Thursday, February 18, 2016

Filed in the "Stuff I Stuff Down" Folder...

I've had a chronic cough for a couple of years that I dismissed as allergies or maybe mild asthma. In November of last year, it got worse. A doctor prescribed me an albuterol inhaler. Late January, the cough became surreal. There's coughing, and then there's whatever the heck I was doing. Felt like someone was sucking all the air out of my lungs, replacing it with silly putty and daring me to hold my breath for two minutes. It was terrifying, but I kept hoping it would pass and wondering if I should write up a last will and testament and nihilism struck and it was rough.

At the urging of a few lovely friends, I went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with pneumonia and placed on antibiotics plus two inhalers, and given strict instructions to do nothing. "Nothing?" "Nothing."

Three days later I coughed so hard I projectile vomited all over my coffee table, coughed up a small amount of blood then...have any of you ever had a broken rib? It's my first broken bone, so I can check that off the list.

Horking, spitting, wheezing, yelping, walking a few feet at a time then gasping; back to the clinic I went, this time under urgent circumstances. An x-ray revealed severe pneumonia (my right lung was a hot mess), severe asthma (the kind that puts children in the hospital) and a dense area that looked to them for all the world like a blood clot. Mild panic set in.

There's a specific test for clots called a d-dimer. I was expecting it to test negative, but it tested positive. It doesn't say where the clot(s) are, it just says there's some clotting antigen or whatnot in my blood. Oh, goodie. A mystery. 

I was called back for a CT scan. Panic level 'mandarin'.After alienating everyone in the lobby with my plague-like symptoms while waiting for the results of my scan (one brave woman handed me a kleenex and I almost cried), my doctor sat me in a room while he continued to review the scan for four score and twenty. Panic level 'bubblegum pink'. No clot! Just crud! And constricted lungs! Woot! Thank the whatevers for small favors, though the positive d-dimer puts me at a constant panic level 'chartreuse'.
I took a course of antibiotics and was prescribed yet another inhaler that I must use every day unless or until a miracle happens and my asthma goes away. I was ordered to do as little as possible for two months. "Two months?" "Two months." 

A neighbor friend stepped in as dog walker, and he takes Sam with him to all sorts of places I don't take Sam even when I'm not laid up in bed. I ordered enough pizza to get me through the first couple of weeks, as grocery shopping is out and explaining my weird, particular tastes to a friend/family member/personal shopper is embarrassing for both of us.

Prognosis? "The good news is, your asthma can't get any worse because it's already as bad as it gets. You'll be prone to all sorts of wonderful pneumonias, now." Fabulous.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Biggest Problem for the Homeless is the Homeless

The homeless issue is a tough one for me. Once you meet and become friends with people who are or have been homeless, and once you have been on the brink of it, you tend to have a more tolerant perspective. I own that perspective.

What I thought was a done deal is in the news once again. I received the following letter from a neighbor via email, and though I empathize with their concerns I can't get on board their train.


"To ALL Residents:

As you may know, the City had temporarlly approved the opening of the former Fire Station #39 as a homeless shelter this last spring. This site sits adjacent to the new Fire Station and is close to Senior housing, library, residential apartments, and retail stores. The permit for Project Share/Wheel, which runs other Tent Cities through Seattle, ran out in May and the current building is empty, however there are plans afoot to re-open it as semi-permanent shelter.

Seattle area churches, led by leaders from Seattle Mennonite Church, have been quietly campaigning to get this site open permanently. They have faced little opposition in their efforts, however, this project is NOT A DONE DEAL. The City wants to hear from Lake City residents. and is holding Community Meeting on July 13th to get your input.

We have since learned that this site would be opened as a homeless shelter for approx. 100 people for 2-3 years at a cost of around $2 million dollars. The building then would be demolished. At the same time, the City of Seattle is cutting their police budget by $2 million. There are several reasons why this location doesn't make sense, whether PERMANENT or TEMPORARY.

Lake City seems to get the 'lion's share' of social services and homeless resources. Some of these are essential to low income and struggling individuals. McDermott House houses 75 homeless/chemically dependant veterans and others with chemcal additions. Seattle Mennonite church runs a soup kitchen/day lockers for the homeless. The VA's office of Community Outpatient Services is also quartered here. At the same time, we witness daily the repurcussions of having too many homeless resources concnetrated into 1 area--dirty/trash-littered sidewalks, human waste in storefront doorways, panhandlers, and people loitering the streets. This turns patrons away from businesses that are struggling to survive in an already challenging economy. While not unsympathetic to the plight of the homeless, some of these individuals appear to be the 'bottom of the barrel' in terms of not wanting to get off the streets or into treatment. They just want to do their thing and not be disburbed.

Apart from these reasons, there's also the question of zoning and safety--Fire stations normally house anywhere from 8-12 people. How can this building safely accommodate 100? Some of the churches that are campaigning for this shelter are not in the neighborhood, so the problem is 'out of sight, out of mind' for them, but is placed squarely right on to the residents and businesses that call Lake City home. When the 3 year term for vacating/demolishing this shelter is up, who's to say these churches won't lobby to keep it open? When someone is turned away or booted out of the shelter for bad behavior, where will they go? THE STREETS OF OUR NEIGHBORHOOD, that's where!

No other neighbohrood in Seattle has been asked to host a 3 year homeless shelter. This plan should be scrapped. It's the wrong plan, at the wrong time, and in the wrong place. There's other ways to address the needs of the homeless and balance the desires of the Community.

