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Recently I decided to take extensive photographs of a typical Toys R Us store mainly because late last year, just before Christmas, Toys R Us had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This month Toys R Us is closing a large number of its stores throughout the United States. Nearly three years ago I did an extensive post covering the two-month period that the Kmart in Greenbelt, Maryland conducted its going out of business sale. This time I decided to take a photo of a Toys R Us store that is NOT among the stores that are slated for closure because I wanted to provide sort of a time capsule as to what it was like to visit a Toys R Us store on a typical day when it was in normal operations.

The biggest irony about the upcoming store closings is that this year is Toys R Us’ 70th anniversary. When I looked up Toys R Us’ Wikipedia page I learned one interesting fact—that chain started its first store in the Adams-Morgan section of Washington, DC. That store, which was then-called Children’s Supermart, was operating in a space that is now occupied by the iconic nightclub Madam’s Organ Blues Bar. A few years later the first store with the Toys R Us name was opened in Rockville, Maryland. Toys R Us went from being a local business to a national (then international) store chain when it was sold to Interstate Department Stores, Inc. in 1966.

In a way it’s kind of sad that this is happening to Toys R Us because I grew up watching those commercials on television that featured someone dressed in a Geoffrey Giraffe costume while the ad jingle went “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid/There’s a million of toys at Toys R Us that I can play with.”

There was only one Toys R Us store in the town that I grew up in (Glen Burnie, Maryland). Sometimes my mother would buy toys from that store but she also purchased toys from Montgomery Wards and Sears as well. I still have memories of when I used to go to the one in the Glen Burnie Mall and it had a sign that said that children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Sometimes I would get permission from my mom to go to either the Record Bar (which sold vinyl records, 8-track tapes, and cassette tapes) or the video arcade (both of which have long since gone out of business) while she and my grandmother went inside of some clothing store. I was somewhere between 12-15 when I did this. (I know that for a fact because I pretty much lost interest in doing this once I reached 16.) I always made an effort to go past the Toys R Us entrance in the mall where I would enter that store without being accompanied by an adult just so I would flout that rule. None of the store employees ever did anything to kick me out for being an unaccompanied minor under 16 but it still filled my juvenile ego to know that I flouted a store rule. I never stayed too long inside Toys R Us because most of the toys were geared towards younger kids and I had pretty much outgrown any interest I had in things like Barbie dolls or Play-Doh. I only went inside because a sign said I couldn’t do it and it was an easy way to rebel against authority without getting into any kind of serious trouble. (LOL!)

Ironically that Glen Burnie Toys R Us is still going strong and it’s among the stores that is being saved from closure for now. The same can’t be said for the rest of the mall and, in fact, that mall had finally closed down for good last year.

When I moved closer to the Washington, DC area as an adult, I was lucky enough to be in an area where there were three different Toys R Us stores all located just a short drive away from my home—in New Carrollton, Laurel, and Langley Park. I used to periodically shop at Toys R Us mainly to purchase presents for my then-husband’s nieces and nephews or to buy baby shower gifts for various friends, relatives, and coworkers. There was a time when my church had a Toys for Tots-like program around the winter holiday season where we purchased toys for the children at this non-profit community center in Washington, DC that strived to provide programs for inner city kids from low-income families that would be an alternative to gangs and I used to shop at Toys R Us for that reason as well.

But then Toys R Us encountered its first problem when the dotcom boom happened and it was very slow in getting an online presence.  Amazon, which sold only books at the time, wanted to start selling toys so Toys R Us entered into a ten-year contract with Amazon to allow that online site to be its exclusive online supplier. It might have sounded like a good idea at the time but, in retrospect, that deal was like having Coca-Cola decide to let Pepsi-Cola handle all of its marketing and distribution of Coke products. Amazon soon allowed other third-party retailers to sell toys on its site, which resulted in a lawsuit.

One-by-one, over the next few years, the Toys R Us stores that were located closer to my home started to close. The one in New Carrollton was located in a building with a flat roof. A major blizzard hit the area where two feet of snow accumulated. The flat roof of the New Carrollton Toys R Us had accumulated so much snow that it literally caved in. I still remember seeing local news reports about that roof collapse along with pictures of stuffed animals floating on top of huge puddles that were created by melting snow. The chain decided to permanently close that store rather than rebuild. The building was razed then rebuilt and a CVS Pharmacy now sits in that location.

As for the one in Laurel I remember that the chain decided to do a remodel of that store while remaining open for business during the remodeling. Once that job was done that store looked really nice with a fresh coat of paint and bright lights. A year or two later the chain decided to close the Laurel store, which had me rolling my eyes since that chain had spent time and money remodeling that store only close it soon afterwards.

At that point the one in Langley Park was the closest Toys R Us store to my home. Compared to the Laurel store or even the New Carrollton store, that Langley Park store was a major hot mess. The floors had scruff marks everywhere and the shelves were totally messy and disorganized. It was almost like no one cared about having that store looked its best so it would encourage customers to return. I don’t know if the clientele had anything to do with the store deciding not to do much to keep up appearances or not. (Many immigrants, mainly from Central America and the Caribbean, started to settle in Langley Park starting in the 1980’s.)

Early one morning the bodies of two men were found in the parking lot of the Langley Park Toys R Us. Each of the men have had their their throats slashed. A third man was also knifed and survived. Naturally this story of three immigrant men being attacked in a Toys R Us parking lot was extensively covered by the local news media. Police found out that these slayings were the result of a drug deal gone bad and a suspect was arrested. That Toys R Us store closed soon after that incident.

As a result of those closures, these days if I want to shop at a Toys R Us, I have to drive at least a half-an-hour in any direction in order to get to a store. As a result, my shopping at Toys R Us has become very rare. These days if I need to buy a toy for whatever reason, I’m more likely to go to the Target store that’s located only three miles from my home and it has a pretty decent toy selection.

At this point there are only two Toys R Us left in my county and they require at least (depending on the traffic) a half-an-hour commute. One is a regular Toys R Us store in Clinton and the other is a Toys R Us outlet store at National Harbor. The Clinton store is the one that is among the stores that Toys R Us plan to close soon. Once that happens, my county will only have the outlet store left and no more regular Toys R Us stores.

