My 90’s (Mostly) Travels
This started out as just sort of a timeline of all the places I’ve been over the past several years but I’ve updated it so many times that it’s kind of evolved into an mostly 1990’s autobiography. The story begins in 1991, right as I left home and drove to Texas. All of the stories are true, nothing is exaggerated and no names or places have been changed. If you’re looking for an earlier stories you might try reading up on my Pranks page which deals with a few events prior to 1991. If you’d to read about current things in my life, try my journal.
Tired of living in Illinois for almost 18 years straight and not really wanting to go to school in the morning, I packed up everything I could into my 1979 Dodge Colt in the dead of the night and drove to Galveston Island, Texas. I drove through most of the night. For the next five months, I lived in various places around the island and learned to surf pretty good. My first roommate was an annoying Mexican guy who woke up every morning singing along with Mexican MTV. After him I went through various roommates and jobs. After quitting my job as a house painter, then a Long John Silver’s pizza flipper, I finally began my career as a Circle K employee.
I started out working at the Circle K in Leauge City but in the end, I ended up working at the 17th street store on the graveyard shift was great. The store was across the street from the beach so I could hang out in the beach’s stairwell all night reading magazines or a book and watching the store from there, tending to the one customer per hour I had to deal with.
Galveston gave me my first experiences with homelessness (in between having different roommates) and I loved just about every minute of it. Sometimes I would park my car in the Kroger parking lot and just sleep in it along with a few other people sleeping in their cars there. Each morning I would wake up at 5am to the sound of the street sweeper cleaning up the parking lot. But a lot of times I would just find a beach chair and spend the night sleeping by the ocean. Local authorities didn’t seem to care about vagrancy at all so I was never bothered by them.
Being homeless gave me complete freedom, no responsibilities, I never had to be anywhere and I didn’t have to answer to anyone. Each day I paid a nearby campsite $3.00 for access to their facilities. I could shower there, do my laundry, use their pay phones, watch their TV and I spent a large part of my day in their arcade playing Tron all the time. The college campus offered me access to a computer room and a huge library. And being a homeless person with a job, I was always a rich homeless person since I had nothing to really spend my money on.
Strange things were afoot at the Circle K…
Padukah, KY Me and Chris arrive safely in Padukah to spread gifts of pretend quarters to everyone.
I decided to take another vacation and drove back to Illinois. I ended up staying a little longer than I planned, but a lot of fun things happened. For one, there was the Great Quarter Roll Scam of 1992 where me & Chris Tomkinson drove to Padukah, Kentucky, stopping at every fast food joint and convenience store on the way and passing off thick rolls of pennies as roll of quarters and collecting lots of change. Then there were the nightly trips to Wal-Mart’s parking lot to steal all of their trees and plants. And afterwards every night we played crash up derby in my car. Since my car was a piece of shit to begin with, I didn’t mind running my car through people’s yards, over white picket fences, through garage doors, over bushes, telco cans and flowers and into carport support beams.
Finally the fun there had to end because there was no way I was gonna spend another summer in that city so I drove to Jacksonville, North Carolina to see some friends and lived on the marine base for two weeks. Then I drove to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to spend my summer. I got a part time job at the mall’s cinema and an apartment a few blocks from the beach. Lucky for me, all three of my roommates turned out to have little or no morals, just like myself.
My fondest memory there was one of my drunk roommates banging on my door at 3 in the morning to show me he’d stole the 25 cent fortune telling machine out of the lobby at the Subway sandwich shop and he wanted me to get all the quarters out of it. It ended up netting us a whole entire $5.00 each! Then I kept the fortune machine in my room and used it as a night stand for my clock radio.
One of the employees at the theater, Keith, thought it’d be really cool to go to Disney World in Orlando, Florida in the morning so we got another friend and made a four-day vacation out of it. Heat stroke must have wiped out most of my memory about this trip, but I do remember stealing one of those rent-a-baby-strollers and walking around with it empty, looking around and yelling, “Bobby!? Bobby, where aaaaare you?” People kept looking at us, asking what he looked like and offering to help look for him. I also kept jumping off of the boat rides and running down into the boiler room.
Right around the end of July, I went into work and the manager told me that they were over-staffed and I could go home. I said fine and went home, packed up my things and drove back to Galveston Island, Texas again. Guess I took her a little too literally. The drive actually took about three days because I kept stopping at all the tourist things. After crossing the gigantic bridge at Beaumount, Texas, my car wouldn’t surpass 40 MPH anymore. It’s days were numbered.
After asking around a little, I finally found where one of my old ex-roommates, Tammy, was staying and went there for the night. In the morning, I met her new roommate, Sylvia, and we sort of hit it off pretty good. I’m only mentioning this because we spent the next year together and managed to get in quite a bit of trouble. One morning me, Sylvia and a friend of hers went for a drive to Houston just for the hell of it. On our way back we stopped by a bar in Pearland to say hi to someone she knew. When trying to leave, my car wouldn’t start.
