family, Reality TV, TV

I finally found my way to “Plathville”…

Recently, I started following Fundie Fridays, which is a YouTube channel run by a woman named Jen who does her makeup while talking about fundamentalist Christians. Sometimes, Jen is joined by her social worker boyfriend, James. I like her channel very much. She’s funny, and she’s great at applying makeup. I’m often amazed at the looks she achieves as she casually discusses people like the Duggars, the Bates, and any other weird-o-rama fringe religion out there.

It was on Jen’s Fundie Fridays channel that I discovered the Plath family. I mean, sure, I had seen references to them in the Duggar Family News Facebook group. I just never paid any attention to them, despite their impossible to ignore blondness and musical chops. Anyway, they have been on TLC for two seasons, and I recently happened to catch Jen’s video about them. In this video, she’s joined by James, as they describe this Quiverfull family who live in southern Georgia and work in Florida. Parents Kim and Barry Plath have nine living children. Their toddler son, Joshua, died in a tragic accident. Kim accidentally ran over him while driving on their farm. He was seventeen months old.

At this writing, two of the Plath kids have gotten married. Eldest son, Ethan, is married to Olivia Meggs, who could easily pass as one of the siblings, since she’s tall and blonde. Eldest daughter, Hosanna, is married to Timothy Noble. They live in Ohio and aren’t on the show.

This video led me down a TLC rabbit hole yesterday.
About season 2.

Kim and Barry both went to college. Kim didn’t finish her music degree at Florida State University. Both parents left college with tons of debt and remember that their college mostly consisted of getting drunk and partying. Consequently, they aren’t fans of college, unless it’s to study something for which a college degree is necessary. All of the Plath kids were homeschooled. They didn’t eat sugar, watch television, have social media or cell phones, or listen to popular music. Both Plath parents are strictly against drinking alcohol, as Kim grew up with an alcoholic single mom who traumatized her.

The Plath kids are musically talented and have had a family band. They played southern gospel music. On their TLC reality show, Welcome to Plathville, we see the adult kids wanting to branch out and listen to and play secular music. Mom and Dad Plath are against that, as well as their other worldly habits, such as drinking Coca-Cola and beer, wearing immodest clothing, and visiting “liberal” cities like San Francisco. The Plath parents have been criticized for being too controlling and for sheltering their children so much that they can’t function in the world.

Here’s a documentary about the Plath family. You can hear their music on this. I think they’re good musicians… certainly better than the Duggars!
Not bad at all, although the girls look a little sad.
Timothy and Hosanna Noble. They aren’t on the show, but Hosanna clearly has the musical genes and blond hair.

I think the Plath kids are absolutely gorgeous. They’re also very talented. Yes, it’s true, they’ve had a very unconventional upbringing. I’ve read a lot of harsh comments about Kim and Barry Plath and, while I haven’t yet finished the series, I feel the need to speak up. I think people are being kind of tough on the Plath parents… at least based on what I’ve seen on the show. Kim and Barry Plath are strict, conservative, and sheltering parents, and some might think they’re hypocrites for making their children live a lifestyle so different from the ones they had growing up. But… when I watch the Plaths, I don’t get the icky feeling I get when I watch the Duggars. And when you compare the two families, I definitely think the Plaths are more “normal” than the Duggars are.

It’s true that the Plath parents discourage their children from being too “worldly”. They don’t approve of drinking alcohol, consuming sugar, wearing immodest clothes, or visiting liberal cities like San Francisco. However, the kids are doing those things and they haven’t been disowned by the parents. It’s true that eldest son, Ethan, kind of went no contact with his parents because of the rift between them and his wife, Olivia. He objects to the way the parents talk to and treat his wife. But I think Olivia kind of brings some of that treatment on herself. She deliberately does things to undo the Plath parents’ “work”. We see her encouraging Ethan to drink alcohol and try a Coke, and hiring sixteen year old Moriah to help her with her wedding photography business so she can “break out” of that sheltered environment and visit San Francisco. The Plaths don’t necessarily approve, but they did allow Moriah to go on that weeklong trip. They could have vetoed it. I think Jim Bob Duggar would have forbidden his daughters from going on a similar trip with a more “worldly” sister-in-law.