At one point Toys R Us had opened a giant flagship store at Times Square in New York City. I went there many times whenever my then-husband and I visited his father and step-mother. I used to be awed by the four floors that not only included toys but I remembered there was a giant life-sized version of Barbie’s dreamhouse that you could walk through while browsing the selection of Barbie dolls that were displayed on shelves inside of that house, an animatronic t-rex robot, a giant candy section, and large 3D displays that were built from LEGOs.  In addition there was this giant indoor ferris wheel that was as tall as the store itself so one could see all four floors of the store while going on that ride. I never went on that ride myself because I still have memories the one and only time I went on a ferris wheel when I was seven years old and it literally made me feeling so dizzy that I never cared to repeat that experience. On top of it, the lines to that ferris wheel were usually long and I wasn’t in the mood to wait in a long line to get on a ride. I last went to New York City in 2011 (just a few months before my hip surgery and my husband’s subsequent sudden walkout) and I walked past that store while seeing the ferris wheel through the glass windows from the outside. I’ve heard that this store is now closed, which is too bad. Here’s a video tour of the Times Square store I found on YouTube that was shot shortly before it closed.

As for the chain itself, it has been going through more troubles in recent years. This article said that Toys R Us has an e-commerce site that’s very clunky to use compared to Amazon while also mentioning that kids these days are more likely to play with computers, smartphones, and tablets than traditional toys like Barbie dolls and Lego. Another article said that Toys R Us’ prices are higher than what Walmart, Amazon, and Target charge for the same toy. There is another factor in Toys R Us’ decline and it has less to do with kids’ playtime, their parents’ shopping habits, or the cost of toys and more with the fact that in 2005 the management decided to sell the company in a leveraged buyout to the real estate investment trust Vornado Realty Trust and the private equity firms KKR and Bain Capital. This trio of companies have focused more on doing a complex financial deal that would leave them richer while drowning Toys R Us in debt. It’s the usual Wall Street financial shenanigans that focus more on extracting huge short-term profits for the very wealthy 1%  class and less on operating a viable profitable store chain in the long run.

In a way one could say that karma had finally struck Toys R Us. When that chain first started opening stores throughout the United States in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, a lot of the smaller toy stores that were locally owned were driven out of business because many of them couldn’t compete with the wide selection of toys or the low prices that Toys R Us provided. Now it’s Toys R Us’ turn to eventually get driven out of business through a combination of increased competition (from the likes of Amazon, Walmart, and Target) and being literally milked heavily for profits by a bunch of Wall Streeters.

Of course it’s the employees who are suffering the most due to increased workplace stress and losing their jobs.

Which led me to my recent visit to a Toys R Us store in Annapolis, Maryland. I wanted to pick a store that isn’t among the stores being closed and I ended up picking the one in Annapolis because I decided to attend the weekly Thursday night meeting of my support group for people who are separated or divorced. The meetings are held in Crofton and Annapolis is just a few miles away on Route 50 so it made sense for me to go to the Annapolis store then head back to Crofton for the meeting.

The next photo shows the outside of the store. Some of the stores in this chain are Toys R Us only while other stores are its Babies R Us subsidiary. (The latter store focuses on items for babies and toddlers such as furniture, formula, and diapers.) This location is a larger store that has both Toys R Us and Babies R Us under the same roof.

Here’s what I first saw when I entered the store.

The next photo shows the Fingerlings, robot toys which were THE Hot Toy of 2017. These critters were sold out everywhere just before Christmas and these toys were sold on eBay for several times the original $15 retail price. As of late January I saw a few of these toys on the store shelves at the original retail price.

There was a section devoted to toys that were based on recent movies, such as Coco and Batman vs. Superman.

The store was nearly empty when I visited it. I know that the fact that I visited it on a Thursday in late January was a major factor. But this particular Toys R Us is located across the street from Annapolis Mall and I noticed that the mall was filling up with cars when I was leaving the area yet Toys R Us was mostly empty.

The store had a few Toys R Us exclusive toys, such as this Funko Pop! vinyl set featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

They had some retro video games based on Space Invaders and the old Sega Genesis console system on the shelves yet they kept the games for the newer console systems kept behind locked cases.

Curiously Toys R Us had a bunch of Sharper Image products that it was selling on its store shelves. (The Sharper Image is a separate store chain that specializes in upscale electronic products.) This store sold mainly robot dinosaurs.

Toys R Us had an entire display devoted to last year’s hot trend, Fidget Spinners. (Remember them? I certainly do.)

Toys R Us carried a few American Girl dolls but they were all of the 14-inch Wellie Wishers.

This next item was among some of the more unusual toys I found on sale. This one is a Bear Surprise, where each bear is a pregnant female who could carry anywhere between 3-5 cubs. (The person wouldn’t know for sure until after he/she purchases a Bear Surprise and take her home.)

The one thing I most remember about Toys R Us is its mascot, Geoffrey Giraffe. I remember when that store used to sell Geoffrey Giraffe stuffed animals where the giraffe wore a sweater with the Toys R Us logo. I didn’t see any stuffed Geoffrey Giraffes on sale. In fact, I didn’t see much of Geoffrey Giraffe anywhere in this store except for this graphic. It’s obvious that they’ve redesigned him but he looks incredibly lame compared with the Geoffrey Giraffe I knew when I was growing up. It was like someone decided to make Geoffrey into this bland forgettable character that would blend in with a corporate environment. I can’t imagine any child being enthusiastic about this Geoffrey Giraffe.

The Journey Girls are 18-inch dolls that are Toys R Us’ answer to the ever-popular American Girl doll. They cost around $40, which is cheaper than American Girl’s $110 dolls.

Curiously Toys R Us had a section devoted to jewelry from Claire’s (which is a separate retail chain that sells jewelry and other accessories).

Here’s another Toys R Us exclusive I found, a Zoomer robot unicorn.

Naturally Toys R Us had a line of Star Wars toys.

They had a whole shelf full of Sharper Image drones.

Here are some more toys I found at Toys R Us, which includes Wonder Woman, Gremlins, and even a stuffed Godzilla plush.

I remember when Teddy Ruxpin first came out back in the 1980s and I saw news stories about this teddy bear. I was amazed by the animatronic technology back then even though this product was aimed at young children and I didn’t have any young children of my own. Teddy Ruxpin has been re-released and he’s compatible with a smartphone app and Bluetooth.

Toys R Us had a section devoted to bikes, small cars that children could ride in, and rollerblades.

Here’s another shot of an empty store aisle.

Toys R Us had an arts and crafts section including a shelf dedicated to nothing but Crayola products.

A quarter of the store was devoted to Babies R Us, which had cribs, blankets, and other products geared towards infants and toddlers.

Here’s a shot of the hall in the Babies R Us section that has the restrooms.

Toys R Us had a couple of STEM-focused high tech toys that are designed to encourage making and coding but they were pretty small compared to what Target and Best Buy offer.

They had a bunch of shelves devoted to board games. Some were the games I knew from my childhood, such as Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots, while others were definitely ones I hadn’t heard of before.

There was an aisle devoted entirely to LEGO products.

This one was another interesting item where you create your own version of a Kinder Surprise Egg.

Toys R Us had toy vacuum cleaners and toy irons for those budding young housewives.

