Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "Focus on Mitt Romney," July 16, 2011

Noose on the loose

Campers in southeast Michigan may want to double check their campsites. A man warned authorities at a county park in Addison Township, Mich., that the 5-foot-long pet boa constrictor that he decided to take with him on a camping trip slithered out of his pop-up camper on June 9. An Oakland County Parks and Recreation executive told reporters that the young boa posed no real threat to humans, but could not make the same guarantee for small, local rodents.

Cat tracks

Officials in Matthews, Ind., are moving a Garfield the Cat statue to a place of honor in the city not because of the cultural importance of the statue, but because vandals in the town have singled out the statue form of the cartoon cat for desecration. Originally, city officials had placed the color statue of Garfield decked out in fishing gear near a covered bridge in town. But when ne'er-do-wells chipped the statue's paint by throwing rocks at it and broke a fishing pole out of Garfield's hand, Town Council President David Loer announced he would have the statue moved to the grounds of the town hall for better safekeeping. Other Garfield statues erected near Garfield creator Jim Davis' hometown of Muncie, Ind., have also been the target of desecration: The Marion Chronicle-Tribune reported that vandals decapitated a local Garfield statue in 2006.

Arrogant theft

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One Maple Valley, Wash., couple had insult added to injury when an identity thief who had gained access to their credit card used the couple's card to send a thank you gift. When David and Jenelle York noticed their credit card had been compromised, they checked online for purchases and found, among several suspicious charges, a bill from FTD. Days later, FTD delivered a single rose to the Yorks' address with a note that simply read, "Thank you."

Manhattan gold digger

Most New Yorkers couldn't be paid to scrape up the mud from pavement cracks in Manhattan. But not only does Raffi Stepanian do it-he makes his living at it. "The streets of 47th Street are literally paved with gold," Stepanian told The New York Post, explaining how he uses a butter knife and tweezers to scrape mud off the sidewalks and streets of New York's Diamond District to mine gold and precious gems from the milieu. Stepanian, a freelance diamond setter collects dirt wedged in concrete outside of jewelry stores on Manhattan's 47th Street, pans it in the style of an old-timey prospector, then sells the gold flakes, tiny diamonds, and gem flecks that have fallen off customers' bodies. During a recent six-day period, Stepanian found $819 worth of materials. "Half of it's probably mine," one store owner quipped to the Post.

Dug out

What Lakeland, Fla., resident Bryan Dyer wanted was a swimming pool. What he got was old washing machines and lawnmowers. Contractors digging a hole for a swimming pool in Dyer's backyard dug up three feet of dirt. From that point on, all the workmen pulled up was trash. Dyer says that the builder of his Oak Run community home told him that the site for the neighborhood was an old orange grove. But apparently, what sat under the Florida man's home was really a landfill. "We found several tires, what appears to be washing machine tubs, trash, debris, metal parts, we found a lawnmower in the deep hole over there," Dyer complained to WTSP. "You name it, it seems to be coming up out of the hole." Dyer approached the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for help. The agency said they could give him advice, but that he would have to foot the bill for the cleanup.

The cat's meow

Josh Webster's friends and family may never believe where he found the kitten he brought home. Recently at a shop where Webster, an auto mechanic, works in Springfield, Vt., technicians discovered a tiny ball of fur stuck in an air filter of a car that had been brought in for service. The car's owner surmised the cat had crawled into the warm and cozy air filter during a recent trip to Connecticut. Mechanics put the live kitten in a box with some food at the garage, but the kitten's incessant meowing won over Webster, who decided to adopt it. "I have a daughter," Webster told WHDH. "She is in first grade and her birthday is coming up. So this is what she's going to get."

Crooked plan

It may not be the green-lined path that a Fidelity Investments advisor would have chosen for him, but James Verone says he has a retirement plan. The 59-year-old Gastonia, N.C., resident walked into an RBC Bank in June and handed a bank teller an atypical robbery note. The message from Verone stated that he wanted only one dollar. After getting the teller to hand over the dollar bill, Verone then walked into the lobby and waited for police. Later, the unemployed man told reporters that the single-dollar heist was all part of his plan to be arrested and jailed for the next three years. While behind bars, Verone told reporters, he is hoping that he'll get medical care for two ruptured disks and various other maladies and that, if released after three years, he could then begin collecting Social Security benefits. "I've already looked at a condominium," Verone told reporters. "I've spoken to a realtor on Myrtle Beach." Police say that because Verone only demanded a dollar and did not have a weapon during the robbery, he can only be charged with larceny-a crime that carries less severe sentences than bank robbery.

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