The fate of the world is hanging once more in the balance, as we begin another New Year. So what else is new?
And though it may dominate the front pages of the nation's newspapers, tell the truth -- don't you find it all just a little bit boring, day after perilous day? Don't you really pore through the paper looking for those little barometers of the human condition that prove that, no matter how weird your own life has gotten, somebody somewhere can go you one better?
You could have saved the time. We've been doing it for you.
Herewith, the annual BUFFALO compendium of oddball news items, wacky situations and unexpected results. It's been a strange year out there -- and isn't it nice to know that some things never change?
Telling It Like It Is
"The main hurdle is putting the whole package together."
-- Sam Tuchman, yet another developer considering converting the Central Terminal to an international tourist and retail attraction.
"Let me withdraw the word weasel, because I don't want to start being negative toward animals."
-- Gov. Cuomo, in a radio comment on the Erie County Legislature.
"This ought to keep the wolf away from the door."
-- Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell, after helping negotiate a TV contract giving each and every NFL team more than $32 million per year.
"We must look beyond Military Road and look to the world, globally, for people to come to the mall -- and as a side trip come to see the Falls."
-- Niagara County Legislature Chairman Lee Simonson, announcing a financing plan for a downtown megamall.
In Toronto last May, managers of the Skydome hotel that offers guests a view of the playing field began warning clients that the view is two-way. It seems a couple used their $800-a-night room to make love in front of thousands of fans during the seventh-inning stretch of a Blue Jays baseball game.
Someone set fire to a church in Black Rock last May by stapling some women's underwear to the door and setting it ablaze. The flames were quickly doused and a suspect arrested, but he wouldn't explain his actions.
An inmate climbed onto the roof of the Deer Island jail in Boston last winter and refused to come down unless jail officials could name all six children on "The Brady Bunch." After more than five hours of fruitless guesses by authorities, he came down anyway.
In Troy, a daredevil plunged 60 feet in a dangerous nighttime dive into the Hudson River from the 112th Street Bridge last August. He survived and swam ashore, then promptly fell into a concrete pit and broke his leg.
A Scotsman having a hard time making his poor soil pay off in farming found a new way to turn a profit -- selling sand to Arabs. Scottish sand, it turns out, is better for swimming pool filters than the sands of the Saudi Arabian deserts.
In Albany last winter, a forgetful musician in Frank Sinatra's orchestra put his $50,000 violin on the roof of his car after a concert, opened the door and drove away. An honest bystander saw the case bounce to the ground, found identifying papers inside and called the owner who forgot to call police, who spent several more days searching pawnshops for the instrument he'd reported missing.
A state law took effect July 1 in Colorado, making it legal there to rip the little tags off pillows and mattresses.
The Taiwan coast guard last June seized a smuggler's ship filled with 30 tons of rooster testicles and cow innards bound for Taiwanese dinner tables. "This was not the first time we have seized smuggled rooster testicles," a coast guard spokesman said. "Some restaurants offer rooster testicle dishes, so they have to find a way to get supplies."
Los Angeles County Jail officials last April finally decided that convicted murderer Victor Castellanos had escaped. Their first clue: Castellanos, serving 32 years to life, failed to show up for three scheduled court appearances during the three weeks he hadn't been missed at the jail.
Eight nuns were sought for questioning by Belgian police last spring after they sold their convent and fled to a castle they bought in the south of France, in a $110,000 Mercedes limousine and an ambulance for the eldest nun, who is 93 and cannot see, hear or walk. In addition to the Mercedes, church sources said, the nuns also used the $1.4 million from the convent sale to buy several racehorses.
U.S. troops closed in on a house frequented by Panamanian Gen. Manuel Noreiga just before last Christmas and reported finding 50 pounds of cocaine. In January, Army intelligence determined the substance was tamales.
A two-story inflatable King Kong stolen from a Kansas car dealership in June turned up in September tied to a television station microwave tower in Fort Worth, Texas, with a note saying he'd arrived in town to catch a Kansas City Royals baseball game with the Texas Rangers.
In the Dominican Republic, tests were held last January on a new $20 million lighthouse and monument that will house Christopher Columbus' bones and project light displays toward the heavens -- a concept not entirely popular in a country where residents get about 10 hours of electricity a day thanks to an outmoded system. The test went perfectly, with the monument beaming a cross of light high in the sky. The rest of the island promptly blacked out.
USAir Flight 1402 from LaGuardia to Pittsburgh on Mother's Day headed back to the airport with a declared emergency, a fire in the airplane. Turned out to be muffins left too long in the kitchenette oven. Mom never had that problem.
Workers in California hastily pulled down a 30-foot, $10,000 banner intended for a January welcoming ceremony at the San Jose Public Library after a Filipino security guard noticed a slight literary glitch. The sign for the library's renaming ceremony welcomed guests in 27 languages, but the phrase in Tagalog didn't bid them welcome -- it bid them circumcision.
In Chicago last summer Cori Ward's mother got a little defensive when she received her phone bill for three weeks' service -- $8.7 million. " 'I only called my sister,' " Ward reported her mother as saying. The bill, it turned out, should have read $87.98 -- not $8,709,800.33. Illinois Bell apologized.
