Friday, October 30, 2009

Colors, Threats, the Bottom Line

In July of this year, the Obama Administration started considering the color-coded warning system available to the public. In the Cold War days, this was all Civil Defense. Civil Defense had two settings: on and off. During "off", which turned about to be nearly always, there was practice. The practice was more or less not useful, (hiding under a school desk would not save you from an H-bomb) but then I wasn't old enough to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis personally.

I don't think the advisory system has any meaning. Over at Emergency Management, they're poking fun, suggesting fruit-bowl colors and "What, me worry?" This is a blog and company that presumably will make money over evaluating threats. A warning system is in his economic favor.


He's received a terse but glowering comment about not taxing Homeland Security with irrelevancies. Oh please. In the United States of America, we are Declarationally and Constitutionally suspicious of government cons. You don't have to be part of the Terrorist Love Society  or a retroactive Soviet to examine an expression of the government in these fifty states.

This one's not even a good con, because it's for public consumption, but has no bearing on public life. It signals no bridge closures, no airport protocol, no evacuation plan from a skyscraper or a warehouse. In the case of the airport, we've all figured out by now that we must not carry large containers of shampoo or nail files to the airport. It's a regulation, set in stone, but attaching it to a threat level gives it a temporary feel. But terrorism is not a temporary condition any more. Time to own up.

The closer you look at it, the more you see why military personnel say the public isn't involved in our wars or our anti-terrorism efforts. It's just all top-down or to the side.

What if we're "Code Amber" and we step up to "Code Red"? Somebody has to explain what the threat is to the public--or else lie. Do we want to give our forewarning away in advance? Do we actually change the color at an appropriate moment? I'm guessing not.

Should "threat elevation" accompany specific announcements or acts (e.g. Everybody who works in the Metropolitan Building of AnyTown, do not come to work, or, e.g. 2, All law enforcement personnel in AnyState wear Code Red armaments), or do our leaders expect us to swallow "Red means bad"  (a pun)? If we can't use it to make decisions or follow orders, what use is it?


What if we’re “Code Amber” and we step down to “Code Green” and something happens? What use is the color code when it doesn’t even cover ass?

It could be made functional, but not the way we use it now. Or, if it does serve a purpose, it does not serve the one advertised to the public at large.

Decide for yourself: Department of Homeland Security Threat Warning Page

Better Call Sis

I dreamed my sister and I were in a car and she was driving. She's telling me a story, and I interrupt her.

"Hey, I'm telling this," she said. "It's my turn. You can have another turn later."

I wake up: new day, personal warning . . .

Thursday, October 29, 2009

October: Good Stuff


"The Good Stuff"--It's a way of thanking the blog writers I follow (officially and unofficially) for writing great posts and editing great sites. Maybe you'll find a new writer that knocks your socks off, a like-minded individual, or somebody worth learning from.

Cities
Some members of the Chicago PD are working on a referendum to change City Government--post after post at Second City Cop. This is the post that got it off the ground.
New York Cabbie has a choice in mayoral candidates--sort of.
The NY Times is talking sewage. No lie! But that was only in August.
In DC, almost half of the residents live alone. Okay, so they're not alone in being alone.

Oh, Hell
Appallingly Innocent: But also Morons --and in Vancouver, Hostages to Their Fortune.
Tattooists can't spell, idiots can't drive, and crazy people don't come with instructions.
The rich are different. They're way more rude.
Daughters grow up. You have to plan ahead.
If you want to know about Swine Flu (H1N1) don't trust the Prez, trust the Centers for Disease Control.

Down Time
Enjoying the fall weather at Warrior Poets.
Other people's traditions make you wonder about your own.
Some Crafty Bastard won an award for a huge paper doughnut. Can't eat it, can't dust it, will not last, okay.

Working with Style
BTW, we're still in Iraq--and someone got promoted. Congratulations to the LPN!
New Taser advisories?--The SGT has a plan. (I don't know about Tasers; I read the Sgt for his unflappable approach.)
Compassionate but direct--medical advice at Trauma Queen.
Pressure where pressure is due . . . and some full-out cooperation at Report on Conditions
Using experience to good effect in LowCountry C & P.

Something Funny
Walk a mile in my shoes: at The Roanoke Cop.
Sergeant Murphy's Laws at The Things Worth Believing In. Somehow, there's a bunch of them.