I remember when Zhu Zhu Pets were the big Hot Toy way back in 2009. Like Fingerlings, Zhu Zhu Pets were sold out in stores everywhere just before the holiday season but then they became plentiful once Christmas passed. I haven’t seen Zhu Zhu Pets on sale anywhere in my area in a few years so I was surprised when I found them at Toys R Us.

Toys R Us also had Barbie dolls on sale along with newer dolls, such as the DC Super Hero Girls dolls.

I saw one discount bin full of polar bear Christmas ornaments.

I found a few dolls and plush based on Disney’s Moana movie and Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. video game series.

I decided to make one purchase. The woman at the cash register offered me a free frequent rewards card. I accepted it even though I rarely shop at Toys R Us these days and I don’t know when I’ll make another trip to any Toys R Us store in my area. (Like I wrote earlier, most of those stores are located at least a 30-minute trip from my home.) I have to admit that the card is pretty colorful.

Here’s the one purchase I made. I bought a $15 Fingerlings monkey for the heck of it. I shot a video of the first time I played with this baby monkey, which I’ll write about in my next post.

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Ever since Donald Trump has gotten into office there have been so many incidents of ICE agents cracking down on immigrants and deporting them along with so many stories about families who have literally been torn apart. To be fair, Barack Obama’s administration did a lot of deportations as well but those flew under the radar because President Obama was the first African American president and there were plenty of people leery about criticizing him although one could easily criticize President Obama’s policies without resorting to racism. Since Donald Trump is an old white guy who ran his campaign based on his racist imagery of Mexican drug dealers and rapists and building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, there is now more media attention on those deportations—most of which affect immigrants with black or brown skin. (And that’s not to mention President Trump’s recent descriptions of Haiti and Africa as “shithole countries.”)

Recently a white immigrant was rounded up by ICE agents and they are trying to deport him as well. Lukasz Niec was a guy who was born in Poland and he was brought to the U.S. with his parents back in 1979 when he was only five years old. (At that time Poland was a communist country that was aligned with the Soviet Union and it did the usual communist repression against its own citizens so it was understandable why his parents wanted to leave.) When he was a teenager he got into some minor troubles with the law. He got a green card and he decided to straighten out his life by going to college then to medical school. He became a doctor and he eventually got married and had two children. His most recent offense was an arrest on a domestic violence charge in 2013 but he was later found not guilty by a jury.

Those brief brushes with the law were enough to provide an excuse for ICE agents to round up this guy and begin proceedings to have him deported back to Poland. This is a country that this guy had not even lived in since he was five years old. He has long since forgotten how to speak Polish and he has no immediate family ties in that nation.

When I saw this story blow up on social media I read social media posts from people acting surprised that the Trump Administration would focus on a white man. As I think back to my childhood, I have to say that I’m far less surprised that his ICE agents would pick on a Pole than most people.

Let me give you a brief history lesson here. There was a time prior to the Industrial Revolution where most Americans considered themselves to be WASPs—White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Beginning with the Industrial Revolution there were plenty of immigrants from many European nations, including Poland. While many Polish immigrants had white skin, they were not Anglo-Saxons so, according to attitudes of the time, they didn’t count as being real white people. On top of it, most Poles were either Roman Catholics or Jews, which made them be seen more as outsiders by the WASPs. Given that attitude, it was no wonder that hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan considered Jews and Roman Catholics to be just as bad as African Americans.

Even though Poles gradually were assimilated into the melting pot, there were stereotypes that still persisted. I was born in Baltimore, where many Polish immigrants settled, and I grew up in nearby Glen Burnie. Even though my family lived next door to a Polish American family and there were plenty of people of Polish descent, I still grew up hearing Poles being described as “Dumb Pollocks.” I heard a lot of Dumb Pollock jokes being told on the playground while I grew up. Here’s one such example, which was among the milder Dumb Pollock jokes I heard:

Q: Take Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Smart Pollock, and the Dumb Pollock. Put them all into a single room together. Place a $5 bill in the middle of that room. Who would get that $5 bill?

A: The Dumb Pollock because there is no such thing as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, or a Smart Pollock.

The Dumb Pollock stereotype didn’t end with just jokes. There was a liquor store that I used to go with my parents when they made an occasional trip there. That was because that store had a shelf that sold novelty gag gifts and I loved looking at them. Among the gag gifts sold was a box marked “Polish Gun.” When you open the lid, you see a gun with the barrel bent backwards making it look like you would get struck with a bullet when you pull the trigger.

But that’s not all. When my family used to make its annual summer vacation to Ocean City, I remember the raunchy t-shirts. Among the t-shirts I remembered was an illustration of a guy looking down his own pants with the slogan “Polish Peeping Tom.” Another shirt had an illustration of a guy in a boat holding a fishing rod where the hook was on the back of the guy’s pants that had the slogan “Polish Fisherman.”

Even though I lived next door to a Polish American family and grew up attending a Roman Catholic parish that had Polish Americans among its membership, I still heard those Dumb Pollock jokes. Given that Donald Trump spent his entire life in New York City, which was another place where Polish Immigrants settled in large numbers during the Industrial Revolution, I’m sure that he heard those Dumb Pollock jokes as well. Except he was more insulated from actually knowing any person of Polish descent than I was because he grew up in a wealthy neighborhood in a WASP family (two of his grandparents were German immigrants and his mother was from Scotland) and his father was arrested back in the 1920s for attending a Ku Klux Klan rally. (Like I wrote a few paragraphs ago, the KKK hated Roman Catholics and Jews just as much as it hated African Americans.)

Growing up I used to love telling Dumb Pollock jokes as much as the other kids on the playground. But it has been many years since I told those jokes because I don’t find them funny anymore. What happened? I can’t say for sure but there were a few factors. First of all I grew up and I became exposed to more sophisticated adult humor (especially from watching TV shows like Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Saturday Night Live) that made those Dumb Pollock jokes seem stupid and childish by comparison. Then I went away to college at the University of Maryland at College Park where I met a variety of people and there was sort of an unsaid social thing against telling ethnic jokes of any kind. (At least that was the case among the groups of people I socialized with.)

What finally got me to quit telling Dumb Pollock jokes for good was when I converted to Unitarian Universalism a year after I graduated from college but shortly before I got married. That faith has seven principles, the first of which is this:

The inherent worth and dignity of every person.

In a nutshell every person is entitled to being respected no matter what that person’s background is. Telling Dumb Pollock jokes—or any other type of ethnic jokes—dehumanizes a certain category of people simply because they were born that way and it’s not something that one can control.

