And Now For Something Completely Different

John Clark sharing a bit of my college experience and a most amazing friend who I met during that time.

asu

I graduated in a class of 38 from Union High School in June of 1966. Since most everyone who was college-bound was going to UMO or UMF, I was determined not to join them because I felt it would be a continuation of high school and I was ready for something completely different. I’d applied to Bowdoin, Princeton and Arizona State, the latter at the suggestion of my junior year English teacher Maxwell Fogleman who had moved to the Phoenix area because his wife had really severe arthritis. Bowdoin and Princeton weren’t thrilled with my math grades, but ASU, on the other hand, gave me a full academic scholarship. End of college search.

Mom was going to school herself at UMO that summer and arranged for me to share driving with a professor who was going to winter in California. We drove through a bunch of states I’d never seen and I remember almost killing us in Arkansas when I overestimated the passing power of his Fiat. I suspect he was more than happy to drop me off in Tempe for freshman orientation.

Going to school in the desert was a shock in many ways. The dry heat caused me to drop 15 pounds in little more than a week, I climbed orange trees on campus after dark to harvest fruit until I was informed that they were ornamental ones and the fruit wasn’t particularly good. Going from a high school of less than 100 to a campus where 29,000 students attended classes took some real getting used to as did hearing people with different color skin speak languages I’d never encountered before. Perhaps the biggest people shock was discovering how many Mormons lived in the area. Keep in mind that I’d gone to a rural Maine high school where the closest thing we had to a minority was the lone Catholic girl im my senior class. Heck, I didn’t even realize there was a significant Franco-American population in Maine until after graduating from college.

At that point in my life, I was still civilized enough to be relatively optimistic and made friends easily. One of my first friendships was with George Castano a fellow in his early twenties who came from Colombia in South America to study architecture. He had a Vespa scooter and we’d often ride through the Valley of the Sun to look at unique architecture. In fact George introduced me to Paolo Soleri’s experimental architectural community Arcosanti (https://arcosanti.org/). I also met a guy from Las Vegas, M. Thomas Carollo who remains a good friend to this day. Our friendship came about because we were the only two in a literature class who knew the Myth of Sisyphus. Other friends included two girls who had come from Laos where their parents were doing community work or were CIA operatives (which of these was true never became clear). Still another friend was a zoology major who wouldn’t go out with a guy until he let one of her two giant scorpions climb from his hand to his shoulder (I passed).

My most interesting friend, however came from Wales because, he said, “I’m tired of absurdly long names and freezing my arse off half the year.” When people first heard Wambu Jerusalem’s name, they expected to see someone with dark skin and an African accent. Fizbin, as I came to call him, was anything but. He was on the short side and chubby with pale blonde hair and scary blue eyes. At first, he planned on going into architecture or pre-medicine, but something happened one night when we left Parry’s Buffet on Mill Avenue to change that.

demon

Fizbin was trying to explain the rules of cricket when there was one hellacious growl as we passed an alley. I froze and looked around expecting Satan to pounce on us. My friend swore in an odd language (I could tell from his tone of voice that what he was saying couldn’t be repeated in his mother’s kitchen) and got between me and whatever was about to attack. When the creature did come at us, I sobered on the spot. It might not have been the big guy from hell, but it looked like they belonged to the same union. The ugly bastard was close to seven feet tall, yellow green and had the classic glowing red eyes depicted in every horror tale you’ve ever read. Before I could react, Fizbin did something with his left hand while chanting in that strange tongue. He caught our adversary by surprise and the next thing I knew, it had been reduced to a greasy cloud of smoke that smelled like a cross between a decaying chicken and a burning tire. I threw up and, as soon as I was done, he grabbed me and we took off.

I was so shook up, I hid out in my dorm room for three days. Fizbin must have known I needed time to un-freak and start wrapping my head around the attack because he waited until I sought him out and asked what in hell was that all about?

It was time to trust that I could keep a secret, he said. He’d come to the U.S. as much to get away from some family difficulty, as he diplomatically put it, as to keep his buns warm in January. He went on to tell me about his family, who were involved in magic and had been for generations. If I hadn’t seen him in action, I would have been skeptical, but having witnessed an NFL-sized demon reduced to less than overcooked bacon in seconds, helped his credulity big time.