For these and many other great reads, Thanks for a great October!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Get It Better Without Expert Heads on Video

I’m thinking about the Richmond rape case and the Derrion Albert case--both cases about groups against one. I have a lot of thoughts about this, but too many people are yakking away already. I've deleted my useless essay and looked for John Donne, the way he spelled it out:

No man is an Island,
intire of it selfe;
every man is a peece of the Continent,
a part of the maine;
if a Clod be washed away by the Sea,
Europe is the lesse,
as well as if a Promontorie were,
as well as if a Mannor of thy friends
or if thine owne were;
any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know
for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
For those that are holding the line on cruelty in Richmond and Chicago and-for that matter-
all other places where humanity is lost and community displaced, big case or small:

Thank you very much. I hope someone treats you kindly today. I hope you encounter some decency, somewhere, today. I wish you a good night's rest and a very good cup of coffee, soon after you wake up.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Good w/ the 'Hood: Joan of Arc meets Weenie


I’ve already written about the park across the street a little bit—our neighborhood’s one green space. Beautiful, if you overlooked the glass-strewn dirt and the tagged building, and our bedroom windows did.

I’m walking home from somewhere. Two young girls are in the park, maybe ten or twelve, both of them just loitering, maybe looking for something to do. A man is peeing right in front of them. They’re trying to ignore this, drifting away.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I stop oh, maybe twelve feet away. “This isn’t your bathroom. You’re right next to a middle school. There are children using this park.”

He shifts around, about my height, a little shorter, burly build, smooth face. All his clothes are brown. The overcoat’s dirty but not encrusted, if you know what I mean. He’s drunk, but not all the way.

“What are you going to do about it?” He’s mean with it.

Brain in fast mode: I’m going to plant my tennis shoe right where your zipper isn’t closed.
Brain in fast mode: (ah, not very much, actually . . .)

Mouth engages: “You shouldn’t do this. You either live near here, or you don’t. If you don’t, then this isn’t your park.”

“I live two blocks down the street,” he argues back.

“Then you should have walked two more blocks before going to the bathroom,” I tell him. “Don’t do this.”

He walks off, pissed. The two girls are long gone.

This kind of encounter, where I push for some standard and win a temporary battle, occurs over and over again. I never know if the war has made a difference to anyone but me. These encounters drive me to make fragile alliances over and over again. I never know if these have made a difference either.

I do know that some place in my spine is doing the thinking: Whatever words come out of my mouth seem to work at the time. I never know what I will say in advance.

Monday, October 26, 2009

IrishTown: Practicality

1. The middle school’s yard is fenced way high and covered in barbed wire. The schoolyard has not one basketball hoop, one tree, one flower. It upsets me, but mostly in context. As I recall, we always played on blacktop in my elementary school, too. Eventually I remember this. Quit with the Tragedy Ann routine.

2. If I had been the Queen of Rivertown, I would have been the Queen of Eminent Domain. (“Off with the shack!”) I would sometimes go through that neighborhood and silently pick houses for demolition. I would have subdivided the lots and given people yards. Of course, if you have a yard, then you have to mow it. It was an aesthetic response, not a practical one. No one can pay taxes or make repairs as it is. Few people have time to garden, although, I think a lot of them would have planted squash vines or flowers.
Abandon the dreams of Benevolent Despotism. No such thing.

3. The mayor was accused of inflating residency rates in the city. Census-takers estimated inhabitants for every building, livable or not. You could see the hollowness of that method where we were.

He was on his last term. It was safe to assign responsibility for the scandal by then.

IrishTown: Climate

IrishTown was laid out with single family dwellings one right after the next, not a lot of yard, just the alleys inbetween. Not a lot of trees, if any. The houses are wooden, mostly shotguns, most of them over a hundred years old. The streets are narrow, as befits a neighborhood built before the advent of Automobiles. Those houses that do have yards have enclosed yards. Everyone has bars on the windows. The kids play football on the street.

Houses were abandoned on my street and all the streets. They’re boarded up. Big deal. The plywood has baked and soaked up river humidity. People have pried away screws and broken windows so they can go inside.

There’s a lot of mosquitoes because it’s tropical. There’s a lot of mosquitoes because rimless tires sit around the neighborhood and collect water. These tires are great places to leave single-servings of rock that have been paid for elsewhere. The water washes the fingerprints off the plastic—or—that’s the legend. The water breeds mosquito larvae. That’s a fact.