While I managed to let go of the Dumb Pollock stereotype, it’s obvious that President Trump has not. In fact back in the 1980’s it was said that he broke the law by hiring illegal Polish immigrants to work on building his Trump Tower without even providing the proper safety equipment necessary to do the job. He paid them $4 per hour, which is far less than the minimum wage at that time. Of course that was when he even bothered to pay them. Many of these workers weren’t paid at all yet they were forced to continue working on that building project because they were threatened with being reported to authorities and deported. If that weren’t bad enough, here is what one Polish worker said about his time working on the Trump Tower project:

Trump also hired a smaller crew of unionized demolition workers who teased their nonunion Polish counterparts. “They told me and my friends that we are stupid Poles and we are working for such low money,” Adam Mrowiec, one of the Polish workers, later testified.

So here is a man who was probably exposed to the same Dumb Pollock jokes that I was, except he grew up in a more insulated environment than I was so he never learned to consider Polish people as being anything other than Dumb Pollocks to be used and discarded for his own purposes just like inanimate objects. And if these Dumb Pollocks aren’t useful to him, then they should just go away.

With a mindset like that, it’s no wonder the Trump Administration has sent ICE agents after a Polish American man to be deported from the only country he has ever known to a nation that he hasn’t seen since he was five years old.

If you’re a Polish American who voted for Donald Trump back in 2016 expecting that he will—to quote his campaign slogan—Make America Great Again, then the joke’s on you since he’s basically a con artist who could care less for anyone who isn’t a wealthy WASP like he is and who basically looks down on people like you.

I’m old enough to remember Oprah Winfrey back when she started as a local news anchor for WJZ-TV Channel 13 in Baltimore. She eventually went on to co-host a local daytime talk show at that same station called People Are Talking (with Richard Sher), which I used to watch with my grandmother (who watched me during the week while my parents both worked) whenever I was home on summer vacation.

I even saw both Oprah Winfrey and Richard Sher in person once when they made a live appearance at the since-demolished Harundale Mall in Glen Burnie. I happened to be going to the mall that day for a different reason (that I’ve long since forgotten) without knowing about them making a special appearance and I saw them there. (I know it was after I had gotten my drivers license because I remember being at that mall alone.) They were chatting with fans and signing autographs. I still remember Oprah Winfrey with the Afro hairstyle that she wore at the time and wearing some funky mod 1970s chic brown outfit with boots while Richard Sher looked relatively drab in a typical business suit and tie. While I thought it was cool seeing them in the flesh, I didn’t bother with getting an autograph because I felt that they were just a pair of local celebrities who weren’t well-known outside of the Baltimore metropolitan area. If Phil Donahue, who had one of the highest-rated nationwide daytime talk shows at the time, had been there I definitely would’ve made an effort to get an autograph from him.

I regretted that decision years later when Oprah left Baltimore for Chicago, where she began her solo daytime talk show and it was soon syndicated to other TV stations nationwide. She eventually became a bigger phenomenon than Phil Donahue (whom she would ultimately beat in the ratings for having the highest-rated nationwide talk show in the US). She also built her media empire (which includes her own cable channel and monthly magazine) and has appeared in a few movies.

A few nights ago Oprah Winfrey gave this rousing speech at the Golden Globe Awards.

I generally avoid award shows like the plague (because I personally find them to be exercises in boredom and tedium) so I didn’t hear about it until I was checking Facebook the next day. As the day went on I started seeing some of my Facebook friends posting “Oprah Winfrey for President in 2020” and “Oprah 2020.”

I’ll admit that, in some ways, Oprah would make a better president than Donald Trump. She grew up in poverty and had to overcome a lot of hurdles in her life and career as being both African American and a woman so she has more direct knowledge of what it’s like to grow up poor without white male privilege than Trump (who was born into a wealthy white family). She doesn’t openly throw tantrums on Twitter nor has she ever publicly resorted to name calling, unlike Trump. She would be less likely to engage in a childish pissing contest with nuclear weapons than Trump (who has bragged on Twitter about how his nuclear button is bigger and works better than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s). She’s more well-spoken than Trump and I’d doubt she’d make up nonsensical English words like “covfefe” and “bigly.” While I’ve heard that Trump doesn’t even read books, Oprah Winfrey has not only read books but she used to have an ongoing book club on her old talk show where she would pick a book for people to read and she would devote episodes to discussing that book. And I think she would have a better work ethic because I don’t see her taking golfing trips every single weekend unlike Trump (who has taken more golfing trips in his first year of office than his predecessor, Barack Obama, did in his entire eight years in office).

I’ll also admit that it would be cool if someone whom I knew as a local Baltimore-area personality and saw once in person years ago would ultimately become President of the United States.

However, despite my past memories of Oprah Winfrey and my personal opinion about how she would be a step up from the orange-skinned buffoon who currently occupies the White House, I really can’t get behind the “Oprah 2020” movement at all. That’s because of the fact that she has the same problem that Donald Trump has: She has never held any kind of elected office before. That’s a serious handicap when it comes to the highest office in the land. Look at how Trump’s presidency has been adversely affected by his lack of previous experience as an elected official.

The only television talk show host who could even remotely be qualified for the White House that I could think of would be Jerry Springer and that’s because he once served as the mayor of Cincinnati before he began his television career. (However, that doesn’t mean I think he should run. Not only is there his less-than-stellar reputation stemming from his controversial talk show but he hasn’t held elected office since 1977.)

If Oprah Winfrey really wants to become president, she should start by getting elected to a lower office (such as a seat on the Chicago city council or as a representative in the Illinois state legislature) then moving up to a seat on the national level in either the Senate or the House of Representatives. If she does that, and if I like how she voted on the issues, I would definitely vote for her as the first female African American President of the United States.

Otherwise I would prefer someone with actual experience as an elected official. There are other African American women who would be more qualified for the White House than Oprah Winfrey simply because they are currently serving as elected officials, such as Maxine Waters and Nina Turner.

After all, just because someone gives a rousing speech at the Golden Globe Awards doesn’t mean that she is capable of being President of the United States. Giving great speeches and being able to run this country on a day-to-day basis (including dealing with Congress, signing bills into law, and trying to maintain relationships with different countries) are two different things.

Besides, haven’t this country learned from Donald Trump’s crazy first year in office about the pitfalls of electing a television personality with no previous elected political experience to the nation’s highest office?

UPDATE (January 10, 2018): The Washington Post has a list of some of the less savory things in Oprah’s past that could possibly haunt her on the campaign trail (such as her past friendship with Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape) should she decide to run for president.

I recently went to a Royal Farms Store in Glen Burnie where I had take-out fried chicken with wedge fries. It was really excellent. There’s a reason why Food & Wine Magazine had named it “…best fast-food chicken…” (Okay, I don’t read that magazine but the store had the sign with that quote.)

Royal Farms Store, Glen Burnie, Maryland

I also saw some Bic lighters in that store featuring Run-DMC, Eminem, and Outkast.

