Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bag lady and the burglar

It has been a week for me recognizing people I know. At the auto show last Friday I saw two retired people I worked with at the school district. Yesterday Sally and I went to a thrift store where I spotted an old classmate from art school 45 years ago, Cheryl R.

I have run into Cheryl several times over the years. She is easy to pick out of a crowd. Her appearance is bizarre, and she does it to herself with her unusual make-up jobs. She has always used bright blue or green eye shadow under penciled on eyebrows, and she does some little tricks with mascara around her eyes. Yesterday I saw she had drawn three little lines, about 1/4" long, at the corners of her eyes. She also has darkly rouged cheeks, which gives her a clownish appearance. My impression was a stereotype of a bag lady. I saw Cheryl putting little trinkets, cheap little ceramics of kitties and puppies, into her cart. I wonder if her house looks like something from the Hoarders reality show.

The thought struck me, seeing Mimi during a re-run of the old Drew Carey Show, that actress Kathy Kinney might have picked up some make-up tips from Cheryl.
Man, I am cruel, aren’t I? Years ago I remember seeing Cheryl with a young woman I assumed was her daughter. I wonder if the daughter worries about her mom. I felt sad for Cheryl, but then maybe she was looking at me and thinking, “I remember that guy from when he was young, and now he’s an old man!”

On our way home we stopped for lunch. In the restaurant I recognized another former co-worker. Gene P. was an accountant for the school district. Gene was fired from the school district because of some bizarre and criminal conduct on his part. I don’t know if he stole from the school district (keeping it confidential, no one in the Accounting Department would have told me if he had), but I found out he had been a house burglar.

Gene definitely had some problems with depression and family issues. I don’t know if he was on medication. The story was that he was burglarizing his neighbor’s homes. The talk around his neighborhood was that someone was breaking in, but no one would have suspected Gene. Gene, the square guy, the accountant, church-going family man. One night a neighbor came home and found Gene in his house. The jig was up.

That was one of his problems. The other was his teenage daughter. (Since the incident I am talking about took place in the early nineties, the daughter would be in her late thirties by now.) Before he was fired Gene took me aside one day to tell me the woeful tale of his daughter, who was stalking magician David Copperfield. We live in Northern Utah, and Las Vegas, where Copperfield was performing, is quite a long way to drive. But Gene’s daughter, who had decided that if David Copperfield, who did not answer her love missives to him, were to meet her he would see what a wonderful person she was, and how happy she could make him. She stole Gene’s car and took off for Las Vegas. Gene called police, and the Highway Patrol picked her up in St. George, Utah. She was carrying a large kitchen knife. Gene told me his belief was if she couldn’t convince David to love her she might kill him. When I heard that story I was flabbergasted. Some people project feelings onto celebrities, even stalk them or try (and sometimes succeed) in killing them. But not the teenage daughter of someone I knew.

I came quickly back to earth. We really don’t know what goes on in families, do we?

I hope Gene’s daughter got the help she needed. Since David Copperfield, as of this writing, is still alive and well I know she didn’t get to him with her big knife. I also hope Gene got the help he needed. He could have spent some time in jail. I never heard, and it never got into newspapers. It was in the very early days of the Internet. If it happened today the story would probably end up online.

David Copperfield’s ability to fly might help when confronted by love-struck teenagers with butcher knives.

I don’t think Gene saw me in the restaurant. I did not say anything to him. I thought talking to me might be a reminder of some very dark days.

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