I start collecting tires for trash pickup. I never find any rock, though—not that I want to. The trash collectors will take anything, anything at all—so long as you tip. Sometimes I wonder how much it costs if you have a dead body. I find out about that much, much later—not from them.

It takes me a week to figure the women headed to the bus in the morning do not work in health professions. They are cleaning houses. I used to clean houses too, but not in scrubs. I tell myself this is why I don’t get it right away.


Wikipedia entry Crack Cocaine, in case you are interested

IrishTown: History

Back when RiverTown was getting started, IrishTown was the part for immigrants who mostly worked as stevedores, (haulers on-and-off ship), or other hard labor related to shipping. The larger neighborhood held rope factories, warehouses. Maybe even shipbuilders, but there’s no sign of that now.

The Irish eventually shared the streets, and then successive waves of people moved through. It was never a genteel part of town. It was always a community. Or that's my impression.

My street stretched all the way to the docks. The docks had all been enclosed, because stevedoring went out and mechanical haulage came in. When the people are unemployed, the inevitable pilferage on the docks must have become an epidemic. Plus the liability issues.

That is not in the history. Just stands to reason.

River commerce made that neighborhood, but you cannot see the river from its streets any longer. Behind the insurmountable wall, the ports are failing, too.

At night, you can hear the drone of the tugboats. It's not all gone yet.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Good w/ the 'Hood: Ball in My Court


The Place
Across the street from our apartment was a tiny park, wedge shaped. It was fronted by the back of a failed furniture store. (Picture isn't it, but it sets a mood).

The furniture store was one of those that doesn't care if you have good credit. They do what they do, and its customers end up paying outsized dollars for a sofa that is covered in a rust-and-orange rooster print. I guess the neighborhood got tired of rooster sofas. The signs that closed off the windows fell when the tape lost its glue and it became a space for dust and another sign of abandonment and loss.

The other two sides of the street converged next to a middle school. The park was big enough to be lined with small city-sized trees. It had a metal fence around it in good repair (but no gates) and a lot of broken glass on the sidewalk. Inside the park, that glass was mostly brown beer bottle. Outside of the park, it was mostly auto glass. But it was our dog's "yard". I swept the sidewalks on the inner part, including some of the dirt, every week or two, so that Rosie could run and play and retrieve the ball. Since the building was there, I could knock the ball against the wall, and she would catch it.

The obstacle/opportunity: Rosie
The kids in the neighborhood (and their parents) were deathly afraid of dogs--panic, screeching, trembling, crying--it ran the spectrum. The "Rose-ster" was not a blood hound, or a German Shepherd, Doberman, or Pit Bull--any of the breeds I would associate with police work, huge-ness, mean-ness, or fight--she was a Border Collie, friendly, not an alpha fem, and great with kids. But fear is not rational.

Still, every time we went out to play, six or eight kids would stare at us, clenching the fence. They were fascinated by the fact that Rosie would catch the tennis ball almost every time. When she didn't, it was always the fault of the pitcher (me-not going out for baseball, ever). They asked questions and finally I was able to get some names from some of the kids.  A couple of them threw the ball for Rosie, but they did not want her bringing it back to them.

After a week or two, B-- finally came to the point--ah, indirectly. "What are you going to do with the ball afterward?"
"Ah, well, we're just going in. Sometimes she plays with it inside, but," I shrugged.

They wanted the dog-spit soaked ball so they could play. These kids had nothing to play with. I was struck by the opportunity and also a little upset with my vanity. Here I thought it was my dog that was the draw. But No, there was an Agenda Underneath. It was also a test: was I a mark, a bitch, or a neighbor lady? I gave the ball to B--.

"You can play with it as long as you like," I told him. "When you're done with it, ring the top doorbell," I pointed, "and I'll come back down and get it. Okay?" I made sure I used his name. He knew he was responsible. It was a test back now.

They had a fine time. B-- brought the ball back. He asked if they could use it again: of course.


This worked for two months. Then one evening B--buzzed my doorbell in a panic. "Hey, Hey, I gave the ball"--I didn't catch the rest of it, he was yelling too fast.

"Okay, I'll be right down."

B--was there, extremely worried. Next to him, another boy was scowling. B--started right in. "He's got the ball, but he won't give it back," he said. "I told him I was supposed to give it to you--"

They started arguing. I turned to the new kid. "Hey, I'm Ann," I said. "It's good to meet somebody new." We shook hands. No, I do not know any fancy handshakes. I just know the one that my Dad taught me, plus the Texas variation, which grips too hard for the rest of the world.

