Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Dirty Little Secrets of America's Friendliest City

As many of you long-time readers of this site will recall, I live not far from the tourist Mecca of Charleston, South Carolina. 

In October of 2014 the readers of Condé Nast Traveler voted Charleston the #1 city in the United States for a fourth year in a row. Charleston was also ranked No. 2 city in the world behind Florence, Italy, in the Condé Nast Readers' Choice Awards. Charleston earned a readers' rating of 83.792, just behind Florence's score of 83.870.

Kiawah Island was voted #1 island in the U.S. and #2 island in the world behind Palawan, Philippines. The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort was ranked No. 17 among U.S. resorts. Our local beaches are superb. We’re even known as one of the nation’s most dog-friendly cities.

Here in grand and glorious Chucktown, we’re known nationally as the Most Polite and Hospitable City in America. We’re a destination for foodies and history buffs. We have a world-renowned arts festival. We have a major container port and Boeing’s billion-dollar facility here builds their newest passenger jet. Business in Charleston is booming, housing is being built at an exponential rate, and people are moving here to live the good life.

But…there’s always a BUT.

Greater Charleston is hiding some dark and dirty, borderline ugly, secrets that it sure as hell doesn’t want getting out into the open and certainly not out into the Common Knowledge of the nation as a whole. And by Greater Charleston, I include not just the City of Charleston, but also the areas of North Charleston, Summerville, Ladson, Goose Creek, and Hanahan. 

I live a few miles to the left of Cottageville.

The City of Charleston area includes the Peninsula, West Ashley, James Island, and Johns Island
Peninsular downtown Charleston
Where they want you to stay and spend your ducats
Some cities have a real image problem. The best example I can name immediately is Detroit. The Motor City is our very own Third World city in America’s heartland. When one thinks of Detroit one can quickly call to mind crime on a scale that boggles the mind, urban filth and decay, a declining population for decades, shuttered business and vacant factories, and vast swaths of city that are now empty save for dumped corpses of murder victims and packs of wild dogs. I don’t really know of anyone with Detroit listed as their top vacation destination. The state is doing everything they can to stop the hemorrhaging of businesses and citizens out of Michigan.

Stay classy, Detroit. Yeah, baby.
 But back to the Holy City, as Charleston is sometimes called for its abundance of churches. While the Chamber of Commerce is quick to point out all of our good points and usher the masses to our touristy wonders, deep down they gotta be shaking in their seersucker suits scared to death that the outside world might start to see our Dirty Secrets. 

The official fabric of snobby white Southerners.
No one seems willing to publicly discuss what I think is the greater of our problems, there’s not much that can be done about the least of our problems, and attention is actually starting to focus on our newest problem as it has seemingly sprung up and grown like a malignant and aggressive tumor to blight our local image like a cancer, while the downtown residents themselves, cozy and snug in their pastel-colored McMansions, would rather focus attention on a problem-that-isn’t-a-problem.

The least of the problems to really affect tourists (while GREATLY affecting the locals) is the fact that our roads suck. For a metropolitan area of barely 700,000 people our traffic situation during the rush hour commutes is a zoo on even the best of days. Our infrastructure here was never intended to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of commuters and tourists, not to mention the thousands of trucks coming and going from the various container port terminals daily. Many are the days when it takes me up to two hours to get home from work, and that’s with knowing 8 different ways to go to avoid the never-ending litany of daily traffic accidents to make the 48-mile +/- trip home, and once I clear the worst of the traffic my final 24 miles or so can be done at 60 mph. And it still takes up to two hours. Most of the roads are in a sad state of disrepair (why re-pave? Just hot-patch it with a DOT road crew of twelve guys; one to shovel on the hot tar and eleven to watch him do it.)

The "interstate" that partially rings the city? All of two lanes for tens of thousands of cars.

Typical parking lot scenario.

Multiple accidents daily caused by some of the worst drivers I have ever seen.
This could be us, if we had more highway to clog.

Why repave? Just slap some tar on it. No one will notice.

Most of our secondary roads suck like this.
 The problem that is garnering attention right now is something I started noticing in the fall and through the Christmas shopping season and has now totally spread like mushrooms in the yard after a week of spring rains. That problem: panhandlers.

The local newspaper, the Post & Courier (which on good days is almost middle of the road and on bad days is touchy-feely left-leaning) found out that there was a Facebook group called Holy City Pan Handlers that was focused on exposing the fake bums and professional panhandlers that seemed to work in organized, rotating shifts on all the major intersections in the West Ashley area of Charleston. The P&C article worried that these panhandlers could tarnish the city’s image as a friendly tourist spot. 

