Some time ago Thomas Bertonneau invited Orthosphere readers to share examples of “subscendence,” by which he means the apotheosis of “culminant man.” His object is, I believe, broadly similar to that of Ryan Landry’s running commentary on “Weimerica.” If this spectacle of decadence is, for you, an engrossing topic, here are some trenchant and illuminating items.
A few years back, I began to send synopses of knucklehead behavior, reported in our local newspaper, to a small group of old college friends. As my special theme was creative use of tools in acts of malignancy and mayhem, I titled the occasional series Tools in the News. But these stories could just as well be called Knucklehead News. We sometimes seem to have more than our fair share of Knuckleheads down here in Texas, but I do not think that is the only reason our Knucklehead News is so abundant. Our newspapers may also be more likely to print these stories, partly in response to reader demand, but also because Knucklehead News is an indirect way to talk about things no one really wants to talk about.
A big part of this is race, since Blacks and Hispanics dominate (but do not monopolize) the Knucklehead News. (The newspaper once described a Hispanic Knucklehead as an “undocumented citizen,” which I thought a nice editorial touch.) Another part is drugs, since virtually all of these Knuckleheads are drunk and/or stoned. Respectable citizens only know that this town has a very big drug problem if they read between the lines in the Knucklehead News. When the fellow went after his sister with the electric fan, frying pan and broom handle because she “owed him money,” there is a very good chance she owed him money for drugs. Yet another part is the chaotic sex lives of the underclass, which seem to consist of random rutting punctuated by unplanned pregnancies and fights.
The Knucklehead News (a.k.a subscendence or Weimerica) an is an ugly scene, and even my misanthropic conscience feels a twinge of guilt when I find cause for mordant mirth in the troubles and tribulations of Knuckleheads. But I have come to believe that the Knuckleheads of the world owe the rest of us something in return for all the misery they cause us.* Think of what a nice place this world would be if we didn’t have to clean up after Knuckleheads! If published accounts of their antics can rouse a sardonic chuckle, that is at least something.
(*To anticipate readers who are quick to note beams in the eye of a man who notes motes in the eyes of others, let me at once confess that I have led a life that has not been untainted by knuckleheadedness.)
Here’s the Basic Drill (December 2014)
I know you fellas are always interested in news of mayhem in the Lone Star State, particularly when the story has that handyman-run-amock, homicidal-tool-use angle. Just the other day one local man stabbed another “with a power drill.” Unfortunately the article didn’t specify cordless or corded, which seems to me an oversight. Just last night, we are told, a woman stabbed her boyfriend with a screwdriver, “when he tried to leave after she demanded that he do so.” Isn’t that just like a woman! Not the fancy work with the screwdriver, but the stabbing a man for doing what she asked him to do.
Stick a Fork in It (December 2014)
From this morning’s Bryan-College Station Eagle: “A Washington County [just south of here] man has been arrested after authorities accused him of stabbing his girlfriend in the eye with a fork on Thanksgiving Day.” This was his second arrest for assault on the same woman, his previous weapon being, one supposes, a turkey baster.
Girlfriends are Not Always Friendly—or Even Girls (January 2015)
A man was murdered in Bryan last night, the second murder in a year that promises to eclipse all others in the homicide division. He was stabbed by his “girlfriend,” age 38, in the course of a “domestic disturbance,” but the police have so far declined to identify the lethal instrument. I’m going to go out on a limb here and point to the fact that there is a small hardware store about a quarter of a mile from the apartment complex where the murder took place, and to suggest that we will soon be told that the lethal instrument was not a knife, but something more along the lines of a rattail file, gouge, or spud bar. According to neighbors, the now permanently estranged couple were frequently locked in loud “domestic disputes,” although the exact nature of their disagreement was unclear. Studying the mug shot of the woman, I discovered a possible clue. She had the name of another man tattooed across one cheek in large letters. I can see how that might have rankled her late “boyfriend,” age 40, and how this rankling might have led to “domestic disturbances,” and how “domestic disturbances” might have inspired a fateful trip to the hardware store.
Live Wires (February 2015)
The weather here remains very fine. Yesterday evening was, indeed, shirtsleeve weather, or, for Humberto Sanchez of Bryan, no-shirt-at-all weather. Last night the shirtless Sanchez accosted a man outside O’Bannon’s bar, crying “do you want to get hurt” and brandishing, the Eagle reports, a “multitool knife.” I believe that should have been a “multitool with a knife,” and also a pliers, saw, can opener, Phillips-head screwdriver and patented nose hair trimmer. Who can say which of these fearsome tools actually cowed the unnamed man, whom Sanchez robbed.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Bryan, Austin Nelson and Melissa Price were arrested for endangering the lives of Price’s children, largely because they neglected their tools. In an apartment described as filled with “dirty dishes covered with rotting food” and “clothing stained with feces,” which also “smelled of vomit,” Nelson and Price where growing marijuana under lamps with “bare wire connections.”
