ebruary 19th, 2009, Lucas Daniel Smith purportedly walks out of the Coast Province General Hospital in Kenya with a certified copy of Barack Obama’s Birth Certificate.
A tale of three parts….
It was November 11th, 2009, and Michael Jackson’s funeral was playing on the row of televisions overhead. The Thriller was finally being buried after months of hypotheses about his autopsy, and now the talking heads on CNN were there to cover Elizabeth Taylor and Corey Feldman as they found their seats before the service began.
Just a few days later, they’d put Jackson’s half-plastic corpse in a mausoleum down the hall from Humphrey Bogart’s. What a way to go.
I watched the footage while slumped into a worn, black naugahyde chair at Salt Lake City Airport. Outside a flurry of soft snow breathed onto the cold, wide windows of the terminal.
While the snow swirled, and the TVs hummed, a hundred teenaged Mormons were all readying themselves for their requisite two-year mission trips. Utah is famous for its Mormon population, and I was surrounded by a throng of believers as they discussed their upcoming trips with relatives on the airport payphones.
Cheap talk from the newsmen and the excitable Mormons blended together in the air.
Here lies one of the most talked-about performers of this or any other generation. As you can see, celebrities are still getting seated. “Oh, it’s great! I’m in the airport right now! Yes. Germany! Two years in Berlin! I’m so excited! Praise the Lord and his servant John Smith is right!”
Macaulay Culkin takes a place. Elizabeth Taylor, of course, is getting seated close by.
My phone rang.
“Yeah.” I answered.
“Yeah? No ‘hellos’ any more, my boy? Where are you?”
Charles boomed. He was always booming.
“So, you’re going to be in California in a few days?”
“Can you believe it? ITALY! I’m too excited for words! Jehovah be praised!”
“Don’t fucking do this to me. Charles you never leave when you should.”
“Florida is taking more time than I thought, okay? Besides, Orly is there handling things for me.”
“Orly… is insane. This whole thing is insane. I got on a goddamned plane with two hours notice and you can’t even meet me in California?”
“Orly’s there, Peyton.”
“Do you even know where I’m staying tonight? Has anyone figured that out?”
“Orly will have someone there to pick you up.”
“Who will be there to pick me up?”
“John Smith be praised!”
“Don’t know yet, but we are working on it.”
King of Pop.
I didn’t know what waited for me in California – not exactly – but what else was new? I had worked for Charles Edward Lincoln, III for three years and I knew better, to expect the unexpected.
Our profession was not for the weak of heart. Or the sound of mind, for that matter. Santa Ana was par for the course.
An hour and a half later I stood in the warm air outside the John Wayne Airport when a Dodge mini-van from the 90’s pulled up and rolled down a tan window.
“Peyton?” A voice came from the darkened interior.
“I heard you needed a ride.”
The driver’s name was Patti and she had gotten a call from Orly Taitz to pick me up thirty minutes ago. She was in her fifties, with short curly hair the color of watered down Coca Cola. Her wire framed glasses had thick lenses. Her sea foam green t-shirt was baggy.
We bummed down the 5 and deeper into Orange County when she broke the silence.
“So, Peyton? Do you know where you are staying?” She blinked, and turned down the radio, and rolled up the window a bit before she leaned in to hear me.
“Kind of crazy to expect you to come out here without a place to stay.…” She laughed nervously. “Have you spoken to Orly?”
Orly… Charles had tried to get me to call her on several occasions but I failed to see any point in it. I was going to California for something unrelated, something that didn’t involve that woman. At least I hoped. But there, sitting in Patti’s van, it became clear that I was fast becoming a part of the “Birther Movement”.
Whether I liked it or not.
She Did What?
When I looked her up online I didn’t really get it. On YouTube there seemed to be an almost bottomless amount of material and videos featuring Taitz, and none of them made her look anything but crazy.
Through a thick Moldovan accent she had been preaching the conspiratorial gospel of the “Birther Movement”, telling anyone who’d listen about why Barack Obama should be impeached and how she was leading the charge and how you could donate to her cause.
How this woman ever got a law license – let alone the ear of an entire nation – seemed a mystery to anyone watching. But, then again, Orly’s stint as an attorney was no less mysterious than anything else about her.
Born in 1960 in the Moldova Soviet Socialist Republic, Orly Taitz emigrated to the United States in 1992 with her husband and ended up starting over in the suburban sprawl of Orange County.
She set about getting her US Dental License, then a real estate license, and then finally a law license in 2002. As an attorney she had only been involved in a few cases, all of which involved allegations of medical malpractice against her dental office.
In fact, she did so little legal work, that she did not even have a law office. Instead, she would meet witnesses, members of the press, and her clients at her dental offices in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. The dental offices were the nerve center of the movement, and Orly Taitz was quickly finding that she had bitten off a bit more than she could chew.
She had sued Obama two times before we even knew who she was. Both cases were flashes in the pan, legally speaking, but they got people talking more and more about the potential merits of the allegations.
By the time she filed her third case, Barnett v. Obama in the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and US District Courthouse in Santa Ana in April of 2009, more and more people wanted to know whether or not President Barack Hussein Obama was truly a citizen of the United states of America.