I do think Olivia, who is absolutely beautiful, by the way, instigates a lot of problems. It’s understandable that she would, though. She’s still very young and had a different upbringing. I can see why Ethan wants to protect her and have her back. That’s admirable. I can also see why Ethan is a little bit “annoying” to her, too. He’s very childlike and a bit stunted. It’s entertaining to see him drink a mixed drink for the first time. But then, I can see how that reaction to so many new experiences could get irritating, such as when Ethan is shown trying to make pancakes while Olivia is trying to work. It’s as if Ethan is trying to cram a lot of experiences normal people would have had way before marriage. It’s exciting for him, but old hat for his wife. I hope their marriage survives.

Getting back to Kim and Barry– it is true that the Plath parents “kicked out” their son, Micah, and seventeen year old daughter, Moriah, because they didn’t want them influencing their youngest children. But I look at the way Moriah dresses and Micah’s career as a male model. Moriah and Micah visited them to confront them about their upbringing. Moriah was wearing what I think is a bit of a scandalous outfit– red and black leggings, a skimpy top, and tons of makeup. I don’t see her parents forcing her to cover up around the younger kids. I think Jim Bob Duggar would have probably refused to let Moriah come over dressed like that, if she were his daughter. I also doubt that Moriah would have dared to do that, because I have a feeling Boob is heavy on corporal punishment.

I can also understand why two religious parents would not want that in their home, even if I personally disagree with their religious views and policies. I do agree that the Plaths are too strict and too sheltering, but I don’t think they’re as controlling as Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are. And I don’t think their lifestyle is all that weird, to be honest.

Also… I think people forget that Kim Plath is clearly very traumatized by her upbringing. I grew up with an alcoholic parent myself. I know what that was like for me. I was fortunate enough to have another parent who wasn’t an alcoholic, though. Kim’s mom was all she had, and she grew up in chaos. It makes sense that she would be controlling and try to offer her children something she didn’t have growing up. She probably finds comfort in offering that very orderly, strict home environment, because growing up with an alcoholic can be quite the epic shitshow. I think anyone who doesn’t understand this should read up on adult children of alcoholics, and how a parent’s alcoholism affects children.

Remember, too, that Kim Plath lost a child directly due to her own negligence. She faced a horrifying situation. I don’t even know how someone recovers from causing their own child’s death. I would assume that losing a child in that way would make any parent neurotic and obsessively overprotective. Can you even imagine the guilt and horror of that? She probably has some PTSD going on after that experience. And Barry also lost a child, and as Kim puts it, a wife. She says she wasn’t “present” in the months after Joshua was killed. I would be very surprised if she ever got any mental health counseling, either, to help her process such a terrible loss.

Sad…

I actually had a childhood neighbor who ran over and accidentally killed her daughter. The incident happened in 1995, when my neighbor was 24 years old and her daughter was 2. They were at Walmart and, for whatever reason, my neighbor let her daughter stand up behind the seat of the car as she coasted forward with the door open. The girl fell out of the car and was under the car’s tires. My former neighbor is now dead herself, because she had Huntington’s Disease. I’ve wondered if maybe the disease was starting to be symptomatic when that accident happened. She had three children, only one of whom is still living. Her eldest child, a son, died at age 21 in a car accident. Sadly, because of Huntington’s Disease, it’s possible that the little girl wasn’t destined to live a long life in any case. I have always been haunted by the sad circumstances of that family and wondered how my former neighbor and friend could go on after that accident.

I don’t necessarily agree with Kim and Barry’s parenting decisions. I can understand why their children chafe at the way they were raised. I can see why they want to go their own ways so soon after they become adults or, in Moriah’s case, even before then. But I also can understand on one level why Kim and Barry are concerned about their older children “corrupting” the younger ones– even if I don’t agree that the children should be that sheltered. When it comes down to it, they’re the parents, and they should have the right to raise their children according to their beliefs without having to worry about Ethan’s wife overriding their decisions. The time will come soon enough that the youngest kids will be making their own decisions. We can see that the Plath parents have allowed the oldest children to be adults and make those choices. I didn’t see Ma or Pa Plath yelling at Ethan when he drank beer at the “surprise party” Olivia arranged (unbeknownst to them) for Moriah. Imagine if one of the Duggar sons had done that! Jim Bob would have thrown a huge fit. The Plath parents just shot a disapproving look at Ethan, rather than making a scene.

