I have waited patiently for the holiday season to expire. Now I'm afraid I must bring up the guy who got caught sprinkling his own dried feces on the doughnut display last summer at Fiesta Mart. For some weeks I have been in possession of new information--a haunting burden for me. I kept expecting him to appear among the carolers.
From start to finish, my investigation of Fiesta Doo-doo Man was a high-wire act between repugnance and fascination. I may not be unusual in this regard, but I do seem to have both a curiosity and a hyperphobic response to the whole thing.
Last October when a Dallas jury sentenced Behrouz Nahidmobarekeh to five years for sprinkling his own dried feces on pastries at the Fiesta Mart at Ross and Greenville avenues in East Dallas, the foreman of the jury told The Dallas Morning News that the jury had wanted to punish him especially severely because he "showed no remorse."
I remember reading that and wondering: What if he had shown remorse? Would that have helped?
The doo-doo man occupies a horrible sweet spot in the collective Jungian fabric. He is the primal demon who pops out of the doughnut display at us all. The shit trickster.
I don't know about you, but the whole thing undermines the hell out of my own confidence in modernity. If this is how it's going to be with the doughnuts, then I'd just as soon go back to a hunter-gatherer society.
Motivation. That's what I want. It's what I need him to have. If I knew what really drove him, I'd have a handle.
He said in a written statement to police that he sprinkled his own dried feces on the doughnuts at the Fiesta Mart as a kind of practical joke in retaliation for unfriendly treatment: "They made me very angry that they showed me no respect," he wrote. "I decided I would play a joke on them."
But I never got the joke. What was the punch line? And now especially, given what I know, I don't believe it was a joke. Or revenge either, exactly.
What I know now is that Nahidmobarekeh was a serial sprinkler. Years before he got caught at Fiesta, Nahidmobarekeh attacked a place that has always been dear to my own heart, the downtown Dallas Central Library. He may have done it several times. Who knows where else he has been? He was a cab driver.
Miriam Rodriguez, assistant director of the library, confirmed to me that when Nahidmobarekeh began to appear in news accounts about the Fiesta incident last year, library staffers recognized him as the same man they had dealt with three years earlier. In February, March and early April of 2002, the downtown Central Library suffered a spate of feces-smearing incidents, of which I have acquired official records through a request under the Texas Public Information Act.
Nahidmobarekeh's name appears on only one of 10 library security "incident reports" and on none of five related Dallas Police Department reports. Most of the attacks were discovered after the fact. If he was not the author of all of them, then...well, I just can't go there.
According to the library security incident report in which Nahidmobarekeh was named, a witness "observed Mr. Nahidmobarekeh in the stacks moving his hand among the shelves."
There's something so eerily metaphysical about that. Moving his hand among the shelves. An assault on knowledge?
The witness, according to the report, "moved away from where he was sitting and Mr. Nahidmobarekeh walked out of the stacks, passed him and went to sit at a table near the bibliographies. As he walked by, [the witness] noticed an offensive smell."
Hmmm. The bibliographies.
I took my stack of incident reports to the library and tried to see if I could detect a covert or unconscious pattern. The biggest concentration of attacks was in the Business and Technology Section, which is now undergoing massive remodeling. I had to look elsewhere in the library.
The reports are a tough read. "Smeared and left feces on eight shelves in rows 123 and 124." "Human feces smeared on several shelves in the 629.4 area of the division's circulating stacks." "CHS clerk found a dried turd on the bottom shelf of reference stack 35." I think we get the picture.
One area attacked by the smearer was a shelf given over to boxes of U.S. Department of Agriculture circulars--"Deciduous Fruits," "Nuts," "Livestock and Meat" and so on. Almost four years after the attack, I saw no sign of damage.
A feces attack on the History and Social Sciences reference section on March 27, 2002, was described in the incident report as "crime to building including graffiti." No illuminating details on the graffiti.