Please plan atttending this meeting with City officals and tell them enough is enough! The meeting will be held Wednesday, July 13th from 6PM - 8PM at the Lake City Community Center, 12531 28th Avenue NE (just north of the Lake City Library). If you can't attend the meeting, please consder signing the petition in the Luminaire lobby! We will present signed petitions to Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods.

Thanks for your consideration,
[names withheld]"


This is not only prejudicial, it points to its own inadequacies. No "other ideas" are listed because this isn't the type of problem that has a clean solution. We don't have any other way of housing people who don't have the means to pay rent. What we do have is a big, empty building that is serving no other purpose, and $2,000,000 isn't a lot of money to shelter and tend to 100 people for that amount of time.

The police funding woes are a separate issue and I'm having no luck finding a correlation. That doesn't mean there isn't one, nor does it mean they aren't pulled from completely different funding sources. I'll keep looking.

Meanwhile, the homeless are the least of our worries in this neighborhood. It's the guys selling drugs to the homeless then beating them up, stealing things, breaking into cars and robbing convenience stores with axes (see previous post link) that we need to address. These individuals are not homeless.

I'd like to hear some of the author's "ideas" that he didn't include, and perhaps offer to do some proofreading for him, so I think I'll audit the meeting with my snarky hat on.


Blog post from a different party with a comment from our mayor:

The owner of the convenience store on my street was robbed by a man with an ox. She must’ve meant axe. Oxen are notoriously hard to conceal.

Please click the title of this post and head over to my other blog for the full story behind the headline...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sticks and Shadows

It's been six months since the condemned, rotting house was torn down and the rusted Ford station wagon was hauled off with promise of an apartment complex. The site is once again abandoned.

While the house stood, it was shelter for addicts and rodents. Sam-dog would root plastic packets out from under the overgrown shrubs. I'd look around and quickly kick them back.

Now it's nothing but sticks and shadows, dirt and orange survey tape. At least the grass refuses to stay dead.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Neighborhood Watch 2011

Not one to enjoy a May Pole, I dutifully followed Sam-dog as he circled a telephone pole in search of a good pee spot, and chanced upon a sign.

It warns that the adjacent property is being monitored by police, which was true. I've seen many a squad car parked slightly to the north with their lights off. They'd hang out for several minutes, taking notes and sipping coffee. After a few minutes they'd swing around the block and re-park.

The building in question is a spider-infested, rotting mess. Most of it is obscured by trees, but there is a small patch of cleared gravel where "unauthorized assembly" took place. It's private property and this is a free country, but apparently there is still such thing as "unauthorized assembly".

The assemblers were a group of men and boys from Ethiopia who would flag down cars for the dealers inside. They'd lean into the cars and some sort of exchange would take place, and the cars would leave without bothering to park and pretend they were visiting. The Ethiopians were the Wal-mart greeters of the drug trade, and at first they did their job with broad grins and polite waving. Whenever I'd pass by they'd always have a smile for me. Eventually they stopped smiling and took on a tough exterior as gang life wore them down.

A neighbor friend of mine had befriended one of the men before he'd been swayed. They would have lively, heavily accented conversations about literature and art, he dressed in a snappy sweater vest with shined shoes and a laptop bag. When that changed, my friend voiced her dismay.

"Don't hang out with gangs, Amare!" she'd instruct. "They are bad news." He would nod agreement, pull up his over-sized jeans, pretend to tuck in his flashy sports jersey and change the subject.

Around the corner from the gravel there are a few dark doorways where the dealers worked. The doors were always open, and from time to time a pit bull or two would pop out to see what Sam and I were up to. The dealers were all of Hispanic descent. I'm not sure what country, but there is a large Mexican population out here so that makes the most sense.

The dealers were rough. They'd yell at each other and push other neighborhood dealers around, and these scuffles could be heard from half a block away. They'd head into the middle of the street, block traffic and carry on with their pit bulls by their sides. The squad car on duty would blip its siren, flash its lights and make arrests when needed.

I haven't seen any of the Ethiopians or their bosses around in the last few days. Though I'm certain the faded "Neighborhood Watch" sign didn't help, the constant harassment of police must have. The entire building is for lease. Eventually the owner will figure out that the "gang activity" warning is discouraging new renters and remove it, and it will be business as usual.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


She has every type of piercing imaginable, and that's just the ones she can show off in public. No need to know what's going on under her clothing. Much as I enjoy my own painful tatts and grown over multiple piercings, there is a point where it becomes pure self-destruction. I couldn't quite go there, even back when I loathed myself.

As the mutt and I were walking along, she was shadowing us from across the street. She does that. She fixates and follows until something distracts her.

Then, for reasons only the chicken knows, she crossed the road and was nearly obliterated by a truck going around 900 miles per hour. It took her a full minute to digest the perilous situation and come up with an appropriate comment.

"He was driving really fast."

"No shit," I replied.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Steep Decline, Straight-Up Report

This post is straight forward reporting on my part, as was the last. I'm observing the rapid decline of my surroundings, and my blog is becoming my outlet. The scenarios are now commonplace, and with the approach of summer things aren't going to get better. Warm weather brings the desperation, struggle and fear out of hiding. It brings out the stench of dumpsters and the anger of dogs. It is not welcome.


There were three fights near my home around 7:00 p.m. last evening. Police were called to each scene. I was walking home from a park and heard the sirens, then saw the cars, then heard the sirens stop. I knew I'd hear them stop near my home. They always do, even though Seattle is a big city.

A neighbor friend told me a distant relative of hers had been involved in one fight. He was beaten severely by four or five men right outside the Mexican restaurant next door, and is in the hospital. He was drunk, and probably trying to buy drugs. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong move.