It’s supposed to rain today, and I’m expecting a package from Apple. Bought myself an Apple Touch because the 160 GB Classic iPod I have is becoming obsolete. The Touch will handle a lot more music, too. Since I don’t want to go out before the delivery gets here, I’ll probably go watch more of the Plathville episodes. I might change my mind about Kim and Barry Plath after seeing more of season 2, but at this point, I think people are being pretty tough on them. I don’t think they come close to being as dysfunctional as the Duggars are. At least they allow some dissension and will even discuss issues with their children, even if it’s uncomfortable or unpleasant. That, in my book, makes them healthier than some of the other families that have been presented on TLC. However– I do think that any family that agrees to be profiled on TLC is probably a bit on the fucked up side, regardless. But then, that would describe a lot of families, whether or not they are on reality TV. In the Duggar family’s case, I think maybe reality TV helped make them a little more “normal” than they might have been otherwise. But then, some of those kids might not have been born if Boob and Michelle hadn’t needed storylines to keep the gravy train rolling.

Anyway… I think as TLC families go, the Plaths are probably more real than some. And at least I can understand why they are the way they are, to some extent. I’m sure their faith in God helps them deal with the pain of what they’ve been through. Of course, I write all of this realizing that what we’re seeing is a heavily edited TLC product. I’m sure off camera, things aren’t always necessarily the way they appear.

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News

Back from Heidelberg…

I’ve been busily updating my travel blog with the story of our quick trip. I always like to write travel posts soon after I get home, so I don’t forget too many details. We had a great little break. It reminded us that we need a longer one… perhaps out in the country in a beautiful self-catering house near a beach… or in the mountain near a lake. I’m flexible.

My birthday was great! We spent lots of money and ate so much good food… and drank a lot of wine and other alcoholic treats. Sadly, we had a bit of a mishap last night. As Arran was cozying up to Bill, having a reunion bonding session, I noticed blood on his coat. At first, I wondered if he got hurt at the boarding facility, which would have been a huge bummer. But then I realized I have a video of him right before we picked him up and he was fine. Then I looked at the wound and realized it was really fresh. I think Arran ran under one of the bushes in the backyard and cut himself. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s done that. He did it a few months ago on his right shoulder.

I realized the cut was pretty deep, although it wasn’t bleeding much. Bill ended up taking him to the emergency clinic. They had to wait many hours before they could be seen because last night was very busy. Bill got there at about 9:30pm and wasn’t home until 4:30am. Arran got debridement, five stitches, antibiotics, and painkillers. The bill was 825 euros. He doesn’t seem to be any worse for wear, other than the shaved part of his left neck near his shoulder. He’s been napping today and was happy to take a walk a little while ago.

Noyzi did very well at the boarding facility. I think the lady who watched him fell in love. I can understand why. He’s very handsome and sweet. So now that we know he’ll do alright at the boarding house, maybe we can travel more and my mood will improve. I like having things to write about that don’t involve complaints or politics. I just wish our local Internet was better. When I try to upload batches of photos, my Internet crashes.

I haven’t had too much time to read the news, so I can’t think of anything newsworthy to write about right now. Actually, I feel like I need a nap after last night’s drama. I can only imagine how exhausted Bill must be. He is a day person who doesn’t sleep well in the best of circumstances. I’ll bet he’ll be dead on his feet tonight.

Anyway… my birthday was great. 49 is not too bad so far. Bonus… Aunt Flow didn’t bother me while we were enjoying our trip. My sister sent me a birthday e-card starring Donny Osmond. How could it get any better, ignoring Arran’s veterinary mishap, anyway?

Maybe tomorrow, it’ll be back to business as usual.

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complaints, disasters, dogs

See you next fall…

Many years ago, when I worked at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, I had a friend who worked on the Rhine River cruise ride. He was a big, strapping guy who sweated profusely and carried his lunches in Igloo coolers. I knew this guy, not just because we worked in the “German” part of Busch Gardens, but also because we were both from Gloucester, Virginia. He was the eldest of a large Irish Catholic family. I think he had eleven brothers and sisters, but I can’t say for sure. ETA: A mutual friend says that Shawn is the eldest of fourteen.

Anyway, this guy, name of Shawn, used to get a huge kick out of me. One time I asked him why he was so amused by my comings and goings. He said it was because I was always hurting myself somehow. And because I could swear a blue streak that would make a sailor blush.

This morning, I’m not so proud to admit that I did both of those things. The sad thing is, this morning’s injuries come almost exactly a week after my last significant injury… significance being a relative thing. I’m not talking about broken bones or even sprains. I’m talking about scraped knees and sore muscles from breaking sudden falls.

