know, you wouldn’t have had any problems at [Employer A] if you weren’t molesting little children all the time!!!!!!!!!!” She shouted that assertion at the top of her lungs. Throughout her lengthy screaming session, she managed to tell me what she had heard the night before. Employer A had taken her and a mutual friend aside for a debriefing. Employer A told them that management had caught me molesting small children, on company premises, during work hours, while I was on the clock. Employer A claimed to have caught me doing this numerous times over the course of several years. Each time Employer A caught me in flagrante delicto, Employer A would issue a warning that this activity must cease. Each time I agreed, and yet at my next shift Employer A would catch me at it all over again. After SEVERAL YEARS of this recalcitrant activity, Employer A had finally decided that it would be best to let me go.

People believed that story? Yes, people believed that story. Lots of people believed that story. Even people who had worked alongside me throughout all those years and who saw for themselves that nothing of the sort had ever happened — even they believed it. Does the story even make prima facie sense? But people believed it, and they continue to believe it. To bolster her case, my once-friendly acquaintance defiantly repeated, at least ten times, what she confidently thought was the irrefutable “Why would they say it if it’s not true?” When she finally realized that her disgust was too great to allow her to continue the conversation, she slammed the phone down. Heavens to Betsy! In spite of her various personality problems, I had actually been somewhat fond of her. I knew she was a bit scatterbrained, but I wasn’t expecting such gullibility, and I certainly hadn’t expected the fury that resulted from such gullibility. Just goes to show you....

Now I was suddenly on even more hardcore mailing lists, and the mailing list of the American Nazi Party as well. A police car was stationed 24/7 in front of my apartment — for six months. One day I got brave and waved. The policeman was startled, started his engine, quickly drove away, and then a few moments later came around the block and parked again right in front of my apartment.

People I genuinely cared about would now no longer speak with me, and so by this time I was in a deep depression. A lawyer I knew — let’s call him “Lawyer A” — entirely on his own tack, without my asking, offered to file a slander suit, free of charge. This slander suit would be based specifically on the most recent known telling, since it was only for that particular incident that we had usable details. All he asked for was a standard 30% cut if we won. Fine. I agreed. Months went by. Silence. I called several times but only reached his answering machine, on which I left increasingly desperate messages reminding him that time was running out. As the statute-of-limitations deadline was fast approaching, he suddenly called to demand money that I couldn’t afford. I rounded it up, quite painfully — from a relative who couldn’t afford it either. Lawyer A then did nothing until 11:00pm the night before deadline, when he phoned to shout at me for having waited so long. He kept me up all the way through morning, putting papers together, and then had me drive to the County Clerk’s office to file. Employer A’s attorney quickly responded with the predictable motion to dismiss, arguing, paradoxically, that my slander suit constituted libel against his client. Lawyer A then telephoned two witnesses who had previously been heavily involved with Employer A. They had been extremely hostile towards me during my tenure there, and so I had no desire to have anything further to do with them. I was certain that, if contacted, they would simply engage in piling on the calumnies. Lawyer A phoned them against my advice and without first telling me. These two witnesses CONFIRMED EVERYTHING I HAD SAID — and added many more details, with specifics! They were more than happy to testify on my behalf, as they realized I had been grossly abused and defamed! Lawyer A then immediately telephoned me and the first word out of his mouth was “Bingo!” He told me what had just happened, and he apologized to me. He said he had been entirely wrong about me. He had assumed that I was just telling a pack of lies in order to get some money out of other people, and now he was surprised and humbled to discover that I had been telling the truth. Now why on earth would he think that I had been lying if I’m not even the one who asked to go to court? He’s the one who volunteered to take this to court for me! Besides, if he thought I was lying, then why on earth had he taken my case? Does he make it a practice to represent only liars and con artists? Maybe? I don’t know.

The witnesses invited me to visit with them, and for the first time ever we actually got along. They told me the full stories that had been circulating about me, which were beyond anything I could have imagined. How could anyone have believed them? There was so much, and in so many directions, that it should have made anyone wonder about the veracity of the story-tellers. Yes, it is true that a 10-year-old had once struck up a brief conversation with me on the premises, and that he then visited me twice, both times during work hours. We were never alone together for more than a few seconds, as there was a constant stream of coworkers coming through nonstop. As described in that dramatic telephone conversation above, that story was soon greatly enhanced. The two witnesses explained to me that the stories concerned innumerable children. This, I learned, was par for the course, as one of the new managers had made identical accusations against an innocent school teacher, costing him his livelihood. This manager and his parents had also had a long career of making false accusations of grand theft against others, resulting in their resignations. All the tales about me related to blatant homosexual exploits, and some of tales were physically impossible. To my surprise I no longer remember these stories, except for one: There was a story of all-night-long homosexual orgies in an oversized bed in the plush attic, with lights shining out the windows in the wee hours of the morning and with blaring rock music that could be heard from down the street. People believed that? The attic was unfinished, the only paths were narrow wobbly wooden planks and if you missed your step you’d crash through the plasterwork, the only light consisted of one or two bare 60W incandescent bulbs that gave off hardly even a glow, there were no windows for lights to shine out of.... And yet people who had been in that attic and worked in it and were intimately familiar with it believed that story. It’s simply amazing what people believe. And anyway, the loudest rock music that I can endure is Dvořák’s Sixth Symphony. If you take it beyond that level I walk away. [Full disclosure: Not quite true. I thoroughly enjoy a rock band called Renaissance as well as the rock accompaniments to O Lucky Man!, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Shock Treatment. But none of that is wild-party stuff, to say the least.] The two witnesses then gave me a few details about this particular manager and his parents and siblings, and about what the parents had been doing before and during WWII, and how they had quickly reinvented themselves upon news of Germany’s defeat. Incidentally, over the next few years, two other people, unknown to each other, told me essentially the same story, with different details that did not conflict, but reinforced one another. I’m tempted to relate these stories but that would be too risky. These two witnesses wished to reassure me that, contrary to anything I may have picked up through the grapevine, they had no prejudice against those who were homosexual, and that they thus bore me no ill-will. I had not heard any such stories through the grapevine, but I did break down and admit something I generally don’t talk about because it’s nobody’s business: I’m not homosexual. They were genuinely taken aback to learn that, for it contradicted everything they had heard about me.

As I would learn years later, these multitudinous stories about me did not fade away. They were kept up, and quite robustly. For all I know, they might still be in general circulation, perhaps with even wilder details. But nobody’s going to tell me one way or the other. I almost never hear the stories told about me, and on the rare occasions when I do, I’m always the last person to hear them. But there is a conclusion that is inescapable. This manager and his family were in the habit of making false accusations of theft against others, while it was they themselves who were guilty, though never prosecuted as far as I know. There were political entanglements and complications that made prosecutions impossible. They were in the habit of making accusations of homosexuality against others, while they vehemently rebuked anyone who pointed out that the managers themselves were obvious limp-wristed lisping sissies. They denied such observations angrily and haughtily. As for the other accusation they were in the habit of making, well, I just don’t have enough solid evidence to make a case one way or the other. I saw some things that would suggest some things, but I saw nothing definitive.

Lawyer A then waited again until the very last day to put together a response to the motion to dismiss, which he told me to file at the courthouse itself rather than the County Clerk’s office. That didn’t sound right at all, and I said so, but Lawyer A insisted that I file my papers only with the courthouse, and not with the County Clerk. I was suspicious. I ran off a second copy of the papers. Because it took most of the day to prepare the paperwork, I arrived at the court shortly before closing time. The secretaries were terribly confused as to why I was giving them papers. My suspicions were right! I drove to the County Clerk’s office and arrived there just moments before closing. I filed another copy there, and the staff were perfectly prepared for these things. Lawyer A had deliberately given me incorrect information to prevent me from filing properly! Shortly after I filed the papers with the County Clerk, Lawyer A backed out of the case, leaving me high and dry. Ever since that time I have had a really horrible reputation, and I’ll probably never be able to live it down.

That’s why my new research earned me enemies. The executives of two nonprofit theatres in Western New York heard some crazy stories from Employer A, who could (and maybe did???) now truthfully add the story of a failed slander suit. So those executives of those two nonprofit theatres harshly rebuffed my offers to volunteer my services for them. They did not want to see me, meet me, hear from me, or even listen to free advice. And the crazy accusations one of them made against me — sheesh! — claiming that I was conspiring with a demolition crew to rob their equipment and sell it to Warner Bros! Huh? Where did that story come from? What substances do these members of the Affluent Society inhale when they’re locked inside their private Executive Boardrooms? (And people say that I’m delusional? Okay. Whatever.) They were convinced that I was a saboteur; so they decided to attack me before I could attack them. Paranoia is the name of the game, I guess. It was their loss, not mine, because I could have and would have saved them an enormous amount of expense and trouble, and would have ensured that their restorations were more accurate. You see, I knew things they didn’t, especially about the original architecture and décor. They still don’t know these things and probably never will. Oh well....

My hobby kept me away from home during library hours and kept me alone in my apartment(s) during nonlibrary hours. Many of these years I didn’t live in Buffalo. That’s because after the fire and after the shootout in my driveway, I decided there were better places to reside. So I moved a stone’s throw away, to the City of Tonawanda, which I really liked at first. It was charming. The architecture was lovely. Niawanda Park and the Niagara River were almost in my front yard. The neighbors were friendly. Or so I thought. My neighbors soon grew suspicious because I was away so much and because when I was home I kept to myself. That couldn’t be normal. They were certain of that. Single, male, keeps to himself, wrong color, funny name. They weren’t comfortable with my presence in their midst. But it was okay. I lived there for years without incident. Then came 9/11. I remember 9/11. I was paralyzed that day. Literally paralyzed. I had somehow pulled a muscle in my back and couldn’t move. I couldn’t even reach the phone to call for help. The pain was excruciating. Finally, around two o’clock in the afternoon, I was able to struggle out of bed. It took me forever to cross the small living room to get to my phone and computer. I decided to send an email message to Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian to let them know that I would not be able to attend their screening of Little Caesar that night. When I turned on the computer, the first thing I saw was a message from Bruce Jackson saying that tonight’s showing of Little Caesar was canceled because of today’s unspeakable events, and that he knew we were all trying to learn about the safety of our relatives and friends. Huh? I checked the day’s news online and saw just a few images, and read just a paragraph or two. That was all my nerves could handle. I felt shell-shocked. This was beyond horror. No words could form.

The very next day two friends from far, far away, unknown to each other, telephoned me, imploring me to leave and get as far away from New York State as possible, because they were certain that some maniac would murder me in retaliation for the events of the day before. (You’re wondering about something entirely irrelevant and you’re letting your imaginations run wild. So I’ll tell you, even though I don’t want to. Both were approximately my age. One was female. One was male. Both were religiously unaffiliated white US citizens — born and raised — with easily pronounceable Western European names living in States further west. Does that matter?) I thought these two friends were being awfully silly and foolish. But I was wrong, and they were right. They were giving me the best advice I’ve ever gotten. Little did I realize.... Something should have begun to dawn on me when I saw that previously friendly neighbors were now scowling at me. But hey, I thought, it could be anything; next time we chat everything will be fine again. That’s how stupid I was.

It was in June or July 2002, at which time I had been spending more than seven years of my life on this all-consuming new hobby, that Chuck LaChiusa asked if I would begin to serialize some of what I had learned for the Buffalo Architecture and History web site. Gladly!

I did not recognize the latest incarnation of the pattern, because it had only just begun a little over a year before I submitted my first instalment, and so I did not understand that by now everything had already gone wrong. There were some problems here and there, sure, and I simply concluded that I was just going through one of those rough-sledding bits of life that we all need to get past. Soon enough, though, the problems became insurmountable, and so my first instalment proved to be my final instalment. I just recently learned that there is a term that describes what I had gone through at Employer A and what I would continue to endure over the next dozen years until I finally left Western New York: mobbing. Here are some books on the topic. I haven’t read all of them yet. But I like what I’ve read so far. I feel vindicated — at least a little bit. (Please do not assume that these books or authors endorse my tirade. Please. They’d probably be horrified by this tirade. You’ll see why.)

Read the Foreword by Kenneth Westhues.

Of course, I should mention the job. We’ve all had bad jobs, and this one was sure pretty bad. In 1987 I thought it was the dream job, despite the poverty wages. Its mission was something I believed in to the core of my being. Within weeks I began to see the truth. Within a year I was hoping for escape, but there were no other jobs on offer in Buffalo, at least, none for which I qualified. Then beginning sometime in mid-2001 it should have been eligible for the world’s top prize in lunacy. I was literally terrified of my bosses who had gone off the deep end. No, I don’t simply mean that they were being abusive or temperamental. Oh no. It went WAY beyond that. Nobody noticed that I was right there, and that I saw and heard everything. But I was right there, one room over, and I saw and heard everything.

Let me back up a little. There was a pattern at this job. The chairman paid no attention whatsoever to lower-level staff. Oh, yeah, he would occasionally say Hi to them when passing in the hall, or he would occasionally unleash his considerable temper at them, but they were not in his thoughts. As favors, he would offer adult children of colleagues various positions, and would simply order his hatchet men to fire some current low-level staffers to clear the way. (A few months later, if a low-level person who had been fired dropped by to say Hi to old friends, the chairman would not even recognize that person.) Oh yes, I can remember one particularly moving incident. The chairman gave a brand-new low-level staffer an assignment, and she performed it exactly to specification. She turned it in quickly, but by then the chairman had decided that what he had asked for was not what he wanted after all. He called me into his office to demand an explanation for why she had been so stupid as to turn in what he didn’t want. I tried to explain that she had given him precisely what he had asked for, but he talked right over me and in disbelief he angrily muttered “Stupid bitch!” He issued an instruction to one of his hatchet men to dismiss her the next morning. The chairman NEVER paid overtime (and we worked a lot of overtime — I sometimes did 100 hours a week). In about 1995 he learned that business owners were not legally required to pay managers overtime, and so at the regular Monday-morning meeting he explained that to us and announced, “From now on, you’re all managers.” He hired a highly qualified gentleman to take charge as overall operations manager, with a promise of total autonomy. That total autonomy immediately proved itself to be micromanaging and the complete sabotage of all his work. He endured months of mistreatment. There was a computer problem he had arranged to solve, but the IT personnel (who were among the chairman’s sex partners) prevented him from carrying out his task, and, of course, the blame for not carrying out the task was placed squarely on his shoulders. He finally yelled at the chairman, in the presence of some others. Right after the meeting the chairman requested that those who had witnessed the yelling write down what they had heard. The chairman submitted these witness reports to the board of directors, who then, concluding that this highly qualified gentleman was a “hothead,” dismissed him. That was one example. Here’s another example: The chairman somehow managed to hire a highly respected professional away from a prominent employer. This professional was exactly that: professional. His work was not only perfect and meticulous, but admirably creative as well. It was beyond reproach. He asked if his wife and daughter could get positions, and the chairman agreed. The chairman then started sabotaging and undermining the professional’s work. How predictable. He requested that all the low-level staffers on the floor submit written complaints about the professional’s wife. And they did. I held them all in my hands, I read them all, and I so much wanted to photocopy them, but I would have been caught. Each complaint was nearly identical, even to the wording, and so it was obvious that the chairman had told them precisely what to write. A few minutes after I got these handwritten papers, the chairman walked into my office and asked for them. I handed them over. The chairman then informed the board of directors that he had received complaints from all the floor staff about the professional’s wife, and the board decided that she should be dismissed. She was. The professional and his daughter resigned. I liked all these people. The highly qualified gentleman disliked me because of my poor attitude, but I liked him. After he was canned I contacted him and we had a dinner meeting at a restaurant, where at last we saw eye to eye, and he finally understood where my poor attitude originated and why. He was by then in full sympathy. The professional and his family I also quite liked, and we stayed in contact for a while after they were all gone. There were other similar instances as well. Many others. But to provide any more examples would risk identifying the place. Besides, it’s difficult to write about people without identifying them beyond “highly qualified gentleman” and “highly respected professional” and so forth. So let’s just move on to a different episode, the one that I witnessed first-hand, unnoticed, one room over.

There was a guy at the office I had gotten along with quite well. He was always jovial and friendly and pleasant, and we frequently had lunches together. Let us call him the then-friend. Others in the office warned me about this guy, but what they said was vague, irrelevant, and picayune. No one told me a single story of anything he had done that was even remotely questionable. The staffers just didn’t like his attitude, and I didn’t understand why, since he was always so nice. One day the then-friend received word from a competitor that his application had been accepted. The then-friend was going to use this as a bargaining chip, telling the chairman that he had just been offered a job at a better salary, and could the chairman match it? Instead one of the managers beat him to the punch, entered the chairman’s office and said, conspiratorially, “You know....” The manager informed the chairman that his trusted employee had had the nerve to apply to a rival firm, and that the rival firm had accepted him. The chairman immediately picked up his phone and paged the then-friend to his office, at shouting level, and there was venom in his words. The then-friend responded to the call, the chairman slammed the door shut behind him, and screamed at him — and I’m not exaggerating when I say screamed — screamed at him for over an hour, promising to ruin him and destroy him, promising that he would never be able to get a job again. The chairman then chased the then-friend off of the property. Everyone on staff was glad to see the guy gone, and they warned me even more that the guy was no good and that the chairman had done the right thing. Of course, no one else on staff had witnessed what I had just witnessed. The chairman then called in his top managerial staff to his office to brainstorm the stories that would work best. They planned how to fake evidence and how to plant evidence on the then-friend and how to convince a low-level staffer to pretend that she had discovered a vile misdeed. They planned how and when they would file a police report and sue. CHAIRMAN: “What can he do to us when he finds out that we know what we’re saying about him isn’t true?” MANAGER (shouting at the top of his lungs): “There’s NOTHING he can do. He’s a PUBLIC FIGURE!!!!! We can say anything about him we want!!!!!” That was a Friday. On Saturday morning I wanted to step in to check email, because I didn’t have the Internet at home at that time, but the chairman had posted a handwritten note on the entrance door saying that no one must enter the building for any reason. I entered anyway. The then-friend’s files had been ransacked. At the Monday-morning staff meeting the chairman told a batch of lies about what had transpired at the end of the previous week, and the low-level staffer, on cue, interrupted the proceedings to tell everyone what she had just discovered. The chairman acted shocked. What a put-on. Everyone in the office who wasn’t in on the planning session accepted the stories as true, saying that it all sounded perfectly in character. The execs filed a police report and got the company lawyers to file criminal charges. So when staffers renewed their warnings to me that the guy was no good, how could I possibly take them seriously? Now, in retrospect, I see that I should have taken them very seriously indeed....

While everybody else was overjoyed, I was upset. I was working for criminal monsters, and I wanted nothing more to do with them. By working there I was effectively complicit, and that’s not something I ever wanted to be. I felt completely defiled. I was so upset that my immune system shut down and within a few days I thought I was dying. I could no longer go to work. The situation quickly got complicated — more complicated than a Congreve play. But there’s no point in telling that story here, partly because I find it too embarrassing but mostly because I need to keep mum about details. But I’ll tell this much. The then-friend took the job with the rival firm, and his new bosses told him that they were more than familiar with the chairman’s rampages and tantrums and criminal activities. They welcomed him to his new home.

Slowly my health began to return — thanks only to physicians and surgeons. I was back at work before I fully recovered. (I have yet to recover fully, as the immune problems occasionally make their presence known even still. This drains what little savings I ever manage to put together.) The suit against the then-friend immediately went to court. That surprised me. I didn’t think things could move that quickly, but they did, and within just maybe four weeks the case was settled, in the then-friend’s favor, thanks partly to my behind-the-scenes assistance. The day the then-friend won his case, he sent an email to all and sundry, written in the third-person, triumphantly boasting about how he had outwitted the crooked chairman. He made it look as though that email had come from me. He did that by writing it as though from an insider friend who had surreptitiously helped, by using a one-time Yahoo email address called “italianfilmfan1” or something like that. From the time I saw Bicycle Thieves at age 14 I had been quite wild and vocal about the better Italian films. And for a display name he chose “Tinto Brass,” who all my friends knew was my favorite filmmaker.

I knew I was in trouble. Lots of trouble. I needed to talk with someone. I phoned a disgruntled ex-employee who had moved out of state to get away from the chairman’s obnoxious insanities. We had kept in touch and had kept up our amusing conversations over the years. She heard me out that evening, and she could not suppress her shock. I heard her gasp in horror at the tale I told. Yes, she was deeply shocked — at me, for having been so brazen as to side with my employer’s enemy. She was outraged and horrified by my behavior, found it disgusting, revolting, immoral, unforgiveable. As soon as I heard her gasp of horror, I knew I had made a really bad mistake. That’s when I realized I was definitively the world’s worst judge of character. (It was at that moment, when I discovered I was the world’s worst judge of character, that a thought first crossed my mind: Had I ever been stupid enough to do something dumb like get married, I would certainly have chosen the most evil person on earth. Once I drew that conclusion, so much of the world’s incomprehensible misery suddenly had an explanation. I felt sorrier for my grandfather than I had ever felt before.) When I awoke the next morning I received a phone call from another disgruntled ex-employee who confronted me about this peculiar email blast. He too had left the chairman’s employ sometime earlier, telling me privately that he could no longer tolerate his tyrannical ways and needed to find a friendlier work environment. We too had kept in touch and visited with some regularity and had plentiful amusing conversations through the years. I assured him that the email had not come from me at all, and that it was not entirely accurate either. He quickly told me that the chairman had already been informed, and that I had better watch myself. I drove to work that morning knowing two things without being told: first, that the rival firm had dismissed the then-friend for being a loose cannon, and second, that my goose was cooked.

When I arrived at work there was an executive meeting in a room where meetings were generally never held, and I knew it was about me. While that was going on I went to the chairman’s computer to help him with a task he had assigned me the day before, and I decided to do something I had never done on my own before: I looked at his email messages, trying to gauge how many of his supporters and friends had warned him of looming troubles and perhaps even forwarded him the pseudonymous message. His inbox was filled to overflowing with messages from the supposedly disgruntled ex-employee who had phoned me that morning, and who was on the chummiest terms with him, regularly meeting with him at a pub to discuss things over beer. When this guy phoned me that morning to say, passive voice, that the chairman had been informed, he didn’t bother to tell me “by whom” for the simple reason that he was the “by whom.” He told the chairman of everything he knew — well, everything except that I was not the author of that email message. He felt no need to relay that piece of information. (For what it’s worth, this is the chum who some years earlier insisted that my problems with Employer A must surely have been of my own making.) I quickly completed the assigned task and went back to my desk. I looked at my personal email and saw a message from the then-friend. The subject line was “How r u?” I deleted it without opening it.

