Tag Archives: stalking

Jeanne’s Bumper-Sticker Dearth/Plethora After-Action Report

This email was waiting for me when I logged on this morning, in part:

“The total bumper stickers on a 2000 mile trip was one Semper Fi, two Obama/Biden, one home made one that said Troginator or something, and one that said “ If religious groups want to get into politics they should pay taxes” which I’ll send to you re-sized sooner than the others if you want to use it. If there are certain subjects I might have taken that you’d like me to email the pic of, let me know and I’ll resize those first just to send along quickly.
 “Saw something in a comment that the new bumpers don’t do well with bumper stickers, and since almost all the cars I saw were new, I suspect people don’t want to mess their bumpers up with something that won’t come off. Just guessing.”

Jeanne might be right, of course, same as any of us might as easily be as being wrong at any given time, on any given issue we enjoy strong opinions about. 

I hate to think US drivers have become so sissy they’d quit spewing their certainties, hatreds, biases and half-baked simple solutions to complex phenomena just because of their paint-jobs.  I’d prefer to think they’ve become uneasy about what’s going on around them, sensed it enough to cause the hair on their necks bristle a bit.

The deliberate polarization of strong feelings in this country regarding politics, religion, environmentalism, ethnics, abortion, sexual preference and patriotism seem to me to have introduced the potential for having tires slit in the parking lot as a means of counter-expression.

The guy in the picture at the top today is Jack Swilling, founder of Phoenix, Arizona.  His hat was his bumper-sticker.  Someone shot a hole in it, ripped it in half so’s he had to sew it back together.

But in another sense, a person might figure, “Hell, if I’m going to be in Swilling’s neighborhood, I ain’t putting no bumper-sticker on my horse.”

The country’s jam-packed with people today who might be sneakier and more cunning than Jack Swilling, but have the same eyes developed listening to talk radio too much.  Or spending too much time in the slammer to love their fellow Americans.  Or snorting too much of this or that recreational drug

Jack Swilling’s still out there, but he’s wearing his hat backward most likely.  Instead of saying, “What the hell are YOU looking at?” most likely he’ll just drag his keys the length of your paintjob or slit your tires.  Unless he can catch you alone broken down on the highway.

Old Jules

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Surveillance Weirdness

Saturday October 28, 2006  

 

This brave new century offers a lot of interesting twists and turns for the observant.  I was reading a blog this morning, someone ruminating over a friend request he’d gotten from someone, maybe in India.

I’d gotten a similar request yesterday, so it caused me to consider whether blogs aren’t being used by intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, both here and abroad, to find folks with particular sets of viewpoints.

For instance, I came across a blog the other day posted by a person who called himself something like ‘dope-smuggler’.  Hmmm, thinks I, is this for real?  The blog entries and photos all involved various aspects of the use of controlled substances.

Suppose I worked for DEA, I went on thinking.  Would I throw out a trot-line or two searching for folks who’d like to admit on blogs that they were felons?  I think I might.

Or suppose I worked for Mossad  (I think that’s the right spelling), the Israeli intelligence agency.  Would I like to know as many names and locations of people who held Nazi-like viewpoints?  Would I be equally interested in folks who rabidly approve of anything Israel might do?  Probably.

And so on.  But that’s not what this blog is about.

This blog is about what’s happened with surveillance technology and general nosiness, both of government and individuals.

The technology and availability of spying equipment with amazing capabilities and invisibility at a shockingly low price is out there for anyone.

At least it was shocking and amazing to me when I found myself moved to investigate the matter.

One day I’d been sitting at a blackjack table for about twelve hours, and when I got to my car in the parking lot my cell-phone rang.  I answered and was treated to hearing a long playback of my conversations at the game-table several hours earlier.  I thought back and recalled a guy who sat next to me for a while wearing an unusual fanny-pack he kept messing with, so I figured it was him.

But his motive for doing such a thing was a mystery, and how he happened to know my cell-phone number was one, as well.

That happened several times, the casino playback thing, but I only saw that particular person once, and when he took the chair next to me I asked him if he had his equipment with him.  “Oh yeah,” he answered with a laugh.  “I always carry everything with me.”  And left the table.

