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Cliches and Mini Profiles!

Journalism 104C

The pot calling the kettle black


By: KENNY McCANLESS
Issue date: 11/20/03 Section: Features
PrintEmail DoubleClick Any Word Page 1 of 1 I've had it up to here.
Seriously, I'm steamed. People have been beating a dead horse. They've
been barking up the wrong tree. They've been insulting my intelligence
and the intelligence of those around them by not thinking on their feet.
Well, I'm letting the cat out of the bag. These old, tired idiomatic
expressions and colloquialisms that we feel so athome with have one foot
in the grave. They're simply boring! Have you ever even considered the
implications, should these statements be taken literally? Visualize the
ensuing absurdities as you read on. You say that I'm just being a stick
in the mud, and that I'm probably even off the wagon as I'm writing this.
Now that's just a copout. I hate to rain on your parade, but thinking
that simple clich?s are an adequate form of communication is just seeing
the world through rosecolored glasses. Denial is not just a river in
Egypt, people. Wake up and smell the coffee! I'm just out there punching
the clock, trying to make ends meet, giving you a hearttoheart as your
journalist, and I'm never one to lie down on the job, so don't give me
any guff (what is "guff", anyway?)! Don't head for the hills when it
comes time to reach for the sky and write better! Athletes and sports
analysts think they're somehow above the fray, but they need to just get
off their high horses and let the realization dawn on them that you can't
say things like "He picked up the whole team and carried it on his
shoulders," or, "They rode Smith to a victory," or, "Finally, the monkey
is off his back," especially if you mistakenly add "literally." Besides,
those rhesus things couldn't be too big a burden. But anyway, don't look
a gift horse in the mouth. By the grace of God, you've been handed the
ability to say something. Don't say the same thing as everyone else!
Variety is the spice of life! I'm sorry if it seems like I'm asking you
to change horses in the middle of the stream, but maybe another style of
writing and speaking might agree with you (have you ever considered how
many of these trite sayings involve steed?). Eventually, once you rid
your papers of trite verbiage, they'll look like a million dollars!
You'll feel like you're hitting on all cylinders and you'll no longer
sound like a wetbehindtheears novice! I know that personally I'd fall
head over heels for a woman who, along with stopping traffic, could stop
people from putting words in her mouth when she shoots the bull with me.
But as God is my witness, having a devilmaycare attitude about your
everyday giveandtake with people will earn you a big cup of jack squat.
I'm sorry; I can't just let the chips fall where they may and throw up my
hands when you say things other people have already said, and I won't let
you ride on others' coattails. I've got to lay it on the line: Once in a
blue moon, a teacher might let it slide when you fall back on these old
standbys, or your friends might look the other way when you make an ass
of yourself by bringing out one of these idioms. But I'm not prepared to
loosen up, even if your heart is in the right place (as opposed to being
in your pelvis). Don't worry, I'm not putting all my eggs in one basket.
Do I really expect you to mend your ways? No. We're old hands, not spring
chickens, by the time we leave the nest and go to college. The lights are
on, but nobody's home to create more original forms of speech. Plus, it's
not exactly a piece of cake. You'll probably keep using these expressions
that have been around since the days of yore `til the cows come home. So
I'm done chewing you out. All you have to do to get me out of your hair
and make me call off the dogs is use some creativity and construct your
own sentences and quit relying on these clich?s. Like me.KENNY MCCANLESS
usually speaks and writes with a lot more originality than he's showing
here, and he urges you to do the same. Give him muchdesired feedback or

1
email him with fun ideas for Thanksgiving pranks "Oh my God! That's
not turkey!" at kenmc@ucdavis.edu.

> >These are columns, but they're also mini-profiles! Check 'em out!
>
>
> DREAMING ABOUT CALLING THE SHOTS Origin STEPHEN MAGAGNINI Publication =
> Date 12/15/1989 Page SC1 Section SCENE Edition METRO FINAL Dateline =
> Corrections Memo Body Text SOME KIDS DREAM of becoming president or =
> finding a cure for cancer. The realists become personal injury lawyers,
>=
> or dentists, or life insurance salesmen.
>
> Then there are those, like Neil Reilly, who walk alone, motivated by =
> strange forces only they understand.
>
> Neil Reilly is an NBA referee-wanna-be. Some people toss dwarfs for a =
> living; Reilly wants to toss 7-footers who get out of line. He plans to
>=
> call his autobiography "T!" for technical foul, the most emphatic =
> statement a ref can make.
>
> Neil's got zeal. Every night you can find him in the bathroom, =
> practicing his "mechanics" - gestures for traveling violations, charging
>=
> calls, center jump toss, etc. - in front of the mirror. "It's paid off,"
>=
> he says. Last summer he went to referee camp.
>
> Referees are on a par with gravediggers - it's a dirty job, but =
> somebody's got to do it. When was the last time you told a gravedigger,
>=
> "Nice work"?
>
> "You've got to have an ego capable of withstanding punishment," says =
> Reilly. "It's like being a SMUD board member - you get pounded week =
> after week by somebody, no matter what you do."
>
> A referee is a masochist with a whistle. After Reilly's idol, NBA ref =
> Earl Strom, cost the Los Angeles Clippers a game when he missed a =
> 3-pointer at the buzzer, millions of TV viewers saw replays of Earl's =
> blunder. The blown call took one second, but the boos will last a =
> lifetime.
>
> Reilly, 22, has officiated 600 basketball games in three years, while =
> working toward his teaching credential at Sac State. He's worked his way
>=
> up from elbow-filled rec league games to high school ball. He hopes to =
> be working college hoops within two years, and calling fouls in the NBA
>=
> by the time he's 30.
>
> If, of course, he lives that long. Refs take more abuse than cops who =
> stop Zsa Zsa.