Misfit Language (February 2015)
Our language is not changing as quickly as our social arrangements, as can be seen in a story printed in this morning’s Eagle. The substance of the story is sad, as it reports what appears to have been the murder of a seven-month-old girl by her mother’s live-in “boyfriend”; but what struck me was that this arrangement was described in terms from the 1950s. Speaking of the accused, the paper said, “Talawrence Donyea Tennell, 35, lived in the home and was dating the girl’s mother.” Dating! Do you suppose he snuck out the back door every Saturday night, and then appeared at the front door with a bouquet and a box of chocolates? I’m not saying that we have to go back to the old (but accurate) descriptor of this arrangement, which was “shacking up,” but we do need a vocabulary that describes the world we actually live in. What we have is a vocabulary that obscures that world with a thick fog of euphemisms. Of course, you may say that the verb “to date” has simply come to mean “to enjoy carnal knowledge of,” and that the noun “boyfriend” now simply means “sexual partner.” I would not disagree. But if that is so, what do we call the thing we used to call a “date” and the thing we used to call a “boyfriend” (assuming such still exist)?
Cycling Smith (June 2015)
The Knuckleheads of Bryan are totally down with the whole bicycle thing. Why, just last night one Darell Leon Smith attempted to “outrun police on his bicycle.” Cousin Darell was, the newspaper reports, “riding his bike the wrong direction on Columbus Avenue without any safety lights” when a patrolman hove alongside, rolled down the window, and asked him to stop. Now in close proximity to Cousin Darell, the patrolman noticed that he emitted a “strong chemical smell,” and that it wasn’t Old Spice aftershave. Cousin Darell was, as it happens, soaked in PCP, and therefore wreathed in the tell-a-tale cloud of vaporized phencyclidine. Therefore, showing the quick wits and awesome speed of which none but a PCP-soaked Smith on a bicycle is capable, Cousin Darell bolted and lead the police on a very short chase. Unfortunately, in his excitement, Cousin Darell failed to perceive the truck that was parked directly ahead of him, and so crashed, was collared, and is presently in the jug
A Veritable Ship of Tools (June 2015)
It has been awhile since the last installment of Tools in the News, but that doesn’t mean the zany residents of Bryan haven’t been putting their tools to good use. Just the other day we had a young woman laying a young man up the side of the head with a tire iron, the young man being, of course, one “with whom she had a child.” I’m not saying this is a great article, since my impression of tire irons is that they are used to smash skulls about as often as they are used to change tires, and for this reason should perhaps be referred to as a “tool” (wink! wink!). This morning we had another story in which the instrument of violence was, arguably, in the penumbra of toolhood. One Juana Orozco-Aguilar attacked her husband with an “artificial Christmas tree” in the course of an argument over his infidelities. Apparently the holiday spirit is alive year-round in the Orrozco-Aguilar household [it was June, after all], so when Juana needed to drive home a point, the Christmas tree was ready to hand. “You poke a her,” she may have cried, “then I poke a you!” By far and away the best Tools in the News story of late, however, appeared a couple of weeks ago. A man attacked his sister, who had failed to repay a loan, using “an electric fan, a frying pan and a broom handle.” It was not clear whether the fan was plugged in and running, if the frying pan was hot, or how he managed to juggle the three instruments of wrath, but this looks like one for the Tools in the News Greatest Hits Anthology, which is scheduled for release by Oxford University Press in 2083.
The Machete Menace Rears its Head (July 2015)
Normally I limit Tools in the News to creative used of a tool as a weapon. Today, however, we have an example of creative use of a weapon as a tool, or so it is claimed. I have attached a photo of Matthew Hayhurst, the protagonist of this story, for reasons that are readily apparent. Mr. Hayhurst is said to have assaulted a man with a sawed-off shotgun and a machete, which is a pretty fearsome combo, if you ask me. But, as Mr. Hayhurst explained to the police, he was not using the machete as a weapon. He was using the machete “to stabilize the sawed-off shotgun.” That certainly changes the story, doesn’t it? I mean, if you see the headline, “Man Assaulted with Sawed-Off Shotgun and Machete,” you sit up and take notice. But, if you see the headline “Man Assaulted with Sawed-Off Shotgun Propped on Curiously Shaped Support,” you just yawn and turn the page. Anyhow, here’s Mr. Hayhurst.
