Friday, December 31, 2010

Fats Waller: Lulu's On The Town!!! (1935)

For all of you going out tonight, be sure and dress like you're running into Lulu somewhere. And that means sharp, baby. Totally for effect.
But most of all, don't drink and drive. Lulu wants you to get where you're going. All Right Now! Fats!

Every Year

Every year I keep a journal. Not a diary, because I can't fit a day in a tiny page.
Some days need no writing; other days pages and pages.

This year I kept it on-line, on a closed site. When I was at my worst, and couldn't go on-line, I couldn't use my journal either. Lessons learned.

Every year I buy one poetry book from one living poet. We love the poems tested by time, but we need to keep this craft going. I realize my one poetry book is not going to keep this going, but it's a start.

Every year I have black-eyed peas for New Year's Day. One of my concessions to good luck aggregation. And it's painless-what's not to like?
I also have a horseshoe over my door.

Every year I make a list of resolutions. Oh, who am I kidding? Every other day I make a list of resolutions.
Time to get cracking--I've got an hour or so left.

Upcoming Posts & Traditions
I have been working on some posts for January. I don't know if sixteen months and 535 posts allows me to qualify for tradition, but I think maybe so. (I started this gig in September 2009. The posts for August 2009 are all back-dated.)

Every month the Ann T. Hathaway blog remembers the sacrifices of law enforcement officers here. The post for December will go up January 2, 2011. I'm going to keep doing this throughout 2011.

During National Fire Week, the Ann T. Hathaway blog noted the sacrifices of the fire and EMS services. And again next year.

Every year the Ann T. Hathaway blog mentions the sacrifices of our military personnel over the past year.
Those posts will be going up on Sundays in January (the 9th and 16th so far)  until this blog has noted them all--not every fear or pain or triumph--of course not--but a complete record of the fallen.

Continuing Series
Judging by the numbers, my gang pages are used and looked at. I'm going to try to fill in some interesting things on that over the next year.

The "Cities Crime and Economics Series" will get more posts. It is not as well-read as the gang pages, but I think useful from time to time for my readers. It also keeps me sharp.

This coming year, I want to take more photographs. But, I want to get brave and take street-side portraits. You'll see if I meet that goal.

And the Personal
Plus, I am sure there will be more on the Condo Board. There will be more poetry from the living and the dead. I want to include more passages from books on strategy, more memories, more street-side stories.

My biggest Ann T. resolution is to include advances in the present-day, non electronic world--maybe even some fiction published here and there. Thanks to my readers for cheering me on this year.

Come see your achievements--your good influence--because you have been. Thanks for everything you've done. Thanks for my advances, however uneven my performance at times, in 2010. Thanks for everything. I mean that.

Have a great day!

Every year I keep a journal . . . .

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Greens for the New Year

These are the white versions of ornamental Kale. A looseleaf one and a tighter-headed one.

I couldn't find them yesterday evening. Here you go, Bob and The Observer! More Martian lettuce. Although these don't look quite as wild as the other one did.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Full of Cheek

In the post below, Ann T. posted gritty pictures. She keeps running on and on about unrealized genius. But then there's dinner. An acorn, as it happens. Enjoy!

Jan T.and D'Love, Nearly Famous Around Here--

Now mind you, I understand this tagging or graffiti is vandalism, a crime. However, I am interested in it as a way that some express identity and hostility--or if not hostility, how they extend their space in the world.

I think taggs are similar to Queen Elizabeth's elaborate panniered skirts, soaring cathedrals, and election signs--extended "space-taking" through "decoration".  They can be critiqued, therefore, and analyzed. The stakes in this activity are different for different people; you can kind of tell what the stakes by the actual tags that you see. I use a kind of amateur handwriting analysis coupled with number of tags, and amount of effort expended to reclaim space and fill it in.

A guy like Che needs to have a venue. He's developed some techniques. I'd like to see a large canvas from him--what he could do on the legitimate side.

I had this one figured out except for the J. Fortunately, Janti provided a helpful key.
On painted cinderblocks, along an alley. This is a pawn shop wall. As you will see through this post, he's still trying for the perfect signature. Don't ask me why I think he's a he. Never met him.

A space with poor graffiti remediation ALWAYS gets more graffiti.
Now my next question is: if you look at Che above, there are initials associated. Is this his fans--they don't disturb his work--or is it a message of some sort from Che himself, or a tribute to a sponsor?  Then D'Love here has somebody R--k below them. Did R--k come first, then D'Love established supremacy, and then both of them were crossed out by someone else?

Here is D'Love not crossed out. This is a girl. I think so, anyway--after the jump.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Long Dying Before Two Deaths at 1744 E. 75th Street

This is what this post is about.
Photo originally Chicago Tribune; H/T The Fire Critic

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 22:  Chicago firefighte...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
On December 22, 2010, nineteen firefighters were injured at the site of the former Sing Way laundry. Four were trapped in rubble when the roof caved in. There is a tasteful but revealing photo series on the page here. It shows, among other things, that the Sing Way laundry was a red brick, slightly higher than one-story building.

Two of those trapped firefighters will be mourned this week. The other injured are healing from non-critical injuries somewhere off-camera--all released from the hospital, at least. And everyone in the Chicago FD, their families and friends, are surely rocked. It is the largest loss of life for the Chicago FD in a decade.

Today, Tuesday December 28th, the funeral for Edward Stringer will take place at 10:00 a.m. He had twelve years of service in the Chicago FD and reportedly loved his job. He leaves behind two grown children. He had a dog named Roscoe.

On Thursday, December 30, 2010, Corey Ankum's funeral will take place at 11:00 a.m. He had two years in the fire service. He was a former police officer; he had a wife and three children, the youngest of whom is one year old. His brother is a firefighter in the same house. They lived across the street from each other.

It is the numbers of deaths and injuries that drove the investigative journalists to find out the cause of these deaths. And I think there are three.

One: Negligence.
According to this NBC Chicago article
The property, at 1738-1744 E. 75th St., was cited more than three years ago for a number of violations, including:
  • failing to maintain the parapet wall in good repair and free from cracks and defects...
  • failing to maintain the lintel in good repair and free from cracks and defects...
  • failing to maintain roof in sound condition and repair, watertight and free from defects...
In an Aug. 20, 2007 report, it was noted that holes were present in the roof and that it was leaking and rotten in some areas.  The report concluded the owners, Chuck Dai and Richard Dai, had failed to maintain the structure in a safe and stable condition. 
Among other fixes, the building's owners were ordered to restore the roof loads to their original use by removing additional weights and structures attached to the trusses.
City officials weren't able to verify Wednesday evening whether the property was still in violation following a Nov. 1, 2010 repair deadline. 
Chuck Dai had been in court at least seven times in reference to the building and had indicated to the city that he expected it to go into foreclosure.  A city official said Dai told them that he was attempting to reach an agreement by which he could deed the property back to his mortgage provider.
The Long Dying
So, those trusses. The Fire Critic has posted a great deal of information on his site about the fire, including a video from a former Fire Chief/textbook writer/expert consultant. One of the things he said is that very type of roof (a bow-string truss) is one of the more dangerous sorts of roofs for a fire. So I looked up the construction: it's curved, and an "economy roof". In steel, this can cross large expanses, but it's a tension apparatus.  So that roof was overloaded with "additional weights and structures" that screwed the tension distribution that holds it up. And really, I suppose that goes for any roof.

