|Flattened for easier smuggling.|
Los Angeles County--
The night stretches on long like evening shadows as we search the mean streets for a new type of criminal. One delivering several shots below the belt when it comes to... sousaphone smuggling. Far too many schools in this area are reporting they are down to their last blow as their tubas have been swiped. For seemingly no reason at all, the long annoying, low blast belter has now become the target of brass smugglers everywhere. To make sense of it, I took a police ride along with Sgt. Illeuve “Spitvalve” Cox of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Office Instrument and Marching Band Task Force (LACSOIAMBTF) through the underbelly of L.A.
NSC: So, the reputation of L.A. has suffered for years as the result of criminal activity starting with crack cocaine, gang banging, carjacking, and now... this?
Sgt. Cox: It is really pretty disgusting and kind of the last nail in the coffin with these thieves. Robbing communities of their ability to produce horn sounds in the lower register. [shakes head] You see it all of the time on the streets, people looking around scared, twitching, all bug-eyed because they can’t put together a proper orchestra without a tuba. The Tuba Takers are ruing people’s lives. Families are splitting, losing everything.
NSC: Tuba Takers?
Sgt. Cox: Correct. Tuba Takers. That is what we are calling them. It's somewhat buzz worthy and made good media sense. It was better than "Sousa-Snatchers".
NSC: I have to ask you Sgt. Cox, what are these tuba takers doing with these horns? I have to believe there isn’t a very large market for fencing stolen tubas?
Sgt. Cox: One would think, right? Some of them are going directly overseas to rogue Oompa bands forming over in Europe, especially in Germany. The rest of the tubas are getting melted down here and mixed with dirty street metals to produce low grade trumpets. The kind your kid could be playing in their grade school bands. That’s the sick part of it all. The kids...
At this point his eyes well up and he pulls the squad car over, wipes his eyes clear and pushes out the horrid thoughts going through his head. He pulls away from the curb. I give him a moment to collect himself.
NSC: You seem really passionate about it, Sgt. Spitvalve. How did you get the name “Spitvalve” anyway?
Sgt. Cox: The guys on the force had some problems pronouncing my name, to the point they were not calling it during morning roll call.
NSC: It is phonetically “I love”, right? Cox, Illeuve Cox? I can see where that might be a problem.
He looks at me and the tears are back.
Sgt. Cox: The kids putting their little dirty, street alloy trumpets to their lips. Just last month, we had a kid across town who got himself one of these dirty trumpets. Two weeks later, he was in a plane crash. Killed him instantly. Goddamn bastard Tuba Takers!
The night continued as we cruised the streets of L.A. on the lookout for tuba taking creatures of the night. We did come across a pair of suspicious gentlemen roaming around which we stopped, but they were carrying French horns and had proper permits so we let them go. Sgt. Spitvalve showed me some pictures of his family, a young bunch clasping on to their small plastic saxophones. That is when I truly realized he was thinking about the future, his future. Trying to secure a safe environment for his kids to play brass instruments, maybe join a jazz group later. That is when the true atrocity of it surfaced.
Over the next several hours we roamed and Sgt.Cox imparted his wisdom, his heart and his message with me and begged me to share it with the world. He made me a believer, how could I not?
Please, please. If your children are even thinking about being forced into band, have their instruments tested. Tested for metal purity. We might live in a sick world that a lot of us accept because "that’s the way things are" but don’t let another child die in a plane crash because they were blowing a dirty trumpet, and as a community, if you suspect strange or suspicious tuba activity, report it immediately to your local authorities. Don’t take the law into your own hands as these Tuba Takers are suspected to be armed and dangerous. On that note, I wish you and your family safe trumpeting.
*NSC may or may not mean: NotSoCrazy, NewSousaphoneCrime, NewSexyClarinet or NeedySgt.Cox