When police asked if anyone had seen how it started (it started inside the restaurant) they all said 'no'. By the way they dress, it's likely they are members of various Crips factions. I haven't asked them directly.

Several of the assailants ran, and the cops didn't give chase. Another fight broke out within minutes on the street in back of mine. Then another a couple of blocks over. No weapons were found in any of the scenes and therefore there were no arrests.

My friend had been called to the first scene by another friend, and tried to intervene on her relative's behalf. She was told by yet another friend that she could have been killed because, "These guys have guns."

Late last night while taking Sam-dog out for his last piddle before bed, there were signs of a big drug deal on the corner north of my home. Men came from all directions and met out in the open. They passed something back and forth while shaking hands, and all involved dug in their pockets the whole time. The group then split up. $100,000 cars cruised the streets and slowed down next to those on foot. Were they watching to make sure no one decided to run with the money and the drugs? An ex of mine, years before we'd met, had been shot in such a deal.

I wasn't able to fully drain the dog before I realized two of them were watching me. One started coming my way, so I quickly went inside. Sam peed on the carpet in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Banker's Hours

On Sam-dog's first walk of the day I overheard a fight between a man and a woman coming from behind the bank. "Bitch! Get the fuck out there! Fucking stupid!"

A woman dressed in a sweet pink sweater, nice heels and perfectly tailored black pants stumbled out of a gate. She wasn't crying. She didn't look frightened. She ignored traffic, held a bill in one hand and snorted something from the other.

Around 2:00 p.m. I took Sam for a quick jaunt and was confronted by a few drunks standing on the bank's lawn. "Lady! We want to say hi to your damned dog! Come'ere!" I waved and held my hand to my ear as if I couldn't hear them. After a couple more tries they gave up and dipped into their crumpled paper bags.

This evening, a boy about seven years old was running around the lawn while his mother went inside the bank. He was a hundred feet away behind a tree before she came out. She looked confused, so I pointed toward him and she stumbled off without thanks.

Sitting on the lawn was a group of boys maybe 17 or 18. They had tidy haircuts, were slightly plump and pink in the cheeks, and squinted into the lowering sun. A man with braids to his waist was leaning over them, standing perfectly still, silent. One by one, the boys got up and went to the cash machine. When each would return, they would plop back down. I crossed the street, looked back, and the man was gone.

On my return the man with the braids had another man pushed up against a wall in the bank's entryway. Again, he wasn't saying a word. Sam sniffed at his pant leg as we walked past.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mamas, Take Your Meds

"I don't really like kids, but he has one so I have to cope. They are all vessels of energy and must be respected for that alone, but I don't like kids."

A few seconds prior to the start of this promising conversation, a car had flown past at such a high rate of speed that the gust it created blew Sam-dog's ears back. Then sirens, and the young, adorable police officer I see nearly every day nudged the demon over to the side of the road. He likes to gun the 'bwip bwip' siren even after he's stopped, and gets a little grin on his face before going into professional mode.

Instead of turning tail and heading home, I decided to keep to same direction. There was something out of the ordinary and utterly irresistible going on. A tall couple dressed in goth gear, the man nearly in tears, was standing about half a block north of the scene.

"What's up?" I asked.

"My ex refuses to honor our custody arrangement," said the man. "Her boyfriend beat me up yesterday for asking why, and my kid saw the whole thing."

His long, stringy hair was concealing most of the damage. He moved it aside for me so I could see the half dozen or so faint bruises. The mother's boyfriend was driving the get-away car, trying to leave the neighborhood without handing the child over to the forlorn father, and the father and his girlfriend were awaiting their turn with Officer Adorable.

"It was not at all good," added his girlfriend. "I don't like kids but it was not good."

I looked to the boyfriend for some sort of logical explanation, but all he did was smile in her direction. It was a smile of pity, worry, acceptance, grief and love. Thankfully, he'd begun to describe details of the nasty situation before my facial expression cemented into dumbfounded.

I asked if his ex was by any chance bipolar. It was out before I could stop it.

To my relief, he didn't appear at all offended by the question. He said, "Yes. She's very sick." I shared my story of my most recent ex and his battle with a bipolar baby-mama, and that's why I'd asked. The girlfriend bristled.

"I am bipolar. I have it under control. I am good with it." Her speech was halting, her movements were disjointed, she couldn't hold eye contact and it all started to make sense. I'd guess there was some autism up in that head of hers, too. Always one to over share, I told her I suffer from depression, but take my meds. My ex's ex did not, and drank, and without hesitation had decided to relinquish custody of their three children because she "...couldn't deal."

The girlfriend agreed this was unimaginable, then said, "I don't like kids." No matter how many times she said it, her boyfriend continued to smile his gentle smile and fumble with his stringy hair to cover his bruises. "They are good but not for me. I never want kids. He has one, though." Was that shame in his eyes?

Officer Adorable let the speeding baby-mama-boyfriend go, and U-turned toward us. I said, "Okay. Looks like he needs to talk to you. I hope things get resolved."

"Thank you for caring. You are nice," said the girlfriend. "You are nice," she said again. It started to rain, and she batted at the drops like they were a swarm of gnats.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Year We Had No Easter Tree

When I was around nine, my parents decided to attend services at a variety of churches and dabbled in an even wider variety of faiths. We checked out Christianity, Catholicism (distinguish from Christianity), Judaism, Buddhism, Native American beliefs and so on; but the one that got stuck in my mind? Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It stuck because I was a kid and holidays were awesome, and Jehova’s Witnesses don’t celebrate much. A week before Easter we went to their version of mass. It was so boring I thought I might die. It was so lengthy even my parents started to fidget. Never mind my five-year-old brother crawling under our bench.