One example of a bow-spring truss.

But the roof didn't crumble, or at least not first: the wall did. So this is what I think the deal is: just guessing.
The Dai brothers rented to a low-overhead dry-cleaning establishment "as-is".  Neither tenant nor landlord hired engineers to help them place their equipment. They've probably been in code violation for a long time.

The rent got paid until the dry-cleaners folded in 2005. The Dai brothers either didn't inspect their property when it was rented, or they didn't care, or they didn't see what was in front of them. The structure-compromising equipment rusted in place. The brick walls didn't get tuck-pointed, the wood didn't get painted, and the walls degraded. The extra stress on the roof pulled more heavily on the walls. The walls cracked. And the roof leaked. The degradation speeds up. And the repairs didn't happen.

Two: Carelessness
The now-abandoned building was boarded up. But such things also take supervision. You have to check them, re-board, evict, sweep out, re-tighten. Because people will try to get in. They break in to get warm or to make deals or to escape the law.

Some vagrant lit a trash fire in the rear of the building. It got out of hand. The building went up at 7:00 a.m. The crew rushed out. They would have seen and probably known in advance, just like the police and the building inspectors, that this building was bad news. They had the fire beaten back, but were checking for hot spots on the roof and people inside. So dangerous building or not, a crew went in: to save life, to investigate, to be sure they were done.

Three: Blunt Trauma
More than one hundred seventy personnel were there. Two that came out died in the hospital of blunt trauma, when wood and brick piled on top of them. One firefighter injured his eyes by taking off his mask, giving oxygen to his brother-in-arms in the rubble.

So now:
Chuck Dai, who owns the building with younger brother Richard, reported himself as "in tears."
Perhaps he was. He is also on record to say that "he was just ready to send a construction crew in." Perhaps that's true too. 

But it doesn't satisfy, somehow. Those tears don't remedy three to four years of compliance avoidance. They don't wash away a record of the city suing him three times since 1987 over code compliance. They don't keep us from noting his wish that defaulting on financial responsibility would remove the problem for him.

We as a society value human life. We also know that one fire can bring down an entire city. (London, 1666. Chicago, 1871. San Francisco, 1906.) We send in the few to save the many. 

And it seems gothic today. It seems wrong.  It seems like the ne'er do wells got the free ride. They still live; they took no risk. They have a chance to keep doing what they always do.

The truth is, the first responders go in for all of us. Because fire spreads, and we all potentially lose. 
But we lost anyway. We lost two very fine firefighters, two good people. 

But nobody lost more than  Edward Stringer and Corey Ankum. May they rest in peace. 
May we learn from this. May we be diligent in our responsibilities. And careful with fire.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

The Set-up: 126 Words

Zombie Boss resigns. I clean his desk, the papers as scattered as his mind. He avoided conflict; he shoved those things aside. I find bills that should have been paid, shingled with post-it notes. On them, Zombie Assistant paints a problem. I find bills that belong to others, or for things we don't pay. These have no warnings.

An employee has already said Zombie Assistant hid bills from him. Then she'd call our President, worried over bills unpaid. I find a stash she moved into his office, after.

She used his failings. She shortened his tenure, and I think his life.

Maybe this seems imaginary. But I see a difference in organization and placement.

The stink of ill-will covers the desk. I won't let this go.

The Poetry Bus: That Bad Gift

I nearly passed on this Poetry Bus, hosted by The Muse Swings. Because, you know: ingratitude and all that. But then I got an idea and started laughing. It's also perfectly true.

The Dregs of the Heirlooms

The gift that arrived in the mail
Was a heirloom from grandmother’s stash
And though dear granny had plenty of dough,
She never had very much class.
The necklace was orange with blue plastic discs;
It clashed with my sister’s attire.
O horrid necklace, o necklace so bad
What a tacky piece of crap that you are, you are
What a tacky piece of crap that you are!

The note that came on this Christmas gift
Said: This reminds me of you!
And with the wrapping unwrapped, and truth unveiled
My sister didn’t know what to do.
Stepmom doesn’t know me, or she doesn’t care
And how will I fake Christmas glee?
Oh horrid gift note, oh gift note so bad,
What a snarky little note that you be, you be,
What a snarky little fake pleasantry!

But now sister’s so pleased: she’s sending the thing
To the home of wise-cracking Ann T.
I’ll exchange it for some other horrid re-gift
At a party on Epiphany.
With luck, someone tacky will draw it in lots--
Or else we will laugh while they cringe!
Oh horrid necklace, o necklace so bad,
My sister will get her revenge, her revenge,
My sister will get her revenge.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Leaves, November 21, 2010

Just getting organized. And I thought they turned out.

One more after the jump, of a tree this time.

Ann T. Power Broker

If you read the title fast, it sounds like "anti-power" broker. Take your pick.

I wrote that we had an employee theft situation here. In the immediate aftermath, the Board (herinafter, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) closed our network to this employee in the name of records security. We also found that he had been selling things on-line that looked remarkably like items we stock here for repairs.

Bad enough that a unit was robbed. Now we had to consider other possible grievances.

Engraving of Captain Nemo viewing a giant squi...Image via Wikipedia
Nemo, Watching for Tentacles.
Captain Nemo Freaks Out
We then got a legal opinion, and learned that work-site e-mail of all stripes was the property of the employer. So we looked at other employee e-mail boxes to see how widespread this marketing situation might be. And one of the League of Extraordinary Gentleman started obsessing.

Nemo recently lost his job. It was a mystery to him, but not to the rest of the League. He never does any work. He waits until other people present hours of work and comes up with an objection. I am sure he feels like this is the right thing to do, but he's a putz.

This situation excited and terrified him by turns. He browsed employee personal mail, poached the contact position from another Board member with the network administrator, et cetera. It was quite the warning on despotism. And only his peers could stop it, which is quite the lesson in democracy, too.

But we weren't very effing fast at it. And really, he had all that free time. It was hard to keep up.

We warned him. But he started giving orders, each one more erratic than the next. For instance, I received these panicky e-mails ("cut the cord on the shredders! watch all the doors to make sure no evidence leaves!") I finally let him have it. Usually I am diplomatic. Not this time. I was stomping the putz.

At the next meeting, Nemo was just as panicky and querulous as before, but more erratic and rude.
So that's just the end. I know it's not real war, but I went to war.

Cover art for the collected edition of The Lea...Image via Wikipedia
Mina Murray, we need you!
Ann T. Panic Mode
If you read that fast, it sounds like anti-panic mode. Maybe.