The chairman walked into my office, gently asking me, “Who’s Tinto Brass?” He called me in for a lengthy private meeting. He told me that he knew everything and that the executives demanded my immediate dismissal. He showed me the emails he had just received from the other of my two “friends.” My two “friends” hadn’t left his employ at all. They were still on payroll, off the books, and used their status as supposedly disgruntled ex-employees to ferret out internal and external dissent. The chairman burst into tears and repeatedly (like about 30 times) begged me not to become a whistle blower. “Please don’t hurt me! Please don’t hurt me! Please don’t hurt me! You’re not going to do anything to hurt me, are you? Please don’t hurt me! Please don’t hurt me! Please don’t hurt me!” Before I give the impression that the chairman was acting childishly while I simply looked on in disbelief, I should say that my behavior was no better. To protect myself I too was being emotionally manipulative and dishonest. I take no pride in my behavior that day — or the day after, or the several weeks after. So he kept me on staff only to prevent bad publicity. Our working relationship had long been strained but this poisoned it forever. We now despised one another, but we both had to pretend otherwise. Within a few more weeks my health was back to normal, and I put on a happy face as best I could. It was simply time to find something else as soon as possible. But what else? In Buffalo? There are no jobs in Buffalo.

I applied at Kenmore Cab. The initial overhead was more than I could afford, the income was less than I could afford, the cabs were sickeningly smelly, and some of the staff were downright spooky. Enterprise Rent-a-Car tossed out my application. I tried for a job delivering pizza, but the announced position didn’t exist. There was one pizza-delivery position that actually did exist, and the pay was good! But it was a front run by the Mafia. No thanks. (A friend had worked there briefly as a delivery boy, and he said that in the kitchen there were no secrets. Shop talk was the only talk, and there was nothing but shop talk. Unfortunately, he heard only snippets, as he dashed into the kitchen to pick up orders and then dashed out right out again. But he did learn that the Statler Hotel downtown was being used for the FBI witness-protection program, and that the operators of the pizza joint together with their colleagues had the Statler under 24/7 surveillance. Gli uomini d’onore.... Oh my oh my, the things I’ve learned through the years....) I applied as an apprentice roofer. The pay was $7/hour gross, which is about $9,400/year take-home. Slum rents began at $350/month = $4,200/year, and add to that utilities, including heating bills, which in the winter could be as high as $400/month (November through April = 6 × $400 = $2,400). Then add food. Even the cheapest, deadliest food would come to over $5/day = $1,825/year. What’s left? $9,400 - $4,200 - $2,400 - $1,825 = $975. And since Buffalo’s public-transport system was the world’s worst, a car was a necessity — maintenance, gas, insurance.... How could anyone live on $7/hour? Impossible. I tried the temp agencies and got only one bite. They had a position open for janitor. Okay, I could be a janitor. I had done janitorial work before. I’m not proud. But the pay was, again, $7/hour gross. I called the numbers in the classifieds, but found only scam after scam after scam after scam. Not a single one was actually a job. Each was a sales pitch for investing in a so-called “business.” I was trapped. I needed to spend some time in a larger city in a different state and search for employment there, but I had no money to do such traveling. It was a trap. I couldn’t find a way out.

After the email episode the then-friend didn’t understand why I wasn’t talking with him, and he was terribly hurt that I was no longer returning his calls or answering his emails. Finally I broke down and told him why I was unhappy with him and entirely distrusted him. He deeply regretted his earlier misstep, and explained, convincingly, that he had not realized until afterwards that his pseudonymous email looked as though it had come from me. He had been under tremendous pressure and just wasn’t thinking things through. He realized it was a terrible mistake, and he apologized profusely. Okay. We were sort of on speaking terms again.

Then came the FBI episode. That was in early 2002. I had made a wire transfer to a movie-memorabilia shop in Italy, and so the FBI told my bank to freeze my account. This was part of the “War on Terror,” my banker gently explained to me. I’m not making this up. The bank agreed to unfreeze my account, but just a few days later a hacker depleted my account. If they can’t get you one way, they get you another.

Next was the repeating episode of stolen mail (mostly utility bills), which my neighbors would read to my landlord over the telephone. My landlord found this endlessly fascinating and was always eager to hear more. That apparently went on for months. How did I learn about this? Simple. The landlord called me and told me! Most recently the neighbors had opened my gas bill, called him and read it to him, telling him that my last payment was delinquent. The landlord wanted to know why I wasn’t paying my bills lately. Well of course I wasn’t paying the bills, because the neighbors had been swiping them!!!!

Then came the two break-ins. The first one, in August of 2002, was uneventful, and I didn’t detect anything missing or destroyed. But I was certain that someone had broken in because there was a strong odor of perfume in all the rooms. So some woman had been snooping around and had left only minutes before I arrived. My guess is that there was a lookout with a cell phone a mile or so down the road. Or perhaps she had just observed me closely enough to know the earliest time I would arrive home on a weekday evening. The second break-in occurred a few days later, and it resulted in a theft that I found entirely puzzling. As soon as I got home after work, I noticed that there was a gap on my shelf. As recently as that morning, I had a VHS set of Kevin Brownlow’s six-part Cinema Europe series. It was a wonderful educational tool that I had watched twice and which I treasured. But when I got home that evening there was an empty spot on my shelf where those tapes had been. Only those tapes were missing. Nothing else. Why? Why would anyone steal them? This was Redneck Tonawanda. Nobody in Tonawanda would have any interest in such videos. It made no sense, and I was scratching my head for two or three weeks.

But then it all suddenly made sense when the police took me to headquarters for an interrogation on Tuesday morning, 3 September 2002. That’s when I learned what a small group of neighbors, doubtlessly goaded on by Employer A, were saying about me. This was a disheartening re-run of what Employer A had put me through a decade or so earlier. I’ll never know how many neighbors were making a fuss. My guess is only two or three, but I’ll never know for sure. Once I learned what the neighbors had been reporting to the police, the theft finally made sense. The neighbors had been reporting that I was a drug addict, a drug dealer, a practitioner of S&M, an antisocial deviant, promiscuously homosexual, and a sexual predator, and they said that they were worried for the safety of their children. Yes, this was an almost exact Xerox copy of the claims Employer A had put into circulation about ten years earlier (though I admit I don’t know where the drug accusations came from; as far as I know Employer A had not made such claims during its initial mobbing campaign). That’s why I’m convinced that Employer A was orchestrating this new round of accusations. If this had been a fresh report from folks unaware of what Employer A had so widely publicized, the accusations would have been a bit different, probably completely different; they would not have lined up so perfectly. Not a single one of those claims was true in any way, but the police, in their astonishing (partly feigned?) stupidity, accepted all the claims at face value. So now I could think back on it. I had recorded the Cinema Europe series off of TV, and so it was on a series of BASF VHS tapes with labels that read simply “Cinema Europe Parts 1 & 2,” “Cinema Europe Parts 3 & 4,” and “Cinema Europe Parts 5 & 6,” without descriptions of any sort. I had learned enough from casual conversations that the average US citizen for some reason thinks that all European movies are “dirty,” probably having gotten that idea from what their parents and their parents’ friends had hinted about some actress named “Bridget Bardoh.” To a redneck who was barely literate, the title Cinema Europe would sound like some sort of perverse porno, and so someone stole the tapes hoping to get some kicks. So that’s why there was suddenly a hole in my collection! Hey creep, I know you’re looking at this page and asking your family members to help you struggle through it. Here’s a simple sentence that you’ll be able to understand without any help: GIVE ME BACK MY TAPES!

The claims these neighbors had made were vague, and while “drug dealer” was certainly a prosecutable offense, I wasn’t too sure that “homosexual” was, promiscuous or otherwise. But the neighbors had made one claim that was specific — only one — and it was true!!!!! At a block party I invited the neighbor kids to play with my mice. A few of the parents were terrified of mice and forbade their children to get near them, but most of the parents were okay with it. Unfortunately, not a single one of the parents was interested in playing with the mice, which was too bad. I guess it all has something to do with conditioning — we’re taught to be frightened of these gentlest of all animals. After watching the children be so enchanted with the mice for a little while, I thought this was too adorable not to be captured for posterity. I went back to my apartment, brought out my 35mm camera, and shot several rolls of film. That did not create a frenzy at the time — but then a few weeks later 9/11 happened, and the neighbors got spooked. What happened and when, I don’t know, but within a year they reported me to the police. The police, to say nothing of these few worried neighbors, thought that my behavior was heinous. Captain David Frank Bentley, Officer T. Hankinson, and a third, a detective whose name and rank I no longer remember (he was tall, slender, in his 60s, and supremely grumpy), surrounded me in the captain’s office.

Of course, worried parents should have every reason to report a suspicious character to the authorities. Since I prefer to be alone most of the time, I have never wished to be a parent, and thus I have never been a parent, but nonetheless I can still identify. If I were a parent I would be overly protective and I would be deeply suspicious of everybody. In an ideal world the authorities would listen carefully to any suspicions and would perform a serious and careful investigation, which, with accusations such as those directed towards me, would not be at all difficult to do, especially when the suspect agrees to allow the authorities to inspect his apartment. Besides, as all the neighbors knew, except for the mice at the block party, the only interactions I had with any children was waving Hi as I would walk down the street. Nothing more. Ever. This was common knowledge. I waved Hi to everyone I met in my neighborhood. It was the polite thing to do. The neighbors had all accepted this for many years. I never made friends with any neighbors. I had a fair number of friends in Buffalo and Sanborn and Angola and Williamsville and elsewhere. They were friends because we shared interests (silent movies, theatre, history, and so forth) and saw eye to eye. I never met folks with such interests in my neighborhood, but I was always polite. I never visited any neighbors — except for one sixties-ish couple because I liked to hear the husband, who was a professional photographer, talk about antique photographic methods, which was a topic of some interest. Other than that one couple, I never set foot in any of the neighbors’ houses and the neighbors never set foot in my apartment. But I would always say Hi when I passed them on the sidewalk. Always. With 9/11, though, that was no longer so easy, as the neighbors all avoided me and reacted to my waves of Hi with scowls. Nonetheless, I thought that I was safe, and I thought that the police would take their obligations seriously. A longtime friend of mine had worked alongside law-enforcement officers for his entire adult life and he told me countless stories of their professionalism. His insights I found most assuring. I was certain that the police would follow the evidence. It was that morning that I learned that everything I believed was wrong.

These police officers had an interest in brow-beating, not investigating. So they gave me hours of grief over the mouse episode, but clearly they were having a problem: What statute had I violated? What ordinance? Is there a law, anywhere in the US, at any level, that prohibits people from inviting neighbor kids to play with their pet mice and snapping photos of that activity in full view of their approving parents at a block party? Maybe there is such a law. If I find out that there is, I’ll post it in full on my web site. Despite that problem they were so clearly having, they continued to make threats, and let me assure you, those threats were most effective. Now I know why people confess to the police. Now I know why every confession made to the police is a load of balderdash. When you’re put under that pressure, and when you receive nonstop threats, and when you see that you’re outnumbered, surrounded by officers who are unquestionably violent maniacs who could and would kill you easily and without remorse, you confess. To whatever they want. It’s either that — or get beaten to death. That’s your choice. That’s your only choice. It was especially difficult for me to respond to their endless grillings about my sex life. They couldn’t understand, and certainly didn’t believe, that I didn’t have a sex life. But I didn’t. I never made a vow of celibacy, but opportunities were few and far between, to say the very least. Besides, I like being alone. And that is something that bullying pushy sex addicts who make at least one more score at the bar each night simply can’t comprehend. They can’t comprehend that all the rest of us aren’t like them.

The captain asked if he, the detective, and the officer could examine my apartment. After their lengthy and emphatic unpleasantness, I was not happy about allowing them in, but I decided it would be for the best, and initially I was confident that after a little while they’d see that there was nothing illicit, and that they would then apologize for having disturbed me. How wrong I was! The detective noticed that I had leftover prescription pain medication from when I had pulled my back muscle a year before. What’s more, I still had one or two left-over antibiotics from when my immune system had shut down a year and a half previously. Why was I keeping these? he wondered. He concluded that I must therefore be a drug pusher.

There was a picture window in my living room. I liked it because I could see a little bend in the Niagara River from it. It was soothing. That was about the first thing that the captain noticed, and he asserted that with such a convenience at my disposal, he was certain I must be regularly using it to expose myself. That’s when I really began to understand that he was merely accusing me of his own predilections. This was the Employer A strategy all over again.

The detective said it was time to study all my photographs. My negs were in order. My positives were just scattered about, but most of them were tossed higgledy-piggledy into a file drawer. The detective went through them. Hundreds upon hundreds of photos of Hawaii, Australia, wildlife, animal sanctuaries, pollywogs, frogs, salamanders, newts, old buildings, theatres, architectural details, Germany, scholarly conventions. Amongst all this were literally only about six rolls of children playing with mice. The detective loudly called out to the captain and the officer, “Yeah, this guy’s got a problem!” They came round to see for themselves, and all three unanimously agreed that these photos were the work of a leering criminal mind. They put my entire photo collection aside to take to headquarters.

The detective started looking through the rest of the apartment, including the basement which all the tenants shared in common. He demanded to know why I had all that S&M/bondage paraphernalia in the basement. What? If there was anything like that down there it sure wasn’t mine. (I checked later and found that there was nothing of the sort anywhere on the premises.) He also accused me of being a Nazi sympathizer, which he said was evidenced by the collection of “Nazi porn” on my computer. What in heaven’s name is Nazi porn? To this day I don’t know what that is. (I thought for a moment he may have been looking at my essay on Salon Kitty, but then it occurred to me that my essay was nowhere on my home computer.) Since I hadn’t a clue as to what he was talking about, I asked him to show me what he meant. “I don’t have to show you anything!” he snarled. A ha! He found that on my computer there were hardcore sites among the “favorites”! Sexual predators look at porn, he insisted. (Yes, I have looked at porn. I’d be surprised to find too many people who haven’t. Heck, I’m on friendly terms with some producers, directors, and performers in the porn business — I was then and I still am now. But no, I am not a sexual predator. And those “favorites” were not mine. I hadn’t noticed them before, as I had purchased the computer used a little over a year previously and paid no attention.) The detective would open the sites from the “favorites” and pull up photographs of women who were clearly in their 20s. He would study them for a while, slowly, one by one, and would then begrudgingly admit, “She seems to be of age.”

While the detective continued to search my computer, the captain decided to be suspicious as to why I would have a letter from the Freethinkers of Northern Colorado. “Are you some sort of atheist? Don’t you believe in God?” He said that people without belief in God would not be able to tell the difference between right and wrong, which was further indication that there was something wrong with me. Good grief! He also didn’t understand why I had the local newspaper, The Tonawanda News. You see, each issue of The Tonawanda News includes a small photograph with a caption showing a school child who had just won a spelling bee or a baking contest or whatever. “They have pictures of KIDS!!! And you KEPT them!!!” But they didn’t confiscate those. The police captain wondered about my VHS of Cinema Paradiso, but after pondering it for a while he put it back on the shelf. Not strong enough. He needed something better. Oh! Look at this! The captain saw a most promising title on the spine of a book: The Boys from Syracuse. Hmmmmm. What might that be? Oops. Just a book on the Shubert Brothers of Broadway fame. Nope, can’t use that. I was worried that he’d steal my Tinto Brass collection, which was on prominent display. He glanced at it but against all my expectations he showed no interest in it!

After an hour of searching, the detective confiscated one more item for my criminal file. It was a 3.5" disc. I had labeled it “Buster Keaton behind the Scenes.” That title sounded suspicious to him and so he took it back to headquarters for examination. The disc was mostly empty, containing a grand total of three items — each was a photograph I had copied from an eBay listing a year or so before:

Pretty strong stuff, huh? But that wasn’t all. The captain confiscated something even more salacious: a beginner’s book of Italian grammar that I had just purchased from a shop in Toronto. You see, it had a photograph of some Italian school children on the cover. Bingo! That was it! Six rolls of film of the neighbor kids playing with my mice. And now a grammar book with a photo of schoolchildren on the cover. Too much! This was abnormal! Deviant! As the detective boomed out, “Everywhere you turn in this apartment, it’s kids, kids, kids, kids, and more kids!” They had a case. This was going to result in serious jail time. With those items they were going to build a case against me and lock me away. They confiscated my computer, too, surely because they wanted to plant evidence on it. They confiscated all my photographs, and, finally, the captain hit the jackpot and confiscated one last item: my correspondence with Lawyer A regarding my suit against Employer A, who I am convinced instigated all this commotion to begin with. And that binder of correspondence, I’m sure, is what the police wanted most of all — especially since they were on good terms with Employer A. The captain’s grin went from ear to ear and he could not contain his excitement. “Isn’t it interesting that you’ve been accused of this before?” he shouted out with great glee. Once he found that binder, he called off the search. They now had what they had been looking for. So I’m sure that everything else was just a pretext to get that binder. Stupidly, that obvious conclusion didn’t occur to me until much, much later. (I should be more truthful. That obvious conclusion didn’t occur to me until I wrote this paragraph. Sometimes I’m just not all that bright.)

Back to headquarters. Much more haranguing. I thought they were going to kill me. By now you’re wondering why I didn’t simply demand to see a lawyer. First of all, the police would not allow me to make a phone call. Secondly, I had had my fill of lawyers. Remember Lawyer A, mentioned above? Well, there had also been Lawyer B, who did precisely the same bait-and-switch for a friend of mine, leaving him high and dry and costing him a case in which he was entirely in the right. There was also Lawyer C who, in his office, in my mother’s presence, grabbed my sister in a choke hold and put a gun to her head. (That had recently happened in Fort Worth, Texas, if that helps explain anything.) There were other incidents as well. Suffice it to say I wasn’t happy about lawyers.

The detective asserted that I must be a deviant because ALL my photographs were of children. No, I corrected him, of the many hundreds of photographs I have shot, mostly of landscapes, frog ponds, architecture, only several rolls were—. He cut me off by bellowing out, “YOU HAVE AN UNHEALTHY OBSESSION WITH KIDS!!!!” Since I seldom had visitors, the police concluded that I was a dangerous antisocial misfit. When they asked if I ever had visitors, and I said yes, of course I did, they concluded that those visitors were colluding with me in criminal conspiracies. The captain proffered: “So when you get together with your friends you talk about atheism, right?” “No,” I said, “we talk about architecture, local history, silent movies.” He gave up on that tack and switched it to “You talk about pedophilia. Give me the names of the people you talk about pedophilia with.” The topic had never once come up. He refused to believe me, and repeated his question, more and more loudly, probably 50 times. When I gave the same answer 50 times, the detective was ready to explode, and screamed in exasperation, “He keeps on playing mind games!” The captain asked where I worked. I told him. He had never heard of the place and asked what we did there. I told him. He said that sounded to him like a group that agitated for pedophilia. The captain demanded to know, in full elaborate detail, all about masturbation and my fantasies and everything sexual I had ever done or thought throughout my life. He started describing little children to me in graphically sexual terms, rhapsodizing about how desirable their body parts are, and that was talk that nearly made me throw up. I was certain by now that he was talking about his own psychological problems, not mine. He wanted to know about my every homosexual tryst. I had never had any, I said, nor had I wanted to. To my surprise he granted that I was probably telling the truth about that, but that was not enough. Now he wanted to know the name of each and every child I had ever molested, the dates, the circumstances, the names of the parents, the specifics of each violation, the contact information. It was impossible for me to provide nonexistent information, and that made him erupt in fury. Seeing that such a line of inquiry was going nowhere, he and the detective demanded to know why I didn’t have a girlfriend. The detective shouted at me: “Why don’t you? It’s easy enough to do!!!” How on earth was I supposed to answer that? Well, did I at least pay for hookers? No, I said, I have never done that, which is true. (I’ve met and had friendly conversations with a number of sex workers through the years, but I’ve never made use of their services. I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable doing that.) They asked why I did not have any Playboy magazines lying around. (Actually, I did have a few, the ones that had articles related to Tinto Brass; but I had those filed away in note binders and folders.) I told them that I dislike Playboy, which is true. That settled the matter for them, they said, for no normal red-blooded single male would fail to litter his abode with Playboys, and so, they said, that proved I was a dangerous sexual predator, QED. They then performed what they thought was an incisive psychoanalysis: They reasoned that since I didn’t have a girlfriend, didn’t pay for hookers, and didn’t look at Playboy, that proved that I was disappointed in women, which explained why I was compelled to unleash my uncontrollable desires upon innocent children. I was having a hard time registering all this. (No wonder the captain had avoided my Tinto Brass collection. Had he brought in that evidence he would have disproved all his assertions.)

The captain told me that I now had a choice. If I confessed, they would let me go home. If I didn’t confess, they would then be obliged to perform a “full investigation,” “full assault,” and “full attack.” He also assured me, with a most menacing tone of voice, “Once we lock you up, we will find evidence against you — we will.” I was able to translate that into English. That meant that all three were going to pummel me, crack my skull open, toss me into a cell, and plant evidence on me. I gave in. They had me say to their tape recorder that they had treated me wonderfully and courteously, and then they had me say other things too. Everything I said into their tape recorder was a lie. Now that they had incriminating evidence that would stand up in court, THEY LET ME GO!!!!!!! By putting me through all this, and then letting me go, they had created a bizarre situation, and that was the point. They knew that nobody would ever believe me, because police do not let suspects go after getting a confession. And so, to this day, almost nobody has ever believed me. A few lawyers believe me. (There are a few good lawyers, I have since discovered. Very few.) A few others involved in the legal profession believe me. Nobody else believes me. The story sounds dumber than bad fiction. To top it off, the police captain assured me that he would be back the following Monday to arrest me. This was so mindboggling antirealistic that it made my head hurt. What policeman would ever tell a suspect, “I’ll be by next Monday to place you under arrest”? Purest insanity. But deliberate insanity. The police knew, correctly, that if I were ever to tell this story, everyone would think I was delusional. And they were right. That’s exactly what happened.

As soon as the police let me go I called some friends who then immediately called their daughter to represent me free of charge. I had not known until that moment that their daughter was a lawyer. Had they not asked her to do so, I would have been in prison for a minimum of 15 years for possession of that Italian-grammar book and for the photos of the neighbor children playing with my mice. My new lawyer right away told me I was an idiot. I did not take that as an insult. She told me that anyone with any sort of experience would know never to talk with a policeman about anything, under any circumstances. She also assured me that I was not alone in my idiocy, because hundreds of others go through precisely the treatment I had just been through — every day! This was standard operating procedure, and the victims were seldom criminals but were generally just easy naïve targets, who were not politically connected, that the police could have a good time playing with. The only difference between me and most others was that I was lucky. Most people in my position would have been in jail already and would have stayed there for decades. She also told me that many lawyers refused even to drive through the City of Tonawanda for fear of the police, who were considered the craziest in all Western New York. Lawyers would drive around Tonawanda when they needed to get somewhere. And, I have to admit, what she was saying made me feel really dumb. Naïve might be a better word. But, no, dumb. That’s what I felt. Dumb! (And the police, I later discovered, were not dumb at all. They were brilliant, in their limited way. In their very limited way.)

