Saturday, February 20, 2010


Rented the greatest Western of all time last night, Tombstone. 

Despite being ex-law, Michelle is not at all into cinema crime and violence--she much prefers comedy, romance or scary movies, as per The Wolfman (which will no doubt scare the bee-jeebers out of us at a matinee next week). Thus, I was pretty confident this petite red-head would not sit through two straight hours of angry white men blowing away other angry white men. I was wrong. Two seconds after Wyatt and Josie waltzed this classic to its conclusion, Michelle said, "We need to buy this." She had not budged from her seat throughout the entire film; indeed, she had hardly spoken. Thus is the power of great scripting, casting, acting, directing, filming....and above all, thus is the power of artistic passion. Funny, but one might expect that in the greatest Western of all time, there might be at least ONE bank robbery. But there isn't.

Bank robberies did not begin, or end, with the Wild West. A few years back I noted that my son's fiance, Kayla, was robbed one morning as she opened up the bank in Auburn, Kansas, just outside Topeka. I spoke with Kayla shortly after the affair. One might imagine that after facing a gun and dealing with a desperate robber alone in a bank the robbee would be all emotional and mental and such. Not Kayla. Although she certainly did not want to go through the ordeal again, there would be no extensive counseling sessions, prolonged therapy or nightly nightmares for Kayla. She simply dealt with it.

Curiously, when she was thirty, Michelle was also a main player in a bank hold up. One morning, while at work in a bank near Pittsburgh, she noticed a purple van pull up outside, blocking the doors. While one man with a shotgun jumped out and covered a nearby landscaper, the other quickly entered the bank and went to work. The fellow was very good. No screaming or bullets through the ceiling; just a nose for the cash. While one bank employee opened the vault, Michelle was ordered to clean out the tills. Both young women did as they were told but the latter also did as she was trained--she hit three silent alarms and tossed dye packs in with the loot. Although it seemed to last forever, the heist was over in minutes.

Next day as she drove to work, Michelle was nervous; her hands trembled on the steering wheel. Throughout the day, she and her co-workers were startled by every customer who entered. Also that day, a guard was posted to the bank and, even though the robber had not leaped the counter ala Dillenger, a high metal cage was constructed there nonetheless. Thus was the proverbial barn door closed.

It was a big haul as banks go, a very big haul. Because it was a new branch, the Feds had bulged the bank with bale upon bale of greenbacks. The two men got away with over $100K. One year later they were caught in Europe.

My thoughts are mixed. On one level I know that stealing and scaring the hell out of people is wrong; on another level, I thank God that these men, these bank robbers, had the patience and professionalism, and yes, I thank God that the better nature of these men shone through and no harm came to any one (when Michelle's nervous co-worker had banged her head hard upon entering the vault that day, the gunman was genuinely concerned and asked if she was okay).

My feelings on the above are similar to another incident. My little boy and I once surprised some burglars who had just robbed our home. These two shabby guys in their junky pickup truck were caught red-handed, were no doubt terribly nervous, were armed to the teeth with loaded weapons (mine), and yet they did not harm either me or my child, though they might easily have done so, and though I later identified both.

Like virtually everything else in this world, I find that there is nothing cut and dried about robbers.