God seemingly took a back seat. The Bible and its teachings were all that mattered and Jesus rarely entered the room. Easter and Passover were mentioned as examples of ritualistic traditions that shouldn’t be acknowledged, and on and on it went.

After an hour we were allowed to leave, and we went about our agnostic lives except for the dreams. Those awful dreams.

I dreamed there was an Easter tree in our living room. It was fully flocked in whitish pink and wrapped in spun glass known as angel hair. Hiding in the branches were eggs and candies, and I wanted at that thing so bad!

“No,” said my mother, who then called to my father to help her throw it away. “We are Jehovah’s Witnesses and we don’t celebrate Easter.”

How unfair. Poor other Jehovah’s Witness kids, and their pragmatic parents, who were so deprived of the joy’s of holidays. It didn’t occur to me that there is something beyond the trappings. For many it is the essence of their beings. The external is trivial, gifts are unnecessary, indulgence isn’t divine and as long as you’re a good person of some sort that’s all that matters.

I pinched myself awake Easter morning and ran for the living room. There was a note on the hallway wall telling me to go to the front door, and taped to the door was another note: “Open slowly.”

There it was. A huge basket filled with eggs, Peeps, fake grass, cards for my brother and I and one massive chocolate bunny. Hooray for heathenism!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gentrify This

There's a new trend in city maintenance: red bark. I don't understand it. It's ugly, it gets everywhere and my dog won't poop on it. I live in an urban world, and those little patches of dirt with trees that poke up from the sidewalks at even intervals are what we urbanites--and our dogs--rely upon for the task.

I can't get too peeved, though. The city is trying to make my neighborhood all nice and pretty so the criminal element will go somewhere else, like the suburbs. I'm all in favor of that. If I lived in the suburbs, well, I wouldn't live in the suburbs. I have friends who grew up in suburbs, and trust me. They are wholly unprepared for a visit.

Who is doing some of the work? Convicts. I'm delighted by this. I wonder if some have been sent back to the same places they were popped to make amends with the locals? In fact, the XXX "Theatre" has a nice, new facade with potted plants surrounded by red bark. If you've been exposed to such a place (pardon the pun), you know what happens when a client ignores the code of conduct. I envision registered sex offenders delicately patting red bark around geraniums, right under a window display with a scantily clad mannequin in a suggestive pose.

The other thing they're doing in an attempt to cut down on the lurking about is to add a lower deck of lights to every street light. This is being done by qualified professionals--I hope. Not that being a convict rules out the 'lineman for the county' skill set, but there might be some liability issues.

These lower lights stay on all night, unlike the higher street lights, and have already had the noticeable effect of not digging the homeless population out of their sleeping quarters. Can't hide in a dark doorway if it isn't dark, right? It's harder for them to relieve themselves without an audience, is all. Urine pooled on a bus stop bench is one thing, but inadvertently catching a glimpse of the urinator in the act is an experience I hope never to repeat.

Bright lights shining away, the dealers and prostitutes busily do what they need to do between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. as always. The drunken fights outside the bars still happen, as inebriated individuals have no sense of their surroundings. The more gang-inclined young men stand like peacocks under the new lighting, perhaps hoping their gold jewelry will glint all the more. That's what I'd do.

The good result is that I feel less likely to be mugged or attacked as I pass near patches of red bark and stare into the bright bulbs. It might be a false sense of security, but I'm thoroughly conditioned. It's in literature and folklore that light and clean is good, and dark and dirty is bad.

It's also impossible to grow up in a larger city without being taught a few survival skills that include light vs. dark training. I've learned from friends, enemies, experts, parents, teachers and my own encounters with the dark side. Stay clear of alleys and doorways, walk with a purpose, hold your purse tight and your chastity tighter!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Plight of the Intersexed

The word "hermaphrodite" has an insulting connotation. Though using it would have given my title a lively rhyme, I refrained, and in the process I learned a new word: intersex.

Sam-dog was up to some mischief with a budding daffodil. He chewed the leaves and I snapped, "Leave it." He stomped all over it and I pulled his leash a little tighter. Then, as a final insult, he drenched the poor thing in pee. While all this was going on, I was sneaking glances at a couple coming up the street.

One was tall, slim and attractive, and the other was quite a bit shorter and more on the pretty side. My temptation was to peg them as a lesbian couple, but something was holding me back. They chuckled over something one or the other said, and Tall bopped Short on the head in a teasing gesture.

They were now within my limited hearing range, and Tall said to Short, "I was born with both male and female genitals."

Short said, "Me, too!"

"No way," I mumbled to Sam. "Right here, right now they are discovering each other?" Sam wagged his tail.

Tall then said, "I knew I liked you for some reason. How cool. I was raised as a girl, but I feel more boyish so I'm going with that for now." Short smiled and said, "I feel more girl, but not always. You get it." They fist bumped with joy and changed the subject to video games.

They seemed completely unfazed by my presence, and that gave me a moment of joy. The world and all its humans still has trouble accepting intersex individuals, so for these two to speak so freely in front of an audience... and they chose the right audience because I was nothing but happy for them... and a little relieved.

It's not a comfortable thought for anyone who doesn't have the condition (Condition? Genetic make-up? Gift? Curse? I'm lost in semantics, here.) to think that a penis and vagina--in all different stages of development--could exist in one pelvic region. We think of the classic breeding pair, with an innie and outie and eggs and sperm and that's how we're, well, conditioned.