Now, I’ve never been outgoing. I prefer to be by myself with lots of peace and quiet. Some people interpret that as hiding myself inside a shell. Other people interpret that as unfriendliness. Still others interpret that as rudeness or arrogance. But that doesn’t follow. Not at all. I had always been a very friendly, open person, but after this treatment I discovered that, for the most part, I really no longer liked people. I no longer liked Buffalo. I no longer liked Tonawanda. I no longer liked any part of New York. I wanted to leave. Right away. And I deeply regretted not having heeded the wise advice of well-meaning friends.

When I returned to work the following day, Wednesday, the 4th of September, I saw that the chairman was worried sick. He called me into his office because he was convinced that what had happened to me was just a ruse; he was certain that he was the actual target. He started telling me, feverishly, that he would pay all my legal expenses. A few minutes later he came up to me in my office, one inch from my face, and started telling me, nervously and sotto voce, that it was okay, that I didn’t have to worry about losing my job over this, that his sympathies were precisely with those adult males whose sexual preferences were for underagers. Have you ever felt totally creeped out? I mean, so creeped out that you just wanted to throw up and run to another planet? Now what else was I going to learn about this horrible place that I had been working in for so many years? I haven’t got a clue as to what my expression looked like, but I do remember that my voice was cracking only because I didn’t know how to deal with this situation. Despite a cracking, wavering voice, I told him in no uncertain terms that he had it all wrong. It was like talking to a wall. But then, a few moments later, he seemed confused and slinked away. This was the guy who had a sterling moral reputation? I guess this was his attempt, after a year and a half of hatred, to re-establish some sort of mutual understanding, to establish some sort of emotional bond. Well, I completely bungled that opportunity. And am I ever so glad that I did! With that latest revelation, I was desperate to get away from that office and all the boards and managers and executives and staffers as quickly as humanly possible. I would feel suffocated and violated until I could realize that goal.

Just a little while later that morning I saw from my office window an expensive car pull up in the parking lot. Trust me when I say that it was not common for a car quite that expensive to pull into the parking lot at the place where I worked. A very short, very wide little guy slowly emerged from the driver’s seat. He appeared to be about sixty years old, though it’s hard to say, especially after all these years. He was wearing expensive dress clothes, including an ankle-length coat and a hat. He was the stereotypical undercover police investigator. How I wished I could snap a photo of him. Frustratingly, I had no access to a camera. He pretended to be a customer. He didn’t understand that we generally didn’t have customers; we had members, and his behavior and mannerisms and demeanor and looks were an absolute mismatch for our members. Before he even walked into the building, I knew that he was going to ask to purchase two items, and I knew which two. And that’s exactly what he did. He did not leave his name, which again was an absolute mismatch for our members, who all introduced themselves and wanted to chat. There was never an exception. He slowly waddled his way back to his car and drove off. I was certain that he and everyone else back at headquarters would be sorely disappointed in the two items he had just purchased. And they were, because nothing ever came of that follow-up investigation.

Shortly before closing time came a dénouement of sorts, for the chairman had just figured out that I was indeed the sole target of the police investigation, and that he had nothing to worry about regarding himself. How he figured that out, I don’t know. He was well-connected, certainly, and so I assumed he must have had privileged access to superior information. He called me into his office and asked how I planned to pay for my defense. That was his way of retracting his offer to pay all my legal expenses.

You know, the other folks in the office never understood why I was often so dramatic. They came to work in the morning, got paid much more than I did, went out to drink beer at 5, then drove home and zoned out watching TV. That was the life. So what was the big deal? Why was I always in a turmoil? They couldn’t understand. They thought I was crazy. And, you know, I think they were right.

The next day, Thursday, the 5th of September, I got a phone call from a kindly elderly lady. We knew each other already — through the chairman! And it was the chairman who had asked her to call me. She was only too happy to do so, because she had some things to get off her chest as well, and so she thought it was time to tell me something that she was sure I didn’t know. Actually, she told me lots of things I didn’t know, but I daren’t publish them because I have no documented proof. But here’s one thing she told me that helped put everything into perspective, and I’m free to repeat it because it’s in the public domain. She told me that just a block from my apartment was the police captain’s son. A ha!!!! Yes, I see! Of course! This was beginning to make sense indeed! And he’s the spittin’ image of his father, too, which eliminates all doubt about paternity. Here he is again. And again. And again. And again. And again.

At about that time I got curious about something. I went on to Google and started checking on how police managed to get false confessions. One of the first things I ran across was an advertisement for an “unofficial” police handbook entitled We Get Confessions. The ad praised the book as being the best methodology for, essentially, getting anyone to confess to anything, generally through nonviolent coercion. Hmmmm. I really wanted to read that. But to purchase it would get my name on a mailing list that I didn’t ever want to be on. And I sure didn’t want to give those guys any money. Judging from the online advertisement it seems to be a methodology for getting random dummies like me to “confess” while letting street-smart slickers and others with connections off the hook. The ad is further compelling evidence for why we must never say anything in the presence of any law-enforcement officer. Until recently, it was a good idea to use a few, basic, simple, magical phrases: “Are you detaining me?” The cop will ignore your question and pester you with his own questions. Keep repeating “Are you detaining me?” until the cop answers Yes or No. If the cop answers No, then your next question should be, “Am I free to go?” If the cop is detaining you, or if the cop says you are not free to go, your next question should be, “Do you have a specific and articulable reason for detaining me?” If not, “Am I free to go?” With recent events, though, those are no longer safe to use. The police will beat you to a bloody pulp and imprison you if you use those phrases. The one and only phrase that remains safe to say, and which you MUST say, is “I reserve my right to remain silent, and I would like to see my attorney.” (If you can endure the lengthy rock intro, you can eventually get to an important interview with Katya Komisaruk by clicking here. You’ll like Katya. She’s good people. You’ll learn a lot from her.) You see, once you open your mouth and say anything else at all, you’re doomed. The police will misquote everything you say, and then you are automatically guilty. You are on your way to prison. End of story. Well, end of story for most people, but strangely my particular story didn’t fit the usual pattern.

Professor James Joseph Duane and Officer George Bruch.
Take this to heart, kids.
Now, before Officer Bruch’s talk makes you feel too warm and comfortable and fuzzy, take a look at the following:

Cop Caught on Tape Threatening To Make Up Evidence Against Innocent Men

Police beat up entire wedding party, ruin pro baseball player’s career

Cops Kill Man as His Wife Watches (for no reason at all, by the way, except to have fun)

Police sneak up on innocent man, then shoot him in his own garage without warning

Cop tasers handcuffed girl and now she is braindead

Cop Hits Little Girl With Motorcycle Then Shoots and Kills Angry Dad

Cops Shoots Unarmed Woman Motorist to Death for Rolling up Her Car Window

Police Taser Man for Fun, Now Sued

NYPD Shoot & Kill Unarmed Army National Guardsman

Jackboot Cops Taser Teacher Repeatedly While She Begs For Mercy

Cop broke into home with no warrant & killed unarmed man (Judge dismisses case)

Cop Beats 17-Year-Old Girl Leading To Her Miscarriage

Missouri Police Taser Boy With Broken Back 19 Times

Officers Accused Of Using Taser On 10-Year-Old
(Want to send your kids to Tender Teddies?)

Johannes Mehserle shoots restrained, handcuffed man in the back. Of course, all charges against the officer were dropped. What else is new?

Death by Officer: An American Epidemic of Police Shootings and Brutality

Corporal Punishment: Police Brutality Pervasive in the United States

Police Brutality Tasered

Former Colville Police Officer arrested on child rape charges

Cop Rapes 50 Women and Children over 20 Years

Cop Rapes Woman Six Times, and Stalking, Harassment, Another Typical Cop

Cops beating women

Cop Rapes Teenage Girl, on Duty, in Uniform

Cops rape woman, knock her teeth out, then throw her from moving cruiser

Berthoud Officer Jeremey Yachik admits physically abusing 15-year-old girl for years

Cop Beats 4-Year-Old Boy Now in Critical Condition

Cop Assaults Woman in Courthouse

Cop Masturbating in Squad Car on Camera, and Stalking Women

Cops Caught on Tape Talking about Stealing Man’s Property

Cop Rapes Woman While on Duty

Doctor Saves Dying Baby, Cops Arrest Her

School Cop Rapes & Impregnates 14-Year-Old Girl Twice

Thug Cops Arrest Attorney Trying to Defend Her Client

Cop Recklessly Runs Over and Kills Two Pedestrians, Gets Probation, No Jail Time

Cop Rapes Mother in Front of Her 3 Children

Cop Rapes Woman While Responding to 911 DV Call

Deputy arrested for beating elderly man in hospital & lying about it

Cop Rapes Child for Five Years

Cops Beat Man Bloody Then Arrest Him for Bleeding on Them

Friend of Rapist Cop Threatens to Murder Rape Victims

NYPD Cop on trial for raping school teacher at gun point

Assistant Police Chief Arrested after Raping Seven Women

Police Shoot, Kill 80-Year-Old Man in His Own Bed, Don’t Find the Drugs They Were Looking For

Justícia para Yanira (The family called for an ambulance but got a cop instead. Take a wild guess what happened.)

Cop Rapes 78-Year-Old Grandmother, But Walks out Of Jail

Cop tasers 10-yr-old girl for not going to bed

Unarmed Boy Tasered To Death By Cincinnati Campus Police

Still feeling warm and fuzzy? You still think because you’ve done nothing wrong it’s okay for you to talk to these lunatics? Like that will help? Like you expect them to quote you accurately? Like they care? The job of the police is to get as many arrests, confessions, and convictions as possible. Guilt or innocence does not enter into the picture. You can be as guilty as sin or as pure as fresh-fallen snow, and it makes no difference. The job of the police is to arrest you, get a confession, and get a conviction. Period. And, as you can clearly see, they have a lot of sadistic fun doing it — and they have a lot of fun getting paid a lot of money to do it. Before the days of camera phones, this phenomenon was known only to those at the very top and at the very bottom. Nobody else believed this was going on, but it was going on, and it still is, all day, every day, everywhere. Now there’s no excuse not to know. Do you know how it makes me feel when people chide me by saying, “Well if you were in trouble with the police, you must have done something wrong”? That single line ends friendships instantly and permanently.

On the morning of Saturday, the 7th of September, my lawyer called to tell me that the police would not press charges. They had gone through my computer’s entire hard drive and determined that it was “clean.” I was genuinely surprised that they hadn’t added anything to the hard drive. They certainly had the opportunity and the motive. I don’t understand why they didn’t. I’m glad they didn’t, yes, but I don’t understand why they didn’t. Was that simply because I now had legal representation? That sounds highly unlikely. Somewhat more likely is that the police had done some research on me, and they couldn’t have liked what they found. They were hoping that I was an unknown nobody, an easy target for planted evidence and false allegations, a new toy they could enjoy punching around for 15 years or more. Surely they learned differently. My name was known and respected among local historians and history buffs. I had some celebs that I counted as friends — including one who was a frequent guest on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show — and I had numerous acquaintances in the sciences, some of whom were quite famous for debunking bogus claims of molestation generated by shrinks who “hypnotically” reveal “repressed memories.” I also had friends and acquaintances who were quite expert at tearing The Courage to Heal and all other such rot to shreds, and who were rather famous as expert witnesses in court. Maybe the police decided that they had messed up and picked on the wrong person? Maybe the police decided that booking me might generate gales of negative publicity? Maybe the police decided that booking me might be more trouble than it was worth? I don’t know. Or perhaps there was an anonymous “guardian angel” who quietly pulled some strings on my behalf? I suspect so, but I’ll never know. Who would have done that for me? Why? How?

NOTE ADDED ON 2 OCTOBER 2013: Oh. Duh. It was a guardian angel. And the guardian angel was the loathsome chairman. Not because he liked me or wished to help me. As a matter of fact, he had tried to get me into legal trouble in the past. No. It was because he didn’t want any of this trouble reflecting back upon him or upon his illustrious organizations. He certainly had more than enough political pull to solve a problem as simple as this. A couple of phone calls, and his immediate worries quietly disappear. What a sickeningly ironic twist, yes? Sheesh. Eleven years —eleven years — to figure out the blaringly obvious. Why didn’t I even suspect that right away? As I say, sometimes I’m really not all that bright.

It was during that Saturday-morning phone call that my lawyer explained to me once again, slowly, deliberately, forcefully, that if I didn’t leave town right away I would be the police department’s new toy, since the police take ceaseless revenge upon any target whom they are unable to book. And I must never set foot in the City of Tonawanda ever again as long as I live. I would be risking everything to do so.

That afternoon I went to the George Eastman House in Rochester to meet my new acquaintance Serge Bromberg who was presenting one of his “Retour de Flamme” shows. I handed him a lost nitrate silent one-reeler that I had discovered, which he then arranged to have shipped to Paris. We had a delightful lunch at Aladdin’s on Monroe Avenue (my favorite Rochester restaurant with the yummiest Lebanese food and a most delightfully pleasant staff), and he remarked at how surprised he was that I was so cheerful after all that I had just been through. It was odd, I had to admit silently to myself. I really didn’t understand. And I still don’t. I guess silent movies are still silent movies, and research is still research, and an archivist is still an archivist. I guess I somehow couldn’t help but be cheerful to be with someone who was of such like mind with such similar interests, which was a true rarity. My car was a Geo Metro, and he was completely blown away when I showed him what I had done to the logo. I enhanced “metro” by changing it to “ Zazie dans le métro.” He blurted out in awe, “That’s one of my favorite movies!” Once he said that I just knew that we’d get along. While we were eating, I asked him what his current project was. He told me he was working on a DVD set of Charley Bowers movies. “You’re familiar with Charley Bowers?” he asked in a way that I could tell he was sure I’d say No. But I was ahead of the curve. “Of course I know Charley Bowers! I’ve seen two of his movies and I have a bunch of his lobby cards.” His jaw dropped almost to the floor. “You have the lobby cards? How many do you have?” “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe two dozen.” “But I have been searching the entire world for his lobby cards and I have found not a single one!” We were buddies.

It was I think a month before the police agreed to return my confiscated property. (I’m lucky I got my stuff back. Police by law are permitted to steal anything they like, from anyone, for any reason or no reason. There is no recourse.) My lawyer accompanied me to headquarters, and I let her do all the talking. The police captain said to me, “Thanks for being so coöperative.” I wanted to kick him. I just looked at him without answering. After my stuff was back in my car, my lawyer, to make her point clear, told me yet again that to stay in Tonawanda was to be arrested. I had to leave. No arguments. There was no room to fight, and so I just gave in. I quickly moved out of my apartment. The chairman gave me permission to use the company van for that purpose. Oh the stuff I tossed out! I gave thousands of books and journals to a local shop. I filled an entire dumpster with stuff I would rather have kept. By this time the police had informed all the neighbors of my “confession,” and heaven only knows how they embellished it. All I know for certain is that every neighbor wanted me dead. Well, it makes for an interesting life. And that is how the police succeeded in the goal the captain had succinctly summarized when he told me, “We want a safe neighborhood.”

Oh yes, back to the confiscated/returned computer. I had been having these horrifying visions of finding folders filled with tens of thousands of hardcore photos, and finding hundreds upon hundreds of hardcore sites among the “favorites.” What was really there? I dreaded to look but I just had to find out. I was a nervous wreck as I patched the machine together, turned it on, and — almost nothing. No folders. Maybe ten porn sites among the “favorites.” That was it? That’s what all this hullabaloo was about? I shut off the computer and never turned it back on again. It might now be in storage. Or I might have tossed it. I don’t remember.

I tried to find another apartment, but only one landlord returned my call. I went to see the place, and it was a dilapidated boarding house that reeked of fried pork. Dilapidated I could deal with. That’s how I grew up. I was quite accustomed to that. But the fried pork was too much. My stomach couldn’t handle it. As for the other calls I made, all the landlords refused to talk with me, surely because my name sounded too foreign. People with foreign-sounding names were not too popular in the years following 9/11, and were especially unpopular in such a white-trash backwater as Western New York.

I was quite taken aback when several friends suggested that I simply explain to everybody that I’m not Arabian or Iraqi or Muslim, thinking that if I were to say such a thing suddenly everybody would be nice. Why should I say such a thing? And what difference would it make? And so what if I were Arabian or Iraqi or Muslim? Is it a crime to be Arabian or Iraqi or Muslim? Does being Arabian or Iraqi or Muslim make one dangerous? And for heaven’s sake: How many US citizens can define the word “Muslim”? How many US citizens can locate Arabia or Iraq on a globe? How many US citizens know the first thing about Eastern history and cultures? How many US citizens can tell the differences among the various peoples of the East? If the answer is so much as 1/30th of 1% I’d be stunned. All people who look different or have names that are difficult to pronounce are lumped together as the enemy. So come on! Get real! How could such an explanation solve anything? The issue was simply wrong color, funny name, single male, keeps to himself, doesn’t drink beer with us. That was the issue. That’s why everybody was creeped out. Anyone who fit that description would have been assumed guilty of every crime that ever there was. I foolishly did not bother to clip the news article that quoted a gal who in response to 9/11 suggested that future problems be prevented by killing all brown people. That was the issue. And what’s more — and this is what nobody seems to understand — I have zero identity with my “cultural roots.” No identification at all. Nada. Zilch. I have no friends or social contacts from those parts of the world, and those parts of the world and those cultures really don’t interest me in the least. I don’t read about them, I don’t follow their news, I don’t read their literature, I don’t eat their food or listen to their music or hang their art on my walls or wear their fashions or anything. I self-identify only as a researcher. Nothing else. As for my greatest sympathies, they are with the native American Indians, here, along with the Méxicans and other “Latinos” who mostly have native roots.

While landlords were all giving me the silent treatment for over two months, I had no choice but to live on the office premises. That really got on everybody’s nerves. Then in mid-October something odd happened. Every night, just as I was about one second away from dozing off, I would involuntarily leap from the bed and dash away in a burst of panic. That went on for five nights. So for five days and five nights I got no sleep at all. Not one second of sleep. To my surprise, I was not at all tired once the sun came up, but I knew that this automatic ritual would eventually make itself felt. It was time to pay a visit to my HMO, which had a rarity, namely, a doctor who made me feel relatively comfortable. I wish I could remember her name. I explained to her what was happening. She asked if anything dramatic had happened in my life, and, well, yes, where should I begin? Well, there was the episode with the police, for instance. That was it, she said; I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Huh? But I was fine for the five or six weeks afterwards. Delayed reaction, she said. Very common. She prescribed Xanax, which I had never heard of. She told me it was extremely dangerous and addictive, and so she prescribed, I think, only eight pills, and no more would be forthcoming. I took one that evening and was able to sleep without interruption. Actually, that night was the most pleasant and restful sleep I had ever had in my life, and when I peacefully awoke with the sunrise the next morning I felt rested, refreshed, calm, and happy, something I have never felt any morning before or since. I hate sleeping, I resent having to waste so much time on doing nothing, and I’m always miserable and restless about it. But that one night was heaven on earth. If this is what it’s like for other people, then no wonder folks enjoy it. Maybe that’s why Wolf Mankowitz famously said that his favorite hobby was sleeping. Over the next two weeks I took, I think, another four. Eventually I tossed the remaining three pills. What a relief!

A month or so afterwards the then-friend offered to put me up for several months free of charge at his apartment so that I could save money. Once I arrived he and his wife were extremely polite and helpful and remained so throughout my several months there. Nobody on staff knew about this, of course. At least, I hope nobody knew. All that the staff knew was that at long last I was no longer camping out on office premises, which was a blessed relief to everybody.

So there I was, for several months, staying in the then-friend’s minuscule guest room way over at the other end of town. While there, I needed to collect my thoughts and make plans for the future. My résumé was now useless, because I couldn’t list my bosses as a reference. I couldn’t even list my job! I didn’t want those volatile and sickening creeps knowing about every application I were to make. I didn’t want them planting evidence on me either. There was also a fair chance that potential employers would know a bit too much about the place I had just left, and that would mean that I would have a heck of a lot of explaining to do. I could just imagine the interviews: “Uh, you worked there for how long? Look, I could understand if you worked there for a few weeks, or even a month or two. But you say you were there for how many years before you figured out something was amiss? And you expect us to believe that? Yeah, right. Get lost!” I had to expunge this part of my past — completely — leaving no trace. But how? What was I to do? Then I had a brilliant idea. I ran it by a local business manager with whom I was on good terms, and she instantly, unhesitatingly agreed to claim that I had worked for her for all those years! Wow! This was great! I typed up a new résumé about a long-term full-time job that I had never had, and it worked!!!!!!! It was okay! Hooray! Bless her precious heart forever and ever!

The office where I worked strongly preferred conservative dress and hair. It was not a written policy, and it was not strictly enforced, but everyone obeyed because it was the proper thing to do. So I stopped cutting my hair, just to irritate everyone. In a few months my hair was below my shoulders and I looked absolutely ridiculous. Nobody said anything. Then once I had saved sufficient funds I spent an entire Tuesday night packing my things into an ABF truck. It took me the whole night because my Geo Metro was very small and I had to drive over just a few boxes at a time from the other side of town. As I was inside the truck loading boxes that evening my mobile phone rang. The caller introduced herself as Annon Adams. She was involved with the Theatre Historical Society, had just learned about my research on Buffalo theatres, and was just dying to chat with me about the topic. She was even thinking of driving over to Buffalo for a get-together. Well, hey, you know.... Sorry! When I finished loading the truck at eight or so on Wednesday morning I was not in the least bit tired or sleepy. I drove over to the office to spend my antepenultimate day there. It would have been my ultimate day except that the Capitol Theatre in Rome NY had just delayed my plans by asking me to introduce a Buster Keaton movie on Saturday night. I couldn’t resist and so I said Yes! On Friday, in further violation of the unwritten dress code, I wore a T-shirt to work that provided a clue as to where I was heading. But because nobody knew I was going anywhere, nobody was looking for a clue. It was a private joke, meant only for myself. Saturday evening I introduced a nice Buster Keaton movie to a fair-sized audience who thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Sunday evening I used an unlisted phone to call in sick. Monday I violated all known laws of physics by cramming my car ceiling-high with my remaining belongings. I was unable to fit in the 10 or so crates of invaluable and unique historic documents that I had rescued from an abandoned building where they had been disintegrating in basement floods and were being eaten by rats. I had spent many weeks cleaning them and filing them. So, oops, I would have to unload my car, load those 10 crates, drive them off to the historical society that deserved them, and then drive back and reload my things. My then-friend said “No, no, no, no, don’t do that; I’ll donate them to the historical society for you!” What a sweet offer to make! I thanked him profusely. Tuesday morning I drove away. That was in May of 2003. I think it was the 13th but my memory is now a bit foggy. I drove down the Interstate 5, and as soon as I saw a sign that said CLEVELAND 90 MILES there was a strange feeling that came over me. I went giddy. It literally — literally! — felt as though a massive weight had been lifted from me. Yes, that’s a tired old cliché, but that is literally what it felt like. This was freedom! I had never felt freedom before! And so about the first thing I did was to get a haircut! What a relief!