"I'm W--," he said. I got the ball back, no sweat. B--and W-- calmed right down. I gave W-- the policy, backing B--'s efforts up--and invited W-- to ring anytime he wanted the ball.

That ball was checked out and turned in like clockwork for months until it went into a fenced yard the kids wouldn't approach. Probably it had a dog in it. Or somebody cranky at the front door.

I later learned that W-- had considerable artistic talent. He had a sister, R--, a very savvy and self-possessed young lady. I never met any of these kid's parents. But I'm pretty sure they knew who I was. Whether they did or not, the kids had a rocking time and I got to watch.

Upstairs I had nine tennis balls. I only needed one.

Maybe I should have handed them out, but I don't think so. I think it worked the way it went.

Images: Flickr.com and toptennispro.com

Friday, October 23, 2009

Good w/ the 'Hood: New Marks on the Block

My father-in-law used to come to Rivertown and pass by homeless men, snarling: "I never give money to any man smoking ready-rolled cigarettes!" He was old enough to remember the Depression. He believed you could effin' roll-your-own tobacco if you were so damned down and out.

So that was his limit. It took me awhile to set my own limits in the right place, because I wanted to make alliances. Eventually I developed some kind of Donation Policy: No access, no jobs, very small amounts of money. That meant I would give donations to kids for sports uniforms, trips to Atlanta, NASA field trips, whatever of that type. Frequently they showed up with a piece of torn-out spiral paper and would write down your donation in pencil. Kids I knew got more than kids I didn't. I figured most of it went to candy bars.

If the Seventh Day Adventists came by, we exchanged a dollar per brochure up to four dollars. Religions or churches that I had never heard of Never got money. Politicians and activists never got money. That's what checks in the mail are for.

My husband had a different policy: He gave money to people he thought would be useful in the clinch. He paid more per hit, to many less people. That included one reliable-looking homeless man (former Vietnam Vet) with incredible manners and unfortunate drinking habits. He would have been one hell of a butler, concierge, or big-ticket salesman, but unfortunately, life had not been kind to him. He was a very kind man. He was probably also a bicycle thief.

My policy gave me the most interactions and friendly exposure to people on the street, and, I think, in the long run kept me out of more trouble. I knew more people. In general, I had many less annoyances down the road than my husband did.

The Scam Aspect
My donation policy meant that when I was scammed, I was able to enjoy the encounter, because I was cooperating within controlled limits. Naturally, getting scammed is only fun if you know in advance that's what's happening. I have been duped, and it stings. What follows was the worst, because it could have been true, and wasn't. We dupes always say that, especially when we get emotionally involved.

We Thought We Were Seasoned, but--La La La . . .
One weekend afternoon, my husband and I were having a Good Time Getting Stuff Done. A woman with five kids came down the street in some distress. She'd been kicked out of her home and needed a lot of money (remember, my dollar threshold is way low). She looked like a good risk--and--we are the new dumbasses on the block. We don't have money, but she says she needs to feed her kids. Everybody looks clean and decently dressed, all the kids have big unhappy eyes, and they're restless but not loud.

Okay, food I can do. Everybody trooped upstairs and I made soup and sandwiches.

But the kids weren't hungry. The story didn't hold up much. She and her kids eventually abandoned kitchen. And I grieved that Depression-era charity, the kind that begins at home, was gone--perhaps it was overrated--

In this case, I broke the access rule. We were stupid, and that's on us to learn. We were also lucky, with five potential lifters and one potential armed robber upstairs--lalala, come right on up--and all we lost was uneaten groceries. And, no big electronics in the house, so if she was casing the joint, it looked like a no-win for her later, too.

So nothing bad came of it. We learned what seemed a hard lesson that could have been so much harder.

I'm Salty Now . . . .
After the first twenty or so times, I no longer paid people's lost  bus fare. It is the least imaginative scam. I am far too seasoned a scam-ee to go for that one any longer.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good w/ the 'Hood: Characters

Okay, I guess this is really turning into a story. See Disclaimer.

I met Characters. I was waiting for the bus. I go into a storefront, not knowing what it sells. It has twenty tacky plastene handbags covered with dust. The proprietor is an old man white, white, brown eyes, horn-rimmed glasses, old white polyester cotton shirt, baggy pants, I think brown. He watches me. I'm trying to make friends.

