When it is dark enough, you can see the stars. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
As many of you know, the southwest corner of Tennessee has been our home this week. Squirrelly and I would like to thank the Memphis crowd for being our family during this time. Thanks for the friendship, the fellowship and the encouragement.
We are headed back to Hoots this morning. Bags are currently being packed, dishes washed and although the reasons for our long stay were tragic with the loss of Lauren, we found so much good in people and new depths of friendship, companionship and love.
Last night, before we headed home, Steve, Smac, Austin,Dabney, Glen, Lee, Meg, Rick and Katie decided that we wanted a do over. The funeral was in the morning which was absolutely beautiful at Saint Anne’s with a eulogy by Kindly Uncle Tim that was so devastatingly exquisite that it was intimately painful and joyous at the same time, friends held gatherings and celebrated life amongst sorrow and by the end of the night, we decided to do New Year’s Eve over again. It was called New Year’s Eve Redux.
So, in our world, today is New Year’s Day.
Listening to The West Coast Turnaround, we rang in midnight again for 2010 2.0. Pesky Fly did a countdown from 8 (he felt a new number might be appropriate) and we threw our glasses in the air hoping for peace once again. It was a moment of healing and rejuvenation. And I really want to hear the David Allan Coe how to become a star in Country Music song again, Pesky. That song made me very happy.
As we headed back to our temporary digs, Squirrelly and I talked of the special bond that all of these people hold together and with us. As this has been so much of our world this week, I will probably talk of these things again.
Until then, we bid Memphis adieu. Thank you and farewell, you big lug of a city. We dig you so much.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
~Funeral Blues W.H. Auden
Today, my friends, is the funeral for Lauren. It should be a day of tears, of laughter and remembering the woman who brought so many people together. I try not to ask very much here on this blog, but if you can, light a candle or say a quick prayer asking for her safe passage even if you didn’t know her.
Today, my friends, we celebrate Lauren Hesse.
Tomorrow, my friends, the world will have to be looked at with a critical eye as we rebuild what has been lost.
Things that happen during a crisis, and I believe that we have seen the mother-load in Big Memphis this week, can sometimes have a bit of whimsy. I know that’s not something that most folks talk about but it is there. Meeting new people under duress. Giggling because it fights off tears when you know the worst is in front of you. So tired, but knowing you aren’t nearly as tired as our beloved Steve.
Friendship has many joys even in times of trouble.
Giddiness sets in as does a bone-tired that amazingly you realize that both are so very equal in moments when the issue is loss. You never know this until you feel it in your core. These things are forgotten until they resurface. And you forget it, almost like how I imagine women minimize what labor feels like before they have a second child. It’s a wicked beast, these emotions that lay dormant until a tragedy.
Despite tears, there was laughter.
Vibinc and I in the waiting room. Him talking about how my new tagline could be “HEY, I JUST TOOK A PICTURE OF A CHEETO!” when we discussed how others thought of bloggers.
Or, Freedonian and I playing on making me a new template because we had to be doing something, anything, because we knew we were going to see some very sad faces coming out of Lauren’s room on Monday. We occupied our time until we knew we would be needed again.
Steve laughing at a comment that GoldnI made on Twitter.
Meeting KUT (Kindly Uncle Tim) who has to be the grooviest guy on the planet whose quiet strength lifted those who were grieving around him, although he was suffering the loss too.
Dabney and Stacey Mac’s battle with Steve’s iPhone.
Glen showing me the Doctor Who keychain as we went through pictures of Lauren for the services on Saturday.
Meeting Ellyn where we became quite smitten quickly. She even was cool with me wearing Vibinc’s socks, because, dammit my feet were cold. Thanks Ross!
Seeing Lauren’s stepfather get a birthday card out of his bag for her on Tuesday. Steve and Lauren’s birthday was on Tuesday with seven years separating their births. This, my friends, is when I went downstairs and took a few moments for myself. It was an exquisite and devastating moment and was done without much fanfare but it’s power was great. Small, intimate and expressed the reality of the situation with such depth and reality.
Love is amazing. All kinds of love and affection. We forget that.
I fall in love with Memphis every time I come here. Each visit makes me love this place, not just because that it’s Memphis, but because of the people I meet.
Lauren Hesse was one of those women that was direct, passionate and kind. I liked that she was her own person, that she didn’t need for anyone to tell her who she was. She was a role model for the sheer fact that was just herself. There are lessons there, my friends. She was confident in herself, or at least that is how I saw her. We were in the very beginnings of a fine friendship. I’ve only known her a short time, so me writing this seems disingenuous to a degree. I’ve met so many people that she has touched and they have so much more to say that I can say here.