While their voices were going out of range, I was thinking of worms. It still takes two of them to breed, but they have both parts, those crazy, lucky worms. In the worm world it's perfectly natural, so why not in the world of humans? Why the heck not?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Keep It Stupid, Simple

Eloquent, concise, informative, easy-to-read signage is hard to find. Sam-dog and I came upon this during an exploratory walk. We were getting bored of the usual routes, and decided to squeeze down an overgrown alley behind an aborted construction project. Now we know exactly where to go when we need...

...a good laugh.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

First Name Basis

"What's your name, sweetheart? You're out late. Sorry we was doing something wrong there. You forgive, right?"

As she spoke I fixated on her two absentee teeth, and the gold crowns on the shards next to the gap. Her gums black with decay.

"Wendina. And no worries. I could care less what you two were up to. What's your name?"

"My name is Kelly. Pleased to meet you. You're cool, and you have pretty teeth."

I wanted to pay her the same compliment, but a little white lie would have ticked her off. She's smart--brilliant, even--and she was so flamed on crack she was pacing and flailing. To top it off, she's the same prostitute who threatened to beat the shit out of me a few months back.

There was a brief moment of recognition before we continued. Without acknowledging, we forgave each other for the messy incident, the menacing, and the frantic call to 911. Bygones.

"Thanks. I'm about to lose the same two you're missing." The direct approach. Find common ground, Wendina. Find it fast, because there won't be another opportunity quite like this.

"That's a fucking drag. The only good thing about that is they give you those Vicadins after they yank. They're not my favorite, though. I'm on some great pills, I tell you. What kinna pills you like?"

"Sleeping pills. They aren't what got me in trouble, but they're a big problem."

"That why you up so late? Can't sleep? Man, I love to sleep. I could crash right here and now if it weren't for that other stuff. Hey, I could be your AA sponsor. That'd be funny as hell!"

I stepped a bit closer to her and tapped her arm as we shared a good laugh. My instincts were dead on. Next thing I knew, she was listening to me ramble about my lifelong battle with insomnia, consoling me and telling me her woes.

Her smaller friend leaped out from behind the trunk of the tree we were under and offered to make a phone call. She wanted to hook me up with whatever I needed. Damnit if I didn't consider it for more than a few seconds before I declined.

"No, I can't go there, but you're an angel for offering."

"He could be on his way. Let me know."

"I will." She went back to hiding behind the tree.

Kelly and I then proceeded to have a rousing discussion about drugs, teeth and the fact that the two don't go together. Addicts are drawn to each other. There's an instant affinity regardless of lifestyle, history or differences in personality; and we always have bad teeth. It never fails.

"Go inside and get some rest, hon," said Kelly. She gave me the nicest toothless smile I'll ever get.

"I'll try my best."

"Before you leave, what's your dog's name, anyway?"


"Sam. That's a perfect name for him. Goodnight, Wendina and Sam."

"Goodnight, Kelly."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hard Candy Fish

When my brother was just four years old, it was clear he had a gift for artistic expression. He'd draw these hilarious faces with lopsided eyes and spindly strands of hair, as do many children, but his showed that he was observing more than appearance and overt emotion. His doodles had their own personalities.

By the time he was in the fourth grade, teachers were noticing his quirky style. He was entered into a local fair that gave prizes for arts, crafts and other accomplishments. His entry was a tall, detailed clay vase. He'd cut out a couple dozen fish, glazed them in watery hues, pieced them together with deliberate holes here and there and fired the thing up in a kiln. A fish vase that, ironically, could hold no water. It won first place... and was promptly stolen. Stolen! Talk about a letdown. Then again, if it was worth stealing it must have been pretty darned special.

There is still that carefree confidence and careful observance in each of his works. His medium is acrylic paint. Years ago he taught himself to work with acrylics almost as if they were oils, but he likes the challenge of the faster drying time and the stability and glow of the finished pieces. Humor and depth, light and shadow, color and line, stories within stories.

He calls this one "Hard Candy Fish"; as dichotomous as the vase.

by Bryan Ubaghs
acrylics on deep-edge panel--no need for framing
Go to comment on this post or tweet me @girlweena for more information.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

License to Dial

A large group of addicts and dealers had gathered on the lawn in front of the bank, openly selling and buying, ignoring their audience unless someone strayed too close. Then they would harass and cajole until the hapless pedestrian backed away in fear. They were drunk, and therefore oblivious their locale, which happens to be one of the busiest corners in North Seattle.

It was before 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday and the bank was still open. I could see the manager and a couple of tellers pressed up against the windows with their cell phones to their ears. I had mine ready just in case, with my trusty but uselessly small canine as back-up.

When the squad car appeared the bank employees hung up in unison, and we watched the loiterers scatter. One guy was cornered by an officer and began to make excuses for his very existence at the top of his lungs. An escapee exaggerated his relief by exclaiming, "Phew! Close one. Phew!" and ducked into the pub, while I showed my relief by high-tailing it home.


"Wish you could hear what I'm thinking, bitch." She and I had just passed each other in the alley, and she hadn't returned my smile--given her stumbling condition, a sign of trouble. I had a pretty good idea what she was thinking. She probably wanted me out of her territory, as would any angry, hungry, terrified dog. "Speaking of bitches..." I wanted to say, but I don't have a death wish.

Now 10 feet behind me, I could feel her glare. Instinctively, I didn't turn around to see if she was still there until I was nearing the street. Then she was gone. I'd won! I felt tough, invincible and large in charge except for the fact that my hand was in my purse, sweatily gripping my cell phone like a loaded gun.


"911, what are you reporting?"

"Yeah, there's a fight in progress. Again." I tried not to sound too apathetic as I watched the man and woman hit each other and throw things at each other while their falling down drunk friends tried to intervene. I dutifully answered questions and provided descriptions using the photo I'd taken. "Looks like a bunch of packages of something white in their trunk. Probably drugs, knowing what goes on around here." *sigh*

"Mmm hmm. Could be. Are you safe?"

