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Work of Art: The rule of threes

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By Art Trujillo

Going through my Facebook pages — a routine I follow almost every night — I came across the news that Robin Williams, 63, that comic genius has died; he committed suicide through asphyxiation, the early reports say.

By “came across the news,” I played down the expression. It’s not as if I simply stumbled across that bit of news: It’s all over Facebook, and on virtually every TV channel, and certainly on the next day’s front pages of newspapers.

It hurts. Though I don’t consider myself a hero-worshiper, I feel bad that the world has lost such a person who could make everybody smile. My favorite Robin Williams film was “Mrs. Doubtfire,” about a man on the verge of being divorced who applies and gets hired to become a nanny for his own children.

The elaborate disguise, as an elderly British woman fools even his children. The movie is laced with frantic costume changes wherein he needs to switch from his regular self to the nanny, then back again.

He won many awards for films like “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Good Will Hunting” and “Dead Poets Society.”

Millions will miss him, and probably millions soon will be asking, “Who’s next?” Isn’t it a truism that famous people, especially those in the media and films, die in threes?

Consider:

Ray Manzarek, of The Doors,  Jean Stapleton and James Gandolfini all died within a relatively short time span.

Back in 2009, we lost Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. The deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson came within hours of each other.

Now isn’t that strong evidence that people pass away by threes? It would seem that when two celebrities die, the Grim Reaper is poised to nab another. A writer for NBC News suggests that premise isn’t necessarily so.

Dahl cites authorities, such as Michael Shermer, author of “The Believing Brain,” who points out that “There’s no rule! Is it six hours? Six days? Three weeks?” And he even struggled with finding a fitting definition of a celebrity.

Perhaps, the experts posit, we humans are “naturally inclined to seek patterns, even when there are none to be sought.”

The author of the article explains that “we take comfort in being able to explain some of the haphazard courses our lives take. And if we think we know when a pattern starts, we can also ‘know’ when it ends.”

Don’t we all do that anyway? An accident, a death or other catastrophe makes so many of us want to reconstruct every detail in order to divine the truth. We want to know exactly who said what to whom and when, before Grandpa started slipping while at the hospital.

Don’t we survivors have that curiosity that we hope simplifies things for us? And a knowledge — or at least the assurance or hope that things are part of a pattern of three might even give people comfort.

Despite what people like Dahl and Shermer may say, there are people who steadfastly cling to the theory that people die in threes. Another example of such a troika would be the same-month deaths of Brad Renfro, Suzanne Pleshette and Heath Ledger.

And three actors known for their iconic characters,  Russell Johnson, the professor on Gilligan’s Island; Dave Madden, the Partridge Family’s manager; and one of the last living Munchkins, Ruth Robinson Duccini, died this year, all within a tight time span.

It’s amusing to speculate on the legitimacy of the rule of threes. However, people often don’t take into account the multitudes of people who pass on without there being proximate deaths to complete the rule of threes.

People die randomly as well. They don’t need to meet some fabricated time frame. And that should let us all sleep well tonight.

• • •

How does one have a car removed when it’s parked illegally? Is there a way?

But first, some background:

Virtually everyone who owns a private lot also has a sign warning others to keep away. The prominently displayed signs usually read, “No parking. Unauthorized vehicles will be towed at owner’s expense.”

That makes it clear: I’ve never seen a sign that promises that the owner of the lot will foot the bill. And in places like Albuquerque, it seems a lot of lot owners create and even look forward to having others drive into their lot while they dash into a store.

The lot owners invariably are staked out, hoping someone will drop by, park there and leave the car unattended for a few seconds. Thereupon, out comes the “boot,” a bulky device that locks on to a tire and completely immobilizes the car.

Want it removed? It’ll cost you $100.

Fortunately, I’ve never been a victim to such an incapacitation of my vehicle, but obviously others have. And that’s prompted city officials to seek a level playing field to place warning signs where they are highly visible, not hidden in a way that implies that parking is free.

I loathe the idea of trying to make a living by entrapment.

Well, none of that really applies to the small Optic parking area on the west side of the building. Currently, a gray BMW with expired plates, missing door handles and a knocked-out rear window has been parked in the Optic lot for more than a week.

Because employees need their parking lot to accommodate two or three cars, it seems fair that the abandoned car ought to be removed.

But how?

A call to the city police department referred us to the code enforcement. The personnel there said they don’t handle tow-aways. They referred us to city police.

Uh-uh! Been there, done that. So we called the state police office and got referred back to the city police.

Do we call a wrecker service directly? Is there a once-and-for-all protocol we can follow to clear the lot?

Ideas, anyone?

Art Trujillo is copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to atrujillo@lasvegasoptic.com or art@rezio.net.