I’m jealous of them.
There is always too little time.
She was the love of Steve Steffens life. I love him too. Thus this brought us together. Our admiration of a fine man who brought us into the same world over the past few years where we found ourselves sitting over kitchen tables talking of everything and nothing.
She was the kind of woman that made you feel at home. And her home was your home.
You see, Lauren was Lauren. She was passionate about her family and friends. Her furry children that were always about her feet, nuzzling and loving her. The amazing smells that came from her kitchen. The music that played that she loved. The lists she made that were to be followed (which reminds me of Homer in the best of ways.) The ancient, yet comfortable couch that belonged to her grandfather on which I laid and when she fussed, wondering if I was warm enough.
And she loved a man that the blogosphere calls Left Wing Cracker, but those of us who know and adore him call him Steve. We will talk of Steve more later, but this moment, we will talk of the lovely Lauren.
I’m going to be random right now by telling you the things I saw her do in our brief time together. My first thought was the cats and her talking to me that I would make a fine cat owner although I was hesitant. She was their mom and she would caress them with great affection in a way that, even if you didn’t know her, was like second nature. I remember standing in her kitchen this fall as she was conversing with Stephanie and I and her hand languidly ran through the smaller kittens fur.
That sticks with me today. I saw that as lovely and kind for some reason.
She would banter good-naturedly with her love of 20 years. So much affection that was so natural and organic. Love should be that way.
Her eyes lit up talking of Celtic music. It was a joyful thing to see of her speak of the music and the people behind it. We talked in November of setting her up a blog for it. She had one, but we talked of WordPress and blogging and communicating.
And let me tell you of her prowess for throwing the best parties in Memphis. When Ann turned 50, she dyed dozens of hats red and gave her a party worth remembering. I looked at the photos yesterday and as her pal laughed and cried at the same time, I realized that Lauren had given Ann a special memory.
These things, campers, are more priceless than gold.
Love is a funny thing. And we love. Thus, when it’s gone, we remember red hats and weenie roasts and throwing marshmellows … those were the parties that Lauren gave. It was, and I will say the word passion again, her passion to bring her people together. And she was damned good at it.
She loved Steve. He would talk politics or music or his love of sports (and especially his love of Memphis) and she would look at him patiently with so much … love. Have I mentioned love this post?
The heart … which was so full of life would not be strong enough to make it through this year. Her heart … so full of so much love.
And these are the words that I hate to write.
On Saturday, doing what anyone does on any average day, Lauren’s heart decided it was too full. The ambulance took her to Saint Francis after the coronary where her beloved and her family would stand vigil waiting for her to come back. Doctors and nurses worked diligently as the ICU unit filled with dozens of people that loved her. That needed her. Her mother was amazing as she and Steve would go back when it was time to see her.
And all of us, those who knew her for years and those, like me, who wish they had, waited for good news. We hoped. Dammit, we hoped that there would be good news.
The news would not come. Nor will it ever.
Steve loved her. I have not seen such devotion and pure grief in a long time. Not since my mother died and my father said these words to me, “What do I do now?” I didn’t know what to say then, and I do not now.
I have thought of this since Steph and I got to the hospital on Sunday. I mentioned this to Ross and a couple of other people because it is on my mind. As we blog, we know so little about the authors behind those blogs. Then you get to know them and you find such hidden treasures. With that treasure, there are other gifts.
Steve was our hidden treasure.
Lauren was our gift.
Arrangements have not been made and organ transplant doctors will work with her this morning before she leaves us, but she is already gone. She will help others one more time.
Memphis, you have lost a bright star in your sky.
Steve, I give you love and I’ll see you today as soon as I can get back.
You are not alone.
Over the weekend, during my weekend in Memphis, I met Adrienne Pakis-Gillon who is the democratic candidate running against Brian Kelsey in District 31. It was a casual introduction where we talked briefly about the state of politics in the state and I found her to be very passionate and vibrant.
After our conversation, and I realize that I can only speak for myself, I found myself pondering why we democrats here in the state haven’t been pushing her candidacy more. I take responsibility for my own actions here as I haven’t written about her either. She is a life-long democrat and having talked to her, the things that she spoke of gave me pause because she isn’t getting mired down in wedge issues (something Kelsey thrives on) and instead discussed practical solutions to issues affecting her district and the state as a whole.
