The Star, David
So, the Flash picks up Saturday's Arizona Republic and riffles for the item that so regulates the ebb and flow of ideas and culture in the Valley of the Sun, the David Leibowitz column.
Perhaps it's his unadulterated self-absorption, so carefully packaged in blue-collar populism. Maybe it's his towering Jersey intellect, so glibly distilled to nouveau cowboy wingnut pretention--sustaining oxygen for mouth-breathers statewide.
Any way you slice it, Dave's got a chubby finger on your emotional G-spot. His life and his views on life are paramount. He's Truman Burbank, except quite a lot more rotund.
Reading Saturday's column, the Flash's supreme cognitive powers allowed him quickly to grasp that Leibowitz (former colleagues at the Tribune knew him as "Libidowitz") was really pulling a Truman--he was actually proposing marriage to some person, right there in his column!
Enormous capital letters introduced paragraphs and spelled out his frantic cry for help--"M-A-R-R-Y M-E K-E-L-L-E-E-?"--in devilishly clever fashion. Get it? You had to read down the left-hand side of the column to decipher the code! (Editors were reportedly disappointed that tens of thousands of readers called in for help in breaking the code.) Breakfasts curdled all over Arizona as David professed his eternal and undying love. For himself.
Under no circumstances does the Flash need or want to know that much about David Leibowitz's personal life. But the Flash supposes we must brace for blow-by-blow accounts of the nuptials and blissful honeymoon. As an added bonus, several local TV stations are poised to televise the consummation, with expert color commentary provided by David himself.
Sunday, the Republic ran a photo of the man who tells Arizona what to think, smirking and clutching Kellee's bejeweled finger. "She said 'Yes!'" the Republic announced. Of course, Kellee and her blond curls were barely visible in the photo, which was dominated by Dave's self-satisfied mug. (Young female interns at the Republic are said to have breathed a collective sigh of relief.)
It's been a banner year for the Arizona Department of Corrections--it's only June, and DOC has already killed three people and has at least five more on the burner.
The DOC is on such a roll when it comes to executions that it's abandoned its practice of doing the killing at just after midnight. The agency has decided to do it at 3 p.m. The official reason is that it's inhumane to wake poor, sleepy judges late at night to ask them to consider granting a stay of execution.
But the Flash figures that the DOC's true purpose is to make executions a matter of routine rather than an event. If the state-sponsored whacks are done during the day, it's harder for working people to attend the vigils that formerly were staged outside the prison on execution eve. It's not easy to stand around being vigilant in the afternoon sun--plus candles lighted during vigils lose much of their effect.
The new broad-daylight procedure was inaugurated last Wednesday with the euthanization of Douglas Gretzler. So the Flash headed for Florence to take a look-see.
The DOC's plan seems to be working. When the state killed Jose Jesus Ceja at midnight in January, at least 50 people attended the candlelight vigil. Last Wednesday, the Flash counted 28 people gathered in the dust in front of the prison store.
What the scene lacked in numbers, it made up for in crassness. As the execution was happening, the Flash saw a reporter approach a group of people who were praying, and ask them to answer his questions. When he got nowhere with them, he spied a couple of people who were sitting on the ground, meditating. He went up to them, interrupted their meditation and asked for some quotes. He didn't get any that were printable.
Simile Is "Smile" With an I
Courtesy of the Internet, the Flash has come into possession of this list of entrants in a "worst analogies" contest run by the Washington Post. The prose made the Flash as delighted as an uncoordinated chap who puts on his belt without missing a loop. To wit:
"He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it."
"She caught your eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from screen doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open again."
"The little boat gently drifted across the still pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't."
"McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup."
"From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy! comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30."
"Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze."
"Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center."
"Bob was as perplexed as a hacker who means to access quid55238.com?aaakk/ch?flw:quidaaakk/ch@UNG BY MISTAKE."
"HER VOCABULARY WAS AS BAD AS, LIKE, WHATEVER."
"HE WAS AS TALL AS A SIX-FOOT-THREE-INCH TREE."