That "last straw" meeting was the pre-meeting before our Annual Meeting and Elections. We were headed to the mob, or at least that's what we were afraid of. Every Owner wanted to know about the theft situation. They were up in arms about the betrayal of trust. Of course, we are negligent and dumb-assed, a poor sorry excuse for leadership. But nobody was running to replace us.

We had two vacant seats. As a favor, Nemo was planning to run again by acclamation after all. He kept asking, "Now how do I do this?" None of us told him. He did figure it out though.

Weeks before, I'd nagged Allan Quartermain to run by acclamation at the Annual Meeting. And he planned to run; he just didn't want to campaign. Quartermain is just who we need--calm, humorous, and a management consultant by day.

I'd thought about a second person, Mina Murray, who is socially adept, level-headed, and an office manager. I didn't ask her though. I didn't think she wanted to do it, and two days wasn't enough notice.

But I saw Mina at the Annual Meeting, right after Nemo drove me to the brink. I think I grabbed her. I'm pretty sure I didn't shake her. I didn't get on my knees either, but nearly. Her eyes were as wide as saucers and she was nodding as if to a crazy woman while I whispered how important it was. But at least she agreed to run.

That was two minutes' notice instead of two days' notice. I'm not pleased with myself over that.

But I quickly wrote a nominating speech for Mina while Board President Mycroft Holmes ran the meeting. I also gave my Treasurer's report. We had an impromptu/tacky awards ceremony for our committee volunteers over the past year--my idea, just so we'd maybe get a few more after some recognition.

Later, I attempted to nominate Quartermain, who said he would nominate himself. Then I nominated Mina from the floor. She gave her own campaign speech--which I thought was a great sign. The vote was tallied.

President Mycroft Holmes
Afterwards Mycroft Holmes stopped me outside.
"Just how did you arrange this coup d'etat?"

"Didn't you see me?" I said. "I begged, that's how."

"No, I didn't see that. Somebody said you had, though.  But how did you get them elected?"
I debated whether to add. Because the begging was the answer.
"I talked to everyone in that meeting hall," I told him. "I fetched coffee and cookies for anyone who didn't have any. I asked them how they were."
He waited.

"When I gave my presentation, I didn't stand behind the podium," I said next. "I always come out from behind and then I am one of the people."
He rolled his eyes.

"And in my Treasurer's report, I thanked every other member of the League for something specific that they did, except I didn't mention Nemo at all."
"Huh." Mycroft shook his head.

"And then I made it clear who I thought should be nominated," I said. "And then I just hoped it would work."

"Well, thank you," he said. "I still don't know how you did it, but thank you for doing it."
"You should thank Mina," I told him. "She's the one who agreed to this with no notice."

To stop tyranny, at least in these tiny circles I run in, we needed a volunteer.

In four days time, we grew a small-minded madman, a witch-hunter on our Board. He was injudicious, indiscreet. He cloaked it all in principles ("the safety of the residents"), but he was dangerous. He was going to sink our whole damn ship in some crazed quest for secret but irrelevant information. And we have enough leaks in our ship already.

Mycroft Holmes is now calling me a behind-the-scenes power broker. What I think I did was break a power, not broker one.

Thank you, Allan Quartermain and Thank You, Mina Murray! 
We need you against the Zombies.
And Happy New Year to the Arkdale residents. 
You now have a fighting chance at one.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

These photos are red and green and not traditional like holly or ivy. Still, they are my Christmas card to you.

Have a Great Day, Everyone! 
from Ann T. Hathaway. 

Happy Birthday Clara Barton

Clara Barton (December 25, 1821 -- April 12, 1912) learned medicine at her brother's bedside, starting at age 11. At 22, she was a teacher. And in 1861, she was treating wounded Union soldiers in the U.S. Capitol.

In 1865, Abraham Lincoln put her in charge of finding missing soldiers in the Civil War. But she is best known as the organizer of the American Red Cross. Clara Barton is a symbol of tireless mercy in action. (Although in real life, I'm sure she did get tired.)

Thanks to those who serve our troops and our society through their medical skills--the paramedics, the E.R. nurses, the E.R. docs, the clinic staff.
This Christmas, the troops are on call, and they need your helping hand. People still get sick and injured right here at home--that doesn't stop for the holidays either. And there you are. A lot of times we're too sick, or too scared about someone else, to thank you at the time. So thank you now.

Happy Birthday Clara Barton. Your work lives on.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas Eve and Day

Ann T. wishes her readers a Very Nice Christmas.

Whether you believe or not, 
celebrate or not. 
Whether you are alone 
or have family or friends to celebrate with.
A very nice Christmas to you all.

To all: please don't drink and drive, or get stoned and drive. Call a ride or stay where you are.
If you are alone, plan against loneliness. It's a coping strategy. Plan for a good day.
I talked to a cab driver the other day, an immigrant from Ethiopia. His daughter is two years and four months old this Christmas. He can't wait to show her Christmas for the first time. He reported that she asked: "Daddy, what is a Christmas tree?" He was so proud.

"So I had to go get one, you know, to show her."
We talked a little bit about how exciting it was to view through her eyes. And I said parents do that a lot: they get excitement from their kids.

"Love pushes you," he said. "See, she pushed me, and now we have a tree, and everything."
He was thrilled.

They are having a traditional Christmas dinner, but also a lot of cakes, he told me. And maybe also some Italian food.

I love it. Write me if you want, and say what you are having and doing.
If you are having turkey, tell me what's in your stuffing. I collect stuffing stories all holiday season. Everybody does theirs differently. Next year I may start an official Ann T. survey!
My cats are having Turkey Surprise out of a can. We are having a play date.
I am having pancakes with maple syrup, sausage AND bacon for brunch, and then going out to take a lot of pictures. I bought a Michael Connelly novel and will read that. Then I think I might have a lot of cakes and Italian food. Or maybe just the cakes.

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Carol for the Night Watch

This is my favorite of them all: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. It's also my sister's favorite. I think it's a good mix of the spiritual, the reassuring, and the historical. It's also easy on the ears, which Jingle Bells is not. So for those who might be reading who are not Christian, I hope you will enjoy (as I do) the inherent humanity in it.

The lyrics were first collected in the 1800's, but have been around since the 15th century.  It is also a carol associated with the night watchmen of English villages, who used to sing it for tips hundreds of years before tax dollars paid for city security.

This is Annie Lennox, with her clear voice and some great minor key harmonics. (Sorry, you do get a commercial first.) The video is meant to convey the "mummers" of English folk life also.

A special thanks to all our watchmen and women, 
keeping us safe during holiday hours. 
Merry Christmas to you all. 
Thank you for the gifts you give us--security, confidence--
every day of every year.

I got the lyrics from carols-dot-org from the United Kingdom. They are below the jump.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Meaning of Christmas: The Nativity

The Nativity is really a frightening story with a happy ending. It had to be full of tough emotion for its participants. And we usually skip those emotions and go straight to the happy ending. We forget the uncertainty in the happiness of the result.