The group is made up mostly of concerned locals, for the most part small business people, who are tired of being accosted at every turn by individuals who are chronically unemployed by choice, who would rather hold up signs claiming the usual litany of homelessness, single parenthood, or the best one of all, claiming to be a veteran in need. These people seem to be in many cases dropped off for their bum shifts in a white van, and are “managed” by a certain cabal of ringleaders. Many of those exposed are actively on social media and are often seen on their smart phones, despite claiming a homeless and destitute status. Many of them will often harass legitimately destitute people who aren’t in their cartel. The Facebook group is so far doing a bang-up job of bringing attention to the cause, and refuse to back down.

Damn near every major corner has a platoon of bums, both fake and real.

Homeless my ass. This is one of the ringleaders of the cartel. Always on Instagram and Facebook.

The problem-that-isn’t-a-problem that the news reported on today is a case of the well-to-do biting the hands that feed them, so to speak. The news that Carnival Cruise Lines is planning on basing a second cruise liner at the port facility nearest downtown has all the upper crust and their tree-hugger lackeys up in arms, claiming that the ship will kill us all.

They've come to destroy us all.
"On average, the typical cruise ship emits four times as much air pollution as the typical cargo ship does and that's all because what it has to power on board the ship. It's basically a small city." said Katie Zimmerman with the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League.

Environmentalists like Zimmerman are not against the cruise ship industry in Charleston; "Obviously they play a part in our overall tourism plan," said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman says the cruise ships idle for hours in port while people load and unload the ship.

"What we would like to see is have the ship plug in to what we call shore side power. So basically the ship plugs into our electric grid," said Zimmerman. 

One of four current container terminals, with another being built. None of those ships is on shore power.
 Oy vey. From having worked a couple years at one of the port terminals, the dozens and dozens of cargo ships that come in to port each week roll in on the high tide and generally leave 12 or 24 hours later on another high tide, and for the 12 to 24 hours they are dockside they run off their own power and not hooked up to shore units. The only shore power units I ever saw were for visiting Navy ships who were going to be here for a couple days or more. In fact, I saw personally on numerous occasions ships tied up at Veterans Terminal running their engines 24/7 for a week at a time awaiting cargo. So those cargo ships, many of which are old rustbuckets from second and third world nations, are burning fuel and sitting idle as they get offloaded and reloaded, for the same amount of time a modern top of the line passenger ship is pierside to embark and debark passengers. I'd trust the modern engineering and air cleaning devices on a cruise ship sooner than some of the battered old scows that float in on the tides. And as others have said, you have all the hundreds of 18 wheelers in and out every day, idling in line waiting to load and unload, and trains pulled by multiple diesel engines. And every few weeks they fire up the engines on those Military Sealift Command ships berthed by the ports and they sit idle and running for a few hours at a time. Please, people. Get a grip

Chinese freighter berthed at Veterans Terminal about three miles downriver from the cruise ships. And we know the Chinese are really into the environment and clean air, right?

I forget how many weeks this ship was tied up behind my old office without shore power.

I guess it would be overkill to point out the smoke?

Haters gonna hate. The people bitching the loudest always claim that they aren’t against tourism and aren’t against cruise ships, but the caveat always seems to be NIMBY Syndrome; Not In My Backyard. They simply don’t want the ships inconveniencing *them* where *they* live. And they swear up and down the cruise ships dump black soot from their exhausts directly onto their pristine homes despite the fact that prevailing winds at the port generally are from the southwest and take soot, et al, over the Cooper River towards Mount Pleasant, an no one hears them complaining. They’ll quote studies from Venice, Italy about how cruise ships are destroying the ancient city with their soot emissions…in fact, here is a quote directly from one of the people: 

Not saying that the freight ships are any better.... but look up the stats on cruise ships. They are awful. However, the freight ships are not disgorging all the soot, etc right into the historic district AND disgorging 3000 people at a time. If Charleston wants to continue to have cruise ships ~ they need to work on having enough facilities to accommodate all those people. People in the HD catch total strangers using the "bathroom" out in their yards. They will often knock on the door and demand to come inside. They don't seem to realize these are private residences and not Colonial Williamsburg ~ where everything is for show. (Carnival typically does not attract a higher echelon of traveler) But... just where is the city to install all these tons of public restrooms, etc???

