For the past few years, the local Vineyard church has sponsored a rousing Easter egg hunt over at Wheeling Park. It's a site to behold. Children of different age brackets storm the hillside in search of valuable plastic Walmart eggs. Total attendance is somewhere in the neighborhood of a 750 kids and 1,000 adults.
A good friend of mine (and avid Flyers fan) has a revulsion toward eggs. He claims, "Eggs come from the ass of a chicken and have the consistency of snot. Why would you want to eat that?" To which I respond, "Grow the fuck up! They're a decent source of cheap protein. And the Flyers suck." We've had this exact conversation about 5-6 times over the past 20 years.
Because I reside on the adjacent hill, whenever they have a live concert or utilize amplified sound, I hear it loud and clear. The music literally cascades into my house. Last Sunday I was greeted with an ear-screeching rendition of "Here Comes Peter Cottontail." Followed by a droning blast of "Testing 1, 2, 3." What a resourceful way to ring in the holiday season.
So I jogged over and ended up running into a few friends... some old, some new. I extended everyone the obligatory "Happy Easter" and wished them well. You're probably thinking... "Saf, I didn't know you liked Easter." Well, not really. But I do enjoy the yearly public service announcements that discourage parents from buying seasonal live rabbits and giving them to their kids as festive, temporary pets. Then of course, come Monday, the animal is left to fend for itself on the mean streets of Triadelphia. Now THAT is something I can rally around.
Anyway, back to the Easter egg hunt. What took me aback was the heightened level of security. For a dwindling, decaying town of elderly fuddie duddies, there's always this overwhelming police presence. Seriously, in a town where the vast majority of the population looks like this...
... I flat out guarantee that Wheeling, West Virginia has the highest cop:citizen ratio in the United States. It doesn't matter where you go. Dance Dimensions, Wheeling Nailers hockey game, The Alpha, any steak fry or charity event, Wheeling Chili Cook-off, Italian Festival... there's always this enormous police presence admittedly preparing for violent demonstrations and civil unrest.
And the police chief has this bizarre inclination to stick his men (and one token female officer) anywhere he can. Here's a few examples...
Hardees on National Road has always been the staple location, the defining "cop hangout." At one time, this was the busiest Hardees in the entire United States. In the mid 90's, Wheeling's own Amy Piko entered some kind of restaurant naming contest. I think she won first prize and was awarded a check for $1,000. No joke. She submitted the name "Classic Cruisin' Hardees" and the crappy fast food corporate behemoth snatched it up. That 2 burgers, 2 fries, 2 bucks deal had to be the absolutely most disgusting cuisine bargain of the 20th century. The chicken McNugget pink slime fiasco pales in comparison.
Local cops gravitate toward Hardees much like Cambridge/Zanesville senior citizens venture to the Wheeling Island Casino. It's this strange compulsion/phenomenon that exists only in Ohio County, WV. It's almost like a rite of passage. Just like the Hindus who travel great distances to bathe in the Ganges. Just like Muslims performing the Hajj. Our patrolling guardians take the I-70 Oglebay Park exit to secure the blessed bacon, egg and cheese biscuit.
They also stick a cop at the Ohio County Library. This guy's visually approaching retirement. He's the "Ssshuuushhhh" policeman. Rest assured, he'll back up that "shooshie shoosh" with a hostile frown and a brief tap on his sidearm or taser. He's also in charge of whisking out the homeless and making sure teens don't access porn on the internet. His presence... formidable. His girth... equally substantial.
There once was a day when you could freely walk into the city county building to settle that $2.00 parking ticket. No more! You must submit to a TSA style, full body scan and temporarily relinquish all keys, sunglasses, belt buckles, perfume, lip gloss... basically, anything a Macgyver imposter could transform into a makeshift Molotov cocktail.
Shortly after 9/11, in a patriotic attempt to visibly enhance the police state and set everyone's mind at ease, the city of Wheeling acquired this monstrosity.
It's the infamous Department of Homeland Security Unified Command Center. I don't know about you, but this thing really helps put my mind at ease. I don't know how I was ever able to sleep at night. It's reminiscent of that roving urban assault vehicle from the movie Stripes (1981).
I'm not sure of the price tag, but I imagine it easily exceeds a million bucks. It's not money particularly well spent as it sits at the corner of 16th & Jacob St. in an abandoned gas station lot. It moves from that spot about 2-3 times a year. They trot it out as some kind of "defiant showpiece" when "needed." You know, for something like the annual Ogden 20K distance race. Just in case every runner decides to engage in a simultaneous human stampede and break into Wesbanco Arena a la the Cincinnati Riverfront Coliseum Who concert circa 1979.
Anyhoo, back to the Easter holiday festivities. I thought it would be an interesting display if they brought out the "Mobile Terrorism Command Center" for the children's annual Wheeling Park Easter Egg hunt. It could oversee the event and make sure things go according to plan. Insuring the safety of our town's most valuable asset - our children. Kind of like art mimicking reality... or vice-a-versa. Think of it as an Easter offshoot. A "resurrection" of indoctrination and societal compliance. A real-world visual representation of the United States as it further declines into a police state. You think I'm kidding. I am not. I think it would be well received by the masses. You could even hide some eggs in it. Children could have their fingerprints taken too. It would be a hoot.
Enough with the negativity. Just for Easter... let's close this out with some good 'ol fashioned Eastern Ohio Chrisagii. I couldn't find any Easter music, but I did find this Easter bunny-laden interview and related commentary. Well... it's the best I could dig up. It has this unusual "chinchilla" vibe.
It would appear that even the Chrisagii are not immune to local overzealous law enforcement. Rumor has it there's some new city ordinance dealing with something referred to as "Bee Gee garb."
And now, since I've got you in the mood. (Just like Emeril Lagasse used to say) "Let's Kick it up a Notch. BAM!" Here's some additional rabbit related music with bonus reindeer overtones.