During the same time-period Jeanne was in New Mexico.  We were in the living room, me standing, her sitting across the room, having a conversation.  The land-line phone rang and I answered.  Similarly to the casino experience, I had a conversation played back to me, but this time it was the conversation Jeanne and I’d just had within the past five minutes.

Someone obviously had the capability to listen to what was said in my home.  But what’s intriguing to me is that they wanted me to KNOW they had that capability.

That happened a couple more times and I could never see any signs around the house of any microphone/camera, but it was obviously here.  From then until now I’ve gotten spam emails I don’t open, but with subject lines referring to something or other that’s happened in my life, said or done, recently.

Which confirms for me that I am one helluva interesting guy.  I cannot for the life of me imagine why anyone would put that kind of effort, energy and expense into my life, but I do try to provide with them with some amusement in various ways.

Sometimes I figure it’s the rich neighbor kid, sometimes I think it’s the neighbor across the street next-door to my buddy, Wes, who’s generally known to be a negative busybody.  But that doesn’t quite fit the casino incidents.

I haven’t a clue. 

But after the first phone-at-home incident Jeanne and I went to a surveillance store and looked over what was out there on the open market.  After seeing it, I decided we live in a time when it’s useless to think there are any secrets, any privacy, if anyone’s determined enough to want to know, sick enough to be willing to put out a few bucks and plant a device.

Flattering, though, knowing that despite the fact I don’t talk to anyone but the cats these days unless I’m on the phone, I’m still one hell of an interesting feller.

Golly.

Old Jules

The Price of Not Expecting the Unexpected

If I were prone to regrets of things done and undone I’d regret not being more observant when something was going on around me worth observing.

I was on a business trip in a New Mexico State vehicle meeting city officials in Portales, the town where I grew up.  I visited with my old friend and classmate Fred Stevens and, we ate out together the previous night at a local restaurant.  

Next morning hanging around City Hall I chatted with my 6th grade teacher, Bill Walman, then Parks and Recreation Director, and Mack Tucker, director of something else, with whom Kurtiss Jackson and I had worked for Skeeter Jenkens on the ranch ‘way back when [ A Sobering View of Y2K].

If I’d been paying attention I might have noticed something at the meeting.  Or maybe during one of the chats with friends I mentioned the route I’d be taking home.  Maybe I’d have examined the car for something attached to it.  Years of hindsight would have been helpful.  Some of the details of the following sequence of events might be out of order, might be inaccurate by having dimmed with the years.  But it’s a fairly close portrayal of something that I still don’t understand with whatever’s been gained by the passage of time.

After the meeting I left late-morning and headed west to go home to Socorro.  Probably there was a lot I could have noticed if I’d had my senses tuned.  But I was on autopilot.

The road between Portales and Roswell seems a long one to motorists and I probably was exceeding the speed limit.  There was almost no traffic, and I didn’t notice whom I passed and what they might have been driving.

I’d consumed a lot of coffee that morning and somewhere out beyond Elida I stopped and walked to a tree along the fenceline to relieve myself.  A battered old truck pulled up behind the state car and stopped with the engine idling.  When I finished I went to his window. 

 
“Anything I can do to help you?”

The guy was dressed in a shabby bodyshop shirt, bad teeth, nasal twang accent of a local.  “Ah was just wondering why someone in a government car passed me going 80 miles an hour.”

“What makes you think I was going 80 miles an hour?   The speed limit’s 55.  If I passed you going 55 I might have been speeding to go past just to get around you.”

“What gumment agency you working for going that fast?  I jest want to know why you’re driving so fast in a state car!”

I told him to take the tag number and call it in if he had a complaint, but he went on and on with a nasal, makes-no-sense questioning. 

I got back into the car and drove on, but stopped again at Kenna.  The village had become a ghost town, but it had a lot of memories for me because Skeeter’s ranch was outside Kenna, and when Portales was ‘dry’ most Portales teenagers used to drive here to buy beer because the Portales bootleggers wouldn’t sell to them.

