The "Goode" family has generously agreed to allow these details to be shared, so neighbors will be warned about the dangers of thefts during the holidays. As a condition of sharing the information, NO NEGATIVE COMMENTS WILL BE APPROVED. Condolences and expressions of disgust with the thieves, good advice, etc. will still be approved in the comments section. "Goode" is a pseudonym for the family.
On the morning of Saturday, November 28, a postman passed by the home of Amy and James Goode on the Jordan Pond. The vigilant, dutiful postman noticed something was wrong at the house: a window in the back door was smashed in. And the front door had been violently kicked apart.
The postman went to the neighboring house--where a house sitter was present, not the residents of the house--and told the house sitter about the situation at the Goode residence. The house sitter knew the Goode family and knew they were still out of town for Thanksgiving. The sitter had the number for Amy Goode and called her, reaching Amy in a neighboring state.
What do you ask at a moment like that? Maybe something like...
"Um, your front door is all smashed in and, um...is it SUPPOSED to be like that?"
Amy told the the next-door house sitter to call the police RIGHT AWAY. Amy's next call was to her good friend Megan Goodmundson. (Her real name) Megan told me--Johnny Northside--and we rushed over to the Goode residence so fast that I actually went in my socks (like Council Member Don Samuels) my boots in my hands.
At the house, we could see the front door had been kicked apart--the wooden panels, which must have been about a hundred years old were knocked into the porch and laying inside, some on the floor, some on the coffee table amid plants. However, the faithful dead bolt appeared to still be holding. We didn't touch anything. We waited for the police. But from the front window we could see the large flat-screen television was missing and drawers had been rifled.
Two police officers came--asked some routine questions--and then went inside the house to see if any suspects were still inside. When the officers came out of the house, they asked Megan and myself about our familiarity with the layout of the home and our relationship to the Goode family. Satisfied with our answers, they said we should come inside--careful not to touch ANYTHING--and try to help the police figure out what was missing.
So we entered, stepping through the area with the missing door panels. The motion of stepping low through the door reminded me, oddly, of going under the electric fence to visit the lone dairy cow at the farm where some of my kinfolk live. Inside the house, not only the large screen television but the Wii play station were missing. An empty wall mount stood over the fireplace next to a statue of Quan Yin.
We walked through the house and assessed the damage and missing items, calling Amy Goode a couple of times to check some details. Yes, the family had left glasses and a half-empty wine bottle on the dining room table. No, the family had not left a gun in the nightstand, where the drawer was pulled open.
It appeared that, in addition to the flat screen television and Wii, the thieves had made off with James' laptop from his place of work--locked up tighter than a tick's butt with a security code. A nice camera had been stolen, but numerous DVDs and video game discs were left in plain sight. Downstairs in the basement (where I went without touching the bannister) I noticed two file drawers had been pulled open, but the burglar or burglars had left an almost-full bottle of Hendricks gin.
Obviously, the house was robbed by somebody with no taste.
We helped the police spot some good surfaces that might harbor fingerprints, per their request, then we were ushered back out of the house. Luckily, mercifully, the thieves had not trashed the house. They made off with some high-value items but only broke stuff to get inside, not destruction for the sake of destroying. And yet it was weird, some of the stuff they stole. For example, they went through the storage Ottoman and took two light sabers but did not take the dance pad for the Wii. They took a game called "Cooking Mama." They took a bunch of games, actually, but not all of them. The Goode family was mystified: who would take "Cooking Mama?" It's not that popular of a game.
A white crime lab van came and two technicians began to "print" the house. The police were particularly interested in a plate of broken glass--about the size of a hardcover book--which was out in the yard, away from the porch, in the grass. Perhaps that piece had been touched or handled by one of the thieves. Otherwise, the technicians went after stuff like drawer handles, looking for prints. Naturally, we thought burglars would use gloves, but the police said, "Criminals are stupid. That's what they're criminals." Black fingerprint dust added to the mess of broken boards and glass shards, but nobody was complaining. (The photo at the top of this post shows one of the crime lab guys "printing" the smashed up front door)
The officers who came to the scene gave us their assessment of what took place: the thieves initially tried to enter the house by taking a flowerpot and throwing it through the back door window. However, they were unable to open the secure deadbolt on the back door. So the burglars went to the front door and smashed in a window, trying to unlock the front door. But that deadbolt held, as well. So the thieves kicked apart the door panels on the front door and--stooping down like animals who could not stand upright--they went in through the broken front door, even while that door's faithful deadbolt continued to hold fast.
As bad as the situation was, it could have been so much worse. Though the thieves had gained entry, they had been delayed and forced to work hard by the strong, solid doors and deadbolts.
Megan called a mutual friend of mine, a handyman, to temporarily secure the Goode residence. But before the handyman could call back, word came from Amy Goode: the insurance company was sending out a guy. As the police were leaving--and I was delighted to find one of them had graduated two years before I did, at Jefferson Senior High School in Alexandria, Minnesota--the police asked about getting the house secured and we ASSURED them, one hundred percent, the house would be secured and would NOT be left unsecured. No "emergency board up" was necessary. Caring neighbors and friends had the situation handled.
