A Potential Screwmaid?

September 1999

Between ICCA Philadelphia and Italian Lake Walk

Friday, September 10, 1999

From Mr. K.S. Nash


What is the point of serving a country that awards the MBE to a group of young pop singers?

Yours faithfully,

June 16, 1965

[The average age of Messrs George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Richard Starkey was 23 years and 8 months]

Dearest Reader, without the keen eye of Paul Fjelstad, Esquire, the following Associated Press article would have silently drifted into newsroom Limbo. But thanks to Mr. Fjelstad's efforts, the organizers of Corkscrew-Balloon #3 may have found the perfect candidate for The Screwmaid of Honor at the Great Swiss Alpine Hot Air Balloon Festival 2000. Without further ado allow me to raise the curtain on this wire service scoop:

SEATTLE, September 8 - It wasn't your standard weekday traffic jam when a fire-spitting woman danced topless atop a high-voltage electrical tower beside a freeway bridge.

Nor was it the typical power outage when Seattle City Light cut electricity to 5,000 homes and businesses Wednesday morning to protect her from being zapped by the 120,000 volts of juice flowing through the lines the tower supports.

It was "an extremely dangerous, hazardous situation," said Larry Vogel, a spokesman for the utility.

Ara Tripp, 38, of Olympia, wore a red bandanna, halter top, cutoff jeans and hiking boots when she was noticed climbing the 180-foot tower that carries electrical lines about 50 feet west of the Interstate 5 bridge over the Lake Washington Ship Canal at 7:26 a.m., police spokeswoman Carmen Best said.

At the top, Tripp doffed her top and began gyrating and snapping her fingers, occasionally taking a swig from a bottle of vodka, spitting the liquor out of her mouth and lighting it on fire. Southbound traffic on the freeway slowed to a near-standstill and was backed up for miles.

After about an hour she put her top on and climbed down, again spurning a ladder in favor of the angled support girders - one onlooker said she appeared to be an accomplished climber - and reached the ground at 8:53 a.m.

Tripp was arrested and booked into the King County Jail for investigation of criminal trespass and indecent exposure, Best said.

1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed, except by Alf Erickson.

Ladies and Gentleman, what do you think? Seattle residents, do you know her? Olympia residents, is she your neighbor? Wherever you might be reading this ... and whomever you are, please keep an eye open for Ara Tripp. If you see her please ask her to go to http://www.corkscrew-balloon.com

Friends, excuse me for delaying our traditional NEWNES bits until the very last. But, it is extremely urgent that we contact the Tripp woman before she prematurely explodes in a ball of flaming vodka and high voltage sparks. We want her to save herself for Chateau d'Oex.

Besides, it's obvious that the compiler at NEWNES must have been sucking on his teeth when he came up with these two:

YES, IT IS STILL Friday, September 10, 1999

Oh my God! Have our hopes been dashed into the dirt once again? Is my little balloon to be forever cursed? Is some evil force at work here?

On the other hand, perhaps my provocative balloon and I are the real forces of evil. And all of these noises from the other side are just the wholesome grunts from a union of Italian Cardinals and Baptist preachers who are toiling in the Garden of Evil ... plucking weeds, so to speak.

Anyway, it seems that there is more beneath the surface of Ms. Tripp than what we were first led to believe. Again, without the research efforts of Mr. Fjelstad, this newsy loose end would have drifted into history. Though, perhaps some future compiler of NEWNES would have awkwardly unearthed it as:

Woman's stunt atop tower was well-planned
by Christine Clarridge
Seattle Times staff reporter

The woman who spit fire and danced bare-breasted atop an electrical tower at the Ship Canal Bridge yesterday morning had been planning the stunt for weeks - even making a practice climb of the tower several nights ago.

Ara Tripp, 38, of Olympia was arrested and jailed on misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure and trespassing shortly before 9 a.m. after she descended from the tower and surrendered to police.

Tripp climbed the 150-foot tower on the Ship Canal Bridge along Interstate 5 before dawn, but waited until southbound traffic was heavy around 7:30 a.m. to take her top off. She danced, played air guitar and made flames and smoke shoot out of her mouth.

"She really wanted to stop traffic and get arrested," said Robin Toye, who drove Tripp from Olympia. "She would have been disappointed if she hadn't been. She even had her license taped to her ankle to make it easy for the cops."

Toye said Tripp, a post-operation transsexual with many strong opinions, hoped the stunt would make headlines and lead to offers to appear on radio and TV talk shows.

Tripp was released on bail last night after spending about 12 hours in custody.

Her protest, Tripp said, was over discrimination against women and laws that allow men to take their shirts off but not women.

"I see guys with boobs bigger than me with hair on them, and it's legal," she said.

