Lead Story

Robert Coker, 24, remains unrepentant about his love for the 11-year-old girl he used to live across the street from in Salem, Oregon, despite the fact that he was recently imprisoned for failure to keep away from her and her family. He continues to send her love letters from prison and told a KOIN-TV interviewer: “When I see her, when I look into her eyes, my mind goes blank. My heart starts beating really fast and I get weak in the knees.” As for society’s disapproval, Coker said, “What happens when anyone falls in love with anyone else? Can’t there be romance?”

The Continuing Crisis

Transsexual Nancy Jean Burkholder, who is legally female, was turned away by the security staff of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, held outside Hart in August, because festival policy is to admit only “women born women.” Burkholder admits she was dressed “ambiguously” but offered to produce documents and to submit to a genital inspection, to no avail.

According to an October story in the San Jose Mercury News, members of RECAP (“Recover a Penis”), an organization of several dozen men who meet regularly in the San Francisco area to discuss ways to restore their foreskins, are divided on the issue of technique. Some support surgical reconstruction, while others are in favor of “stretching,” described by RECAP founder Wayne Griffiths as pulling loose skin over his penis, taping it in place, and using “Foreballs,” a device he invented consisting of two small ball bearings, to add weight and pull the skin down. Griffiths said he wore the device for up to 12 hours a day, five days a week for a year, and that he now has enough skin to cover the head of his penis without taping. “The [sexual] feelings are sensational,” he said. Said a urologist who supports the group, “They want to enhance their image whether it is in their pants or on their face. Who am I to say otherwise? No way. No way.”

In October sheriff’s deputies in Winchester, Virginia, all men, went public with their complaints that Sheriff Chuck Sturdivant (running for reelection to a second four-year term) was constantly kissing them in public as “my expression” of professional fondness. Sturdivant, a Republican, is married, the father of two, and heterosexual, he says, but has been kissing men since he was a deputy. He lost the election.

The German Parliament’s commission on children proposed in November that its citizens be required to be more loving and affectionate. Suggestions included: barring parents from spanking or nagging children, from threatening them with the bogeyman, and from withholding affection. Germans are already subjected to public-civility requirements, which prohibit angry gestures at motorists and insults to civil servants, among other things.

In December workers in Blackpool, England, draining a lake that lies under a roller coaster, discovered “hundreds” of pairs of false teeth, several wigs, and six glass eyes.

At a November meeting of the utilities board in Wilmington, North Carolina, to decide on a new residential water assessment, two landowners who had come to protest died during the hearing–one of a heart attack and the other of a stroke.

According to a trade-union newspaper in the Commonwealth of Independent States, as reported in Fortune magazine in January, several textile workers jointly purchased three lottery tickets, and one of them took the ticket that ultimately won (the prize was a car) home for safekeeping. The worker promptly died and was buried in his best suit, into which, of course, he had put the ticket. When the widow agreed to have the body exhumed, the casket wasn’t there, and authorities later discovered a thriving business in which caskets were being dug up and stripped clean. The prize car, which had been claimed, was traced to a man who had purchased the husband’s suit at a thrift shop. The widow eventually got the car, cashed it in, and donated the money to victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Workers at the Chrysler Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, were asked in December to refrain from using antiperspirant in the morning because flakes are believed to have an adverse effect on the autos’ paint jobs. Two female workers filed grievances after supervisors asked to check their armpits. Two manufacturers sent Chrysler shipments of no-flake antiperspirant for workers.

Stennet Alapa was hospitalized twice in Honolulu in a two-week period in November as a result of automobile accidents. In both cases, the driver of the car in which Alapa was riding was killed.

Creme de la Weird

In February the Austin American-Statesman profiled John Stapp, a troubleshooter for the sewage treatment plant in Travis County, Texas, and possibly the nation’s only professional sewage diver. Stapp dons a diving suit, mask, breathing tube, and air-powered tools to perform repairs on the 60,000- gallon, 16-by-40-foot containment vat. Said Stapp, “It’s just a job to me that requires a lot of skill that not everybody has.” A typical repair job requires Stapp to be submerged for four hours or more in zero visibility. Stapp describes the job as “very quiet and peaceful,” and apparently his surroundings don’t affect his appetite: “I’m usually starved when I get through.”

Least Competent Person

Edalina Rodriguez, 40, was arrested in Lorain, Ohio, in January for stealing from a produce truck. According to a patrolman, Rodriguez and two other men ran away from the truck when the officer approached, but Rodriguez was the only one of the three to leave a trail of cherry tomatoes–leading to his apartment building, up the stairs, and down a hall, stopping in front of his door.

The Diminishing Value of Life

Ernest Mabin, 59, was charged with the murder of Timothy Carroll in Kansas City, Missouri, in January, after a heated argument over Carroll’s having parked in Mabin’s assigned parking space.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.