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Lift that thing up—if it’s not too heavy . . .

I spent twelve years working on the Mexican border at several locations as a Customs inspector, including assignments as a journeyman and as a supervisor first-level and second-level supervisor. As a journeyman in those years I conducted a goodly number of strip searches, and as a Customs supervisor I witnessed and assisted in another goodly number of strip searches. Most strip searches were routine and produced nothing, but some produced hidden contraband ranging from diet pills to parakeets, and narcotics ranging from marijuana to cocaine to heroin. Some strip searches revealed unusual body piercing and tattoos. Click here for a posting on an unusual tattoo, a rather large spider. There were other tattoos noted in that particular spot in other searches, but this is the only one that would have qualified for placement in Ripley’s Believe it or not! museum.

At the port of Progreso I and another journeyman inspector conducted a strip search on a young man in his late teens, and in the process found concealed contraband in a location that neither of us had ever found contraband before—or since. We had the subject ruffle his hands through his hair to dislodge any contraband that might  be concealed there, raise both arms to show his armpits, and bend over and spread to enable us to note any evidence of a body cavity concealment. Evidence of vaseline or other lubricant in that area could suggest concealment, and believe it or not, seizures have been made because the smuggler left a string hanging out to facilitate removal of the contraband—go figure!

Our visual inspection of the subject’s backside was negative, but when he turned around my fellow inspector told him to lift that thing up if it’s not too heavy for you. The lad lifted that thing up and a clear plastic pill box clattered to the floor. It had been sandwiched between the skin of his scrotum and that thingthat flacid thing—had kept the pillbox hidden from view. We did not measure the pillbox, but we estimated its diameter somewhere between one and two inches, about the width of a United States silver dollar, a coin that measures one and one-half inches—we speculated on that thing’s measurements, but we refrained from taking any measurements because they were not germane to our responsibilities as Customs inspectors—plus we were probably in fear of agitating it.

The pillbox contained several small white unmarked pills. We passed them around to all the other inspectors, including Immigration and Agriculture officers, but none could identify the pills. We confiscated them, required the subject to sign an Asset to Forfeiture form and later that day destroyed the pills and the pillbox in the incinerator.

The young man said he had been in Mexico for several days, just hanging out. He appeared completely disoriented, did not know where he had been or where he was now, and was unsure of where he was going. He showed every evidence of brain burn-out from using acid, the drug of choice for many young people—and some not so young—such disorientation was a common sight among acid—LSD—users in the sixties and seventies of the past century—shades of Timothy Leary!  Click here for a discussion of LSD and Professor Leary’s advice to America’s counterculture to “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”

We released him—the traveler, not the professor—and he departed the port area walking. My duty shift ended a short time later and I left the port for home. About two miles away from the port I saw the lad coming out of a deep irrigation ditch that ran at right angles to the highway. Thinking that perhaps he had an accomplice that may have hidden contraband in the ditch I stopped and asked him why he went into the ditch. He said that he was thirsty and went for a drink of water. I believed him but I subjected him to a pat-down search that proved negative, and I bade him farewell and God speed—no, I did not conduct another strip search.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2010 in law enforcement, strip searches

 

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A spider tattoo—a large spider . . .

On Monday, December 20, 1971 I reported for work as a United States Customs inspector at the international bridge at Progreso, Texas just across the Rio Grande River from the small town of Las Flores, Mexico, also known as Nuevo Progreso—as opposed to old Progreso, an even smaller town on the U.S. side of the river. The image at right shows the old bridge—a larger four-lane bridge now serves the public at Progreso.

I reported for work wearing civilian garb—official uniforms would come later, purchased at a clothing store in Brownsville, an international city at the southern tip of Texas, a city that combined with the city of Matamoros formed a significant metropolitan complex.

Following a welcome briefing by the U.S. Customs port director and introductions to fellow Customs officers and officers with U.S. Immigration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I was assigned to work with the Customs officer that was checking incoming traffic. In those days Progreso had only one inbound lane, and the officer on duty there checked pedestrian traffic as well as vehicles arriving from Mexico. Vehicles were referred for secondary inspection as necessary, and pedestrians were referred to the offices of Agriculture, Immigration and Customs as circumstances dictated.

The long-time inspector I was working with—let’s call him Leo for the purpose of this posting—maintained a continuous dialogue with me, explaining all the ins and outs of the proper questioning techniques and various other requirements of a job that was completely foreign to me—no pun intended. An officer assigned to that position would work for one hour and then would be replaced, either by an Immigration officer or an inspector from the Agriculture office.