"You're from the North, aren't you?" He sits back, a little mean-eyed. "I can tell, because you move too damned fast."
"Well, no," I say. "I was born in the South, and I moved here from Texas." He doesn't believe me. I add, stupidly, "My parents are both from the Midwest."

"Uh-huh." As if that explains everything he doesn't like about me. Okay, I'm not from here. I feel it now.

I was waiting for the bus. An elderly lady is now also waiting for the bus: white, white, happy eyes, flowered hat, flowered dress, sweet face. She grins at me.

"I'm a rebel," she said, exceedingly delighted. "Tell me, are you a Rebel?"
"Well, yes, ma'am," I said. "But not the way you mean." Still an idiot, I feel compelled to explain. "I would have been on the North's side, if it was the Civil War."

She literally lifted her skirt--okay, just two inches, not over her head--as if to keep my dust from mingling with her dust.  "Well," she huffed. "I don't b'lieve I like you." She went away. Not sharing the bus with me, or was she a ghost? I never saw her again. The old bastard either, and I looked for them. The store was abandoned.

At the local grocery, all the produce is rotting on the shelves. I pick through it carefully. A cashier in a Cleopatra hairstyle dumps it into the bag. I later learned that imaginative hair was one of the delights of RiverTown. I mean this. But at the moment, I feel like I'm on Mars.

I don't believe in ghosts--much. Or I don't think they're like Caspar, or the films. Years later, again on a bus, I saw a black woman in a tignon (that's a kerchief around the head) fishing in the mist along water of the city's biggest park. When I saw her, I knew she was a ghost. Or if not, she was still a character in touch with a past that was not open to me.

By then, I had accepted this. By then, I was just glad to be able to see.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Neighbors Bring Tar & Feathers to Budget Meeting


and I am run out on a rail: Witch! Witch! Abuser of power!!!! Get out of our sight!!!

Nope, my dread was for nothing. Worst of the gig is over. Three people showed up to talk about the budget increase. One of them wants us to add something back in, thereby raising budget a little more. Another wants to know why we pay so much for phone and Internet. I promise to check that again, and I will. The third just wants to know how it goes.

The Board Member who wants us to cut more from the budget (don't know how) did not show up. Twelve doughnuts and one box of coffee cooled on the table in the Community Room.

Due diligence accomplished! Now to be re-elected. . . that's next month.

Image from nwta.com

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Good w/ the 'Hood: Drugs! Arson! News at Six!

See: Diss-claimer
As reported in the first installment of this series, we had not lived in our new apartment for five days before two incidents of arson occurred down the street, caused by (or so we heard) a drug dealer who lived across the street. What apparently happened, (no, I was not there, so stick “alleged” in wherever appropriate):


The Incident
Two moms didn’t want drug dealing to go on in front of their children. So they called out a T.V. network. As they were complaining for video recording, the alleged dealer came out of his house, and one of the moms said, “Look, there he goes.”

The camera panned across the street to get a good look at the man she accused. That night, the station apparently aired the footage. The next night: fired houses, both families.

The Victims and Perp(s?)
Now here’s the thing nobody ever gets except the policemen or whoever adjudicates the dispute. When you read the above two paragraphs, you know who is “right” and who is “wrong.” Your reporter will rarely tell you that the person who’s right is frequently as hard to deal with as the one who’s wrong. And, I’m guessing, much more unpredictable. Drug dealer? Going to evade truth, capture or incarceration. Complainant? Could be anything from soup to nuts.

I never met that alleged drug dealer, or, not to my knowledge.  But I did meet the savior of the neighborhood. She was a contentious, loud-mouthed martyr with a baby stroller. That was how she was ALL the time.

Don’t get me wrong: she was right to fight against the drug dealing. It was terrible for her house to be burned down.  But I’m pretty sure one reason she got no action “before” the journalistic interest and the arson was that nobody wanted to hear her scream at them on the phone. She was not a listening kind of woman, or a woman who would wait for results.

Maybe that’s the kind of person it took to get a little action. Maybe somebody had to get a big fat horrible incident down for our neighborhood to get the “Red Alert” classification in a city that had a sky-high homicide rate. And, she lived in that house afterward, once it was repaired again. That takes guts too.