Consider Joseph, with a pregnant wife on the back of his one donkey in the cold. They didn't have a lot of luggage--not much extra food, not enough money. Not a lot of blankets or special clothes or the tools of his carpenter trade. They're on the road. That displacement has been ordered by the Roman government, so that a census may be taken. It's a sign that things are not going to be the same--they are a conquered people and soon to be a taxed people. They have a local despot for a king, a distant administration who props that king up. Joseph is supposed to protect Mary in the large and small things--and what's large and what's small had to change perspective every other minute.

And for all Mary had an Annunciation, she had to be worried something would go wrong or she wouldn't measure up. She's on the back of a donkey. She has to go to the bathroom now, but they also have to keep going. She has no women to help her with the layette. No midwife she knows will be there to cry on during labor pains. No midwife, even a stranger, guaranteed at all. Her first child will be born among strangers and maybe even in the dirt.  There's no guarantee in the Annunciation that she'll live through labor either. It only guarantees that she is chosen and she is blessed. That leaves a lot of room for fear of the unknown. Because being chosen is not usually an experience without suffering.

The inn they found was probably a tavern. It was a gathering place for all kinds of people--reliable and unreliable. More of the unknown. If it was crowded with others like Joseph, just trying to fulfill responsibility, we don't know it. We never hear about them. At best it was full of tired and cranky people, but possibly revelers and gossips and people who needed a little reform. The innkeeper and his staff were slammed with work. The permission to use the stable for a Birth might have been a kind impulse. But that innkeeper also didn't (as far as we know) ask anyone to make room for a pregnant woman and worried father. Maybe he did ask, and nobody had compassion. Maybe they had reasons why the innkeeper should ask someone else. Maybe the innkeeper didn't have time to ask, or maybe he didn't care enough to ask. Maybe the stable was cleaner anyway.

So Mary had a baby in a stable. It was not her husband's baby, but somehow that had been resolved--through love, or faith, or need on one side or both sides. Joseph would have stabled the donkey. He would have shoveled the floor of the stall and piled up hay while she bit her lip and waited or even possibly fussed. Possibly he snapped a little, because he felt inadequate to the task. They would have been scared to death--no matter how much meaning was packed into it for them--and possibly even more afraid, given the meaning.

She lived through labor. She had a baby on straw instead of the side of a road. It was better than their worst fears, and hard to reconcile with the prospect of a large gift to the world.

They would have changed the hay. They would have listened for threat from the tavern, from Roman centurions, from the weather, from animals bigger than a woman lying on straw. Still it was a miracle. It was good.

The shepherds knew to come, but no town or tavern resident on record came. The baby was viewed and watched and exclaimed over by men with low-paying menial jobs, uncertain hygiene, rough habits. But he was loved immediately.

It is a remarkable account, you know, just for its human effort. And this particular birth, in this particular set of conditions, later changed the world and the language of the spirit. For most of us who celebrate Christmas, it is the onset of our religious beliefs. It changed our understanding of the Divine, and where that Divine is present.

But even those with a different religion, or no religion, can ponder this and perhaps see meaning in it. They can see why decency matters, why worry and care are tied, why life is precious and poverty is hard. How much we need each other and how much we must do for ourselves, the very best we can.

Infinite possibility was born in soiled straw by one scared woman with one worried man in attendance, and a host of threats, large and small, all around.  And that infinite possibility was, and is always, a miracle.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Every Day could be Veteran's Day

One month after Veteran's Day, the Ann T. Hathaway blog is remembering veterans.

In September, when it was still very hot around here, my sister and I went to Arlington National Cemetery. You know there is a scandal running about mis-handled burial sites. That is a failure of trust and care, and it should be rectified.

But the interred don't know of it. All the world's untrustworthiness is over for them. We fix this so that we can know honor and respect has occurred. And I think we should make sure it is a good resting place as well as an honored one. That means they have to water and renew the grass. I know space has gotten limited, but I think they ought to add a few more trees. They should be hardwoods that stand for the backbone these men had; willows for their sorrow; and evergreens, because we want to symbolize that we flourish and renew from their sacrifice. But that's only my opinion.

The truth of sacrifice is very stark.

There is a beautiful arbor there for services. Those pictures are below the jump.

Monday, December 20, 2010

International Standards of Law and Order: Vancouver & the Olympics

Cities, Crime, and The Olympics

This is the second part of Columbia University’s  video linked here, starting about 28 minutes in until the end, on “economic violence”. The first presentation was by Sudhir Venkatesh, on gangs and inner city regimes that conflict with urban political systems. That was discussed in a previous post.  Professor Cutler discusses, in high contrast to poor inner-city regimes, the moneyed regime of the International Olympic Committee.  I wouldn’t call it violent. I do find it interesting.

She refers to the “collision in normative values.” She means we have daily expectations for city services and amenities (police and parks, for instance). Just as gang regimes pressure cities and reduce control, she says the International Olympics Committee dis-empowered the government of the City of Vancouver.

You should know that I checked with a correspondent in Vancouver. This correspondent thinks Ms. Cutler has an inaccurate analysis of events. And I found Ms. Cutler to be unreliable too--with a theory that makes some sense, and that I might even agree with in part--but spinning the results into something that approaches a violence toward reality. Still it's food for thought, even if it reads like Orwell's 1984.

My synopsis of Ms. Cutler's words are green.

Vancouver Prepares for the Olympics
Ms. Cutler reports that the City of Vancouver subordinated its own authority over its own jurisdiction in order to attract the Summer Olympics. By so doing, they reduced the rights of Vancouver's citizens--their human rights--but also their economic rights. In order to win the Olympic bid, Vancouver had to be an "international city". Its urban planning was then modified to suit people who do not vote there, live there, or go to school there. Those who have local businesses, or provide local security were not accorded the same protections.

The "international community" that expects and values "international cities" are generally parts of large corporations, cartels, and governments, and individuals with a significant disposable income. Every city wants their spending dollars, their investments, and their interest. (Ms. Cutler didn't mention this.) However, what does it mean for those in small business, the homeless, the lower middle class, or the privacy of individual citizens, each who are accustomed to a certain street standard?

Paraphrasing Cutler (and I was typing notes as fast as I could):

Changes in Security Regimes:
A.Vancouver had already begun increasing Panoptic Surveillance and control, but the Olympics bid created a major impetus. Surveillance ranged from elevators in the city to along the long highways to Olympic attractions. The surveillance included perimeter detection, license plates readers, airport style surveillance technology all over the featured parts of the city. Sometimes these surveillance systems along the highway traversed different jurisdictions, outside of Vancouver’s bailiwick.

This indicates something about the control of the state--though Vancouver was the one doing it. It means the nation of Canada may have
1. abdicated control (letting Vancouver hold the mandate instead) or
2. that the state of Canada authorized Vancouver’s extra-territorial control or
3. that both state and city suspended their control in order to let the Olympic Committee create standards, ordinances, and methods of security provision, for the benefit of visitors over residents.