I’d begun to awaken a bit, though, and was wondering about the guy in the truck.  I watched as he drove past on the highway and probably considered the fact he was now ahead of me again.  A few miles out of town I passed him again, this time carefully not exceeding the speed limit by much.

Once he was out of sight far behind me the coffee was working on me again, and I pulled down a side road and behind an abandoned schoolhouse for another bladder call. 

I paused and poked around the old school yard waiting for him to go past, figuring I’d wait until he went by, let him get out of sight in front of me, then drive on to Roswell with him well ahead of me.  I don’t recall why I did this precisely.  I wasn’t alarmed yet at this point.  Maybe I was just enjoying the bits and pieces of school yard litter from so long ago.  Even the old outhouse was still standing.
 
I drove on, taking my time now.  But when I arrived at the intersection north of Roswell where traffic goes north toward Santa Fe, south into Roswell, or west into the mountains, there he was, pulled off and waiting.  He somehow knew, I suddenly realized, I’d gotten behind him.  So instead of going on I drove into Roswell and got some lunch, figuring he’d be out of my life by the time I headed west.
 

But a few miles west of Roswell, there he was again.  He let me go past, so up the road a way I pulled off and parked behind a convenience store, went inside to let him go by while I had an ice cream bar.  He did go by, and I finished my ice cream and headed west again.  But at the intersection going to Ruidoso into the mountains, or Lincoln and westward to Carrizoso there he was again. 

I drove on by, pretending to be going to Ruidoso.  I pulled over again a couple of miles up the road, out of sight of the highway and waited for him to go past for half-hour, but he didn’t.  So I figured I’d lost him, headed back through Lincoln, and there he sat in front of a museum, engine running.  I pulled in behind him, determined to confront him.

I drove out of town behind him and a few miles up the road he turned into a picnic/camping area and turned around, stopped at the entrance facing the highway.   By now I was pissed, but also damned confused and slightly alarmed.  I couldn’t understand how he could be doing this. 

I was armed and I walked up behind his car so he could see me in the rearview, but with the firearm behind me out of sight. 

“Why are you following me?”

“Ahhhm not following yew.  I just stopped here to take me a rest.”

“You waited back there at the intersection.  You waited again in Lincoln.  Why are you following me?”

“I’m not follering yew.  But I still want to know why a person in a gumment car passed me going 80 miles an hour.”  And so on.

I’m warning you.  Don’t follow me anymore.”  I shrugged it off, curious how far he’d go with this.


 
We played cat-and-mouse, me in a busy parking lot in Capitan during a thunderstorm as he went by, him waiting for me in Carrizoso.  He wanted me to know he had a fix on me. 


 I was convinced by the time I passed him on the hood of his truck west of Valley of the Fires that he was a cop… couldn’t see any way a private citizen could have the equipment it would take to do what he was doing. 

It’s a long drive through that desert between Carrizozo and Socorro and my mind was working 90 miles an hour.  As I approached Socorro I became convinced I was about to be arrested for  something. 

I called a friend with the City of Socorro and asked him to go look at my house to see if there were a bunch of cops waiting there.  There weren’t, and I didn’t see the follower until several years later in Albuquerque during a much later phase of what came to be a decade of that sort of crap.

A week later I described it to my Bureau Chief in Santa Fe.  When I’d finished telling it I asked, “Do you know of anything I ought to know?  Could this be Internal Affairs following me around for some reason?”

He thought about it frowning.  “No, I don’t think it could possibly be that.  I’d know it if any questions were being asked about you.  They’d have asked me.”  Then he looked me in the eye.  “You need to be careful about that speeding, though.  If you get stopped for speeding in a State car working for DPS it’s no questions asked.  They’ll fire you.”

What began that day lasted almost a decade.  Long after I’d left DPS and through several post-Y2K years. 

But back in the beginning, all manner of other mysterious happenings intruded into the lives of those who climbed that mountain with me, and to me.  I don’t know to this day whether the two parallel sets of happenings were connected.

Maybe if I’d been paying more attention from the beginning.

Old Jules