2
>
> A female fan came up to Reilly after a game, dropped four pennies on his
>=
> shoes and said, "Here - this is what we think you're worth." Another fan
>=
> remarked, "If I had a penny for every bad call you made I could buy New
>=
> York." A third called Reilly the most pathetic referee he'd ever seen. =
> And those were the nice fans. "Their team lost - by 12 - and of course =
> it was my fault," says Reilly. "I love it! I'm a cheap psychiatrist. If
>=
> they want to scream and holler at me for an hour and a half without =
> having to pay for it, then nooo problem. It's fun to scream at refs."
>
> When I played JV basketball in Brooklyn, the refs had black belts in =
> karate. Even that couldn't save them. One night, we played Eron Prep, =
> the JV equivalent of the Oakland Raiders. You get kicked out of three =
> schools, you wind up at Eron. They had guys on their JV with full =
> beards. I drove for a layup and got punched in the stomach.
>
> At one point, the ref called three technicals in a row against Eron =
> Prep. When he turned his back to give me the ball, one of their players
>=
> yelled an obscenity at the ref. The ref wheeled around and threw the guy
>=
> out of the game. The only problem was, he threw out the wrong guy, who =
> went berserk. After the game, the Eron Prep team chased the ref into the
>=
> subway station with a crowbar. I hate to think what would have happened
>=
> if they'd lost the game.
> TUESDAY NIGHT, Neil reffed the freshman and JV games between the Elk =
> Grove Thundering Herd and the Tokay Tigers of Lodi. After making $30 =
> running around for four hours with a whistle in his mouth, Neil went to
>=
> the Kings-Warriors game.
>
> Others come to watch Wayman Tisdale or Chris Mullin; Neil's first words
>=
> are, "Joey Crawford's reffing tonight! Look at that change-of-possession
>=
> pull! It's like a strike-three call." When Crawford twirls his hands to
>=
> indicate traveling, Neil exclaims, "Sweet." When Crawford lifts his foot
>=
> for emphasis on a charging call, Reilly goes wild. "He's flashy - he's =
> not a robot."
>
> What was this guy talking about? I've seen flashier toll collectors. =
> When the paunchy Crawford runs the court like a penguin, Neil beams, =
> "I'm bow-legged, too. Look at him! Does he look like a physical =
> specimen?"
>
> I asked Neil why ref when you can work the complaint desk at a =
> department store the day after Christmas, or wait tables at a lousy =
> restaurant?
>
> "I get a high from refereeing," he says. "My adrenalin's pumping along =
> with the players'. I love being in the heat of battle. I feast on it. I
>=
> get depressed if I go a week without refereeing."
>

3
> In basketball, as in life, you need referees. "You have to have us," =
> says Neil. "There's no way around it."
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> -------------
> PASSIONATE POET HAS CACHE FOR CASH Origin Stephen Magagnini Publication
>=
> Date 6/25/1990 Page B5 Section SCENE Edition METRO FINAL Dateline =
> Corrections Memo Body Text THERE'S THIS GUY, B.L. Kennedy, and does he =
> have a deal for you.
>
> It's his one-of-a-kind collection of Sacramento literature. He's got a =
> signed copy of Raymond Carver's first published poem. He figures it's =
> worth maybe two, three thousand bucks. He's got poetry magazines he's =
> published himself. He's got tapes and posters from practically every =
> poetry reading in recent Sacramento history.
>
> He'll let you have the whole shooting match for 10 grand. Too much? Do I
>=
> hear $8,500? How about $7,000? He'd never part with it, except that he's
>=
> going to the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colo., to howl with Allen =
> Ginsberg, and that costs $12,500 and he needs the money.. . .
>
> Other people talk; B.L. Kennedy "foamanates." He doesn't recite poetry,
>=
> he fulminates. He's 66 inches of gut-roaring terror. He has oyster eyes
>=
> and a banshee's hair. He's a Morlock with a five-o'clock shadow, =
> regurgitated from the subterranean depths of Fort Apache, the Bronx. =
> Kennedy, 37 come Halloween, had open heart surgery in 1984, but he's got
>=
> a tungsten spirit and a hustler's soul and he's cheated death more than
>=
> once.
>
> Kennedy's almost sold his collection a dozen times. He swears a guy in =
> New York wanted to buy it, but by the time Bari got there, the guy had =
> died. A few weeks ago, Kennedy thought he had it sold to the Sacramento
>=
> Library, which is spending $1.25 million to expand and refurbish its =
> Sacramento Room.
>
> A team of experts spent two hours at Kennedy's downtown digs. Deputy =
> Library Director Judy Renzema, who headed the team, said, "We were all =
> very impressed by what we saw . . . probably more impressive than Mr. =
> Kennedy's collection was the man himself. He is so passionate."
>
> His is a passion born of deprivation. When he was 6 years old, living in
>=
> a Bronx basement, he wrote his first poem, "The Flying Saucer": "I saw a
>=
> flying saucer, it came down from the sky, it landed in Central Park and
>=
> I asked myself why." Poetry reached into him and made him feel things =
> his family couldn't.
>
> At 9, he sold his comic book collection and bought a $19 typewriter. "My
>=

4
> mother took it in her hands and smashed it against the pavement. My =
> mother hated books. God, did she ever. She was functionally illiterate.
>=
> She couldn't read the newspaper. If I was found with books I would get =
> beat up by my brother, who's a cop in New York. When I sent him my first
>=
> book of poetry to make peace, he tossed it in the fireplace, didn't even
>=
> look at it. To him poets are faggots. He's getting his now - he was just
>=
> transferred to 9th Avenue and 47th Street with all the hookers and =
> junkies."
>
> Like I said, he foamanates.
>
> Kennedy missed large chunks of school with heart disease and asthma. =
> "The hospital was my haven.. . . I could read there and nobody could =
> beat me up."
>
> IN 1976 he came to Sacramento with a woman. She turned out to be a =
> lesbian, but Kennedy stuck around anyway and breathed life into the =
> local art scene, and vice-versa. His Sunday night poetry series at =
> Webber's Books is booked through 1991. Most nights, it's better than TV.
>
> Poetry's kept him alive, and he's trying to return the favor. It's been
>=
> an uphill struggle. Carmichael librarian Gregg Procter says of Kennedy's
>=
> collection, "The second it's severed from him it's going to lose a lot =
> of vitality." Kennedy's offered to make a three-hour video, but that's =
> like seeing Springsteen on video - nothing like the real thing. We ought
>=
> to set up a cage for B.L. Kennedy in the Sacramento Room and let him =
> work the room.
>
> Deputy Library Director Renzema commented, "We already own two of Mr. =
> Kennedy's books, "Eccentric Shadows' and "Transgressing Angels.' To =
> date, one person has borrowed one copy one time. Poetry just doesn't =
> move very rapidly."
>
> Which is a crime, Kennedy froths. "We need our poets more than ever =
> because we're so estranged from our feelings, so removed from truth.. .
>=
> . We need to reconnect. A lot of people are afraid of truth and poets =
> deal primarily in truth."
>
> And besides, he's got this great poetry collection for sale. Truth is, a
>=
> lot of it came from the Sacramento Library in the first place. "Almost =
> my entire collection came from the Friends of the Library used book =
> sale," he caws. "I paid five cents for the Raymond Carver poem. They've
>=
> never been good to their poets in Sacramento."
>
> Maybe we don't need his collection. But we sure as hell need passionate,
>=
> pulsating prophets like B.L. Kennedy.
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=

