Monday, July 09, 2007

The Godfather of Soil

Some government employees get quoted sounding like total goobs.

Vegetation vandal strikes

Trees, flowers dug up and stolen from lush garden in Airport Heights

Someone who swiped trees and flowers from a lush East Anchorage garden last week has neighbors scratching their heads.

Is a plant thief on the prowl? Or is someone targeting Ray Ward, a James Brown impersonator who sometimes tends his garden until the early morning hours?

After all, colorful flower baskets still hang undisturbed outside other homes on Norene Street. And it was the second time this summer someone sabotaged Ward's landscaping.

The first time, they dug up some flowers and stole hanging plants, Ward said. This time, it was much worse.

"They took almost everything," Ward said glumly, sweeping his hands across a grassy lawn pocked with holes where trees and flowers once grew.

An apple tree sapling, trunk snapped, lay in the yard. Scores of plucked daisies filled a nearby garbage can. Single flowers survived here and there, a bloom of snapdragons, a yellow poppy.

The garden was the best display on the block, especially the colorful stretch framing the chain-link fence, Ward's neighbors said Saturday. Purple wildflowers, gold begonias, pink petunias, daisies, dahlias, geraniums, tulips -- all added life and beauty to the neighborhood.

"You'd drive by and say, 'Oh, it's summer,' " said Lisa Schober. "Now I drive by and it looks like winter again."

"It's the kind of thing that shocks your sensibilities," said Ken Hudson, another neighbor. "There's way worse things, but this is just a sad statement."

The plants were stolen sometime Wednesday night, Ward said. He went to bed early after serving the homeless at a Fourth of July picnic in Mountain View.

When he awoke early the next morning, petals littered his driveway, reminding him of the first incident a month ago.

"I said, 'Oh no,' " he said, touching his chest. "My heart just was broken, just shattered."

George Thompson, a neighbor smoking on his porch across the street Saturday, said he saw a "crazed-looking" man walking repeatedly around the block the same night the plants were stolen. When Thompson approached the man to see what he was doing, the guy ran.

Thompson's nephews had been playing outside and said they saw the same man digging up Ward's garden, according to Thompson.

"It was pretty weird," he said.

Ward, when he's not doing his James Brown performance, is an intern for a company that helps low income people get back on their feet. He figures he invested about $3,000 in his garden.

He has no enemies he knows of, he said.

Police are investigating. Plant theft happens, but not often, said Eric Anderson, acting dispatch supervisor with the Anchorage Police Department.

He hears reports of potted flowers that get swiped outside houses a couple of times a year.

"People are crazy," he said. "What kind of strange criminal mind steals plants?"

Okay. So goob or not I stand behind my assessment.

But consider this: A man who gets his plants stolen AND is a James Brown impersonator IN ALASKA is just too bizarre. Carl Hiaasen would say: "na'ah, too far fetched for fiction."

Surely he is the only James Brown impersonator in Los Anchorage.

It certainly feels like a one-Brown town.


smussyolay said...

so clarify something ... not that it matters, but just for my edification... you are not a police officer, but you work with and for them? you're a 911 dispatcher. right?

nice quote, btw.

Anonymous said...

do you get asked for quotes from the press very often?

for the record, i think it was a fine quote.

Eric said...

I am not a police officer. I am a non-sworn employee of my department. The dispatcher job has two separate parts: answering 911 and business calls then entering calls for service and (rotating from phones to radios periodically through the day) dispatching officers and all that entails.

And as far as being asked for quotes: there is a department media relations section but the things about dispatch is we are always there and we are always available by phone. The only time I'd give an actual quote is if I'm acting dispatch supervisor (which happens every other Saturday - depending on if I have a recruit or not). I'd usually give only general info to the press but I was telling this guy about another call entirely and he asked me about the plant thing in passing (he was already working on that story - no doubt due to the James Brown factor). The only other times I've been in the paper have had to do with confirming that the weather was causing problems (hello!).

I'll write more about the J-O-B eventually. I take it for granted that everyone knows how what I do works (although I certainly didnt until I started doing it).