Sick of my car always breaking down and eating up all my money, I decided to leave it there. We took everything of value, threw the license plates in the dumpster and got a ride to the Greyhound station in Houston. After spending the night there, we took a bus in the morning back to Galvestion. Nobody knows what happened to my car but it’s probably sitting in a junkyard somewhere around Pearland today. Having no car I suddenly felt free of all responsibility. I no longer had to waste money on insurance, gas and repairs all the time. From then on city buses, hitchhiking and airplanes became my cheaper alternatives to traveling.
Me and Sylvia take an airplane to East Alton, Illinois for a visit. After a week, my parents throw us out so we hitch-hike to Normal, Illinois to visit Chris Tomkinson. What was supposed to be a few days visit turned into about two months. Me and Sylvia both get jobs at a local telemarketing company and live with Chris in his college dorm. Chris’s roommate also happens to have his girlfriend living in the dorm all year so it’s a regular commune. I spend most of my days in the Milner Library researching old hacker newspaper articles and playing on the pay phones.
My parents invite me and Sylvia to come down for thanksgiving dinner so we do. During our stay in Normal, I helped Sylvia find her real mom who she hadn’t seen since she was five years old and finally, we get her phone number and are able to call her in Los Angeles. To make a long story short, we fly to Los Angeles, California to visit her.
Los Angeles is not exactly the land of opportunity and Sylvia’s mom isn’t exactly Carol Brady. In fact, it’s impossible to get a job there, especially if you only speak English. So we steal some supplies from a local craft shop and make some pretty neat looking bracelets to sell to the tourists on Hollywood Blvd and Venice Beach. We end up meeting a few homeless kids and stay a few nights in their hotel, an abandoned building that was destroyed during the big Rodney King riot. When we weren’t staying there, we stayed at her mom’s boyfriend’s parent’s house or one of her mom’s friend’s houses. Her mom turned out to be a very unstable drug-addict who didn’t usually have a place for us to stay.
Eventually, we bumped into my ex-girlfriend from high school who was living in West Hollywood and had a job with an airline company. We ended up staying with her for most of the rest of our visit. Want to feel really stupid? Try going to the McDonald’s in Beverly Hills and explain to them that you went through the drive-thru earlier that day and they forgot to include two of your cheeseburgers only to have the manager tell you that they have never had a drive-thru there. Finally in February, we managed to get out of the city and took an airplane to Houston, Texas and back to Galveston Island. We spent a few days there and managed to lose track of each other.
After about four days of not hearing from Sylvia, I gave up and took an airplane to Miami Beach, Florida. I don’t know why I picked Miami or why I even decided to leave Galveston – I didn’t know anybody in Florida. I guess I just thought it sounded like a nice place and wanted to see what it was like. I spent several weeks there, sleeping on the beach, showering in the hotels’ public facilities and doing my infamous McDonald’s cheeseburger scam all over town to eat.
Eventually I set up a “home” underneath a small section Miami Beach’s famous boardwalk. I kept much of my stuff there during the day while I was out looking for a job and exploring the city. Early each morning I would wake to the sound of joggers’ feet pounding over my head on the boardwalk.
Miami was quite boring. Maybe it was because it was still winter or maybe because of the hurricane damage a few months earlier. In any case, I took an airplane outta there and once again flew to East Alton, Illinois for a visit.
A few weeks later, I get a call from Sylvia telling me she’s at the airport and will be flying up in the morning. I had gotten a job at the Wood River 7-Eleven and a few weeks later, Sylvia was hanging out in the store all night while I worked graveyard shift and we decided all of a sudden that it would be fun to loot the store, move to the east coast and change our names. So we did – well, almost.
I only expected to snag about $2000 at the most which was plenty to cover traveling expenses. I used a can opener to pry open the manager’s office door so I could steal the security video tape to keep for a souvineer. While I was rummaging around her desk to find a blank video tape, I noticed a key that looked like the safe key. I knew I couldn’t be that lucky but I went to the safe and tried it anyway. I turned the key and pressed the “open” button and of course, nothing happened. Oh well.
Us and our new Money! We snapped a picture of us in our hotel room holding up all our money. Click the picture to see what appeared in the paper’s police blotter that morning.
We had an excellent time running around the store, picking out groceries, sun glasses, cigarettes, souvenir keychains and all the Pez candy we could carry. As we were finishing up we heard a loud grinding noise, then a clang. I ran over to the safe and looked down – it was open! Turns out that there was a 12 minute delay timer on it to deter robbers from getting anything other than what was in the register.
It took an extra 45 minutes just to get all the money out of the safe and get it semi-organized so we could carry it. We made off with around $4000 in cash, $200 in food stamps (Hey, they’re spendable…), about $50 in lottery tickets, $50 in rolls of quarters, and about two bags of groceries & supplies.
