Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Vanity Fair-Transylvania Heist

I keep trying to let my subscription to Vanity Fair run out, but they keep sending it, which is fine, because, it really contains some entertaining (and sometimes even informative) stories when you have time to read it. I got the December issue last week and found this wonderful article on a theft of some rare books by these pot-smoking college freshman/sophomores. Unfortunately, the article is not available online, Here it is - but there is a fairly decent summary posted on a Kentucky newsite. The heist took place in Lexington, Kentucky.

These guys almost pulled off this $10 million theft of some rare books stored at the University of Transylvania library. Now, they did mug a librarian, and this sort of theivery is by no means an honorable thing, but I was quite impressed by their ambition and that fact that they really almost succeeded. It took some serious planning and major cajones.

Basically, these three or four late-teens were sitting around getting high, going to college, and getting involved with petty crime. Then, they came up with this idea for this major heist and actually followed through with it. Personally, I've been through the first three things, and we may have fantasized about major crime back in the day, but we never had the ambition or wherewithal to actually go for it. I have to applaud these guys for their initiative.

It turns out, however, that there was one hole in their otherwise very smart plan. I blame too much marajuana for the fact they didn't recognize this hole ahead of time. The article makes a reference that one of the guys kept thinking the heist would be called off when they hit a major snag in the planning, but then describes how they were able to seemingly circumvent every snag. However, as I was reading the article, I could tell that their idea for getting an appraisal at Christie's was a bad one. This indeed is where the plan fell apart.

I guess the coup de grace about this whole thing is that these guys don't feel bad about what they've done. From my standpoint, it serves kind of like a brilliant college project for them - almost something you'd be proud to put on your resume. So, they're all serving seven years in the federal pen right now. The conclusion is that they're young, they'll be out in a few years, and that the whole thing was a great experience and gives them a great story to tell.

If you taking it from the mythological standpoint, the experience seems to have helped them cross the threshold into adulthood. Prior to the event, you get the feeling they felt they were suburban youths whose manhood was being suffocated. Now, they have established their own identity was would-be big time thieves.

Cheers.

X

8 comments:

DrD said...

Yeah, but that's a pretty high cost for some spoiled college kids to establish their identities.

Talk about sulf-indulgent...

Here's my view: If gifts were not showered on children so regularly in the US--and if every child didn't get a trophy "because we are all winners"--then the PROCESS of earning something of value--of achieving something difficult-- would build the identity/character that you speak of.

Character and identity help us to understand that we don't mug a librarian and steal people's property so that we can have an "identity". Seems very childish.

Character means that you don't take shortcuts to fame and fortune, but society doesn't learn this lesson because we're so busy watching TV and shopping that we don't have the time to do any real spiritual work.

The big irony is that--in their attempt to take a shortcut to fortune (and thereby establish an identity for themselves)--they will now have to take the long road.

I'll be they establish some character in prison. Yikes.

DDDDDDDDDDDDDD

Ralph said...

DrD:

I don't know. I think these kids had some character, although a bit mispent. I mean the one kid was like an all-state soccer player in high school, continued to play collegiately, and at the same time seems to have been working hard at his graphic arts studies. With his big workload, in addition to seriously planning this heist, I don't think you can say he was "lazy." I think he was pretty much looking for some adventure and was unable to find it in the narrow structure of his life to that point. And I think we both agree on the need for adventure...

Yes, he was clearly a West Sider, but still...

Cheers.

X

DrD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DrD said...

Yes....

This story really brought out the East Side/West Side dichotomy between us: East Siders always take the hard road and denigate anyone who takes too many short cuts.

It's just the way we are. I guess you can take the boy out of the East Side, but you can't take the East Side out of the boy.

We definitely see eye to eye on the need for adventure. However, I think it can be accomplished without assaulting someone and going to jail.

So, let me ask, do you see modern life as too restricting (typically)? And, if so, what can be done?

DDDDDDDDDDDDDD

Ralph said...

DrD:

Saying "modern life" is too restrictive is a bit too broad. I think there are plenty of opportunities for adventure in today's world. For example, I own my own business, through which I can literally make or lose thousands of dollars every day. I used to compare it to playing high stakes poker, which is definitely one way to stay fresh.

What I think can be restrictive are modern subdivisions, like the ones that the VF story described these kids growing up in. I think on some level, these kids were smart enough to know there was more to strive for than the bourgeois existence they saw all around them, yet didn't know how to venture out of their protective environmentm to go after it. In mythology, this is where a good guide comes in handy.

In their case (and this is in the VF story), their original guide was a petty criminal who was a little bit older than them, but had the same type of background. He apparently had achieved something admirable in their eyes by carving out a more fulfilling existence than the one that was being presented to them if they stayed on the straight and narrow. (Of course, picking up your cues from Hollywood movies like Oceans 11 is also a bit quesitonable, but they were smoking a lot of dope.)

I had a legendary Western Civ. teacher at Cathedral Prep, Fr. Duke (Thaddeous Kondzielski) who, when a student was acting out, would say, "Boy, you need guidance." I guess, he should have inserted the term "proper," in there. DrD, as a leader of students, it's your responsibility somewhat to spot some of these misguided youths and infuse them with your Eastside wisdom.

Carry on.

Ralph

Anonymous said...

Just a note-

The school is Transylvania University, not the University of Transylvania, which is Romania. I'm a student at the school and just wanted to point out the error. (Transylvania means "across the woods" in Latin, which speaks of the heavily wooded area that Lexington, KY used to be at the time of the schools founding in 1780.

Great synopsis of the story, by the way!

Anonymous said...

Your account is utterly ridiculous. The four idiot college students didn't come remotely close to "pulling it off". They used a "stun gun" on an elderly librarian, never got one penny for the books, used fake names that a child might think up, then gave the auction house in NYC a cell number that was registered in the actual name of one of the criminals. It didn't take any "cajones" to rob an old woman in an unsecured college building. It only took stupidity and greed fueled by too many drugs. Thye're all a bunch of losers.

Ralph said...

Wow. That last comment was harsh, but reading this post more than five years after I originally put it up (wow, was it that long ago?), anonymous commenter may have a point.