5
> -----------------------
> A MOM TAKES ON THE CRACK DEALERS Origin Stephen Magagnini Publication =
> Date 8/22/1990 Page E1 Section SCENE Edition METRO FINAL Dateline =
> Corrections Memo Body Text LIFE IN the 1990s has come to this: 35 people
>=
> showed up Monday night to learn "How To Close a Crack House for $12."
>
> Ten years ago, there weren't any crack houses. Now the cops figure we've
>=
> got between 150 and 200 crack houses all over Sacramento, known as a =
> great place to raise your kids.
>
> The Chamber of Commerce isn't going to tell you crack-in-the-boxes =
> outnumber Jack-In-The-Boxes. But more and more decent folks are waking =
> up to the sounds of tires screeching, horns honking, and pushers =
> fighting with dissatisfied or desperate customers. Waking up to find =
> their car stereos ripped off, then the cars themselves.
>
> And when you call the cops, you soon find out there's not a lot they can
>=
> do without proof. So you hide behind your double-locked doors and pull =
> your blinds and hope the hubba-heads will go away. They won't.
>
> "How To Close a Crack House for $12." It sounded to good to be true, but
>=
> 35 people showed up anyway at the Colonial Heights Library on Stockton =
> Boulevard to hear Molly Wetzel, a divorced mother of two, tell them how
>=
> she cleaned up her Berkeley neighborhood, armed with nothing more than a
>=
> pen, a phone and an anger that kicked the hell out of fear.
>
> Three summers ago Wetzel, 37, moved into "a lovely three-bedroom home in
>=
> a lovely little mixed neighborhood, a good place to raise kids, the =
> schools were good. . . "
>
> But after a few months, Wetzel noticed a lot more cars and people =
> visiting her block night and day, and it wasn't to admire her vegetable
>=
> garden. The point of interest was a five-unit apartment building with =
> blankets over the windows three doors down.
>
> "I chalked it up to "living in the city,' as long as they didn't bother
>=
> me," said Wetzel. Then hookers started buzzing around the crack house. =
> The johns would send them inside to buy some crack - only they never =
> came out. The johns would get upset and start honking their horns and =
> breaking beer bottles against the walls until a huge guy in a gray knit
>=
> cap and dark glasses called The Enforcer came out and got nasty.
>
> THE JOHNS kept coming. Wetzel and her teen daughter couldn't walk home =
> without being propositioned. Then, one day, The Enforcer put a gun to =
> her 14-year-old son's head for 55 cents.
>
> Wetzel didn't have any money to move. Her son began flunking school, and
>=
> both kids wanted to live with their dad in L.A.
>
> So in February 1988, Wetzel, who spent a college year organizing =
> villagers in the rice paddies of Thailand, called a block meeting. About

6
>=
> 30 people came. They exchanged phone numbers, and for the next year, =
> everybody kept a chart listing the date and time of all suspected drug =
> activity. They called the cops every time, had their neighbors do the =
> same and logged badge numbers and report numbers.
>
> Then in May 1989, Wetzel and her neighbors wrote to the owners of the =
> crack house asking them to please get rid of the tenants, they're =
> destroying the peace and harmony of the neighborhood. When the owners =
> ignored the letter, Wetzel and her neighbors filed against them in small
>=
> claims court. The judge, overwhelmed by the mountain of evidence, =
> awarded each of them - including an 8-month-old baby - $2,000 to cover =
> their "emotional and mental duress."
>
> The owners, not wanting to be sued again, evicted the druggies. In six =
> weeks, the crack house was empty and two of the inhabitants, including a
>=
> pregnant woman, were in rehab.
>
> Since then, Wetzel has made a career out of getting rid of public =
> nuisances from Oakland to L.A. "We've also taken down liquor stores and
>=
> motels," she told the group. "We've never lost yet. We're 50 and 0."
>
> Wetzel, a short, fast-talking brunette, warned the audience not to =
> confront the drug dealers while gathering evidence. She says to get as =
> many people as possible on your team - your beat cop, your city =
> councilperson, even the small claims clerk. It costs $12 per person to =
> file in Oakland small claims court. In Sacramento, it's only $8.
>
> Usually, Wetzel said, you don't even have to go to court - just =
> threatening the landlord is enough to get the crack users kicked out. =
> It's empowering and it's a great way to meet your neighbors. Wetzel says
>=
> the victory over the crack house galvanized the neighborhood: "We got so
>=
> excited, we planted 80 trees on our block, we got $36,000 (from the =
> city) for a playground and ended up putting stop signs in."
>
> It takes a crack house to get people to work with their neighbors, =
> instead of ignoring them. That's life in the '90s for you.
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> ----
>
> THE NARCS' FACTS SEEM TO BE HAZY Origin By Stephen Magagnini Publication
>=
> Date 7/11/1990 Page E1 Section SCENE Edition METRO FINAL Dateline =
> Corrections Memo Body Text THIS IS THE story of how Serah Zze, a local =
> rock singer, spent an evening with five narcs, watching a music video of
>=
> herself singing "Purple Haze."
>
> It was one of those little impromptu get-togethers that are happening =
> more and more as the war on drugs escalates.
>
> Cops, when you're not ready for them, can make you paranoid. Even if =
> you're not guilty of anything, terrible thoughts start running through =
> your head. Maybe you've been framed. Maybe they've finally nailed you =