We called a few friends and tried to get them to drive us to the airport but they were all either afraid of getting arrested or weren’t allowed to leave the house that late at night. Having no transportation, we took a cab from Wood River 7-Eleven to Cottonwood Mall in Glen Carbon, Illinois. From there we called another cab to take us to the airport and ended up going to one of the hotels nearby to rest, get some breakfast and call in our flight reservations. I called TWA and reserved two seats under the names Susan and Kevin Mitnick. Everything was going as planned but just an hour before our flight, Wood River detectives busted in and took us to jail.
Our big punishment for this crime was to spend an entire week in the county jail, watching cable T.V. and playing board games. We were let out as long as we promised to come back for our court hearings. Seemed weird that they would trust us not to run, considering they knew we’d planned to leave the state and change our names when we stole the money. Actually I got a week in jail, Sylvia got two. Hah.
Cops Swarm The Building! As Highland police officers surround our apartment we hide upstairs and take pictures of them. Click on this picture to see more cops and a phone company truck.
Just as we got out of jail, my tax money came in so instead of fleeing the state as we’d planned, we moved to a small town about 30 miles away called Highland, Illinois. We spent the summer hanging out in the swimming pool, working crappy jobs and babysitting a lot of kids for extra cash. We never did pay any of our rent except for the first month that summer. In our apartment I discovered a phone jack that happened to be connected to the beauty parlor downstairs from us so I plugged that in and we had a lot of fun playing on the phone and doing a few Alliance Teleconferences.
Days later, a friend from next door called the local fire department (911) from that phone and called in a false alarm to the supermarket across the street. They figured out that it was him and brought him in for questioning. Feeling it was mostly my fault, I went in and confessed that it was me, bringing in a few more charges against me. A few days later, the front page of the local newspaper came out with a huge story on how we’d terrorized the city with harassing phone calls. It was a pretty huge article for such a small incident. Small towns…
Summer was over so we moved out of the apartment in Highland. Me & Sylvia had gotten to the point to where we really couldn’t stand each other so she went somewhere. Our court date had finally come and for all of our offenses, we were both sentenced to two years probation – no more jail time and no fines. I just had to pay back the money I spent on our hotel room and the 2 taxi cabs which came out of my final paycheck from 7-Eleven. I was really sick of Illinois again, so I packed up a bag and took a Greyhound to Lexington, Kentucky, skipping out on my probation. I’m sure I could have gotten them to transfer my probation to somewhere else so I don’t know why I didn’t arrange that. I guess I just thought it’d be more fun to skip town and change my name.
After spending a day in Lexington, I decided it really sucked there so I went back to Indianapolis, Indiana because I’d had a bus layover there and thought the town looked interesting. I worked at Lafayette Square Cinema the whole time which wasn’t too bad and it turned out that the local college was the perfect place to live. I slept either under a stairwell indoors or in the student lounge, used the pool’s shower room every morning, had my own locker to keep my bags in and spent all my spare time talking on the pay phones or jumping off the diving boards. The pool attendents, assuming I was a student there, even gave me a sticker for my drivers license that let me in for free anytime I wanted. I completely dumped my old identity and changed my name to Glen Carbon which was the name of a town in Illinois that I used to work in. I’d always wondered who Glen Carbon was so I decided that I would be him.
I was a little worried about being a “wanted man” in Illinois so I completely severed all contact with everyone from my past except for 2 people – El Jefe and Chris Tomkinson. I spent a lot of time on pay phones with El Jefe and I always told him that I lived in North Carolina. And he always convinced me that the funnest thing to do was harass Chris Tomkinson and his friends/family so we spent a lot of time doing horrible things to Chris. Of course Chris had no idea where I was, he thought I still lived in Illinois somewhere because of my probation.
Around the end of my stay in Indianapolis I took a 2nd job at an Amoco station as a cashier. It was a combination service station and gas station so we had people bringing their cars in all the time to be fixed. Sometimes the cars would be there for a week while it was worked on so I start thinking that I could pull another “7-Eleven” by cleaning out the whole place and then stealing one of the cars to get away. Then I’m thinking I’ll drive the car across the country to whatever my next destination ended up being. I started taking peoples’ car keys home with me, making copies at the hardware store and then returning them. Then I’d write down the owner’s home address and keep it with the keys. I ended up with about a dozen different copied keys and addresses for future use.
All this time I’m also taking home rolls of cash register receipt journals with me each night and writing down the credit card numbers, expiration dates and names. Whatever cash register they used had the nice feature of printing the card holders name on the journal tape too, then I just had to look in the phone book to get the person’s home address and phone number. From this I had hundreds of credit card numbers and names which funded a lot of my travels, phone calls and other shenanigans over the next few years. On my days off from the theater and gas station I would take bus trips to other cities in Indiana like Terra Haute and Lafayette. I’d spend a day or 2 being homeless in other cities but always ended up back in Indianapolis.