I kept his secret for the next three years and learned more about the magical world and its cast of characters than anyone reading the entire Harry Potter series. Fizbin changed his major to criminal justice shortly after the attack, graduating with honors. He returned to Wales and began a career in British law enforcement shortly thereafter when he moved to London.

I didn’t hear much from him for a while and things in my own life were fairly chaotic, so I didn’t think much about it. When things settled down, I reconnected with him and we’ve been in contact on a regular basis ever since. He retired from the Metropolitan Police Force as a deputy commissioner last fall. Early in his career he had been approached by a shadowy section of British intelligence that became aware of his unique skills. After he was assured he wouldn’t be turned into a human guinea pig, Fizbin signed on and became the central figure in what became known as the Bureau of Extraordinary Enforcement Science, or BEES.

Whenever we chatted by phone or online, he’d hint at some of the things he and a couple other gifted people were creating to even the odds against the bad guys. To say that I was curious and more than a bit envious would be a gross understatement. Last month, he came for a visit and we spent three days touring Maine while he talked nearly nonstop about some of his tricks as he calls them. I’ll let Fizbin take it from here.

Hello MCW readers. I’ve been following the blog since its inception and greatly enjoy the creativity and variety of postings. As John has noted, I’ve enjoyed a most unusual career in British law enforcement. To help you understand what I did, think about the concept of open source software. Simply put, it is code created that can be modified and improved by anyone capable of doing so. What we did at BEES is pretty much the same thing. Three of us would get a request from some law enforcement entity in the Commonwealth and we’d see if we could cobble together a mix of magic and technology to meet the need. Perhaps the best part of the job was having free rein to name our creations, like being part of Monty Python, if you will.

Our oldest creation came from a request by the Thames Division. With the river getting increasingly murky, they were having a devil of a time locating bodies. We came up with an ectoplasm based seeking device we called the (Infra)Red Herring. This dandy can function to a depth of 300 feet, run for hours and can be altered to seek out flesh, metal or plastic. It’s become very popular not only in the UK, but in parts of Canada. In fact, we get frequent orders from the Mounties in Kissit, Yukon.

Another very popular one is the Clink, named in honor of the old prison on Clink Street. Imaging a heat-seeking missile made of unbreakable and flexible transparent material. You have a hostage situation or a baddie who is vicious and armed to the teeth. Flick a Clink into the air and before you can say tea and crumpets, the villain finds himself handcuffed, often in embarrassing and uncomfortable ways.

Gumshoes are often used in conjunction with Clinks and another invention we call Pavement Pounders. Gumshoes start as a flying cloud of colored ectoplasm and often resemble a horde of insects. The good guys release one when a suspect is fleeing and wait for the fun to begin. The substance can hit 50 kilometers an hour and as soon as it gets ahead of the baddie, drops to the pavement where it becomes stickier than the strongest glue. I wish you could see what happens when the runner hits it and comes to an immediate and painful halt.

Pavement Pounders are like a surreal combination of your Energizer Bunny and a bloodhound. Imagine a moving mist that can sense DNA, gunpowder residue, blood, hair follicles and thread in quantities too small for the human eye to detect. This one saves an incredible amount of time and even saves lives by scouring dangerous neighborhoods for vital evidence.

purplehaze

My personal favorite is the Perpetraitor. I created it when I was in a Jimi Hendrix listening phase, so when released, it often appears as a purple haze with his image flickering as it moves off to do its job. Once released, it seeks out hidden subjects and when it locates them, settles on their head causing them to speak loudly while confessing to whatever crime(s) they’ve committed. One unexpected benefit is that they often confess to things that are utterly hilarious.

These are just a few of the almost one hundred we have created for use by Commonwealth law enforcement. I hope you find them as intriguing as I do.

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5 Responses to And Now For Something Completely Different

  1. Hey, man. Those flashbacks can be a real pain!!

    Like

  2. Gram says:

    fun blog today!

    Like

  3. Lea Wait says:

    🙂 Happy Friday!

    Like

  4. Brian Thiem says:

    Great memories of ASU, John. I also went there, beginning 6 years after you. My first impressions, however, were different from yours. I was mesmerized by the thousands of coeds, all with long blond hair and dressed in ultra short cut-offs and halter tops. That’s about all I remember from my freshman year.

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  5. Sennebec says:

    You’re right Brian. One thing about ASU that was light years ahead of Maine was the beauty and quantity of female students.

    Like

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