Wednesday, January 25, 2006


In Which There Is Crap, Cookies, and Legendary Cowboys...

Day 3-4

It is the weekend and you are a busy bee indeed. From the Incredible Basement of Crap you have extracted an adapter that allows you to convert the battery-powered "scarecrow" camera into a fully functional one you can plug in. You have also located its mate, which has been in the box since you got it. In a brief moment of original thinking, you name it "Camera #2" and secret it in a tree in the front yard.

You install the software that lets you monitor (and capture) images from the video feeds of both cameras from your computer. Alas, you can't set it to record continuously (your puny hard drive would be filled within an hour) but you can set one camera to take a snapshot every 2 to 3 seconds. The other camera has a motion-sensor built-in, so it will only turn on when it, er, senses motion.

To complete your surveillance operations, you press into service an old Sony camcorder (give you 3 guesses as to what you will name this one). Its motor died ages ago and it ate an 8mm tape (which is still stuck inside the device). It would have cost so much to repair you realized you were better off buying a new one, so you did. However, you couldn't pitch out the old camera because, well, you have a C.R.A.P. disorder. What's more, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the camera apparatus. Jack it into any Audio/Video inputs and it delivers a crisp, clear color image with stereo sound. It's just the recording part that's shot all to hell (of course once you jack it into a VCR or DVD recorder or a computer with A/V inputs you can always capture whatever video the thing sends). Although larger and older than the mini-cams, this Handycam will be handy indeed because its Nightvision function is also in perfect working order. What's more, once you plug it into an A/V adapter that connects it to your computer, you find that the software that runs the other cameras will recognize the Handycam (sort of) so you can set it to record images at 3-second intervals (sort of).

And just like that, you have a working 3-camera surveillance system, complete with infrared viewing and motion-detection.

You are in the process of modifying a pair of wire coat hangers into a makeshift carriage that will allow you to hang the Handycam from the small tree that is next to the garage (and facing your driveway), when you see a woman and a girl approaching. You recognize them as neighbors but can't quite place them, name-wise. The girl is selling Girl Scout cookies. The mom is supervising, but she gives you a Yummy Mummy smile.

"I hear you're getting the goods on the Nutty Neighbors," she says. She is good friends with the YM who was accused of letting her dog crap in their yard, (despite the fact that the dog had died months earlier). You get to chatting, telling her what's happened so far in the saga.

"Have you had any run-ins with them?" you ask.

"Funny you should ask," she says, giving a meaningful shake of the clipboard that holds the order form. She looks down at her daughter. "Want to tell him, or shall I?"

The girl gives you a look you have seen all too often on your own daughter's face. "Will he buy some cookies if I tell him?" she asks. A girl after your own heart. You agree to make a purchase and between her and her mom, you learn that last year, the first year the girl started selling cookies, she and her mom made the mistake of knocking on the Belfrys' door. No one answered so they continued up the block. On the way back, they decided to knock one more time. This time, Mrs. Belfry threw the door opened and began yelling at them that she had a "No Solicitors" sticker on her door ("I didn't see one," the mom added as an aside) and that they were trespassing on private property.

"Then she said they were both police officers and they could have Mom arrested," the little girl in the brown uniform says. "I was littler then, and it made me cry."

You look at the mom in disbelief, and she nods. "It's true. I was so weirded out by the woman I just had us get out of there. But later I was so..." she stops herself, glancing at her daughter. "I was so P.O.'ed that she would talk to us that way. My husband was so mad, he went over there and pounded on the door a couple times, but she didn't answer then. Neither did her husband. In fact, I've never heard him say a word. But it's a terrible way for police officers to act, don't you think?"

And finally the light bulb goes on for you.

"You're sure she said she was a police officer?" the mom and girl both nodded. "Why?" the mom asks.

"She said the same thing to one of the other moms this fall when the bus stop was on their corner," you reply. "But when she yelled at my wife this week, she didn't say she was a cop. She said she was going to turn me in to the cops. Which makes me think she isn't with the police at all."

The mom nods politely, not catching your drift.

"If she's telling people she's a cop when she's not, that's impersonating a police officer. It's a felony offense."

"Oh!" says the woman. "I never realized."

"If it came to it--and if I can get the other mom from the bus stop incident to tell her story too--would you be willing to tell the real police what happened?" you ask.

She frowns when you say this, but then looks down at her daughter. "Yeah, sure, I guess."

You buy 7 boxes of cookies.


On Sunday you and the kiddos walk down to the Doohickeys. Their younger kids and yours play together often and the husband--let's call him Danny--is always finding a reason to borrow your chainsaw (he loves gas powered tools). They are your good friends. More importantly, they've lived in the development since it was built and know everybody. Danny has been more or less briefed by his wife (we'll call her Dana) on the incident with the Belfrys.

"So are you interviewing everyone on the block to get dirt on them?" he asks.

"I guess," you reply. "You must have had a few run-ins with them?"

"You know, not so much. They moved in not long after we did, but this was just after the development was built and Jack pretty much kept them in line."


"Yeah, old Mr. Reed. He was our next-door neighbor before the Najorks moved in," Danny says. "He was the block leader--or whatever they called him--for the neighborhood watch group on this side of town."