Just before our hour on the incoming lane was up, Leo referred a pedestrian to the office for a secondary inspection. He said he wanted to show me something associated with the man he referred for a personal search. We asked another inspector to take the line and we escorted the person to a room at the rear of the Customs office, a small area that provided privacy for strip searches and also boasted a barred cell for detention of suspects.

This suspect, dressed in sneakers, a T-shirt and slacks preceded us into the room, then turned and dropped his trousers as we closed the door behind us. He wore no undergarments and smilingly asked if he should “turn around and bend over.” The man was a long-time heroin addict and therefore was very familiar with personal searches. Leo replied in the negative, and asked him several questions concerning his drug habit.

When those trousers dropped I knew immediately why Leo had referred the man for a personal search. He had conducted numerous strip searches of the man in the past, and his sole reason for this search was so I could see the addict’s sole tattoo.

Yep, that was the only reason, and I saw the tattoo almost instantly as his trousers dropped to the floor. It was a tattoo of a large spider, a full-grown spider, a spider with all its limbs and antennae fully visible, a spider instantly identifiable as a spider, perched menacingly on the exposed glans of the suspect’s flaccid penis. Sorry, no penis pics in this posting—only a spider.

At this point I must apologize for the PG-14 rating I have given this story. I have a tale to tell, and I am striving desperately to maintain that rating and not let the story descend—or ascend as the case may be—into an X-rated tale. I also strove desperately during the inspection to restrict my imagination concerning the spider’s measurements should its owner become excited for one reason or another—unsuccessfully, of course—my imagination ran rampant—in fact it still does!

That’s it—that was my introduction to the process of conducting strip searches on our border with Mexico. Such searches were required because many seizures and arrests were made from strip searches. The order for a suspect to “turn around and bend over” sometimes showed a shiny substance in the anal area, indicating the use of vaseline or some other lubricant that may have been used to promote the insertion of illegal items such as pellets filled with heroin or cocaine. The contraband was first wrapped in aluminum foil, then packed into the reservoir tip of a condom. In some seizures those packets numbered one hundred and more.

Questioning of the person and search of personal articles would often show that the shiny substance was there for other reasons, thus erasing suspicions of smuggling—you can use your imagination to speculate on the nature of those other reasons.

Many such seizures have been made at ports of entry at airports, land border ports and seaports. If a traveler also possessed laxatives  and an item such as Immodium in a pocket or a purse or a suitcase, that traveler, whether male or female, was immediately a strong suspect for narcotics smuggling. Smugglers use the Immodium to restrict bowel movements until, and at the proper time, the laxatives  can be used to promote bowel movements to excrete the contraband.

Hey, it’s a nasty business, not only for the law enforcement officer but also for the smugglers themselves. Some have died because of such methods of concealment, both male and female smugglers—others have survived, but were severely damaged physically by the botched attempt to enter with the narcotics.

And as for how many people have successfully entered our country through airports, seaports and land border ports with contraband concealed in their bodies, and how many continue the practice and will continue to escape detection?

Quien sabe?

Who knows?

It’s anyone’s guess.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2010 in bridge, law enforcement

 

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Ponce de Leon finds a flower first . . .

One of my three princesses, the one that lives, loves and works in Alexandria, Virginia recently posted a photo of a gorgeous highly complicated plant on her blog. This is the princess that in age and maturity falls somewhere between my first-born and my last-born daughters. Click here to go to her blog and enjoy a photographic journey that covers the state, the nation and various distant parts of the globe—be prepared to spent a lot of time there—it’s well worth the visit! Be sure to read her Stuff About Me page, located on the right of her home page. If you’ve never been to Alaska, Antarctica and deep into the four sections of the United States—dozens and dozens of locations in the north, south, east and west quadrants, with emphasis on the Four Corners of the Southwest—and Canada, Spain, Italy and other foreign countries, she’ll take you there with her photography and her writings. Be forewarned—it’s highly addictive!

She captioned the photo as follows (it’s pictured at the close of this posting):

Your guess is as good as mine!

It looks like a Gaura plant, but I’m just not sure, and the plant wasn’t labeled at Green Spring Gardens this morning. Any one venture to guess? Patty? The sprigs tend to lean downward, like a waterfall.

I commented on the posting and chastised her for failing to research the Internet in an effort to identify the plant. Having a bit of spare time on my hands—well, a lot of spare time—I spent a few minutes on research and the results of my effort are shown in the narrative analysis below. I was pleased with my findings, so pleased that I decided to bring my comment up from and out of the Stygian darkness of comments and into the bright light of a separate posting in order to share those findings with my viewers.