Also, there have been studies done on the stack exhaust of cruise ships and how it affects other historic cities with sensitive architecture hundreds of years old. (Such as in Venice, Italy, etc) The acidity of some of the components is particularly damaging to very old woodwork, masonry, etc.

I think most people are not totally against the ships, they would just prefer that they build a new cruise port a bit further down the river, it would solve lots of problems. No soot on sensitive buildings (and in peoples lungs as they walk downtown), a bigger, more modern facility with lots of parking for those taking the cruises. (right now that is a major problem) Not to mention it would provide new jobs for people to ferry the passengers back and forth from the terminal to the HD and people to work in the terminal.

So...again, keep the rabble out of my yard.  And since I’ve never been able to afford to take a cruise anywhere and those lower-echelon travelers can, I guess that just makes me pond scum. Do the cruise ships create a traffic problem when they load & unload? Sure, for the few hours once a week that they do so. Actually, *anything* you do in downtown Charleston’s tourist zone will cause traffic snarls. You’re talking mostly one-way streets, back alleys, and even cobblestones on certain streets, with hundreds if not thousands of cars, thousands of pedestrians, and a few dozen horse-drawn carriages, all crammed in a couple square miles. And God forbid that it rain heavily…it floods downtown pretty badly.

Yes, these people are kayaking through the downtown Market. When it rains here, it RAINS.

I guess that leaves us with the most serious problem facing image-conscious Charleston, tourists and citizenry alike, and that would be the rampant gun crime. Is Charleston friendly and quaint? Sure, so long as you stay in the immediate downtown Market area. You go up King Street, Meeting Street, or East Bay Street past Calhoun Street and you’re in Da Hood. Accidentally stroll down President Street or Spring Street, and you’re taking your life in your hands. That, my friends, is the dirty secret that the guidebooks don’t mention. Go over to Rutledge and Ashley after dark and it’s sketchy as hell. Venture up into North Charleston and it’s a combat zone.  

The Charleston they WANT you to see, down on the Battery.
Corner of Aiken and Shepard Streets, barely outside the tourist zone.
Line Street. Not a place for tourists to be found, especially after dark.

Hardly more than a couple days go by without reports of a shooting of some sort in the area. Today it was a shooting in the parking lot of Frankie’s Fun Park, a mini-golf/go-kart/arcade center a mile or so from a large high school. A few weeks ago a gunfight broke out at Chuck E. Cheese. It’s become such an everyday occurrence that people are becoming not just inured to the violence but are actively making light of it on the Facebook page of one of our local TV stations that reports the shootings practically in real-time. 

This of course, rather than leading to in-depth reporting on what the police were going to do about the crime, or coverage on the causes or common denominators of the crimes, led to the station’s page lamenting that people were making jokes about the shootings as if the commenters on their articles were to blame for crime. THAT, my friends, prompted me to pick up the ball and run with it. 

For the past three months or so, I have regularly been making my own meme pictures and giving them a local slant, referring to the area as Chuckganistan. The pictures started taking on a life of their own, garnering dozens and dozens of likes whenever I posted them. So, I created my own Facebook page to use my own brand of dark dry humor and sarcasm, including the pictures, to point out the absurdity of ignoring our problems so the outside world doesn’t find out about them. And of course, since my own town is known far and wide across the state as a hotbed of violence and criminal activity I added the new name of Afghanaboro. The page is the Greater Chuckganistan/Afghanaboro Tourism Board, and I fully intend to continue calling attention to the insanity and duplicitous irony of clamoring for tourists and bringing more and more big companies to the area, encouraging people to move here for our quaint quiet lifestyle, while at the same time glossing over the big city problems that come with an expanding population and blighted ghetto neighborhoods blocks away from multimillion dollar homes.

The Boeing complex where they build 787's.
Boeing is expanding. In addition to the area mapped out below they also bought and razed the trailer park here.
Boeing built a billion-dollar airplane manufacturing plant here and is expanding even further. Daimler builds their vans here. A gun manufacturer recently relocated here from New York. We are drawing more and more businesses here and inviting the entire world to come visit and spend their ducats in our economy, and to drive our crumbling congested roads, dodge fake bums who by the day become more and more aggressive in their beggary, and to duck the spray of random gunfire.

