Holidays in Northeast Pennsylvania towns typically include parades, an assembly of high school bands, fire trucks, National Guard, bagpipers, local politicians, vintage cars, dogs adorned in patriotic garb. On special holidays, for example, Saint Patrick’s Day and Veterans Day, the Scranton Times-Tribune provides anxious citizens with vivid street maps, indicating the parade’s planned route. At 7:00 a.m. Saturday, May 24, 2014, after “hard boiling” an egg and toasting Augustine’s Italian Bread, I sat alone at our kitchen table, lazily turned the pages of a PA Commercial Driver’s License Manual, section “Pre-trip vehicle inspection,” and removed the rubber band which surrounded The Times-Tribune. Not much sunshine this year. I looked at wife Carol’s sluggish orchid plant, turned it east in the direction of Taylor Borough’s traditional Memorial Day parade, and hoped it would win the domestic war of survival.
Two days before Memorial Day, The Times-Tribune’s front page included two harrowing headline stories. To the right, the newspaper featured Carbondale Patrolman, Paul Thiel, charged with beating handcuffed and shackled Gary Yates with a metal baton until the instrument broke upon a kneecap. Front page left, The Times-Tribune covered Scranton police detectives’ escort of suspect, Aazis Richardson, 16 years old, charged with fatally shooting a McCarthy Flowered Cab driver twice in the head, near Valley View Terrace. Ominously, no Memorial Day parade route was depicted; instead the newspaper provided a color photograph of the crime scene’s trajectory – the Washburn Street spot where cab driver Vincent Darbenzio, 47, picked-up Aazis Richardson and the deadly end on Crown Avenue on Scranton’s South Side, where Mr. Darbenzio’s body was found. Carol’s purple and white orchid petals strained for sunlight, and weary eyes focused upon dull black newspaper words: “As detectives escorted Aazis Richardson from Scranton Police Headquarters Friday night, he (the suspect) gave a simple explanation for shooting the taxi cab driver twice in the back of the head.”
Given the crude and violent nature of both domestic and foreign exploits characteristic of our times, please seriously ponder the sixteen year old’s following reply and CONFESSION. Having futilely tried to influence the cab driver’s route and decision-making, in blunt Donald Rumsfeld Neo-English, Aazis Richardson told detectives, “That’s what I do to people that don’t listen.” Since establishing myself as a fraternal friend of Scranton detectives, I suppose law and order advocates will forgive me for casting light upon Carbondale Patrolman Paul Thiel’s crime, including breaking a baton over a handcuffed man’s kneecap. Incidentally, The Times-Tribune did not report a post-beating comment made by Patrolman Thiel, and I do not intuit such would have been as honest and incriminating as Aazis’s reply, “That’s what I do to people that don’t listen.”
Too much, too much. I stared at Richardson’s hip photo and The Times-Tribune crime scene map. Taxi driver Vince Darbenzio fatefully picked up alleged gang member, Aazis, at Washburn Street, West Scranton, nearby the cemetery where Hillary Clinton’s father, Hugh Rodham, was buried in 1993. Russian New Years Eve, January 13, 1952, I was born in a small apartment on Jackson Street, only a block or so away from the Washburn Street scene. Several years passed, memories linger, and the only justice around which I came to admire (as an adult) was honed at Main Street’s West Side Theater, a Zorro film presentation. The heroic (aristocratic) man dressed in black mask and cape, on horseback, with sword, showed Southern California militant oligarchs “what happens when they don’t listen.”
The capacity of the self-willed powerful to simultaneously inflict well being and comfort with pain and suffering as they please is virtually unlimited. Very ironic, Memorial Day, May 26, back at our kitchen table, alone again, the Northeast PA sun began to shine, and wife Carol’s orchid petals tilted east in the direction of Taylor Borough’s parade route. Troubled about Vince the taxi driver’s brutal murder, I could not concentrate on studying to pass a written test designed to get a “bus and passenger” endorsement on my C.D.L. Class B driver’s license. Around 10:00 a.m. the Taylor Borough Memorial Day parade began to assemble, and having made plans to watch, I rushed to finish reading Paul Craig Roberts article, “Why war is inevitable” posted on the hunted internet. Son Joe prodded me to hurry up. His girlfriend is a Riverside High School cheerleader and was participating in the parade. Thus, he was anxious for Carol and I to “get old asses in gear and watch happy legs march down Main Street.” (Sigh) Study for achieving a “bus/passenger” endorsement on my C.D.L. had to wait, and like taxi driver, Vince Darbenzio, I looked forward to a good paying job driving people to desired destinations, getting tips, not bullets.