Right around January I decided that even though I liked Indianapolis I should probably move. I’d never lived under a fake name and social security number before and I was worried that not filing my taxes would make the IRS come to my work looking for me, especially since I was using a social security number that I’d just made up. I’d found out during my stay that the first three digits of an SSN determined what state the person was born in. The 3 random digits that I’d picked didn’t even exist so that freaked me out a little. Since I kind of liked the people I worked with at the theater and didn’t want the police hassling them after I left, I didn’t do any damage. I’d pulled a bank scam under another false name which netted me about $1,000 from ATMs and I used that to leave town rather than looting the Amoco and stealing a car. I decided to retire in a nice, small community and not doing anything illegal for awhile. That idea didn’t last too long.
I took a Greyhound Bus to Lima, Ohio. The employee at the Indianapolis bus station recognized me as one of the homeless people who slept in the lobby occasionally and joked, “Oh, you’re actually taking a trip today and not just here to sleep!” From there, I took a taxi to Celina, Ohio, a town with a population of around 8000. I’d been hanging out in the travel section of Waldenbooks at the mall I worked at and had picked Celina out of a book because it seemed like a nice place. I got a cheap, furnished apartment in the downtown area and bought a mountain bike and spent most nights biking around Grand Lake and over to St. Mary’s, a city a few miles away.
I got a job doing telemarketing for the Fraternal Order of Police. I kept my Glen Carbon identity but I changed my social security number to something a little more believable. It was weird, working that closely with the police under a false name. My supervisor was a retired police officer and we had city police coming in to chat with us occasionally. I was always worried that they’d figure me out but they never did.
Eventually I got my phone installed at my apartment and that turned into a bad thing. I mean, it was a fun thing but it eventually turned me into a total hermit and caused me to have to leave town because I was afraid the feds were going to come after me for running up a $15,000 bill. I started out being a good phone subscriber and I even paid my bill the first month it arrived. But then things got a little out of hand. I figured since it was so easy to set up an account and they didn’t want a security deposit, I would just run up the bill until they shut it off and then get a new one.
So I talked to El Jefe a lot and of course we 3-wayed a lot of calls to Chris Tomkinson and his friends/family. Then we started calling up 1-900 numbers, bridging phone sex operators together or asking psychics silly questions. Then we decided to hold a teleconference. For three days straight me and Zak did Alliance Teleconferencing, bringing in all of our friends, enemies and other random people around the world on one line to talk together. I can recall one point where I hadn’t left my apartment for an entire week. We had 15 ports available to bring people in on and we tried to use them all. Plus while on the conference I would call up psychics and sex lines so we could mess with them. During all of this is when I became aquainted with Martini in Illinois and she gave me a list of chat lines to call from the back of a Rolling Stone magazine which I thought would be cool to bridge into our conferences. I called a few of them and thought the whole thing was pretty interesting so I stopped talking to my friends and spent more and more time on these party lines. It was like an Alliance Conference without all the effort.
My favorite bridge at the time was one located in Beaverton, Oregon with a really simple setup – one room and no options. It brought together a lot of people from all over the United States who were gullible enough to believe that it really was a “free” party line. I ended up becoming friends with a lot of people in Cincinnati, Ohio, which was just a few miles south from where I was. GTE let my phone stay on for nearly 3 months before they finally shut it off for non-payment. I thought that it wouldn’t be a big deal and I was probably right. But GTE started calling up everyone that I talked to, telling them that the feds were involved in finding me because I’d run up $15,000 and it was grand theft. Every day I expected to come home and find the feds waiting for me. With me actually working for the police I knew it wouldn’t be too hard for them to find me. Paranoia was driving me nuts and I had nothing better to do so I finally decided to leave.
I took a Greyhound to Cincinnati, Ohio and met everyone that I’d known from the Oregon party line. I ended up hanging around a really immature (yet, fun) guy named Shawn who made it a point to get into some kind of trouble with the police at least once a night. This guy would go as far as to go into the police station lobby until he was thrown out. This was in a small suburb of Cincinnati called St. Bernard. I got an apartment in a smaller town next to St. Bernard called St. John. Each day I would hop on a freight train and jump off as it passed near Shawn’s house. We’d spend every day causing trouble and getting kicked out of various businesses. I never knew if that was normal for Shawn or if I was just a bad influence on him. Whatever the case, we had an incredible time. I only spent three weeks there and I would have stayed longer, but I had promised a friend in Indianapolis that we’d definitely go someplace cool for his Spring Break.