7
> for that unpaid parking ticket you got in 1972. Maybe you're a dead =
> ringer for the towel rapist. Maybe you're going to jail. . . .
>
> At least a few of these thoughts crossed Serah Zze's mind when a =
> five-man drug squad paid her a surprise visit one night a few weeks ago.
>
> Serah Zze (pronounced "Z") is a 29-year-old single mother who works full
>=
> time for Californians Against Waste. She's also the lead singer for New
>=
> World Primitive, a world rock band.
>
> She was in her downtown flat, psyching herself up for a gig, when she =
> found herself talking to five cops from the city's narcotics squad. =
> Here's her version of what happened:
>
> The head cop, a stocky guy in his 40s, said, "We've had some calls about
>=
> drug activity going on here. May we have a look around?"
>
> Serah was in her singer's outfit: ripped fishnet stockings, black Army =
> boots, tight black shorts and a crop top. Her red hair was even wilder =
> than usual. But hey, she said to herself, what am I worried about? I =
> don't do drugs.
>
> "Instead of doing the logical thing - asking for a search warrant and =
> requesting their badge numbers - I told them, "Look all you want, but =
> you won't find anything. I'm clean.' " The cops spent the next 40 =
> minutes going through everything from her purse to her panties drawer. =
> They asked her a whole bunch of personal questions. Serah began to get =
> worried - what if the cops found a marijuana roach that had been left by
>=
> a guest or a previous tenant?
> One of the cops - perhaps inspired by her attire - asked if she belonged
>=
> to a satanic cult. Serah said no, she belonged to a rock band. The cops
>=
> asked if she liked the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix. She said she =
> wasn't crazy about the Dead, but she liked Hendrix. Then, the cops asked
>=
> if she sang "Purple Haze," a psychedelic Hendrix song. It just so =
> happens that Serah has a video of her band playing "Purple Haze." The =
> cops asked to see it, in a friendly sort of way. She said OK.
>
> So the five narcs crowded around the TV and watched Serah sing "Purple =
> Haze." Serah took this opportunity to tell the cops that some of her =
> songs, including "Crack the World in Two" and "Society Suicide," dealt =
> with the destructive nature of drugs.
>
> The head narc politely apologized and said there must be some mistake =
> (meanwhile, another cop kept sifting through her stuff).
>
> Then one of the cops asked her if she had any enemies. "Not that I'm =
> aware of," she said. "I don't play my music loud, I know all my =
> neighbors. . . . "
>
> The cops left. But the feeling of being violated stayed with Serah for =
> weeks. "Steve, I don't understand," she said. "What is this? The new =
> McCarthyism? If somebody doesn't like my face or the way I dress, they =
> can just call up and sic the drug squad on me? Why didn't the cops do =
> some footwork before they stormed my house?
>

8
> "Why me?"
>
> CAPT. MIKE SHAW, head of the narcotics unit, said police get hundreds of
>=
> drug-related tips a month. The only way to deal with them is to make =
> surprise visits. "It pans out more times than it doesn't," Shaw said. =
> "You'd be amazed. People who take the time to call on their neighbors =
> usually are correct."
>
> What about the people who call the cops with bum tips, just to get back
>=
> at somebody? "It doesn't happen a lot," Shaw said. When it does, the =
> narcs figure it out pretty quickly.
>
> Shaw pointed out that citizens aren't obliged to let cops in without a =
> search warrant, and cops responding to anonymous tips don't have search
>=
> warrants.
>
> Shaw empathizes with innocent victims like Serah Zze. When a cop comes =
> to your house looking for drugs, "you're bound to be nervous." =
> Unfortunately, he said, "It's a sign of the times . . . we have to do =
> something. This is one of the tactics we use."
> Meanwhile, Serah Zze is still wondering, "Why me?"
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> --------------------------
> A SOOTHING VOICE IN A LAND OF CONFUSION Origin Stephen Magagnini =
> Publication Date 6/27/1990 Page E1 Section SCENE Edition METRO FINAL =
> Dateline Corrections Memo Body Text I'VE JUST SPENT the morning with =
> Meuy Choy "Mimi" Saeteurn, an 18-year-old welfare mother who had her =
> first child at age 12; she's expecting her third next month. Her Mien =
> parents don't have jobs. They don't even speak English.
>
> If you get a picture of a hopeless, irresponsible young refugee whose =
> family will leech the welfare system for generations, you can rip that =
> picture up. You're looking at a 4-foot-9-inch, brown-eyed Superwoman.
>
> Maybe you pictured Superwoman in an Anne Klein suit with big shoulders.
>=
> Well, take another look. Mimi wears a Betty Boop T-shirt. She grows her
>=
> own vegetables, cooks, cleans, plays with her kids, maintains an A =
> average and still finds time to speak for Sacramento's mushrooming Mien
>=
> community, largest in the U.S.
>
> It is a community that sorely needs a voice. Two-thirds of Sacramento's
>=
> Southeast Asian refugees don't have jobs. Many of the older ones just =
> can't master the English language; something as simple as making and =
> keeping a doctor's appointment is beyond them.
>
> Need help getting a driver's license, or welfare, or Social Security, or
>=
> MediCal? See Mimi. Can't read the notices your kids bring home from =
> school? Bring them to Mimi's place. In 1988, when a little Mien girl was
>=
> kidnapped by the same man who abducted 4-year-old Candi Talarico, Mimi =
> was there to translate and sort things out. She did the same thing last

