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.

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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

I’ve eaten squirrel

Way back in the 1980s, when Madonna was new and Lady Gaga was only a noise you made in the privacy of your own bathroom, I was the editor of a weekly newspaper.

It was a turbulent time in my life; at 23 I had aspirations of big-time journalism but was hampered by things like having to write on an electric typewriter and supervising an editorial staff of two, which included myself. The job was enlivened by the fact that I was presiding over the sole publication of the town where I was reared, and by spending much of a summer covering a grisly murder trial, the defendant in which was a member of my high-school graduating class.

Mmmmmmm

None of that has anything to do, however, with the fact that during this year, 1986, I consumed fried squirrel.

One of the things I miss desperately about being a reporter is all the interesting and unexpected things you get to do. In no particular order, among other duties both savory and unsavory, I’ve —

• Interviewed and photographed Cheryl Ladd

• Toured a dairy farm

• Covered a wedding between two carnival workers, on a Tilt-a-Whirl

• Profiled an all-senior citizen jazz band

• Interviewed a World War I veteran

• Written about a pet cemetery

Any one of these items would make an interesting blog post, and of course each made an interesting story published in an actual newspaper. Since my foray into television, I’ve also profiled a llama farm, the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, and ostrich burgers, as well as written scripts on subjects ranging from Melungeons to a Kentucky Derby winner.

Of course, along the way, you attend a lot of meetings of planning and zoning commissions, city councils, school boards, and just plain boreds. You wait outside in the hall during a lot of executive sessions, and you go to bed after four-hour meetings that end at midnight, and then get to work by 7 a.m. to write three stories based on that meeting for publication that afternoon.

But you also get to eat fried squirrel.

Rodents aren’t the only thing I consumed in the name of rural journalism; I once was the delighted recipient of a pound of home-churned butter. The lady who churned it had served as a “correspondent” for a neighboring town’s weekly for — oh, I don’t remember now — maybe 50 years, and I was profiling her and her little homey column. For those of you not raised in rural areas, local papers often published news from little communities about who’s visiting who, births and deaths, and other ordinary occurrences. It’s a throwback to a simpler time, when such goings-on were actually news.

The reason the butter was memorable (in addition to it was incredibly delicious on toasted homemade wheat bread) was that I was able to gaze upon the actual cow who produced the milk that made the butter, as I sat on the front porch interviewing the gracious correspondent. Her husband also plowed using draft horses, an incredible sight to see.

As was the plate of squirrel.

The squirrel actually was tied, metaphorically speaking, to the World War I veteran, whom I heard about from a representative of the local VFW (or Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post. The local post provided a watering hole for veterans, and did good works, too, like getting a WWI vet a hearing aid he couldn’t afford. They thought I might want to “write up” the donation, which I did — but I was much more interested in meeting him. This event is now more than 20 years ago, but even in the 1980s it was still far, far removed from a conflict that ended when women didn’t even have the vote. Hells yes, I wanted to interview him!

Which I did, and duly published the story of our meeting, which mainly was conducted via writing the questions on my pad, since he was stone deaf and hadn’t yet received the hearing aid. Yet he recited, from memory, in German, a poem he learned after the war, where he spent a few years doing something with German industry.

And then, I was invited to the VFW Post to dine on squirrel.

It was, as I have mentioned, fried, so I can report it was delicious — inasmuch as anything batter-dipped and deep-fried is. It also, as I always report when relaying this tale, tasted like nuts. I absolutely am not making that up. Nuts. Yes, indeed, fried squirrel tastes like nuts.

That’s just the sort of education rural journalism will provide, along with murder trials, meeting movie stars, politicians — and other celebrities, like butter-producing cows grazing in the pasture off the front porch, and Great War vets who will recite poetry for a rapt audience of one, in a tiny town in rural Kentucky.

Victory

 

I’m celebrating the re-election of President Barack Obama with this heartfelt image. It’s been announced it’s the most re-tweeted photograph in Twitter’s history. It resonates.

And because Twitter is news, I feel compelled to point out the non-news that social media is now a force in our society. Voice has been given to everyone, now, through Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other forms of online interaction. No longer can the power structure ignore the voiceless, for they have been given voice.

Listen.