"Yes. I'm on the fourth floor of a condo. Some of my neighbors are calling, too. They're safe."

"I can see the other calls coming in. We're dispatching a car, now."

"Thanks." *sigh*

While I'd been on the phone, my neighbor two floors down had had the same conversation with another operator. Her boyfriend had joined her out on the deck, phone in hand. Above and to the left of me, another neighbor on another call, and there were other phones being dialed up and down the street.

By the time the police arrived, we'd watched as the antagonists had driven away with their trunk still open. Officers interviewed inebriated witnesses, quelled tempers and began inspecting the baggies. I went back to the couch.

Later that evening I found a stash of similar baggies behind a bush. They contained tiny white gym socks, breast pumps and bibs. Probably not worth a call to 911, but you just never know around here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Pond

Termites in the walls, icky silverfish in the shower and spiders in the kitchen. Two kids, oblivious to it all, went barreling out the door of grandma's ocean cabin and down the rotting, wormy steps to the back woods. There they discovered The Pond during a mission to get as lost as possible before they were called to dinner.

They'd slept well, after a day of glorious sand, sun and waves. Grandma's falling down, white and red creation of boards and nails was the best thing that ever happened, ever in the history of the universe. They were at ease. Nothing bad ever happened when they were there, except that one time when the antique toaster burned two slices of cinnamon-raisin bread. Everything about that place was so different from their home in Seattle, with the notable exception of the spiders.

The Seattle house had a creepy basement and the furniture couldn't withstand messes. The dog was stuck in the yard, not chasing down birds on a mile of slimy, seaweedy sand. There was gardening and mowing and vacuuming to be done. Such cruelties! At the cabin, a single sweep of a broom sent whatever was on the floor right out into the tall reeds to be eaten by whatever lives in tall reeds.

The Pond was a monumental discovery. It was hidden from the town by overgrown blackberry brambles and fallen trees. It's green algae surface broke in places to trace where ducks had been, and the lily pads were huge. Three generations of frogs could make a home of just one.

Between The Pond and the hills were massive, old growth trees. Many were toppled and being nursed upon by newer varieties. "Nature is always changing," said mom or dad.

After a few minutes of observation, the boy and girl decided The Pond was inaccessible and unnavigable. It was too deep, and the clouds of mosquitoes were like force fields, keeping out the enemy that was Them. But it was stare-worthy, and so they stared for hours until mom's loudest voice broke over the top of the frog chirps. "Dinner!!!"

Should they tell mom and dad about The Pond? Oh, why not. They probably wouldn't believe it, and so the boy and girl simultaneously delivered the exciting news, knowing they could still have their secret but without the guilty feeling of having to sneak.

"Yes, we know about The Pond," said mom or dad. "It's going to be all filled in with dirt to build new, expensive cabins that aren't falling down like this one. Kind of a shame, really, but this land will be worth more in case grandma needs to sell it."

Okay, THAT was the worst thing that ever happened at grandma's cabin.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

By Appointment Only

I've met this kid several times while out walking Sam, and he's a real cute boy in a teen idol kind of way. His approach to me has always been way too friendly for someone his age, kind of like witnessing a very precocious child star being interviewed by Barbara Walters. Engaging. Polite. Funny. Fidgety.

He doesn't appear to be old enough for high school. I'm guessing he's 13 or 14. Always a skinny guy, he hit a growth spurt last year that shot him up at least six inches and his fat stores all went toward that project. When I saw him a couple of months ago he was very, very thin. Now he's even thinner, but not much taller.

Sam and I were coming off of a dicey encounter with a pit bull and I just wanted to get home. The wind and rain, some other dog's shit on my shoe and people in general were pissing me off. As my grumpiness was reaching crescendo a backfiring, gold, 1980s sedan pulled up next to me and one of the back doors opened. Out flew my young acquaintance, buttoning his pants that were now too short and wide for him and closing his filthy, hooded coat tightly around his body. He stumbled a bit, stopped, checked his zipper and turned to the side to watch the car speed away.

He saw me, but he didn't make eye contact. Instead he headed for a dark doorway, still clutching his coat; stopping, bending over, struggling to walk. He looked sick, in pain and riddled with shame.

To have a meet and greet with a kid like that, you sometimes have to make an appointment. Child exploitation stays far underground, as it's more in line with sexual slavery than street prostitution and call-girls. You have to really want it bad to find it.

My state (Washington) is working to change the laws and send kids like him to safe havens, where they would receive proper medical care, drug rehab and counseling. Currently, the safest places for these victims are juvenile detention centers, foster families and adult mental health facilities. But none of these options can teach life skills to a child who doesn't even know he's still a child.

Further reading on this topic:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Domestic Row

Recently there has been a regime change, and not just in the Middle East. The block south of mine has shown some signs of improvement. Perhaps it's partly due to the cold weather, but I think it's something bigger than that. By all appearances, the man who used to control the neighborhood has succumbed to his own demons.

If you can't keep track of your crew, you can't lead. Impairment in any form--physical disability, drug addiction, mental illness, poverty, distraction--can cost a leader his job. One thing has remained, and it's more unpredictable and dangerous than any gang-related skirmish. He fights with his lady.

Law enforcement hates domestic fights. I have a cousin who patrols a neighboring city, and whenever he's called out on a "domestic" he braces himself for the worst. If a fight happens because of a deal gone bad or crew member getting out of line, the presence of police is usually enough to halt the would-be assailants. A fight born of deep emotion, betrayal, fading love or abuse of a loved one doesn't stop just because of an audience; even if that audience is armed. Tension rises in my cousin's voice when he relays stories of men dragging women into the street by their hair. Or a wife brandishing a knife and taking stabs at her controlling husband. Or a woman prepared to shoot her boyfriend because he won't pay back money he owes her.