Machete Fight Gone Wrong (November 2015)
Sorry for the slowdown in my reports from the edge of Mayhem. I’m prodded from my silence by a couple of recent curiosities. Last night, in the parking lot of the Tropicana Club, which is about half a mile from where I am sitting, there was a machete fight that went wrong. Couple of guys having a normal machete fight outside a bar, and one of them amputated the other one’s hand. This tragic event has sobered the machete-fighting community of Bryan, normally a cheerful and fun-loving bunch.
On Saturday night a Halloween party turned into a melee, and the police were called when a shot rang out. The shooter claimed he fired his pistol into the air to frighten “a golf-club wielding man, twenty to twenty-five years old, and five feet tall, who was either white or Hispanic.” Now this is a real head-scratcher, since virtually every male in this town who is over twenty and under five feet is an Indian from some fastness in the mountains of central Mexico, but Indians from some fastness in central Mexico do not wield golf clubs. They wield machetes!
Bryan Cowers Under Machete-Shaped Shadow (November 2015)
There was an article this morning relating particulars from the machete fight and hand amputation that occurred in the parking lot of Club Tropicana this past Halloween. Police have arrested the amputator, one Paulino Lara Martinez, 38, an undocumented machete fighter whom friends say works for a “drug cartel,” and who was, oddly enough, arrested for “carrying a weapon” in Club Tropicana in 2012.
Just before 2:00 a.m. on the morning of November 1, Martinez and an Unknown Man got into a bottle fight in Club Tropicana. The management kicked them out, no doubt informing them that Club Tropicana is a classy joint where they take a dim view of bottle fights. Martinez waited outside, planning to ambush the Unknown Man, but was consternated when “a man who he did not know came to his assailant’s aid with a machete.” Luckily, Martinez had learned in the Boy Scouts to Be Prepared, and so was able “to retrieve a machete from his car.”
Martinez and the Unknown Man fell upon each other with furious blows and were lunging, parrying, and employing the difficult in quartata, when Juan Tapia emerged from Club Tropicana with “his mother-in-law and sister-in-law.” Seeing the machete fight in progress, Tapia did the natural thing and “raced to his car to get his machete.” Tapia began “hitting the hood of Martinez’s car with a machete,” and video footage then “shows the pair swinging their machetes at each other” until Tapia’s “hand was sliced off.” The Unknown Man, meanwhile, apparently slipped away. Thereupon, “Martinez jumped in his car and drove away, while bar employees recovered the severed hand and placed it in a bucket of ice.”
Martinez was arrested near San Antonio (200 miles to the southwest) this past Saturday. After leaving Club Tropicana he “drove into a pole and damaged his car” (and, one supposes, the pole). His “girlfriend,” roused from her beauty sleep, came to his rescue and allowed him to hole up at her place for four days. Then it appears Martinez began his run for the border—or rather, as we will no doubt be informed, his long-anticipated trip home to see his little brother’s graduation. He wasn’t on the run since, he insists, “he didn’t know that he hurt the other guy.” Even so, when the Police ran him down by “calling his cell phone number,” Martinez was reluctant to “turn himself in” because, as he said, he was wanted for “other stuff.”
Goons on Campus (November 2015)
Here is a departure from the usual rogues’ gallery of Tools in the News. Last night a gang of bespectacled Chinese graduate students took a break from studying and beat another Chinese graduate student in a university parking lot (perhaps for making noise while they tried to study). Around 11 p.m., the victim, a woman, was accosted by two men and a woman, all speaking Chinese, and calling her “by the handle she uses on the QQ Messenger app.” The three “hit the victim twice on the knees with broomsticks, which caused bruising.” The fearsome bruisers in this vicious gang are described as respectively towering to “5 feet 5 inches,” “5 feet 9 inches,” and “5 feet 5 inches.” If this isn’t a case for concealed carry on campus, I don’t know what is.
