Monday, December 28, 2015

Fourth of July - The Flag Story

This is my daughter Sarah and I relaxing near Fell’s Point and the Harborplace in Baltimore on July 4th, 1995; give or take a year or so.  The 4th is my wedding anniversary; Sue and I decided to take our vows on a holiday so that the whole world would celebrate with us each year. This particular year has a story which goes with it. It’s an unusual story in that it shows me in two lights. One is good and the other not so much. But it is a true story so I’ll tell it anyway.

At the time we lived behind an American Legion Post; Post 200 to be exact; which was located in Hampstead, Md. They had Saturday night bands with lots of drinking which spilled over into my yard and also involved people screwing in the patch of pine trees along my Property line. With 3 kids at home I had enough to do without picking up the empty beer cans and used condoms they left behind.

Things between us eventually came to a head over the music; which ran past the 2 AM curfew imposed by the local zoning laws; every Saturday night. With many of the Legionnaires being members of the local town Police, State Troopers; and even County Commissioners; it was hard to get the noise ordinance enforced. We went to every County Council Meeting and lost every battle. But, just as with the Continental Army in our own Revolution, we eventually won the war.

At one point the attorney for the Legion actually showed up on a Saturday night with the object of baiting me into an argument with the members who had assembled along my property line drinking.
Armed with a stick up my sleeve; and a pistol in my pocket; I went forth to challenge the interlopers. Sue called the cops; which is something I was not comfortable with but did come in handy, as the attorney was trying to maneuver me into crossing the line onto the Legion’s property. I assume I was to be beaten if I did.

I’m not much of a dancer, but I do know how to maneuver as well as the next guy when it comes to playing chess on a property line with a bunch of drunks.Carefully moving in an arc; so that the attorney would not notice through the haze of the alcohol; I slowly swung him around until he was finally on; and then over; the property line. And once he was I quickly slid the stick down into my hand and yelled, “Now you’re on my property motherfucker!”

The group surged forward and got a nice surprise when the stick in my hand started swinging in an arc as I let out the extension cord to which it was tied, creating a buffer zone which would have to be crossed in order for anyone to get to me. Meantime I had the attorney on my property and was not going to let him leave.

Now nobody wants to be the first to get hit; so I kept the situation static for a few moments as the drunks tried to figure out just what the hell had happened. At the same time the local town Police Chief showed up and charged into the darkness of my yard yelling my name, “Mr. Williams, Mr. Williams, step back so I can see you!” He was trying to distinguish me from the group of would be assailants. He quickly herded everyone back into the Legion; though he wrote no summonses for the open alcohol and refused to arrest the attorney for trespassing.

But there is more way in which to skin a cat and I eventually won the war by finding out about some financial improprieties which would have forced the Legion to close; as well as place them in the hands of the IRS. Through my own sources at their bank I learned of the existence of a private account which was comprised of some skimmed profits from the sale of beer at the Legion post.

This violated their nonprofit status and could have even resulted in jail time for someone. They were planning on building a private catering facility with the money on the land adjacent to the post. This would have been hell for the people who lived on our street. But my knowledge of this information put an immediate stop to all of the problems which we had been having for the past 5 or 6 years. And to this day there is no catering facility located there.

Okay, that’s me in the good light. Here’s the darker side of the story and its connection to the 4th of July and hence my wedding anniversary.

At the time of these events Sue and I would celebrate our anniversary by going to see the fireworks at the Harborplace, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post. The night before the 4th the Legion had decorated their entire property; which was several acres; with a border of small American flags. They had ruined so many holidays for me that I was just seething with a desire for revenge.

Now, before I go on, you must realize that this particular Legion post had about 300 members, of which maybe 3 were veterans. The other 297 were their friends and came there to drink cheaply. All of the flags in the world really meant nothing to these guys; it was all about the beer. This is not an excuse for what I did; so let's just say that there were mitigating factors involved.

Early on the morning of the 4th; after the Legion had closed for the night; I quietly went around the perimeter of the entire property and removed all the flags. I hid them in the trees where the Legion members used to like to have sex with other member’s wives and then went to bed. 

The next day brought a couple of phone calls and one visitor to my door asking about the flags. I just told them to get off my property and not to call me. Technically speaking the flags were still on the Legion's property, not mine. and there they remained all day long while they had their picnic, so I had no worries on that score. I was saving them for the evening, because by now I had a plan.

That evening, while waiting for the fireworks to start, Sarah and I walked through the crowds at Fell’s Point selling American flags. I charged a buck a piece or 3 for $2. Hell, I was working with little overhead and could even afford to give a few away. 

The funniest part was the guy who insisted that I was trying to cheat him with the 3 for $2 deal and insisted on paying me a dollar each for 4 flags. He was very proud of himself at having not been cheated. Sarah was only about 8 years old at the time and even she knew better. Hey, I might have stolen the flags, but I would never cheat anybody!

So that is the story of how; just as in our own American Revolution; I lost all the major battles but won the war. And I even managed to collect a few bucks for damages in the process. As I said earlier, this story shows me in 2 different lights. And to be honest with you, I like both of me.

I sent Sarah some flags for the 4th this year, just in case she needs a couple of bucks.

And Happy Anniversary Sue; you certainly have to admit it’s been interesting…..

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