Remember, not only will she be representing her district, she’ll be voting on legislation that would impact the entire state. And let’s review briefly how Kelsey has been, which has had shades of moving up the political ladder as his main objective.
First, Rep. Mike Turner accused Kelsey of making a nervous wreck out of Rep. Susan Lynn by filing an ethics complaint against House Speaker Kent Williams based on his supposed sexual harassment of her.
“Susan Lynn is in the hospital [Wednesday], and in my opinion, I think Brian Kelsey put her in there and I think his behavior is terrible,” Turner told Channel 2. “I think it’s sour grapes.”
In those posts, there is a statement from Kelsey on what he was thinking back in the first days of the last legislative session here in Tennessee. You can see a time-line here of what happened.
Now, we could talk about Kelsey all day long, but I return back to the issue at hand. As democrats, we need every seat we can get right now. We are looking at redistricting, our state has 10.5 percent unemployment and we need folks in Nashville who can see the big picture and not get mired in wedge issues for personal gain. Kelsey did that this year and I think he will do it again.
We just don’t need to shrug and say “whatever.” The democratic party in this state has done that for far too long. We may not agree on everything, but the one thing is we need to be is united when it comes to not disenfranchising good candidates who would be representing all of our interests in Nashville, no matter where we live. Pakis-Gillon needs voices and bloggers can help with that.
We can support her campaign by talking about her. Kelsey doesn’t need to be just handed a senate seat without a fight. As democrats, I think we need to talking about this race and we need to be lending our voice to Pakis-Gillon.
Although many of us can’t vote in this race, we can still put a flashlight on Memphis right now. We don’t need to be complacent at this point.
I have spent the better part of the morning here reading about Ingmar Bergman. When I was a kid, you were more likely here in Hoots to see a variety of exploitation films, Burt Reynolds was huge or the occasional bad horror movie at one of the local drive-ins. (Yes, I hate that those have gone the route of the dinosaurs.)
The first time I really saw in horror movies was when we finally got cable about the time I turned 10 or 11. Before that, we had rabbit ears that brought in a station from Paducah, one from Jackson, the local PBS station and, if luck was on my side, Ch. 13 out of Memphis, which had a creature feature show that I lived for. It was canceled when I was a little tyke, but my mom would let me stay up and watch it.
Our first pay-for-cable channel was The Movie Channel, where I was mesmerized watching Altman films, Harold and Maude the first time (yes, that movie still make me cry like a baby and laugh at the same time) and The Tin Drum, which to this day still creeps me out in so many ways. I bet I’ve seen it several times though even though it gives me the wiggums.
Bergman was not someone I was privy to, and as it happened in the days before the Internet, I would read magazines that my parents were kind enough to give me, and plot ways to see the movies listed in Rolling Stone or the New Yorker.
I finally got to see Fanny and Alexander, The Seventh Seal and a few others. This morning, as I was dorking around the tubes, I started to read the reviews of every film he ever directed, his unorthodox views of theocracy and how it impacted his writing and how he would go through depressive bouts in relationship to his craft.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like all of Bergman’s stuff, but I do appreciate his vision. I guess this goes back to the young girl who read of Sweden’s premiere director and had to be cunning to see what all the fuss was about because at that time, you couldn’t see his films here. You just couldn’t.
So, you see, the Internet can help rural Americans in a way that was not an option when I was a curious child that loved the backroads here but needed a little bit more sustenance than Burt and Sally.
I’m posting this video for all the folks here in Hoots who have been following the Steve Ross issue out of Memphis. You see, there are a lot of folks who know Ross because he comes and hangs out here some and I’ve been asked about it by some of the locals.
I also want to point you to Betsy Phillips, who has also been to Hoots, who knocks the whole Joe Brown/Blogger issue out of the ballpark at Pith in the Wind.
I read that Pop Tunes in Memphis closed their doors this week. If I had known it was coming, I most likely would have set a puptent outside their doors and cried a bit.
You see, Pop Tunes is the place where Big Daddy and I used to shop. He owned jukeboxes before he retired and once a week, he would trek from Hoots to Memphis to pick up the 45s to load them. When I was a kid, Billboard magazine was always at his shop, and he would diligently look for what was going to hit the Top 40. He would make a list of what the thought would trend and then head to Memphis and on some occasions, we would get to go with him. Homer and I were usually allowed to buy a cassette or an 8-Track while the shop owners would go to the back and pull the songs, sometimes dozens of copies to go onto each jukebox.
