Three incorrect assumptions police will make at my murder scene

When you watch a lot of crime dramas, it’s inevitable that you’ll start to view your own surroundings with the eye of a police investigator.

Not a real detective, though. I have no idea how they actually do their jobs. I’m a trained flatfoot in the long illustrious tradition created by Arthur Conan Doyle; that is, clues are everywhere and you just have to notice them, and whatever you find has profound significance to the way the DB was killed.

See? I told you I watch a lot of these things. DB = dead body.

Now let’s take a quick look at my murder scene. There I am, dead. The circumstances are very suspicious indeed. Tras was in Venezuela so he’s not a suspect. All my children have airtight alibis as well. In other words, anyone that could legitimately want me dead is in the clear.

So let’s look at the evidence surrounding my person and see if we can find the killer.

  1. There’s a booklet entitled Pray the Rosary in my purse.

You know what that means. The victim is a Devout Catholic. Is there any other kind? Sort of like Observant Jew, the religions all have their built-in modifiers.

So naturally, since I’m a Devout Catholic, the killer must be someone from my parish. The priest is a likely suspect. Nuns are even better; after all the Beatles put “creeping like a nun” into our collective consciousness. So a creeping nun is a guilty nun. Case solved.

Keeping it real: I do have a copy of that booklet in my purse. I only vaguely remember how it got there. My mother may have given it to me, or I could have actually picked it up after Mass, where I go on Sundays. So give the poor nun a break.

An Enterprise to the jugular
  1. I was killed at home, and there’s a knife laying on the counter. 

It, therefore, must be the murder weapon. Test that thing for my blood (which has been wiped off, but you know they can still detect it). Because you know, a kitchen implement that’s out of place is a big giant clue that screams Murder Weapon.

Reality: There are very few knives, mixers or other kitchen implements of destruction that are actually put away in my non-gleaming kitchen. Any one of them could have killed me, according to this theory — even the bread maker. (It might have it in for me. Bread maker: I have my eye on you.) Anyway, in what universe does a home, especially with children, exist in a state of House Beautiful? Especially when its mistress is lying in a pool of blood.

  1. My car radio station was tuned to the local pop station.

This is practically definitive evidence that I’d been carjacked, held at gunpoint, forced to change the radio station off NPR, and brutally killed by a teenage terrorist.

After all, why else would my radio not be tuned to the news, which as anyone who lives with me, lives near me, or works with me knows, I never listen to anything else. If it’s news, I’m there. Also there for public radio shows, like This American Life, Fresh Air, Serial, or Invisibilia.

Oh I do occasionally listen to a couple of classic rock stations, which, shockingly, play songs from the ’80s, which as everyone knows, was just a couple years ago. (I graduated from college in 1985.) That stuff’s CURRENT, man. Sigh.

Anyway if Kanye West and/or Lady Gaga was blaring from the Prius speakers, somebody else was in the car. Case closed.

Reality: I’m currently obsessed with Uptown Funk. Every time I get in the car I turn to Your Pop Station in order to sing at high volume along with Bruno Mars. About 60 percent of the time I do. Don’t believe me — just watch! Heh.

Hot damn.

Another reality is that I’m most likely not the enigma I believe myself to be. Having children means you’ve got people to detail, in the most unflattering way possible, each of your habits, quirks of speech, how you laugh, how you answer or say good-bye on the phone, etc. Also to enumerate how many times you’ve told a particular story about your days in band.

So please, show this to the police when my lifeless body is discovered in one of the above scenarios. Contact my office, where I’ve got a current approved photo on file that can be given to the media.

This is totally true. I don’t want unflattering Facebook photos to be splashed all over the newspapers (are too still newspapers!) and the Action News.

What? I like to plan ahead.

Living in a dream world

Due to a weird perfect storm consisting of a searing sinus headache, an affinity for horror stories and serial killers, and being asleep, I produced a doozy of a nightmare in the wee hours of this morning which has set me off on an embarrassing journey through my subconscious.

Dreams are, of course, the whole product of our imagination, and sometimes I like to think that they’re some sort of release valve which permit us to flush and /or deal with junk knocking around in our brains causing problems.

Other times I worry that despite my outward efforts at creativity, my mind is actually a dull place where packing suitcases, brushing my teeth and purchasing sturdy totes represents the pinnacle of all ambition.

Where are my dragons?

Of course, there are few things more boring than listening to someone else’s dreams, but hear me out. Dreams are like the Holodeck. You ought to be able to program a fantastic journey, gather your best best friends and loved ones and go live at the beach and telecommute to work — or perhaps become Targaryen and ascend to the status of Mother of Dragons.

Is this what I do? No. I watch Criminal Minds before going to bed and promptly get kidnapped by the world’s most defeatable serial killer. He wore a skirt, no doubt a Silence of the Lambs-influenced bit of detailing.

What happened was, I was held hostage in a hotel room, along with a little boy from Venezuela, from whom I learned to speak shockingly fluent Spanish. I remember saying “Caracas” quite a bit, no doubt related to of one of the questions on last night’s Jeopardy.