Sssshhhhh…don’t tell anyone and maybe they won’t see anything.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A tribute to one of my inluences

“I have no taste for either poverty or honest labor, so writing is the only recourse left for me.” -HST

I’ve said before that one of my influences as a writer was “gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson. As a freshman in high school I had a subscription to none other than National Lampoon Magazine and I became a huge fan of satire and parody, and I admittedly do a lot of both in a very deadpan serious delivery. One of the articles in The NLM that always stuck in my craw was an essay/short story that was so absurd and over the top that 30+ years later I went looking for it yet again on the web trying to secure a copy of it. I had always assumed the author was Thompson, based on the title alone; “Fear and Loathing on the Kindergarten Trail”, a play off on his books "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and  “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail”. 

For years and years, I searched the web all over far and wide for any sort of reference to this work. Turns out I was somewhat up my own ass about things as I have FINALLY found the essay in question.

Turns out I had the title wrong for 30 years. And it was a parody, as stated before, and not actually one of Hunter’s works. So much for the iron-trap memory I had at 14. I finally found it on a site that archived a lot of the late 70’s and early 80’s issues of The National Lampoon, and they were saved in a bad quasi-Notepad-meets-ASCII format that I had to clean up and edit to make readable. 

So, without further ado, I bring you that essay that started me down the road to being a twisted writer….


Exclusive! An excerpt from a new work by the author of The Curse of the Yoyo.

Fear and Loathing on the Nursery School Trail 

I WAS JANGLED OUT OF MY SLEEP by the sound of the telephone ringing. I tried to ignore it.  A long, hot summer of continuous horror-film watching and high-speed sugar ingestion had left me physically racked and vulnerable to the slightest attack. The mere mention of responsibility or summer's end gave rise to uncontrollable spasms and a baroque brain paralysis that turned me into a scratching, weeping specimen that even a leper would pity. 

The phone persisted. I grabbed for it blindly, upsetting my night light and causing the eerie white beam to fall into my younger brother's lower bunk. It came to rest next to his head, illuminating his skull like a strange jack-o'-lantern. I finally located the telephone receiver and held it to my ear. My attorney was on the other end, yelling loudly. 

"Hunter, is that you? Jesus, don't you know what time it is?" 

"Time?" I tried to talk, but a spiral of yellow phlegm clung to my windpipe like a leech. 

"It's seven in the morning, for Crissakes. We've got less than an hour before school…” 


Mother of Babbling God. I had forgotten completely about school. My head cleared like a high-voltage jolt coursing through my rubber wee-wee sheets. It was 7:00 AM Monday morning, the first day of school, and I didn’t even have a loose-leaf organizer. My attorney was still talking, rattling on at a frantic pace. 

"Meet me in front of Hymie's Candy and Cigarettes in fifteen minutes. We still have time to organize an effective game plan.”

I told him I’d be there and hung up. I slowly slipped off the upper bunk, taking pains not to step into Davison's open mouth, and switched on the lights. It looked like rabid wolverines had stampeded through our room while we slept. Chairs and tables were overturned, and the television, still blaring from the night before, had a viscous brown streak of hardened liquid streaked across the screen, giving Mush Mouse and Pumpkin Puss the distorted appearance of a hydra-headed wildebeest. 

I loped across the garbage-strewn carpet, avoiding jagged objects, picked up Burl Ives's "Blue Tail Fly," and plunked it down on my trusty "Groove Tunes" plastic record player. I cranked it up to maximum volume, fixed myself a beaker of cold Nestle Quik, and slumped into an oversize beanbag chair. This was a little ritual designed to soothe my nerves and send my next-door neighbor into a lathering, wall-punching fit. The man was a despicable Nazi lowlife who deserved to have his upper and lower epidermis scraped off with three-grit sandpaper, for reasons I won't get into here. 

I dressed and ate a fast breakfast consisting of orange juice, grapefruit juice, and six different varieties of pre-sweetened cereal. At 7:30 I bade my sleeping younger brother farewell and climbed onto the Big Wheel, a big dangerous bike with an unsettling tendency to spin out without the slightest warning or provocation. 

After several close calls, one of which sent me fishtailing into the back end of a matronly crossing guard, I got the beast under control and arrived at Hymie's in one piece. My attorney was waiting outside. He greeted me heartily, a large paper sack clutched under his right arm. 

"Jesus” I said, "What have you got in there? Hymie's inventory?”  He laughed and dumped the contents of  the bag into the Big Wheel.

"Just a few necessary supplies," he said, spreading out the pile for closer examination. 

