Suburban Life Is Hell

A group of Maryland neighbors are fighting to escape the clutches of the Evil One.

Thanks to a clerical error 30 years ago, the whimsically titled "Satin Wood Drive" in Columbia, Md., took on demonic overtones and was officially named "Satan Wood Drive."

It's a lovely, tree-lined street with nicely proportioned Colonial houses on large lots. But to its residents, it's a curse.

"You almost feel ostracized, like you're the black sheep of the village," electrical engineer Jamie Aycock told the Baltimore Sun. "Sometimes they look at me like I'm a devil worshipper."

"I went to Sunday school, and this was a word that you never said," transplanted Texan Barbara Chapman told the Columbia Flier. "Nobody in Texas knows that I live on S-A-T-A-N."

Aycock tells store clerks that the street name is pronounced sat-AN-wood.

"I tell them it's French," he told the Sun.

Duane Johnson, an Orthodox priest, sprinkles holy water all through his house every year, but that didn't prevent embarrassment when church headquarters called to confirm the address.

"There's not even an agreement on whether 'Satan Wood' is one word or two," Aycock told the Flier. "On one sign it's one word and on the other [sign] it's two."

And, of course, one day the street froze over, prompting jokes from friends that residents would finally be paid back.

For the past three decades, the unhappy denizens of Satan Wood had simply learned to cope, using the intended "Satin Wood" in correspondence but wincing every time the utility companies, who knew better, sent a bill.

Somehow, they'd been convinced that changing the street name would cost $1,500 per household.

It took the angelic pluck of flight attendant Paige Murphy, a recent arrival on the block, to unfreeze the hellish situation.

Murphy called the Howard County Planning Department (search) and discovered that salvation carried a far more affordable price: signatures from 19 of the street's 21 homeowners and $2,581.20 in U.S. currency.

Gathering the signatures was easy enough, although the required appearance at a town board meeting was a bit hard on the dwellers of Satan Wood. When they presented their case, the entire room burst into laughter.

"They wouldn't think it was so funny if they had to live on the street," grumbled Chapman to the Sun.

The neighbors are busy raising the money, and seem to be having success getting the town and county to chip in. When the evil-sounding blue-and-white street signs are finally replaced, residents plan a block party.

"I think life will finally be normal," Chapman told the Sun. "I've never experienced that in all my years living on this street. I bet it feels wonderful."

— Thanks to Out There reader Kurt O.

Insider Tip on Drug Bust

BLAINE, Wash. (AP) — A high school principal is on paid leave after authorities accused him of tipping off a school-board member that her daughter was targeted by a pot-smuggling investigation, according to the school superintendent.

Blaine High Principal Daniel Newell was charged Jan. 24 in Whatcom County District Court (search) with two misdemeanors: rendering criminal assistance and obstructing a law enforcement officer. Each carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Police say Newell made an anonymous call in December 2003 to the mother of a 16-year-old girl, telling her that her daughter could be arrested in an investigation of pot smuggling on a Point Roberts-to-Blaine school bus.

Point Roberts (search) is on the southern tip of a spit of British Columbia land that dips below the U.S. border. Its only road connection to the rest of the U.S. runs through Canada.

The mother, who is no longer on the board, defended Newell, saying that she recognized his voice and that his warning saved her daughter from prosecution and persuaded her to forsake drugs.

"The whole situation gave her life back," the mother told the Bellingham (Wash.) Herald.

According to an affidavit filed with the charges, Newell acknowledged making the call, saying he was "just trying to help a school board member."

According to the affidavit, the girl told investigators she carried 20 to 25 ounces of marijuana on the bus almost daily and for each delivery received $1,000 to $2,000, which she split with a Point Roberts man.

— Thanks to Out There reader DJ S.

Packin' Heat

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A police spokeswoman called it "unusual" that a 19-year-old almost smuggled a loaded pistol tucked between his buttocks into a county jail last week.

Clifton Alexander Carter was transported to the Gwinnett County Jail (search) last Tuesday after a school resource officer at Central Gwinnett High School recognized him as a suspect wanted in Barrow County.

Upon searching him, officers found a loaded .25-caliber handgun hidden in the man's buttocks. There was a bullet in the chamber, sheriff's spokeswoman Stacey Kelley said.

"I don't now how he was able to conceal the weapon in that area. It is very unusual," she said.

The resource officer called Lawrenceville police and Carter was arrested near the campus. He is not a student at the school.

Deputies felt something was amiss during their routine search and performed a strip search, Kelley said.

"We are proud that our deputy was diligent in his job and was able to locate the weapon," she said.

Carter was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, carrying a weapon on a school campus and possession of a weapon by a jail inmate, among other charges. He is being held without bond.

See What You Get for Helping?

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — A Naugatuck man who tried to help out at a highway accident scene ended up a victim when one of the people involved in the accident made off with his car.

Larry Valletta had pulled over on Route 8 north early Sunday after spotting two cars that had been involved in an accident. One car was flipped over.

Valletta said he called state police and went to check on the people. The two men in the flipped-over car got out. One man was helping an injured man to the side of the road.

When Valletta went to check on the people in the other damaged car, a man who had been in the flipped-over car had made off in his vehicle.

"It didn't even dawn on me. I would have never second guessed that someone was going to hop in my car and take off with it," Valletta said.

Give Cop the Finger, Get Ticket

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A man says a traffic ticket a state trooper gave him is for the birds — or at least for flipping the bird.

Stephen Corey, 42, filed a federal lawsuit because he says he had a First Amendment right to flip his middle finger at the trooper in July.

Trooper Samuel Nassan III gave Corey, a flight attendant from Pittsburgh, a ticket for following another vehicle too closely, then wrote him up for giving "an improper hand signal while passing my patrol car, namely middle finger up," according to Corey's lawsuit.

Corey's attorney, Joel Dresbold, denies Corey made the gesture. But he said it also doesn't matter because Nassan filed the ticket as though Corey committed a motor vehicle violation — that Corey made an illegal turn signal using his hand.

"It really doesn't matter if he did it or not," Dresbold said. "Either way it's an abuse of his constitutional rights. It's lawful under the Constitution to [give the middle finger], and you can't give a ticket for doing that."

State police spokesman Jack Lewis declined to comment on the suit, which also names the state police for allegedly failing to train its troopers properly.

Nassan chuckled when told of the lawsuit — but said the ticket was proper because he said Corey gave him the finger as part of a gesture that indicated he was changing lanes, making it an improper turn signal. Nassan also acknowledged that Corey has a right to give him the finger under some circumstances.

"Absolutely, he has a right to shoot his middle finger at me, unless it's in plain view of the motoring public," Nassan said.

California City May Ban Animal Plastic Surgery

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) — City officials in West Hollywood (search) are trying to ban cosmetic surgery — for pets.

The city's mayor on Monday planned to introduce a motion that would prohibit such practices as cropping a dog's ears or docking his tail.

Also banned would be procedures such as de-barking, de-fanging, and other surgery performed on animals for "non-curative" reasons.

Supporters of the ban say those procedures hurt the animals in order to satisfy their owners' tastes. But a woman who has raised Doberman Pinschers for 40 years rejects the idea that ear-cropping is cruel.

Many European countries already have this type of ban in effect, but Mayor John Duran says it would be a first for the United States.

West Hollywood has already outlawed the de-clawing of cats. And it has designated its residents as "pet guardians" rather than pet owners.

Compiled by's Paul Wagenseil.

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