This is my comment, exactly as entered:

thekingoftexas (03:52:16) :

I am in shock! You don’t know? My guess is as good as yours? Evidently you made no effort to identify the flower by researching the internet. I found it in less than ten minutes!

This is the Flower of Paradice—no, not the paradise flower, that gorgeous bloom also called crane flower (Strelitzia reginae), an ornamental plant of the family Strelitziaceae.

Note that in the spelling of the Flower of Paradice, the ess in paradise is replaced with a cee. The flower was discovered by the Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon (1474 – July 1521) in his search for the fountain of youth. He believed it to be in what is now the state of Florida, but he ultimately turned his attention to Venezuela, spurred on by a notation he had found in a centuries-old document indicating that the fountain of youth was at the foot of what is now known as Angel Falls.

After an arduous journey fraught with perils and nearing the end of his life, he arrived at the falls but found that the pool at the foot of the falls failed to restore his youth. However, he did discover something there that would shake the scientific world, especially the world of flowers and that would ultimately have an effect on locations such as Las Vegas and Reno and Atlantic City—he discovered an unusual and theretofore unknown blossom that he almost immediately christened the Flower of Paradice—the Spanish name of the flower is “La flor que pasa siempre inmediatamente,” the flower that always passes immediately.

You see, Ponce de Leon was addicted to the game of dice—craps, if you will—and he noted that each bloom of the plant was graced with six beautiful petals and five golden yellow thingies protruding from the center of the bloom for a total of eleven elements and, much as did the great Pythagoras on his discovery of the 47th Problem of Euclid when he exclaimed Eureka!, a Grecian word meaning “I have found it,” Ponce de Leon shouted “Eleven!” He meant that he had found a flower with a total of eleven elements in its bloom, and to one addicted to the game of dice, the number eleven is magic—eleven along with seven are the two numbers in the game of craps that give the shooter an immediate win.

Sadly, Ponce de Leon never found the fountain of youth and he died at the age of 47. His many discoveries in his travels contributed greatly to our knowledge of the new world, and we are indebted to him for his discovery and naming of this beautiful flower.

A special note: Journey to any one of the world’s great gaming sites and head for the crap tables—there you will find that many of the high rollers wear a Flower of Paradice or a facimile of such—a ring or perhaps even a tattoo, just for luck.

PeeEss: I stated that on his discovery Ponce de Leon shouted, “Eleven!” but the actual word he shouted was once, the Spanish word for the number eleven, pronounced as on’ce with the accent on the first syllable. I used the English word to avoid the reader untutored in Spanish pronouncing it as the English word once, meaning one time only, a single occurrence, etc.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Tattooed lady and Battle of the Century . . .

Tattooed lady and Battle of the Century

Early in my military career I was privileged to spend some 15 months in one of the most beautiful countries in the exotic far East—well, actually my time there was mandated by the US Department of Defense because of the Korean War, a conflict that began in June of 1950 and was in full swing throughout my sojourn there.

My superiors told me that I was there to help South Korea resist a takeover by North Korea and others, specifically communist China, a northern neighbor that was in turn assisted by Russia, a nation that obligingly provided war weapons and other materials. I did the best I could to help win the war, but the outcome was not completely successful—it raged on for some four years and ended in a draw. The truce that ended the war still exists, and the possibility of renewal of the conflict ebbs and flows.

My memories of my time in South Korea are plentiful and vivid. Among those memories is one of a small RCA portable record player and two vinyl records, one 45 RPM (revolutions per minute) and the other an LP (long play, 33 1/3 revolutions per minute)—yes, Virginia, vinyl records—cassette tapes, CDs and DVDs were many years into the future. I don’t remember who claimed ownership of the records or the record player, but the two records and their contents still loom large in my memory, and for good reason—I listened to them so many times that I still retain most of the lines. They were the only records we had, so they had a lot of play.

The 45 RPM had the song below—I don’t remember the flip side because we rarely played it. I don’t remember the artist, but internet research indicates that the artist was probably Skeets McDonald, a county singer prominent in the 1950s and 1960s. There are numerous versions available online, all differing in some respect, but the one below is the real McCoy–trust me—I’ve been carrying it around in my mind for some 60 years or so—hey, I sometimes use it to lull myself to sleep! These are the words I remember:

Once I married a tattooed lady
It was on a cold winter day
And tattooed all around her body
Was a map of the good old USA.

Upon her leg was Minnesota
On her shoulder Tennessee
And tattooed on her back
Was good old Hackensack
The place where I longed to be.

Upon her chest was West Virginia
Through those hills I did love to roam
And when the moonlight starts to shine
Down on her Wabash
That’s when I recognized my Indiana home.