Cazart! If any of you parents ever learn anything it should be this: under absolutely no circumstances should you ever subsidize a fat, crazed, self-indulgent five-year-old attorney with a connoisseur's appreciation for fine candy. 

The stockpile broke down as follows: Two one-pound bags of M&M's, plain and peanut. Six packs of Twizzlers. Six packs of Necco's. Three dozen peanut -butter cups. A month's supply of Oh Henrys. Two cartons of Three Musketeers and Snickers. A carton of Kit Kais. A case of Pepsi. A rainbow assortment of bubble gums, lollipops, and penny candies. A blotter sheet of button drops. Enough licorice shoelace to strangle a boar hog. A twelve-ounce bar of Cadbury Fruit & Nuts and a small vial of pure cooking vanilla. 

"This is a week's worth of candy," I pointed out. "We’ll never make it by the front door with this stuff." 

My attorney nodded his head solemnly and looked at me through vaguely dilated pupils. I suspected he'd already dipped into the M&Ms. 

"As your attorney I think it s in our best interests to consume as much of this candy as possible. It would be a shame to throw even half of it away," 

"You're insane," I reasoned. "This much candy would reduce both of us to a pair of babbling, dangerously over-loaded freaks," 

My attorney grinned at me knowingly. 

"We'll fit in perfectly. Remember, this is the first day of school." 

He climbed onto the Big Wheel and wasted no time ripping open wrappers; the Snickers went first, three apiece, washed down with a bolt of Pepsi. Then the rest of the M&M's and the Oh Henry's. 

"Those Snickers are pure glucose.” my attorney warned. "You’ll feel the first rush any minute now." He was right. As we picked up speed and rumbled down Main Street a fine light wave trickled up my spine and came to rest at the base of my head. 

"Hand me that licorice, you greedy whore," I said to my attorney. "That's supposed to be enough for both of us." 

He shrugged and dropped a half-eaten clump into my lap. We ate an entire carton of Kit Kats in the next three blocks, and by the time we reached the halfway point in our journey we were both hopelessly twisted. 

"They’ll probably hang us both from the flagpole as an example to all the other students." I said, peeling back the plastic wrapper from a Charms Blow Pop. 

"Yes," my attorney agreed, chuckling like Mussolini. Suddenly his smile disappeared and his eyes filled with terror. 

"Watch out for Papa Smurf!!!” he screamed, grabbing at the controls. "My God. Look at that! I wonder where the rest of the gang is?" 

I couldn't see Papa Smurf, but the sky was full of black-fanged pterodactyls and I was having trouble pedaling. 

My attorney howled and lashed out at the handlebars, nearly capsizing us. 

"Get a grip on yourself' I screamed. “I thought you could handle the candy." He slumped back in his seat and ate a fistful of Necco's. 

"Of course, of course. I've been acting crazily. It’s those Three Musketeers. They're horribly unpredictable.”

I stopped at a red light, and a pair of first-graders on a red Schwinn pulled up beside us. They had their brand-new clothes on and looked as eager as mongrels looking for potential masters at a dog pound. My attorney leaned over the side of the Big Wheel and stared at them. 

"You want some fucking candy?" he screamed, spitting and drooling chocolaty goo from his mouth. "Hubba Bubba. Snickers. Pure granulated sugar, man. Blow your fucking head off!" 

I glanced over at the Schwinn and saw the pair was frozen with shock. 

The bike they were riding had a wicker basket on it and my attorney was tugging at it, trying to get their attention. 

"Can't you hear me, you crazy bastards? Are you deaf? I'm talking about two-two-two mints in one. A fistful of peanuts in every bar!!!”

I tried to maneuver the Big Wheel past them but I was up against the curb and couldn't turn without knocking into them. 

"M&M's. Hershey's chocolate motherfucker. Melt in your fucking brain, not in your mouth!" 

The light finally changed and the Schwinn took off like a turbo jet. My attorney burst out laughing.
"Jesus, what fucking zombies. They're exactly the type of pigs infiltrating the school system. Christ, did you see the decals on their knapsacks?" 

I could see he was getting worse by the minute. While he talked he scratched incessantly at an invisible rash and rocked to and fro spasmodically. Suddenly he started rummaging through a pile of wax wrappers, frantically searching for something. 

"Where's my balloon?" he shouted. "Where did I put my balloon?" 