Royal Farms Store, Glen Burnie, Maryland

I saw a couple of dinosaur-related stuff at Target. One was a jigsaw puzzle.

Dinosaur Stuff at Target

The other was a virtual reality set that’s a tie-in with the upcoming Jurassic World movie.

Dinosaur Stuff at Target

Click here to learn more.

Late last week I uploaded a new story on TopBuzz.com. It’s about the Christmas house that’s on Delmar Avenue in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Yes, I’ve written about this house in this blog before but I wrote about it again in the hopes of getting a larger audience (and maybe earn some money). This year I noticed that the house had added something in one of the upper windows that produces an animation that simulates a factor churning out toys. I shot an updated video showing that new effect and it’s embedded in that article along with some new photos I took this year.

In case you’ve missed it, you can also read the first article I wrote for TopBuzz about the opening of the first medical cannabis dispensary in Silver Spring, Maryland and it included an appearance by former Baltimore Ravens football player Eugene Monroe.

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I was born in Baltimore. I lived there until I was five years old, when my family moved to the nearby suburban town of Glen Burnie. My parents kept on telling me how good I had it in Glen Burnie even though the kids called me “retarded” and many of them refused to have anything to do with me from elementary school all the way to high school. My mother used to tell me that having nice things was more important than having friends while I was raised in a Roman Catholic faith that taught me that materialism was bad. (Yeah, I got some total mixed-messages here. LOL!)

I even had this bully swipe my yearbook when I was in middle school and signed some hateful stuff in it without even asking me if she could sign it. I finally got my revenge a few years ago when I uploaded both her autograph and her yearbook photo in this blog. It’s an equal punishment that fits the original crime because just as her signature in my yearbook can never be fully erased (because it was written in ink on glossy paper), my post about her can never be fully scrubbed from the Internet because there’s always the chance that someone has made a screenshot of it or it’s backed up somewhere else online. Don’t believe me? Look at what happened when Anthony Scaramucci deleted his tweets after he was hired as the White House Communications Director. (Scaramucci would be fired after serving just 10 days at his new job but that’s a different story altogether.)

My life definitely improved when I attended the University of Maryland at College Park then I permanently moved away from Glen Burnie when I got married 10 months after I finished college.

I’m a member of this Facebook group called “I remember Harundale when there was a Mall…” where people reminisce about their pasts in Glen Burnie. I tend to lurk there more than I post because I really don’t have too many positive memories about my life in Glen Burnie. I enjoy people posting about their memories of places that no longer exist, such as the Ritchie Drive-In Movie Theater and the local Italian Delight pizza parlor. Every now and then I see a negative snarky post (such as complaining about Latinos or people who qualify for Section 8 housing moving into Glen Burnie) written by someone that only serves to reinforce my desire to never move back to Glen Burnie.

Today I saw this post in that Facebook group that I hadn’t seen before from a guy who was reminiscing about a local woman. Apparently she was known as Fort Meade Annie and she was known to the locals in the 1950’s and 1960’s long before my family had even moved to Glen Burnie. I don’t recall ever seeing anyone on the streets of Glen Burnie that even matches her description so I guess she must have either moved away or died by the time my family arrived in that town.

Fort Meade Annie was frequently seen in public wearing a raincoat and scarf while carrying an umbrella, regardless of rain or sunshine. She would wear this outfit all year long in both hot weather and cold weather. Apparently she was named Fort Meade Annie because, according local legend, she was once engaged to someone who was stationed at Fort Meade but the wedding never happened because he was either killed in a war or he left her for someone else. I don’t even know how true this backstory is or if it’s something that the locals made up about her in order to make her seem even more pathetic than she really was. From the descriptions I read in that post about her, it sounds like she had some serious mental health issues at the time. In any case the local teens used to taunt her a lot.

So this guy writes about that one summer night in the early 1960’s when he and his friends decide to drive in a car looking for Fort Meade Annie so they could taunt her. They found her at the right moment when they saw her walking along the street while they were stopped at a traffic light. They began to taunt her and she responded by attacking the car with her umbrella so forcefully that the teens started to freak out and they drove away before the traffic light turned green. The car suffered minor damage to the windshield wipers and some minor scratches while one of the youths worried about getting in trouble with his father since he was driving his father’s car that night.

I was reading this story hoping that he and his friends learned a lesson from this encounter by acting more mature and compassionate towards others. But, no, here is how he ended his story.

So did we learn a lesson from this adventure? Probably not. We continued with stupid behavior. Calling out to the girls on the street. Jokes, sometime cruel jokes, at other’s expense. Starting trouble. Tormenting people. We kept doing all the same crazy stuff we always did. We just never did it to Annie again.

Oh, great, they stopped taunting Fort Meade Annie but they continued their harassment of other people and were pretty much assholes. They were only lucky that their other victims didn’t attack them or their car like Fort Meade Annie did.

What’s even worse is that he and his friends took the wrong lesson from this incident. The lesson isn’t “Don’t ever mess with Fort Meade Annie again because she can use her umbrella to defend herself.” The real lesson is that you don’t ever verbally harass strangers who are just minding their own businesses. The fact that he and his friends continued to harass other people after their unfortunate encounter with Fort Meade Annie shows them to be such total morons that I’m amazed they were even able to graduate from high school at all.

So basically this guy writes a post about how he was an asshole teenager who seems to be proud that he continued to be an asshole and he also seems to relish his memories of his youth when he and his friends taunted someone who obviously had mental health issues. I don’t consider this guy to be anything other than a coward. Because only cowards would stoop low enough to attack a mentally ill person who was just wandering the streets minding her own business and not harming anybody.

As J.K. Rowling once wrote in one of her Harry Potter books, “If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” I definitely got the true measure of that Facebook writer and it’s not very big or impressive at all.

What if Fort Meade Annie (or the other women who were victims of his and his friends’ drive-by harassment) had been this writer’s grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, cousin, girlfriend, wife, daughter or niece? Would he still write on Facebook about the fond memories he had when this woman was harassed?

What’s even worse is that there were people who were praising his writing skills and were urging him to write a book about his youth in Glen Burnie. I’ll admit that he is a good writer. But I can’t endorse anyone who not only acted like a total douchebag towards someone who was mentally ill but continued this douche behavior towards others and seems proud enough of those douchebag memories to write a post on Facebook bragging about it.

This post was originally written in June but the moderator of the Facebook group decided to bump it back to the top of the group because today someone else wrote a less-offensive post asking if anyone remembered Fort Meade Annie. At least the people in that thread aren’t talking about harassing her for no good reason. [UPDATE OCTOBER 31, 2017: Apparently that second thread about Fort Meade Annie turned abusive since it was deleted and a new notice from one of the moderators mentioned why it was deleted. Yet the original jerk’s post that inspired this rant remains online.]