In fact, the sight of the crime lab vehicle and the police caused one neighbor after another to drop by and make inquiries. Denny Wagner--who is pretty much the king of the Jordan Pond--called the situation "gut wrenching." I kept trying to look at the situation in a positive way. Megan told me to stop being so damn positive, it was annoying. We turned to the task of cleaning up the house, so the Goode family wouldn't return to the sight of broken glass, splintered wood, drawers pulled out.
There are ways to reduce psychological trauma just by cleaning up a bit at the scene of a tragedy. I know this drill. I've done this kind of thing before. We started by washing the dishes. Obviously, dirty dishes weren't part of the crime scene, but we thought it would be nice to clean up and make the house extra welcoming. We were also waiting for the OK to clean up the glass. So all the dishes were cleaned, and I took care of the accumulation of material to be recycled, including all those bottles of good-but-affordable wine, some of which I'd probably helped drink with the Goodes myself.
Megan pushed in every drawer that had been pulled out. Picking up the area around the missing flat screen television was tricky, because stuff had been pulled down which was still connected by cords, laying on top of the fallen fireplace screen. I didn't want to unplug the devices, but the cords were all tangle-wangle. It was impossible to know if the devices had been damaged by falling from the mantle. The best we could do was to put the stuff back up on the mantle and put the fireplace screen back in position. Allie Wagner, age 14, came from the Wagner residence to help. Allie--who had seen the Goode child's coin bank before--was the one to notice the top of the Crayola Crayon coin bank in the porch area, the rest of the bank gone.
We experienced a sinking feeling, all three of us, together. The piggy bank of a small child, ripped off by burglars, probably to buy crack. This was the worst. This was worse than the missing television or laptop or anything else. This would be traumatic for the child.
I called Amy--who was already driving back from Iowa, cutting off their family visit early--and told her this bad news. I heard Amy turn to James and say, "They got it."
We continued to clean, getting up all the dirt from the flowerpot which was hurled through the back door window, hurled so hard it broke a small hole in the sheetrock wall of the stairwell. One of the police had pointed out the place where the flowerpot had been lifted up from a group of half a dozen pots, its circular shape visible in the leaves which had blown in around it.
"I put that flowerpot there," Megan said, half to herself.
What do you say in a moment like that? "It's not your fault...you couldn't have known or anticipated. Heck, they would have just used something else."
Creation and cleaning up takes a long time. Destruction and making a freaking mess only takes a moment. We put a good long effort into cleaning up the house and then we were done. While we worked, the handyman crew from the insurance company arrived and secured both the doors. The faithful front door--perhaps a century old--was now trash. At least it had died a warrior's death, I thought, strong and brave to the last. Whoever breached that door had a sore foot the next day.
And the day after that.
It was while cleaning up the Goode house that we saw the "ambulatory urinator" across the street. I wanted to go outside and call him a filthy pig to his face. Megan physically grabbed the back of my shirt to keep me from confronting the no-account thug. Even as boards were going up on the Goode house, a crew had arrived to board up the notorious brown house, located not far away. We should have been drinking celebratory champagne. Instead, we were sweeping up broken glass. And taking pictures. I took pictures, to document.
The child who lost the bank full of coins was philosophical about it, and wondered aloud, "What lesson are we supposed to learn from this?" I told her, "Lay not up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrode, where thieves break in and destroy; but lay your treasures up in heaven, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be, also." The child asked what that meant. Megan said it means don't get too attached to stuff. It is, after all, just STUFF and STUFF is not the whole meaning of life.
This is how things are for the "revitalizers" who live in NoMi, and work constantly to turn the neighborhood around. Yes, we experience period setbacks which are--as Denny Wagner put it--"gut wrenching." But we are as close as neighbors in the smallest of small towns, like soldiers in a platoon. We are part of something bigger than the present moment. We are completely turning our neighborhood around, creating an urban utopia.
Amy Goode tells me that very night, a neighbor's baby came over to their house and actually took his first steps on the floor which had been cleaned of broken glass hours earlier. That night, the house was filled with neighbors dropping by to be supportive, and with laughter. James Goode had a message for the thieves, which was paraphrased and related to me through Amy: You did so much damage, and yet gained so little. Merry Christmas, you losers.
Amy Goode said the thieves had worked so hard breaking in, and for what? Some household junk, including a purple Vikings jacket. She said the thieves couldn't take what she cherished the most: close family ties, the feeling of being part of a supportive NoMi community which rallied all around her family and the house, even while she was out of state. She said coming home to a house where all the dishes had been done "rocked."
I would like to say this: MOST of the time we are winning here in NoMi. MOST of the time we are "dishing it out" to the thugs. Every day we look around and see more progress than setbacks.
But we lost this round. This time the thugs got through a hole our defenses and stole a child's piggy bank.
When they use that money to buy crack, I hope they end up on the hood of a police car with Mark Klukow or the "Silver Fox."
It just makes me want to call 911, and 311, and write more blog posts, and give more encouragement to my neighbors.
I hope it makes you feel the same way, dear reader.