Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tell Me A Story

Don is a sound engineer in the movies, he worked in Hollywood for 3 decades before coming back to Utah 2 years ago.   Russ use to run Salt Lake City International Airport.  As the seasons change, he and his partner Steven hang beautifully crafted wooden ornaments from the light posts on his street to signify the changing of the seasons and the holidays.  Jack-o-lanterns in November, Snow flakes in December. His neighbors love it.  Russ gets irked when Steven leaves him out of the loop.  "I didn't know anything about that," he says annoyed, as I explain the story we are working on, and the fact that Steven, who is on the community council, may have heard about it, "he never tells me anything," Russ frowns with subtle consternation.

Maggie is the neighborhood spy,  Steven only moved in 2 weeks ago, and  Sarah's pipes broke after she'd only lived in her home for a couple of months.  These are just a few of the gentle story lines we uncovered accidentally this day.

On Monday, photographer Patrick Fitzgibbon and I spent 2 hours bobbing up and down several SugarHouse blocks, in search of a ghost.  Literally.  Along the way, we casually tucked our heads into the ongoing story lines of more than a dozen people, getting to know them, if only for a minute or two.

Salt Lake City Police have been circulating a picture captured from an in-home surveillance camera.  It is of a man burglarizing a SugarHouse home, but it isn't so much what the crook stole, but how he looked when he did the crime.  The night vision lens on the security camera captured a bizarre image of the crook.  He is awash in a white ghostly sheen.  His face appears to be skeletal, and the shadows and light, give the illusion that he might be floating.  The otherworldly apparition is getting quite a bit of attention, so I went looking for the home in which the picture was captured.  The bad news is, police won't release the name of the person who was burglarized, and officers gave us a VERY general address of about 2600 South 1500 East.  "It's around there," Police said.

So...We knock, and we knock, and we knock.   Along the way we gathering tidbits of information about people's homes, "Well," says one friendly woman, rubbing her chin, and staring into her eyebrows for answers, "this neighbor used to have a security system, but they just sold the house two weeks ago." She says casually answering my question about neighbors with cameras.

We also glean tiny story lines about the people who live here.  "I couldn't believe it," says Russ during a causal exchange with me, "she actually wanted to know every paint color we used on our house," he says of a neighbor across the street, "she was going to match her home to ours exactly!"  

As we bounce from house to house, we pick up clues that get us closer to the poltergeist.  "I think it was on Kensington," says one man.  "I thought I heard it was a brick house," says another.

"You know," says Patrick, after a woman tells us she doesn't have any cameras in her home, "it's a good thing these people recognize you from TV, because it kind of looks like you are casing the neighborhood."

Patrick is right.  During our stroll down 1500 South, I have asked the following questions:

1) Who has a security system on this street?
2) Which person is the most likely to have information on other neighbors?
3) Who has been burglarized recently?

All typical questions a seasoned burglar might ask when deciding which home to break into, but also the same kinds of questions a reporter might toss out when trying to find the family who captured that haunted image.

Just before 6 PM, Maggie, whom I spoke to a few minutes prior, tracks me down a block away, "I think I know what house you're looking for," she says with excitement.  "It's on Dearborn, I saw something about it on Facebook." she says pointing Southwest, "talk to Connie, she has a rod iron fence and green siding.

"Oh yes, I saw the picture myself," Connie chirps excitedly, "Creepy!" She exclaims, "You're looking for Don Malouf, he lives right there.  He's such a nice man," Connie point across the street, at a stately Tudor home. "You know I was burglarized recently, I think it might be the same suspect," she whispers and shrugs with her index finger still extended.

 Don is happy to talk to us, and tell us about his scary surveillance image.  As Patrick adjusts the lights, and moves the furniture preparing for the interview, Don tells me he worked for Disney for 15 year and won an award for his sound engineering on "The Fox and the Hound."  He laments about friends who have been laid off recently from the iconic studio.  As his wife prepares chicken sauteed in garlic, and a fresh kale salad, he wonders aloud, "How are you supposed to do all that work?" he stares into his palm, with his brow furrowed, "with just a handful of people."

After 2 hours, nearly 2 dozen doors, and conversations with almost 20 people, we finally found the one story for which we were looking today, but along the way, we heard a dozen more, all of them part of the tapestry that tells the tale of this neighborhood, each stitched together, one conversation at a time.  

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