At my request the then-friend soon mailed my key back to the office with a little note I had penned by hand on a little yellow notepad sheet saying simply that I would not be returning. I provided no explanation. At my request he used my Buffalo POB as my return address. Then, just as I was about to close my PO Box, I magically received one last, unearned paycheck. Bizarre! The then-friend forwarded it to me and upon receipt I closed the PO Box without providing a forwarding address. I think the chairman just wanted to see what bank I would deposit the check into so that he could easily find out where I was staying and thus save some money when hiring a private eye to keep tabs on me. And yes, he really did hire private eyes to keep tabs on ex-employees. I deposited the check into my Buffalo bank, used up the funds via debit card, and then closed the account. Ha ha.

Just for the record, I should state that despite numerous opportunities to do so, I never sabotaged any work. I did all my assignments to the best of my ability. The managers were worried that I was stealing files and reporting all to the authorities. I did nothing of the sort. And that is one of my regrets. I wish I had.

Having escaped from Buffalo I crossed much of the country in my dilapidated Geo Metro and found that the further away I was, the nicer people were. And in my numerous encounters I happened to meet a very well known and highly respected scholar whose area of interest precisely matched the historical documents I had rescued. I mentioned to him what I had found and what I had done, and he instantly said he’d purchase them from me. He wished to make preservation copies and then donate the originals to the archive at the university where he worked, where the papers would be made available for public inspection. Well, I said, that probably won’t be possible, because the then-friend promised he would donate them to the historical society. But I would call to see if he had done that yet, and if he hadn’t, I would put the two in touch. I phoned the then-friend who told me that, no, he hadn’t yet had the opportunity to drive anything over to the historical society. Great, I said, don’t; instead, phone this guy and he’ll buy them from you. He’ll pay you an honorarium, he’ll reimburse you for all the packing materials, and as soon as you get a shipping price from UPS, he’ll send you the money to cover a shipment. I then called the scholar and put him in touch with the then-friend. So all the problems were solved — or so I thought. A few weeks later the scholar sent me an email saying that he was getting the run-around from the then-friend who repeatedly said he couldn’t afford the shipping. The scholar explained to him, more and more explicitly, that he didn’t need to spend a penny. All he needed to do was get a price and the scholar would supply him the money. Finally he gave up as he could no longer tolerate the game play. This was horrible. I called the then-friend who gave me a different version: “Your guy kept saying that he’d sent the money, but he never did, and so I just gave up on him.” He also told me that he had just moved to a different apartment and would like to give me the address. “You moved to a different apartment? Well what about all those crates?” Oh, those, he said, those were still at his old apartment, no problem; and he hadn’t turned in the key to the landlord yet. So they were still safe. Phew! That same day I found a history buff in Buffalo to hook up with the then-friend and gather all 10+ crates of material. They spoke on the phone, got along famously, and met up at the old apartment. The history buff sent me an email saying he got all three crates and that they were now safely in his abode. THREE?!?!?!? THERE WERE MORE THAN TEN!!!!! What happened to the rest? Well, there were tons of old documents scattered all over the attic floor, but it was too difficult and time-consuming to gather them all up, and so they just left them behind. I called the then-friend who told me that he had put the remainder out on the curb for trash collection. I screamed at him, but he tried to calm me down. After all, what else could he have done? There was no room for them at his new apartment, and so he had to trash them. But I shouted that they weren’t his to dispose of. Well, he said, he’s not the one who put them out for trash collection. It was his wife who did that when he left her and moved out, because she didn’t know what else to do with them. My head was swimming. I lost all physical orientation. I wasn’t breathing properly. I repeated that those papers were not his property, and that he had pledged to care for them. Well, he said, when he moved his landlord insisted that nothing be left behind; so it was actually his landlord who had put everything out on the curb

This was the friend I had helped? Had I not helped him he would likely have been rotting in prison, and that’s where he belonged. Why did I ever trust this scumbag?

I emailed the history buff and demanded that he go back and retrieve all the documents that were spread out on the attic floor. He wrote back right away that I was being unreasonable and that he refused to speak with me again until I calmed down.

About five years later, after I sort of settled down in a new city, I was volunteering one Saturday at a park as part of a festival for human rights. I heard my name being called, and it was a voice I didn’t want to hear. I turned around and saw the then-friend who was happy to see me. I turned right back around and continued to walk away. He jogged up to me and tried to start a friendly conversation. I told him I was not speaking to him because of what he had done to the documents. Huh? Oh. That. Yeah. Well, maybe he should have given to the historical society. Oh well. Anyway, he divorced his wife and was having a wonderful new career as the pastor at the nearby Christian church. I wanted to kill him. I wanted to machine-gun him and publicly burn his corpse. He didn’t understand why I was upset, because his life was going so nicely, and he was thrilled that we were now living in the same area and could hang out.

Of all the horrible things that anyone has ever done to me, the destruction of those documents was by far the worst. I’m still sick over it. (NOTE ADDED 16 APRIL 2014: It just now occurs to me: A few days before I left the office for the last time, I copied some personal files from the office computer onto floppy discs. I put those discs in amongst the items to put into the ABF truck. But when I arrived at my destination, those floppy discs were missing. I never understood how. Well duh.... It was the then-friend — who “helped” by driving a few loads over for me — who snatched them. He was desperate to get any office material he could get his hands on in the hopes that he would be able to use it against the place. I bet he trashed those discs too, once he saw that there was nothing of interest on them.)

When I made the discovery that I no longer liked people, I wondered if that was just a phase from which I would recover. It wasn’t. I still don’t like people. I do make a few notable exceptions, though, of course. Very few. They know who they are. I’m cordial with other people, but nothing more than cordial. And among people with whom I’m cordial there is only shop talk. Nothing personal. Ever. If I could really have my own way I would move to a large horse ranch with the proviso that I never come into contact with a human again. If they don’t have four legs or feathers or fins, I don’t want them in my life.

As for the lengthy bout of depression I suffered throughout much of the 1990s, it was to be my last one. Afterwards I developed an immunity. And no, I’ve never been able to work up the energy to study that Italian-grammar book. It’s still collecting dust in storage. But that fake résumé did get me some gigs and jobs that eventually got me back up on my feet.

Are there morals to this story? Yes, there are:

Never go to a block party.
If you have an opportunity to work at a job that meshes perfectly with your outlook, enthusiasms, and interests, don’t take it. Work instead for a company in which you have no interest at all. The less the work interests you, the safer you’ll be. If your bosses see that you’re putting your heart and soul into your work, they’ll regard you as a pushover. They’ll work you half to death, refuse to pay you for much of your time, and then they’ll make you the fall guy for their crimes.
If you’re not lily white, and/or if you don’t have an easily pronounceable Anglo-Saxon or at least Western European name, do not move to a primarily white neighborhood. And don’t even try to fit in or make friends. If people are open enough to want to spend time with you, then fine, but don’t you make the first move, ever.
If you’re single and childless, do not move to any neighborhood at all. Rent an apartment in a busy part of downtown where nobody will notice your existence. When you socialize, do so on neutral public grounds such as a restaurant or museum hall, never in an apartment or house. Never babysit, not even for your fiancé or fiancée.
Never trust ANYBODY to care for historic documents. Preserve them yourself, scan copies, post them on the Internet, and then donate them to a historical society. Never trust anyone else to do that for you. Don’t even trust the historical society to care for your donation, because if the historical society is understaffed/underfunded/overworked, your donation will get tossed into the City Dump. Make preservation copies first. Always.
When friends suddenly turn on you, just walk away and forget about them, no matter how much you adore them.
When the police captain spreads a manila file folder out on his desk, saying that it’s “your case,” please understand that what’s on his desk is just a prop filled with scratch paper. That’s one of the intimidation tactics they use. Clever, yes? Read We Get Confessions, which I finally read recently, having gotten a used copy from Amazon. The author is clearly disturbed and a lot of his marbles are missing. He is barely literate and litters his book with offensive language. He makes no apologies for his firm Christian faith, and he trusts no one who does not share it. He is entirely opposed to democracy, privacy, and civil rights, and he calls for new laws that would enable police to make random raids everywhere. Many or all of his case studies are grossly and obviously fictionalized. He claims that police investigations are used in part to weed out the innocent, and yet you can see from his methodology that the opposite is the case. Investigations are used to weed out the politically connected and to book everyone else.
So you’re asking yourselves what you should do if you need help. I’ll tell you what not to do: Do not call the police. If you’re robbed, just eat your loss and secure your abode better. If you’re attacked, call a cab to take you to the hospital. Do not call 911. Do not call the police. Do not file a report. This is what happens when you call 911 for help:

Police Force Woman Naked (She called 911 for help, but the cops arrested her for no reason and then assaulted her in her cell.)

You didn’t click the PLAY button, did you? CLICK ON IT!!!! And watch the video all the way through, with the sound on. That is what happens to you when you call 911. This is NOT an isolated incident. This is routine. Don’t fall for that baldfaced lie about “bad apples” on the force. The whole force is a bad barrel.

Four Police Officers Brutally Beat Man Whose Son Just Died

Here’s another gal who made the mistake of calling the cops when she thought she heard a prowler:

“I can’t breathe….they’re killing me,” I heard my brother Hernan scream over, and over, and over again, while I watched police pin him to the ground with all of their weight on top of him, after beating him down on the street and dragging him out to the sidewalk in front of my house in Oakland. I pleaded for them to stop, but the police officers continued until he breathed no more. Click here to demand justice for my brother.

When I called the police for help that day, I never imagined that I was calling the same people who would kill my dear brother in the street just minutes later.

Hernan’s death was all caught on video. But the police hid the tape from the public for TWO AND A HALF YEARS — until it was recently leaked to the media by an anonymous source.(1) If it were up to the police and Oakland authorities, the public might never have known what happened. It’s been over two years, and there still hasn’t been a public investigation into Hernan’s death. There have been no charges against the police who killed him. No major public outcry. Nothing. We don’t even know whether any of the officers involved were disciplined. In fact, the Oakland Police Department refuses to answer any questions about his death at all.

Now that the video of the police killing my brother is finally public, this is our chance to demand justice for Hernan. My family and I can’t do it alone. We need your help.

My younger brother, Hernan Jaramillo, worked as a realtor for years, lost his job and house after the economy crashed in 2008, and returned to school. Prior to being killed, he moved in with me and worked as a salesman for a local solar panel company. Hernan was a good, innocent, unarmed man who wasn’t doing anything wrong.

I called the police on July 8th, 2013 for help because I heard noises from his room and thought that someone was trying to break in and hurt him. It was a false alarm, but instead of simply talking with my brother and trying to figure out what had happened, the police officers forced him out of my home in handcuffs — shoeless, wearing just boxers and a tank top — and killed him. Then they kept the truth about his death quiet for two and a half years.

The truth is that the police beat him, threw him to the ground in the middle of the street, and dragged his body 20 feet to the sidewalk. For 15 minutes, an officer pressed his knee into Hernan’s back, while another officer’s hand pressured his lungs — repeatedly ignoring his and my pleas to let him sit up and catch his breath. And eventually Hernan went silent. That’s when one police officer said, “OK now, because you are quiet, you can sit.” But it was too late — they had already killed him. When the paramedics finally came, my brother’s lifeless body was still handcuffed.(2) Click here to demand justice for Hernan.

My brother did not deserve to die. And I am haunted by his death every day. But what bothers me the most is the silence that has surrounded his death, the inaction from Oakland authorities, and the lack of accountability for the police officers who killed him.

If the officers who killed my brother are innocent, why has the police department kept the video of his death hidden from the public? Why are they refusing to talk to the press or my family about what happened? Why hasn’t District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley even investigated this case? And what is stopping Mayor Schaaf from taking action and holding all parties involved accountable?

These questions keep me up at night, and I can’t fight this alone anymore. I am so grateful to have Courage Campaign and Presente.org now helping with Hernan’s case, but we need thousands of compassionate people like you to join us if we are going to have a fighting chance at justice.

About a year after Hernan’s death, a New York City Police Department officer killed Eric Garner in a shockingly similar incident.(3) If the video of my brother’s death had been made public when he was killed, it would have created an important public conversation about the use of excessive force by the police.

What happened to my brother and Eric Garner are just two tragic examples of the epidemic of police violence against Latinos, Black people, and other people of color in our country.

My brother didn’t deserve to die like this, and neither did Eric Garner, or Michael Brown, or Tamir Rice, and so many others who have died at the hands of police. We must join together, stand up, and demand justice now!

In honor of my little brother Hernan Jaramillo,

Ana Biocini

The only aspect of these incidents that’s unusual is that they were reported. Click here for another rare example of an incident that was somehow reported. Want another typical story? Here you go. Do you get the message? DO. NOT. CALL. NINE. ONE. ONE. EVER!
Still don’t believe me? Click here. Still think I’m making it all up? Okay.
If a policeman ever approaches you, for any reason, the only statement you should make is “I reserve my right to remain silent, and I demand to see my attorney.” You might think that since you’ve done nothing wrong, you have no reason to fear, and you might think that the policeman is probably just asking for help or for information. Nope. Never. The policeman wants to rough you up and toss you into a prison cell. If that’s not what he wants, then he won’t approach you. Period. Police are required to meet arrest quotas. Do not help the police meet their quotas. Many (most?) people don’t believe the police have arrest quotas. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight....

Cop Fired for Speaking Out against Ticket and Arrest Quotas

NYPD Cop Secretly Records Evidence of a Ticket and Arrest Quota System... A Must See

AUDIO: New York’s Police Union Worked with the NYPD to Set Arrest and Summons Quotas

ABC Investigation: Police Officer Quotas Revealed
If people start circulating the vilest untrue rumors about you, do not sue. Do not counter what they say. Do not defend yourself. Just move to a different town.

NOTE ADDED 19 APRIL 2013 & 25 OCTOBER 2013: Allow me to add one more recommendation. I’ve been extremely distressed over the events in Steubenville and with what happened to Audrie Pott and to Rehtaeh Parsons. Why didn’t everyone rush to their rescue? Why didn’t everyone shelter them, help them, comfort them? Rehtaeh’s family and friends tried, but we can see that they were out of their depth. I don’t hold that against them, for I’d be out of my depth too. But they shouldn’t have been so alone. Why isn’t there a phone number that anyone can call? Well, I did some checking, and there is a phone number anyone can call: 1-800-656-4673 (1-800-656-HOPE). [If the number is displaying with a Skype logo and a hyperlink, that’s not my doing. In my coding it’s plain text, as you can see by right-click View_Page_Source. No idea why it’s doing this. Creepy.] The drawback is that there’s the lingering (and terrifyingly real) fear that parents and police will be brought in to the matter. I would imagine that most children and teens — especially children and teens who are something other than middle-class or upper-class white — who are about to call that number would have second thoughts and put the phone right back down, only because of the fear that parents and police may be brought in. Call anyway, for heaven’s sake! You may remain anonymous. That’s permissible. And let’s work on creating something even better. Such violent events seem not to happen in my social circles, probably because my social circles are extremely small and consist largely of historians and preservationists and other scholars. After reading about these three cases, though, and after going through the Santa Mónica UCLA Medical Center Rape Treatment Center web site and its “Survivor Stories,” I’m getting the sickening feeling that rape/bullying is an everyday occurrence among the high-school and college-age crowd. We live in a society that’s entirely insane, dangerously so — that’s especially true of the younger males of the species. Many people wonder why the police and the courts are so reluctant to go after those rapists and bullies/cowards. The answer is contained in the question: The police and the courts tend to take their side. I suppose that such brutish scum are considered potential new recruits. The law won’t be too happy to go after them. The law prefers to go after people who have stepped on the wrong toes as well as clueless idiots who don’t enjoy fighting back and who can’t afford a lawyer. ...And now there are Daisy and Paige. Here’s Daisy’s account. And here’s more, with photos of what the neighbors did to the house. I hope Daisy and Paige come out of this intact. They seem to be rallying, judging from the reports and from Daisy’s writing. The advice that two friends gave to me eleven years ago is the advice that I relay to them: When the case is over, get as far away from Missouri as possible and never go back. Please. The maniacs will always be free to do anything they like, forever, and they will have the support of the police and the courts.

Prior to all these troubles, I had overall a positive view of humanity. Oh yes, I knew people could be nasty, I knew more than enough about war crimes, I knew that certain folks were beyond hope, I knew that many people, especially those in positions superior to mine, would forever exasperate me with their ineptitude. Nonetheless, overall, my view was positive. I really believed that, given the chance, and not being put under undue pressure otherwise, most people would make the right decisions. I suddenly acquired my misanthropy in the autumn of 2002, but I did not check my earlier assumptions until the autumn of 2013. My heart sank. Are the surveys summarized in this link valid? I fear they are. When it comes to the responses from the 11–14-year-old crowd, I assume that the majority of those questioned had no concept of the terms used, which would account for their outrageous responses. At that age, I certainly had no concept of such terms. But what about the rest of the summary? It repeats two claims that I had read decades ago but that I had dismissed as too preposterous to be true: Thirty-five percent of male college students admit that they would commit rape if they could get away with it, and forty-three percent actually did. Since that time I’ve seen more of the world, and so when I look at those claims again my inclination now is to take those statistics as gross underestimates. For instance, here’s an email message I received from Avaaz on the morning of Friday, 25 October 2013:

Dear friends,

16-year-old Liz was walking home from her grandfather’s funeral when she was ambushed by six men who took turns raping her and then threw her unconscious body down a 6-meter toilet pit. Their punishment? Police had them mow their station lawn, then let them go free!

Liz’s horror story has sent shockwaves through Kenya and now politicians and the police are under pressure to respond. But women’s groups in Kenya say nothing will truly change unless the government is put under the global spotlight. They are calling on us urgently to help ensure justice is done and that Liz’s nightmare marks a turning-point in Kenya’s rape epidemic.

Nobody has been brought to justice — not the rapists, and not the police. Today, we change that. Let’s stand with Liz right now, before her attackers and the police escape....

According to the girl’s mother, after they were set free, the rapists returned to Liz’s home to taunt the family. They acted like they were above the law, and they had good reason to think so. Because of ridiculous bureaucratic requirements, the police logged Liz’s attack as mere “assault” and asked her mother to “clean her up,” destroying key forensic evidence. Now her rapists are free and Liz is in a wheelchair.

Liz’s story is an extreme example of a much bigger problem. In Kenya, two-thirds of school girls and half of school boys have been sexually abused. And earlier this year, a landmark court ruling found police guilty of failing to do their jobs and ordered them to uphold Kenya’s strict anti-rape laws. Rape is illegal everywhere, but too often these laws are just not enforced by the men charged with protecting our daughters. Beginning with Liz, we can change that.

The police claim that they don’t have the money or training to uphold the law. But you don’t need much training to know that cutting the grass is no punishment for rape. If we can help ensure these rapists and police are held to account, we can set a precedent that will compel police to treat rape as a crime, not a misdemeanour....

This is what goes on all over the world? All the time? And people don’t understand why I prefer to stay in my apartment by myself? I want to resign from the human race.

NOTE ADDED 18 FEBRUARY 2014: Oh. And here’s more bad news that arrived in my email just now. I reproduce it in full.

A young mother in Detroit told police she thought she might have been drugged and raped. Instead of helping her, they arrested her, tied her to a chair, cut her hair and beat her.
Demand Justice for Charda Gregory

When Charda Gregory woke up in a motel room in suburban Detroit, she had no memory of how she’d gotten there. Scared and confused, she told police she thought she might have been drugged and possibly raped. Instead of helping her, police arrested her for “trashing” the motel room she’d awoken in.

The cops took Charda to the police station, where they pepper-sprayed her, tied her to a chair as she screamed, and chopped off her hair because it could have been used as “a weapon.” The whole incident was caught on tape.

The officer who cut Charda’s hair has been fired. But in the video of this brutality, several other officers stand and watch as Charda cries and begs for help. Clearly, this demeaning treatment of people who need help was nothing out of the ordinary for those who witnessed it.

This is a disgusting abuse of power from Warren police, and everyone involved should be punished immediately. Ask the Warren Police Department to fire everyone who stood by and watched as this victim was further mistreated.
Thank you for taking action,

Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

NOTE ADDED 5 APRIL 2015: Several more stories just arrived in email lists to which I subscribe. These are among the worst.

On Friday, January 23, 17-year-old student Kristiana Coignard walked into her local police department, picked up a telephone, and asked to speak to an officer. Sometime after that she pulled “a weapon” and was shot and killed by three police officers.

For three days, that’s pretty much all the police have said. Refusing to say what type of weapon she brandished, the inference was that it was so lethal a weapon that it must’ve been a gun or a stick of dynamite or hand grenade, but Longview Mayor Jay Dean just revealed that it wasn’t a gun at all, but a knife.

In an article on Think Progress, it was revealed that Kristiana was struggling mightily with mental illness.

Coignard was living in Longview with her Aunt, Heather Robertson. In an interview with ThinkProgress, Robertson raised questions about the circumstances of Coignard’s death. “I think it was a cry for help. I think they could have done something. They are grown men. I think there is something they are not telling us.”

Robertson said that her niece had been struggling with mental illness, including depression and bipolar disorder, since her mother died when she was four. She had been hospitalized twice in recent years after suicide attempts. One time, she tried to hang herself. Another time, she drank toilet bowl cleaner. Since arriving in Longview in December, Coignard had been taking medication and regularly seeing a therapist. She had no criminal record and “was only violent with herself,” Robertson said.

And for that she received four bullets? Look at that face. That’s the face of someone with a gentle heart and a lifetime of anguish. As soon as I see a face like that, all I want to do is become a friend and help. Of course, I dare not, because I’d be arrested within minutes. I cannot believe she brandished a knife. If she had a knife (which I strongly doubt), she certainly did not brandish it.

Then there were these two interesting cases:

At 1 AM this past Saturday, Meagan Hockaday, a 26-year-old African-American mother of three, was shot and killed by an Oxnard, California, police officer after he arrived at her home to check out a reported domestic dispute. A knife was found near Hockaday’s body, but it’s unclear why lethal force was used on a mother with her children present in her own home.