Unfortunately for son Joe, I could not subdue excitement and bring Mr. Roberts’ wise article to a timely conclusion. P.C.R. kept peppering US institutions for creating false realities, BAD INTENTIONS, stripping civil liberties, which “support ever more wars… making us unfree.” Then as hard rap-rock music hit, Mr. Roberts chided US Executive Branch power, asserting, “We don’t need stinking diplomacy, we got power!” Why dialogue when only one drone missile can be aimed, fired, and murder at least one bad listener in the comfort of their home?
For me, a parallel to Aazis Richardson’s cryptic statement is apparent. “That’s what I do to people that don’t listen.” Not surprisingly, Aazis was more forthright than those “Best and Brightest” who burned Vietnamese with napalm. What’s more, it’s ho-hum, “get over it,” to a great majority of Americans when prisoners get beaten, kids shot in drug raids, people’s pensions stolen, a military whistle blower is jailed for telling the truth, old ladies die in a gutters. Light years remote from American classrooms and Major Media are the blunt words of Paul Craig Roberts, “American wars are fought in order to advance Washington’s power, the profits of bankers and armament industries, and the fortunes of US companies.” Right, Right… Left, Left… backward turns, hup-two. LISTEN and present arms upon 4th Reich Command parade command! O shit, my America, this is what happened – unaccountable power in charge, alluring bad examples set on High, and 16 year old Aazis Richardson’s philosophy “this is what happens…” gets disparaged. Aazis’s action plan is forever sealed away in Lackawanna County Jail, while more finessed but exactly similar Congressional and presidential policy practices are enshrined in multimillion dollar libraries. On a daily basis, US citizens need shots of Paul Craig Roberts in head and heart. How about another holiday and day off for those who were — and are — being martyred for peace? A Rachel Corrie Day? Celebrate side benefits of peace, and in Berrigan Brothers bad English, politely tell violent and powerful Bull-Markets-On-Parade what to do – fuck off.
Post scriptum: I never met the late McCarthy Flowered Taxi Cab driver, Vincent B. Darbenzio. Anyway, it was good to see his obituary, including photograph, published (5/27) in The Times-Tribune. The obituary explained how, at 47-years old, born in Scranton, Vince “died unexpectedly.” Life worked well for a while. Vince was “a car enthusiast, enjoyed auto mechanics, doing body work on cars, proud of his Chevy Nova, enjoyed food, especially Oreo cookies and milk, going to casinos.” Vince is survived by two sons, Matthew and Zachary. The funeral services are planned for Wednesday, at 8:30 p.m. at the Miller Bean Funeral Home. Later today, May 28, Roman Catholic Day of Ascension, I plan to attend Vince’s wake, pay respect, afterward descend the valley to Lackawanna County Jail, mourn and pay heed to Aazis Richardson, 16, and other like-minded and perhaps more literate people’s violent and risky Oreo world views.
At 5:45 p.m., like a stranger entering a taxi cab, I entered the Miller Bean Funeral Home, Inc. where lay the body of Vince Darbenzio. It was not crowded. There were only ten people in line ahead of me. Outside a WNEP 16 News team sat inside a van, and directly to the north, one could see the concrete walls of Scranton’s massive General Dynamics munitions plant. Given mortician wonder works and creative use of wax, and despite two shots to the rear of his head, the casket was open, and Vince held a rosary in his hands. His youthful looking father stood at the head of the casket, and seated beside him were Vince’s two grieving sons, presumably teenagers, like Aazis Richardson. I offered sincere sorrow and departed the Home. Outdoors, I met two men who talked about Vince’s life. One man, reminiscing about playing cards with Vince, said “Vince was thrilled to be working as a taxi driver for all of five weeks, and having some bucks in his pocket.” He praised Vince’s physical strength at 47, and ability to do “wind sprints.” Upbeat, the man said that “if there’s anyone who can get shot in the head two times and still have his casket open, it was Darbenzio.”