The Case of the Sliding Scissors (January 2016)
A Bryan man was last night incarcerated after his girlfriend accused him of the vile crime “of sliding scissors down her neck.” It seems that T. J. Alvarado and his girlfriend were in her apartment, talking about this and that, when their words suddenly grew heated “and she grabbed a pair of scissors to defend herself.” Undaunted, young Alvarado “threw her onto the bed,” which, judging from his photo and the usual morphometric symmetry of couples, was a feat of real strength. It was then that he “grabbed the scissors and slid the blade down her neck” with a force sufficient to leave “a three-inch scratch.” Exhausted by his labors, Alvarado made his way to “a fast-food restaurant off North Earl Rudder Freeway,” where he was apprehended by the police, eating a hamburger, in “possession of marijuana” and, it so happens, wanted on “outstanding warrants on charges of burglary of a habitation and fleeing police.”
In related news the newspaper informs us that a “new burger joint [is] coming to College Station.” This will go some way towards amending the severe burger joint shortage that now leaves some College Station hunger-attack victims more than fifteen-minutes-drive from one of these vital urgent-care facilities. Unmentioned in the article is whether Mr. Alvarado might have cracked under the strain of having to drive all the way to North Earl Rudder Freeway when his marijuana-smoking and girlfriend-throwing habits triggered a hunger attack.
I Didn’t Do It, But I Was Completely Justified (January 2016)
In the town of Cameron, about forty miles northwest of here, an eighty-three-year-old man named Joe Morris Rodgers has been indicted for “assault with a deadly weapon,” the deadly weapon being the pickup truck with which he rammed “a vehicle driven by his former stepdaughter.” This happened on “College Avenue” in Cameron, which is remarkable since Cameron has no college (nor any abundance of college graduates). Rogers resides in a “storage unit,” also in Cameron. He “denied ramming the vehicle,” but told the police that he did it “because he thought the victim’s husband was driving,” and this husband “owed him money.” Explaining why one did the crime should not be confused with admitting that one did the crime.
Cameron used to have a wonderful local history museum that I enjoyed visiting. My favorite exhibit was, as the label described it, “a cob of corn shaped like a human hand and grown in this vicinity.” The museum was in the old Milam County jail, adjacent to the courthouse. For the price of admission, visitors were allowed to climb the stairs to the top of the “hanging tower.” This is a brick structure with a spiral staircase mounted on its walls and an open shaft at the center, down which the bodies of the condemned could be dropped. But, as a small placard explained, the hanging tower was “never used,” the good people of Milam County preferring public executions on the courthouse square.
Some years back Milam County hired a professional museum curator, and this barbarian immediately discarded the “cob of corn shaped like a human hand and grown in this vicinity” and closed the “hanging tower.” Museum displays now focus on “the cotton economy” and things of that sort, so I no longer feel any desire to visit Cameron.
“Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You . . .” (May 2016)
It’s been a while since my last Tools in the News. The good citizens of Bryan seem to have lost their creativity, and nowadays mostly wreck havoc with conventional weapons. But I find in this morning’s paper an example of that old Tools in the News staple, assault by automobile. A man called 911 to report that he was being “stalked” by Kristianna Marie Jefferson, 26, who was also “throwing rocks at his vehicle.” Miss Jefferson was a woman he “knew,” or rather had known, since I believe the verb is here used in the biblical sense of carnal knowledge. As perceptive Tools in the News readers know, young women throw rocks at cars only of men by whom they have been “known.” (Or is there, perhaps, a new erotic frontier where one knows a woman while she throws rocks at one’s car?) Anyhow, here’s the memorable line from the newspaper: “During the 911 call, dispatchers could hear a car accelerating and then a loud crash followed by moans.” The newspaper does not say whether those moans were a consequence of the caller’s injuries, or renewal of his “knowledge” of the winsome Miss Jefferson.
A Wrenching Experience (July 2016)
Tools were once again in the news, down here in the Lone Star State. Just past midnight Saturday morning, Diego Andrew Taran, 18, was chilling at the Pop-a-Top, a corrugated metal Quonset hut that bills itself as “the best Tejano bar in downtown Bryan.” (Tejano is a borderland musical genre in which accordions feature prominently.) Two men apparently harshed Mr. Taran’s mellow, so Mr. Taran paid them back with blows by “a foot-long crescent wrench.” Exhausted by these labors, Mr. Taran headed home to bed, but then decided that a little more wrench action was called for, and so “returned and began beating the men again.” His weapon, once again, “a silver-colored crescent wrench.” When police arrived at the Pop-a-Top, the men were “in the parking lot” with “bleeding wounds on their faces, and other cuts and bruises.” When Mr. Taran was later arrested at his home, police “noticed Xanax bars and about a gram of K2 stuffed inside Taran’s sock,” which was pretty perceptive since even Mr. Taran “hadn’t known the drugs were in his sock.” I blame it on the accordions.