Filed on behalf of a series of fringe political candidates, and former members of the military, Orly Taitz was leading a movement hell bent on proving that President Barack Obama was in fact born in Kenya, and ineligible to serve as President of the United States, hence the term “Birther”.
Barnett v. Obama gave Orly the foothold she needed to question the validity of his presidency.
The military has a constitutional duty to uphold the title of the Presidency, unless they have reason to believe that the President is not fit for service. Should the military believe that the President is not a US citizen, who accordingly cannot legally hold that office, it is the duty of the military to question that leadership. And arguably the chain of command would allow them to do that.
And when a Moldovan Jewish lawyer/real estate agent/dentist decides to sue the President of the United States on behalf of a bunch of military members? The media comes running.
MSNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, all would turn to her for a new insane comment, and with each new interview she’d produce a new witness and a new birth certificate. These “witnesses” came out of the woodwork so quickly that none of them would be vetted and Orly would often find herself speaking up for the validity of two different birth certificates at the same time.
Orly had hired Charles earlier that summer and he had been dealing with her almost exclusively without me. Up until that point I hadn’t even spoken to her.
It was in June when Charles had been put to work in a spare office down the hall from a dozen of her dental chairs, overseen by a slew of Eastern European dentists with drills buzzing in hand.
As he wrote, Charles would pipe Wagner through the tinny speakers of his laptop while the drills hummed through soft teeth down the hall and the watchful eyes of Rasputin looked down on him from a frame on the wall.
Orly believed he was a “magic Jew”, and accordingly hung portraits of the Russian gypsy all over her offices for good luck. Charles ended up writing 90% of what she had filed in the new case before he had to rush over to Florida to put out another fire.
“That’s why I need you there. I need you to be my eyes and ears on the ground there my boy!” Charles said over the phone.
I was sitting on a guest bed in Patti’s house. The bedroom used to be her daughter’s, before she went to college. I was slowly realizing that I was here to help with an upcoming hearing, although how, I didn’t know.
And Charles was sitting in a condo in Tarpon Springs, Florida. The bastard. He always managed to put me in harm’s way while he stayed in the background. That was how he had arranged our entire relationship. To him I was the “trustee,” the scapegoat.
“I thought we talked about this: I don’t want to get involved any more than I already have.” I said.
“Look, I understand that it’s insane, and I don’t particularly care about whether or not Obama was born in Kenya either. BUT…”
“But we need the fucking money….”
“We need the fucking money, and Orly might be willing to help us out with our problem there in California.”
“I thought you said that she was a horrible lawyer.”
“Not with me, with us writing for her, Peyton. Look we need a lawyer, you know that. We have been looking for someone that will work with us using our legal theories and finally we’ve found someone crazy enough to do it! And you yourself said that you wanted to avoid accusations of the unauthorized practice of law. “
In a way, he was right. For years we had been trying to sue banks for wrongful foreclosure without the aid of a lawyer and for years it wasn’t really working. Maybe having a lawyer with national media attention would legitimize our cases.
“Look these people are putting me up and they think I’m working for Orly…”
“Yes, and as far as anyone is concerned you are okay? Look, we don’t have the money to put you up and you need to be there anyway so…”
“So what? Act like I’m a birther?”
“Just talk to them about the case you know…”
“What about the case Charles? I don’t know anything about it!”
“Did you talk to Patti about Lucas?”
Patti had mentioned his name in the van as we pulled into her driveway earlier. She said he was some kind of witness, but witness to what, I didn’t know. She said he was flying in a couple of days. That he was to stay in the bedroom down the hall from where I was currently seated.
I hung up the phone. And went to sleep with a vague, ominous feeling in the pit of my stomach. Who was Lucas? And why did I have to meet him?
Seven hours later, the yellow ball of a sun slid up the blue California sky like a happy sigh. A knock came at the door.
“Hello! Good morning!” A man’s voice came from the other side.
“Yes?” I cracked the door open and looked out. It was Patti’s husband, Phil.
He was a kindly, nerdy man with thinning blond hair, and glasses.
At one time Phil was a rocket scientist who worked with NASA. After he retired, he moonlighted as a volunteer fire fighter until he was nearly consumed by flames in one of the many forest fires that riddled the California hillsides. When the smoke cleared he decided to go back to his roots as an engineer and build something for his sons.
His sons all had some fresh new extreme sport in their lives and Phil decided that he would contribute to their death defying lifestyles, which is why he designed the world’s first extreme pogo stick. He called his company “Vertugo,” so called because of the nauseating feeling his products induced on the riders, who would often lose it after figuring out the thing could propel them a good ten feet in the air.
“I know it sounds crazy, but that’s what I do: pogo sticks.”
We stood outside the door in silence when I looked to my left and saw a series of plaques on his wall. Each one commemorated a mission trip had by one of their children to some far-flung locale in Europe.
“Berlin 2006,” “Barcelona 2003,” “Paris 2005,” his kids had invaded western Europe for their Lord and savior Jesus Christ of the Church of Later Day Saints. Suddenly I felt the urge to retreat to my room.
To be continued.
Peyton Freiman is an American visual artist, writer, and sometimes actor. His art has been exhibited in both New York and Austin, while his writing has appeared in The Wild Magazine. He has also appeared in the Austin based web series “Master Class”, as the character Carson. His personal website is: www.mrfreiman.com.