So finally, I took a Greyhound back to Indianapolis. I was a week early, so I took up residence in my old home, the college campus of IUPUI. I spent a lot of time on the pay phones annoying Colleen (a girl I’d met on the Oregon party line) at home with phone calls and all of my “spare” time was spent in the computer lab or in the swimming pool.
Finally, my friend, Shane was ready for Spring Break. We took an airplane (using my credit card numbers from my old job at Amoco) to Houston, Texas and Greyhounded to Galveston Island. (I swear, I just can’t leave that place alone.) We spent two days there and then we flew back up to Cincinnati to say “hi” to Shawn. Yes, we went to Ohio on Spring Break. Pathetic, eh? As usual, Shawn ended up bringing the police to us by vandalizing the hell out of a pay phone. Usually, I would have laughed this off, but by now the police were fed up with me and Shawn and they wanted to know where the rest of the pay phone was and decided to search the backpack I was carrying.
Normally, this wouldn’t bug me, but earlier in the day, me and Shane were passing through a bank in Cincinnati’s skywalk and I stole one of the bank’s courtesy phones. “What’s this?” he asks. “A phone,” I reply wittily. I explain to him that it’s my phone from my house and he seems satisfied. Then he finds a large gold plate in my bag reading COURTESY PHONE with the bank’s logo stamped next to it and suddenly he doesn’t believe me.
For an hour we stand there while he lectures us and ponders weather or not he should haul me to jail for theft. Finally, he confiscates my phone, tells us to go home and tells me he wants to see me at the police station at 4:30pm the next day. I agree and we go to Shawn’s to spend the night. Shawn hides us in the basement and we sleep. Around 4:45am we hear the police upstairs with Shawn and his mom yelling very loudly. We didn’t know exactly what was happening but we’re relieved that they don’t come downstairs to find us. In the morning, Shawn and his mom are gone and we assume he must be in jail. We let ourselves out and get the hell out of Cincinnati for good. I never did hear from Shawn again which kinda sucked. (If anyone reading this knew Shawn Marshall, please email me and tell me how to contact him! Everyone in town knew him so somebody’s gotta remember him…)
We decide that we need a vacation from Spring Break so we take another airplane to San Diego, California and spend the next two days there, touring the city. Finally, Shane has to be back home for work & school so our vacation is over and we fly back to Indianapolis. I spend a couple more days living on the college campus and finally leave the city. During most of the vacation I’d taken a few minutes a day to call Colleen from the Oregon line and we’d gotten to know each other pretty good. I picked a random place to move to and settled on Seattle, Washington, conveniently located just a couple hundred miles from Portland, Oregon where Colleen lived.
Flying Down To Portland After a few days of boredom in Seattle it’s off to Portland, Oregon under my new identity Alex Gutierrez.
I tour Seattle for a few days and decide that it’s boring and I don’t want to stay there. But at least I got to see everyone freak out about Kurt Cobain being shot. Colleen convinces me to come down to Portland for a weekend visit so I can go sailing with her and her family so I move there and the weekend turns into about eight months. Since I didn’t know the city very well I decided to try something new – using my credit card numbers to get a free hotel room. And it works! My first 3 days and nights in Portland are spent in a very nice downtown hotel, complete with room service charged to the card.
Me and Colleen ordering LOTS of room service.
After my 3 days on the hotel ran out I spent a few days being homeless again. After living in such luxury in the hotel, I decided I liked that better. So I picked another, even nicer, hotel and got a room for 2 days. This one had a kitchen, a bar, large towels, robes, room service, video on demand, everything. I really hated to leave that one. I spent another day being homeless and I decided that maybe I could just live the rest of my stay in Portland in various hotels. The first hotel I’d stayed at was huge and busy, so I got another room at that one for another 2 days. After that one expired I couldn’t find anymore hotels in the area willing to take credit cards over the phone without having the real cards once I arrived. So I finally gave up on that idea. I found a college campus and spent a lot of my time there, and a lot of time in Portland’s airport. I live in several places around Portland temporarily and eventually end up moving in with Colleen.
Punishment for being a lousy AM/PM worker
At some point me and Colleen decide to take a vacation. Stupidly, we pick a boring town like Indianapolis, Indiana, and fly there on more stolen credit card numbers. During the layover in St. Louis, El Jefe & Weird Harold (El Jefe’s dad) makes a surprise visit and meets us in the airport. We harass airport personnel for an hour or so and continue to fly to Indianapolis. We meet Shane and he shows us a really good time…we go to a BBS party! (Enthusiasm is a bit over-exagerated here.) We sit around a house with a bunch of people we don’t know and talk to them about boring things. Other than that, the vacation sort of sucked. During our visit, we stayed at a Holiday Inn which I managed to get on another credit card.