Jesus, I thought, he's falling apart. Any second now he'll turn violent and they'll find us both on the side of the road, holding each other's spleens in our hands, our foreheads ripped open and dripping blood in the sun. He rose out of the pile and smiled broadly. Clenched in his fist was a red balloon.
"I couldn't function without this," he said. "If the situation gets tense you just load this baby up with water and drench every man, woman, and child within a twelve-foot radius. Never fails to jolt the bastards straight down to their socks.”

We arrived two hours late and parked the Big Wheel on the front steps. It was a terrible scene, both of us falling over each other as we tried to pry the school doors open. "These things have no fucking handles," my attorney screamed, clawing at the steel doors stupidly. "They built a school without any handles," 

"It's clearly an act of aggression." I said, my entire body now soaked in a trembling spastic sweat. "They want us to use the back entrance like common house servants.' 

A small boy with fear in his eyes parted the doors from inside and pushed on past us; either he'd been thrown out or he'd seen all he wanted to. 

"Jesus," my attorney said. "Did you see the look on that kid's face? I wonder what they did to him in there?" 

I stared at him and smiled weakly, "They probably dragged him into the bathroom and beat him around the kidneys with pointers and yardsticks.” 

"Jesus," my attorney muttered.

I shrugged and headed into the school lobby. Violence was commonplace the first day of school, I'd seen unacclimated teachers go completely berserk and start swinging in a crowded classroom, knocking children senseless by the barrelful. 

"Hell," I continued, "I remember last year, on the first day, my homeroom teacher grabbed a talkative child in the first row and erased the entire goddamn blackboard with his head. His head! The kid inhaled so much chalk dust that he went instantly blind and fell into an irreversible coma.” I could see my attorney was starting to look a little uneasy. I laughed and swatted him on the back. 

"Don't worry," I reassured him. "They only hurt you if you look like a troublemaker." 

"Well fuck that," he said. "I'm a model student no matter what these evil scum-suckers say." 

The corridors looked like the verge of a bad riot scene; rat-faced faculty members herded 
shell-shocked brats up and down the hallways like meal hogs while the PA system periodically blurted garbled instructions to "kindly proceed to your designated home-room." 

My attorney glanced down at a crumpled schedule. 

"What room are you boys supposed to be in?" I whirled around and came face to face with an ugly fat man. 

“Ah.. .of course, what room?" I said, thinking frantically. "What room indeed? Room 200. Yes. Probably room 200, of course, I remember distinctly now. Or was it room 244? We're new here, you know. Just trying to blend in and enjoy the scenery. The last thing we'd want is any trouble. Are you a member of the line staff?" 

I assaulted him with some more gibberish but he wasn't buying it. 

"Could I see your schedule, young man?" 

I dug through my pockets, but all I could come up with was a pile of candy wrappers. "I must have left it in my other coat," I said, walking fast in the other direction. I hadn't gotten three steps when I felt his hard grip on my shoulder. 

"I think you better come with me to the principal's office.' 

Suddenly my attorney was in the middle of it, snarling at the fat man. 

"Get your hands off my client, you worthless pig-fucker; How would you like to be brought up in front of the board for physically manhandling a student? You could lose your job for that." 

The fat guy wasn't biting. He paraded us down the hall in a primitive version of a Nazi death march.
Christ, I thought. They'll find the cooking vanilla in our knapsacks. The man will tell the principal we're both vicious impostors and that we threatened him with his life. No! Our only hope was to run.

We made a break for it, but the sugar comedown clouded our brains and it seemed as if we were moving in slow motion. The principal's goon squad nailed us ten feet from the door. Caught like doomed rats. 

Editor's Note: Dr Thompson's notes became very jumbled at this point. The following is a transcript from an interview Dr. Thompson had with his attorney and Rick Bloom, Dr. Thompson's campaign manager during his failed bid for election to the school council earlier that year: 

HST: You worthless pig. I didn't think you'd have the guts to show your face after you bungled my campaign. 

ATT: Hey. Rick, do you have any chocolate milk? 

RB: Jesus. Hunter, you sabotaged that campaign yourself when you scrawled Report Cards Are Weird" on the side of the principal's Volkswagen. 

HST: The man was a vicious misanthrope. And besides, the polls showed I was trailing by nearly three hundred votes. I had to do something drastic. I would have gotten away with it, too, if you hadn't panicked and dropped the Magic Markers.

RB: My heart wasn't in it. I kept thinking people were watching from behind the handball courts. 

HST: Balls. 

ATT: Cooking vanilla?