Neighborhood Watch and Community Liaison Officer
Well, of course we were concerned. I went to the “Neighborhood Watch” meeting which included a Catholic Priest (vics were Catholic, almost everybody there is) who gave a little prayer, the aide to the city councilman for that district (soon to run for that seat on City Council--and Win) and the various people who showed up. Except for the politician, they were all white from that mostly black neighborhood. Give you a hint: they were Ward Heelers for the district, too. (New in town? Let me tell you who to vote for, blah blah, wink, nudge.)  The rest were some of the “Ward Heeled”.  

There was also a policeman, the one who’s liaison for the public in these things, out doing his job: “Yes, the PD is very concerned. Yes, it will be a priority.”

We weren’t smart enough to ask for an action plan, or specifics, e.g., “There will be drive-throughs every five minutes, emptying police presence in all other at-risk neighborhoods, in order to keep this already-burned-down house from burning down again.”  If I had been the liaison officer, I wouldn’t give one anyway. I can just hear some guy with a stopwatch on the corner: “They only came by every eight minutes, not every five as promised. One time they were laughing. One time they were eating. This isn’t what we pay TAXES for!!!!!”

Besides, in this context, the liaison officer is preaching to the choir. Because, you know, none of us wanted to be burned out or otherwise harassed for the good of a bunch of drug dealers, am I right? Yeah, about that I’m right. Were we going to piss off the liaison cop? Not a chance. We were going to grab whatever feel-good life vest he handed us. We were Doing Something.

Not that I’m down on the liaison cop. The Neighborhood Watch was not a group of people working with their better nature. There were PLATITUDES. There was SHOCK. There was HORROR. There was DETERMINATION? Ah, sure, but not when it came to any Personal commitment.

Plus the smarmy political advice.  If that’s what we were going to get from Neighborhood Watch, I preferred to take my chances with the cops, the robbers, and the un-Watching Neighborhood Watch. Even the priest seemed a little too happily distressed to have this problem on his hands. Maybe he was hoping Disaster would turn the tide for his parish. That's what we all wanted: a turned tide.

Post-Neighborhood Watch
The Church assisted the two families. The husband of the louder woman was a sweet and gentle man with not much to say for himself—good thing, too, probably, or his house would have exploded long before Arson Night. The other woman who complained I met once: another sweet and quiet one. They got jobs at the church, and housing. That lasted about a year, and so, on the civilian side of the story, that made the Priest the real Hero. 

The main thing I remember was that the not-Neighborhood watch seemed to make the most sense: keep your head down, and the shit will eventually quit blowing. Or at least, waiting to ally with some group I liked, I ended up allied with the non-aligned.

But you know, the solidarity was reassuring in another way. When the ladies came by with their kids, they were neighbors I now knew. It didn’t take long for the main one to warm up, and soon she was confiding that I should never trust a person from  (a different suburb). That was a suburb she was from, she said, and she knew all about it—white trash, every last one. 

Conclusion
Life is never simple. Can I honor this woman for sticking up for the law, her family, and her neighborhood, and still see that her character was not completely admirable? Oh, yeah, you bet.

In case you’re keeping score, drug dealing was equal opportunity in that neighborhood—wouldn’t care to guess which race the perp was, because we had both, or, so many gradations of color, who knew?  Of the two households burned, its four adults, the loud lady was the white one from the untrustworthy suburb. Personally, I think her out-loud stance has less to do with color and more with the unresolved anger she had built up over a lifetime. I have a little extra information on this from a reliable third party, which I will not share.

So race comes up in this one, and for the chief complainant, I’m pretty sure it can be dismissed as a primary motivator. The Neighborhood Watch: now that did fall along racial lines. In my opinion, the whites thought they could agitate for police attention and flex power to change policy, but they didn’t really have any say about official activity—that’s what the Community Liaison Officer was for, to make our attention Seem Worthwhile. Basically, he worked to get clueless white folks off the backs of the beat officers-a kind of metaphorical "Crime Scene Tape". The blacks believed (I assume) agitating wouldn’t make a freaking bit of difference—yet it does. Both races were wrong. Both races were right.

There wasn’t any more arson. I don’t think neighborhood watch had anything to do with it. I think it had to do with the arson itself: it moved the complainants partly out of the neighborhood for a year. And probably the drug dealer had to lie low a little while. Maybe he was arrested. I don’t remember that.

Image: FreeFoto.com

Monday, October 19, 2009

Spend Money Wisely: I Pitch to the Neighbors

I've served almost one term (two years) on a Condominium Board. The first year I was the Secretary. I took minutes, signed papers, etc.