9
>=
> year when a Mien kindergartner took the wrong school bus, got lost and =
> spent a tearful night in the bus yard.
>
> Mimi understands the paralysis many new immigrants are experiencing. =
> "I've been there," she says. "For my parents, it's a total shock just =
> learning how to sign their name - they never had to hold a pen in their
>=
> country. They didn't need to. Over there, you need muscle; over here, =
> you need brains."
>
> Maybe you're wondering what these refugees are doing here. Maybe you =
> think they ought to be sent back.
>
> Think again - the reason many of them are here is because they fought on
>=
> our side in the Vietnam conflict. When the war ended in 1975, the =
> Communists came looking for them. Mimi's father smuggled his family into
>=
> Thailand across the Mekong River, known as the "Ocean of Death" because
>=
> so many drowned. He told Mimi they were going to America so she could =
> "become somebody."
>
> FOR FIVE YEARS they lived in a refugee camp without electricity or =
> running water and ate scraps the Thais had thrown out. In 1980 Mimi's =
> family was sponsored by an agency in San Francisco. For a year they =
> lived in an apartment in the Tenderloin, among the bums, junkies and =
> hookers. "I was afraid to cross the street," Mimi says. She remembers =
> walking miles to Chinatown with her parents to buy groceries, because =
> none of the Mien knew how to drive, or even how to take the bus.
>
> In 1981, Mimi's family moved into an Oak Park attic that turned into an
>=
> oven in the summer. But here Mimi could go outside.
>
> When she was 11, her parents arranged her "marriage" to 17-year-old Nai
>=
> Saechao. A year later, they had their first child. A lot of girls would
>=
> have dropped out, but Mimi remembered her father's words: "Become =
> somebody." She tracked down a school for pregnant and parenting teens.
>
> Maybe you think it's crazy for a 12-year-old to have children, but =
> Mimi's parents were overjoyed. "They're our hopes, they're our future,"
>=
> Mimi says. Her sons, ages 3 and 5, speak English and Mien so they can =
> help their grandparents. The grandparents, in turn, tend the family =
> garden and look after the kids while Mimi's in school or studying.
>
> Mimi's mate, who's studying to become a social worker, has also given =
> her a lot of support - most Asian teen mothers get help from their =
> partners; in stunning contrast, only a small percentage of American-born
>=
> teen mothers have supportive boyfriends.
>
> Maybe you hate the welfare system. Mimi does, too. But she's used it to
>=
> feed and shelter her family while she goes to school.
>
> In 1987, Mimi pleaded with the California Assembly to restore $350 =
> million to the state's education budget. She said that without bilingual

10
>=
> teachers and classes for teen mothers, she might not have made it. The =
> cuts were restored.
>
> Earlier this month, Mimi graduated from Sacramento High with a 3.84 =
> average and scholarships to Sac State. She plans to become a teacher, so
>=
> she can show her students and her community the best of both worlds. If
>=
> anyone can do it, Superwoman can.
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> ---------------------------------
> HE'S THE SOLOMON OF SMALL CLAIMS Origin Stephen Magagnini Publication =
> Date 5/14/1990 Page B4 Section SCENE Edition METRO FINAL Dateline =
> Corrections Memo Body Text THE HONORABLE Bob Schleh is playing with a =
> rubber band as though it were a rosary. He wraps it around four fingers
>=
> of each hand and rotates it furiously.
>
> "Who stole the bike?" yells Schleh from the bench. Here, in Night Court,
>=
> the wheels of justice turn swiftly - but not swiftly enough for Schleh,
>=
> who has mediated more conflicts in the last 12 hours than Kissinger did
>=
> in four years.
>
> A yuppie in a business suit alleges that a 17-year-old juvenile =
> delinquent took his cherry Yamaha 1200 motorcycle for a joy ride and did
>=
> more than $2,000 worth of damage. The yuppie is suing the punk's dad, a
>=
> truck driver from Rio Linda.
>
> The truck driver says, "We've got seven kids and he's the only one =
> causing any problems. When he stole my car and my guns, I said that's =
> it. I haven't seen him since October." The punk now lives with his =
> mother.
>
> Schleh, the Solomon of Small Claims Court, avows, "This is a very, very
>=
> difficult problem." Should the father be made to pay for the sins of the
>=
> son? "In my opinion, it takes living with the child, having the child =
> under your own roof. . . . On the other hand, you have an innocent =
> person who's the victim of a crime."
>
> The rubber band is spinning faster than a dynamo. This is Schleh's 18th
>=
> case in less than three hours. On his way home, he will not see the sun.
>
> In the legal world, there are Supreme Court justices, federal =
> magistrates, Superior Court judges and Municipal Court judges. Then =
> there are bottomfish like Schleh who rake the muck, trying to find =
> justice for the little guy.
>
> Every second Monday at 5:30 p.m., Court Commissioner Schleh presides =
> over Sacramento's version of "The People's Court," dispensing justice in
>=

11
> an airless room to agitated people who don't have the time or the money
>=
> to fight their battles in civil court.
>
> Instead of lawyers in $800 suits, the wronged bring trees and fleas, =
> roaches in jars and parts of cars, chunks of concrete and rank carpet, =
> bags of dog hair and even the dogs themselves.
>
> A man sues his neighbor for hosing down the inside of his car. He wins.
>=
> A woman sues a laundry for losing her silk suit. She wins. A diabetic =
> sues his landlord for renting out his apartment while he's in the =
> hospital. "He was collecting double rent?" says Schleh indignantly, =
> finding for the plaintiff.
>
> The most you can sue for in Small Claims Court is $2,000, but people =
> have sued for 35 cents. "We took up a collection," says Schleh, "but the
>=
> guy refused to take it, said it was the principle of the thing."
> SMALL CLAIMS COURT is a window on the human comedy. "A guy was sued by a
>=
> jewelry company for a ring he bought for his girlfriend - the jewelers =
> sent the bill to his wife's address. Now his wife is suing him for =
> divorce and his girlfriend thinks he's so dumb she won't have anything =
> to do with him," recalls Schleh, who, incidentally, found for the =
> jewelers.
>
> But Schleh is having a bad Monday in a bad year in a decade that =
> encompasses 5,000 disputes, hundreds of ill-prepared, truculent =
> combatants and one heart attack.
>
> At 8:30 a.m., while presiding over Traffic Court, where he spends most =
> days, he got a "constitutionalist" who refused to pay his parking =
> tickets because he felt the state had no jurisdiction, even though he =
> collects a state welfare check. Then there was the guy who got a ticket
>=
> from the CHP for parking on the median while helping an accident victim.
>=
> "Knowing there was no legal defense, I had to find that there was such a
>=
> travesty, he wasn't guilty. That's what I did."
>
> Schleh stares at the yuppie seeking satisfaction for his damaged =
> motorcycle, then at the truck driver. The rubber band is racking up the
>=
> miles. "I don't even know if this gentleman's son did in fact take the =
> bike. I have no idea - no idea! If I don't know the answer then you =
> haven't met the burden of proof." The yuppie scowls at the truck driver,
>=
> "See you in muni court."
>
> A tense Schleh finally leaves the bench at 8:30. "I get paid very well =
> ($80,000 a year), but it's not enough. There's a lot of anger out there
>=
> and this has affected me personally," says Schleh, who had a heart =
> attack three years ago. "I have a much more difficult time restraining =
> my own anger and frustration."
>
> At 55, Schleh feels he's missed his chance to be a judge. So he goes to
>=
> stress classes, tries to talk in a monotone and plays with a rubber =
> band, stretching it to its limits, hoping he doesn't snap before justice