In Oslo, Norway, Jermund Skogstad took a break while moving into his new apartment and went out to have dinner. Unfortunately, he forgot to take a copy of his new address with him. More than a month later he was still looking for his new home.
David Ashley of Seneca Falls appeared in village court last February with a rooster tucked under his arm, and told the judge the bird was the only legal counsel he could afford. The judge, apparently not in a fowl mood, adjourned the case so Ashley could prepare to defend himself on charges of raising poultry without a permit.
A young Italian man and his girlfriend this year sued an insurance company, claiming an unplanned pregnancy resulted from an automobile accident in a Naples park that nightly attracts scores of amorous couples. The car-crossed couple claimed they were making love in their small car when it was hit from behind by a larger car. The impact momentarily made them lose control and resulted in the pregnancy, they said.
A St. Louis jury awarded a woman $27,500 in medical and punitive damages this year from a man who bit her in the buttocks in a barroom prank when they were both law students three years ago. The jury failed to buy the defendant's argument that his bite, which broke the skin and left the victim unable to sit down for three days, was "a compliment."
The Montana Supreme Court this summer upheld the drunken-driving arrest of a man who was stopped by police -- even though the man's motorcycle had a broken clutch, wasn't running and was being pushed down the street.
But Officer, Honest
A woman wielding a chain saw failed in her attempt to hold up a motel clerk in Florida when she was tackled by the clerk's brother, police say. The woman was drunk and her choice of weapon might have been more effective if the chain saw had been running, it was noted.
In Thomasville, N.C., a man was arrested twice in one day last March -- once after the stolen riding lawn mower he was towing at the end of a 10-foot rope caused an accident, and again after he drove away in a police patrol car while his hands were cuffed behind his back. A police officer in a borrowed pickup truck finally collared him, after spotting the parked cruiser and then chasing the man on foot for about half an hour.
In Beacon, near New York City, a guy grabbed an armful of steaks from a supermarket, bolted from the store, ran across the adjoining property and scaled a barbed-wire fence, in a daring getaway only slightly flawed by the fact that climbing the fence meant he was breaking into a state prison. Even more embarrassing, though, Fishkill Correctional Facility officers on foot and horseback couldn't find the suspect on the prison's 750-acre grounds despite an extensive search. Thomas Hunt, 33, was arrested almost a week later by police investigating an argument in the city. Charges included trespassing at the prison.
State troopers last March arrested a 24-year-old Ellenburg Center man for stealing cow manure from his uncle.
In Connecticut, police arrested one of the FBI's "10 Most Wanted" fugitives after his role in two Detroit murders and an armored car robbery was showcased on television. Where did they find him? Working under an assumed name in a high-security shipyard that builds nuclear submarines.
In North Charleston, S.C., thieves jumped a radio disc jockey late last winter and made off with cash, his watch and 1,500 of the station's compact discs and stereo equipment. The robbery was discovered about 90 minutes after WAVF-FM went off the air, when the bound and gagged DJ knocked a phone receiver off the hook and used his nose to dial police.
Students graduated but senses of humor failed in Livingston, La., last May when two seniors were arrested for sailing paper airplanes into the rows of teachers at a high school graduation ceremony. At Livingston High School's request, the students and an adult who had signaled the aerial assault with two blasts of an air horn were promptly arrested on charges of mischief and disturbing the peace.
In Texas last spring, police were looking for bandits who committed a robbery at turtle-point. The bandits, officers say, took $50 from a pizza delivery man after wielding a snapping turtle in his direction.
In Colorado Springs, Colo., a female impersonator enrolled at a high school last September, made the cheerleading squad and stole the affections of the football team before being found out eight days later. The 26-year-old, 164-pound man, who had changed clothes in the women's locker room before a pep rally appearance in cheerleader uniform, was arrested for investigation of forgery and criminal impersonation.
A Louisiana jockey was suspended and charged with felony theft by fraud last January, for winning a one-mile race by 24 lengths. Prosecutors accused Sylvester Carmouche of hiding with his horse in a heavy fog bank at the top of the stretch and then joining the field as they headed through the final turn.
Maybe they could call it "Bambo: First Blood." At any rate, a Panama-based Army captain was knocked unconscious while leading his troops on a conditioning run at Camp Blanding, Fla., last May when a deer came crashing out of the woods. The animal hit him with a flying tackle that rolled both deer and soldier on the ground, and then ran off. Spokesmen say Capt. Ian Erickson didn't know what hit him until he woke up in an Army ambulance and tasted deer fur in his mouth.
On Interstate 40 near Oklahoma City last February, rush hour motorists had to avoid crossing the double lions. The young lions, it seemed, "just rolled out" the back of a trailer when the door opened. Their reaction to finding themselves in the middle of a busy highway was understandable -- they simply cowered, until animal control officers with a tranquilizer gun could capture them.
In San Fernando, Calif., a man was jailed last April for wearing a live hummingbird on a string around his neck as a necklace.
Cornell University researchers concerned about cattle munching their shredded newsprint bedding fed a diet of USA Today and the Ithaca Journal to a dairy herd this year. Initial results indicate the cows remained reasonably contented, though they didn't seem to learn anything.