Last week’s accident happened when I was about to walk the dogs. It was cloudy and a little rainy. I was preparing to walk the dogs when I decided to check the mailbox. Noyzi has been getting a lot braver lately, so he followed me outside. Suddenly, I had a flashback to about a year ago, when the beagle we tried to adopt escaped the pet taxi driver who had brought him to us. He panicked and took off, as we watched helplessly. Hours later, he ended up getting killed on the Autobahn, which is very close to our house. Watching our would-be family member run to his death was devastating. We had been so looking forward to having him, only to see him take off running before we even got to pet him.

Noyzi runs like a locomotive. I don’t think he wants to run away. He seems to enjoy being a pet. He has his own big bed, doesn’t have to fight over food, and loves to take walks. He also seems to like me a lot, although he’s still afraid of Bill. Still, I knew that if he got spooked, as he occasionally does sometimes, I might be shit out of luck in getting him back. He is really fast! I panicked a bit when he came outside. I made a grab for his collar, but missed. I fell down, having lost my balance, and made another grab for him, which I missed. He quickly hit the deck, peeing submissively in the process. I tore off part of a thumbnail and badly scraped my right knee. I also got a big bruise.

It hurt. Falling down is not as painless when you’re middle aged. I literally saw stars and felt nauseous after I fell. Like, I might have been in danger of fainting from the sharp pain. I yelled a bit, because I was pissed off, humiliated, and hurt.

Healing takes longer, too. That knee is already pretty badly scarred from other spills, including one that happened during the summer of 1991, when I was working at Busch Gardens. That was by far the worst knee scrape I’ve ever had. I had just finished work and was taking my till to the cash control office when I slipped on the pebbly walkway. Because it was dark outside and had just rained, I didn’t realize how badly I was hurt until I went into cash control and handed over the till. I looked down and saw blood streaming from my knee. I asked the teller if she had any paper towels. She got a load of my knee and called the first aid office, who carted me off to the first aid station and patched me up. It took weeks for the wound to heal and I still have a deep scar.

So all last week, my knee has itched, bled, stung, and throbbed. My right thumbnail hurt like a motherfucker, since I broke the nail at the quick. As of today, it doesn’t hurt anymore, since the nail has grown. I’d say that injury, at least, is about recovered. But then I renewed my clutzy woes this morning.

Arran woke up at about 4:30am. He wanted his breakfast, since I didn’t have much of a dinner last night and he got few scraps. I got up, let him and Noyzi out, and fed them. Then I went back upstairs, but noticed that Arran hadn’t followed me. I know this trick. Arran will often stay behind and stealth pee if I don’t watch him. Not wanting to clean up an unnecessary mess, I went back downstairs to get Arran. Somehow, I tripped on a shoe. I remember feeling horrified as my ankle wobbled and I went down on my nice rug.

Mrs. Fletcher and I have something in common.

“FUCK!” I screamed. For the second time in a week, Arran was looking at me with a mixture of concern and fear. The expression on his face was like, “oh dear… she’s fallen and can’t get up!”

Yes, I literally screamed and wailed, in part because I was hurting, but also because I’m angry and frustrated. Because now, not only did I reopen the wound on my right knee and undo a week’s healing, but I also now have a scraped left knee and my left big toe is fucked up. This time the scrape is on the top part of the knee. It’s more of a rug burn, so I don’t think the flesh wound will take as long to recover. However, I also have a big bruise on top of the knee, and walking hurts. Add in the normal pain and stiffness I experience just for being old and fat, and you have someone whose Monday has gotten off completely wrong!

The kicker is, I’m supposed to drive somewhere today. It’s literally been months since I last drove anywhere. Like, it’s been so long, I don’t remember when I was last behind the wheel. It might have been in 2019, it was so long ago. And I have to drive the Volvo, because my car’s tires are low on air and even if I wanted to drive on low tires, I’d need to move Bill’s car anyway. Bill has been trying to find a working air pump at a gas station, but for some reason, the Wiesbaden area is low on functioning air pumps. We’ll probably end up ordering one.

Fortunately, the Volvo practically drives itself, and I only need to go about two or three kilometers. But the reason I have to drive is because I need to drop off a sample of Arran’s shit at the vet’s office. That just seems like a perfect Monday morning chore, doesn’t it? I still need to collect one sample before I go, too… and I’m not sure I can manage our usual walk today. My left knee really hurts. But the sun is out, and the dogs need the exercise. I need it too, but maybe only after I put on knee pads and elbow guards. Shawn would be so proud to see that nothing has changed since the 1990s, except now I’m older, heavier, and even more profane.

