Tuesday, January 24, 2006


In Which "Crazy" Becomes a Relative Term...

O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible and hence we can hold the enemy's fate in our hands. -- Sun Tzu

Day 2:

You feel the needle chill as you inject the coffee directly into a vein. It is 6:30 AM. You have had just a little over 3 hours of sleep, but you wanted to get out of bed the instant you awoke to see if anyone visited in the night.

Downstairs, the dog is still lying in the front of the door like some living, breathing draft stopper. You and he have a comically fractious relationship usually, but this morning you exchange a look of mutual purpose and alliance. You are connected by that great and primal bond betwixt man and animal, dating back to before the dawn of civilization, when life was brutal and short, and yet somehow we forged a pact with this faithful creature, who stood silent sentry through the night, just in case the Cro-Magnons the next cave over decided to leave a pile of shit on our doorstep.

A quick visual inspection of the porch confirms no night deposits were made. Unless...would the Crazy Neighbors be craftier? Placing it over the doorway, or anticipating some spot in which the children might step? Caffeine and that special brand of logic that can only come from fatigue drive you to inspect the premises. You must go--now!--but you are wearing only your "Daffy Duck for President" t-shirt and a pair of pajama bottoms that have become...breezy...through years of wear. Quickly, you pull on whatever winter clothes come to hand--in this case your good overcoat and a scarf you have never seen before (it will turn out to belong to one of the Brownie's girlfriends from school). Together you and the dog go out for an inspection of the property.

There are no footsteps in the frost, no marks on the back stairs to the deck, nothing whatsoever to imply that the Belfrys have violated your boundaries. But already the coffee has hit bottom and your mind is racing. You need to know more about these people. All you have is their name and address. You need numbers: license plates, social security, telephone, the combinations that when twirled on the dial of the system will cause all the tumblers to fall into place and give you the edge you need--more information.

Suddenly, you remember something from the stories Her Lovely Self reported last night: One of the Yummy Mummies talking about seeing Mr. Belfry leave his garage about the time the kids were waiting for the school bus.

The gears grind slowly for you in the morning, but with the aid of a little more coffee you finally put it together: The buses all come between 8:00 and 8:30. Belfry leaves about when the buses come. If you can somehow be near their house around that time, you'll be there when the garage door opens and you should be able to get the plate numbers of both cars.

But how to do it without being spotted?

You lash the dog to a porch post to stand guard (and also to relieve himself), then rush back inside, eat something, and ask to borrow your wife's van. She gives you The Look and when you try to explain, she simply sighs and reminds you to bring it back by twenty of 9 so she can take the Brownie to pre-school.

At 8, you dash out to the van. Yes, you could take your own vehicle, but it is the only white station wagon in the area and you have no way of knowing whether Mrs. Belfry has seen you in it. On the other hand, the van is a popular make and model (in your private moments, you have come to call it the Official Vehicle of the Yummy Mummies). In fact, you have counted no less than 10 in your surrounding neighborhoods. Two others besides yours are the exact color, too. You could not have picked a better vehicle for cruising your neighborhood anonymously.

As you edge forward out of the garage, the dog blocks your path. He is at the very edge of his leash and is trying to bark at you in a emphatic way, but it comes out "Gork! Glgork!" You jump out to move him. In the cold distance, you can hear the rumblings of school buses entering the development. There's no time for this. You unhook the dog and order him into the house. Instead, he arrows for the van and jumps in the driver's side door, which you left open. For a moment he appears as though he intends to actually pilot the vehicle, but as you climb in, he hops over to the passenger seat. You head into the street and begin slowly cruising down the block toward the corner of Boardwalk and Park Place. Invisible. Inaudible. Holding the enemy's fate in your hands.

But...let's just let that image sink in for a moment:

They're a couple of guys who don't play by the rules...

Here we have a man who has come straight from bed--and so bears spectacular bed-head which makes him look like nothing so much as, well, a crazy person--trying to look all casual in his pajamas and Sunday-go-to-meeting overcoat (topped off with a jaunty, Juicy-Fruit-striped girl's scarf), while next to him his dog, riding shotgun, is looking all about, yelping and sniffing and scratching up the dashboard as he tries to scrabble forward, not understanding that the windshield is keeping him from actually climbing up on the hood of the car. So he starts looking out the side window and begins whining excitedly at the neighborhood kids--and their parents--who are walking to one of three bus stops in the neighborhood. To a child, every one you pass stops and waves at the dog.