You may understand my joy and love of a good jukebox now. It’s a part of my history and a good one is always sort of hard to find. I’m not talking a CD/Internet box, but the ones where you can hear the scratches on the vinyl when a song has been played too much because it’s beloved.
I would always go through the records and touch each album cover while I was in Pop Tunes. It got to the point that the store clerks knew my sister and my names, and they always greeted Big Daddy with a smile. He was a regular and they would talk about what songs would be a hit, and which ones wouldn’t. Inside the store, there really wasn’t much to see except swinging fluorescent lights and it was a bit junky, in retrospect. But there was the music, the stories of Elvis and Johnny Cash, the smell of cigarette smoke and cardboard dust, but it didn’t matter. We would look through everything and we loved it. I went years later, and it hadn’t changed much other than the 45s were pretty nonexistent at that point and store clerks were relegated to the parking lot to burn one.
My father still has a Wurlitzer in his house now that he’s retired. Every one of those ancient 45s ready to play once you push the buttons for the song of your choice came from Pop Tunes.
I realize the older I get, I grieve the small things. Pop Tunes was a large part of my childhood with my father.
In 1992, I met a sports stringer named Bruce Tuck. He was working for the local paper covering games while I was the news director at the radio station. I didn’t think much about him other than he was socially awkward. Seriously, it would be fair to say I really didn’t think about him at all other than when he was around.
Many things happened yesterday. Some of them infuriating because the community had no information all day from people in positions of authority. The stream of communication on social media networks exploded when local law enforcement agencies said nothing and remember, scanners are funky things. It was just moments after they initially picked him up that we knew his name. When Bruce Tuck’s name started being tossed around, Facebook exploded with men and women trying to figure out what was going on. My cell phone had countless messages with Tuck’s picture sent asking if this was the man who was the Big-Bellied Rapist. Because of the fierce need for answers, local media (myself included although I’m not longer a paid journalist in the area but was asked to help out) tried to bring down some of the, lack of a better term, fever-pitched tension because at that point, we didn’t know what was going on and we’d all been trained for years that the best thing to always do in this situation is not throw gasoline on a fire. The text messages continued, and at that point I realized that this community was trying to, as I called it yesterday, figure out the mystery in good old-fashioned Gus Grissom style because they were afraid and no one was talking.
People needed, craved some sort of answer.
When official word didn’t come down, they created the conversation themselves. The community controlled the story because no one in an official capacity would. (In a side note, I saw Tuck update his Facebook citing he was innocent and the DNA would prove it. Seconds later, his account, which I was listed on as well, disappeared. Of course I went to his Facebook when his name was released. He joined July 16th of this year and had 693 friends which I found to be somewhat odd and suspicious. This was how everyone had his picture, as do I. I was looking at his account when he dumped everyone and all of his posts disappeared. I’ve never seen that happen before but I did see it yesterday.)
I admit, in the beginning, I felt horrible for Tuck because no one knew what was going on and his picture was on many emails in the county. I don’t feel so bad about it now, mind you, but during those few hours there had been no arrest.
I was asked by the news editor of the local paper as she was swamped if I wouldn’t mind going out to his house. When I got there, not much was going on, quite frankly. I talked to one of the police, saw his parents looking tired and distraught in the front yard. At that point, Tuck wasn’t there. One of the officers on the scene said no arrests were made. Fair enough.
Digital conversation, fueled by some facts that we found out later and many rumors, escalated. Topix, which is the bane of all websites if you ask me, filled with comments. Facebook conversations became more frequent. Some people said he had been arrested, other folks were saying he had been released. In reality, not a one of us knew what was real and what wasn’t.
My Blackberry box filled up. Still no word. The S.T.O.P. organization implored people not to throw his name around or distribute his photo in case he was innocent. Many of us asked the same thing, but I return to that the social media conversation continued.
Finally, we received word he was “no longer a person of interest” and that was that from an official source given to local media.
An hour later, Tuck was arrested in dramatic fashion, crying into a red towel and then loaded into an ambulance.
This is Hoots guys, everyone in the video is someone we all know arresting a man that we also know. The accused, who if convicted, was a monster in our midst that we all knew. He had asked Squirrel Queen and I both for a job recently. When local reporters used to meet for lunch ever Thursday back in the early 90s, he was always there. We’d lost sight of him for about 15 years, so I was somewhat surprised to see that he was a former Shelby County Sheriff’s volunteer and that he had even run for a constable position in the past.