I haven’t even had an alcoholic drink since Saturday afternoon, so I can’t even blame this on being drunk. At least I finally finished binge watching Growing Pains.

You’d think I played rugby.
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celebrities, dogs, funny stories, music, true crime

Shit happens.

I decided to take yesterday off from writing. It was mainly because in the wee hours of Friday morning, I awoke at about 2:00am and had trouble getting back to sleep. I had been having an erotic dream. I don’t have a lot of those anymore, so I was disappointed when I woke up. Weirdly enough, I dreamt I was having sex with Wil Wheaton. I have never even thought about having sex with him, so I’m not sure where that came from. Maybe it’s because I was recently triggered on his page. He’s definitely cute, but we’re both happily married to other people, so I doubt that’s a dream that will ever come to fruition.

Once my eyes cracked open, I got up to go to the bathroom. And then– sorry for the TMI– but I got a case of the shits. After I was finished, I left the bathroom and noticed I smelled it in another room, only it wasn’t of the human variety. Arran, bless his heart, sometimes poops when he sleeps, so I thought maybe that was the issue. But I didn’t see any evidence of that, so I checked on Noyzi, who was in his bed. The smell of poop also faded downstairs, so I could tell he wasn’t the culprit. Noyzi still doesn’t venture upstairs on his own.

Then I went into my office and, though I wasn’t wearing my contacts, I could see a fuzzy, stinky, brown puddle on one of my nice rugs. It’s one that doesn’t get walked on a lot, so it’s still pretty pristine. Arran had gone in there and dropped some diarrhea. Bill got up and cleaned up the mess while I let the dogs out. Noyzi went out and pooped, too… and it was at that point that I realized we all must have eaten something bad. Later on, Bill also had a touch of the shits. My guess is was the chicken from the chicken man, who sells his wares on Thursdays. This has never happened before, so I count it as a “one off”, as the Brits would put it.

In any case, I was kind of tired yesterday and not in the mood to write. I also find that when I take a day or two off, it’s good for my brain. Gives me a chance to refresh. Gives my readers a chance to catch up, if they want to… not that many people do. Right now, it appears I have lots of folks interested in my posts about Jocelyn Zichterman, Scott Drummond, Richard Jahnke, and Erin McCay George. These are all mostly book reviews, which rarely get a lot of attention when I first post them, but later attract readers. That’s one reason why I’ve been reposting stuff from my original blog. The book reviews are fairly “evergreen”– as in they attract views and money, if this blog were monetized, which it’s not. I post the book reviews as a “service” for the interested. Sometimes I read and review books that others are interested in but may not want to buy or can’t borrow.

I spent all day yesterday watching Snapped episodes from 2013. If I were still writing my old blog, I might write about some of the cases I saw on that show. Like, for instance, Nancy Gelber’s case… I found her a fascinating subject. She’s a wannabe author who self-published a novel called Temporary Amnesia, which boasts a very complicated storyline that she claims she dreamt up when she was a teenager. She said that’s where a lot of her ideas come from– her dreams– which are apparently even weirder than mine are.

Nancy’s book is on Amazon.com and it gets terrible reviews. I would probably hate it, and I sure don’t want to spend the amount of money they’re asking for it, especially since Nancy Gelber is a criminal. However, as someone who is interested in psychology, I found her very interesting to listen to. You can tell that beneath her cheerful, chatty demeanor, she’s a hot mess psychologically. Gelber tried to have her ex husband bumped off, but “hired” an undercover cop instead of a real hit man. Then, she claimed that she hadn’t known what she was doing.

This wasn’t what I watched on Snapped… it’s another program about Nancy Mancuso Gelber.

It’s actually interesting to watch this show, as opposed to the Snapped episode. It offers more of her ex husband’s viewpoint.

What a piece of work!

Nancy says she’s going to go to hell… and admits that having her husband offed is a “horrible” thing to do, as she laughs. On this show, she seems a lot more sinister than she appeared to be on Snapped. If you see her on Snapped, she seems a lot more pleasant and normal. How scary for Jody Gelber, her ex husband. I wish I were more of an expert in psychology. She seems like a fascinating subject. I’d love to know what her DSM V diagnosis is. My guess is narcissist, for sure.

