The Society Page

By Gene Mahoney

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Goodbye

This issue’s column has to do with death. I just realized that. I had some mini-articles I wanted to put in this issue, so I thought I’d wrap them up into one column. Here it is. It’s in four parts:

1.) Death as featured in a half-baked conspiracy theory.
2.) A death is on the news because it’s so unusual, and everyone has his or her take on it.
3.) Brave people die young doing something heroic.
4.) On a more lighthearted note, you find a letter (or in these modern times, an email) from a friend who passed away.

*****

Out of the thirty seven or so 9-11 conspiracy theory DVDs I get in the mail each week, I decided to review one titled 911 in Plane Sight, because it was sent by the guy who publishes Citizine, a punk zine out of Los Angeles, who’s been sending me stuff for years. I don’t have a TV, much less a DVD player, so I gave it to Opprobrious Mike to review. He was feeling under the weather but still managed to send me this:

“Well, at least they don’t blame the Jews - just the usual shadow government controlled by the Military Industrial Complex®. Boring, heavily digitized and unconvincing. Worst of all, disrespectful. I would like to lock these assholes up with the families of the murdered and let them spin their shtick; then let the families have at them with some box cutters (which some snide creep sneers at throughout the entire DVD). Soon appearing at your local 99¢ store. Avoid unless you need a spare beer coaster or something to cut lines with.”

*****

Man dead a year found in front of TV (United Press International, 2/18/07)

HAMPTON BAYS, N.Y. -- Police on the east end of New York’s Long Island found the body of a man dead more than a year sitting in front of his television, which was still on. Vincenzo Riccardi, who was blind from diabetes, had apparently not been seen or heard from since December 2005, Newsday reported. But his neighbors, thinking he had been hospitalized or moved to a nursing home, did not think to check on him. The body was found Thursday by officers in Southampton who were checking on a report that a pipe had burst. Jeff Bacchus, an assistant at the Suffolk County morgue, said the body was well preserved because of a lack of humidity. Riccardi had been a widower for several years. A neighbor told Newsday she used to read his mail to him and perform other tasks, but stopped when they had a fight in the summer of 2005, after Riccardi demanded that she stay and help him when she had to go to work.

I had trouble believing the above story when it came out. Having grown up on Long Island I couldn’t conceive of a body anywhere in New York being mummified due to “a lack of humidity”. A magazine article about it pointed out how odd it was that the electricity had been left on despite the fact the bill hadn’t been paid in quite a while. My friend Ashok, an immigrant from India and proprietor of Burlingame Smoke Shop in San Mateo County, has another take on it:

“They probably quit checking on the guy because they couldn’t take him anymore. I get these old people who loiter in my shop all day long. Their sons and daughters drop them off here. I asked one of them the other day, ‘Can your kids start paying me babysitting money to watch you?’ He told me, ‘How dare you! Why, I could be your father!’ and I told him, ‘You’d have had to screw my mother to be my father.’”

*****

DECEASED: New York Police Department auxiliary officers Nicholas Pekearo, 28, and Yevgeniy “Eugene” Marshalik, 19.

CAUSE: Gunshot wounds while trying to stop gunman David Garvin — who had already killed restaurant worker Alfredo Morales — from killing more innocent people in Greenwich Village on the night of March 14, 2007.

Yevgenity “Eugene” Marshalik was a sophomore in New York University’s College of Arts and Science, majoring in politics with a minor in economics. He lived “on campus” in N.Y.U. housing.

Marshalik immigrated to America from Russia at age 5 with his parents. He attended Stuyvesant High School, where he became a top debater, despite not being a native English speaker. He aspired to attend law school and be a prosecutor or F.B.I. agent. Friends described Marshalik as mature, able to hold a conversation with anybody about anything and devoted to policing.

A writer himself, Nicholas Pekearo could point out where all the famous Greenwich Village authors had lived. “Once we responded to a call on Grove Street: A homeless guy had broken some glass,” a fellow auxiliary (volunteer) officer told the Greenwich Village newspaper The Villager. “And Nick gave me a whole lecture about the writer who had lived there.” He said Pekearo planned to enter the Police Academy this summer to become a full-fledged police officer.

Pekearo’s friends said he was artistic, loved the city and above all was unique.

“He was quiet, and he kept to himself, but he had courage,” said Nina Pisano, 27. “Even before he became an auxiliary he’d walk around the streets with an eye open. He’d look into cellar stairwells if he thought something was going on.”
High school buddies recalled Pekearo as his own person.

“He was the only kid that wore a suit to school every day,” said Rabieh Ghazal, 28. “Four straight years of high school — kid wore a suit. He was brilliant, always drawing, always sketching.”

Eventually his suits became all black.

“It was very Nick Cave,” said his friend Ian Brill, 29, of Pekearo’s style at that time. “We used to listen to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Temple Song’ on repeat — for hours.

“He was just a cultured, curious New Yorker — who was an incredible artist by default,” he said. “Early on, he decided to live his life his own way.”

As an artist, Pekearo was near a breakthrough, with Tor books about to accept his recently completed fantasy story about a werewolf, the third novel he had penned. He had recently moved in with his girlfriend in Park Slope.