Yep, you are the picture of inconspicuousness.

Slowly, and resisting the urge to duck, you roll past the corner of Boardwalk and Park Place, past the house of the Belfrys. You continue on up Park Place to where the bus stop is now located (after the Belfrys forced it to be moved from their corner). Only one of two children has gathered, along with one mom, who stares at you as you stare at her. You have the slightest tint on the windows in the van, but at this moment you feel there is not enough tint in the world to hide that bed-head nor the crazed look it gives you. You know her Pervert Alarm has just gone off and if she sees you come back down the street it's likely you'll end up being the Crazy Neighbor in this scenario.

You make a quick left at the next street, then another left and another, and now you are on Boardwalk, coming down to the intersection of Park Place. When you reach the corner, to your left, at the bus stop, there are many more kids than before. The mom who saw you earlier seems distracted, so you make a left again, going past them to round the block one more time. As you come to the corner of Boardwalk and Park Place once more, you see the bus approaching on the left, its red flashing lights forcing you to stop where you are. You look to your right and--my God!--there's Mr. Belfry's car, stopped in the middle of the street, facing the bus.

And facing you.

"Get down!" you hiss to the dog. But you might as well have said, "Here, take the wheel!" The dog just looks at you, happy and panting. Has Belfry seen you? Does he know who you are? Quickly you cast about the cab of the van for something to write with, finding a short stub of pencil and a gas receipt. You scribble his license plate number on the back of the receipt. Your hands and forehead are slick with sweat, even though the van is frigid.

The bus lights go out and before it moves forward, the driver waves you to make your turn from Boardwalk onto Park Place in front of her. You gun it, and although you manage to clutch the paper with the license number on it, you drop the pencil and hear it roll to some distant part of the van. Ignoring it, you turn onto Park Place and you and Mr. Belfry pass within five feet of each other. He is a round-faced man with beady little lizard eyes. He is talking on his cell phone and seems not to notice you. As you pass the house, you see the Belfry's garage door closing. At the last second, you catch a glimpse of Mrs. Belfry's car--and her license plate. The school bus is right behind you. You dare not stop to forage for the pencil to write anything down, so you begin reciting the license plate number aloud over and over, until you get back to your house.

You skid to a halt in your driveway and leap out of the van. Kids heading up the street to another bus stop say good morning to you, but you ignore them, still muttering the incantation of letters and numbers over and over. You dash into the house still holding the receipt, grab the nearest pen and scribble the second license number below the first one. Mission accomplished.

"Good timing," says Her Lovely Self, as she and the Brownie arrive at the garage door, dressed to head to pre-school. HLS takes a moment to look you up and down. "You better go clean up and get to work," she says. You kiss them both and start to head upstairs to grab a quick shower.

That's when you remember: the dog.

You left the driver's side door open when you ran into the house.

You rush back out to the driveway, looking around wildly. No dog.

Just up the street, the van is pulling away. From her perch in the back seat, the Brownie waves and blows kisses. And then she is blocked from view completely as the dog rises up in the very rear window of the van. He seems to be laughing at you in exactly the way your wife will not be later, when she returns with her stowaway and that evening makes you run a lint brush over every surface of the interior.

But no matter, you have the numbers.

Back inside, you postpone your well-deserved shower long enough to call your friend who covers the police and courts for the Semi-Great Metropolitan Newspaper. You could do this yourself on the Web with a little time and more money than it's worth. But this man owes you A Favor. He knows it too, so when you ask him to run the plates on the Belfrys, he agrees with only a few questions.

When you tell your friend why you want the information, there's a short pause. "If they're your neighbors and you have their names and address and stuff, why didn't you just give me that?" he asks.

For a moment you are nonplussed. "You don't need their license plate numbers?"

