Wednesday, July 23, 2014

MY PSA for the week: The IRS Phone Scam

Phone message I received this morning:

"Hello, this is John Smith of the Crime Investigation Unit of the IRS. The reason for this call is to let you know a warrant for your arrest has been issued against you and your physical properties. You and your properties have been under surveillance. You must call this number immediately to arrange payment, or the sheriff will appear at your home before close of business today: 206-414-4027."

I took this in stride, though my physical properties were all in a lather.

Later that day, the phone rang. "This is the IRS," I quashed the call.

The third time I heard, "This is the IRS ..." I picked up the phone and told John Smith to go intercourse himself.

Yeah, it's a stupid, funny scam, in line with the Nigerian Bank, your brother is in a Scottish prison and needs bail, kind of funny. But I googled that call-back number to find out just how prevalent this one is. This IRS-arrest gambit has bilked millions of dollars from people who can least afford it. Immigrants, initially; but given their success, now the masterminds have the whole thing on predictive dialing.

So here is my PSA for the month of July. Nothing puts the fear of god into naive citizens, documented immigrants, or undocumented immigrants like a threatening call from a GOV agency. So if you have friends who might be vulnerable to this scam, warn them. Whatever reservations you may have about the IRS, they do not demand payment or threaten arrest over the phone -- ever. And if anyone has an inside track to Home Depot, ask the company to post a warning message next to their pre-paid cash cards -- the cards are how the terrified victims are told to send money. That, or credit card, debit card.

Apparently, this scam is getting VOIP'd from India or Pakistan, so the caller ID actually shows up as IRS with the 800-1040 number.

Over and out.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Who is the tall dark stranger there

When I was four going on five, TV meant two things: Disney's Wonderful World of Color, and Maverick.

I don't recall any of the stories, really. Just Tinkerbell at the Disney opening, turning noir into glorious color. Ting-ting-ting. A transformation quite magical, considering our set was black-and-white.

And the beautiful Bret Maverick, someone I thought a dead ringer for my beautiful Uncle Fred. (Still do, though I haven't seen my Uncle Fred since he got out of prison in the early 80's.)

My parents didn't watch Disney with me and my sister. Mom was probably making cherries jubilee, and Dad out spraying the yard with DDT.

But we all gathered together for Maverick. So did the neighbors. We often watched Maverick at their house, on a TV that didn't need a whack on the head to come to order.

Every Maverick night (Sundays, maybe?) was a huge event for me. With my trusty steed King Emerald (plastic horse head on broomstick -- placeholder for times to come) by my side, I'd be dressed in my best cowboy clothes (hat, fringe jacket), a holster slung from waist to hip, or an approximation of waist and hips, given I had no hips, only a sizable Biafran belly -- a physiology which pushed the cap-loaded six-shooter somewhere near my knees.

Maybe I wouldn't even remember Maverick, except for one night. I had a front row seat, as always. And one of the adults (Tommy, he was nine), crept up to me and whispered in my ear, "Kiss him." My parents were not a demonstrative people, and I knew that I would probably get some words about this back home. But then Tommy said, "I dare you." So when Bret came on, I ran to the TV and kissed the screen. Everyone cheered and applauded; or so it seemed.

I'm sure I did get words back home. But it didn't matter. I had kissed Bret Maverick.

This is the other maverick, my Uncle Fred. (I'm the bald one.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Puppy love

It's a dirty nylon bone, something Albert unearthed from the backyard about a month ago. He now carries it with him everywhere -- to the couch, and into the office when I'm working; he naps with it, sleeps with it. He leaves it at the back door when he goes outside, and picks it up when he returns.

Albert's not a chewer or a toy-kind of guy. Even the tennis balls have to be traveling, at a decent clip, somewhere, otherwise he's not interested in the least.

This was Phoebe's favorite toy. I think it's called a dental bone or something cutesy, Denta-Bone, maybe. She gnawed and worked away at this thing constantly -- her challenge. She removed a few of the rubber spikes -- that was her personal best. Otherwise, this was the only thing she couldn't tear, deconstruct, or eviscerate.

So though this nylon bone may look dirty and disreputable to you, for Albert, it's a scrapbook, a sentimental song, a memory of the girl who taught him never fear the noise of fireworks, thunder, or gardeners. Her motto: Always bark back.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The sporting life

Really, I shouldn't comment on soccer at all. I have a handle on only a few precepts and regulations -- whatever I glean, every other four years during World Cup. This year, for instance, I learned: if you sink your bicuspids in a guy's shoulder, you're outta there, expelled, immediately, whole term. But break someone's back, you won't even have to take a note home to mother.

I like tennis. Maybe the refs aren't so buff, but I understand the rules.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Author, Author

Meet the always wise and ever witty Désirée Zamorano. And why should you, you ask? Well, not just because she's my friend, has a name like a comic book superhero, and mixes a mean Manhattan. Meet Des because she's an author and her latest novel,The Amado Women, published by Cinco Puntos Press, hits book shelves -- virtual and actual -- nationwide, today.

Here's Des, in a piece written specifically for this blog, about The Amado Women, family relationships, and the ties that bind and break us.

Love, Not Blood

I had stepped away from a conversation at a party and when I returned my friend said, “Can you believe she’s taking care of her brother? She doesn't even like him.”

I shrugged and said, “It’s blood, not love."

"You won’t believe it, that’s exactly what she said."

Those family ties that bind — like a barbed wire wrapped around your wrist or an incantation muttered at birth keeping you enmeshed and in a mess — yes, life can be all that.

Or like this: a terrible true story. My paternal family no longer talks to me. Maybe it’s I no longer talk to them — I’m not sure which. I know the root of it, but it’s like this strangely shaped boulder someone gave me twenty years ago, and I have to carry it wherever I go. At times I forget about its weight completely, at others I examine it, and wonder. Today I wonder at the level of immaturity that ran through all of us — at the missing invitations to funerals, at the blocked rapprochements offered across the years. Then I go on about my life at hand.

Family love and alienation are themes that I wanted to explore in my novel. The secrets we hide from each other, yet with a need to be fully seen; the way we can love a relative so much we want to pound on their door to let us back in their lives, yet cannot — the need too painful, the pride too unyielding — or the disinclination fueled by the demanding and mundane tasks of daily life. Funny thing about the quotidian: it is always interrupted.

Here we go, on our way, shoring up our things and putting lots of energy into an attempt to be safe, to be certain, when, as the Buddhists say, the only certainty is change. Watching change unfold in a novel, and the resulting emotional repercussions, sometimes helps us navigate our own actual lives. That is part of the reason I read, and also part of my motivation in writing this particular novel.

I sincerely hope you spend some time getting to know The Amado Women and that the family connections you maintain in your own life are for love.

Désirée Zamorano will be speaking at Skylight Books July 15, 7:30pm and Vroman’s July 30, 7pm. Find out more about Désirée’s novel and her events here.