The shooting death of Hockaday must, though, be viewed in context with the sordid history of the Oxnard, California, police department. Less than a year ago, the city of Oxnard was forced to pay a record $6.7 million to the family of Alfonso Limón, an innocent man who was shot 16 to 21 times by Oxnard police as he was walking home from a high school gym. They claimed to mistakenly believe him to be a suspect in another crime. He wasn’t. He was completely unarmed and just a few dozen feet away from his front door.

As far back as 2001, the Los Angeles Times detailed how police in Oxnard, a city with just 170,000 people, had killed more people that year than cities 22 times its size. During that year, a concerned mother called 911 because she was afraid her depressed son, Robert Jones, would harm himself. Jones was cowering in a closet when police shot and killed him, and the city later paid the family $1.5 million for the “mistake.”

Now, a former Oxnard police officer is blowing the whistle on a sick practice of officers in the department proudly “earning” tattoos every time they shoot and kill people while on duty:

The former Oxnard police officer who recently left the department said he saw the tattoos on the officers. He made a drawing of what the “shooting” tattoo looks like. He said the tattoos were probably purchased from a tattoo shop in Port Hueneme because that is where Oxnard officers go to get tattooed.

The former Oxnard police officer also provided the names of seven Oxnard officers and two retired officers who allegedly had the tattoos. The nine names also included two officers who are currently commanders at the Oxnard Police Department. One is a watch commander.

The former Oxnard officer told American Justice that if smoke is added to the tattoo, coming out of the barrel, then the shooting was fatal. He said the tattoos are “earned” by officers involved in shootings.

Finally, here is an excerpt from one of the most sickening.

Fifty years old, battling mental illness, and serving two years in the psychiatric ward of the Dade County prison for the victimless nonviolent offense of cocaine possession without the intent to distribute, Darren Rainey would soon experience a death so cruel and so violent and so unthinkably heinous that we would expect such a thing to happen only in a country governed by a so-called evil dictator. It’s almost too ugly to type.

After allegedly defecating in his cell, Rainey was handcuffed and locked into a tight shower cell and blasted for nearly two hours with water that was over 180 scalding-hot degrees in temperature. Begging for his life, screaming apologies and remorse so loud that other inmates could hear them, the officers kept the water so hot and forceful that the steam began to melt off Darren Rainey’s skin. Video shows Rainey forced into the shower at 7:38 PM and he was pronounced dead at 9:30 PM.

Mark Joiner, a prisoner in Dade County, was called in to clean up the chunks of skin left behind. He detailed it for the Miami Herald:

Mark Joiner was roused from his cell earlier than usual on June 24, 2012.

He was handed a bottle of Clorox and was told it was clean-up time.

Joiner was used to cleaning up cells in Dade Correctional Institution’s psychiatric ward, and many of them were frequently brimming with feces and urine, insect-infested food and other filth.

Joiner thought he pretty much had seen it all, from guards nearly starving prisoners to death, to taunting and beating them unconscious while handcuffed for sport. He recalls one inmate was paid a pack of cigarettes to attack one sick inmate whose only offense was to ask if their mail could be delivered before bedtime.

On the floor of a small shower stall he was ordered to clean, he saw a single blue canvas shoe and what he later realized was large chunks of human skin.

The skin belonged to Darren Rainey, a 50-year-old mentally ill prisoner whom the guards had handcuffed and locked in the cell the night before. Witnesses and DOC reports indicate Rainey was left in the scalding hot water for hours, allegedly as punishment for defecating in his cell....

Joiner remembered and said he also later made a written record of what he saw and heard the night Rainey died.

He had a view of some of what happened and was ordered to clean up the shower the following morning. He said he placed all the skin he found in Rainey’s shoe.

“I heard them lock the shower door, and they were mocking him,” Joiner said, as the guards turned on their retrofitted shower full blast and steam began to fill the ward.

“He was crying, please stop, please stop,” Joiner said. And they just said “Enjoy your shower, and left.”

Joiner went to sleep, not knowing that it would be the last time he would see or hear Rainey alive. Witnesses would later say that after two hours, at temperatures of 180 degrees, Rainey collapsed, with his skin peeling from his body. Rainey, who was serving a two-year term for possession of drugs, was carried to the prison’s infirmary where a nurse later said his body temperature was so high it couldn’t be measured with a thermometer.

Darren Rainey, tragically, had only one month to go in his sentence.

UPDATE (Sunday, 21 September 2014) Oh, here’s another one that a friend just pointed out: Police Dash-Cam Video Exonerates New Jersey Man. Just gives you that nice warm glow all over, doesn’t it? The parents of those cops must sure be proud of their boys. After all, who else would risk life and limb to keep us safe from marauders? This is what happens ALL THE TIME, EVERYWHERE. It was only by fluke that this video surfaced, courtesy of a whistleblower at the station, who probably now needs to fear for his life. This is the sort of evidence that the police normally hide or destroy.

It was fortunate that all my misfortunes happened a decade ago rather than now. Now with “total information awareness” and its lingering offshoots, including that reprehensible Live Scan, there’s no possibility of getting a business manager to agree to pretend a friend had been an employee. Now there’s no possibility of keeping a new address a secret. Now there’s no way to fly under the radar even for a moment. I guess this is all, uh, um, to protect, uh, someone, um, against, well, something. Yeah. It certainly protects corporate gangsters against whistleblowers, that’s for sure.

Thus this great Buffalo-theatre-history project crashed and burned before it was even launched. I have never been back to Buffalo and I shall never return even for a visit. I don’t want to feel that weight again. I would never feel comfortable or safe there again. Nor would I feel comfortable or safe anywhere in Western New York. “Buffalo — City of Good Neighbors” my foot. They should change the name to “City of CAT Bulldozers, Demolitions, Segregation, Slums, and Violent Maniacs.” That would be far more honest. It wouldn’t affect tourism because there isn’t any. On the positive side, though, I discovered to my amazement that, once I was a thousand miles away from New York, I could walk down the street without getting harassed and without the police stopping me or even looking at me, I could go shopping without getting peculiar looks, and I could apply for low-level temp jobs without employers or agencies immediately tossing out my unread résumés. This was all a new experience for me. And I like it.

In my new life I got involved in other things that quite happily occupied all my time. And happily I discovered that, within a few months (weeks?) after I left Tonawanda, Bentley was no longer police captain! He was shunted into a nonpolice position for a year and then took an early retirement. I would just love to know why he got the boot, but that’s not information that will ever be divulged. (Was that in part a reaction against his attempt to arrest me? I doubt it, but it’s a delicious thought.) The Tonawanda City Hall is quite expert at keeping its dirty laundry hidden — most of the time. I hear that Bentley’s replacement, though, a guy named James G. Litz, was every bit as bad. A person who is too afraid to use real names — his own or certain others’ — posted a comment on a bulletin board. I wish I knew the story behind his sentiment that “Litz would seem like a choir boy compared to the days of Bent lee.” And then Litz was kicked out too. (But the old lingers on, as it always does. Now there is a different Bentley and a different Hankinson on the force. This isn’t nepotism. It’s royalty.)

How many more stories like mine are there? I presume there would be many millions. But people wisely don’t talk, because they know that nobody would believe them. And they’re right. Besides, do you know how embarrassing it is to tell people, “I was falsely accused of...”? When you do that, people don’t sympathize with you. Not at all. They just mentally link you with the crime you were accused of, and then they want nothing to do with you. That’s why it’s really pretty stupid of me to write this essay that you’re now reading. But I figure that someone’s got to begin to break that barrier and get some dialogue going. If you were ever assaulted, or if your children were ever assaulted, you’re not going to feel comfortable reading this, are you? You’ll just make an unavoidable emotional connection and wish me dead. If, on the other hand, you’ve been falsely accused, you’re going to have some sympathy, but you’re going to be distrustful, because nobody in his/her right mind goes public with this. It’s a maddening situation to be in. That’s why people keep quiet. If you’re innocent and falsely accused, you are limited to two and only two choices: keep quiet and take the risk that rumors will catch up with you and cause a maelstrom that could land you in jail for the rest of your life, or tell people what happened and have them all disbelieve you which could start rumors that will catch up with you and cause a maelstrom that could land you in jail for the rest of your life. That’s your choice. Not much of a choice, is it? Nobody will ever feel comfortable around you again if you’ve been falsely accused, because there’s that unavoidable emotional connection and that unavoidable lingering doubt. It’s just an ugly situation, and there’s no solution to it. Think back to the good old days: If you were accused of witchcraft, how could you prove you weren’t a witch? There was no way to do so. The accusation alone was your doom. And anyone who were to have the temerity to defend the witch would also be doomed. There’s also the understandable emotional reaction that to concentrate on those falsely accused of a crime is to take attention away from the true victims of crime and further to erode any credibility that true victims need to prove their case. That’s true. That’s absolutely true. What’s the solution? I don’t know. Help? People at the office where I work don’t understand why I never gossip. And they don’t understand why I refuse to listen to their gossip. The reason is simple: Gossip is an unfair forum in which the accused has no recourse. I find that extremely ugly, especially after all I’ve been through.

Taking a six-week break from another project back in 2008, I finally began to turn my Buffalo materials into a book. I took the story from 1813 through the beginning of 1835. The result was about 250 pages long, and it’s one of my proudest accomplishments. By scribbling that ms I discovered an astonishing political history of the Village of Buffalo that no other historian knows or even suspects. I was not prepared for such a revelation. It just formed, all by itself, on the computer screen as I was writing. That’s what happens when you put together lots of scraps of forgotten data. Those data begin to link themselves together to tell dramatic stories that nobody remembers. It’s just like magic. It’s exactly like magic. Except that it’s even better. But I have not published that book, nor shall I until I get some other things out of the way. It’s filled with errors that, several years later, I finally know how to correct, but that would take me a full month, which is time I cannot afford to spend right now. I doubt anybody would be interested in it anyway. People like to read about things they remember. Adventurous people like to read about things their parents remember. People who are yet even more adventurous like to read about things that their grandparents remember. But I wrote about stuff that everybody’s great-great-great-great grandparents all forgot. So yes, I realize that the book has no commercial possibilities at all. And since I have no interest in getting a Ph.D., I realize that the book will never be reviewed in a scholarly journal. Thus it will never have a popular audience, nor will it have an academic audience. It will have no audience. I just want to do it because I just want to do it. So there. My research is a hobby, you see, a rather obsessive hobby. It’s not a business venture. And that’s something that certain antiques vendors either cannot understand or pretend not to understand when they think they can charge me more money than I own just to get an old scrapbook or program. When they raise the prices that high, they get stuck with items that they then aren’t able to give away for free.

Actually, despite everything, I do still have a soft spot for Buffalo. Look at my URL! Buffalo is my adopted home town. I really did love it with all my heart. But now that I look back on it, I can understand that my love was for Buffalo only in the abstract. I loved certain aspects of its past. I deeply resent the way the Senecas were treated, and I deeply resent their omission from the history books. I deeply resent the public hangings. I deeply resent the upper-class scum who made fortunes on what was little better than slave labor. But I love that landscape. I love that architecture (which is being bulldozed at a rate of 1,000 buildings per year). I love what was once, much earlier, the sense of camaraderie that was just beginning to flower before it was all forever squelched. The present, though? I have never had any use for the present. Yet I continue to spend much of my waking hours daydreaming about potential ways to fix the slums. Of course, I don’t have the means or the connections, and, like I say, I’m just not feeling any love radiating from that place. Besides, anyone who were to try to fix the slums would quickly inherit a pair of cement shoes, and that would be the end of that.

When I wrote the first draft of this essay, the exercise was cathartic. I had divulged a few little bits and pieces of this story to a select few friends, who generally did not believe me. I then kept it in, and held it in, for over 20 years. Now that I’m posting the skeletal outline of what was supposed to have become a better skeletal outline of what I had hoped would one day be a series of articles that would eventually become a book, I need to explain why I never wrote that book. And don’t anyone dare ask me, “What’s the problem? Do you have writer’s block?” To explain why I never wrote that book, I found that I needed to break down and reveal as much as the law will allow. Most identities need to be kept secret, and some details need to be elided over, else I’d be sued. Maybe I’ll publish the entire account posthumously. After posting the first draft, I noticed that the story was incomplete, and I noticed that I had jumbled some events. So I rewrote it quickly. Then I noticed that even my rewrite was filled with omissions and misrecollections. So I rewrote it again. And again. And again. And again. Over 150 times, I think. It’s about as complete and correct now as it can be without risking defamation suits. In my years of researching the law, I have discovered that truth is not a defense. Truth is never a defense. That is why I would lose. That is why much must still remain secret. It will remain secret until the perpetrators are all dead, or until I am dead. Perhaps it will remain secret forever. And now that I’ve re-read and rewritten this essay about 150 times, it is no longer cathartic. It is emotionally draining. I now barely have the energy to sit down, much less stand up. All my life I have been very forgiving. But Employer A shall never receive my forgiveness. Lawyer A shall never receive my forgiveness. The chairman and his cronies shall never receive my forgiveness. The police shall never receive my forgiveness. The then-friend shall never receive my forgiveness. But I was completely open to hearing from anyone else and patching things up — ex-neighbors, ex-friends, executives at certain nonprofit theatres.... Anyone. Of course, I was never expecting that to happen — and it never has — but if anyone had been willing to contact me to say, “I’m sorry; I was wrong for having believed all those preposterously ludicrous stories,” I was perfectly prepared to forget that there had ever been a problem, and everything would have been as it had been before, as though nothing had ever happened. Now that I have re-read and rewritten this essay about 150 times, I no longer feel that way. I don’t want to hear from anybody who so much as looked at me askance.


Words: Νίκος Γκάτσος (1911–1992), Music/Narration: Μάνος Χατζιδάκις (1925–1994), Vocals: Ἀλίκη Καγιαλόγλου
Ἀκούστε τώρα τὴν ἱστορία τοῦ Κεμάλ,
ἑνός νεαροῦ πρίγκιπα τῆς Ἀνατολῆς
ἀπόγονου τοῦ Σεβὰχ τοῦ Θαλασσινοῦ
ποῦ νόμισε ὅτι μπορεῖ ν’ ἀλλάξει τὸν κόσμο.
Ἀλλά πικρὲς οἱ βουλὲς τοῦ Ἀλλάχ,
καὶ σκοτεινὲς οἱ ψυχὲς τῶν ἀνθρώπων…

Στὴς Ἀνατολὴς τὰ μέρη μιὰ φορὰ κι’ ἕναν καιρὸ
ἦταν ἄδειο τὸ κεμέρι, μουχλιασμένο τὸ νερό.
Στὴ Μοσούλη, στὴ Βασόρα, στὴν παλιὰ τῂ χουρμαδιᾴ
πικραμένα κλαίνε τώρα τῆς ἐρήμου τὰ παιδιά.
Κι’ ἕνας νέος ἀπὸ σόι καὶ γενιὰ βασιλική
ἀγροικάει τὸ μοιρολόι καὶ τραβάει κατὰ ’κεῖ.
Τὸν κοιτὰν οἱ βεδουΐνοι μὲ ματιὰ λυπητερή
κι’ ὄρκο στὸν Ἀλλάχ τους δίνει πὼς θ’ ἀλλάξουν οἱ καιροί.

Σὰν ἀκούσαν οἱ ἀρχόντοι τοῦ παιδιοῦ τὴν ἀφοβιά
ξεκινὰν μὲ λύκου δόντι καὶ μὲ λιονταριοῦ προβιά.
Ἀπ’ τὸν Τίγρη στὸν Εὐφράτη κι’ απ’ τῂ γῇ στὸν οὐρανό
κυνηγὰν τὸν ἀποστάτη νὰ τὸν πιάσουν ζωντανό.
Πέφτουν πάνω του τὰ στῖφη σὰν ἀκράτητα σκυλιά
καὶ τὸν πάνε στὸ Χαλίφη νὰ τοὺ βάλει τῂ θηλιᾴ.
Μαῦρο μέλι, μαῦρο γάλα ἤπιε ’κεῖνο τὸ πρωΐ
πρὶν ἀφήσει στὴν κρεμάλα τῂ στερνῄ του τὴν πνοή.

Μὲ δύο γέρικες καμήλες, μ’ ἕνα κόκκινο φαρί
στοὺ παράδεισου τὶς πύλες ὁ προφήτης καρτερεί.
Πάνε τώρα χέρι-χέρι κι’ εἶναι γύρω συννεφιά
μὰ τῆς Δαμασκοῦ τ’ ἀστέρι τους κρατούσε συντροφιά.
Σ’ ἕνα μήνα, σ’ ἕνα χρόνο βλέπουν μπρός τους τὸν Ἀλλάχ
ποῦ ἀπ’ τὸν ψηλὸ τοῦ θρόνο λέει στὸν ἄμυαλο Σεβάχ:
«Νικημένο μου ξεφτέρι δὲν ἀλλάζουν οἱ καιροί·
μὲ φωτιὰ καὶ μὲ μαχαῖρι πάντα ὁ κόσμος προχωρεί.»

Καληνύχτα Κεμάλ. Αὐτὸς ὁ κόσμος δὲ θ’ ἀλλάξει ποτέ. Καληνύχτα…
Hear now the story of Kemal
a young prince from the East
a descendant of Sinbad the Sailor,
who thought he could change the world.
But bitter is the will of Allah,
and dark the souls of men....

Once upon a time in the East,
the coffers were empty, the waters stagnant.
In Mosul, in Basra, under an old date-palm,
the children of the desert were now bitterly crying.
A young man of ancient and royal race
overhears their lament and goes to them.
The Bedouins look at him sadly
and he swears by Allah that things will change.

When they learn of the young man’s fearlessness,
the rulers set off with wolf-like teeth and a lion’s mane.
From the Tigris to the Euphrates, and from the earth to the sky,
They pursue the renegade to catch him alive.
They pounce on his troups like rabid dogs,
and take him to the caliph to put the noose around his neck.
Black honey, black milk he drank that morning
before breathing his last on the gallows.

With two aged camels and a red steed,
at the gates of heaven the prophet awaits.
They now walk hand-in-hand among the clouds
with the star of Damascus to keep them company.
After a month, after a year, they find themselves before Allah
who, from his high throne, tells foolish Sinbad:
“O my vanquished upstart, things never change;
the world carries on only with fire and with knives.”

Goodnight, Kemal. This world will never change. Goodnight....
AIMLESS RANT ADDED 30 SEPTEMBER 2013, AMENDED ON 4–26 OCTOBER 2013, 7 NOVEMBER 2013, 21 FEBRUARY 2014, AND 15 MARCH–5 APRIL 2014: To supplement a different research project I found that I needed to delve into the literature on psychopathy. I just ordered several books — Hare’s Without Conscience and Blair/Mitchell/Blair’s The Psychopath: Emotion and the Brain. Hare’s book I read immediately and quickly. Though it is written for the general reader, it is brilliant. The Blair/Mitchell/Blair book, though horribly written and never proofread, is nonetheless invaluable, because it details the differences in brain structures, which, the authors postulate, probably correctly, all stem from a single specific dysfunction of the amygdalæ, a dysfunction that is not fully understood. If I am not misreading, it would seem that this dysfunction causes portions of the frontal lobe to atrophy, resulting in a loss of grey matter. Simple puzzle tests and reward/punishment tests that you or I would solve in a moment leave psychopaths perplexed and frustrated almost to the point of violence. I also read Cleckley’s pioneering work on the topic. His book is freely available online and yet I felt it incumbent upon myself to purchase an original fifth edition for my collection. In most ways, Cleckley’s is the best book of all, and that’s the one you should start with. Cleckley had some strange ideas and some of his therapies were downright dangerous, but when it comes to psychopathy he hit the nail right on the head. His writing is lovely and his case studies are emotionally devastating. They hit too close to home for me, and I could barely sleep the night after I began the book. It was a few days before I recovered. It was as though I had met half of these people, or their clones.

These books offer a conceptual framework with which to understand what had happened to me over all those miserable Buffalonian years. The topic is more difficult than I had imagined, and psychopathy is not a one-size-fits-all disorder. Some psychopaths are utter failures, unable to hold a job or earn an income or care for themselves. Most of Cleckley’s case studies are of such individuals. Only relatively few are murderously violent, not so much from sadism or temper as simply through casual whimsy, as witness the tale of dashing ladies’ man Neville Heath, who mutilated his victims while making sure to keep them alive as long as possible to feel all the pain before he finally put them out of their misery. He bore no grudge against his victims. He just tortured and murdered them for the heck of it, for some sort of mild amusement, a novelty, a way to while away the time and to break the dull daily routine. He blatantly approached the authorities under an assumed identity as a game to see how quickly they would spot him, going to far as to point out his similarity with the published photos of the suspect, and he had no qualms about being hanged, even calmly making jokes about it as he was led to the scaffold. I suppose that getting hanged, too, was just another amusing novelty, another diversion from the monotonous daily routine. Heath and the others like him are the exceptions, though. There are more than enough exceptions freely roaming about to make the world a dangerous place, but they are, nonetheless, the exceptions. Then there are those who are not full-blown cases. Such people, in professional settings, are supremely capable and easily climb to the top of the corporate and political ladders, as Hare makes so terrifyingly clear. Hare contributed some of his expertise to Paul Babiak’s book, Snakes in Suits, which is not the book to start with, as it’s far too vague. But if you first read Cleckley’s book, you should then give Babiak’s a try. Cleckley was the first to give a precise definition to the word ‘psychopath.’ Babiak, with Hare’s help, has discovered that the term needs to be broadened, for psychopaths fall into a number of subcategories and thus cover a wide range of deviant behaviors. I have met and dealt with far too many people like those portrayed in these case studies, and these books begin to explain a great deal that I had never before been able to articulate.

It would seem that, with the exception of the then-friend, the maniacs who made my life almost not worth living were not psychopaths. Psychopaths are like normal human beings in every way except one, namely, they are incapable of finding emotional significance in anything, and that single defect causes them to behave deplorably, destructively, and self-destructively. Hervey Milton Cleckley (p. 390) summarizes what goes through a psychopath’s mind. He invents a composite psychiatric patient, based on countless actual cases. These patients, of normal or better-than-average intelligence and not suffering delusions of any sort, upon interview and examination display no indications of any disorder whatsoever. They seem perfectly normal, well-adjusted, confident, pleasant, engaging, eminently trustworthy and sensible. They are declared legally sane and quickly released. Once they are released, their private behavior is utterly abnormal and irresponsible. When reading the excerpt below, it is important to recall that the passage was published in the mid-1970s, when long-distance telephone calls were prohibitively expensive.