The second year (this year) I have been Treasurer. It's been a lot of work, a volunteer position that requires diligence. We are done with the Budget. This is because I made a schedule in advance with the General Manager, and then we rammed that schedule. Plus there is a very talented member of this board who understands budgets but cannot serve as an Officer. So I am the Officer. My job is to make sure the talented people get what they need to have, and nobody steps on them in the middle or harasses them in the end. I take the flak. I'm very good with flak, so this works out.

We are having a rate increase. I have to explain this to our electorate. We have done all kinds of due diligence on this budget, but it is what it is. We haven't raised fees very much for years. No one ever wants them raised, including me. But this is the year they go up, under my watch. The belt won't tighten any more.

So, in a one-bedroom condominium unit, you get your utilities paid (ALL of them: trash, gas, electric, water, antenna-okay, not cable, internet or phone), someone to watch the front door and sort your mail, take care of the pipes and emergency generator, call the laundromat people when the washers aren't working, etc etc etc.

My current monthly fee for this is $312.00 per month. When we raise fees 8%, I will be paying an additional $25.00 a month. This still seems cheap to me.  One check, once a month: no hassle, all taken care of. We're already saving for the roof repair that comes in twenty or so years. Condominium Associations are a great idea.

The "Q & A Meeting of the Budget" will be at 7 tomorrow. It was my idea in the first place, because I am all about transparency when people have to spend their money. For some reason, I am happy about this but not thrilled, if you know what I mean.

I'm running for office again. Silly me. But I believe I've done a good job. And it's interesting, also wise, to check more carefully and be involved in your investments. By serving on the Board, I understand how things are going with the primary investment of my life.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Good w/ the 'Hood: Introduction

Recently I read a post by Second City Cop where the (mostly anonymous) comments included a few remarks about White Liberals moving into neighborhoods slated for Urban Renewal, and how these White Bread suburbanites (Bourbonites) could not navigate reality worth a damn. How they would alternate their liberal snobbishness with panic to the police who saved their butts. I’m sure they’ve seen it happen that way a million times.

Well, the cops were my friend--no, not my friend, because we were working, not goofing around--the arbiter of second-to-last resort, as it were. Mostly I didn’t need them. Sometimes I really needed them, though, and they were always nice to me.
 
We moved to this neighborhood for cheap rent, which was what we could afford. We wanted a place with enough room, maybe a little architectural feature or two, our budget sucked, and we were renting. This place looked secure: top story of a storefront, now used as a warehouse, formerly a cop bar. Iron grates on the bottom floor, the front door, and a long hallway to get to our stairwell.
 Of course it wasn’t safe—people climbed the iron grate to the sidewalk running between two buildings, which stretched up twelve feet and had barbed wire as a crown (in "RiverTown", a sidewalk between two buildings is an alley, it’s private, and it’s your yard). They stole my husband’s bike three times out of that alley (that’s three different bikes) and if they had been truly bloodthirsty toward my husband and me, they could have:

A. Stepped onto the awning, which was sturdy and solid;
B. Come into the front window without even stooping down, and
C. Murdered us in our beds, although,
D. What would anyone have gained from it? Not so much that would sell on the street, not cash either. Not that this matters. Even though we thought we were broke, we made more money than anyone else on that street. And had no kids.
    The front windows didn’t lock, and anyway the windows were frequently open. Yes, there were screens. Not that screens would have made a difference either.

    That was the summer of 1991, when RiverTown was the murder capital of America. All summer long, through our open windows, burglar alarms rang from the mostly-swanky Garden Heights, untended, twenty-four hours a day.

    That summer, the week we moved in, somebody committed arson on two houses down our street. Those two families had objected to drug dealing going on in front of their toddlers.

    That summer, one night, someone with a gun methodically went through the neighborhood shooting all the dogs. It wasn’t hard to figure out that it had nothing to do with hating dogs. Canine-icide was all about who ruled the now-silent streets of IrishTown.

    That summer, I never saw a cop car with all four hubcaps. Bunches of them had smashed headlights. You had to wonder how many of them were Completely out of commission that you didn’t see.

    We lived in that location for six to eight years? Okay, a lot of bad stuff happened, but nothing I couldn’t laugh about afterward—the “WTF wuz I thinking” kind of laugh. Also remarkable stuff, or sad stuff. Stay tuned. I’ve been a lucky woman.