Busted! If you listen to her fake reaction to the lie that her husband has died, she sounds like a really bad actress.

This morning, after I watched the YouTube videos about Nancy Gelber, I watched a couple more about Diana Lovejoy, who in 2017, fainted when she was found guilty of murder for hire. I’m not familiar with her case at all. I just found her reaction to the verdict fascinating.

Wow…
Off she goes to the hospital… complete with handcuffs.

I probably should get back into reading more true crime, now that I’m less interested in politics. To be clear, I’ve never been all that interested in politics. I was just horrified by four years of Donald Trump and his delusional political theater of the absurd. Trump is now reportedly refusing to refer to himself as a former president. His new legal team is referring him to as the 45th POTUS, which is technically correct. BUT– their main defense in the upcoming impeachment trial is that Trump is no longer president and therefore can’t be impeached. So which is it? Rachel Maddow has a good chuckle about it in the video clip directly below this paragraph. If you ever wanted a textbook example of grandiose malignant narcissism, Trump is your guy. By the way, as far as I’m concerned, Trump was never MY president. 😉

And finally, I probably could opine about the recent uproar regarding country singer Morgan Wallen, who was caught on video drunk and uttering racist epithets in the middle of the street with his rowdy friends. He’s facing a lot of backlash… more than the idiots who stormed the Capitol last month, actually. Looks like his fans are still buying his music, even though he’s no longer eligible for music awards and his label has suspended him. I remember when the Dixie Chicks pissed off their base by dissing former President George W. Bush at a concert. They were quickly canceled by a lot of their more redneck fans and country radio. Morgan Wallen uses the n-word and many of his fans are still fine with him.

I hadn’t heard of him before this happened. I do remember reading about Morgan Wallen being canceled from a gig on Saturday Night Live because he was caught on video partying with a bunch of people while unmasked. SNL canceled him because his appearance would put a lot of people at risk. And now, they have another reason not to have him play.

I’m not big on cancel culture. I think people should have the ability to redeem themselves. Morgan Wallen, at age 27, is probably too old to be acting like a drunken frat boy, and I did see and hear the video… and there is no excuse for his behavior. I don’t know that it should ruin his career forever, but I do think that if you’re lucky enough to be able to make a living in the arts, you owe it to yourself and everyone else to realize that with that platform comes responsibility. And, sad to say, it shows an ugly side of him. Clearly, he’s comfortable using that kind of language casually, which is too bad. It’s not the word itself that is offensive– it’s the attitude and meaning behind it. And the fact that so many people are protesting about Wallen’s “right” to free speech and missing the fact that with that right comes responsibility. Yes, he has the “right” to say what he wants. BUT that doesn’t excuse him from consequences. Wallen needs to grow up.

Last night, I was listening to old school Chicago and marveling. I can’t name most of the members of that band. I’m sure being in Chicago, which has been around for many decades now, paid off handsomely for a lot of the members. It occurred to me that is a band– along with so many others– like Earth, Wind, & Fire, Blood, Sweat, & Tears, and Three Dog Night– comprised of people who are passionate about music rather than just money and fame. It occurred to me how much time, dedication, effort, and TEAMWORK goes into making that tight sound. These are very talented people working together for something awesome, not to be rich and famous. I’d like to hear much more from people like them, as opposed to privileged, clueless, jackasses like Morgan Wallen. Just saying.

Well, that about does it for today. Gotta finish the laundry and practice guitar on this dreary Saturday.

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social media, true crime

Two guys walk into a bar…

I may catch some shit for writing today’s post, but this story is a good example as to why I think that sometimes the court of public opinion gets things very wrong. If you’re a regular reader, you may already know that I am not a fan of mob justice, particularly for people who armchair quarterback from home and have nothing to do with a specific case. I think that can have a devastating effect on justice and fairness, something that everyone should be entitled to, especially in the United States. Anyway, here goes… putting on my flame retardant suit now.

On Saturday, September 26, 2020, 65 year old Donald Lewinski and 80 year old Rocco Sapienza were both visiting Pamp’s Red Zone Bar and Grill in West Seneca, New York. Both men were said to be regulars at the establishment, although it’s not clear if they knew each other before their deadly meeting a couple of weeks ago.