"THE HAILSTONES LEAPED FROM THE PAVEMENT, JUST LIKE MAGGOTS WHEN YOU FRY THEM IN HOT GREASE."
"HER DATE WAS PLEASANT ENOUGH, BUT SHE KNEW THAT IF HER LIFE WAS A MOVIE, THIS GUY WOULD BE BURIED IN THE CREDITS AS SOMETHING LIKE 'SECOND TALL MAN.'"
"LONG SEPARATED BY CRUEL FATE, THE STAR-CROSSED LOVERS RACED ACROSS THE GRASSY FIELD TOWARD EACH OTHER LIKE TWO FREIGHT TRAINS, ONE HAVING LEFT CLEVELAND AT 6o36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph."
"The politician was gone but unnoticed, like the period after Dr. on a Dr Pepper can."
"They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth."
"John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met."
"His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free."
"The red brick wall was the color of a brick-red Crayola crayon."
"Her eyes were as blue as the ocean, and her dress was as red as China in the 1950s."
"The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play."
The State Capitol Museum is running an exhibit titled "Copper Journalism: Press and Politics in Arizona."
The exhibition, which runs until December, is ostensibly a history of newspapers in the state. But there are a few things lacking--real history, for example. The Flash could find nothing to commemorate the murder of investigative journalist Don Bolles. However, the visit was not in vain.
Keven Ann Willey, heartthrob of the preppie conservative set, has a veritable shrine in her honor. Now we know why she sucks up to Jane Hull all the time. What must the Flash kiss to get a display?
There's a resume of Keven's career--pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. There's a color photo of her grinning maniacally, taken before she got the haircut that accompanied her promotion to editor of the editorial pages. There's a letter from Michael Dukakis (remember him?), thanking her for the "enormous effort you gave to 1988's presidential race."
And, best of all, there are her press passes. Eight of them. Seven to Republican conventions, and one to a Democratic convention.
The Flash knelt before this sacred altar, did some prostrations, and left, praying someday to attend a political convention on an expense account.
On the way out, the Flash couldn't help but wonder if this publication got a mention. It did. No exhibit, but a mention. "The aggressive New Times began in 1970 as an alternative, free-circulation paper in Phoenix. Many former Republic and Gazette reporters have been on the staff."
Indeed. The current count is three. One of them has been Arizona's journalist of the year three times.
Couldn't They Have Collided?
The Flash had vowed to steer clear of commentary on the passage of Barry Goldwater. This line, however, on the front page of the Denver Post, bears repeating:
"The public funeral drew two planeloads of congressional, disgraced former Arizona governors and other officials . . ."
The Flash normally tries to keep away from the Arizona State Hospital. It is, after all, the state mental hospital, where an undermanned staff struggles to tend the certified lunatic fringe.
Recently, however, the Flash slipped over the razor wire to help say goodbye to four well-regarded staffers who are moving on to better and, they hope, less stressful pursuits. Frustrated by a lack of funding and what they and many others perceive as second-class treatment at the hands of state bureaucrats, psychiatrists Steve Pitt and Dave Coons and two others bid a fond farewell.
The two men long have been in the trenches, Pitt as a forensic psychiatrist with a zest for understanding what makes the criminal mind tick, and Coons as a psychiatric consultant who labored quietly for years to try to make ASH more hospitable for staff and inmates alike.
Also resigning from the beleaguered (and newly disaccredited) ASH were its (highly accredited) medical director, Dr. Lisa Jones, and psychiatrist Betsy Kohlhepp.
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Friends and colleagues threw a little luncheon bash at the ASH cafeteria. Tears and emotion overwhelmed the inevitable gallows humor that usually dominates such proceedings. The four collected plaques and said a few words.
"At its best," said Coons, pausing meaningfully, "this was the most enjoyable thing I've done in my professional career."
He didn't have to say that at its worst, it was among the most miserable. Working in the trenches of what passes for Arizona's mental-health system is difficult duty; the idealistic become jaded, the enthusiastic become demoralized. Pitt and Coons resisted that souring process for a long time.
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