MONDAY, MARCH 19 This week of tragic anniversaries, hapless acid handlers, and the heroic foiling of date rape kicks off with a day of bong-obsessed gravity at the Supreme Court, where today brought arguments in Morse v. Frederick, the latest step in the extended tussle between Deborah Morse, principal of Juneau, Alaska's Juneau-Douglas High School, and Joseph Frederick, a former Juneau-Douglas student whom Principal Morse suspended after he appeared at a school-sanctioned event with a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." As the Associated Press reports, "A bong is a water pipe that is used to smoke marijuana," and Principal Morse believed Frederick's banner—displayed at a public rally to watch the Olympic torch pass through Juneau en route to the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City—bore a "pro-drug message that schools should not tolerate." Morse suspended Frederick for 10 days, and Frederick sued, claiming Morse's actions violated his right to free speech. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, calling Frederick's banner message "vague and nonsensical" and ruling that Principal Morse must compensate Frederick for her actions because she should have known they violated the Constitution.
Still, Morse and the Juneau school district maintain that Frederick's lawsuit impinges on schools' rights to discipline students who promote illegal drugs—a position supported by anti-drug school groups, Kenneth Starr, and the Bush administration. Meanwhile, the ACLU and various Christian groups second Frederick's claims that reversing the appellate ruling would rob students of their constitutional right to free speech. As for the true motive behind the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner, the AP reports that Frederick—now a 23-year-old teaching English overseas—"acknowledged he was trying to provoke a reaction from school administrators with whom he had feuded, but denied that he was speaking out in favor of drugs or anything other than free speech." (Good one—two years after the banner incident, Frederick pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of selling marijuana in Texas.) The Supreme Court will issue its ruling on Frederick's right to sue his principal... sometime. Stay tuned.
TUESDAY, MARCH 20 The week continues with an amazing tale from the San Francisco Chronicle, which today reported on the saga of Joseph Szlamnik, the 43-year-old former employee of the San Francisco Unified School District whose journey to criminal infamy commenced back in May 2005. That's when Szlamnik was seen in a Noe Valley bar with a pretty, petite blond woman with a Russian accent. "She was facing him, and had one of her legs up on the bench seat," reports Karri Cormican, the 23-year-old bar worker who served the pair, whom she described as having "a really great time." But things took an ugly turn when the woman went to the restroom and Cormican saw Szlamnik shake white powder into her Hefeweizen. Cormican immediately alerted the bartender—27-year-old Hannah Bridgeman-Oxley—and the two hatched a plan: Cormican returned to the table and told Szlamnik and his date that the woman's beer had come from a fermented keg. After replacing the tainted Hefeweizen with a fresh Stella Artois, Cormican whisked the adulterated beer to a back room, where she and Bridgeman-Oxley held it up to the light and saw an unmistakable white powder. (At a preliminary hearing last summer, the San Francisco medical examiner's office identified this powder as zaleplon, a prescription sleep aid sold as Sonata.)
After seeing the powder, bartender Bridgeman-Oxley "panicked a little bit," as she told the Chronicle. "We had to figure out a way to keep her away from this man." An elegant inroad was supplied by the California smoking ban, which required Szlamnik's date—identified by the court only as Tatiana K.—to step outside to smoke a cigarette and gave Cormican an opportunity to alert Tatiana to her date's criminal doings. Presenting Tatiana with the powdery Hefeweizen, Cormican explained what she'd seen, and a stunned Tatiana filled in the blanks: She and Szlamnik had met at a salsa-dancing class a few weeks before, and tonight was their first date. Then things got ridiculous, as bartender Bridgeman-Oxley rushed outside to report that Szlamnik had dropped two pills into Tatiana's Stella Artois. Later, these pills would be identified as alprazolam, the anxiety-relieving central-nervous-system depressant sold as Xanax, but on the night of the Mickey-slipping, the pills behaved more like Alka-Seltzer, causing Tatiana's beer to foam over and leaving Szlamnik to frantically wipe up the mess as the three women marched back into the bar to confront him. When Szlamnik tried to accuse Cormican of serving him "another bad beer," Bridgeman-Oxley cut him off:
"Your date's over, mister—she's staying with us." After offering to buy everybody a shot of whiskey, Szlamnik fled, leaving Bridgeman-Oxley to hand the two tainted beers over to police. "These were two heroic people who stopped this crime from happening," said Susan Breall, the judge at the preliminary hearing. After agreeing to plead guilty to transporting and furnishing a narcotic rather than to a crime directly related to a planned sexual assault, Szlamnik was sentenced last week to a year in jail.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21 Speaking of heroic deeds: Today Al Gore testified before Congress, imploring lawmakers to adopt policies to halt global warming. "The planet has a fever," said the former vice president/current Academy Award winner. "If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor." Soon enough Gore's soppy baby metaphor grew teeth: "If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don't say, 'Well, I read a science-fiction novel that told me it's not a problem.' If the crib's on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is flame retardant. You take action." Last Days thanks Gore for fighting the good fight, and would be extremely happy to vote for a Gore/Obama ticket in 2008. We also hope to see "If the crib's on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is flame retardant" splashed across mugs and bumpers by the weekend.
THURSDAY, MARCH 22 The week continues with a beguiling Hot Tip, which kicks off with a libel-deflecting elision. "So last night I was hanging out at the [SEMIPOPULAR NORTHWEST NIGHTSPOT]," writes Hot Tipper Dave, whom we shall quote verbatim from here on. "On Wednesdays they have some live music there. I was boppin' my head to the beat, when some random guy started making small talk with me, feigning interest in the music and bragging about the girls he was with, and something about 'big dollars.' I acknowledged the goodness of girls and music and 'big dollars,' then ignored him. He asked me if I wanted to buy some acid. I gave a polite 'no,' but he asked again, and asked if I like taking it. I told him no and he got kind of aggressive, trying to convince me that his acid was great and I wouldn't have any mental-meltdown stuff. Finally he stopped badgering me and went away. A little while later, with a few beers in me and the would-be seller in earshot, I started loudly laughing about some guy who tried to give me a hard sell on some acid on a Wednesday night at [SEMIPOPULAR NORTHWEST NIGHTSPOT]. Soon the guy disappeared. Was this guy undercover? Or just a complete moron? Another great mystery of the universe."
FRIDAY, MARCH 23 Nothing happened today, unless you count the House of Representatives' approval of a war-spending bill that would require the cessation of U.S. combat operations in Iraq by September 2008.
SATURDAY, MARCH 24 Nothing happened today.
SUNDAY, MARCH 25 The week ends with a grim memorial, as the earth completed its first full spin around the sun since 14-year-old Melissa Moore, 15-year-old Suzanne Thorne, 21-year-old Chris Williamson, 22-year-old Justin Schwartz, 26-year-old Jeremy Martin, and 32-year-old Jason Travers were murdered by some sick-fuck psycho at a Capitol Hill house party. Last Days has nothing new to say about the tragedy, except to reiterate our support of tougher gun-control laws, particularly at the Northwest's many gun shows, where both background checks on buyers and mandatory waiting periods for gun purchases are waived. Condolences and congratulations to the shooting survivors and victims' loved ones, all of whom made it through what must have been a most agonizing and infuriating year.