I’m glad that this guy is older than me so I never had to endure this jerk’s behavior myself when I was growing up. (Instead I had to endure other Glen Burnie assholes who at least have the decency to not make Facebook posts about their fond memories of their youths as being douchebags.) He is one guy I would never want to even meet online, never mind even meeting him in person. I certainly as hell would never do any kind of business transaction with him.

Seriously if this guy ever writes his memoir, he should just title it Confessions of a Glen Burnie Asshole.

The more I read about the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville last Saturday, the more horrified I feel, especially towards the despicable terrorist who literally drove his car on top of her.

The biggest irony is that last month, while I was in Glen Burnie checking out the vintage pinball machines and video arcade games at Crabtowne, USA, I saw this yellow pickup truck in the parking lot with this despicable bumpersticker.

At the time I was horrified by the message of that bumpersticker but I underestimated the possibility that the driver of that pickup truck may be potentially be a terrorist, just like that white supremacist terrorist driver in Charlottesville and that terrorist ISIL driver who also drove over people in Nice, France on Bastille Day last month. I took that photo by zooming the camera lens up close but I declined to take a wider shot of that pickup truck where I would get his license plate mainly because I naively thought that he was entitled to his personal opinions no matter how repugnant they are to me.

Now I deeply regret not getting a shot at his license plate, especially in light of what happened in Charlottesville. Anyone who advocates running over protesters is at least a terrorist sympathizer and may potentially be a terrorist himself.

All I remember is that this yellow pickup truck has Maryland license plates.

I am kicking myself, especially since I recall the numerous times my mother used to tell me that I should learn how to put myself out for others and I totally dropped the ball on this one.

I’m only writing this post in the hopes that anyone who lives or works in the Baltimore-Glen Burnie area will be on the lookout for this truck and, this time, take photos including his license plate and share it on social media (especially with the Twitter user YesYoureRacist). I know I will do the same if I ever go back to Glen Burnie and I see that pickup truck again because terrorism has no place in this society.

I had a pretty busy Saturday before the Fourth of July holiday. I drove my car to the North Linthicum light rail station where I saw this cool looking art truck. Then I took the light rail to the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium where I saw this excellent toy show that was literally a trip down memory lane for me.

As I went back to retrieve my car at the North Linthicum stop I decided to make a short drive to my hometown of Glen Burnie since I was in the area anyway. I went to Ann’s Dari-Creme because the weather has finally gotten hot enough that I felt a craving for a milk shake from that place. It’s a fun place to visit, which you can see in the photos I took for this blog post back in 2015.

The Accuweather app on my smartphone went off notifying me of a major thunderstorm that was passing through the region. The thunderstorm started after I ordered my milkshake and I was drinking it in the car. I decided to just stay in the car consuming my milkshake until the worst of the storm passed.

Afterwards I decided to heat towards Crabtowne USA. I initially thought about eating dinner there then playing its vintage pinball and video arcade games until I saw that the restaurant part was crowded. (I wasn’t surprised since it was the weekend before the Fourth of July.) I decided to just stick with playing the games and I had a great time. So did the kids who were riding the one of the mechanical horses in the next photo.

The crab statue outside the place was all ready for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday with its own little American flag.

The next photo shows what the sky looked like outside of Crabtowne USA, which still showed the effects from that short yet intense thunderstorm which passed through the area.

And then there is the next photo, which reminds me that, yes, I am in Glen Burnie and it provided me with yet another reason why I’m not exactly rushing to move back to that town.

“I Don’t Brake for Protesters”?!? What the ever loving fuck?!? Has this guy ever had an American Government class in high school? Had he even read the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, especially the sections about people having the right to peaceably assemble and allowing the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances?!?

I don’t see this kind of shit in Montgomery County or Prince George’s County. I don’t see this in Baltimore City or Howard County or Annapolis or Crofton. But I go to Glen Burnie and I see this shit and it makes my blood boil. This comes on the heels of seeing Donald Trump Make America Great Again signs on a few front lawns and that barber shop with a Confederate flag and that former Baltimore City police officer’s ill-fated attempt to do a benefit concert in Glen Burnie as Al Jolson in blackface. I wouldn’t be surprised if that asshole “I Don’t Brake for Protesters” pickup truck driver was among those people who were protesting NPR tweeting texts from the Declaration of Independence on July 4.

That truck provided yet another reason why I am pretty grateful that I no longer have to live in Glen Burnie if I don’t want to.

Glen Burnie Mall used to be one of my favorite places to hang out as a teenager. It had this awesome video arcade place where I played many of the popular pinball machines and video games of the era (i.e. Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Joust, Ms. Pac-Man, etc.). I loved the Record Bar, which was this large glass kiosk that was placed in the middle of the mall where people could buy albums, 8-tracks, and cassette tapes. Plus there were the Chess King and Merry-Go-Round stores, both of which sold trendy clothes for the teens and young adults of a certain era. One of the mall’s big anchors was Montgomery Ward’s, where my mother used to occasionally find clothes for me. (She bought the bulk of my clothes from Hutzler’s and Hochschild-Kohn’s, two now-defunct department stores.) The other big anchor was—and currently still is—Toys ‘R’ Us.

In the years since I left Glen Burnie that mall had undergone major changes, especially after Montgomery Ward’s closed when the entire department store chain went belly-up back in 2001. For a time it seemed like the mall was thriving because it had managed to lure Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and a few chain restaurants. The mall even changed its name to The Centre at Glen Burnie.

It wasn’t until I visited that mall in person in 2014 when I discovered the real story. Despite the arrival of these newer stores and restaurants, they were not only built as separate structures around the mall but whoever designed these newer structures failed to provide a back opening that went into the mall itself. So if a shopper goes to—let’s say—Target and that shopper decides that he/she wants to visit the rest of the mall while he/she is there anyway, that person needs to exit Target then walk some distance outside until that person finds a door that directly leads into the mall. From what I saw, it looked like Toys ‘R’ Us is the only major store that still has a mall entrance and that’s because it is located in a store space that originally was built with the rest of the mall back in the early 1960’s.

As a result of that stupid building plan that didn’t provide mall entrances to the newer stores and restaurants, the mall itself started going on this downward spiral where fewer people actually went inside the mall, which led to more and more stores gradually closing. Here is what the mall looked like when I was there in 2014.

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That entire mall was a shadow of its former self, which made me feel sad since it was once a popular mall to shop at in Glen Burnie.

I didn’t return to The Centre at Glen Burnie until last year, when I had to make frequent trips to Glen Burnie because my mother was staying at a hospital there. I tried making the most of a stressful situation by checking out some of my old haunts before and after my visits, among them was The Centre at Glen Burnie. I rued my decision to visit that mall again because it had deteriorated further than my last visit because more stores were closed. Here are the photos I took during that visit.