Mr. Lewinski is now being charged with the negligent homicide of Mr. Sapienza. Why? Because Mr. Sapienza, who was said to be very friendly, but not one who was afraid to confront people he thought needed calling out, chastised Mr. Lewinski for not wearing a face mask. The headline about this incident in The New York Times is “80-Year-Old Is Killed After Asking Bar Patron to Wear Mask”. Naturally, people are responding to that headline with much vitriol toward Mr. Lewinski. Some are labeling him a cold blooded murderer and calling for him to spend much longer in prison than the four years he could face if he is convicted.

The headline implies that Mr. Sapienza simply asked Mr. Lewinksi to wear a mask, and he responded by viciously shoving him, intending to hurt, or even kill him. I was skeptical that this incident went down the way the headline implied. And, in fairness to the The New York Times, the actual article, which I am sure a lot of people didn’t bother to read, is a lot more impartial than the headline is. There are also other articles from reputable, but more local, sources available that present a very different perspective than what was reported in The New York Times. Having read several articles about this altercation, I have concluded that this is what really happened.

These two guys visited their favorite watering hole. Both are older men, probably a bit set in their ways and not interested in hearing other people’s opinions on how they should be behaving in public.

Mr. Lewinski’s son was playing music outside of the bar. The band was set up in the parking lot, and they happened to be playing in the parking spot that Mr. Sapienza usually used. This tidbit of information was not in the Times’ article, but it was in an article by Local 12, a news station in the West Seneca area. So… Mr. Sapienza was already annoyed that his parking spot was usurped by Lewinski’s son’s band. It’s unclear whether or not the band knew that was Sapienza’s parking spot, or if he was somehow officially entitled to park there.

The New York Times article also fails to mention that Mr. Lewinski did have a neck gaiter and though he did frequently forget to pull it up, perhaps because he was drinking or “caught up in the thrill”, according to his lawyer, Barry Covert, “when asked to put his mask on, [he] did so readily.”

Apparently, Lewinski kept coming in and out of the bar to fetch rounds of drinks. When he came into the bar, he repeatedly forgot to pull the gaiter up over his nose and mouth. Also according to Lewinski’s lawyer, “[Sapienza] was disgruntled that he could hear the music inside, and he was unhappy that my client and other people were bringing tables and chairs from inside the bar outside to the patrons who were enjoying the band out in the parking lot.”

Mr. Sapienza, who had reportedly served as a Marine and had a “boisterous” personality that would “fill up a room”, eventually decided that enough was enough. Sapienza was also said to be “protective” of the staff at Pamp’s Red Zone Bar and Grill and was well-liked at the establishment. I have a feeling that Sapienza might have thought of the bar as “his place” and it probably irritated him that Lewinski and his son’s band were upsetting the order of things.

According to video footage, Lewinski was speaking to the bar owner for a moment and Sapienza, donning a face mask, decided to take it upon himself to confront Mr. Lewinski about his failure to be diligent about wearing a mask. There was no audio to the video, but John J. Flynn, the Erie County district attorney, says that “out of the blue”, Mr. Lewinski two hand shoved Mr. Sapienza, who fell backwards. His left arm knocked over a bar stool as his head hit the floor. Sapienza immediately lost consciousness and suffered a seizure. He was taken to a hospital, where he underwent brain surgery and died several days later.

Lewinski, who supposedly had made “lewd” comments to the staff, immediately paid his bill and left right after Sapienza hit the floor. I can’t say I blame him for that, but maybe that was also the wrong thing to do.

In my opinion, this incident sounds like a terrible accident. It’s certainly not murder, although many outraged comments indicate that it is. I don’t believe that Donald Lewinski showed up at that bar intending to kill someone. He probably just wanted to have a good time, listen to his son play music and enjoy some adult beverages.

If Lewinski had tackled Mr. Sapienza and repeatedly beat him about the head and shoulders in a clear effort to kill him, that would be murder. There has to be deliberate intent to kill for a killing to be called murder. It sounds to me like Lewinski pushed the man to get him out of his face, and that was it. He clearly didn’t intend to kill him. Mr. Sapienza’s accident was simply the unfortunate result of their confrontation, which Sapienza initiated. I don’t think Lewinski needs to be put away for the rest of his life for that. Some people would even call what he did self-defense, although I’m not sure the situation called for self-defense. But again– they were in a bar and there were likely distorted perceptions at play caused by boozing.