Me and Colleen end up getting addicted to mail order fraud. Since I’ve got an unlimited supply of fake IDs and credit card numbers, we set up post office boxes and order things from catalogs all day. We get clothes, books, CDs, computer software, electronics and even a top of the line laptop computer which was a 486, 4 megs of RAM and a color screen. (Having a color screen was a big deal back then.) We would get a box at a new post office every month and go nuts ordering things.
I start hanging out in the airport all day while Colleen is at school, taking my new laptop into a section of the airport for business people to sit at desks and use their laptops. I use my credit card numbers to make long distance phone calls to BBS systems again. I’d been out of the BBS world for a few years so it was nice to finally get back into it again. It’s about this time that El Jefe comes up with the name “Phone Losers of America” and I start taking all the old text files I’ve written, slapping that name onto them and uploading them to hacker BBSes all over the country.
Me & Colleen have a few differences and break up. Since HoHoCon is getting close and I’d never been to a hacker convention before, I take an Amtrak to Austin, Texas using more of my credit cards. I keep the name I was using in Portland (I dumped my Glen Carbon identity after the Celina GTE incident) get a job and an apartment. I figure I’m probably the only person who actually moved to Austin to attend the con. When Zak finally arrives, I move out of my cheap apartment and get a motel room for us to stay in until the Con actually starts. During this time we hang around the hotel and harass some moronic wanna-be gang member girl on her cordless phone.
The one thing that I’ll never forget is our visit to K-Mart. It was just an average day and we ended up in the electronics department of a nearby K-Mart. I wanted to ask a question so I tried to find an employee but there weren’t any around. I check several other nearby departments and can’t find one. I try calling one on their phone behind the counter and no one answers. So we get on their Karaoke display machine and start yelling into it, “Customer service to electronics!! Pleeeeeeease! Come on, people!” and other assorted things. And this machine is loud. I couldn’t understand why none of the employees would show up and tell us to cut it out.
Time drags on and we start building a “card house” out of all the Earth CDs on their counter and until it was about three feet high. Still, nobody showed up so we started throwing our PLA business cards all over the floor, in CD cases, on the counter and nobody continued to show up. We tried the Keraoke machine a few more times and that only made the nearby customers laugh.
Then we started turning up all the radios to full volume on different stations. Nobody showed up. Then I pulled the security plugs from behind the portable radios, setting off an array of alarms. Still nobody. Usually when you go into a store and cause trouble you’re kicked out or asked to stop rather quickly. Not at this place though, they must have either been short staffed or scared of us. We finally gave up and left the store. As we were walking towards the front we finally did see an employee heading towards all the noise in the back. I think we were in there looking for help and being loud for almost an hour. As we made our way towards the bus stop to get back to our motel, we pass the windows of a restaurant so we lick PLA businesses cards and slap them onto the windows in front of peoples’ faces. Got a lot of strange looks for that…
HoHoCon comes and goes and is more or less boring. After HoHoCon, Zak flies back to Illinois and I stay in Austin, left once again with nothing very interesting to do but hang out in a Greek restaurant all day eating french fries. A day later, I get bored and decide to visit my parents that I hadn’t called or visited since I left for Indianapolis.
My visit at my parents lasts for an entire month in which the Dino Incident occurs, then I card an Amtrak back to Austin, Texas to pick up a few of my things from a storage site. From there, I take a Greyhound to Corpus Christi, Texas. I decide that maybe it’s okay to go back to using my birth name again so I go to the DMV and get a real ID card. As I’m standing in line waiting for the ID, a Corpus police officer asks me to step into his office. It’s something I expected to happen so I’m not too surprised about it. After sitting in his office for about 30 minutes while he makes phone calls he finally tells me that I’m free to go. The state of Illinois isn’t willing to extradite me unless I’m within 100 miles of the Illinois border. I figure that’s perfect, I’ll just use fake IDs every time I visit Illinois.
After a few days I decide that Corpus isn’t a good city to be homeless in so I get a job at Circle K and a cheap apartment in a bad neighborhood. Me and Colleen are still taking on the phone frequently and she decides to visit me. I set up a flight for her and she comes to visit for awhile. Stupidly I forgot to card her a round-trip ticket back to Oregon so we have to find a local travel agency to fly her back. After finding one, I go to pick up the tickets and the lady tells me the credit card is bad. I attempt to “call my dad” on their phone but “he” doesn’t seem to be home. (I’d just called up a voice mailbox that I’d bought with a credit card.) So I say that I’ll be back later and I’ll try to get ahold of him. We walk over to the Office Depot and use their pay phone to call the travel agency, pretending to be my dad. I explain that I accidentally gave them my credit card that I’d maxxed out with Christmas shopping and give her another one. It doesn’t go through so I offer my American Express card. This one goes through just fine.
A couple of hours later, we return to the travel agency and they ask me to have a seat and they’ll be with me in just a minute. As I’m sitting there I notice that I’m getting weird looks from the employees. Just as I start to get worried that something fishy is going on, I get up to leave and a cop pulls up. Another cop goes to the pay phone outside to retrieve Colleen who thinks she’s being busted for red boxing.