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Today I was checking out the I remember Harundale when there was a Mall… group on Facebook and someone posted a recent photo. According to that poster, all of the stores inside the mall are now closed. A security guard is seated in the middle of the mall and, according to that poster, his job is to discourage people from taking pictures inside of the mall. (It’s obvious that this person managed to sneak in one photograph since he posted it.)

It’s sad that this mall from my childhood is now pretty much gone. The whole demise could have been prevented had the newer stores and restaurants been built with back entrances into the mall so people would be encouraged to shop at the other stores located inside of the mall. Sheesh! At least I still have the memories of that mall’s glory days. 😦

This Throwback Thursday post is more grim than usual but it’s something that happened in my past while I was growing up in Glen Burnie, Maryland between the ages of 5 and 19 (when I transferred to the University of Maryland at College Park after spending my freshman year at Anne Arundel Community College).

Okay, I’ll admit that I wasn’t happy growing up in that town mainly because I went through school being called “retarded” or “retard.” I had a bully swipe my yearbook in middle school about a day or two before school let out for the year (and when we were both scheduled to transfer to the high school the following September) and write some hateful stuff where she admitted that she loved to bully me. I finally turned tables on her a couple of years ago by putting that original yearbook signature along with her name (or the name that she went by at the time) and her yearbook photograph online so now anyone who does a Google search on her name will see that post turn up. And it’s a well-known fact that once you put something online, it will never fully go away so her name, her photograph, and her little hateful prank is enshrined online for all time just like her signature is unfortunately enshrined in my yearbook for all time (she wrote it in ink so I can’t erase it and even using White-Out won’t make it fully go away as if it had never been written in the first place).

Last summer I revisited my old high school for the first time in many years (when the school was closed for the year) and I took a photo of my hand giving the finger to that school.

If all that weren’t enough, my teenage years even included a murder that didn’t affect me directly but it still shocked me because I was a classmate of a girl who was the older sister of one of the murder victims. At the time that murder received extensive publicity in the local media. As I was doing a Google search on this case last week, I saw that this story had spread to other cities as well because I saw stories about it published in newspapers in Utica, New York, New Castle, Pennsylvania, and Boca Raton, Florida.

Eventually that murder receded in my mind as I grew up and left Glen Burnie. There was one time when I was reminded of this case as an adult when I was working at one of my old jobs several years ago. I was speaking with a co-worker one day and he admitted that he had lived in Glen Burnie at one point in the late 1970’s so we started talking about our common experiences with that town and he mentioned that case.

That case receded back into my mind again until last week. I joined a Facebook group called I remember Harundale when there was a mall and it’s basically a nostalgia group primarily focused on the now-demolished Harundale Mall (it was replaced by a shopping center, which I finally took pictures of last year) but the group frequently talk about other places in Glen Burnie as well.

Last week a guy made a post there about those long-ago murders that involved my former high school classmate’s younger sister. At first I wasn’t sure why he would want to dredge up something like that until I did a Google search under the murderer’s name and I found that this year is the 40th anniversary of those murders. I half-expected to see a Wikipedia page on this but—surprise!—there is no such page. I found a couple of old Washington Post articles along with an online archived collection of Baltimore Sun photos from that time so I’m going to recount the story of those murders right here.

Long before future child beauty queen-turned-murder victim JonBenét Ramsey was even born, a shocking murder took place in my hometown of Glen Burnie that was just as senseless as Ramsey’s murder would be years later.

The Old Mill Senior High School classmate I mentioned a few paragraphs ago was in the same grade as me and we even shared a couple of classes together. Her family went to the same Roman Catholic Church as my family but I didn’t see her often mainly because I was taken to the 9 a.m. mass every Sunday and I believe that her family may have sometimes gone to the 9 a.m. mass while going to mass at other times on other Sundays. While she seemed nice and she had never teased or bullied me, we weren’t close friends mainly because she lived with her family in a different neighborhood located two miles from the neighborhood where I grew up.

This classmate had a younger sister named Ann Brzeszkiewicz, who was eight at the time. Ann used to frequently play with two sisters who lived in the same neighborhood—eight-year-old Theresa Hogan and 10-year-old Deborah Hogan. The three girls frequently played in the nearby woods, which wasn’t unusual because many kids used to frequently play in those woods. In fact it was said that one could see a lot of forts made from found materials that the kids built in those woods.

As recounted in this 1977 Washington Post story, on Sunday, October 9, 1977 the three girls, along with another 10-year-old girl, had attempted to go to the woods that afternoon but they found that the trails were too soaked from a recent rainstorm. The four of them went to the Brzeszkiewicz home where they played some more. The 10-year-old girl left at 6 p.m. leaving behind Ann Brzeszkiewicz and the Hogan sisters. An hour later the three young girls decided to leave Ann’s home to go back to the woods.  A neighbor last saw them at 7 p.m. as they headed towards the woods. But then they failed to return home. The Hogan parents called the Brzeszkiewicz home around 8:30 p.m. to see if their daughters were still there only to find that none of the girls were present. The Brzeszkiewicz father got in his car and drove to all of the girls’ usual play areas and shined a flashlight around while calling out their names—to no avail.

The parents soon called the police, who conducted an all-night massive search of the area. On Monday morning they made a very grisly discovery in the woods—all three girls were found stabbed to death while lying face down in a shallow muddy stream. Two of the girls were stabbed more than 30 times while the third girl was stabbed a dozen times in the back.

To say that those murders were a shock to the town was an understatement. The police made an effort to search for the murderer. My parents began to irrationally fear that I would be killed next (my parents were extremely strict and overprotective of me when I was growing up—they were helicopter parents long before that became a hip trendy yuppie thing) and they were telling me not to go into this wooded shortcut I used to take when walking to the high school mainly because it shaved five minutes off my walk. (Never mind the fact that the murders took place two miles away from where I lived.) I secretly took that shortcut anyway because I was mentally in a dark place regarding the kids in school calling me “retarded” and having parents who were so strict that I used to secretly envy the kids whose parents used to give them very little attention and supervision. At the time I felt that the person would do me a big favor if he would kill me just like he killed those girls.

I never faced the killer myself (this blog would not even exist if I had). A few days after the bodies were found the police arrested a 16-year-old boy named Stuart L. Kreiner, who lived in the same neighborhood as the three girls. He was turned in by his own father, who discovered the evidence that his son was involved with the crime. Stuart Kreiner had also attended my high school the year before the murders. I never knew him mainly because he was in a grade ahead of me, which meant that he was a sophomore while I was a freshmen. On top of it, my high school had around 4,000 students at the time and he wasn’t a jock or involved in any activities nor was he the most popular guy on campus so it was easy for me to overlook him. I recently searched through my freshman yearbook looking for his photograph only to find that he was listed in a text-only list featuring “Sophomores Not Pictured.” (Apparently he was absent on Picture Day and made no effort to submit his photo to the yearbook at a later date.)

