Monday, July 31, 2006

The Alice in my Wonderland

I don't mean to toot my own horn, but "beep, beep Baby!" Kidding. I'm just kind of stoked that Yahoo!News picked up my interview with Alice Cooper.

Alice Cooper to break ground on Arizona teen center

Monday, July 24, 2006

Angel with the red beret

Should I feel safer at night knowing that the Guardian Angels have taken to Phoenix streets, mainly the streets that bind my neighborhood? For those of you who have never heard of them, the Guardian Angels is a volunteer patrol group with a twinge of vigilantism. They started in New York City in the '70s when The Son of Sam killer had everyone terriied. Now they have chapters all over the country. They don't carry weapons--only handcuffs to make a "citizen's arrests." They are supposed to be trained in first aid, CPR and self-defense. The founder, Curtis Sliwa, flew in Saturday morning to rally a group of 24 Angels who flew in from all over the West Coast region. They are trying to start up a Phoenix chapter so we have permanent patrolling until either of the two serial killers are caught. Out of curiosity and proximity (they converged right down the street from my building), I stopped in at their meeting spot behind a McDonald's. Because of my work connection, I ended up speaking to Curtis on the phone. He said it was like coming "full circle" meeting at McDonald's because he used to be the manager of one (ooookay). Anyway, as you can see, some media outlets showed up. I think they were happy to be able to report something new pertaining to these serial killers.

Later on Saturday, I drove out to Chandler, a suburb about 25 minutes from Phoenix to visit my cousin George. He's one of several newly discovered third cousins I have out here in Phoenix. I hung out with him and his dog, Sabrina.

George has been really great and hospitable. I mean, he's a straight guy who willingly watched The Devil Wears Prada with me. He lives in a boonies part of Chandler in this new housing development. His home is only 6 months old. Dude, he's not even 30 and bought his own house. And what a house. Makes me tempted to buy property. His house is like a castle--not in size, but in decor. The entryway is a cylindrical extension of the house with a cone-shaped roof, remniscent of a turret. All the doors inside or long and narrow and very vaulted ceilings. He also has guest quarters. It's a huge place for one person. He also has a swimming pool ... and a lovely pool it is. See below...

George's house

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The sun will come out tomorrow -- unfortunately

Sweltering temps continue to rear their ugly heads here in Phoenix. Yesterday, I got sent out to do man on the street interviews (I suppose I should say person on the street) to get various opinions on a proposed initiative. A reporter is doing a story on this ballot initiative that voters will get to decide on in November. If you ask me, it's kind of lame. The initiative, if it passes, would institute a $1 million lottery every election year. Voters who vote in a general or primary election will automatically be entered--twice if they vote in both. The money would come from unclaimed lotto money. The group who put the initiative on the ballot is headed by a Tucson opthamologist. This guy thinks having a lottery will encourage more people to vote and thus, bring out more voters that are representative of the people. Other people think it's a waste of money.
So, in 100-plus degree heat, I was pestering Joe and Jane Schmoes at the county elections office, outside of Starbucks and at a gas station.

Not surprisingly, for every person who wanted to speak and told me to pull up a chair, I got people who acted like I was trying to sell them something.
"No thank you!" "I don't vote. Voting is a waste of time!!" "Voting is against my religion." (Jehovah's Witness)The first person who agreed to talk to me was this 55-year-old woman named Rosie Coyote. Yeah, that was her real name. With the name alone, I would have loved for the reporter to quote her. But then again, she didn't seem to want to take me very seriously. Here's how some of our conversation went:
"Do you think this initiative is a good idea?"
"You must be against it if you're asking me why." (Dude, lady, it's my job to ask people why, along with any of the other five Ws)
"What are you? 21? What are you doing out here? You in school?"

Guess it's hard for me to look and sound like a tough-as-nails reporter.