"Well, no. If you really wanted me to expedite things, you should have gotten their dates of birth. But what I've got will work. And when I get the info from Motor Vehicles, it'll give me their driver licenses, cars registered to them, license plates of the cars, stuff like that," says the friend.

"So...you don't need the license plate numbers?" you repeat.

"No, MM, I do not need them," my friend says. And he says it slowly, emphasizing every syllable. Like he was speaking to an idiot.

Or a crazy person...

oh my, the suspense is KILLING me! Who are these people? I almost hope you are exaggerating, but I am scared you are not. Reading about the Belfry's gives me the same feeling as when I watch the first rounds of 'Idol' or 'So you think you can dance'. I feel nervous, scared, sick and embarassed on behalf of the poor people who think they can sing or dance, but cannot. AT ALL. This is how I am feeling for the Belfry's. Poor people, don't they know how CRAZY they are looking? Don't they know how PSYCHO we all think they are?? Nope. They do not. Oh well. Look forward to hearing what happens!!!
Thanks to the comment on yesterdays note, I heard Mission Impossible all through your story- love the picture btw. Ba, ba, ba ba...
Great picture to go with your blog entry, MM. Boy, you weren't kidding in that one post when you said you really needed coffee and a shower before you're presentable, were you? Did HLS take the picture?
What a pair you two make. I wouldn't have been surprised if he stuck his tongue out at you.

I think you need to reread the manual on stakeouts, undercover work & disguises.
We found out yesterday we can't get satellite tv but who needs it? This stuff is way better. Love the photo. Still laughing about your nanny cam gone wrong.
oh wow...that pictures is priceless...I can't wait to see what happens next!
This is classic! Beautiful! The Bro wasn't kidding when he says if you get the scary super calm voice... WATCH OUT!! I anticipate our next installment.
*gigglesnort* Ah, subtlety, thy name is... not MM, at least not first thing in the morning. I can relate - without my caffeine, I am nothing. Well, nothing coherent anyway.

I can't wait to see how this unfolds, and how you'll manage to convince the neighbors that you haven't become the crazy in the 'hood.
3 little words:

Midnight Pruning Service.

It's a quick flip for the tables to be turned, when suddenly you become the crazy neighbor. ;-)... Just kidding... You have a cause, dammit! It's not just some bushes or chickens here! It's the safety of all!

GO Blazey! GO MM!!!!

hahaha that picture is awesome.
I cannot get enough of this story! And Blaze in the car, riding with the Brownie to school? What an extra treat for both of them! I am sure that HLS is laughing under her breath and didn't mind taking her stowaway along for the ride, considering he'd been on recon all night. :)

Keep 'em coming.

p.s. the scarf is TOTALLY you. :)
That picture! The dog's face! SO serious. He's the wild cop, the one you can't control. And hes not taking any shit! Get it?

You? You're the comic relief.

Starsky and Dumb-Ass.

oh jesus I lost urine.

yr. brother
my DOG this is the best post ever! nay, that needs quotes. This is "The Best Post Ever."

The picture was outstanding.
Big Bro -

"Stootsky & Pooch"
You know, one of my husband's bosses at work used to be a bad-ass for the FBI. Maybe I could hook you up. Send some composite sketches in...I'm sure Thomas would love to help in that area...
Awesome picture!!!! I just about snorted tea out my nose, luckily I had just swallowed as I scrolled down and there was only a minor mess to deal with...good work!
I agree that Blaze should be in a 70's cop show, but I think that the scarf makes Mr. Man look more like Huggy Bear.

Stu News And Photos
I would love to know what was going through Blaze's head when he saw you in that scarf! I mean, honestly. :-) Great post. Hilarious. How long did it take you to clean HLS's van? Cuz that's the first thing I thought of as well when Blaze hitched a ride!
After all that hard work! What a shame.


Blaze = awesome.
Wait, I have another joke: Based upon the above picture, what did Magazine Man get on the Stanford Binet IQ test he took before his morning coffee and shower? ... Drool!

oh that just made me laugh out loud in this over-crowded and dead silent computer lab.

thanks, MM ;)
I swear I heard the theme music to Miami Vice when I saw the picture of you and Blaze...

Or was it Night Court?
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