July 11, 2004

With apologies to Frank

While Frank Paynter puts his hands over his ears, I will tell you now about the steamroller on my coat of arms.

For most, there would be no pride in relating this story. Nor for me. Not pride. More a matter of fact, a question of genetics, a warning of sorts, more full disclosure, and at least a wee bit entertainment.

I've thought a lot about how to say this--should I tell the story, should I name names, probably not, will I be misunderstood, etc.

I opted for a shortish version.

When George first came to Rochester from California in the late 70s, the local news was buzzing with a murder mystery, a crime so horrific (for the victim at least) it evoked a universal shudder.

The story was that a head of a local construction company, for a reason that remained untold--at least by the media--killed his business partner by running him over with a steamroller.

The victim had a wife and a family. They appeared on the news a couple of times. They appeared, as one would expect, saddened and in shock. There was another look on the wife's face, though. To this day, I'm not sure what it was. But I'm pretty sure it meant something.

George remembers watching the evening news back then to learn the latest on the story. It was the topic of conversation at the clubs he was playing, at the grocery stores. It was a relentless story. It wouldn't die.

Meanwhile, my mother was explaining to me that some kids at school might ask me about Bobby, and whether or not I was related. Of course I was. He was my favorite cousin. He was the kindest of them, a surrogate uncle more than a cousin, the guy who always played football with me at the family gatherings, who always sat patiently with the kids to tell them stories. Blue-eyed, handsome, young, genuinely nice, and the guy who ran over his business partner with a steamroller.


He went to prison for the crime, and at the time had cancer. He died of cancer in jail. If I had been older--old enough to take myself--I would have gone to visit him.

I never believed he did it. The story, I believed, was bigger and twisted with more complicated knots than the media could untie. But some things are better left for what they appear to be on the surface.

In addition to a morbid sense of humor, I also have a well-controled raging killer inside me. Perhaps we all do. Do you?

My Bobby has a little lever that turns off just in the nick of time, but can feel what it would be like to discharge. I can feel the discharge ripple through my muscles. It's me in the driver's seat of the steamroller.

When I introduced myself to George in 1984, I saw the double take he did when I said my last name. It wasn't that first day, but I think the next when he asked me if I was related to the guy who...

Oh yes, I said.

He smiled.

Just one of the reasons he asked me to marry him.


For more on my steamroller totem, sing along with me:

Got my eye on you while your eye’s on him
Got the hurt planned out as the gear slips in
Got some demolition plans for you, baby….
The steamroller’s rollin’ on in.