B. The technology-driven security is an economic boon to international marketing, not local security. It is "the corporate face of a new war." But private (international, for-profit) security firms were given broad powers of search, seizure, and arrest. This sidelined both the Vancouver Police and the RCMP (national).

If local security was not sidelined, it still creates a culture of cooperation with a corporate/market entity. It gives some parity to corporate security that formerly was a government monopoly. Security arrangements also privileged international security organizations such as NORAD, which played a part in anti-terrorism measures.

Public/private security partnership may be permanent. Contracts were for installation of surveillance devices, but not their removal.

In other words, these systems were purchased not rented. In almost every alternative, the city continues to give away its power over its own jurisdiction.
1. Vancouver decides not to use the security system they paid for, and still must pay to maintain, thereby creating unsustainable development.
2. The RCMP uses it, giving local security duties/powers to the state of Canada that belong to the city of Vancouver.
3. Vancouver PD staff is diverted from street security to panoptic surveillance, swelling police budgets with new hires or reducing street presence. They also watch areas that are not their jurisdiction, thereby wasting some man-hours or exceeding their authority. (NOTE: she offered no reference for this).
4. Vancouver hires a private security company, thus diverting security to a private firm who has first access to the data.

I'm not sure which of these competing alternatives Ms. Cutler found more dangerous. Mostly she was ranting in the scholarly way, of course.

Zoning Restrictions
C. The city re-zoned itself into orderly zones and free speech zones. No dissing of the Olympics, no demonstrations, riots, posters, sit-ins, or protest parades allowed in the Olympic zones or near city attractions. These "orderly zones" included the public library and art museums. Universities were approached, certain known activists, and students, warning them not to kick up any fusses in areas adjacent to Olympic events. Cutler maintains this also crossed jurisdiction (e.g., University by-laws).

I can't get too worked up over this, given how awful protests could have been. In a way, the City of Vancouver is protecting its investment in Olympic attractions, its reputation, and local property. But it does bring up the specter of how much, how long, what precedent does it set? What is considered a "non-celebratory Olympic demonstration?  Does it get into bad manners? Will it mandate manners next time?

Local Expectations vs. Local Capacities.
D. Courts and Citizens
1. The City of Vancouver empowered the police to take homeless populations to shelters or jail them. But there were not enough shelters for the homeless population, so many were inevitably jailed.

2. Vancouver also empowered "City Ambassadors" to "move undesirable people along", watch streets or parks, and report undesirable persons or activities.

Where I live, this activity is routine and not draconian. It does extend surveillance in particular tourist-attractive areas. It also keeps the streets clean, gives the tourists good directions to attractions, and so forth. It is also a benefit for those who live in those parts of my city--that is not shared equally by all residents of that city, but for which all taxpayers must pay.

During the events, a special system of courts was set up, separate from normal municipal courts, to deal with jailing "undesirables" 24/7. This may strain city budgets.

E. Likewise, local business was subject to specific opening and closing times. In the event of business conflict, local businesses in Olympic venues had to agree to take grievances to international commercial arbitration rather than the local court systems.

That’s pretty standard, I think, around the world. It keeps international corporations out of local court. It also creates a huge barrier to suing an international corporation for a small business.

Conclusion—Two Dilemmas
Perhaps the citizens of Vancouver saw this influx of security, such as a 24/7 court system, as desirable. Perhaps the drastic change in "normative values" by moving the homeless along meant that sitting in the park, going to the library or museum, or even taking a walk was better than before.  We would then say that international business brought in greater urban capacity. And that’s what cities need.

But even finding it desirable might also show that cities have lost power. Maybe Vancouver could not enforce these desirable standards without international scrutiny (or the excuse of international scrutiny). Maybe citizen scrutiny was not enough. Or maybe citizens have already accepted a decline in normative values.

Either way, under Cutler's exposition, the city looks weak. And we need not single out Vancouver, either. All cities are trying to attract international business. They are all giving out tax breaks and making promises to get them to come to their cities.

Second, at what point do all of these temporary "protections of investment" manage the risk of terror, riot, local safety, and at what point do they impinge upon citizens? Maybe demonstrations aren't your concern. Maybe some other "normative right" is.

I wonder what you all think of this, and what examples you may have in your own city.

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Stars: The Poetry Bus

Well, The Bug has been doing this forever. And C.L.'s been doing it. And I thought, maybe every once in awhile, I will do it: it's the Poetry Bus, hosted this week by "The Weaver of Grass". The prompt this week is "stars".

Eclipse: December 21, 2010

Above my city
On the night of the solstice
The moon eclipses.

On a flat rooftop
I’ll bring a full thermos
(Coffee regular)

And wrap up warmly
To see the moon’s shadow and
The stars showing cleanly.

In the dark desert
The big sky bulges with stars.
In town, hardly one

Competes with neon.
With luck, I’ll outlast the cold
With wool and coffee.

I'll watch a red moon
Pass into darkness and out,
The stars as witness.

Long ago, my man
And I watched the moon eclipse
In small-town Texas.

He placed a penny
On a train track in the dark
To show off, playing.

The town was empty.
We were courting then. He took
The moon’s photo twice,

And the town’s photo
Once. Stars in skies. Stars in eyes.
The train rattled through.

The picture’s on my wall.
The flattened penny’s safely
Saved. The memory too.

A copper shadow.
Light and dark. It's different
Now. I remember

Those were your last words
In a dream after death. You
Were happy. And me

I forget sometimes
I promised to keep the light.
Stars as my witness

In wool and cold air
I will see and remember
We'll talk it over.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tomorrow's Post

Tomorrow, instead of presenting an economist I agree with, I am presenting one that makes me uneasy.

I subscribe in part to her theory--that states/governments are losing power compared to markets. I'm just not sure she picked the right example, or that her follow-through from theory to event is correct. So be warned--critical reading ahead.

Big day tomorrow on other fronts, too. But I can't write about them yet!
See you all in the threads.

Friday, December 17, 2010

from Keep Your Mind on Your Job . . .

More from Keep Your Mind on Your Job. This is the stepdaughter, Jenny, thirteen years old. She's remembering when she was six, and her father deserted the family after he couldn't make a go of it out west. They ended up in Camp Verde, Arizona, instead of California.

Her uncle Elijah Harris is one of her captors--her birth mother's brother, out with bad companions. Jenny's relationship to her uncle is one of the things keeping them in good health--and maybe the only thing--except Anne Davison's wits.

We used to live in Camp Verde in our busted wagon. You could hear what anybody said on the dirt outside. I don’t think Uncle Eli would call it a street.

There were Indians down the hill and soldiers across the way. Cowpunchers and settlers would come through and sometimes dead people got carried in. Most nights the bar would tinkle with fancy music. Noah and I wanted to go. But Mr. Flynn told Noah we’d get the whip hand if we disobeyed our Ma.

One night, some fight crashed out of Mr. Flynn’s saloon. Ma must have been listening for it, because she was still dressed, almost to the hat. They yelled and cursed and grunted when they got hit. I covered my ears and cried; I couldn’t help it. Back then, with my father first gone, I was crying scared almost all the time.