Unable to realize what it meant to his wife when he was discovered in the cellar [in] flagrante delicto with the cook, he is likely to be put out considerably by her reactions to this. His having used the rent money for a midnight long-distance call to an old acquaintance in California (with whom he bantered for an hour) also brings upon him censure or tearful expostulation. Considering himself harassed beyond measure, he may rise from the dining room table in a petty tantrum, curse his wife violently, slap her, even spit on her, and further annoyed by the sudden weeping of their 6-year-old daughter, throw his salad in the little girl’s face before he strides indignantly from the room.

His father, from the patient’s point of view, lacks humor and does not understand things. The old man could easily take a different attitude about having had to make good those last three little old checks written by the son. Nor was there any sense in raising so much hell because he took that dilapidated old Chevrolet for his trip to Memphis. What if he did forget to tell the old man he was going to take it? It wouldn’t hurt him to go to the office on the bus for a few days. How was he (the patient) to know the fellows were going to clean him out at stud or that the little bitch of a waitress at the Frolic Spot would get so nasty about money? What else could he do except sell the antiquated buggy? If the old man weren’t so parsimonious he’d want to get a new car anyway!

And why did he (the father) have to act so magnanimous and hurt about settling things last Saturday night down at the barracks? You’d think from his attitude that it was the old man himself who’d had to put up with being cooped in there all those hours with louse-infested riffraff! Well, he’d thanked his father and told him how sorry he was. What else could a fellow do? As for that damned old Chevrolet, he was sick of hearing about it. His grudge passing with a turn of thought, he smiles with half-affectionate, playfully cordial feelings toward the old man as he concludes, “I ought to tell him to take his precious old vehicle and stuck it up his ____!”

This was certainly the attitude of my then-friend, as I discovered all too belatedly. The attitude so well depicted by Dr Cleckley was certainly not the attitude of the police. The police were ruffians, thugs, entirely unpleasant bullies of violent inclination, with intellects barely above moron level, convinced by some misreading of a misguided summary of Freud that the only motivation for anything is sexual gratification. Such an unwarranted conviction tells us about the police, not about their victims. I do not know the technical name for such a personality. The attitude summarized above was also certainly not that of my employers, who were simply ruthless cutthroats, cunning manipulators, professional con artists capable of doing anything without remorse, convinced that anyone offering to assist in their charitable causes was an infiltrator to be dispatched accordingly, and dead-set on smashing and utterly ruining all who would dare compete with, criticize, or oppose them. I do not know the technical name for that personality either. Prior to reading Cleckley’s book, I casually assumed that both these personality types should be classified as psychopaths. Now I think otherwise. Yet Babiak and Hare might include such people under the general heading of psychopath. I don’t know. Reading these three books on psychopaths, though, teaches me a great deal, you see, for regardless of nomenclature, all these maniacs have a commonality: an innate absence of conscience.

As for the category of the appealing do-gooders who turn out to be ruthless cutthroats, we called them “complicated” people — complicated because they have magnetic personalities and initially present themselves, convincingly, as oozing warmth and charm, because they demonstrate right away that they are intellectually superior, and also because many of them are “leaders” in good charitable causes; yet once they have won our trust — along with our commitments and entanglements — they reveal themselves to be cold-blooded and thoroughly hateful monsters. And you know, the more I think about it, the more I see that they’re not intellectually superior. The most brilliant of these “complicated people” was, of course, the chairman, but soon enough I could see through his widely famed brilliance and recognize it as sophistry. “Complicated people” know one or two subjects a little better than the average Joe, and they know enough about other topics to bluff, and then they rub your nose in it all. They have no ability to think creatively about any topic. Where they do have us all beat is in scheming. They’re always five steps ahead of us.

Informally we have called such “complicated people” bloodsuckers, bullies, emotional vampires, saboteurs, maniacs. We have long understood — and said aloud, in private conversations behind closed doors — that they are devoid of conscience and incapable of restraining themselves from being cunning, underhanded, unscrupulous, crafty, manipulative, and cruel. Most are not physically violent; instead, they are so controlling, so bullying, so domineering, such pathological liars, that they are as bad as physically violent. We have long realized that they always have rock-solid and unassailable alibis by which they are able to pin their failings and malfeasances and misfeasances and nonfeasances on others. And because we directly witnessed what had really happened, we knew they were lying through their teeth. Yet they are so fiendishly clever at it that we could never catch them out or make a convincing case otherwise. To contradict their stories would cast suspicion upon ourselves, not upon them. They would even blithely lie about what they had just done half a minute ago, to people who witnessed them, and would not hear of being contradicted. I and others would just stare dumbfounded, not knowing how to react. Dealing with them, and especially working under them, is an exercise in deepest frustration and exasperation, and it can be quite dangerous as well.

Unlike psychopaths, my employers did not commit crimes on whim, but with a definite goal in mind. Unlike psychopaths, they had vision and drive; there’s no denying that, but it was a vision and drive that were entirely evil. In our modern civilized societies, which prize fierce individualism and ambitious go-getting achievers above all, we have created a haven from which such “complicated people” — or moral imbeciles as they were called a century ago — cannot be dislodged, for they are our politicians, bank executives, business leaders, moralists/ethicists/philosophers, CEOs of charities, intelligence personnel aka spies, professors, priests, lawyers, judges, and police. In primitive societies — and ‘primitive’ is NOT a disparaging term! — these are the people who, if fortunate, were revered as fearless warriors. Of course, few could possibly be so lucky, except by accident. “Complicated people” are not so fearless as foolhardy, and would never stick their necks out for others, at least not intentionally. Much more likely they were not at all fortunate and were put to death as witches or as possessed of evil spirits. Nowadays we know that they are not witches and we know that they are not possessed; they are defective, missing the parts of the brain that contain conscience, fear, anxiety, æsthetics, and the higher emotions. They may give slight evidence of such qualities, but what we witness is merely vestigial — at best; more likely it’s mimicry. It would be a good idea to have everyone subjected to an fMRI to detect such abnormalities, except that I’m certain that should such a requirement ever come to pass, the authorities would put faked results on file just to have opponents incarcerated and allies freed. So I have no solution except to be as much of a recluse as possible.

In that regard, we should perhaps contemplate a semi-interesting case, which I have not read and shall not read, namely, James Fallon’s The Psychopath Inside. Fallon, a retired professor of neuroscience, was examining a series of PET scans supposedly of the brains of psychopathic killers, and the scan that revealed the worst deformities, it turned out, was his own. He was shocked. How could he have been a psychopath? Just because he cheated at Scrabble with his children, just because he constantly cheated on his wife, just because he alienated his coworkers, just because he deliberately attempted to infect his brother with Ebola and pondered feeding him to lions? But yes, in the end, he concludes that he himself must be a psychopath, and he puts that down to what he guesses were warriors among his ancestors. Someone was dumb enough to publish this thing? So, yeah, if scans ever become mandatory, you can be comforted to know that it will be the Fallons of the world who will do the categorizing.

Oh, by the way, if you ever run across a preacher or professor who lectures or writes about morality and ethics, run the other way as fast as you can and never look back. You (I hope) and I and all normal people have no problem with morality/ethics. It’s innate, inborn. It’s always on autopilot. There is nothing to discuss or explain. Help make life better, help nice people when they need help, be nice to nice people, and steer clear of everyone else. That’s the only sensible way to live, and it’s instinctive. That’s it. So simple. But for psychopaths and other maniacs, the topic is a strange and baffling mystery. Because some psychopaths/maniacs enjoy solving abstract conundra, they have a craving to work out the logic behind commonly held beliefs and practices. When they are small children, they are puzzled when their parents explain to them that cuddling and feeding their newborn baby sister is “good” while punching her in the face is “bad.” They don’t understand why, and they have enormous problems comprehending the concept, which they find fiendishly difficult. Nor do they understand when their parents explain that playing catch with the dog is “right” but that cutting the dog’s head off is “wrong.” This is an intellectual challenge for them. They become excited by this bizarre, abstract notion of good/bad or virtue/evil or right/wrong, and they obsess on it, writing dissertations and getting Ph.D.’s and D.Th.’s for their illuminating works. I have read more than enough of their illuminating works, and as far as I’m concerned they should all be pulped. Stay away from these creeps.

Now I discover that the best estimates place about one person out of every 133 as a psychopath? That explains a lot. (Why do most of them seem to end up in and around Buffalo?) And three out of every four psychopaths are male? That explains even more. If we add to that figure of 1/133 the multitudes of various other maniacs and manipulators and con artists, not to mention subclinical psychopaths, then I wouldn’t be surprised if Martha Stout’s estimate of 1/25 is correct. Never again shall I allow myself to be forgiving or understanding. And never again shall I allow myself to be enchanted by anyone’s charm. As a matter of fact, I am now so repulsed by charm that I am no longer able to make myself pleasant in front of strangers.

Just this spring (2014) a coworker referred me to a book she had not read. She saw an announcement and thought it might be right up my alley. I ordered it immediately. And yes, it was right up my alley. The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those without Conscience by Kent A. Kiehl. Amazing book. It deals only with the worst of the criminal psychopaths, not with the subclinicals. This guy had everything going for him. His parents could afford to educate him and encourage him, and his teachers encouraged him too. Result: He’s brilliant beyond description. Everything he touched turned to gold, and all his dreams continue to come true. A perfect run of luck. His story is breath-taking. He came into the field at exactly the right time with exactly the right qualifications. Had his timing been off by a year or so, he would have missed out. But he had exactly the right interests with exactly the right qualifications and he was living in exactly the right place at exactly the right time when new equipment was being put on the market without other people of his specific qualifications to run it, and so everything came together automatically. Inspirational. He found himself in the unique position of being able to test the hypotheses about dysfunction of the amygdalæ and the resulting brain atrophy. The hypotheses were correct, and Kiehl and his colleagues localized the atrophy to loss of grey matter in the paralimbic system. Proved beyond any shadow of a doubt. “It was as if my lab had discovered a new disorder, but we didn’t have a cure” (p 215). Though there is no cure, there is something nearly as exciting, and I was so excited that I was shaking and having trouble breathing or containing myself. There is a treatment, discovered by the staff at the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the state government withdrew much of the funding. I can only assume that the big bucks come from locking up mass murderers, not from preventing mass murder. And now Dr. Kiehl is in Albuquerque, of all places, running his lab at UNM. Wow. I know what I’m going to do on my next vacation!

Anyway, especially at this stage of my life, I find it too difficult to put up with company anymore. Almost without exception people believe in astrology and judge one another on sun signs. There have been people who quite liked me until they learned my birth date. And many (most?) believe in psychics, about which I make jokes at least five times a day. (You’ve had uncanny premonitions, you say? Well, who hasn’t? There are other explanations for all these things, but it’s far too complicated to go into all that here.) Others believe in all manner of fortune-tellers and soothsayers and necromancers. Almost everybody accepts as reality the claim that we are being visited by otherworldly creatures flitting about in their spacecraft. Almost everybody believes in all-knowing all-seeing all-powerful invisible gods and goddesses hovering somewhere in the sky, to whom everyone else will be answerable. Almost everyone believes that our people never commit atrocities, but only that other people commit atrocities, and in every war we are the victims and they are the aggressors. Most people claim to be “spiritual” as they guzzle cans of beer while watching brainless rot on TV, dismissing the significance of the ruthless manner by which they climb the corporate ladder. “What goes around comes around” and “We all create our own reality” are two catchphrases in common parlance which sarcastically blame victims for their problems. A few years ago a video called The Secret was all the rage; people found it inspirational though it was the most insulting compendium of hatred ever released. We have become a society of defeatist imbeciles who will never make a positive difference. And it is in this society that I am the misfit.

Disclosure: Having been brought up in multiple religions, with different family members holding different faiths, all through my childhood I was in trouble, more trouble than you can imagine. My religion had to change depending on who was in the room with me. (I think I thus quickly became the world’s greatest actor. I never want to act again.) If two or more relatives were in the room with me, there were fireworks. One of these religions, Christian Science, gave me massive headaches beginning at age four, since my mind could not and still cannot resolve contradictions. The dogma that nothing physical exists, that everything is an illusion created by my fevered imagination, just wasn’t too helpful. The correlative dogma, that not even my imagination existed, simply served no purpose. I could not make sense of this and got ill trying. Another of the religions, Eastern Orthodoxy, was fascinating, and so I became fascinated. It was old, which I liked. I have always had an affinity for things that are old, even before I understood the concept of old. As I stayed awake late at nights in my teens pouring over the texts and the bible, I saw, to my chagrin, that it all neatly disproved itself. Despite the one or two statements of programmed dogma that I spouted by rote at about age 13, I have never for a moment believed that men are superior to women. From my earliest memories it was plainly evident that the reverse was the truth, and I have never encountered evidence that would suggest otherwise. (Oh people get so mad at me when I say that. Well, hey, here’s a for-instance: Take a look at this site and be honest with yourself about what it suggests. That’s not enough to convince you? Then click here.) Yet Orthodoxy insists upon the superiority of the male, to the extent that roosters but never chickens are allowed on Mount Athos. That gave me even more headaches. The bible, I discovered, was not merely a collection of the scattered contemplative verses that we heard in church. Not at all. I started reading at page one, and I got quite far before I gave up. It was a collection of stomach-churning books praising war, torture, and murder, written-rewritten-merged-redacted by a bunch of talentless bloodthirsty hacks, and the other church texts were works of mentally decrepit men (always men) who were unable to distinguish bad dreams from reality. Once I came to understand this, it came as no surprise to discover that priests and monks during WWII were war criminals, murdering enemies of the state, and relaying parishioners’ confessions to the fascist authorities. Someone should write a good, solid history of this church, its evolution from the years prior to Constantine through to the present day. Yes, there are several books, but they are wishy-washy and terribly written. We’ve been waiting nearly two thousand years for a good one. It’s way past due. There you go, doctoral students. There’s your thesis. So go for it. Of course, the author of such a book would be murdered, but hey. While I had no trouble whatsoever tossing away all this rubbish, I could not bring myself to admit to others that I had tossed away all this rubbish. (“Hey, you know all that stuff that I so adamantly, fervently, dogmatically believed with all my heart and soul? Well, it was all a load of hogwash. Forget I ever talked about it. Let’s go have pizza down the street.” It’s not the most comfortable conversation. When you realize that you’ve been totally wrong about something, you just don’t want to show your face in public anymore. Talking with friends who know you all too well suddenly becomes anxiety-inducing.) By my early 20s I was incapable of believing in any religion, any dogma, any political platform, any ideology, though it was years before I would say so, and only after I had moved thousands of miles away.

Despite all that, I still find religions fascinating, academically. By chance I recently saw at a shop a book by Jeff Sharlet called The Family, about the secret religious history of the USA. I purchased it immediately. It makes sense of what had previously seemed senseless. It proves beyond the shadow of any doubt that our political leaders are certifiably insane, delusional, mad, hateful, selfish, war-mongering, dangerous, uneducated ignorami of no discernible intelligence. Florida Congressman Alan Grayson recently made a comment about government officials having no discernible intelligence. Here are the opening few paragraphs of an email message he sent out on Friday, 14 March 2014:

Subject: It Would Be Nice If Someone In Congress Knew Something
From: “Rep. Alan Grayson” <alangrayson@graysonforcongress.com>
Date: Fri, Mar 14, 2014 10:53 am

I’m really getting tired of listening to people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

One of the dirty little secrets of Congress is that many of us legislate in areas in which we are utterly bereft of knowledge. If ignorance is bliss, then some of our Members must be deliriously happy. (No wonder Sen. Ted Cruz is always smiling. Green eggs and ham. Yummy!)

Seriously, we have Members on the Agriculture Committee who couldn’t tell a plow from a harvester. We have Members on the Science Committee who couldn’t tell a proton from a photon. We have Members on the Foreign Affairs Committee who couldn’t locate Indonesia on a globe if their lives were at stake. And we have Members on the Intelligence Committee who are as dumb as....

Well, you get the idea. And don’t even ask me about the Ethics Committee.

Even worse, to the extent that Members of Congress know any stuff at all, it’s always the same stuff. According to Roll Call, out of the 435 Members of the House, we have 187 businessmen, 156 lawyers, and 77 educators. Do the math. That leaves 15 Members.

For four years, I worked as an economist. As far as I know, I’m the only Member of Congress who can make that claim. Roll Call did not uncover anyone else. And believe me, whenever I start to talk economics in a Congressional hearing, the eyes glaze over. Quickly.

But don’t worry. Whenever we need an expert opinion on something, we can turn to the three former talk-radio hosts in the House. (It was four, until one got caught inhaling cocaine.) Or perhaps we can benefit from the expertise of the former professional football player — whenever it’s third and nine on the Floor of the House.

George Gollin is a physicist. In the 70s, he worked on muon scattering, to test quantum chromodynamics theory. (I’m not making this up.) In the 80s, he studied neutral K meson decay, to test for CP violation. (I swear that this is true.) In the 90s, he measured the production and decay properties of heavy quarks. (I kid you not.) Since then, he has specialized in the design and construction of electron-positron colliding beam facilities. (This is indeed bona fide.)

So we can elect George Gollin to Congress, or settle for yet another lawyer/businessman tool. What do you think? And as you consider that question, also consider that the U.S. Department of Energy spends roughly $10 billion a year in taxpayer dollars on physics research, with no one in Congress qualified to do oversight on that effort.

I serve on the House Science and Technology Committee. It is bleak, really bleak. A few months ago, one of our Members on the Committee said that evolution is “a lie straight from the pit of hell.” Most of the Members are climate-change deniers. I keep encouraging them to transfer from the House Science Committee to the House Religion Committee, and follow their true calling. (There is no House Religion Committee, but their eyes light up anyway, when I tell them that.)....

Things will not and cannot get better. While the down and out may be embarrassed by their poor education, the high and mighty are defiantly proud of their ignorance. And it appears that all our “elected” leaders are related, to boot. Thank you, BridgeAnne d’Avignon. Even if some of your research is ultimately disproved, you’ve done more than enough to unmask a long-held secret. We do not have elected officials in a democracy. We have a royal family, answerable to no one except international bankers and weapons manufacturers and “energy” producers and major industrialists, a royal family that can never be impeached. The path to responsible positions in government is blocked to everybody else.

The few people who are “rationalists” and who base their ideas on something they call “science” pride themselves on being intelligent enough to be impervious to “superstitions.” (Most of them think that being scientifically literate means reading Sagan and Gould and Dawkins paperbacks. Oh where do I even begin...?) They are desperate to have debates to prove, arrogantly, to the rest of us benighted souls that we are all wrong. They are convinced that once “science” and logic are demonstrated and understood, superstitions will vanish and we’ll all live happily ever after. But rationalists have different superstitions, delusions that are even more dangerous: that humans are superior to other animals; that exhaust from automobiles has a negligible effect on the environment; that the planet’s resources are here for our use; that the planet is getting colder rather than warmer and that the ice sheets are growing; that civilized societies are superior to primitive societies; that “science” will solve all our problems; that once we dutifully complete the trashing of this planet, it is our destiny to move on to other planets. I seem to be the only person I have ever met who recognizes all this as purest insanity, a total and absolute disconnect with all reality. Religious people want to fly to heaven when they die. Rationalist people want to fly to other planets to start civilization anew. I want religious people and rationalist people to keep far away from me.

As for objective evidence plainly in front of our eyes, such as the much-spoken-of Zapruder film that almost nobody saw until recently, “reasonable” people still insist after viewing it that despite what’s visible on screen, the film proves that the president was shot from behind. And yes, I do confess that most people who accept the evidence at face value, as they should, are in all other areas totally off their rockers, as we can witness by listening to the endlessly-fascinating-for-all-the-wrong-reasons nightly radio program Coast to Coast AM. Ditto with Manhattan’s WTC Building 7: “Reasonable” people insist that its implosion was ordered and implemented in a matter of minutes, even though it takes months to organize such a task. (Incidentally, I never understood how those gigantic buildings suddenly disintegrated into talcum powder that drifted away in the breeze. There should have been mountains of debris on the ground, but instead there was just a plume of grey-white powder drifting out to the ocean. Here’s a possible explanation. If this is correct, then I guess it would have taken not months to arrange, but years or even decades, but I don’t/can’t know for sure.) Those who know better and sensibly agree that it would take months to arrange for the implosion of a skyscraper also believe that our society has been infiltrated by Lizard People and adamantly call for the expulsion of all “illegals” and are convinced that Méxicans are all secretly plotting the overthrow of the US and/or that the UK is plotting the takeover of the world and/or that all the governments of the world are run by a secret Jewish cabal. When I hear such things I just walk out of the room. Similarly, I have learned to leave any conversation in which anyone states that “America” is a new society founded only several hundred years ago. In one sentence do so many people thus nullify more than 50,000 years of our history. Then Wayne Resnick raged at almost screaming volume on the radio (Sunday, 13 October 2013) that “we” (US citizens) have “nothing to apologize for” regarding the US’s treatment of the American Indians, especially since “we gave them all that tax-free land” and have needlessly supported the ingrates for well over a century. The only listener who called in seconded that assessment.

This is what passes for common sense. Anyone who disagrees is regarded as a lunatic and is treated warily or avoided altogether.

I stay in my apartment. You see, even the most exciting and promising conversations, with people I am inclined to like, generally get derailed when what appears to be a common outlook suddenly degenerates into preaching about “the Lord’s plan for us” or enthusiastic interruptions about UFOs or “you must be a Saggittarius” or “I can’t think until I’ve had my coffee” or “American Indians? Why should we care about them?” or “socialism is the solution to our problems” or “socialism is the cause of our problems” or “I don’t understand why the Iraqis don’t like us” or “I just had a great meditation” or “of course it’s wrong to fraternize with people beneath our station in life” or “civilized people are never violent” or “we need to defend ourselves against illegal immigrants” or any one of a thousand other nutty declarations of braindead dogma memorized from the eternally repeated ravings of paid pundits who pollute the airwaves on behalf of their corporate sponsors in order to brainwash us into becoming robots. My initial enthusiasm and warm feelings vanish in a moment, and that’s the end of that. There’s simply no point in continuing such a conversation. And nearly every conversation follows that pattern. What’s the use in even trying?