Anyhoo, I'm curious what some of you think of an initiative like this. I think the money should be used for something else instead of being given to someone for exercising his/her civic duty.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A city of tension

So, it's possible Phoenix may hit national headlines soon with the Southwest equivalent of the D.C. sniper. Unfortunately, right now, people think if the heat doesn't get to you, a cold-blooded killer will. Even worse, Phoenix seems to have inherited two psychos for the price of one. There are two sickos running around, terrorizing people. One is a "Serial Shooter." This person started out shooting dogs, horses and even a burro. Then he/she graduated to people. This crime series, now adding up to 34 incidents, includes five homicides and several people getting wounded while walking or waiting for the bus late at night.

The other is called the "Baseline Rapist" or "Baseline Killer." This guy, a black male, started out robbing and sexually assaulting women. Then he graduated to assaulting and/or abucting his victims before killing them.

I know some information since I covered one of the press conferences on the Baseline cases. Alas, the police are remaining tight-lipped about the physical evidence linking the crimes. Sigh...everyone in the city is on high alert. You can sense the paranoia in the air. Unfortunately, I live in the part of central Phoenix where many of the Baseline Killer's crimes happened. I try not to spend too much time worrying. After all, there's a difference between being careful and being paranoid. I don't go out at night very much to begin with. If I do, it's to meet someone at their home or in a public place. No stopping at a gas station or convenience store. Don't think there's much more I can do beyond that. Cross your fingers that they catch at least one of these whack jobs soon.

A funny aside: the quickie article I wrote on that press conference generated some play. Someone from either FOX news or a FOX affiliate called wanting me to talk about the case on TV. Luckily, they called on a Saturday when I wasn't there. It's also good since I only covered the conference. I am by no means an expert on the case. Still, it was funny. The idea of being on TV makes me want to go into a bomb shelter.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Family Circus and Circus Freaks

So, never thought at work, I'd be on the phone with Bil Keane, the cartoonist behind "Family Circus." My boss asked me a while ago to update the guy's profile since he's a well-known Arizona resident. I had called and called this woman at King Features Syndicate, which runs his strip in 1,500 papers. She never got back to me. Then lo and behold, earlier this week, I see an article about him in a local Phoenix paper. The reporter on that was nice enough to pass Keane's home phone number on to me. A very sweet, very talkative man. He's 83 and still does seven cartoons a week. He lives by himself in a house in Paradise Valley at the base of Camelback Mountain. In case you couldn't guess, that is a very ritzy area. He just came back from spending Fourth of July with his kids at the new house of his son, Glen, who lives in So Cal. A bit of trivia: Glen Keane was the lead animator on Disney's "Tarzan" and animated Tarzan skating down tree branches. Bil was very genial. I felt bad for him. He talked about how his wife Thel, the model for the mom in "Family Circus," has been living 10 minutes away at an assisted living facility for people with Alzheimer's. He tries to visit her every day, sniff. She's still very sweet but has lost all memory and can't really read either. I know this is girly, but I couldn't help but think of "The Notebook," which is also about a man trying to reach out to his wife who's stricken with Alzheimer's.

On a lighter note, I should start posting "weird story of the month ... or week" on here. Some of the stories that come in to AP or in Arizona newspapers are just so bizarre. In Bisbee, a kind of hippie town three hours away from here, a court dropped loitering charges against this man the residents call "Dog-Cat-Mouse guy." His panhandling schtick is he poses with his mouse, which he's trained to climb on his cat, which he's trained to climb on his dog.

Here's a link to a photo.
Bisbee lays off Dog-Cat-Mouse Guy

I think this guy has his own freaky family circus. And apparently he lives in a stinky RV with all his animals. You'll find he didn't spend much time on the names either.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Thanks to everyone back home who celebrated my birthday with me. A great huge gracias for anyone who made time to have lunch, go to the beach, clubbing, etc. I had a really great visit which made it harder to get on the plane last night. I'm at work now . Anyhoo, not too bad.

Here is a link to my first official AP byline story. It got picked up by 4-5 newspapers in the state. Not too shabby.

Donald O'Connor estate on sale