12
>=
> is served.
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> ------------------------
> BAGGING THE BIG ONE BRINGS DUBIOUS PRIZE Origin STEPHEN MAGAGNINI =
> Publication Date 9/8/1989 Page SC1 Section SCENE Edition METRO FINAL =
> Dateline Corrections Memo Body Text FOR 26 YEARS, Randy Pennington was a
>=
> quiet, easygoing guy, a little pudgy, outwardly pleasant. He worked as a
>=
> bag boy at a Bel Air Market in Carmichael, making $5 an hour, and he =
> collected antique toys. Such was his lot in life, and no one heard him =
> complain. Then in June 1988 Randy hit the California Lottery for $25.7 =
> million, to be paid in 20 yearly installments of $1,028,000, after =
> taxes. His days of hauling out sacks of Pampers, Diet Dr Pepper and =
> Cheetos were over.
>
> The next time Randy Pennington, retired bag boy, walked into Bel Air =
> Market No. 11, he was given a hero's welcome. His former co-workers =
> embraced him. Shoppers applauded him. "We love you, Randy!" blared a =
> voice over the store's intercom system. Everyone agreed it couldn't =
> happen to a nicer guy. The store began receiving dozens of letters =
> addressed to Randy, some from people asking for money, others from women
>=
> proposing marriage.
>
> But then a strange thing happened. Within weeks after Randy became a =
> millionaire, word began to spread that he had died in a car crash in a =
> fancy car he'd bought with his winnings. Soon, the tale of Randy's =
> demise was all over Sacramento.
>
> A guy I play basketball with told me the story. He heard it from a =
> friend of his who drives a cab. The cab driver said, "I heard that he =
> had all this money and he went out bought a Porsche and he crashed it."
>
> The cab driver got the story from a checker at Raley's. The checker =
> said, "I heard he was killed when he hit a tree in his sports car. I =
> think it was a Mercedes. I heard it from a customer, and then everybody
>=
> else started talking about it, hundreds of people. I was very surprised.
>=
> He won all that money, and it can do so much for you, but then it turned
>=
> out to hurt him in the long run. It goes to show you that money can be =
> used in the wrong way."
>
> The story drifted from supermarket to supermarket. Only the car changed.
>=
> At the Bel Air where Randy had worked, employees said they heard he had
>=
> wiped out in his new Corvette.
>
> In the chilling Shirley Jackson short story, "The Lottery," a farming =
> community holds a lottery every summer. The old-timers like to say, =
> "Lottery in June, corn'll be heavy soon." But winners of this lottery =
> don't become millionaires -- instead, they're stoned to death as a sort
>=
> of human sacrifice.
>

13
> Maybe Randy Pennington, a mild-mannered bag boy who hit it big, was a =
> human sacrifice to all of those average folks who never won anything. A
>=
> lot of people feel uneasy getting something for nothing. Maybe some of =
> them breathe a little easier, or feel a little better about their own =
> deprived lives, if they believe that Randy Pennington's jackpot drove =
> him to an early grave in a fast, fancy car.
>
> I called up the California Lottery Commission. They, too, had heard the
>=
> rumor, but they said it isn't true. "He's alive and well and receiving =
> checks," said spokeswoman Joanne McNabb.
>
> But how could I be sure? Had Randy faked his own death so people would =
> leave him alone? Maybe he was dead and someone else was cashing his =
> checks. I tracked down Randy's new address and drove out there. It was a
>=
> big, brand-new house with a three-car garage. But when I rang the bell,
>=
> nobody answered. I left my business card in the door and asked Randy to
>=
> call.
>
> THAT AFTERNOON, the phone rang. "This is Randy Pennington," said a =
> disembodied voice. I told him about the rumor. He'd heard it. "I don't =
> pay attention to this," he said. "I hear a million rumors a day." I'd =
> heard from friends of his that he'd been on a Caribbean cruise and that
>=
> he was engaged to be married. "Is that what you've heard?" he said =
> mockingly.
>
> I asked Randy if he was happy. "What do you think?" he said, dripping =
> sarcasm. "I'll let you figure that out." He didn't sound real happy.
>
> I told him that people were naturally curious about his new life as a =
> millionaire. "They have a saying that curiosity killed the cat," he =
> said. "They can't see the other side of it." Then he added, "How do you
>=
> know you're really talking to Randy Pennington? I have to go. It's been
>=
> nice talking to you."
>
> Maybe this is one of those mysteries better left unsolved. If we solved
>=
> it, we might be disappointed. We might find a retired bag boy, trying to
>=
> figure out how $25 million has complicated his life instead of making it
>=
> easier.
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> ---------------
> A GANG MEMBER'S LATE CONVERSION Origin STEPHEN MAGAGNINI Publication =
> Date 9/13/1989 Page D1 Section SCENE Edition METRO FINAL Dateline =
> Corrections Memo Body Text FROM "DANGER ISLAND" in Meadowview to The =
> Front in Del Paso Heights, the handwriting is on the wall.
>
> Mr. Chico. El Gato. Rapbone. Fly Loc. Al Capon. South Side Bloods. 29th
>=

