Monday, July 10, 2006

The Freak in My Front Yard

For those of you wondering where I have been, well, I'm still deported. The official word from the Consulate General is, "it's too early to know anything." It took a Herculean act of self-restraint not to reply to this, especially since I have been in the "process" of obtaining a Belgian visa for over one year. (If this tells you anything, the date on my first FBI criminal background report was June 25, 2005. As some of you may know, the Belgian authorities require a background report dated within six months of a visa application. Since my background reports expire before my visa is approved, I've been caught in a vicious cycle of fingerprinting, written requests and waiting -- to do it all over again!)

Nevertheless, Belgian bureaucracy has taken a back seat on my list of "Things That Make Me Want to Scream." The "Freak in my Front Yard" now holds the number one position on my list. How does a strange man nudge out a foreign country that has banished me from its borders? Well, funny you should ask.

Not long ago, I offered to give a friend of mine a lift to the airport and to let her park her car at my house while she was away. To save the hassle of switching out luggage, she was going to drive her car to the airport and I was going to drive it home and park it in my driveway. I met her at the end of my driveway and, as we were about to head out for the airport, my friend looked at me and asked, "Who's the strange man in your front yard?" I turned, and, sure enough, there was a man sitting under the tree in the front yard, and, yes, he was strange.

From a distance - and the key word here being "distance" - he appeared harmless. Curiosity got the better of me, so I found myself asking, "Excuse me, sir. Is there something I can help you with?" He responded with what I guess is a typical line to use if caught trespassing in someone's yard, "I'm looking for a Portuguese house with rocks in the front yard." I calmly replied with what I hoped was a plausible and persuasive lie, "Oh yeah. That house is two blocks down and about a mile to the west of here." Either he wasn't looking for a Portuguese house with rocks in it or he did not have faith in my directions, because, rather than picking himself up and heading in the right direction (the one away from my house), he just sat there. I tried again. "Sir, did you hear my directions?" I took from his incoherent babbling that, at the very least, there was nothing I could do to help this man and the conversation was over.

For the record, I am fundamentally opposed to judging a book by its cover. But, all things being equal, if you can do a dot-to-dot using needle marks, long greasy hair, no teeth, dirty clothing and soiled pants, then I think you get a pretty good picture of a man that you most certainly do not want hanging out in your front yard. Call it judging. Call it stereotyping. Call the cops.

By the time I had gotten back from the airport, two police cars were rolling up to my yard. I went across the street and hung out with my neighbor while the police did their thing, which consisted of putting on rubber gloves, taking the guy's pulse, checking for needle marks -- you know, the textbook "freak in the front yard" procedure. About ten minutes later, the Freak walked away. Walked. Away.

Here's a snippet of the ensuing conversation between me and the police:

Me: Thanks for getting here so fast. Who was that? What's his deal?
Police #1: Oh, that's just Ken Lewis. He's well-known to the police. His rap sheet goes back over 20 years. I'm not kidding. We have it in police car. How long has he been in your yard?
Me: Okay, you're not making me any feel better. I have no idea how long he has been here.
Police #2: He used to hang out in Ocean Beach. He then moved to the Old Town area. I guess he is now trying to move into this neighborhood.
Me: Still not making feel any better. Back to the rap sheet - what kind of offenses?
Police: Petty theft, public intoxication and meth.
Me: METH! What do I do if he comes back?
Police: Do NOT approach him. Just call us. But, don't worry, he probably won't be back.

By this time, some of my neighbors had made their way over to my front yard. The police started asking them the same questions - how long has he been here? have you seen him before? etc., etc.

Now, just so there is no confusion. We love our neighbors. We truly believe that we have been blessed by the Best-Neighbors-Ever God. That being said, I was somewhat surprised to hear their (as in more than ONE neighbor's) response to the police questioning. Specifically, it was the "well, we saw him but we just thought he was a friend of Dan and Cindy's" that threw me for a freaking loop. How's that for a neighborhood crime watch! As I pointed out to the police - and to the neighbors - Dan and I, as far as I know, do not have any friends in their mid-to-late thirties that crap their pants. Period. End of story.

With the "help" from the neighbors, the police were able to ascertain that Ken Lewis had been in the yard for almost an hour. Before that, he was riding a bike in circles in front of the house. The police confiscated his bike and told us we had nothing to worry about. He probably wouldn't come back, but, if he did, call them.

Not even thirty minutes later, I'm on the phone with the police dispatcher:

Me: Ken Lewis is in my front yard!
Dispatcher: Is he still wearing a red shirt and blue shorts?
Me: Yes.
Dispatcher: We will send someone right over.

Again, the police response time was impressive; unfortunately, it just wasn't quick enough to catch Ken Lewis, who had managed to "acquire" another bicycle. While the police cruisers searched the neighborhood, the neighbors and I kicked around theories: he's back for his bike, he's casing the place, he's stashed some drugs somewhere, one of our neighbors was his "meth hook-up" (yes, this was said in jest, although, if the police asked, I was totally going to throw them to the wolves in retaliation for the whole "friend of Dan and Cindy's" comment!), etc.

As it turned out, all of our theories were incorrect. According to the police officer, Mr. Lewis was utterly convinced that his ex-wife lived in one of our houses. I have no idea the circumstances under which Mr. Lewis split from his former (and hopefully red-headed) wife, but I can assure you that they were probably less than ideal and that meth and bail money figured predominately into the equation.

As proof positive that being in the US has not diminished the strength of my freak magnet, over the course of the next four and a half hours, Mr. Lewis returned six times. That's either a whole lot of hate, a whole lot of love, or a whole lot of magnetism!

© 2006 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.


Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

So Cindy, you're DENYING that you used to be Mrs. Ken Lewis?

There isn't some exciting back story here that you can share?

I'm sure the truth is in that FBI background report. ;) No wonder the Belgians want it.

You and Dan have such weird friends--the consul can't be too careful. ;)

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Rod said...

Hey Cindy, since it looks like you won't be going back to Brussels any time soon and being that you are now a successful babysitter, why don't you come to Houston and watch our kids while Tanya and I go to Brussels?

And don't tell me that you have never had wierdo's in your front yard. I think Pat has passed out there once or twice!

11:43 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

Hi Cindy-
I'm Ken Lewis. I'm Warren Buffet's son. He has willed me $1billion so long as I give away $100million to a kind and compassionate person I find in my travels. Unfortunately, you blew your chance. You were cute too, so you could have had the whole enchilada, me and the $1billion. Oh well, que sera-sera. I am now off on my private jet to Belgium where I hear tale of a young lad by the name of Daniel of Bradley who is the definition of compassion and almost saintly in his ways with those less fortunate than he or those who disagree with his political philosophy. That is so long as they get his fast food order right.

10:24 PM  
Blogger woman wandering said...

You know, I don't say 'wow' very often, rarely in fact, it's not a kiwi kind of thing to say however ... when I come over here for a read there's so often a quietly awed 'wow'.

I hope Ken has gone away now ...

I picked up some new, translated, court-approved papers today ... Monday it's District Huis, I fully expect them to ask me to be reborn due to them requiring a brand spanking new birth certificate from me, preferably with a new name.

Let's see how it goes.

2:21 AM  

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