Special note: There are two words in this posting that are generally considered vulgar—both words basically consist of four letters and one syllable. Either may be used as a noun, whether singular or plural, and both may be conjugated under the prevailing rules of conjugation and used as verbs—present, past, future and all the more subtle tenses allowed—and both may be used as descriptive adjectives.

Of the two records available, the LP record was the one most often played. It was titled The battle of the century, a championship contest waged between the US world champion and his challenger from Australia, a fighter that trained for the competition by traveling from his native country to the United States on a boat loaded with raw cabbages—a fighter on a freighter from a far-flung land, so to speak (I really love alliteration!).

Is the light beginning to dawn? Can you guess the nature of the contest? Huh? Huh? Can ya? I’ll give you this much of a hint—the operative words are raw cabbages.

If you have ever listened to a radio announcer’s description of a world champion boxer defending his title against a challenger, you’ll understand how the record sounded. The contest took place in a circular arena with elevated spectator seats arranged around 360 degrees. In the exact center of the ring was a post, gripped by the contestants to provide stability as they competed. The announcer described in detail the ring and its contents, the spectators including introductions of important personages attending, the contestants and their costumes—highly important items in the contest. Their fight statistics, records and titles won were given, as were many of their personal attributes and most important, the point system used to determine the winner was described in minute detail.

The contestants were fully and colorfully clothed, their costumes festooned with bangles and beads and sponsor’s ads, similar to NASCAR vehicles, all shimmering in the bright kleig lights. The only exception to being fully clothed was that a circular piece of each costume was missing at a strategic point, basically at the lower part of each contestant’s heine (my word, not the announcer’s). The challenger’s cutout circle was very basic and strictly functional, but the champion’s circle was festooned with ribbons that fluttered gaily at times during the competition, depending on the point value of his performance.

The point system included several judges, each scoring points separately and those points averaged to add to the total for each contestant. Points available ranged from a low of two points to a high of 15 points. The nomenclature of the two-pointer escapes me for now, but when I recover it —if I recover it—I will add it to this posting. The 15 pointer was called a triple flutter-blast, a triumphal feat equal to a grand-slam home run in major league baseball, a very rear—oops, I mean very rare feat that virtually always earned a standing applause from spectators. The only triple flutter-blast in this contest was generated by the champion, illustrating and emphasizing the talents that vaulted him—so to speak—to the world championship.

At several times during the fight, the judges found it necessary to examine the cutout to determine the presence of any wetness, the presence of which would nullify any points earned for that particular effort.

Okay, let me wrap this up—I’m sure you’ve deduced by now that The Battle of the Century was a f – – ting contest. I know, I know—I could have called it a flatulence contest, but somehow that word doesn’t ring true, so I used the word that punctuated—so to speak—the announcer’s account of the battle—I mean lots and lots and lots of times  during the contest. Please note that I have used it only once, and that time as an adjective in order to identify the nature of the contest—the addition of the gerund, the ing, was necessary in order to create the adjective. And also I camouflaged it by using a couple of dashes because I didn’t want to sully this posting by spelling out the word

The point score at the end—so to speak—placed the challenger ahead of the champion by only one point, and all the champion needed was a simple two-pointer to retain his title. He preened and pranced at a leisurely pace toward the post, bowing repeatedly to his cheering fans, waving and pointing and smiling and giving the thumbs-up signal. He confidently grasped the pole, squatted, took a deep breath and grunted, and a sound reverberated in the arena, a sound magnified by the sensors strategically placed near the post, a sound not heard even once during the competition—a sound that impinged on the hearing of judges, spectators and contestants alike.

Although everyone suspected the worst, there was a prolonged silence while the judges made a close-up visual examination of the cutout area in the champion’s costume, and at their signal the announcer shouted,

Oh, my God! The champion s – – t! He’s disqualified! We have a new world champion! Here, as in f – – ting, I have used dashes to avoid tarnishing my posting, my reputation and my future with Word Press.

From that point the record produced nothing but silence.

And then we played it over.

And over.

And over.

Both records were still being played by replacements when I exercised my right, after 15 months in Korea, to return to the land of big Post Exchanges and round doorknobs.

I must admit that I was glad the champion lost, if for no other reason for his taunting of the challenger when the contestants were first introduced to the spectators. When the champion stood to acknowledge the applause, he strolled over to the challenger, turned his back to him, bent over and expelled a single two-pointer then jauntily walked away, and the spectators roared their approval.

The announcer gushed thusly: Wow, I can’t believe that! What a champion, and what control! That was only a two-pointer, of course, but for the champion to waste even two points merely as a gesture of defiance, he has demonstrated his ultimate confidence in his ability to retain his world championship.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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