Since I was picking up the tickets under a false name, I made sure to leave my wallet and ID home just to avoid any accidents with my real name. When the cop asks me my name I tell him it’s Chris Tomkinson and he seems to believe me. I figure I can spend a few days in jail under Chris’s name and they’ll probably release me and I’ll never return. That plan would have worked great, except that I’d picked up my mail on the way out of my apartment that day and it was in my backpack. And of course it was all addressed to my real name so he asks me my name again and I give him my real name. He empties my backpack and I just happen to have a red box, police scanner, camera, electronic organizer, PLA business cards and notebooks full of incriminating stuff. Him and the other officer comment that I probably stole it all and they won’t return any of it to me unless I can produce receipts for it all. He’s really freaked out about the PLA business cards and demands to know what the phone numbers on the card belong to. I tell him they’re VMB numbers and he says I better not be lying because he’ll call the numbers when we get to the police station. Luckily nothing came of that because one of the VMB numbers was bought with a stolen credit card number.
As he’s hauling me to the police station he’s trying to figure out how to work my electronic organizer and keeps looking back to talk to me and swerving off the road while he’s hitting buttons. The page it opens on in the “memo” section is a page of about a dozen credit card numbers. He asks me how to delete the cards from there and I tell him. He deletes that memo which seems kind of stupid, you’d think that would be evidence. Luckily they didn’t notice my notebook full of card numbers. I end up spending about a day and a half in a holding cell with a bunch of drunk guys, then they let me out and make me promise to come back for court. I spend a couple of months making bi-weekly trips to some probation guy to assure that I haven’t left the city while I wait for a court date. They finally decide that I’m not worth their time and the credit card fraud charges are dropped entirely. Not only that but since I was wanted in Illinois and they refused to extradite me there, most of the charges in Illinois against me were dropped. They also returned all of the contents in my back pack without asking for any receipts.
A few months later Colleen takes a Greyhound to Corpus for good and moves in with me. (I couldn’t convince her to fly down on a card again.) We spend most of our spare time talking on the Defcon Voice Bridge, calling BBSes, killing cockroaches and sneaking into the Holiday Inn for free swimming, free towels, free toilet paper and free courtesy phones. We end up meeting a guy named Monster Magnet through his BBS who showers us with gifts of telco cans to decorate the living room with.
Months later, we meet his friend Calimar who starts taking us on trashing runs at the local voicemail company where we hauled in bags and bags of the most useless papers you can imagine but it was so much fun! We made it our goal to steal the big rug in front of the Southwestern Bell building but never succeeded. We did manage to make the night security guard run up to the window to see what we were up to, though. My favorite past time was visiting Sunrise Mall, going into the employee hallway and shutting off the power to random stores. Once I knocked out the power to the arcade where Colleen and Calimar were at and the manager had to give refunds to every person in there.
Finally we tired of Corpus and left. We visited my parents for about a week and then got on an airplane to Portland, Oregon. The same day we left, Madison County authorities came with an arrest warrant to take me away. My parents told them that we were at the airport getting ready to fly to Oregon. They demand to know if I actually got on the plane or if I may still be in the area. Apparently even though the charges against me were dropped there was still a warrant out for my arrest. During our visit a local newspaper just happened to do 2 front page stories on the PLA and the horrible person behind it all (me). We’re thinking the reporter who did the stories tipped off the police that I was in town, but just a little too late.
After arriving in Portland, we got a ride to Albany, Oregon and lived there for over a year. Soon after we moved there, we met Big Larry. Big Larry is a rather long story so I’ve decided to take it out of my bio and move it to it’s own page, complete with pictures and sound clips. You can view the Big Larry page by clicking here. Big Larry has always been a favorite of anyone reading my bio so I strongly suggest that you check out his story.
Albany sucked. Over half of the population drove around in big monster trucks with 6 foot tires and if you were a real man, you didn’t park in the parking lots, you found a patch of mud to park in. Most of the monster trucks were half covered in mud from their weekend trips. The men had big mustaches and big belt buckles and country music was played in most of the stores in town. Me and Colleen went to a company picnic (we worked at Target) and they hired a DJ that played a lot of Jeff Foxworthy. A few friends we made liked to play something called “CB Tag” where they drive around in their trucks with CB Radios and use the signal meter on the radio to try and find each other. Kind of a high-tech marco polo for hicks.
In April Colleen had a baby and we named her Emily. That summer, police raided our room because they’d traced approximately $10,000 in fraudulent phone calls to our house. They confiscated anything that looked suspicious to them including my laptop, all of my phone equipment and tons of hand-written notebooks. They even took a book from our bookshelf about computer crimes that we’d bought from Waldenbooks. But they didn’t bother taking the two page list of valid credit card numbers that was sitting right on top of my desk.
