Tiny Clowns and Shotguns

Every day I come in the office and fix my cup of coffee.  Then I look through the regional papers.  It’s no secret by now that I’m an attorney somewhere in the counties which surround Philadelphia (Ha!  I narrowed it down to a corner of a large state), so part of my morning reading normally includes the Reading Eagle, the premier paper of Reading, Pennsylvania.

Today I caught an article in it about a drunk shooting at clowns.

If you don’t know anything about Reading other than the fact there’s a railroad by that name on the Monopoly board (by the way, it’s “Red-ding,” not “Read-ing”), it’s an economically depressed city in a largely rural county.  It has a high Hispanic population due to immigration and white flight, most of the property in the city proper is owned by out-of-town landlords, and it used to be a bastion of corruption but very little actual crime.  That’s changed, as the government has cleaned up, the crime has gone up, and with the decline of industry the income has disappeared.  Around Reading, people refer to the “City proper” or the “County,” being Berks County, a largely white, largely German, and largely rural area filled with MAGA supporters and honest folk…and a lot of booze.

For much of the 20th Century, Reading was a mob city ruled by Max Hassel and then the infamous Abe Minker.  Minker was so powerful that he was paid to make a man chief of the city police .  He and his crew ran the city, and the crime was of the expected, polite, genteel type for the most part:  whores and gambling.  There is a saying among the old-timers here, namely that “Nobody got murdered in Berks County when Minker ran things.  All the murders happened just over the county line.”  With the decline of Minker, the normal crime returned: drugs, death, and violence on a much more personal scale.  There’s something wrong with a city when you’ve heard attorneys, in hushed voices, muttering that what the city really needs is “the Mob to come back in and run the place.”

Anyhow, the point of filling you in on all this, and trust me if you’re interested I’ve heard enough stories from old-timers to elaborate on Reading and Berks County, is to give you the idea of what this city used to be.  It used to be a “Sin City” for the east coast, a place where everything was permitted and nothing was forbidden.  People from Philly or from NEPA would come to Reading for a weekend, get a room in the Lincoln Hotel, and spend the weekend gambling, drinking, and whoring their way through the city while the crime bosses lived in their nice Mount Penn houses overlooking the city.  That attitude still holds true throughout much of Berks County, as people still drink as if they’re on a weekend bender throughout the city, learning it from their fathers and grandfathers.  Most of the time this leads to DUI’s or drunken brawls.

Sometimes, it leads to firing shotguns at clowns.

If you didn’t click the link, here’s the gist of the article:  Police in Berks County responded to a call of a man firing a shotgun inside his apartment in the early morning hours of December 18th.  On entering the home, they apparently found one Nathan Matthias, a 33-year-old man, barely standing with a shotgun in his hands.  I’ll let the Reading Eagle take it from here:

Matthias told police that two small clowns were inside of his house running around and that he had shot at them. The house was searched, and no one was found inside Matthias’ second-floor apartment. A resident was in the first-floor apartment when Matthias discharged his weapon but was unharmed.

First, let’s acknowledge the dedication of these officers.  They came upon an unsteady man with a shotgun who had been firing it in his house.  He explained that he was shooting the gun at “two small clowns” that were “running around” in his house.  The police, being diligent public servants, searched the house to make sure there were no tiny clowns running around.

Police noticed that Matthias’ eyes were bloodshot and asked him if he had been drinking. Matthias told investigators that he had been drinking the previous night and had yet to go to bed. A bottle of vodka was found in his pocket.

This seems like an unnecessary question, but kudos to the officers again for making sure they had the facts straight.  For future reference though, when you come across a man trying to shoot two tiny clowns that are running around his house, the answer to the question “Have you been drinking?” will almost always be “Yes.”

While being questioned outside, Matthias pointed next door and said he still saw clowns on the neighbor’s roof. No clowns were observed.

You know the best part of this?  That’s probably lifted verbatim from the police officer’s report.  You know that some cop, after this call, writing his paperwork out, decided that he needed to be absolutely clear and add the words “No clowns were observed” to make it absolutely clear that this drunk man was not actually being assaulted by midget clowns.

The next time you wonder why I talk the way I do or how I got so goddamn salty, remember Clown Man and understand that this is the area I work in.

-BB