"Wait," you say, smiling. "The head of the neighborhood watch was Jack Reed? As in John Reed?"

Danny nods.

"So, the Lone Ranger was head of the watch."

Danny stops nodding and just looks at you.

"The Lone Ranger," you start to explain. "His real name was John Reid and--"

Wisely, you stop talking. Danny clearly has no idea what you're talking about. You clear you throat. "Okay, so anyway, you were sating--"

"He pretty much WAS the watch," adds Dana, who has just come from around the back yard. "After he died, the watch group kind of fell apart. We're the only area in town that doesn't have one," she says, looking accusingly at Danny.

"Oh, as if I have time! I--"

You interrupt what sounds like an old fight and hey, you can get that at home pretty much whenever you want. But right now what you want is more details about Mr. Reed. "So wait. I thought the neighborhood watch thing was just, you know, looking out your window and keeping an eye on kids."

"Oh no, not for Jack. He took it very seriously. And he didn't just watch out for strangers breaking into basements and stuff. He was kind of like the arbitrator for neighborhood disputes. He certainly kept them in line," Dana says, jerking her hand back at the Belfrys' house, a few houses distant.

"Really?" you ask. "What did he do?"

"Well, I think they had just left dog crap on a bunch of people's doorsteps--they've been known to do that, you know. And Jack finally went over there with a cop and they got a talking to. Things settled down after that," Dana sighs. "But Jack died just before you moved here and ever since, they've been getting more and more up to their old weirdness again."

"And no one has filed a complaint since?" you ask.

"Not that I know of. Rumor has it they have some kind of connection with the police. And anyway, they usually only bother you once. I guess it was just your turn," Dana says.

"You're probably right," you agree. "I mean, now that I've taken to walking the dog on a completely new route, I can't see them bugging us again."

Just the same, you activate the surveillance system that night and make sure it's working. You're not sure it's anything The Lone Ranger would have approved of, but it helps you sleep at night.

At least, it does for the next three nights...

Eeeek, the tension is mounting!!
ooooh this is getting good. I can't WAIT for the next installment!
Yes, another excerpt! So glad I logged on this morning.

With the police, eh? Wish the Lone Ranger was still around.

Perhaps a new chap is taking his place, eh, MM?....
More! More! More!!! I cannot wait to see how this ends!!! I so hope it ends with the two of them on poop patrol for the neighborhood...
We have a couple old computers hangin' around (C.R.A.P. novices that we are...) with 60 and 80g hard drives respectively. I should send them to you as a donation to help support your cause.

My husband is not a blog-reader, except occasionally for mine, which even then is rare. He is almost what I would call anti-blog. But I was able, through means which I will not disclose here, to get him reading this new series of yours, and as a man who also is plagued by nutty neighbors (albeit not as nutty as yours) he is relating to your situation quite well and acually displayed some interest: "This is what blogs are?" he asks me.
"Well, MM 's is much more than that as far as blogs go, but he's probably the best around, as far as the ones I read."
"Hell yeah." he replies. "This guy's good."

Thank you for helping my husband abandon his predjudiced ways.

Of course, he did pose the inevitable
"What magazine does he work for?"

(sigh). Newbies.
wow. these people are bug nuts... and not very bright. from the sound of things, the police are probably just waiting for an excuse to go after them.

your ...'s are killing me!
Dammit! You're worse than the old 50s serials! Why do you insist on torturing us with these cliffhangers!?!?!
I can look at this entry and see that you actually wrote quite a bit, as you have for each installment in this saga, however, I want more. I know it's free, and you have no obligation to give us anything for free at all, much less daily entertainment. I'm getting worse than my grandma with her "stories" on TV. Same addiction, different medium. Damn it. More, please.
You, Mr. Man, are a modern day Charles Dickens. I say thee Yay!

The previous entry didn't strike me as awesome, but after reading this one, I see that the previous was partly exposition. This last entry was thrilling. Will this lead to you becoming the next Ranger Reid, Neighborhood Watch Captain, Protector Of The Night?
OOoooo - Impersonating a Police Officer!

I had not heard the term "wing nut" very often before I started reading this saga. It's really just not that common around here. Imagine my surprise watching NCIS last night when one of the characters referred to some crazy people as "wing nuts"

I got a chuckle out of that.
Gaaaa! You can't just leave it like this!

I just started to read your blog as well since you post so often here, and now that I know you're an NCIS fan, I am gonna stay! I love that show! How about Abby and Gibbs' conversation, where Abby did both their parts? Hilarious.

Ok MM readers, back to the poop patrol story....
Appealing to the police is long over due if this crazy old bag is driving recklessly around children.

There's something that keeps coming up and you haven't grabbed hold of; trespassing! I think you have pretty strong laws regarding trespassing down there in the Good ol' US of A? I've seen signs that say "Trespassers will be SHOT" . You should get one and post it at the corner of your lot. Of course you may want to communicate to your neighbours and mailman that it only really applies to Mr & Mrs. Belfry.

Or you could order delivery of 1 ton of manure to their address. Hell, make it 10 tons.
I'm on the edge of my seat, MM. And I loved that photo of you and Blaze from the last installment. That's a classic.
You realize that I'm actually setting my alarm earlier (okay okay...getting up one snooze earlier) to read these installments each morning!

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