Am I saying that I’m superior enough not to be taken in by frauds and idiocies? Of course not! That, I think, is more than amply demonstrated by the story above. How could I have fallen for all those creeps and their stories and cons and supposed causes? (There were many more than I mentioned above. It would be far too embarrassing to list them all.) Looking back on it I see that it was all so obvious that a retard would have instantly recoiled to avoid getting embroiled. I just today (6 November 2013) did a Google search on the then-friend. When we worked together he told us about his life, and we all accepted his dramatic tales as true. So did a Hollywood producer, who wanted to make a movie based on his exciting life. Then, after a month or so, Hollywood was no longer interested in his exciting life. Why? Well, long after he betrayed my trust I decided to do some basic checking, and I soon realized that his story was total fiction. Now I check the Internet and I see that he’s got a new con going, with yet another phony biography and completely different dramatic background that’s total make-believe, along with a new civic cause that he’s espousing in the mainstream media and online. Anything to make himself the center of attention.... It’s astonishing that employers and sponsors never do a background check on that jerk. The chairman is still being praised to the skies as the exemplar of all that is good and right in this world, even by an intelligent, wise, perceptive friend of mine who had been stabbed in the back by the guy. (I’d love to chat with my intelligent, wise, perceptive friend again, but his staff are intercepting my messages. My intelligent, wise, perceptive friend trusts his staff members implicitly, and doesn’t understand why I distrust them entirely. If only he would take the time to read his own organization’s blogs he might begin to understand that there is something profoundly wrong at every level. It’s beyond repair. If that were my organization, I would close it down, gather my savings, and move to a horse ranch.) Eventually somebody’s going to go public with the dirt on the chairman (there’s plenty), and I hope I live to see that day. The court records are sealed, but there are other ways to get the info. It would make for a great book for anyone willing to take the considerable risk. Lawyer A is still in practice, without any charges of misconduct filed against him, and with a grand total of four online comments about his performance, two praising his skill and devotion (the clients were female) and two condemning him for doing nothing at all, refusing to return phone calls or do any paperwork, and letting the cases go into default (the clients were male). I remember towards the end of my tenure at Employer A, I was convinced — convinced — that it would go belly-up within a matter of months. The board and managers were so abrasive, so idiotic, so incompetent, so incapable of earning sufficient revenues, and had alienated so many people, that there was no way on earth the place could have survived. But there was a factor that I didn’t understand at the time: political embarrassment. If anything were to be exposed, certain local political careers would have suffered. City Hall thus had every incentive to cover things up and to help out whenever trouble reared its ugly head. And that is how Employer A was blessed with money and security and eternal life. More than two decades later Employer A continues to chug along quite nicely, not only with lots of political support from City Hall but also lots of moral support and publicity from otherwise-good charities. I’ve gotten the occasional insider reports of what really goes on there, but none of that ever gets into the newspapers, which make it a point to print only nice things, because that’s what City Hall wants. (Still taking credit for my innovations, huh? The two staged break-ins/safe robberies were none too convincing, guys. And pretty smooth the way you alienated that renowned archivist and sabotaged her work. Good job. Top-drawer. That sure taught her a lesson, didn’t it?)

I’ve fallen for more cons and con games and con artists than I’ll ever be able to discover or count. I doubt that I can go a week without falling for several more. And I’ve been taken to the cleaners more times than I care to remember. Unfun. But no more getting taken to the cleaners — that will never happen again. I still find that I need to catch myself from being taken in by news stories. Heck, I should know better, because I’ve occasionally been the news and know first-hand how stories are fabricated to make multimillionaire execs and powerful politicos look good and to make the rest of us look like bumbling idiots. News stories that are circulated even on the most trustworthy email lists should always be cross-checked. I learned that all too painfully. And, of course, flirts and sob stories have taken advantage one time too many, I think. I was such a sucker for both. My heavens, they can be so believable. Never again. If you think you’re a good judge of character, stop thinking that. You’re not. Nobody is. Well, no, I take that back. Con artists are perfect judges of character.

Despite what you may conclude from the above, I’m a very calm and easy-going person (once mockingly referred to as “Mr. Mellow” by an ex-friend). A number of people have accused me of being angry and irritable, but the people who so accused me were describing themselves. That especially applies to the management at the USPS, who have a proclivity for relentlessly harassing employees until they “go postal,” as we all know. In response to such accusations, I now continually make jokes about being angry. When confronted by the most insignificant piece of bothersome news, I’ll say, in my mildest and calmest manner, “As you can see from my red face and from my clenched teeth, and as you can tell from my hyperventilating, I’m furious. I’m sputtering. I’m so angry that I’m incoherent. I’m trembling with rage. Why did you schedule the meeting for Tuesday evening when I planned to go to the library?” Hey, it gets laughs. Anyway, I’m not angry. I’m not lonely. I’m not dangerous. But I am tired. Very tired. Tired of nonsense. And I’ve lost all patience with humoring people. Of course, as you can easily discern, I am still deeply resentful about all that happened. That is the emotion that does not subside. Ever. Not for a moment. Awake or asleep. It doesn’t even attenuate with the passing of the years. I thought it would. It doesn’t. It’s been more than a decade since I left WNY, and I’m exactly as resentful now as I was then. And my hatred of every last individual who gave me grief is all-consuming. That hatred does not subside either.

For years I wondered if all my problems were unconsciously self-inflicted. That seemed a reasonable conclusion, since I had always had extreme problems getting along with others. Not all others. Some people were very polite and well-mannered. But many others weren’t. I can give a few typical examples. I would go to a restaurant and order a vegetarian meal from the menu. The cook and waitress would serve me a meat meal instead, just out of spite. When I would insist on getting the item I had ordered, they would tell me I was stupid for ordering the wrong item, which was physically impossible to prepare anyway. That was not a one-time occurrence, nor was it at just one restaurant. That was a running gag. Back in 4th/5th grades, because I did not like physical altercations or any sort of unpleasantness, there was a handful of school kids who would beat the living daylights out of me, knowing that I would usually not fight back, and that on the rare occasions when I did I was no good at it. Oh, yes, I inflicted some serious damage on occasion, but overall I was no match for those who ganged up on me. Their parents cheered them on. (I assume they all grew up to become policemen.) I was glad to get out of that town. At my various jobs, coworkers and managers were in the regular habit of sabotaging my work and reporting my “myriad mistakes” to HQ. That didn’t happen at just one job. It happened at all but one of them. And the one in which that did not happen, the owners used my SS# to put the company’s bills in my name. It was a long, long, long nasty fight to get that straightened out. What was I doing to cause all of this? There must be something in my behavior or comportment that encourages people to act with such hostility. What was it? I thought about this a great deal. I had some hypotheses, but none I could test. When I moved to Buffalo I had the same experiences, just a thousand times worse, and again, I thought it must, at least to some extent, be my own fault. I must be carrying my own problems around with me. That’s what I thought. But once I left WNY for good and moved to places I had never lived before, it was almost like being in paradise. People were cordial. People were friendly. At my new jobs people treat me respectfully. If my previous problems had been my fault all along, then they would have continued. But the problems stopped. In one day. And they have never come back. The only possible conclusion is that none of my problems was of my own making in any way whatsoever. There is another aspect to this as well. When I left WNY, I moved to places in which the majority are of darker complexions. That was not by intention, but only by chance. That is surely a factor to be considered. In my new city, everywhere I went people were courteous. I was thrilled. Bursting with happiness, I phoned a longtime friend to say that this was wonderful, that people here must be considerably more open. No, she said, they are not. They are not open at all. They are desensitized. That knocked the wind out of me, and in one second destroyed my enthusiasm. But she was right. She was entirely right. Then, of course, we must also consider that complexion is not the only factor. You see, I once lived in a predominantly dark-complected city, and it was as mean as could be.

In the mid-1980s I was in Santa Fé NM. Beautiful land, beautiful architecture, horrid job, abusive bosses, workplace brimming over with hatred and conflict, and the day I started my employment there, my presence was the match that lit the fuse. What had been undercurrents of discontent suddenly erupted into a maelstrom. Everyone thought it was entirely my fault, and, in the end, I pretty much agreed. Oh heck, I’ll admit it: It was the downtown post office. I liked everybody on sight and I tried to get along with everybody. The problem was that I was obsessed with doing my job perfectly. And so I picked coworkers’ brains about picayune details, hoping to learn more and more and more. I didn’t understand that, by trying to do a perfect job, I was intimidating everybody else. Well, almost everybody else. The others were convinced that I was just trying to show them up. It was a long time before I understood that. That is why I was instantly labeled “difficult” and “too demanding” and “impossible to work with.” Coworkers started sabotaging my work — just like at almost all my previous jobs. The job quickly became hell on earth. A few months after I started, the supervisors switched my hours to a unique shift and moved me to an unpopulated section of the building. That kept me away from meeting people not only during work but even at the time clock. I was strictly forbidden even from saying Hi or Bye on my way in or out. My breaks and lunches occurred when everyone else was working. Great isolation technique. A few months after that there was a reorganization, and my eccentric shift became untenable. I was back in the break room with the others. They thought they had gotten rid of me, and now suddenly I was back. They were fuming. Breaks and lunches became torture sessions.

It wasn’t until I had been there a year or so that I learned that my predecessor (who was also of Eastern descent and had a name that people had a hard time pronouncing or spelling) had committed suicide because he could no longer endure his abusive supervisor. His supervisor was, for a while, my supervisor too. And he was really nice to me — at first. But then he was not so nice to me ever again. And almost nobody else was either. Sometime later there was an incident I did not witness: My supervisor punched an employee in the mouth and knocked his teeth out. So that’s where I worked. Happy happy. We were all thoroughly convinced — and I am still thoroughly convinced — that the supervisors all graduated from training courses in how to be abusive and how to harass relentlessly. They were marvelously good at it. Too good. Consistently good, across the board. I fully understood why that Oklahoman postal worker broke down and machine-gunned everyone. My coworkers were getting daily abuse from management — more than daily, multiple doses per day — and I was surprised not to witness anyone snap. I saw that many of them coped by simply inuring themselves to it. They accepted that harassment was part of the job, so they would just let it all roll off of their backs and they would look forward to the end of the shift. They pretended that it was no big deal, and, after enough time passed, it really was no big deal. I wish I had been intelligent enough to adopt that attitude for myself. Instead, I objected, and that earned me almost universal hatred — I did not yet understand that most chronically abused people defend their abusers and are genuinely offended when anyone complains about those abusers. Then there were a select few who were entirely spared. Those were the ones who in three hours did what any of the rest of us could do in ten minutes. Almost everyone was management’s target, but I was getting it from both ends, from management and from colleagues as well. The union was no help — the APWU, or A-P-Triple-U as I called it (nobody understood the joke). The union’s primary task was to defend management, and its secondary task was to serve as management’s eyes and ears, informing on trouble-makers. Yes, the union did bargain for better wages, and in the aftermath of Reagan’s busting of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, the A-P-Triple-U was threatening to strike over wages. Thanks, guys. It wasn’t the wages that were upsetting me. You were putting my income at risk over that? Our steward wasn’t a bad guy, but he wasn’t effective. In those circumstances, nobody could have been effective. Over those two and a half years I came to despise unions with an all-consuming passion. Years later, after considerably more experience, I changed my view by 180 degrees, though I still have no love for the A-P-Triple-U.

In this atmosphere I became a basket case. In less than a year my behavior became bizarre, erratic, overly emotive, and foul-mouthed too. I would have driven anyone crazy. I had a few really dumb and embarrassing breakdowns, basically consisting of tears and the occasional angry outburst. Oh the others on the floor were vicious in making fun of me for that and laughing about me not quite behind my back. They also got a kick out of switching from Spanglish to Spanish in my presence when they wanted to tell jokes about me. My supervisor at the time, an avowed Evangelical Christian who could hardly go a day without loudly boasting about his faith, was angry, perpetually angry, volcanically angry, and he deliberately did all he could to push me over the edge. He nearly succeeded. I had another momentary outburst of fury just before news arrived that we would be visited by the postal inspectors. Uh-oh. I didn’t need to be psychic to know what my supervisor was thinking. He would accidentally-on-purpose arrange to have the inspectors witness my next outburst. Post offices had enclosed and soundproofed catwalks all along the ceilings where inspectors could snoop on us through listening holes and two-way mirrors. (Believe it or not, you can get a video tour courtesy of YouTube!) The red bulb would light up at the door to the catwalks when anyone was up there. So we would know that someone was up there, somewhere, but we could never know precisely where. That night was the only time in my life that I took a prescription drug without a prescription. Miltown, if you must know. I needed to keep calm during that one shift, and I knew it would not be easy. The supervisor did not dare provoke me directly. That would ruin his plan. He had to get me to explode in fury without targeting me. So, without ever raising his voice, he picked on others whom he knew I liked, and he picked on them mercilessly, nonstop, throughout the entire ten-and-a-half-hour shift, and always right in front of me. Even doped half out of my senses, it was all I could do to restrain myself from losing it. It was stupid of me to work there, but I had nowhere else to go.

Suddenly, three new employees, upon being promoted from PTF (“Part-Time Flexible” — which means 60 hours a week, erratically assigned) to FTR (“Full-Time Regular” — which means 40 hours a week, always during the same shift), decided to apply to become supervisors!!!!! I couldn’t understand why basically okay guys would decide to join the maniacs. Would they become maniacs too? They didn’t. They were put into uncomfortable situations, and they were occasionally required to discipline employees who did nothing wrong, but, overall, they remained their true okay selves. This was totally bizarre, and out of character not only for the three guys, but for the post office overall.

As I mentioned, the vast majority in the city had dark complexions, but even so, I was in trouble there too. It was a time of demographic upheaval. Rich whites had just discovered the place and had made it trendy. Hordes were moving in, building endless ugly suburbs that clashed violently with the beautifully understated architecture and intelligent city planning established by the Spanish and Méxicans centuries before. That exacerbated some underlying tensions. The Tewas and Dinés and Hopis all seemed to be perfectly okay people. But I did not realize until moving to Santa Fé that there was conflict between Chicanos and Méxicans. That genuinely surprised me, and to this day I don’t know what the quarrel was about. Many or most of the whites took a decidedly dim view of both and had no use for them, and they did not keep their feelings to themselves. The Chicanos and Méxicans, in return, adopted that same attitude towards the whites. White New Agers were flocking in, and they had no use for the white businessmen who were also flocking in. And vice versa. So there were cultural conflicts, and social conflicts, and class conflicts, and racial conflicts, but all hidden under what appeared to be a very sweet, serene surface. The place was a powder keg waiting to be set off.

And it was in that milieu that one day, quite innocently, I went on a date with an adorable Méxican gal. She was a coworker, hired maybe a year earlier. We quickly became friendly, and remained friendly, and a year later she was just about the only one who had not turned on me. We were quite fond of one another. Oh she was delightful. Seldom in my life have I met anyone so pleasant and good-natured. Seldom, do I say? No, not seldom. Never. She was one of a kind. I don’t remember if I asked her out or if she asked me out, but that nuance hardly mattered to those who learned about this unforgiveable breach of protocol. I honestly did not realize that such an innocuous 90 minutes at a restaurant would result in ructions. I had unknowingly violated every social rule.

It was probably coincidental, though, that at the exact same time the bosses decided to disappear my computer-generated performance report from Albuquerque’s CFS (Computer Forwarding Service), which showed me as having nearly 100% accuracy, and replace it with one that was handwritten, which gave me an accuracy rating of precisely 0%. I realized I had only another day or so before termination, and so it seemed like a miracle that the chairman phoned that same day to accept my application for a job in Buffalo. I felt a sense of elation. At last, I could escape this madhouse! Little did I realize....

I turned in my resignation, giving two weeks’ notice, to one of the young new okay supervisors, who exclaimed in anguish that I was doing the wrong thing. That resignation put a stop to any further harassment directed towards me from management, who for the next two weeks acted as though I didn’t exist. The forged performance report vanished. I was not able to get together again with my Méxican friend, as she was visibly nervous about having anything more to do with me, making endless lame excuses. She immediately started dating a supervisor she had no interest in. Actually, that was the same supervisor to whom I had turned in my resignation. I could determine what had happened. Everyone told her to stay away from me or else, and they set her up with a convenient substitute to keep her safe from the likes of me. The mobbers had drafted her, I guess, and she didn’t seem too happy about it.

I went back to visit Santa Fé half a year later. I didn’t tell her I’d be in town. I just rang her bell, and as soon as she opened the door she grabbed me and would not let go for the longest time. But she daren’t be seen with me, and soon she got nervous. Nonetheless we set a breakfast date at a restaurant for the next morning. Then her boyfriend/supervisor phoned the restaurant, asked for me, and told me to stay away. Okay. I got the message. (For the next 27 years, until just now as I wrote this, I deliberately thought as little about her as possible. I couldn’t bear to feel even the tiniest hint of anger towards her. And so I didn’t. I didn’t want to stew. And so I didn’t. Then before I knew it, she was no longer on my mind. Well, she must have been on my mind somewhere, though not consciously. I say that because nobody else has ever seriously interested me. I’ve dated a few others — very few. One became a firm friend for a good fifteen years (but then cut off all contact — so predictable). Another one, well.... The others quickly became vicious enemies who have thankfully stayed away from me ever since. I haven’t gone out with anyone in a decade and I don’t want to. I’m friendly with women, but I don’t want to be more than friendly. And only now do I realize the reason: Nobody else could measure up. And now how I regret my stupid defense mechanism. I just Googled her. She’s still around, far far far away from Santa Fé, and doing quite well — and still looking quite well too. I’m tempted to contact her, but no, maybe I should just leave everything alone. Oddly enough, though, now that I’m thinking about her again, it’s hard to function and hard to sleep and hard to think of anything or anyone else. It occurs to me that had I just opened my eyes, not only would I have had a life-long friend, but I would also have had a nice career and would never have been dependent upon employers again. Whether intentionally or not — or knowingly or not — she was opening a door for me and I didn’t even realize it....) Now that I’m thinking about her... well, it’ so obvious. Her boyfriend was a simple-minded guy. My reading of him was that he was not the type to be led astray. He was totally loyal to her, I’m certain. One hundred percent loyal. I have no doubt about that. Had she been seen with me, no matter how innocent the circumstances, she would have caused an epic squabble. Her boyfriend was universally approved. I was universally disapproved. Her boyfriend was universally liked. I was almost universally despised. Her boyfriend was gainfully employed and earning a good income. I wasn’t and I wasn’t. Her boyfriend was in the neighborhood. I was 2,000 miles away. Her boyfriend was also her supervisor. For the simple act of having breakfast with me, her life would have been turned upside-down. Her boyfriend would have left her, and he would have made the workplace unendurable. She would have won universal disapprobation. Her job would have been over. Her income would have been gone. There were no other jobs in Santa Fé. Her family would have thought her mad. She would have had nowhere to turn. In compensation for all her losses, I could have offered her: Zilch. I have no idea what fib she told her boyfriend/supervisor, but she told him some sort of fib, and he rescued her from me. What choice did she have? I understand. I can’t blame her.

I saw a few other postal friends later that day. Chilly receptions. Not mean. Not openly hostile. Just cool, unemotional, distanced. It was quite evident that they were not friends. They never had been. I went into a depression for several months, though now I don’t know why. The ones who gave me chilly receptions were nothing special; they were not people I should have ever given a second thought to. I don’t know why I developed any fondness for them. I really don’t know why at all. Wait. Oh yes. I do. It’s because they were among the few who stood up for me when almost everyone at the PO was attacking me. That was nice. I guess. But I bet that after a while they didn’t know why they had done that. They were just doing what they thought was the right thing, and they did it not because they liked me (they didn’t), but because they didn’t like what was being done to me. They would have done as much for anyone who needed help, but they certainly didn’t want to make a friend as a byproduct of doing the right thing. I understand that now. We’re all in the same boat. Well, NM and NY are both behind me now. Things are better now. And things are going to remain better, because now I know better. (I detest introspection. I much prefer extraspection. But writing this essay has accidentally provided me with the above introspective insights. I don’t ever want to introspect again. There’s probably no need to worry about that though, because I’m so shallow that I don’t think there are any more insights to be had anyway.)

Returning to the Wikipedia entry on mobbing, we can see an interesting observation: “Victims of workplace mobbing frequently suffer from: adjustment disorders, somatic symptoms (e.g., headaches or irritable-bowel syndrome), psychological trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. In mobbing targets with PTSD, [Heinz] Leymann notes that the ‘mental effects were fully comparable with PTSD from war or prison-camp experiences.’ Some patients may develop alcoholism or other substance-abuse disorders. Family relationships routinely suffer. Some targets may even develop brief psychotic episodes, generally with paranoid symptoms. Leymann estimated that 15% of suicides in Sweden could be directly attributed to workplace mobbing.” And that, evidently, is why nearly everybody concludes that it is the victims, and only the victims, who are the crazy ones.

Other people have suffered through wars, murders, tortures, genocides. People in the Soviet Union had a lifelong fear that the Cheka (ЧК) would materialize out of nowhere, and that realization alone was more than enough to turn people to jelly. What I suffered pales to insignificance in comparison. Nonetheless, I dream of the day when the maniacs who made my life so miserable are all exposed for what they are. I would love to dance on their graves. But I know enough about life to understand that it is only the worst people who rule and only the worst people who can pull strings. Unless they lose a political battle, their crimes are never revealed — except when they’re pinned on others. My dream, alas, will not come true.

Feeling the way I do now, I can’t even imagine making new friends, and old friends are far, far away and falling out of touch, one by one. Why? Attitude. My attitude. Now you know my attitude, and now you can understand why I’m comfortable about not fitting in. Now you know why the police were convinced I had a “problem,” concluding that I was criminally insane for not going out on dates. They demanded that I supply them with an explanation for such aberrant behavior. Well, what could I say? It’s not as though I’m refusing an endless supply of offers. And besides, in addition to my problematic attitudes, there is a further one. I don’t drink alcohol or eat meat or dairy or junk food, nor do I listen to popular music or follow sports. That’s not because I’m a moralist. Not at all. I just hate all that stuff. Alcohol is extraordinarily unpleasant and for the life of me I can’t see the attraction. Meat upsets me and it tastes awful. Dairy makes me violently ill. Junk food makes me even more violently ill. Pop music is irritating and gives me a headache, besides which I am incapable of hearing a conversation underneath that racket. Most people do not have a problem focusing their auditory senses on low-volume human conversation while filtering out painfully high-volume amplified cacophony. I am literally incapable of doing that. All I hear is incomprehensible noise that is physically and emotionally distressing. (I guess that technically makes me “autistic,” suffering from a “neurodevelopmental disorder.” Yeah right.... Obnoxious people love to classify normal people as defective.) As for sports, they bore me to tears. I recognize and respect the artistry of sports, but it doesn’t move me. That’s all. No big deal. Others feel differently, and that’s fine by me. But that pretty much makes me an outcast at any social gathering. I have not the slightest doubt that were I to spend evenings at the local pub to sample the items on offer, gather with a group of guys, speak with animated grunts about the latest ballgame scores and the exquisite moves or odious misplays of our favorite or least-favorite star athletes, and huddle together with them to ogle the intermittent groups of high-heeled Cosmo-wannabes who stride in hoping for free intoxicants, join in the elbow-nudging as we mutter about which ones look the most promising, and then take turns making the appropriate moves on them, I would be one of the gang, have a normal social life, and have a standard romance with someone unable to do better. That is not behavior I could stomach, and I would not be able even to mimic it under pain of death. That is why the chances that anyone would choose to spend quality time alone with me are quite slim. It’s happened, but not often. So be it. How could I explain any of the above to three threatening and well-armed violent maniacs of exceptionally low intelligence?