Ma said it was the last straw. She opened the front of our wagon cover and stood behind the seat. She raised the shotgun and fired a double blast. We found that out later.
Noah said that he knew it at the time. But he didn’t know in advance.

“Gentlemen, I have young children.” Ma was so scared, her voice cracked. “I’m sorry to disturb you, but please don’t kill anybody where they can hear it.”

Noah doesn’t think they wanted to kill each other. But he only said that long afterward. At the time, he was scared just like me.

The next day, those men and some others started coming over for coffee. Every last one left a nickel a cup. Each one also advised her to shoot at one of them next time, not at the air. Because she was lucky no one shot back.

And that made no sense to me then, and it doesn’t now either.

But that’s how it started: Ma lost her temper. Then she was ashamed because she put herself forward. And then she went to work, fixing things.

She served bean soup and cornbread and strong coffee off of the back of our wagon. Those men would come by to eat a meal or take away a piece of cornbread. Some days after that, Mr. Hough came to taste the soup. He staked Ma so she could expand business into a tent. And Mr. Flynn had our wagon’s wheels repaired, so we could move behind the business.

Ma thanked him over and over. But I think he did it because men liked to fight in his saloon. And no one gets to fight much with Ma around.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Looking Up

Christmas decorations and a crane. The crane was sandwiched between two heritage buildings.

The quality of light in the winter time seems so different to me. Slightly yellow, and flattering to many things.
Both taken December 4.

Oh, Zombie Virus!

It gets us all!

Each in our own way. But in general, we are shambling around, trying to find our way out of the mess Zombie Boss left behind.

We have two new Board Members--which means we have two former Board Members too.  At last sighting, one of the former Bored was at the Meeting last night, strangely quiet, lounging in an unusual position on the sofa in the Meeting Room. Maybe recovering from, or delaying the rest of, a real bender? He's been getting more erratic all the time. The other one was wearing Spandex on the elevator.

We had five people who had complaints or issues. Usually no one shows up for Board Meetings. I have no idea why anyone would ever skip one! But for the new Board, it was like baptism by fire.

Me, I have turned into a weapon on the side of organization but can barely talk. I have this internal thought process going for cleaning out Zombie Boss's former office and finding all the Pending. But if you asked me to explain it, I couldn't. It is all part of the Deep Focus. My subconscious is doing it, and it's driving everyone crazy. Too bad it didn't work on the Zombies.

There is a lot of Pending. There was also a lot of photocopies of the same thing, over and over. I shredded those (not the Pending but the Duplicates).  But enough about me and papers. There are still too many left. I even had an e-mail from a desperate lawyer. I've never had a letter from a desperate lawyer before. I have almost gotten him out of Zombie Stasis. Couple more steps.

One of the new Board Members said being at last night's Board Meeting was like watching reality TV. Ha ha ha!  We almost had a fistfight between a resident and the Board President over (kid you not) laundry lint. I love our Board President. He was getting far more blowback than laundry lint ought to cause.  And I could at least speak up about that.

The meeting adjourned at 10:00 p.m. One of the new Board Members announced at 9:50 that he had ten more minutes for the Meeting. He did the right thing. We would have shambled around all night. I would not have been able to cut it off--but I did tell him, in advance, that somebody was going to have to do it. And I knew he would.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Unbelievably not done yet

We had a Condo Board meeting last night and there's more stuff on my plate than there is plate . . . it's going to work out.  But I can't think to post. It's not nerves at least.

Have a good day, everybody.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Shazzam!! Zombie Wrestling

Welcome to the HWF!! Horror Wrestling Federation!! Beamed every weekday live from the Ark House Condominium Arena, right here in HotWinds, USA!! And you're sure to see talent like never before!!!

We've got quite a match for you folks out there.

In this corner, we have: Zombie Assistant!! She's a famous villain--known to implement the Positivity SuckerSmack, the Credit-Stealing HammerLock--
Able to depress pretensions with one well-timed comment about a co-worker's body, hair, or clothes--a BodySlam, in other words--
And inventor of the unbelievably effective Snit--Lock!!

And in the other corner, we have: Georgina the Strong. Too bad she doesn't know it yet.
But she's been through hell on earth many times, and doesn't remember this is nothing compared to that.
She grew up in the Chicago projects, had an abusive husband and a drug habit, which she kicked both. She went on to become a home health aide, a strong mother, and dispenser of joy, cookies, and hugs to others--and Zombie Assistant's sometimes assistant.

The betting odds are low. Georgina's going to be a long shot to win. It's that Snit Lock, that Body Slam, that Hammerlock that get her every time. She just isn't ranked very high in the Horror Federation--

Enjoy the show, right here at the Ark House Auditorium!  And your referee tonight, at the Ark House Arena,  is Ann T. Hathaway.  Go place your bets. Remember, the odds are long against Georgina. And odds are what we call "prevailing wisdom."

For more Zombies that Wrestle, go here to the WWE Night of the Living Dead!  These people may be pikers compared to Zombie Assistant. Still, you get the idea!.

In case this isn't quite coherent--Zombie Assistant is putting her mood on everyone else. And I am going to stomp it quick.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fiction: Doubt to a Desert Man

This is from a novel I wrote but haven't sent out yet, called Keep Your Mind on Your Job or alternately, The Territory Man. In it, James Davison and his stepson Noah Miller are trying to chase down the men who kidnapped James' wife Anne, his stepdaughter Jenny, and the toddler Sally Anne. 

The reason I chose that title is because James is a Territory Man. He's in a big damn hurry and scared of course, but the way he works is also to maintain his own integrity in the desert. That way, he's able to win just by sticking it out longer, making fewer mistakes. But this is much more of a test.

Going out to the writers out there--(hello, The Bug and C.L.)--the desert man I know who's coming back from vacation (hello, Captain)--Bob and Momma Fargo, who are dealing with environment all the time--to Slamdunk and BobKat for the missing persons work--and to anyone who enjoys it. And I hope you do.

They've stopped for the night--this chapter is told from the stepson's point of view.

I hear him drink out of the jar. My stomach growls again, loud and long.
“Careful now. We’ll want that jar.”
I feel for the jar in the dark. The tomatoes taste just fine. I use my knife to get them out.

 “Annie’s good cooking.”
I cough. It’s the last of Ma’s canning, then. I set them down.
“Finish ‘em,” he says. “That’s what we have.” Something hits my leg. “Plus some of that floodwater rabbit.”
It takes me a minute. But he’s waiting, and he’s right. I pick them back up. He starts talking, low as always.

“When a man comes back from a job like this, he generally says he had the most doubt right before the fast time. But that’s only the story he makes afterward, against people congratulating on him, or telling him how he should have done different.” Pa clears his throat. “But if he remembered true, he’d know he lived in doubt for the whole job. Do you live to be a hundred, Noah, doubt only grows in life. But you get used to it. You learn to work with it heavy on you. I’m more used to it than you are.”

He doesn’t know where they are. That’s what he’s saying. But I knew that.

“Noah,” he growls. “Pay attention.”
“I’m trying.”
“You’re struggling. Just quit.”
I draw in air. “Doubt grows, and you get used to it.”

“Uh-huh. You’ve already made a good start on growing it and getting used to it. You take care of what’s yours, responsible most of the time. But a responsible man is rarely certain what’s altogether best, or if he can do what’s required. He has to choose, and he might be wrong.”

“Yes, sir.” He’s telling me he decided wrong. We should have gone west—

“So. You’ve been right patient, like I said.” Pa’s boot scrapes against rock. “Seagraves will get the message out, that’ll stave off some kinds of trouble we might have afterwards. Or maybe make the difference if we can’t. But we’re getting close to rapidity.”

Close to rapidity.
The jar starts sliding out of my hands. I grab it. “That scout told you something.”

“He had knowledge of this range. I found a stick with blue thread tied on it, two blue threads, not too far from where we are. It might be Annie’s sign for the second camp.”
“Lord.” I take a huge breath. “That’s good. That’s the best yet.”

“So now tell me how much doubt you lost,” Pa says. “Maybe you think I didn’t miscalculate now, but we’re still behind. Next all your what-ifs will come to roost. When we find out which one it is for sure, you’ll start on the if-onlies. Then you’ll sorry me, or expect I’ll sorry you. And maybe I will at that.” He waits. “Nope, that doubt didn’t go down any.”

Lord. He pegged me exactly.

“We’ll find them,” Pa says, after a long quiet. “The chance for disappointment is the same as it was before, Noah. Maybe you’ll never see them alive again. Maybe they’ll be bandbox fresh. But doubt doesn’t leave you, either way. You just handle it, same as you have been. You’ve kept your mind on getting through. So remember you can, and that you have.”

Sometimes I wonder why he doesn’t say these things earlier. But there’s no point in asking that. Pa’s more or less always on desert time.

There are tomatoes left. I eat them, then set the jar to the side. “What’s another way to grow doubt? Other than being responsible.”
“If you were in that band of snakes, you’d have doubts I reckon.”
We’re coming after them. They should have doubts.

“When men have doubts, they fight themselves and each other. We have. They take measures against threat. We’ve done that too.” I hear him pop his knee. “Question is, what fights they had and what measures they took. That refines what you do in fast time.”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Zapped but Zippy

When people are angry with me, I have this desire to assure them that I am not having fun either. When they are mad, this is at least partially true and usually Mostly True. But it can also lead to false martyrdom. I learned false martyrdom somewhere, (but I'm not pointing fingers, mind you) and I've been trying to unlearn it since about 1980. Before that, not so much, but it was a drag to us all.  LOL.

So, I went to a party tonight. It was so much fun! I wore a suit my sister gave me years ago. It has a velvet collar and cuffs, all black. She'd bought it for herself, some $200 suit for $15.50, and never worn it. I pulled the tags off. I put on a scarf with border collies on it (not that you could tell, the way it was all scrunched up), a top hat, and my clodhopper oxfords. I looked good, especially considering I am not a spring chicken. I am an early-fall chicken. 

And when I am a winter chicken, I expect I'll still wear clunky shoes (but not beige ones) and sometimes that hat.

Anyway, a person who has been trying to be a friend to me for over a year had her birthday party. We ate Italian food and I met a couple who helps put on a jazz fest every year in my city.  That just can't be bad. I just can't be unhappy about this. She's a very nice lady with very nice friends.

Then I came home and worked on condo stuff. But you know, I feel like that may be coming along. Not that I'm near done, b/c I'm not. It is piling up like an avalanche ready to drop.

I'm still catching up with everybody. I still have tons of letters to write. I'm still on my way back. Talk to you soon.

A Little Trivia about Kevlar

The inventor of Kevlar was the chemist Stephanie Kwolek, working for duPont Chemical in 1966.

Kevlar is five times stronger than the same weight of steel. It is a polymer--an important class of compounds starting with the polyester in your socks and ending with the materials that repair arteries.

Kevlar does not rust or corrode. It is used as bullet-resistant shielding, from vests to windows. There might also be Kevlar in your brake cables, your skis, and in the materials for your building.

Ms. Kwolek invented many other polymers we use today. She was born in 1923, and worked for 40 years at DuPont. Twenty-eight patents are held by her in that 40 years. She was inducted into the Inventor's Hall of Fame in 1995 (heck, what took them so long?)  I learned about her right after I learned about pop-up books, right there at the Smithsonian.

She was originally planning to be a doctor. She's saved a lot of lives out there without medical school. Nowadays she's semi-retired, serving on a lot of Science Foundation boards.

Some people just never give up.

Wikipedia has an article about her here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Plenty Work Ahead.

The Axe

In this post, I am the lucky one. Even maybe the villain.

We fired someone. I am not the only one who thought it necessary, but I have thought it necessary for the longest time. I am the one who made the machinery work toward that end.

This year, Zombie Boss was more and more absent, less and less responsive to owners and contractors and staff and the Board.  ZB would call meetings and fail to show up for them, make deals or promises and not finish them out, pass the blame or the buck or the duty. He relinquished oversight, and staff ran amok with it.

We had a lawsuit that cost us over $100K when one of the owners couldn't get an answer about a grievance.  The Board handled it. We nearly didn't pay utility bills in spring and we have a cash crunch right before Christmas, which means that payroll and utilities are going to be a bit of a stretch. In winter, no heat? No paychecks? No, it's not quite that bad. We can make it. But I don't think we should wait until we can't.

In early November, we sought a legal opinion how to get out of the contract. Because the Board That Was stupidly did not get their manager contract drawn up by a legal representative, and we were stuck. Somebody cobbled it together from parts of an old contract, a raft of high-minded aspirations, and by the seat of their pants. Note: Do not do this, ever. It did not save us any money on legal fees.

The legal opinion was that we had to write an official memorandum detailing the reasons we could "terminate with cause". I wrote it; it took me a solid week. I tied our grievances to specific documents and went through them point by point. It was ten pages long, and could have easily been twenty. The back-up material was twenty pages long and could have been a hundred without much additional effort. The lawyer looked it over and said it was great. So we could do it.

Special Session of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
No sooner had the Board voted on it and learned the legal (and most protective to Owner privacy) procedure to accomplishing it, we lost another employee because of criminal acts.  I mean literally--fifteen minutes after our meeting adjourned. The entire Condo was rocked, and the Board put off the action until we could figure out what to do with new actions in front of us. We got a legal opinion on that too--I said you can't wait until it's convenient for us (e.g., I'll fire her after my vacation), you have to do it at the point of grievance.

I was ready to go. But legal said no, we were in our rights to wait.

A Final Chance
But Zombie Boss hasn't handled this crisis either. Ann T. has been doing it. Writing the incident reports, collecting them. Checking the bad guy's personnel file, cutting off his access to ordering materials and billing us, setting up procedures, damage control. I don't mean I've been alone--the rest of the Board has also been doing stuff--writing the announcements, checking the building systems, interfacing on anything I don't know. But they have day jobs. It's been scary and hard. And even in this Zombie Boss hasn't pulled things together.

So, as one Board member said, who was unhappy, we let him go "right before Christmas". We've been telling him in increasing conversations that his performance is not good and that repercussions were imminent. I gave him a list of expectations this spring; I wrote him up this summer. He's been having correction conversations multiple times a week for years now. And the entire chain of command is twisted and broken. Everyone on the Board has been working hours and hours for months and months, in areas depending on their expertise. For free. Taking off work to visit lawyers or meet with contractors. Stuff like that. And that twists chain of command too.

He had a final chance to get it right, the reprieve of over a month. He didn't meet the challenge. In the last month, working with him multiple times a week, I could see that everything he did was a liability to us all.

He's gone. We were nice about it. He was. We all shook hands. He drove away.
Still not a good outcome. The axe is always a loss to all parties. And the timing just sucks.

Zombie Boss has a million things to figure out now. We do too. This stuff goes on long after the axe has swung. I wish him luck. I'd do it all again if I had to. We were in big trouble. We still are.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Street Art: Happy Birds!

Something for you kids at heart, for those missing warm days and sunny walks, for those nursing colds and blahs and driving through snow:

This fence hides some construction--this time of a play area for kids in a skyscraper. And talk about advance billing. Somebody knew how to spread their wings over art, graffiti, and kids all at once. Love it. Something happy and sloppy and detailed at the same time.

I keep wondering if this bird has a halo.

Two more detail shots after the jump.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

In Which Ms. Frivolous Tosses Dear John, the Baker

Just now I got off the elevator with a six-foot, three-hundred pound man who lives on my floor of my building. He has a crew-cut,  looks like a retired football player and he works out at Gold's. He also bakes a lot of cookies.

A long time ago we had two dates, within the space of a week. After the first one, I was talking on the phone in front of my window and he was watching me from the window in the hall, where the building makes a 90 degree angle. It didn't last very long, but I noted it. Still I didn't pay enough attention. After the second date (I should tell you these were coffee dates or walk dates), I hugged him good-bye and said I hoped he'd call me again.

That Big Chocolate Chip on His Shoulder 
I got a blistering e-mail about how men have to do all the work to get dates. That he had already bought two cups of coffee and it was my turn to ask to go for a walk. That he didn't appreciate the tack I had taken, my tone of voice, and so forth.

I added this up with the themes of his conversation. At the time, he was looking for a job. He told me that he had cursed out the hiring supervisor at a company he hoped to work at, because she didn't process his application fast enough. He also told me about his divorced wife not allowing him to be alone with his daughter because he would spank her and she was fourteen, which is not too old to be spanked, according to him. (Like all ex-wives), she was a bitch. And then on the way home from this second date, he told me about going into a gay bar (which he wasn't, or some permutation thereof, I hadn't figured that one out yet) and being in the men's restroom and almost choking a guy to death for hitting on him.

Maybe it was supposed to illustrate his straightness. But that was enough for me. I figure if you're a guy in a declasse gay bar, you should expect to get hit on in the bathroom. I mean, you're there. And I've been in that bar. It is a hit-on-ya bar.

Somewhere in there he left me a phone message that he then asked me not to listen to, because he was so angry. He was very charming about it, but this is Ann T. you're talking to. I listened to it.

In Which John, the Baker becomes Dear John, the Baker
So I sent him a dear-John e-mail. It was about how my life was busier than I thought it was, and that I wouldn't have time for a new relationship. I got a vituperous letter back about being a bitch, dishonest, and insinuating in the bargain--not to mention those cups of coffee that I had sponged off him. I spent a serious hour thinking about giving him a five-dollar bill.

About a week after that, I was leaving the building and he was coming in. He turned around and started yelling at me. He followed me down half a block, yelling that I was a bitch and so forth. I don't run from stuff like this: absolutely fatal to run.  I turned around and told him he was done following me. And he turned away.

At the local store, I was friends with a police officer who moonlighted in security. I told him what had happened. I asked him what I should do. "Call the cops," he said.

Well, it wasn't going to be Officer Securidad that got called, you know. So I wasn't going to take that advice.

When I came back to the building, my dear John, the Baker was waiting at the back door with a toothpick in his mouth, and he was not done. He had more to say, and I was going to listen. I faced him off again and went inside. I should tell you it was pitch dark out there, and he was still fit to be tied.

I shook for two and a half hours in my apartment. And finally the word harassment came to me. So I did call the police and said it was not an emergency. Well, they sent two cars. We have really responsive police in my neighborhood. It was one a.m. You could say I over-reacted. On the other hand, I don't like being blocked access to my building in the dark.

I met them outside my building. I mean, they were fast.
"Look, thanks for coming, I'm afraid it's really stupid," I said. "But this is what happened, and this is the kind of mail he's sending."
One of them read it.
"Aw, he just doesn't want to break up with you."

Well, hell. I do not consider myself to be a frivolous caller of the police, but there it was.

"Well, if you don't think it's worth pursuing, then I think that's okay. Generally I handle things. I think it's dumb that I called you."
"Nah, we'll go up and talk to him."

So they did. I have been getting dirty looks from this man for years. He still lives down the hall. I used to listen behind the door before I went outside, to be sure I didn't run into him.

Out of the Deep Freeze
But about two years after the incidents described above, we started saying hello again. Recently he brought me cookies. I find that to be odd, but also maybe it was just a bad time. Still I had no plans to date this guy.

So he wanted to know tonight why I would call the cops on him. He prefers direct communication. But also he wanted to apologize. I accepted his apology and said that I was also sorry it happened. Then he wanted to know why. Because he just wants to know why I did it.

I reviewed. He said he guessed he could understand it, that he's a big guy and all that. But still. And this went on for awhile. Then finally I said this:

"You escalated very quickly," I told him. "You wanted me to talk a certain way, and to act a certain way, and you said whatever you wanted when I didn't talk or act as you wanted. Many of your stories were about hurting people. And then you followed me down the street yelling at me."

"It was only half a block."
"It's a long block. It's even longer when someone's screaming at you that you're a bitch as you walk down it."

I was honest. I went through it with him, I don't know how many times. By the end he was arguing with me. He thinks I didn't like him because he was unemployed. And that's when I got mad.

Somehow again, by the end of the apology, I am at fault for bringing in a third party. He never wanted to date; he never waited for me. Well, he doesn't like it when I'm straight with him, and he doesn't like it when I give him a vague brush-off.  All I can do is what I can do.

"I got you back, you know," he just told me. "I told them you were off your meds and crazy."
"I don't take meds."  (You'll notice I didn't say I wasn't crazy though.)

"I know, I just had to get you back. I'm on a report somewhere because of you."

He is just one step on my road to agoraphobic tendencies. Not the biggest one. Not the most important one. Not by a hell of a sight.
But damn it.