Back in the saddle from Seattle

I've been out of town for a few days, visiting my pal Frank in Seattle, playing Scrabble and doing my best to provide some economic stimulus to the city's restaurants.

A very quick trip, driving through beautiful weather. We sure as hell got a lot of scenery out here in the Pacific Northwest.

I posted a new Corner Booth column here.


Driving While Ironic

Police say a man arrested for driving-while-intoxicated is the owner of an Albuquerque, NM, driving school.

The man apparently crashed his car earlier this month in the neighboring city of Rio Rancho. Police said he couldn't perform any of the field sobriety tests. And two breath tests showed him at four times the legal alcohol limit.

Full story here.


Clutter, clutter everywhere

After finishing some projects, I was tidying up today, unearthing my desk. I found birthday cards from three years ago. Earlier, I bustled around, putting away stuff all over the house and garage. It's been that kind of a day. Reminds me of a column I wrote called "Stuff It."

You can read it here.


Crime-fighting nuns

Note to aspiring burglars: You may not be cut out for a life of crime if you can be chased down on foot in a soybean field by a nun.

Two nuns in Missouri were credited with helping to a catch a burglar after one of them chased him on foot and the other led police to the scene. The nuns had questioned the man after seeing him in the field, carrying a rifle, a handsaw and a pair of boxing gloves. To the nuns, this didn't "look right."

The man took off running, and Sister Catarina de Silva, who was wearing an ankle-length habit and plastic flip-flops, chased him for a quarter-mile before he ran into some woods, where he was arrested.

No word on what she might've done if she'd caught him. Whacked him with a ruler?

Full story here.


You're doing it wrong

Today's tip for aspiring criminals: It's really important for bank robbers to conceal their identities during the course of the crime.

Wear a hat, some sunglasses, even a mask. And whatever you do, don't reveal your real name, account number and photo ID to the teller.

Police made quick work of an investigation in Anchorage, AK, after a man held up a credit union. The robber asked the teller to check his account balance, then gave her all of his correct personal information. Apparently, the balance wasn't high enough, because he then slipped the teller a note demanding money and indicating he had a gun in his pocket. He got away with $600.

Extra points: It didn't take long to match the identity information with the surveillance video of the robbery. The police detective on the case recognized the name. He'd arrested the same man in 2004 . . .

Double extra points: . . . for bank robbery.

Full story here.


And your taters got eyes

Me to my wife: "Honey, I was out in the container garden just now? And, um, did you intend to grow a big blue bucket full of swamp?"


'Lonely Street' news and reviews

The movie of my book "Lonely Street" comes out on DVD on Aug. 11, and reviews are starting to pop up around the Internet. The film's getting good initial ratings on the various rental/sales/mailing services.

To read a nice review by our pals over at CrimeSpree Cinema, click here.


Ho-ho-ho, Merry August

Back-to-school shopping always seems like a summertime taste of Christmas.

Such a haul. New clothes, new sneakers, new backpack, new lunchbox. Bright yellow pencils and crisp white paper.

For the kids, it's as if Santa came to visit in his vacation clothes. For the parents, though, it can be a nail-biting, heartburn-inducing exercise in breaking the bank.

Small kids demand that all clothes and school supplies come decorated with trademarked characters from Marvel or Mattel or Disney or Nintendo. No matter which character your child loves best, all the goods bearing that likeness sold out last February.

If parents try to inflict anything else -- plain T-shirts, for example, or a notebook decorated with Barney instead of Pikachu -- the children will roll on the floor and howl and kick their little feet.
It's easy to spot those kids' parents. They're the nomads wandering from store to store, weeping and clutching handfuls of their own hair.

If you're lucky enough to stumble upon a hoard of the correct goods, the sticker shock will make your eyes jump out of your head and roll around the floor. Ten bucks for a binder? Thirty bucks for little bitty jeans? Sixty dollars for sneakers?

Holy slide rule, Batman. Before you know it, you've racked up a credit card debt that won't be paid off until the little beggars are off to college.

And for what? Clothes the children will ruin or outgrow by winter break. School supplies that will be lost or destroyed. (Has any kid, anywhere, ever made it through the school year with an intact protractor?) A backpack that produces an odd, musty smell you can't eradicate. And, of course, after a month or two, the kids will decide Pokemon is passe (or so all the parents pray).

By the time Christmas does roll around, it's time to replace everything. And it's hard to fit a new NASCAR lunchbox in a stocking.

I'd like to say it gets easier as kids get older, but that would be lying. Fashions change, but the demands are much the same. Instead of screaming for a pink Barbie lunchbox, your daughter will insist on a pink Paris Hilton crop top. Your son will object to any pants that aren't large enough to house a family of six.

And the sneakers just keep getting pricier.

Some parents of teens simply hand over a credit card and lie down in a dimly lit room until it's over. Others participate in the shopping, but must budget for stress remedies such as bourbon.

There is hope. Eventually, the kids' growth slows, so they might wear a garment more than, say, twice. The household fills up with so many backpacks and lunchboxes and binders, a child might actually re-use one, assuming it doesn't smell too funky.

Our two teen-age sons show little interest in back-to-school shopping. The older one, who's in the seventh year of his ratty rock-and-roller phase, refuses to wear clothes unless they have more holes than a screen door. The younger one never throws anything out, so his closet is overflowing. They both own relatively new, stink-free backpacks.

So I left the boys at home when I did the back-to-school shopping. I returned with a sackful of composition books and pens and said, "Here you go. You're all set."

I know it's not over. Teachers will demand specialized goods. Backpacks will be lost. Tattered clothing will turn to dust.

But I'm hoping we can hold out until Christmas.