Complicating the issue even further, I have always disliked makeup and jewelry and perfume and high heels and body art and fine clothes, which I find quite ugly and off-putting. So that right there reduces possibilities to nearly zero. A gal who couldn’t be bothered about any of that and who presents herself carelessly in a T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers is much more likely to earn a second glance from me. So it just doesn’t work in either direction, does it?

On a parallel topic, I was so relieved to hear a coworker recently say that one of her friends had her read The Sociopath Next Door and that upon completing it she concluded that she had had her fill of narcissistic and other spookily dangerous dates, and further that as a result she finally realized that she had never enjoyed dating and now has no intention of continuing such activity. What a relief to hear someone admit that! I never thought I’d hear such words out of anybody’s mouth. And so I admitted it too: “I don’t enjoy it either. Maybe in eighty years, if I meet someone with similar interests, then, yeah, okay. But until then I have a cat.” She agreed. (And then a few weeks later she went back to dating spooky guys. Whatever.)

My heavens I wandered, didn’t I? I guess I’m just venting after politely keeping my trap shut for so many decades.

Now you know why people consider me delusional, yes? And you do too, don’t you?

To be fair, I must not deny that I have occasionally been mean and rude without provocation, but seldom. Yes, I’ve managed to hurt people’s feelings, but now I’m racking my memory trying to bring them all back to mind. I can recall all of two people I hurt and insulted deliberately, without provocation. And I liked them, secretly. I really liked them. They’d never guess that, though. The last time (and the worst time) was when I was seventeen. I still feel horrible about it all and wish I could apologize to those people, but I can’t because I don’t know how to find them. (My victims? A guy in 7th-grade gym who lived a block away from me and a bespectacled auburn-haired flute player who was in 10th grade in 1977. Why was I mean? Because couldn’t believe that a stranger would want to be nice to me. I was the worst athlete I’ve ever seen, and nobody in gym wanted to get near me because I loused up everybody’s scores. So what was this guy up to, I wondered. And why on earth would a pleasant, cute, delightful, cheerful high-school girl show an interest in me without even getting to know me? I was distrustful. I was afraid that these were tricks. I was on my guard. I was the laughing stock of large segments of the student population at every school I attended, so I had learned to be on the defensive. That’s why. I could never understand or articulate that until just this moment. I was incredibly stupid. I still remember their hurt and it’s still half-killing me four decades later. On the one chance in a billion that either of you finds this essay, please contact me.) I’ve also been bothersome and gotten on people’s nerves, through sheerest idiocy. I don’t deny it. Yet nothing I ever did even begins to approach what I went through over the next quarter of a century or so. It’s all terribly uneven.

Anyway, as I mentioned above, once every year or so I decide to do Internet searches on a few of the folks in and around Buffalo whom I once knew. It’s not really a relaxing hobby, as I’m sure you can imagine, but curiosity does get the best of me sometimes. The only one of my enemies whom I still like seems to be surviving and even having a bit of fun, though much the worse for wear. Cirrhosis is written all over you — and you’re not even forty yet. When you were in your teens you were right and all the grownups were wrong. Now you’ve solved the problem by becoming just like all the grownups who were making your life so miserable. Don’t know how you can believe all those stories about me. You saw for yourself in your teen years that I never once flirted, never once spoke out of turn, never made so much as a single suggestive remark, never once spoke down to you or anybody else, did all in my power never to make you feel uncomfortable in any way, and never once laid a finger on you or anybody else. You saw me around countless teens, countless times, countless days and nights, and saw that I did absolutely zilch. You even saw me around some pre-teens and saw that I did absolutely zilch. But, hey, I guess, evidence counts for nothing. Just as no amount of votes can swing an election, no amount of evidence can sway a conviction. All rumors are instantly accepted at face value, and all evidence is discounted as worthless. What else is new? That’s just the way of the world and I keep trying (and failing) to get used to it. Nobody treated you with so much respect as I did, and my respect was completely genuine. As a matter of fact, now that I think back on things, I can’t recall anyone else who treated you with any respect whatsoever. Your family relegated you to the cellar to sleep by the sump pump. Your granddad existed only to scold you. Your stepdad was never happy to see you. Your friends enjoyed hanging out with you only so long as they could ceaselessly poke fun at you in a mean-spirited way and say only disparaging things. I wanted to demonstrate, subtly, that should you ever need a respite from that treatment, I could help. I wanted you to realize that there was a safe haven. But, I guess, those who are programmed to accept abuse are suspicious of anyone who is not abusive. I didn’t understand that back then. You earned my respect because you were always polite and considerate, never treating others the way they treated you. And, incidentally, your email messages were just about the only ones that were grammatically perfect with flawless spelling and literary flair as well. I so much wanted to be there for you, because I was certain that you’d either attempt suicide or that you’d start self-medicating. I was ready to help. You were the only person for whom I would have gone so far out of my way. But then Employer A got you all spooked, and the next time I saw you, some years later, you were self-medicated out of your senses. You’ll never be able to imagine how horrible I feel. Then, just as we were beginning to talk again, the police spooked you even more, and that was the end of that. Wish we could talk again.... It would mean the world to me. So you’re still hanging out with the dregs, I see. Okay. I can understand. They’re the only people you know. You’re so accustomed to them that you don’t see that anything is amiss. But I see to my horror that you’re also still hanging out at Employer A. That’s dreadful news. That means that if we were to talk you’d instantly report me to Employer A, wouldn’t you? And that would land me back at police headquarters again, right? And then the police would go to every residence within a half-mile radius of my apartment to tell everybody — informally, unofficially, and only verbally — to be cautious of me, justifying their words by repeating those insane stories from a quarter of a century ago. And then everyone in the area would want me dead, and pretty soon someone would make that dream come true. (I can already hear everybody thinking: “Oh don’t be so paranoid. The police would never do anything like that.” Yeah right.) So the long-wished-for rapprochement will never happen. Though I’m considerably older than you, I’ll probably outlive you by thirty years and be very sad. NOTE ADDED ON FRIDAY, 24 APRIL 2015: I just Googled you again and landed on your Facebook page. You are now the trash that you once aspired never to be. I regret I ever met you.

Miss Why-Would-They-Say-It-If-It’s-Not-True is also pushing forty, and is as arrogant and insolent and obnoxious as when she was in her teens. She’s still best buddies with Mr. Slandering-Debriefer, who for his part is now making a name for himself in the Hollywood movie business. And people express surprise when I say that I want nothing to do with the movies. “But you would have so much to offer,” they insist. Ho-hum.

As for the others, well, leaders of charities are for the most part opportunists (which, I presume, is why they frequently accused me of being an opportunist — though no opportunist would work for as little money as I did). Two opportunists under whom I worked, after having been dumped by that particular charity, are now heading up other charities — charities with good, important causes that I used to donate to. Never again. The others plod along, getting wider, greyer, saggier, and more wrinkled, but increasing their ranks and influence. People look up to them because they are distinguished achievers. The chairman is gone. Is that good? I don’t think so. Good people don’t replace evil people. Never. Evil people replace evil people. The new pair of co-chairs are in-name-only. One of them is virulently anti-immigrant and would much rather see Méxicans killed than allow them into “our” precious USA. These liberals, good grief.... They don’t know the first thing about history, politics, problem-solving, or good manners. And yet they think they’re smarter than everybody else. (Q: What’s the difference between a liberal and a conservative? A: The spelling.) The chairman’s actual replacement is the new President/CEO, who introduced himself to the staff by sternly announcing, “I am not your friend.” Fantastic motivational speech! A pep talk if ever one there was! My, that sure beefed up morale, I must say! I wish I had it on tape. I would pay good money to get a recording of that lecture, for it is destined to survive the ages. It will still be taught in textbooks two thousand years from now, and marble statues will be built to its author. Thus, as you can imagine, is the new Pres/CEO held in the highest esteem throughout the upper money chain in the “charitable” community. It’s funny how it’s usually über-rich people who head charities, and it’s even funnier how the charities make them even more über-rich. Funnier still are the poverty wages they pay to lower-level staff. I find it hilarious that progressive charities have a hierarchical caste system even more rigid than what one finds in corporate America. And these distinguished achievers, without exception, think I’m an idiot, a moron, a retard beneath their contempt, a pathetic failure who will never be a match for their splendid glory. Fine. I wear that endorsement with pride. Should they ever learn my opinion of them, they would toss it off as my “resentment against their achievement.” No other explanation ever would or even could cross their lopsided minds.

Oh yes, how could I forget? Everyone on staff was convinced that the bugs were hidden above the drop ceilings. Nope. Such a placement would’ve made them too vulnerable. We could’ve found them and ripped them out. They’re in the phone jacks in the walls. Actually, deep inside, behind the junction boxes where you can’t reach them except by sawing holes in the drywall. And even then you’d have to cut through the supporting metal channels. Too much of a pain. You’d be caught and charged with vandalism. I suppose the ex-chairman’s family can still tune in. And oh yeah, nice try with helping the ex-chairman break in to my Facebook account. You thought I wouldn’t notice or be able to trace the culprit? And I don’t even use my Facebook account, you jerks.

Now I am so intrigued to discover that there is someone remarkably like me in some ways. This other person, though, is outgoing rather than reserved, trendily flamboyant rather than anachronistically invisible, downstage center in the limelight rather than backstage at the pin rail. And in those superficial ways we are indeed polar opposites. But to me such superficial differences are of no concern. Our interests and enthusiasms are largely the same (though I certainly don’t play videogames), and that is what matters. This person suddenly appeared on the scene a few years ago, in about 2006 I think, traveling in much the same circles, making much the same friends, getting much the same treatment of unconditional hatred. Just like me, this other person quickly brings out the worst in almost everybody. This person is being relentlessly pestered and attacked by Internet trolls, is persistently harassed at conferences, and is the perennial target of threats of rape and other violence. This person expresses surprise that forward-looking, scientifically literate (supposedly), progressive liberals can be so socially inept, hateful, angry, bigoted, and sexist, as bad as if not worse than Tea Partiers and the KKK. Well, it doesn’t surprise me. Not at all. Unlike most people, I know the background of this movement. It could never have evolved differently, and it will never get well. My dear, if you ever read this, please heed my advice. You are swimming with a school of piranhas. You are making a mistake, the same mistake I made. You think that the piranhas who are attacking you are nasty piranhas, and you think that the piranhas who are protecting you and comforting you and championing you and giving you platforms to speak at their conferences and who are opening regular column space to you are your friends because they are nice piranhas. My dear, they are piranhas. The “nice” ones are just saving you for later (and that includes one of your best friends). Forget all about this “good cause” and its “educational benefits.” Get out. Now. And please dump Twitter, that argument-starting time-evaporator. Why spend all your days and nights trying to talk sense into obnoxious maniacs? It’s a lost cause. Well, come to think of it, there is a cure for the trolls’ broken minds, only one: Stuff them all into a cage, strap it to a helicopter, fly it two hundred miles out over the Pacific, and drop it in. You’d never get away with it, unfortunately. The best you can do, really, is just to keep away from those dangerous lunatics. But I know you won’t heed my advice until it’s too late. After it’s too late and after you’ve lost your audience and after your supporters have turned elsewhere and after you’re bankrupted and framed and defamed and unemployable and completely demoralized (and probably in court and maybe in jail), drop me a line. We can commiserate. Unlike the new President/CEO, I am your friend. And yes, you may call me in as a witness.

Heavens to Betsy! I’m doing some searches and discovering blogs and seeing that our friend from the previous paragraph is hardly alone! I am so glad to be away from that charity and that movement and that whole dreadful “brainy community.” Message to the very few nice ones: Don’t continue to help those who are attacking you. The problem is much deeper than the Pres/CEO and the Board. Much, much deeper. Deeper than the foundation. The problem is in the very bedrock. The problem will never be fixed and can never be fixed. Take a deep breath, look around at the rest of the world, and find another cause. Help the indigenous peoples of the world. That would be the best. It will give you a whole new perspective on life, on the world, on humanity. Your opinion of civilization will take a nose dive. It’s very humbling. That’s a word that the Pres/CEO and all the other achievers will never comprehend.

FRIDAY, 18 APRIL 2014: I’m just finishing Duffy & Sperry’s Mobbing, and it’s a revelation. The writing style is poor, especially in the earlier chapters (so brace yourselves), the copy-editing and typesetting are dreadful, but the contents and the ideas are, mostly, first-rate. The two authors correctly understand that victims of mobbing lose all confidence in themselves and have trouble ever trusting anyone ever again. Yup. I can vouch for that. They point out that there are a few (very few) professional psychiatric workers who are trained to deal with mobbing victims, who know how to help restore a sense of normality and begin to restore confidence. But what victim could possibly locate such workers, and what victim could possibly afford the services? A victim will be flat broke and jobless and will have to deal with issues far more pressing than paying a fortune to a shrink and devoting months or years to therapy. Duffy & Sperry also point out the pivotal rôle parents and family members have in providing emotional support. Yes, it is true that I have encountered the rare family here and there that is healthy and happy, in which conversation and exchange of ideas thrive, and in which the family members are mutually supportive. Those are the exceptions. In my experience most families stifle conversation. Parents and family members are generally impatient and hostile and would never offer support apart from “oh grow up!” and “can’t you keep quiet?” and “just get over it!” and “you must have done something wrong to make everyone so mad at you.” So I don’t think that’s helpful advice, at least not for most people. Friends? I couldn’t even articulate to my friends what had happened. My friends were in rapidly diminishing supply and they certainly didn’t want to hear all my griping, which was getting them down and which they said convinced them that I was crazy and/or paranoid. Would other people have better luck with their friends? I doubt it. Nonetheless, bearing all that in mind, Duffy & Sperry do have many good analyses and some good strategies. They wrote a sample policy that organizations could implement to reduce or eliminate mobbing problems. Here is an excerpt (pp 263–264):

3. Examples of Mobbing Behaviors

The following is a list of examples of mobbing behaviors with which workers at all levels in the organization should be aware. This list is provided to help all members of the organization participate in the maintenance of a positive workplace environment by refraining from participation in these types of behaviors:
Spreading false information about a worker
Failing to correct information known to be false about a worker
Spreading malicious gossip and rumors
Discrediting a person’s workplace commitment and contribution
Making personal characterological attacks and invoking a person’s private life in order to discredit the person
Name-calling, in particular, using psychiatric or psychological labels to discredit and therefore isolate a worker from others
Attempting to turn other people against another worker by “whispering campaigns,” organizing coalitions against another worker, and coördinating or participating in any other forms of covert attack on another member of the organization
Minimizing job-related competencies and exaggerating job-related limitations
Isolating a worker physically by separating him or her from coworkers or isolating a worker occupationally by not including him or her in communication loops required to do his or her job
Assigning unfair and unreasonable workloads and deadlines
Preventing a worker from obtaining necessary resources for the satisfactory completion of his or her duties
Sabotaging a worker’s work product or ability to complete his or her work
Vandalizing the personal property of another worker, for example, defacing his or her photographs or breaking his or her mementos or decorations
Using abusive supervision, which includes making unsubstantiated negative comments about supervisees verbally to others and/or in writing in personnel evaluations
Making false claims of mobbing or abuse against another worker, for example, filing false workplace violence or harassment reports or using the tenets of this policy in bad faith to victimize another worker

I experienced all the above except “n” and “p,” and I witnessed the same happen to others. It’s all perfectly legal, of course. A lawsuit filed against an organization on such grounds would be laughed out of court, and probably no lawyer would take such a case anyway. Donald Pancho’s Artsnob Cinema, the Bank Vault Restaurant, the Sunset Drive-In, the Albuquerque PO, the Santa Fé PO, the several businesses run by the Buffalonian chairman, Employer A, Stupor-Savor Cinemas.... Until I got my current job ten years ago, I had come to the conclusion that this was the way things were done everywhere. In fact, this is the way things are done almost everywhere. Pretty much the only way to avoid being a victim is to join the bullies. Most people understand that going in. Upon getting hired, the first order of business is to join a clique. I did not understand that at first, and when it finally dawned on me, I realized that was not something I could ever do.

The Duffy/Sperry book also devotes a few pages to the USPS. The brief section I find validating (pp 220–221): “...Extreme negativity and longstanding tension characterized the relationships between managers and workers. Workers felt they were being treated inhumanely by their supervisors. Resentment toward management was so intense that, after the shootings, it was reported that postal workers had defaced the names of two dead managers on the memorial that was erected outside the building.... It is ironic that loyalty and caring seemed absent in management-worker relations, although management’s demand for fast service from workers appears to have been unrelenting.... In many ways, the USPS resembled a paramilitary organization, with a disciplined, hierarchical, and bureaucratic structure.... [M]anagement found various other ways of reducing the workforce through harsh discipline and measures that fostered high job strain. Managers amplified minor worker infractions into major issues to justify firing a particular worker. The result was increased verbal altercations and violent assaults on managers by postal employees.... This strategy and structure may explain the toxic climate, filled with tension, distrust, and animosity among managers and workers. As in other high-job-strain organizations with high negativity toward managers, an abuse-prone culture is inevitable.... The dominant management style in the USPS has been described as authoritarian and militaristic.... Postal workers experienced high levels of job strain and animosity toward their managers. The result was that these workers externalized their frustration and acted out in fighting... or internalized it through the development of medical and psychiatric disabilities.... Postal workers were found to have more negative attitudes than employees in the rest of the national workforce about work, coworkers, and management. Postal workers believed that supervisors were the primary cause of their fear for their own safety at work. They also believed that their employer did not take action to protect them against violence, and that many managers and supervisors tried to provoke employees to violence....” Yup. That’s a perfect description of where I worked.

The strangest aspect about writing the above was that getting to the story about Santa Fé relieved me of a burden. It was not until I wrote it down that I understood any of what had happened. Prior to that, all I could figure out was that nearly everyone was inexplicably maniacal and that the people there drove me temporarily mad and made me an emotional wreck. I had largely put all of this out of my mind and decided to move on. As soon as I returned from my farewell visit to Santa Fé I made a deliberate decision not to think about my life there anymore. I didn’t forget. I just chose to think of happy things instead. There was no need for me to dwell on the memories. There were much better things to do. Writing the story down, however briefly, had a therapeutic effect. To write the story down, I needed to think about it for the first time in 27 years. When I started think about it again, the memories were so clear and immediate. It was right after leaving Santa Fé that I began to develop rashes. They were tiny, almost unnoticeable at first, just a little painful bump here and there, so small as to be nearly invisible. I had no idea what they were. Within a few years they were so severe that doctors misdiagnosed them as eczema. The prescriptions had an effect on the first application, sometimes even on the second. But any creamy or oily thing would have had the same effect, I think — orange juice, olive oil, mud, anything. By the time of the third application, there was no more effect. The medications were useless. Then in 2006 the rashes erupted violently, from above my elbows all the way to my fingertips, and many other places as well. They were horribly painful. Doctors were at a loss, and guessed I must be allergic to my cat or something. The simple expedient of avoiding PPD-filled rubber armrests greatly reduced the problem. A ha! I looked it up. PPD was evil evil evil. I was certain I had isolated the culprit and that I was on my way to recovery. But the problem did not go away. The remaining rashes were forever breaking, bleeding, peeling, snagging on fabrics. What was the cause? Well, I think I figured it out. You see, after writing about Santa Fé, the rashes immediately began to disappear. A month later and they’re almost gone. And I hope they don’t come back. I never realized I was that wound up, and even if I had realized that I was that wound up, I certainly would never have guessed that I was wound up about Santa Fé. Goodness.... I would have guessed a hundred other things, but never Santa Fé. (Six weeks later: the rashes are way down, but not gone. More work to do....) Yes, the few times I’ve had to drive through that city over these past few years I was distinctly unhappy and uncomfortable about being back, and I was glad to get away again. But I never understood the extent of the trauma. I didn’t even understand that it was trauma. The lessons we learn....

Just a week ago I heard a story about forgiveness. To me, forgiveness is not holding a grudge against someone who made a wrong decision out of temporary stupidity or because of pressure or in response to misinformation. To some others, forgiveness is something else altogether, and I don’t understand it. Not far from where I live is an elderly Japanese gentleman. I’ve met him a few times but I’ve never gotten to know him. A mutual friend just told us this gentleman’s story. He was five years old when the US government decided to round up all Japanese-Americans and shove them into concentration camps. He had no idea what was happening and was asking his mother when they could go back home. His mother was holding his baby sister in her arms as they were all walking miles and miles and miles to their new destination when an Army Jeep pulled up and a soldier swung the machine-gun turret at her. He didn’t shoot, but he made his point about who was in control. The next day she had a nervous breakdown. Now, all these decades later, this Japanese gentleman is trying to forgive, and is having difficulty in so doing. The reason I like this guy is because he understands that civilization is utter madness, which is a rare insight, and because he has an affinity for the American Indians. Most people can relate only to the cultures in which they grew up. This guy relates to a culture that is entirely foreign to anything he knew growing up. He joins the local American Indians in their ceremonies and prayer circles and prayer runs. He even runs a sweat lodge. And it was at ceremonies and prayer circles that I met him. Though he is not American Indian, he is a fixture in that small community and completely accepted. How could I possibly feel anything other than the highest respect for him? But he is trying to forgive the soldiers who threatened to kill his family and who gave his mother a nervous breakdown. That I do not understand. In my view, forgiveness is not an option. The need is only to understand and recognize evil, and to keep away from people who are evil and dangerous. Forgiveness is only for those who apologize, sincerely, and whose remorse is genuine and evident. Of course, nobody ever apologizes.

If the theatres of Buffalo interest you (and I hope they do, though I have no illusions about that), you may wish to read my messy and disorganized essay about some early performers who kept Buffalonians entertained at “The Gilbert-Trowbridge-Silsbee-Chapman Saga.” I’m quite proud of that essay as well. Predictably, just about the only traffic it gets is from web crawlers. I understand. Who on earth would want to read it? It’s about people and times and events that everybody’s great-great-great-great grandparents all forgot. There’s a lesson in there for all of us.

The next video, well, I can’t vouch for it at all,
but if there’s any truth to it, we’re in big trouble:

The Truth behind Cops Killing Black Kids

“The past can be changed”:

Indeed. It can.

“Alegrate de tus sufrimientos.” “Rejoice in your sufferings.”
Never before would I have understood that. Now I do, and so I do.