I spoke to some of the usual crowd, this time men I know with daughters roughly the age of the victims, and they were furious. The entire community, men and women, needed answers. When they didn’t get them, they began communicating through social media means.
This is an important lesson, I would think. The community decided to communicate themselves. If Tuck had not been arrested for the crime, his picture from his Facebook account would have still been sent to hundreds, if not thousands, of cell phones across the area.
He was arrested though.
This story took a life of it’s own on. Rumor fueled with facts was what we had for hours.
Ironically, Vibinc used to know this guy as well at a place he used to work. This world is smaller than it ever was.
I’m not here today to condemn an accused man. I will let a judge and a jury of his peers figure it all out. I respect that.
But I’m also glad that many of the women and men I saw last night relieved who are exhausted from this. I’m just glad they caught him, but there is a unique dynamic here that is important to remember.
When nothing came from authorities, the community took the avenue of communicating for themselves. Nor do I blame them. I do see a learning curve here however. Maybe I’m the only one but I think this is important for future investigations.
However, that is said and done. More will be revealed today at a press conference and Shelby County Sheriff Mark Lutrell did fill in some of the details last night.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – For the first time, we get a better look at the face of the serial rapist. Investigators believe the assailant has now sexually assaulted four women, one in Memphis, one in Cordova, and two in Martin, Tennessee.
The attacks started back in June, and when the small police department in Martin, TN called in the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to assist, they started connecting the dots. For the first time, we see the attacker’s face.
This newest composite sketch hopes to give the public a better look at a man police believe to be involved in a series of rapes.
And, here is the video that ran in Memphis on Thursday night.
Back in the day, I worked with battered women and sexual abuse victims in Nashville and here in Weakley County. I was listening to some young women earlier this week and realized that some folks don’t understand that if a violent criminal is already in their house, they need to maybe have things in place that might assist them if they are ambushed. One woman said “I have a gun in my safe.”
I looked at her incredulously, I admit. A gun in your safe isn’t going to help much if a guy has a gun to your face.
So, here are some things that I used to tell some of my clients back in the day that are inexpensive that can buy a woman a few minutes if they are attacked.
First of all, squirt bottles are your friend. If you don’t have the money to buy a squirt bottle, a Windex bottle or something of that nature will suffice. Fill the bottle with tabasco sauce or jalapeno sauce. Small squirt bottles and the hot sauce can be bought for nearly nothing at a dollar store. Make sure that you have a stream that comes out. Here’s the key, you can set this about the house. A lot of people forget to put up their cleaning supplies so these items can sit around and can be camouflaged by the mundane that is in every apartment. I always suggested at least three or four of them sitting about. If you can blast the perpetrator in the face, it WILL HURT. (Walking into your home with a hot cup of coffee won’t get you the same results, but could buy you a bit of time as well if you toss it into the dude’s face. Seconds in these instances are valuable.)
If you do have a weapon, don’t lock it in a safe for crying out loud. Be prepared to use it. (That statement perplexes me still.)
Pets will keep people out of your house. A big dog is about the best protection any woman can have. Even a yippy smaller dog will at least make a perp think twice about entering your home. With tons of dogs available at animal shelters right now, this is easy to do. Also remember that you get a buddy out of having a pet as well. If you don’t own your home, talk to your landlord on why you need a pooch.
Don’t think that just because you’re tough, you have these things under control. You don’t. That’s what sexual assault is all about. It’s about someone else taking your control. Be cautious and don’t be timid about asking a friend or neighbor to walk you in your home.
This guy is scouting out new victims. He knew in Martin exactly who he was stalking and seemed to be very astute in knowing their routines. In cases like this, be sure to just be aware of your situation. The kids at UT Martin are calling the guy the “pot-bellied rapist” because apparently he has a very large stomach. Just watch the people around you and if something seems suspicious, trust your gut.
There are more things that you guys may know to do as well, so leave them in the comments on how to protect yourself in these situations. I talked to my friend Les about this and she suggested I post these things and even asked me to talk to some young women in our community, which I’m more than glad to do.
It’s important to be aware of various methods on personal protection. Hopefully, the media coverage will help the TBI and the local police catch this guy. Until then, we are waiting. I’m not usually a violent person, but this dude has instilled some fear in this community and …
Earlier this year, SQ and I were given a lovely pub crawl in Memphis by our blogging buddies there. As you can see, to our surprise, the photo in the back has a bit of carnality between a pirate and a mermaid. I have never laughed so hard. This is just spectacular.