14
> Street Crips. Barrio Diamonds. Tongan Crips Gangsters.
>
> "When there's graffiti on the wall, trouble is never far behind," says =
> Sheriff's Detective Lee Smith. "As soon as they see the handwriting, =
> they'll come looking for you. They want to know, 'You down for it?' (Are
>=
> you ready to rumble?) Or they'll 'steal' on you (sucker-punch you). =
> There's no such animal as fair fighting. On the streets, it's about =
> winning."
>
> Gary Fitzgerald Watson found that out in 1987 when he was jumped by nine
>=
> guys on 29th Street, home of the powerful 29th Street Crips. Watson, who
>=
> stood 6-foot-1 and weighed 210 pounds, was a linebacker on the Burbank =
> High football team.
>
> Gary "Lovin' Gemini" Watson was by all accounts a good-natured guy with
>=
> a big heart and a rapid-fire rap. His parents, John and Christine Lucas,
>=
> remember the time in kindergarten when Gary brought home a classmate who
>=
> had been abused.
>
> Leon Peoples III, who grew up with Watson, says, "He was excitable, he =
> was a good rapper, he rapped all the time, always kept a smile on your =
> face. He would have been somebody."
>
> After the beating, Watson and his friends from the Detroit Boulevard =
> neighborhood formed a gang for their own protection, his parents say. =
> Watson became a ranking member of the Detroit Mob Bloods, who numbered =
> two dozen. Police suspect the Detroit Mob Bloods of drive-by shootings,
>=
> dealing rock cocaine and general gang violence.
>
> Last year, Watson and several other Detroit Mob Bloods chased some Crips
>=
> across John Still Park in the Meadowview area. Shots were fired. Watson,
>=
> who admitted carrying a .357 Magnum, was convicted in November of =
> assault with a deadly weapon and served seven months in county jail.
>
> JUST BEFORE his release in June, Watson wrote a letter to his mother.
>
> "Mom, I look at it this way: God has saved me from the way I was =
> headed," he wrote. "Because, Mom, if I was still out on the street, I =
> would probably be dead. I've lost two friends who were on the streets =
> since I've been here, and they both got shot in a drive-by shooting by =
> Bloods. They were Crips who I knew in school before they even thought =
> about being in a gang. Even though they were Crips and I called myself a
>=
> Blood, I almost cried. . . . They were my friends. I loved them.
>
> "A lot of my friends have been killed or almost killed over this gang =
> warfare. That has never happened to me because I'm here for a purpose. =
> God keeps giving me chances. . . . Now he has given me the chance to =
> make a choice between my friends and what is right. . . . He's already =
> given me two chances, and I'm not going to mess around and be dumb and .
>=
> . . try for chance number three. Because I look at it like the game of =
> baseball -- three strikes and you're out."

15
>
> At about 2 a.m. on July 9, a couple of weeks after he got out of jail, =
> Gary Watson took strike three. Watson and a few friends were at a gas =
> station on Arden Way when three members of a rival Bloods faction drove
>=
> up looking for some payback. "They told Gary to move, because they were
>=
> going to shoot Leon," says Gary's stepfather, John Lucas. "He wouldn't =
> move. He said, 'You're going to have to shoot me.' "
>
> Watson called his rival's bluff. And then Gary Watson got his face shot
>=
> off.
>
> "Gary's purpose was to die so somebody else might live," says Lucas. =
> "The Bible says there's no greater love than to lay down your life for =
> friends."
>
> This month, Watson's alleged slayers will go on trial. One of them was a
>=
> good friend of Watson's, says Gary's mother.
>
> Meanwhile, the Detroit Mob Bloods claim to have laid down their weapons
>=
> and given up their colors. "We don't exist anymore," says Peoples. "It =
> ain't worth doing time over a color. We already lost one friend over =
> something stupid. I hope to get my life straight and raise a family."
>
> Time will tell whether ex-gang members can be happy working day jobs for
>=
> under $10 an hour. In case they have second thoughts, they have only to
>=
> look at the scrawl of black graffiti on a picket fence along Detroit =
> Boulevard: GARY W. R.I.P.
>
>
>
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> -----------------------
>
> A DUPED DATE GETS HER DAY IN COURT Origin Stephen Magagnini Publication
>=
> Date 8/18/1989 Page SC1 Section SCENE Edition METRO FINAL Dateline =
> Corrections Memo Body Text ARE YOU ONE of those wretches who's wasted =
> countless agonizing hours waiting for a date who never showed?
>
> Buck up, fellow dupes! The next time some cad or slattern trifles with =
> your emotions, you can make them pay.
>
> That's what Sandy Smith, a bookkeeper from Hayward, did when her date =
> for! San Francisco's tony Black and White Ball never materialized.
>
> Smith, 33, won justice for the jilted the other day when she sued her =
> reprobate date in small claims court and was awarded $231 in damages and
>=
> court costs from the offending individual, Hayward businessman Edgardo =
> Carillo.
>

16
> Smith met Carillo through the Hayward Chamber of Commerce. They went to
>=
> lunch, but Smith said Carillo isn't her type: "He's a little too smooth
>=
> for my tastes."
>
> Still, when Carillo telephoned last April and invited her to the Black =
> and White Ball, Smith was intrigued. The ball, a fund-raiser for the San
>=
> Francisco Symphony, is the biggest, glitziest party in Northern =
> California. Tickets start at $150. "It's something I always wanted to go
>=
> to," she said.
>
> Smith drove to I. Magnin in San Francisco and fell for a black chiffon =
> gown with a satin lining. Two fittings and $145 worth of alterations =
> later, Smith had herself a gown to die for. After spending another $30 =
> to have her hair and nails done, Smith was ready.
>
> At 5:30 that evening, Carillo telephoned. "He said he'd be there at 7:30
>=
> and asked for directions to my house," she said. "At 7:30 I'm standing =
> around in my dress, because I don't want to sit down and wrinkle it."
>
> At 7:50, one of Carillo's friends telephoned to say that he and several
>=
> other college buddies had "kidnapped" Carillo and were taking him to Las
>=
> Vegas to celebrate his 40th birthday.
>
> Needless to say, Smith was shocked and angry. "I thought, this guy's an
>=
> idiot. You just can't do this to somebody and not be held accountable. I
>=
> wasn't going to let him get away with it."
>
> At 10:30 p.m., a mildly contrite Carillo called from the MGM Grand Hotel
>=
> in Las Vegas. "He said, 'I'll be happy to reimburse you for your =
> expenses.' " said Smith. "I said, 'That's great, I'm sitting here in an
>=
> $800 dress.' "
>
> Smith and Carillo exchanged threatening phone-machine messages. Their =
> next date was in small claims court.
>
> Carillo claimed Smith was merely one of several acquaintances he had =
> invited to the Black and White Ball, but Judge Peggy Hora ruled that =
> this was, in fact, a date gone awry: "It sure turned out to be a date =
> from hell. She was all dressed up with no place to go." The judge =
> ordered Carillo to pay for Smith's hairdo and nails ($30), the =
> alteration on the dress ($145), her court costs ($31) and $25 for =
> "emotional distress."
>
> Carillo insists, "This was not a stood-up date." However, he plans to =
> comply with the judge's order: "Enough is enough. It's an embarrassment
>=
> to the whole community to waste so much time on a case that has nothing
>=
> to do with the court system."
>
> EDGARDO, MY MAN, I disagree. The operative words are "emotional =

