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Streets and porches are empty now. Yards covered in trash bags and piles of tires outnumber the well-kept lawns.
"You feel sorry for the people who live next to this fucking guy," Smith says, pointing to a house with trash covering the yard.
Down a dead-end street, he pulls up to a house that has collapsed. The rotting wood frame barely hides a trailer that the residents have moved into, Smith says.
"They just let the house in front of it fall down and just stayed in the trailer," Smith says. "That's the amazing thing about the shit down in here."
Smith caught hell the last time he wrote about blight in Blue Summit.
"If Dog Patch is such a bad place how did you make it through here takin all of these pictures?" someone named Will wrote on October 15. "I've lived here all my childhood and never had a problem with anyone so I think you really need to get your shit right and last of all you don't need to talk shit about people you don't know just to make your life look better. P.S. Get a life."
"These people are human beings who deserve diginity [sic] and respect as such, and folks should not treat this area as a spectacle to be viewed by onlookers as if in some kind of tragic zoo," an anonymous poster added October 19.
"It pissed off people and offended them, but it didn't make it not true. The place is a fucking cesspool, and a lot of 'em could do better," Smith says of the people who live there.
Places like "Dog Patch" fascinate him.
"I like looking at this kind of shit. It makes you wonder about the people living in it. That's why I wrote about it. It's more interesting to write about that kind of shit than my new exercise program or what happened on the last episode of Lost."
It's Saturday afternoon. Smith parks in front of two identical brick buildings on Forest Avenue.
"This was the old federal halfway house," he says.
Smith stayed at Dismas House at 3126 Forest when he was released from prison on Christmas Eve in 1999. It has been 10 years since his last conviction.
The halfway house is now shuttered. (Dismas House later moved to 207 West Linwood.) Smith walks to an alley next to the building and points to a wire running from what was once the building's TV room.
"See that cable coming out?" He points to a window where his bedroom used to be and says he and another resident rerouted the cable to their bedroom. They hid their TV in a cabinet. They opened the cabinet at night and watched HBO.
"Man, I thought this place was like heaven when I got out. If you wanted to, you could leave. I didn't."
Check kiting and a bankruptcy scam in the early 1990s put Smith in state and federal prisons. Smith says he was in the recycling business with a couple in Springfield. "The company was going to take a nose dive," he says. They filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Smith says he opened a second company to buy the recycling company's assets at pennies on the dollar, then turned around and sold them for actual value.
"And we split the money," he says.
They got caught. He jumped bond, played cat-and-mouse with federal agents and postal inspectors, bolted for California. But he came back to Kansas City in 1994, between Thanksgiving and Christmas. He called his girlfriend, but a bounty hunter had already found her and told her that there was a reward for turning him in. After Smith called her, she called the bounty hunter, who called the feds.