I examined one shelf that was attacked, pulling volumes in and out, and was just about to conclude there were no lingering signs when my hand jerked back as if seared by molten steel. I'm not sure exactly what happened to Who's Who in British History, but I know I won't be signing it out any time soon. I may be wrong, but I could swear that Mary Wollstonecraft, the 18th-century writer and feminist whose portrait is on the cover, appears a bit brown about the nose.
The bottom line is that I did not find a pattern in the library attacks. That doesn't mean one was not there. It just means that I could not make it out.
One reason I gave up looking for literary clues was that, in the meantime, I discovered something much more immediate, visceral, disturbing and important. As luck would have it, I have a personal connection with the doo-doomeister.
Yes. Someone very close to me is a friend of a good friend of Nahidmobarekeh. Six degrees of separation and so on. I have to go a little carefully here, because Nahidmobarekeh's friend is a successful businessman and very solid family person, a father of young children, who spoke to me only on condition that I not identify him or his business. And I guess I'm not eager to explain the rest of the connection, either, although it's very innocent. Friend of a friend type of thing.
But...a friend of the doo-doo man. So strange. I guess I thought there had to be 600 degrees of separation. A shock. It's probably why I had this irrational compulsion to look for him among the carolers. Of course he's in jail now, awaiting his appeal, and couldn't have been among the carolers. I knew that. Holidays have always been difficult.
Nahidmobarekeh, 49, is a legal immigrant from Iran. The man who knows him, who knows the person I know, is also an immigrant from the same part of the world and knew him through the immigrant community.
"He used to be a decent person," his friend told me. "He used to keep a management job at a couple restaurants, from what I heard. Everybody in town knows him. He just went haywire.
"I know he was doing drugs off and on, but I'm not sure to what extent he was on them. I have known him for at least 16 years."
He told me Nahidmobarekeh has written him several times from jail. "He said that he did what he did just out of madness. He knows it was stupid. He feels sorry about it. He wishes that he could get out and change his life all over."
Nahidmobarekeh was assigned Clark Birdsall as his court-appointed lawyer. Birdsall gave Nahidmobarekeh what was probably a brilliant defense and one that may still get him off on appeal--that the microwaving of his feces, along with other factors, reduced the real physical threat beneath the threshold demanded by the law for conviction on two felony counts of tampering with a consumer product.
But Birdsall also urged Nahidmobarekeh not to take the stand. Nahidmobarekeh, however, insisted, thereby joining that long parade of defendants who, by opening their mouths, have slammed the jailhouse door shut on themselves.
Once Nahidmobarekeh was on the stand, prosecutor Taly Haffar opened the gate and led him straight down the primrose path to his jail cell. Nahidmobarekeh was assertive and maybe even a bit proud of his accomplishments, showing the jury exactly how he had worked the cheese grater. He showed off the hand-cupping technique he had used to get the sprinkles onto the doughnuts without detection. Eventually, however, he was caught on a surveillance camera.
Other very unpleasant details emerged--his heroin withdrawal, the fact that his apartment was littered with his own feces, his feeling that his feces wouldn't hurt anyone because he had eaten it himself without any ill effect he could distinguish from the withdrawal.
Haffar didn't have to introduce evidence he had of Nahidmobarekeh's history of violent aggression, including the severe beating of a 60-year-old man and an attack on a cop in New York years ago. After the clever hand-cupping demonstration, the jury had seen enough.
I called both Haffar and Birdsall. Neither one knew about the library attacks. They weren't sure what to say. I wasn't sure what to ask. Is there a significant difference between a regular feces sprinkler and a serial feces sprinkler?
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I can think of one.
The man who was his friend told me: "I always tried to help him whenever I would see him being homeless, laying around City Hall."
CITY HALL? CITY HALL! I've spent half my life at City Hall! The noose tightens. I'm sure Nahidmobarekeh was never on the Dallas City Council. Could he have been, if only briefly, an assistant city manager? No.
I wrote him in jail, but he refused to see me. He haunts me, because he is a man, a human being, not so far from me as I want to think. Closer and closer, as a matter of fact. He changes the basic equation. I can't even tell you what my favorite food used to be.