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Monday, September 28, 2009

A Very Sticky End

Every city is known for notorious acts of crime, violence and degradation. Philadelphia, in case you didn't know or are from some other country, is no different. We've blown up mobsters on the front porches, we've blown up MOVE in their own home, we've executed policemen as they've lain on the sidewalk, helpless on their backs, we've killed each other in the streets for well over a hundred years.

Philadelphia may not have any real celebrities, except for our weathermen, but we do have our celebre villains. Now we can add the name James Davis to the notorious and blood-stained list.

James Davis was arrested on September 26th by officers from the PSCPA for wrapping a cat in duct-tape. Apparently, said feline was troubling Davis by wandering around on the lawn in front of his parent's house. Davis could have solved this particular urban problem simply by saying, "Shoo, cat!" But he didn't. Now, he's in jail awaiting trial. He faces the maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and two years in prison. Personally, I think he should be duct-taped, smeared from head-to-toe in Fancy Feast and be thrown inside the Philadelphia Zoo's tiger exhibit, but that's just me.

Obviously, James Davis lacks the coping skills that most of us possess, coping skills which enable us to identify and respond to problems or issues in a normal, unsociopathic way. I wonder what other kinds of fucked up shit this guy has done in the past, before he burst onto the local, dare I say national, scene? Can you imagine how he might deal with a pair of Mormon solicitors at his front door?

I'm glad the sonofabitch is caught, and that this cat (named "Sticky" by the apparently whimsical PSCPA folks) is going to be adopted by a non-nutcase and given a great shot at the good life, but, beyond that, I really can't bring myself to give too much of a shit about this case. It's a water-cooler story, for sure. Everybody in Philadelphia knows who Sticky is, and soon they'll all know who James Davis is: the man with the duct-tape. I accept the value of water-cooler stories-- they give people who might not ordinarly know what to talk about something legitimate to talk about.

"Hey, didja hear about Sticky?"

"Oh, man, I know. That's really fucked up."

Boom, you're in! That's office culture for you. If you can't talk about the Phillies, you can at least talk about Sticky.

The case highlights a couple of things in particular that mystify me about our society. First of all, we really do have a morbid fascination with people who do incredibly sick shit. Serial killers, rapists, duct-tapers, we're obsessed with knowing their motives and their rationales-- why did they do it? How could they do it? We long for the days when, after death, the brains of the criminal element would be removed and studied for any perceived abnormalities-- perhaps that little divot in the temporal region?-- because we know there has to be something in there that separates them from us. Right?

The woeful tale of Sticky the Cat also brilliantly illustrates how much more we culturally love animals than humans. The tipster who narced on James Davis is looking at a $2,000 reward from the Citizens' Crime Commission if Davis gets convicted, which seems like a pretty sure thing since he's already confessed. Over the weekend, Philadelphia Police Officer Samuel Rivera was trying to stop a reckless Lexus while on his bike, and the driver of the Lexus deliberately rammed Rivera, throwing him to the ground, and sped off into the night. The reward for information leading to this asshole's arrest? $1,000.

(The Lexus' license plate contains the letters "HBZ," if anybody gives a shit.)

I am also struck by the tremendous outpouring of affection for this cat Sticky. I suppose it has a lot to do with the picture they took of him, all wrapped up in his little duct-tape coccoon before sedating him and cutting it all off. That picture was splashed all over the city, all over the country, in fact. I wonder if people would have been so engaged in this story if there had been no picture, or only a picture taken after the tape had been removed. We're a have-to-see-it-to-believe it, and I think we're also a have-to-see-it-to-be-affected-by-it culture, and I wonder where that comes from. Maybe it comes from our inundation of media-- constantly being bombarded with images that are too nuts to fathom. When news was delivered solely in print or on radio, we had to take the writer's or the broadcaster's word for it. Now, we need the evidence up front, or we're not buying. Or adopting.

It's funny-- when I first saw the image of Sticky all wrapped up tightly in duct-tape like some kind of feline mummy, my first reaction wasn't a lump in my throat or a sympathetic tear or a longing to punish James Davis for his bizarre and cruel actions. My mind wandered back to being a 10-year-old camper at a creative arts day camp. I was in a barn with a friend of mine named Josh who was three years older than I. Like so many kids, Josh enjoyed relating jokes, and he had one for me that he whispered in my ear.

"Hey, I got a question for you. Why do you wrap a hamster in duct-tape?"

I looked at him.

"I don't know," I said, "why?"

"So it doesn't explode when you fuck it!"


  1. Oh god. To end a post like this with a joke like that... of course I laughed out loud.

  2. I sincerely hope that the picture of the cat makes its way into the hands of the lolcatters...

    We love people sicker than us. It makes the sick shit we do seem slightly less sick.

    We're all sick.

    Which is kinda ironic, as 'sick' should probably define something outside the cultural norm.

    If only we were back in medieval times when there was very little that was actually taboo... boo.

  3. Haha big ups to Philly, and I did not hear about that (thankfully).

    I often think that we have more than our fair share of nutters...


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