After the school year ended he transferred to Martin Spaulding High School, which was—and still is—the main Catholic high school in Glen Burnie. He had just started attending classes in his new school a month before the murders.

Stuart Kreiner’s arrest shocked many people who knew him because he didn’t look like a stereotypical murderer as depicted in the movies. He was a clean-cut quiet boy who shunned drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. He had never gotten into any kind of trouble with the police prior to the murders. He sung in a choir at the local Presbyterian church. He was involved in Little League a few years earlier but that was about it for extracurricular activities. According to accounts written at the time, he was so upright about adhering to his family’s strict and rigid rules that he became an outcast among his peers. The other kids used to call him “sissy,” “straight arrow,” and “weird.” The teasing he received was one of the reasons why he switched schools. (It was also said that his parents wanted him to receive a more Christian-centered education.) His ostracism by his peers was the reason why he used to frequently play with kids five or six years younger than him. One of his unidentified younger playmates told The Washington Post that Stuart told him/her that “the big kids played too rough.”

Why Stuart Kreiner murdered those girls remains a mystery to this day. The police found no evidence of the girls being tortured. Nor did they find any evidence that they were raped or sexually assaulted. There was no evidence that he planned those murders days or weeks before. It was like one day he was playing with those girls in the woods when, out of the blue, his mind snapped and he stabbed them to death. Or maybe he wasn’t even playing with those girls but, rather, playing with himself. I found this post on Facebook that had an interesting theory as to why he killed those girls.

I hadn’t been selling houses very long when this had taken place and the parents had left the area, leaving their vacant homes on the market. My office was near Hospital Dr. on Crain Hwy across the street from a 7/11. Many mornings I found I was getting coffee the same time a couple of detectives of AA Cty [Anne Arundel County Police] were. Having shown those homes I gave the story a lot of thought. There had been much in the newspaper about how strict the parents were and their strong ties to church – almost too strict it sounded to me. I developed a theory and related it to my new acquaintances. Their eyebrows shot up and they said we cannot confirm that but you have no idea how close you are to ‘what’ it is suspected happened. The young man was in a tent where he thought he had privacy. What is a young male just feeling his hormones not supposed to do? So thinking he had his privacy he had at it all by himself until 3 little girls wondered along and probably had no idea on what activity they stumbled. Being afraid of his father the lad thought his dad would ‘kill’ him…so he silenced anyone who would tell. ~~If my theory was correct – then dad should have been in jail right along side of his son. But the hypothisis as to “why” was never in the newspaper, only the question along with the facts about dad being very strict and active in church.

I still remember seeing newspaper photographs of the funeral for those three girls and seeing my classmate seated among the mourners. The three girls were buried together at Glen Haven Memorial Park in Glen Burnie. My classmate was out of school the week of the funeral and she may have taken the following week off as well but I don’t remember for sure. I remember she returned to school for a month or so then she stopped coming and I never saw her again. I later learned from the other students that the Brzeszkiewicz family decided to move away from Glen Burnie soon after the funeral. The Hogan family remained in Glen Burnie as they kept a close eye on the case in their effort to achieve justice for their daughters.

Stuart Kreiner was charged with murder. In October, 1978 (one year after the murders), he avoided trial when he pleaded guilty as part of a controversial plea-bargain where, instead of going to jail, he would be sent to Patuxent, the state facility offering a wide range of psychological treatment for prisoners deemed capable of rehabilitation. The doctors there were given leeway in determining when Kreiner would be deemed rehabilitated enough for release back into society.

There was outcry over this at the time as people feared that he could be released back on the streets after staying at Patuxent a year or two despite murdering three girls. It turned out that he was sentenced to life at Patuxent and he would not have been eligible for parole until 1990 at the earliest. Despite that, the case prompted a change in the state law so there hasn’t been a similar type of plea-bargain for murder since.

The murders soon receded from my mind as I focused on graduating from high school and getting the hell out of Glen Burnie as soon as possible. My life became better once I transferred to the University of Maryland at College Park and I was able to meet people who never knew me as a child so they weren’t prone to calling me “retarded.” I also lived away from home so I wasn’t under my parents’ constant supervision and I had to quickly learn how to take care of myself because mom and dad weren’t going to do it for me.

It was during my college years that I learned about Stuart Kreiner’s ultimate fate. In July, 1982, nearly five years after the murders, Kreiner was found dead at Patuxent. He had hung himself with a bedsheet that was attached to the bars of his prison cell. He was 20 years old.

The reason why he committed suicide was just as mysterious as the reason why he killed those girls five years earlier. He left behind a note for his family but the contents of that note were never publicly disclosed.  Two years earlier Kriener was transferred to the prison area with the least security as a reward for good behavior. According to prison officials, Kreiner had shown no signs of depression, even as he attended mandatory group counseling sessions. Kreiner had never attempted suicide before just like he had never gotten into any trouble with the law before he murdered those girls. It was like his mind abruptly snapped the night he committed suicide just like it was as if his mind abruptly snapped the night he committed murder.

Kreiner’s suicide closed the chapter on what was the most brutal and bizarre crime that happened in Glen Burnie at the time. As the years went on, those murders receded in the background to be replaced in the public consciousness by other murders like the O.J. Simpson murder trial or JonBenét Ramsey’s murder or the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

I’ve always been surprised that the mainstream media hadn’t done one of those updates on this story unlike those umpteen updates they’ve done about JonBenét’s murder. I guess it’s because, unlike JonBenét, none of those three girls were ever child beauty pageant contestants and there’s the fact that JonBenét’s murder remains unsolved to this day. But there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the deaths of those three girls and the suicide of their murderer (regarding the motives involved) that documentary filmmakers could explore.

Nor has anyone done one of those Lifetime movie dramatizations (or even used it as the basis for one of the episodes of the many Law & Order series that NBC keeps on proliferating) where actors would play the roles of Stuart Kreiner, the three girls, and assorted neighbors and relatives as they reenact the murder, the funeral, the plea-bargain, and Kreiner’s last years at Patuxent. With so many questions about this case, I’d thought that some Hollywood producer would’ve glommed on that story and some TV network would’ve aired it in pursuit of high ratings.

I saw posts on that same Facebook group where people are talking about doing some kind of a candlelight vigil this October to commemorate the 40th anniversary. I don’t know if that will actually happen or not. After all, it’s been many years since it happened and the people involved have either grown older, moved away, or simply died. There are people now living in that neighborhood who simply weren’t there when the murders took place and don’t know anyone who were involved in that case.

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