What fuels the fights between my neighbor and his better half I cannot say, but there's certainly plenty to fight about. The last few times the police have been called in, they were able to enter the apartment complex where Mr. Ex-Pimp and his little band of crack addicts reside. With some effort they were able to quash the domestic, and once inside they could confiscate drugs and dealers. Impairment of emotion left that door wide open.

Now that Mr. Ex-Pimp has lost his edge, a newer, showier brand of boss has stepped in and kept the various mini-gangs in line. Fights involve shouting matches, posturing, puffery. When the volume hits a certain level, Mr. Yellow Hummer and Mr. Vintage White Jag appear out of nowhere, and the shouting stops. After all, noise makes us all aware of the problem, and noise is usually what causes us upstanding citizens to call cops; and cops are bad for business. Simple as that.

The prostitution has slowed due to the cold weather, but it's possible it won't come back this spring. That's not the focus of the new regime, as keeping a bunch of beaten, bedragled girls in line and doped up is a lot of work for not much payout. The ego of the old guard liked the feeling of power that came with controlling women. The new guys are more likely to become clients.

One trend I noticed even months ago was the one-on-one pimp/prostitute combo pack. A couple, desperate for drug money, supports itself via the girl turning tricks. There is no way to keep a woman safe if you don't have a reputation as a badass, and addicts aren't badasses. They're impaired. It becomes a domestic problem, and one that I imagine is difficult to track and control.

Love in the world of drugs: It's a beautiful thing.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cane Man

He has a heavy limp that borders on hobbling. The leg with the least damage is the understudy to his cane, but he tries not to overburden any of his limbs with his full body weight, lest he do more damage or lose balance. It's painful to watch him walk, but walk he must. His heart and doctor demand it.

The other day my doctor asked me if I was getting any exercise for my heart. "Yes. I have a dog, now. He has three jobs; he forces me to move no matter how much pain I'm in, keeps me company and gets me outside for a little human contact. Better than a gym membership."

This soft spoken, slender, calm, Indian man--who so utterly lacks pomposity that he won't even post his degrees on his office wall--gave me a look of skepticism that would shrivel a grape into a raisin in an instant. Though I've done nothing outright careless, I can easily consume half a pound of sugar in a week. I walk a mile or two a day, but to give my doc credit it isn't exactly aerobic. He further showed his lack of faith in me by scheduling glucose and cholesterol tests.

The man with the cane has an unruly, frisky and overly sociable collie puppy. Whenever our dogs spot each other, they both get wound up into a state of glee one usually only sees in game show contestants. It's a struggle for both of us sore and/or disabled humans to keep our footing. I have arthritis in my lower back and hips (my "buttritis"), but I'm still slightly less likely to fall and break something so I always offer to hold both dogs until the jubilation fades to that of lottery winners.

Yesterday the man with the cane said, "Eh. I just need to get him some training. He'll pull me right over if I don't. Meantime, I don't want him hurting you." I learned his cane is the result of a knee injury sustained while he was in boot camp, that wasn't tended to properly. His pension is small, but thankfully supplemented by disability insurance.

He thinks the breeder who sold him his dog lied about the pedigree, and lied about giving proper shots and medications to their sale pups before foisting them on new owners. He had to start all over with rabies, kennel cough, etc. and found out later his puppy had worms. By the time he knew the extent of the expense, he was deeply in love with the dog. There was no going back.

I learned he despises people who aren't nice to cashiers at grocery stores. He doesn't like onions. Some day he hopes to start his own business, doing what? He doesn't know. And his rent is too darned high.

This was all disclosed to me after I'd suggested we walk along together to see if that would calm the dogs, and it did! A miracle. We almost made some serious headway before a third dog bounded into view. We quickly decided to part ways or risk being knocked over and trampled to death by a hairy, wiggly, slobbering mass of joy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Generation Gap Meets Cultural Divide

They live upstairs. I think they're Persian, but I haven't asked. They pile into their Ford Focus five times a day and head to the mosque up the hill, to return about 30 minutes later and complete the ritual by backing into their parking space. Under normal circumstance, the driving right falls to the youngest female, who appears to be in her late 20s. I refer to this custom as, "She with good reaction time and spacial relations shall grip the wheel."

Unfortunately--or fortunately, for her--she is forever 8.9 months pregnant and can barely fit in the front passenger seat without crushing her child to be. As her mother is of some sort of higher rank, and as her brother and husband are male and therefore must be served, grandma drives.

The security garage door opens with a groan. I'm out of my car and waiting for the elevator with bags of groceries, cat food, litter and a fidgeting dog, but when I see their vehicle round the corner I decide to hold the i-n-f-u-r-i-a-tingly slow device for them. Pregnant women and long waits don't mix.

Grandma guns it, slams on the breaks, guns it again and heads into their parking space at around 10 miles an hour and at a jaunty angle. The car that parks next to theirs is a late model, deep red, positively lickable Mercedes, gifted to a brother and sister from wealthy Indonesia by their wealthy-beyond-measure father. Tension fills the air. Grandma slams the breaks just in time, and all passengers lurch forward and back.

The passenger door opens and the daughter looks at the painted line between spaces, sees that it isn't where it should be, rolls her eyes, gestures toward her grandmother and says, "Go ahead. This is going to take a while."