Tripp chose yesterday for the stunt because her wife - the woman she married when she was still a man - was out of town. Tripp's wife had strongly disapproved of the stunt.

"She's out of town, but she's not going to be happy," Tripp said. "I'm going to be grounded."

Toye said he and Tripp packed a platform for dancing, 600 feet of rope, walkie-talkies, cameras, vodka, lighters, a disguise and $1,000 for bail. Tripp climbed the tower wearing a hard hat, hiking boots, cut-off jeans and a fake mustache and beard. She intended to say she was a utility worker if anyone tried to stop her, Toye said.

Once she got to the top, she tried to pull the platform up but it was too heavy, so she told Toye she would dance on the platform atop the tower instead. She climbed up and down several times, looking for optimum footing and waiting for the sun to come up. At one point, her fake beard fluttered to the ground.

Toye said the show really started around 8 a.m. when Tripp began throwing flames by slugging vodka, spitting it into the air and lighting it on fire, a self-taught trick he said she has performed at street fairs.

Traffic slowed as commuters caught sight of the fire-breathing woman on the tower and ground to a halt when police and rescue workers arrived before 8:30 a.m.

Electrical power to more than 5,000 City Light customers was lost when the utility company shut off the line to protect her.

"She knew people would be stuck in traffic, and she knew the power would be shut off, but she figured it was a little inconvenience. I mean, people have accidents out there all the time, and she wanted to make a statement," Toye said.

Last night, Toye posted Tripp's $690 bail for the misdemeanors; each carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine of $5,000.

She was held at the King County Jail in what jail administrators called special custody, in part in case other inmates found out she is a transgendered person, Tripp said.

"It might be a little dangerous for the others to see me in the general population, so they put me in with the loonies," Tripp said. She said she has a court date for Sept. 22 on the charges of indecent exposure and criminal trespass.

"I'll plead guilty," she said. "It's pretty obvious."

Information from Seattle Times staff reporter Julie Peterson is included in this report.

Is there yet more in the wings?

Saturday, September 11, 1999

I feel nervous. I expect that Norma Louise Milquetoast (if that is her real name) feels the same way. Tomorrow afternoon will be the first time that we have ever met; though we have seen photographs of each other and we have spoken with one another over the phone. But, how does that prepare us for the next two weeks ... for that is how long we will be traveling with each other?

Dear Reader, let me take you back a bit. Several weeks ago I came up with an idea ... perhaps a good one, perhaps a bad one ... only time will tell on that one. Anyway, back in July I asked the world to find me a "missing link": a girl who could be the look-alike for one of the models who had originally posed for my Corkscrew-Balloon #3. The winner (the most look-alike) was promised a twelve-day all expense paid trip to Chateau d'Oex ... lots of hot air ballooning, food, wine and all sorts of that winner-take-all stuff.

Everything looked fine. The applications rolled in from all over the world. The computer program that was built to sort, rank, and file all the data hummed along nicely. Each morning a fresh pile of hopefuls landed on my desk. Life couldn't get any better.

But then something awful happened on Thursday. Yes, I can see some of your heads nodding knowingly. Correct, last Thursday was 9/9/99: the ninth day of the ninth month of the ninety-ninth year of the ninth century of the millennium. Or, as my software saw it: 9999 ... four nines, all in a row!

Apparently a few nano-seconds into September 9th my computer mysteriously dispatched an e-mail to the applicant that it deemed most unworthy of going to Chateau d'Oex in 2000. Before the first blink of 9/9/99 was history my machine had determined that life, as it knew it, had come to an end and that, by God, it had better do a final house cleaning before the final shut down came. And, the only loose bits that it had lying around the place were an unsent envelope to the winner of the "booby prize" and a note to me that wished me the best of luck in choosing the girl for Switzerland. You see, as the people at CERN so carefully explained it to me, the machine knew that a human (me) was needed to make the subjective choice of who would fly in the Alps ... but, it felt that a machine (it) was quite capable of dishing out the biggest loser. But, that is not all of it. In the eyes of the computer, "dishing out" does not mean just plain throwing away something; it means tossing it elsewhere. Well, as it couldn't toss it into the future ... and since, on September 9th I was still doing a journal in Philadelphia ... it tossed it back into the near past; back into the Italy-London thing. From there, using its imagination, it created my problem. I am destined to return to the past.

Tomorrow I shall meet Norma for the very first time. Yes, I am very nervous.

And all of this is happening just about the time that the Flaming Tripp Transsexual is about to knock on my chamber door.

Oh, my kingdom for my Tarot Pack. Would "Death," "Tower" and "Judgment" cruelly dominate my Celtic Cross or would the "Knaves" and "Kings" give me hope and succor in this moment of need?

Alf, stop being so dramatic! Get on the fucking plane and enjoy yourself! Ass hole!

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