After a while, I  got hold of a cell phone and called for help from a small army of people I grew up with, who promptly arrived from the four corners of the country where they all now reside. I flung open the door and immediately jumped into the arms of the one most capable of serving as a landing pad, and exclaimed, “the calvary is here!”

Then I had to pack.

At some point I realized that I was in fact dreaming and my head was killing me. About this time my husband woke up, which awakened me, and I was mercifully delivered from packing up the entire contents of a hotel room, fixing my hair, and applying makeup. Bored, the calvary had left and I was forced to haul my large suitcase down the concrete stairwell all by myself.

From where I’m sitting, the day can only get better.

The most interesting woman in the world

I was fixin’ my hair this morning, musing about Jeopardy.

I like to watch Jeopardy; it makes me feel smart. There I loaf, upon the sofa, yelling out the answers with no pressure. I have no “signaling device” to contend with and don’t have to ring in. If I read ahead, I can gleefully answer before the contestants do, and therefore I am smarter then all three put together.

As if.

It is a testament to my pathetic obsession with my own superiority that I recall fondly times I’ve watched Jeopardy in public, answering easy-peasy questions left and right, to the admiration of the gathered throng. Actually, a couple of times people have said, “Ooo you should try to get on,” and that’s about it, but hey. You take your compliments where you can find them.

Tras enjoys watching the program with me. He knows all about my vanities and I’m sure it amuses him that I get such pleasure out of thinking I’m the smartest person in the room. (Besides him of course. Tras way smarter than me. I know this because he can remember things like what an amp and voltage are. I never can, no matter how many times it’s explained to me.)

Smug

So anyway, back to this morning. I was thinking how occasionally a contestant will admit that the part that scares them the most is having to talk to Alex. Though I have no problem chatting with anybody — even Alex Trebek, should he emerge in Kentucky — but it’s the pressure of having something interesting to tell him that worries me most about my fictitious Jeopardy contestanthood.

What have I achieved in my 50 years on this planet? What are the accomplishments which set me apart from other, ordinary, humans? Failing that, what memorable events have I participated in? Witnessed? Documented?

Sure, there’s all that stuff about eating squirrels and meeting Cheryl Ladd, Tommy Smothers, and Richard Dreyfuss — but celebrity-spotting is fairly ho-hum for the L.A. and New York crowds. The fact that Dreyfuss grasped my hand like a courtier and bowed before me is mildly amusing, but I get the idea I’m not the only tall woman he’s looked up to.

I have birthed three wonderful children, it’s also true, but we all know that any fool can reproduce.

I have an plan to create tasteful and funky jewelry made with antique and vintage Catholic medals — but craftiness is hardly a news flash. Anybody with a Pinterest account can tell their world about their mad artistic skillz.

What would make me a good story? I have no idea. I love to tell others’ stories and I know a good story when I hear one. Hard-pressed, I could even make up a story … but my sad forays into fiction-writing tell a far truer tale of a puny imagination.

I guess it will be up to history to decide if my presence has left a lasting enough mark. When early 21th century writers are recounted, will my name be among them as one who fearlessly elucidated upon the picayune?

Charles Kuralt made it his life’s work to illuminate unseen corners of the human experience. So did Studs Terkel, Ira Glass, and here in Kentucky, Byron Crawford and Bob Hill.

I have no illusions my name would ever be included in a Jeopardy category featuring the most interesting people in the world. Or even in a category about people who wrote the stories of interesting people for others to read.

In truth, it’s my lack of depth in subjects such as state capitals, vice-presidential history, and the British monarchy that ultimately will keep me off Jeopardy.

But truly, I’d never have the nerve to become a contestant. I’d have to admit that the only thing that sets me apart is my ability to correctly answer Jeopardy questions from the safety of my living room.

Help build a new seven-storey mountain

Merton

Morgan Atkinson is a Kentucky documentarian who has produced several wonderful programs and books about Thomas Merton and the Abbey of Gethsemani.

Now he’s planning a new documentary, “The Many Lives and Last Days of Thomas Merton,” which focuses on 1968, the last year of the monk’s life and when he met with the Dalai Lama.

If you have an interest in this great spiritual thinker of our time, please consider contributing to Morgan’s Kickstarter campaign.

Atkinson

I’ve known Morgan for several years through my work. Some of his other works include a program on the lives of Anna and Harlan Hubbard, a unique Kentucky couple who lived as Thoreau did but did so in the 20th century — and for some 40 years.

Other recent works include “Uncommon Vision” the story of John Howard Griffin, author of the classic “Black Like Me.”  I wrote about Morgan for the magazine I edit.  From the story:

Early on, the idea of community drew Atkinson. His first documentary to air on KET, A Change in Order, depicted how the once-thriving Ursuline Sisters of Louisville adapted to a diminished and aging community. It was the first of several to focus on religious life.

An interest in the life of Merton, whose writings spoke to Atkinson as an individual searching for meaning in his own life, led him to visit Gethsemani and eventually to produce The Abbey of Gethsemani and Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton.

Read the whole story here. And please consider donating to his Kickstarter campaign to make this new documentary a reality.
Merton Center photo