17
> distress." I've been left hanging more times than a Christmas ornament.
>=
> Waiting for a date that never arrives is like Chinese water torture. =
> Every second reduces your self-esteem by half.
>
> I figured the $231 Smith was awarded was chump change compared with what
>=
> I had coming. There was that blonde in Dallas who stood me up 12 years =
> ago, without explanation. That's got to be at least a couple of grand =
> worth of emotional distress, plus the cost of a bottle of Binaca, a new
>=
> plaid leisure suit and a fresh pair of underwear. Then there was the =
> dark-haired beauty that promised to meet me in San Francisco in 1982. =
> I'm still waiting. These serpents have left me an emotional rutabaga.
>
> I was planning to retire on the damage done to me by cold-blooded women
>=
> from coast to coast until Judge Hora told me the statute of limitations
>=
> on an oral contract is two years, and added that the statute of =
> limitations on "infliction of emotional distress" has probably expired,
>=
> too. "And you can't sue somebody out of state in small claims court, so
>=
> you'll have to confine your suits of amour to California," said the =
> judge, who has never been stood up, incidentally.
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> -=
> --
>
> ROCKS IN THEIR HEADS? WELL, . . . Origin Stephen Magagnini Publication =
> Date 11/10/1989 Page SC1 Section SCENE Edition METRO FINAL Dateline =
> Corrections Memo Body Text CURTIS CLARKSON and Mark Nelson are two =
> hot-blooded, enterprising Sacramento State students who give life to the
>=
> expression "dumber than a box of rocks."
>
> Like most young bachelors on campus, they have a passion ("call it an =
> obsession") for the opposite sex. Curtis' goal in life is to date Mary =
> Hart - "the one with the legs."
>
> "Girls think I'm funny, but they won't let me near them," complains =
> Curtis, a 24-year-old journalism major. "On my last date, I showed up =
> with John Lennon glasses, a clown wig and an Indian gourd nose. =
> Everything went totally great. She was laughing hysterically. When I =
> called her later, she said, "I think if you had touched me the whole =
> relationship would have gone up in flames.' "
>
> Given their arid social lives, Curtis and Mark content themselves with =
> educational adult videos.
>
> They were returning one of these self-help videos to a rental store next
>=
> to a Raley's on Folsom Boulevard a few weeks ago when they were offered
>=
> the opportunity of a lifetime. "Right before I walk in," says Curtis, "a
>=
> short dude with a Dodgers cap walks by and says under his breath, real =
> casual, "Hey man, are you interested in a camcorder for $250?' "

18
>
> Curtis looked at Mark. Mark looked at Curtis. The same dim bulb went on
>=
> in each of their heads. "I thought, how cool, we could take pictures of
>=
> babes and stuff and say, "Hey, you want to be on video?' " says Mark, =
> 20. "It seemed like a good thing to do at the time."
>
> "Basically," adds Curtis, "we wanted to film girls at the beach."
>
> They followed the little guy out to the Raley's parking lot, where they
>=
> met a big, muscular guy with a ponytail standing next to a beat-up =
> Rambler. "The little guy goes in the car and starts drinking, while the
>=
> big guy opens the trunk and shows us three brown boxes wrapped with =
> cellophane and tape," says Curtis. "He tells us he has a VCR and two =
> camcorders. Mark and I were each going to get one, but the guy said he =
> was saving one for a friend."
>
> Each box had a picture of the merchandise on it. Since new camcorders =
> cost $1,000, Curtis and Mark were a little suspicious. Curtis asked, =
> "How do we know you aren't going to arrest us for taking stolen =
> merchandise?"
>
> The guy looked at them through bloodshot eyes and laughed. "Do I look =
> like a cop to you?" He said he got the stuff from a buddy at an =
> electronics store who took them off the truck. "He told us he lived in =
> an apartment complex next to Raley's, and if we had any problems with =
> the camera, he and his buddies could fix it for us," says Curtis.
>
> For 45 minutes, they haggled over the price. "We talked him down from =
> $250 to $100," says Curtis. "He said, "You won't get this deal anyplace
>=
> else. We don't know if we're ever going to be here again.' "
>
> SO CURTIS AND Mark went into Raley's and used their ATM cards to get =
> $100. "Think about it, dude - $100 for a camcorder, dude. That's 900 =
> bucks off," says Curtis. "Right before I shook his hand and gave him the
>=
> money, I said, "How do we know it's in there?' He said, "C'mon, man, =
> we've been out here with you guys forever. Don't you trust me?' It =
> sounded like he was getting angry and I didn't want to get him angry."
>
> Curtis picked up the box, put it in a paper bag, and took it over to his
>=
> car. "I was afraid they'd follow us and take back the camcorder."
>
> Curtis and Mark raced back to their apartment. "We couldn't wait to get
>=
> it open," says Mark. "We're jumping around, really hyper, bragging to =
> our roommates, "We bought a camcorder for 100 bucks!' "
>
> They ripped open the box. "The first thing we saw was newspaper," says =
> Curtis. "I thought it would be, like, Styrofoam. We kept digging. I'm =
> breaking into a cold sweat. Under the newspaper there was a big chunk of
>=
> black asphalt and a couple of other rocks."
>
> Mark kept looking for the camcorder. "I didn't stop until I got to the =
> end of the box."
>

19
> Curtis flopped on the floor and moaned, "Oh, my God, I can't believe we
>=
> just bought a box of rocks! They knew we were nerds."
>
> Curtis and Mark aren't the first Sacramentans to buy a box of rocks. "We
>=
> got a couple of guys selling rocks several years ago," says police Sgt.
>=
> Bob Burns. "In that case it was VCRs for $100."
>
> Burns suggests charitably, "Maybe they could start a rock garden."
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------

20

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