Could Lewinski have been better about wearing a face mask? Sure. But consider that less than a year ago, no one was wearing masks in bars or socially distancing. Some people are having a harder time adjusting to this new requirement than others are. And while I’m not absolutely certain that the parties involved in this incident were drinking alcohol, I’m going to assume that they were. They were there for “hours”, and there’s no telling how much they drank before the altercation occurred. In fact, I would also wonder if alcohol could have had an effect on Mr. Sapienza’s body that exacerbated the effects of the blunt trauma to his head.

What really irritates me about this story is that many people who are commenting on it automatically attack Donald Lewinski’s character and call him a “murderer”. It’s akin to the people who call anyone not wearing a face mask a “murderer”. It’s ridiculous hyperbole and it doesn’t serve justice.

For the record, I agree that Lewinski was absolutely wrong to shove Mr. Sapienza, although I also think that Sapienza was wrong to confront Lewinski. It was not his place to enforce the mask requirement; it was the management’s duty.

Moreover, the fact that Mr. Sapienza was 80 years old is irrelevant. I don’t know how recent the photos of Sapienza are, but he doesn’t appear to be that old. In some pictures I’ve seen, he’s wearing a dapper looking suit and a big smile– yes, he looks like a very friendly, healthy, fun loving man. I would not have guessed Sapienza was 80, and I’m sure his age never occurred to Mr. Lewinski, either. It sounds to me like he acted impulsively– he’d been drinking and was already irritated with Sapienza, as the two had exchanged “terse words” prior to the shoving incident. It’s not unusual for people to react physically when someone invades their personal space, especially when there’s booze involved.

A screen grab from a news video about this incident. He looks pretty hale and hearty to me, but I don’t know how old this picture is. To read the comments on some of the news articles about this, Mr. Sapienza was a frail , little old man. I don’t think that’s necessarily so. He does look like a great guy, though. It’s sad that he died the way he did.

Obviously, both of these men were healthy enough to sit in a bar for hours, despite their “advanced ages”. But in the age of COVID-19, it’s probably not the best idea for anyone to be hanging out in a bar, especially men over the age of 50 who might have underlying health conditions. Alcohol is a social lubricant. It causes people to behave in ways they might not have otherwise and can distort a person’s perceptions of reality. Or, it causes them to magnify behaviors, which may or may not be good. If you’re an asshole naturally, and you drink booze, you’re probably going to be an even bigger asshole when you’re drunk. Believe me, I have seen and experienced it many times. I don’t know what kind of man Donald Lewinski is, but if he was drinking, it’s possible that his frame of mind might have been in the realm of asshole on September 26th. Or, maybe he just doesn’t know his own strength.

If you’re a senior citizen and you’re concerned enough about COVID-19 that you feel compelled to confront strangers about wearing face masks, it’s probably a wiser decision to stay home. I am sure that hanging out in his favorite watering hole was a comfort for Mr. Sapienza. Maybe it helped him feel more normal in these very weird pandemic days we’re experiencing. And maybe he felt emboldened to confront another man for not wearing a face mask, because that bar felt like “his place”. But, when it comes down to it, not everyone is going to see it that way. People are on edge and pissed off– tensions are high for a lot of reasons. It’s probably not the best idea to confront people who are breaking the rules, especially in a bar. Let someone in charge do it, for your own safety. Especially if you are “at an elevated risk” for COVID-19, as Mr. Sapienza would be simply due to his age and sex. But then, maybe Mr. Sapienza was also under the influence of booze and his natural instincts were similarly magnified.

I totally get that people are fed up with those who break the rules. I also get that people resent having to wear face masks. I hate them myself, but I do wear them when they are required. And because I hate the masks, I do my best to avoid having to wear them by staying away from other people. Instead of going to bars, I stay home and drink. It’s cheaper that way, and I get to pick the music. Bars are not safe places for those hoping to avoid COVID-19. I certainly don’t condone Lewinski’s decision to push Mr. Sapienza, inadvertently causing his death, but I also don’t condone Mr. Sapienza’s decision to put himself in harm’s way by being confrontational.

It’s too bad that the press is spinning this situation to be something it’s not. People are predictably reacting without reading much more than the headline or thinking critically. So many folks are commenting that Lewinski should go to prison for the rest of his life… calling him a hardened murderer because he shoved some guy for confronting him after they had already exchanged “terse words”. I wonder if they would feel the same way if they or someone they loved were involved in a similar situation. My guess is that most of them wouldn’t. But then, it’s always “a different story” when the story is about someone else.

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