I was charged with phone fraud and credit card fraud. Turns out that most of the credit cards I’d collected around town by calling up gas stations and asking for them were reported by the owners to the police department. I’d also used a computer program called Cmaster3 to extrapolate each card number I got into 100’s of other card numbers. It would only change the last 4 digits of the card so these hundreds of card numbers I was using were mostly all from local banks. The detective started investigating with AT&T and they were convinced they were dealing with a big-time hacker who was hacking into AT&T’s switches so that they couldn’t trace me.
Actually I was just operator diverting to a US West security guy’s voicemail and diverting from there to 1-800-CALL-ATT. For some reason, this guy’s voicemail would give me a local operator in Seattle whenever I hit a certain few buttons from his VMB message. Since AT&T asked what number I was calling from, I’d use a random local number. Most of the time I would pick 541-926-ALEX (my name) which turned out to be some power company or something. They investigated the power company and after they were convinced it wasn’t an employee, they figured somebody was beige boxing into their lines. Finally they decided I must be hacking switches.
The detective resorted to calling every phone number that was showing up on these peoples’ credit card bills which was mostly the Defcon Voice Bridge and a bunch of BBSes. He finally figured out who I was because I’d called Target’s public relations office in Minnesota. (I was a Target employee.) He asked the lady there who had called them from the Albany area and they gave my name and address. In the end, I was fined $250 as punishment for the $10,000 in calls I made (they sure showed ME) and all of my equipment was returned in perfect condition.
We decided to move to nearby Corvallis, Oregon so I got a job at a Circle K there and started looking for an apartment. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t make good money at convenient stores. At the rate I was stealing from the register, I would have been making around $40,000 a year in addition to my regular pay checks. Corvallis was a college town which meant I had to deal with a lot of drunk college kids attitudes towards convenience store employees. But it also meant that I got to deal with drunk college kids accidentally leaving their mommy & daddy’s credit cards on the counter when they left. One of them was even nice enough to read the PIN number aloud as he typed it in. After his visit, I decided that would be my last night there.
Money suddenly wasn’t an issue for us so we decided to rent a U-haul trailer and take a cross-country trip to Ohio. Colleen figured the trip would take us about 48 hours total, maybe a little more. It actually took us a little over five days, screaming baby and all. After driving on the backroads through the Oregon mountains and noticing that our car wouldn’t go more than 35 MPH uphill, we switched to the interstate for the rest of the way, thinking that would be safer.
Wyoming was by far, the most interesting. Most of the roads going through the mountains were solid sheets of ice. To top it off, the two-lane interstate had no guard-rails on either side of the road and there were deep canyons on each side. Pretty scary. We got stuck at the bottom of one hill but some guy rescued us within 10 minutes and towed our car and 3000 lb U-Haul to the top of the hill. I gotta get me a Chevy. Luckily that didn’t happen again.
Besides getting stuck, we had a flat tire (emptying the back of the car to get to the spare tire was a major task), the car’s idle got screwed along the way somewhere and we ran out of gas about five feet from the gas pump in front of the Roadkill Taxidermy. The old guy inside was nice enough to tow our car 5 feet, though, so the gas nozzle would reach. We braved the windstorms of Nebraska as our scanner told us all trailers should stay off the interstate and we finally arrived in Illinois, stayed with my parents for a week and continued east.
We drove to Celina, Ohio, got jobs and a nice duplex to live in. I can’t figure out why we picked Celina out of anywhere we could have lived in the world other than the fact that I used to live there a few years before for a couple of months. I guess it was just a nice quiet place to spend some time and possibly settle down. The only thing that sucked about Celina was that other than the lake, everything fun to do was at LEAST 45 minutes away, even the nearest mall. So we spent lots of time driving to Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. We did take a trip down to Cincinnati one day to try and find my old friend Shawn but didn’t have any luck so we ended up at the zoo instead.
We finally got tired of Celina and decided to pack up a U-haul and move someplace that we were a little more familiar with – Alton, IL. I wrote a letter to some lawyer guy and explained to him what I’d been doing for the past several years (not in quite as much detail as this page though). When we got to Illinois I met up with him to make sure that I wasn’t going to end up getting arrested. The warrant against me finally ended up getting dropped.
There’s not really a whole lot else to write about. We lived in Alton for 8 years, had a son in 1999 and then divorced in 2002. I moved back to the beautiful land of CB radios and country music in Albany, Oregon in 2005 where I currently reside. I stopped playing with other peoples credit cards years ago and I manage to stay out of trouble for the most part. If you spend some time browsing phonelosers.org you’ll find links to more recent adventures. Or you can read my journal for daily happenings in my life from 1998 to the present. If you’ve enjoyed the stories on this page, sign my guestbook and let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!