Monday, October 10, 2011

Tony, trains and Homeland Security

It was a beautiful autumn day in Dallas County, Texas, USA: The Texas State Fair was going on just south of downtown Dallas and the Texas Oklahoma football came scheduled that day at the Texas State Fair in the Cotton Bowl. Also “Occupy Dallas” as derivative of “Occupy Wall Street,” was taking place in downtown Dallas, in “Pioneer Plaza.”

A perfect day and time to go to downtown Dallas to video the “Occupy Dallas” group and offer commentary. I exited the Interstate a few exits early to avoid the Texas State Fair and Texas Oklahoma game traffic. While negotiating the backstreets to downtown Dallas I road across a railroad crossing for DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit), Dallas subway system. I thought it would be great to video the trains for YouTube so the people in Japan and around the globe could see the limited light-rail in the Dallas County area. I was inspired by two YouTubers from Japan who post outstanding rail videos, “Panaceland” and “89furu”, here are their links:

I parked my Chevy Astro van in a legal parking lot. Then with video camera and tripods preceded to video the trains passing. I did this from both sides of the tracks, and changing out tripods, from a fluid-head to a regular one. I must have been there for about thirty minutes. I then loaded the equipment back into the van and drove off to downtown Dallas.

About two blocks away I see in my rear-view mirror the flashing / revolving blue and red lights of a police car. Huh? I pulled over and so did the police vehicle. Rolled down my window waiting of the officer to approach. While waiting I could not figure out what traffic law I violated. I pass one traffic light stopped for the red signal. I came across one stop sign and made the full stop. So why the police vehicle in my rear view mirror?

The police officer approached and apparently I was stopped because I was reported videoing the trains. I showed the officer one of the videos. I had not broken any law, but the authorities were concerned about my activity since I was about four blocks from the Texas State Fair and Texas OU game. Four police vehicles were there, three police cars and one police motorcycle. The motorcycle officer liked the bumper sticker on the back of my van, “God Bless John Wayne.” The officer standing by the passenger door recognized me from 1998, thirteen years ago! At the time he worked for the telephone company downtown Dallas (first Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, later “SBC,” and then AT&T). I also worked there and he remembered me all these 13 years.

The officer came back with my driver’s license after checking and explain the sensitivity by Homeland Security and I was free to leave.

Side note: In May of 2011 I was in Japan in a small town north of Tokyo named Nikko. I videoed a few trains there (one shown in this video), plus trains in Osaka and Tokyo, never once stopped by the police in Japan. Yes I understand there is a difference, however the comparison is amusing.

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