FROM SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA
NEW YORK, Mar 18, 2008 - I was so looking forward to my St. Patrick's Day in London! Not just because that's my "Irish birthday" (to check out why, see "My Irish Roots"). Because a friend of mine of Irish descent told me March 17 was a really big deal in the British capital. It is not. It was the most ho-hum St. Patrick's day I have experienced in the nearly 40 years it has been my second birthday. I saw a couple of young women wearing green leprechaun hats in Kensington Gardens in the morning.
And also maybe three or four men doing the same later on in the evening - in the bustling theatre and "red light" district around Shaftesbury Ave, north of Piccadilly Circus (above photos). And that was it. Next to nothing compared to what happens in the States.
"People make over St. Patrick's Day more in Phoenix than here," I told an English friend as we were having coffee at a Starbucks in early evening. "We even have a St. Patrick's Day parade." (Also check out my "St. Patrick's Day Concert").
"Well, what did you expect?" he replied, grinning only half enigmatically. Guess that was supposed to mean there is no love lost between the English and the Irish, despite a relatively high Irish ethnic presence in London. But he added that it was still fairly early in the evening, and that there will be probably more St. Paddy revelers later on, as the night wears on and the pubs fill up.
Meanwhile, the London tabloids were having a field day with Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills divorce decision, that was announced in London's High Court only hours or so before the above pictures were taken. Street vendors, as well as hand-written posters, were hyping up Heather's "rant" against the British judicial system on the courthouse steps.
She got £24 million ($48 million) after only a four-year marriage and is now bitching about in justice of it all? Hm... That changes the gender of Greed from androgynous to feminine, and elevates it to a whole new level, maybe even close that which first reigned on, then rained on Wall Street, like acid rain falling from the sky.
Oh, well... I had better things to do than worry about Heather Mills in London's "red light" district. Now don't get any ideas... :-) It just so happens that a very respectable large multinational IT company, with whose executives I was meeting, has offices there. So there...
Well, Happy St. Patrick's Day, anyway!
And that's all she wrote from this trip to London and Paris.
SCOTTSDALE, Mar 19 - Well, Mr. Murphy decided to rejoin me on my return trip from London. When we landed in New York yesterday, I learned that all flights in and out of Dallas were cancelled, including mine. So they had to reroute me through Chicago, where the weather was also miserable, but not as bad as Dallas. Anyway, I eventually made it home late last night. When I looked at my original itinerary, I realized I was back about an hour AHEAD of the original schedule (I would have had a long layover at JFK). Of course, that's not counting the nerve-wracking experience that preceded it. :-) Still, guess sometimes Mr. Murphy isn't all that bad. "All's well, that ends well," as they say.
When I walked through the Phoenix airport last night on the way down to the baggage claim area, I had another unusual experience. You know how sometimes you pass by, or drive by, a place a hundred times and you don't really "see it?" Until one day you suddenly do (see it) for the first time? Well, that's what happened to me last night...
I have no idea how long this RAF biplane has been trying to crash into the side of the "Grand Canyon" inside the Phoenix Skyharbor airport. Probably for years. I must have passed it hundreds of times. Yet I noticed it last night for the first time. Why do you suppose that is? Because I had been up for about 26 hours straight by then? :-) Which makes us more alert? Or...?
SCOTTSDALE, Mar 19 - That money can't buy happiness probably won't come as any great surprise to you. It's an age-old adage. But what happened in my neighborhood in Grayhawk this afternoon underlines that truism in red ink.
As I was biking home around 5PM, after a workout at my DC Ranch club, I decided to drive by the pool to see if it is open today (it wasn't last night). There were two Scottsdale police squad cars parked in the street leading to it with their flashers going. In three years that I have lived in this upscale gated community on the Grayhawk golf course, I have never seen even a single police car driving by, let alone two of them with flashers on, suggesting some "hot action" must be under way.
Two young cops were standing in the intersection in front of the pool gates, blocking the way down that street that runs parallel to mine. I joked with them if the association has now brought them in to guard the pool, as if putting a padlock on the door were not enough? They laughed and said something funny in reply. I noticed how young they both were, probably under 20.
Then as I proceeded to bike down that street, I noticed at least a dozen police cars of various types and sizes with their flashers going. Also, a cordon of between a dozen and two dozen cops was coming toward me. Some were dressed in camouflage uniforms. Some looked like a SWAT team and carried machine guns. Some wore helmets. As I was approaching them, I joked, "So what did you catch today? Another rattle snake?"
(In Arizona, killing a rattle snake is against the law. So when people find one, those who want to obey the law typically call the police or the fire department. Who typically come and throw the snake over the fence... so it can crawl back another day. Smart, huh? Which is why the people who don't want rattle snakes around their back yards tend to take the law into their own hands, and don't bother calling the law.)
Anyway, back to the Grayhawk crime scene, "isn't the use of this kind of force just a tad bit excessive against a single rattle snake?"
The cops all laughed and cracked some jokes back. They seemed to be relieved that the job is over. But what were they here really for?
As I biked past the last house on this cul-de-sac, I noticed that its garage door was open. Inside the garage, there were two cops standing over a suspect who was seated on the ground. His hands were behind his back, presumably cuffed. I made a mental note of the scene and surmised that the cops had probably thwarted some sort of a burglary attempt, or maybe a car theft.
A few minutes later, as I was watering some plants in front of my house, a neighbor walked by. She and her husband seem to be the "neighborhood watch." He is a retired business executive from New York with nothing to do. She is a full time homemaker with nothing to do. So they combine their snooping talents and oodles of spare time to keep track of everything that moves in our neighborhood. And sometimes of things that don't as well.
"Did you see what happened?" she asked me.
"Well, I saw a bunch of cops one street over," I replied. "But I don't know why they were there. I teased them by asking if they were the new Scottsdale anti-rattler SWAT team."
She laughed. "Actually, they were here because of a suicide."
"Why would so many of them be called in if someone had already killed himself?"
"Actually, they were called to prevent a suicide."
"To prevent a suicide? How would they have known? Suicidal people normally don't call in a SWAT team for help."
"Someone must have seen him or had known about it and called the police. And they were able to talk the man out of it."
"So there was no suicide in the end?"
"No. The guy did what they told him to and surrendered."
I then told her what I had seen in the garage.
"That was probably the guy," she said. "The cops told me they were going to take him to a hospital for treatment."
"Did you know the person?"
"That's pretty amazing (for someone as nosy as you two)," I thought, but did not say anything out loud. Have to be nice to neighbors, even some with noses as big as that of Cyrano de Bergerac. :-)
"But I did talk to the cops about it."
"And they said that this is typically what they get called for in North Scottsdale (the wealthy part of Scottsdale). In South Scottsdale (the poorer part), they get called for petty or serious crimes, like burglaries or murder. But north of Frank Lloyd Blvd, they usually have to deal with suicides."
"Hm... let me see," I said. "What I would conclude from that is that money can't buy happiness. Or some such thing."
"You're right. 'Keeping up with the Jones's' gets to be pretty desperate for some people. And some of them reach the end of the rope and just can't deal with it anymore. It's pretty sad."
"It is," I agreed. But it is what money does buy in wealthy America today - unhappiness and desperation.
Of course, there could be many other reasons for suicides, too. But you would think that heartbreak, lovesickness, jealousy, terminal illnesses etc. would strike equally in South and North Scottsdale, wouldn't you?
Anyway, that was my 'welcome home Mr. Murphy experience' today.