    Good w/ the 'Hood: Disclaimer

    Diss-claimer: I am not a martial arts expert, marksman, law enforcement officer, military hero, shrink, clergyperson or—expert--of any sort. In short, never take anything here as advice for future conduct. Okay? If you do what I did, you’re probably nuts.

    One reason people read first-hand accounts is so that they don’t do the same thing. They learn from experience and do something more rational than what they have read. That is the course I recommend. Do something better. See sentence 1: I am not the expert on what that would be.

    Police Work: A Elegy on the Irony

    This over at The Things Worth Believing in:
    Paul Harvey's elegant encapsulation of all the crap and shit that police officers have to put up with.
    We need to appreciate the people who are there for us.
    When you don't need a cop, that means you have been living in the space that they have created for you--a space called "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".
    When you need one, they come and impose order. Is it so hard for us to see this?

    Saturday, October 17, 2009

    My Library-A Writer's Collection

    Eventually, this blog will be public space. So, this post serves as another kind of introduction (see blah blah category, your warning that I am running on about Ann T.).  It will also introduce the book category. If you like books, this might be a blog you'd enjoy checking fairly regularly. I will hope for that.

    I used to work in a bookstore, ten years in fact. When I moved from Louisiana, I had (along with my husband) about 3,000 books. Hey, except for some textbooks and a small amount of fiction, it was all mine.
    I was moving into a vastly smaller space. I had to cut down. This was easy for everything except the library. Everything had significance. I loved it all, or I wouldn't have it, right?

    I think to a book lover, one's bookshelf shows first, your love of reading. You've committed space and furniture to these objects. You prefer your own copy to a library book that someone has smashed a candy bar into between pages 164 and 165.

    Second, books that meant something at the time. They might not matter so much now, but they were a part of my life development. For me, that includes some odd combinations: Richard Brautigan v. Jane Austen, for example. In the nonfiction category, this includes books that PROVE I took philosophy classes--not otherwise evident, I assure you. A diploma takes up much less space, but you can't consult it for review.

    Third, those books I plan to read eventually. I still have some of those. James Joyce's Ulysses, Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding. All three will take long weekends and I think high self-esteem to finish. I have the Complete Woiks of Shakespeare, but that doesn't mean I've read every play. Stop being intimidated when you come to my house. Like all good intentions, that bookshelf's partly a long con, baby.

    Fourth, as a writer, I have books I consult. As with cookbooks,  you don't have to read the whole thing.
    Books on British and Celtic history, the Vikings, the Regency period in Britain and the Napoleonic Wars, the Civil War, the American West, World War II, California Wine Making, and International Relations--and--

    how households lived, how they cooked and dressed, managed their households, had sex (yeah, they all had sex-go figure-I thought kink was invented in 1968), and practiced medicine and practiced agriculture.
     Woo-woo Astrology and Jungian archetype books to help me spur character development--and--

    Books on Strategy and War, Police Work--that's what I'm collecting now.

    Previous to the move across country, I got it down to around 1500 books. No used bookstore in town would give cash for books (unfortunately), so I took the long way around. I would trade three boxes of books for some weighty tome (such as the Encyclopedia of Britain in the Hanoverian Age--(gorgeous and, largely unread) or hardback version of a disintegrating paperback I couldn't bear to part with otherwise.

    Six years later, I'm down to about 1200 books.  Even at 3000 books, the library was an incomplete reflection of my habits and interest. But, you know, I'm way out of room.

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    Days of Heaven (1978)

    Terrence Malik wrote and directed this visually beautiful film set in the 1900s, right before World War I. It won an Oscar for best cinematography for Nestor Almendros that year. I don't know what it was competing with, but I'd say this was a great choice for the award.
    I caught it once (okay, on late night television) and couldn't get over how wonderful it was.

    At the end, Linda Manz, the girl character who narrates throughout the film, runs away from school, or plays truant--to talk to a friend she made during the time of crisis. The girl is slightly older but doesn't have the same smarts as her friend. The last line goes something like this:

    This girl doesn't know where she's going or what she wants. Maybe she'll meet up with a character.

    Yeah--the story keeps going, with different leads . . .


    Grief After Tragedy

    A New York Times article on Grief Sickness. One of the interesting things is that almost all of the comments are very sensitive. Usually people's comments on the NYT or anywhere are not sensitive at all. Just one big rant after another. But this was nice.

    It's also partly geared to people who suffered in 9-11.