At about the same time, dishonorably discharged ex-Marine David Garvin, a frustrated filmmaker, had become obsessed with the leading lady in one of his films, sending her bizarre e-mails when she refused his advances.

The 42 year old Garvin had a history of violence, including assault against an ex-wife, as well as sending emails threatening to kill former co-workers when he was an employee in the Wall Street Journal’s production department, which led to his dismissal there. Relatives and in-laws said Garvin was always “dark,” but lately had become paranoid.

As The Villager reported, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Pekearo and Marshalik’s actions in getting Garvin to drop his backpack — which contained an extra gun and 100 more bullets and clips — saved lives. Kelly said that before police gunned down Garvin, he had been aiming his weapon “indiscriminately” at civilians as he ran.

“The fact that more people were not killed in Greenwich Village that night is in no small measure due to their heroic actions,” Kelly said of the two auxiliary officers.

The Villager reported that Alfredo Romero Morales, 33, was Garvin’s first victim. He had come to America 14 years ago from Puebla, Mexico, and resided in Woodside, Queens, where he lived with his longtime girlfriend. He had worked at DeMarco’s restaurant three years. Newsday reported that Garvin blamed the firing of a coworker on Morales. Garvin entered the restaurant disguised with an obviously fake beard on the night of March 14. When Morales recognized him Garvin pulled out a 9-mm semiautomatic and shot him 15 times, then fled. That’s when the unarmed auxiliary officers confronted Garvin, gave chase, and were eventually shot.

As a result of their deaths, NYPD auxiliary officers will now wear bulletproof vests.

*****


Ian Copeland

This is a slimmer-than-usual issue, so I didn’t have room to give a big tribute to a great guy (and a friend of mine) who recently passed away. His name was Ian Copeland and he was the booking agent greatly responsible for the success of his brother Stewart’s band The Police, as well as numerous other late seventies/early eighties new wave acts. It’s been driving me nuts that I can’t locate this story he emailed a year or so ago about how he was flying his plane from LA to San Francisco and ran out of gas over San Luis Obispo. You have to read that. Make sure you get a copy of his lauded autobiography, Wild Thing. We miss you, Ian. The World’s not the same without you.

The above paragraph, complete with that heartfelt but terribly trite last sentence, appeared a year ago in this paper. Since then The Police reformed and I found that email. It’s Ian’s reply to my apology for not being able to make a Bay Area gig for the Dares, that punk trio of 14 year olds he discovered. Sadly, he never sent a follow-up email.

Here it is:

Subject:??Re: Dares in SF Herald
From:??xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Date: Tue, April 12, 2005 7:33 am
To:??editor@sfherald.com
Priority:??Normal

No sweat, mate, I know how that goes, believe me! The show went great, thanks. I’ll give you a rundown:
First, let’s start with my trip up there in my little airplane. I had decided to fly up a day early, on Friday, since the weather has been unpredictable of late and I didn’t want to risk going on day of show. Thursday was stormy but the Weather Service predicted that the storm would blow through by mid-morning on Friday, so I was set for an early departure. On Friday morning the weather was much better in L.A., but the weather maps showed that the storm had lingered a bit between here and San Francisco, so I put off the takeoff until noon.

By the time I got to Santa Barbara it became apparent that the Weather Service had miscalculated, and the storm not only stuck around, but it was building up again around San Luis Obispo. I started out with an altitude of 5000 feet, just under the ceiling of the cloud layer, but I had to start coming down as the ceiling descended ahead of me, and as the cloud layer I was flying under gradually got lower and lower, the terrain was getting higher and higher. Not a good combination. Just past Santa Maria I found where cloud and terra firma came together, coming at me fast, and closing in on all sides too. A quick turn around put me on course for Lompoc, due south along the coast, near Vandenburg Air Base, but that option closed when I dialed their weather station on the radio and found their visibility was near zero due to fog. With what seemed like minutes to spare, I found Santa Ynez airport and took her down. The landing was clear, but by the time I got to visitor’s parking you couldn’t even see the runway. There were six other pilots in the airport lounge who’d made it in before me.

For two hours I waited in Santa Ynez, with a quick visit to the Chumash Indian Casino for a bite to eat and a few hands of black jack, then took off at first sign of an opening in the clouds. The other pilots opted to wait a while longer, so I was first to go. As it happened, I chose just the right moment, because I was able to skirt through the clouds to find relatively clear skies, and the rest of the trip was a breeze. But the pilots who stayed missed their chance, apparently, because on the radio I heard one who tried to leave and had to turn back as the storm closed in again.

The headwinds had been fierce all the way up, and I remember noticing at one point that a farmhouse out my window stayed in the same place for what seemed like half an hour. It was like we were a kite, going nowhere fast. I arrived in SanFrancisco seven hours after leaving L.A., and not a moment too soon either, because soon after I landed, the skies opened up and there was a torrential downpour.

The Dares had arrived before me and gone into the city via BART. They’d already eaten in Chinatown, and been caught in the rain, so they were soaked, and on their way back to our hotel in Oakland. I took a rental car into town and had dinner at Asia De Cuba with friends.

(To be continued)

Cheers and regards,

Ian

All contents © 2006 by Gene Mahoney