Chuck Shepherd’s News of the Weird
Angela Pusateri, 79, may be unconventional, but, according to Jenna, 13, “She really is a cool grandmother.” The Hallandale Beach, Fla. woman is a rap-music singer with a new CD (Who’s Your Granny?) and occasional playdates, where she shows up in hockey jersey, jewels, sunglasses and baseball cap. Sample rap: “I can bring the noise better than P-Diddy/ I am older and wiser, I ain’t a disguiser/ I am condo commando in a high-riser, Who’s your granny?” Also, “Move over, Trick-Daddy, ‘cause this is my town/ I gotta shuffleboard posse and we’re known to get down.” Actually, conceded Jenna to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in September, “Sometimes it’s embarrass ing.”
• “In many ways,” reported the Los Angeles Times in August, the Torajans of Indo nesia’s Sulawesi Island “spend a lifetime preparing for their demise,” in that the most glorious highlight of their existence appears to be planning the elaborate celebra tion of the end of it. In fact, taking one’s last breath is only the beginning of a lengthy tribute, such as the one for Toraja’s last king, who died in 2003 but has not been put away yet, pending completion of the necessary ritual animal sacrifices. (In the interim, the deceased is considered more “sick” than “dead.”) Said one local (“cheer fully,” according to the Times), “Torajans! [We] live to die!”
• About 250,000 women in the southern India states of Karnataka and Maha rashtra are self-described “elite” sex workers whose impoverished, or devoutly pious, parents “dedicated” them as children to the Hindu goddess Yellamma, according to an August dispatch in The New Yorker. Despite the state’s outlawing the practice in 1982, the women’s fate as “devadasis” remains an attractive alternative to ordinary marriage (which would usually be to poor and abusive men) and provides a degree of status, in that they dress nicely and can inherit family property, while street prosti tutes cannot. However, devadasis still fall victim to the region’s rampant HIV rate.
• Castrillo de Murcia, Spain lacks a “running of the bulls” tradition, but since 1620, it has included in its annual El Colacho festival a “leaping over the babies.” In late May, the town’s infants are laid on mattresses in the village square, and people in
red-and-yellow devil costumes jump over them and keep running, to symbolize the vanquishing of demons from their lives.
Latest religious messages
Toward a more accessible Anglican Church: (1) In August, Birmingham Cathedral announced plans to open a series of wine bars in London, as (according to an official) one of the “alternative ways” of engaging non-church-goers. (2) The new church curate in Dursley, Gloustershire is Rev. Skye Denno, 29, a married mother of two, whose down time is spent in biker boots, hot pants, a dog collar and her six piercings, listening to the Sex Pistols. Said she, “I don’t do it to be difficult. [I] think it makes me more approachable.”
The continuing crisis
• The Nebraska legislature’s new “safe haven” law for unwanted babies, like other states’ laws, allows them to be dropped off anonymously at hospitals to discour age abortions (and neglect by unfit parents). However, unlike other states’ laws, Nebraska’s applies not just to infants, but “minors,” because, said Sen. Tom White, “All children deserve our protection.” In September, the first two non-infants were abandoned, as exasperated parents gave up on rebellious sons aged 11 and 15, and critics say the law could apply to those up to age 19.
• In August, the US Department of Transportation unveiled new rules for train and bus drivers returning to work from drug-use suspensions. They must now be tested first by a strip search to detect devices for cheating (such as artificial penises), and if none is found, they may re-dress themselves, but a monitor must still “directly watch the urine as it goes from the employee’s body into the collection container.” Not surprisingly, several unions have challenged the rule in court.
• In July, Abbie Hawkins, 19, a hotel receptionist in Norwich, England, said she found a baby bat nestled inside the padded bra she had been wearing for several hours. “When I was driving to work, I felt a slight vibration but I thought it was just my mobile phone in my jacket pocket,” she told the Daily Telegraph. Hawkins had fetched the bra off of a clothesline that morning, where it had been hanging over night. First reaction: “I thought how mean I was for disturbing it.”
Fine points of the law
Joey Bergamine, 19, who is preparing for a re-trial in Fayetteville, NC on a DWI charge stemming from a July 2007 incident, will argue that he should have been advised of his right to have a lawyer present when his father kicked open his bed room door hours after the incident to help police officers who had come to question him. Joey’s father is the police chief of Fayetteville, and Joey’s lawyer said entering a locked room, as well as the subsequent interrogation, constituted “police” action and not “parental” action, and since his dad failed to “Mirandize” him, the charge should be dismissed.
The weirdo-American community
Barbie’s not just a girls’ obsession: (1) Robert Martin, 47, was arrested in Cape May, NJ in July after a state police officer spotted an array of pornographic magazines in his car in a public parking lot, along with a serving platter resting on his dash board, piled with women’s underwear, and a collection of naked Barbie dolls lined up on the seat. (2) Christopher Sullivan, 43, was arrested in Oshkosh, Wis. in August as the person who allegedly sent his upstairs neighbors threatening packages, in cluding a Polaroid photo of three naked Barbie dolls with their heads cut off. He told police he was angry that the couple were too loud when they had sex.
• Least competent criminals:
(1) Michael Mahoney, 25, is the most recent rapist (according to police in Somerville, Mass.) to believe he is such hot stuff that he gave his phone number to the victim, certain that he had charmed her into wanting to keep seeing him. Police quickly arrested him in July at home, where he lives with his parents.
(2) In July, convicted sexual molester Donald Fox, 62, of Frederick, Md., became the most recent convict to challenge the unfairness of his sentence (40 years in prison) and then have the appeals court agree it was unfair, except because it was too short (he’s now serving 80 years). • More ways to consume that heavenly food: The fourth annual Big Tex Choice award for best taste this year (at a precursor event to September’s Texas State Fair) went to Glen Kusak’s chicken fried bacon. Earlier this summer, fourth-generation candymaker Joseph Marini III introduced chocolate-covered bacon bon-bons at his stand on California’s Santa Cruz Boardwalk. For the more sophisticated, restaurateur Don Yovicsin of Waltham, Mass. serves bacon-infused Absolut vodka (allowed to sit for four weeks’ time and then filtered of the bits) (and for a bacon bloody Mary, add mix, a lime wedge, “barbecue rub” and a Slim Jim).
(1) A 21-year-old man fishing off Jones Beach on New York’s Long Island in July was killed when he yanked his line back too quickly, propelling his 3-ounce lead sinker out of the water, where it struck his head and penetrated his brain.
(2) A 32 year-old man lounging beside a pool in Leland, NC in August was killed when a burst of wind dislodged a canopy umbrella, thrusting the tip into his skull.
(3) A 79-year old motorist watching a crane lift a steeple onto a new church in Oklahoma City in July was killed when the crane toppled over and crushed his car.
Copyright 2008 Chuck Shepherd Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate