Friday, September 27, 2013

Number one suspect

Proctor:      Woman. I'll not have your suspicion any more.
Elizabeth:   have no --
Proctor:     I'll not have it!
Elizabeth:   Then let you not earn it.
Proctor:     Now look you --
Elizabeth:    I see what I see, John.

-- Arthur Miller, The Crucible

Cemetery statue 9-27-13

"'Yesterday, some hooligans knocked over a dustbin in Shafsbry.' 
Wooooo ... The hooligans are loose! The hooligans are loose! 
What if they become roughians? 
I would hate to be a dustbin in Shafsbry tonight."

-- Bill Hicks

Yesterday I drove my motorcycle to explore a new cemetery in search of faces.

There was just one statue in this particular graveyard. This sort of melancholy girl with her hand on her cheek.

She was pretty, except a caterpillar had made its cocoon right the hollow of her eye socket, right in the tear duct, (or where the tear duct would be if a cement statue actually had tear ducts.) It was gross, and I didn't want it in my pictures.

I looked around on the ground for a stick or something to scrape it out with. I found a broken hickory nut shell, and, camera in hand, I climbed up on the statue's base to remove the nasty eye goober. 

That's when I heard the unmistakable sound of gravel crunching and popping under car tires. 

I looked over my shoulder at a fat police cruiser sitting on the lane right behind me where my motorcycle was parked.

Moving slowly, acting naturally, I sat my camera on a headstone, then walked over to my bike and politely moved it to the side of the path, out of the cruiser's way. Then I picked my camera back up and started snapping pictures. I let the nice officers see that even though I was dressed in leather and rode in on a motorcycle, I wasn't dangerous. I was no hooligan. I was just a girl with a camera. I wasn't there to desecrate, or vandalize, or steal, but to appreciate, memorialize and create.

What I didn't know at the time, however, was that there'd been a recent string of cemetery thefts and vandalism in the area, in some of the very cemeteries that I like to explore. Someone had been stealing statues, urns and other items from cemeteries across northern Ohio and southern Michigan. 

I'd love to say the cop told me to drop the hickory nut shell and put my hands up where he could see 'em. Or that he threw me up against the car, cuffed me, read me my rights, then told me to watch my head as he pressed me into the back seat and carted me off to the big house. Because at first glance, it certainly might have looked like I was inflicting some harm on that statue. I mean, I was all up in her face scraping away with my little nut shell. If that doesn't arouse suspicion, what does?

But he didn't do any of that.

He clearly saw that I was simply a non-threatening, passionate artist at work, and without a word, he left me to it and drove slowly away.

It turns out police had already nabbed the real cemetery vandal anyway. He is sitting in the county jail on  $20,000 bond, charged with felonious theft, breaking and entering, and vandalism. They found dozens of stolen cemetery items, which he was planning to re-sell, at his house.

I looked the story up online. I personally loved what the guy who manages my favorite Sandusky cemetery said about why stealing from a cemetery is wrong:

"Nobody can defend themselves."

As I exited the cemetery and headed home, I passed the same cruiser twice more. He was tailing me, keeping his eye on me until I rode out of his town on the horse I rode in on. Well, on the motorcycle I rode in on. Anyway. I did feel a little thrill knowing I was a prime suspect for just a second.

Honest, officer. I didn't steal anything.

You can check my pockets. You can search my backpack. 

Just don't look inside my camera, because it's full of all the pictures I took.