In this moment, my universe shifts. The contents of that car becomes a story steeped in tradition, yet firmly seated in the modern world. Sarcasm: the great equalizer, transcending religious and political opposites. I've found a friend!

Their nomadic roots mean carrying family wealth on the highest ranked female (or so my slim research reveals). When I catch a glimpse of the middle mother, I see what appear to be rhinestones and sequins. My second glimpse tells me that her head and neck are draped in real gold and diamonds. Hundreds of diamonds. There must be two million dollars peeking out from her plain chador--the headscarf that allows a woman's face to show while still covering her neck, hair and shoulders.

She is regal, indeed. She sits up straight and strong and emotionless in the middle of the back seat. To her right is her son. I estimate his age at 20. He opens his door to proofread his sister's assessment that the car is nowhere near where it should be. He is disgusted, as is daughter's husband all the way on the left, and barks an order at his grandmother to try again.

The doors slam shut. I pick up my groceries and pull Sam into the elevator. I'm looking forward to my vertical pilgrimage through Russia (second floor), China (third floor) and Algeria (down the hall) before finally making it home.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Taking Stalk

My most persistent stalker worked the press at a small publishing house. I was a copywriter, proofreader and eventually low-end manager in a related department. Part of my job was to do press checks, which put me in daily contact with the guys who ran the massive, dangerous, noisy machine 24/7 if necessary.

After three years, the job had the best of me. Underpaid, exhausted, sick and angry, I quit in a fairly dramatic show of defiance. Anything that reminded me of that job made my stomach ache, even the arrival of my last paycheck. My doctor diagnosed an ulcer and put me on muscle relaxants and painkillers for two weeks--protocol back then. The combination didn't allow for much waking time.

Before quitting, I'd started receiving anonymous odds and ends in the mail. One package contained a mixed tape of songs by everyone from Bowie to a few local bands. Another was a post card of an image of the Space Needle, with "You Are Near Here" and an arrow drawn in red ink. The Needle, as we call it, was within walking distance. There were a couple of short letters, an envelope full of heart-shaped confetti and nothing contained a return address or signature. I was curious and vaguely flattered.

My two-week coma was interrupted by the ringing of the phone. It stopped. It rang again. Over and over and over. I'd asked my roommate to keep the ringer off, but in fairness she was missing tons of calls from her insecure boyfriend. Everything went to a physical answering machine back then but some callers, like roomy's boyfriend, weren't comfortable leaving messages.

When it rang again, I stumbled over and picked up the receiver, thinking it was going to be Jay, and wouldn't it be nice if he could leave a message with a live body while Tammy was in the shower? "Hello?"

"Hello, Wendina." The voice was thick with an accent, so it came out more as, "Hallo, Fendina." It sounded familiar, but it wasn't Jay. The drugs didn't allow me to add a face.

I listened, and waited for more clues, and finally it hit me. I'd spoken to him only once before, down by the noisy press, where we usually used hand signals to communicate. I'd asked him where his manager Mark was, a man I was dating at the time. It was a work-related request, in as much as it could be. The conversation took all of five seconds.

Part way into the call, he asked me out. I told him, "I'm still dating your boss here and there, so I really can't. When I'm feeling better I'm going to hit the town and celebrate quitting that job. Want to come along? I know some really fun people." He sounded disappointed, but agreed it might be nice to meet some potential friends.

When I hung up I saw the message light flashing frantically. That happened when there was no more room on the tiny cassette. My roommate appeared from the bathroom, swaddled in towels, to let me know I'd received dozens of calls from "Some foreign guy."

Tammy and I stood together while I listened to the first 10 minutes of the tape. It was him saying a friendly hello. Then him sounding worried. Then him pleading for me to answer.

As the tone of his voice morphed into anger, the phone rang again. Tammy and I stood together and listened as he left another message, about how he needs to see me right away. He said he would tell his boss about us so I wouldn't have to break up with Mark, myself. Awkward.

He hung up, and the phone rang again, and again it filtered through the machine. "Why won't you answer? I know you're there! You can't treat me like this!"

The next time he called I answered, and told him I'd tried to be nice but at that point I needed him to stop calling and mailing things. At first he tried to deny he was my mailbox stalker, but then admitted to it. He said, "No more. Gootbuy" and hung up, and I thought that would be the last of him.

He was from Hungary. He was short, slight and boyish. Because of these attributes, a close friend started calling him Little Hungarian Problem. My Little Hungarian Problem drove up and down my street. He called and hung up when I answered. I knew it was him, even in silence. When I found a new job he called me there, breathing, and I told him never to do that again.

Months went by, and then I noticed him following me home from work to my new apartment. I walked to and from, so to follow me he had to either slow to a walking pace or circle around. I ran up to someone's porch pretended to knock. I turned to see him drive away. When I arrived home the phone was ringing and it was him. He'd convinced the operator, via his accent, to give him my blocked number. "Hallo. Iss Fendina there?"

"No one here by that name," I replied, trying to keep my voice friendly and neutral.

"Hh'okay. Bye."

Six months later I was in a play, and he'd somehow found our rehearsal space and leaned against a doorway and stared at me. He delivered packages for a small courier company, so it was possible he'd found me by accident while doing his duty. Maybe. I acted as if I didn't know him, while carefully gesturing to my friends that there was a potential problem. Everyone started to stare back on my behalf. He grew self-conscious and my Little Hungarian Problem left the doorway.

I never saw him again physically, though I received a few postcards in his handwriting. And a few phone calls. They only stopped when I moved yet again and took on a fourth or fifth phone number. When I'd called the police, they told me that was my only recourse unless he became violent. Stalking behavior wasn't enough for protection or a restraining order, though the officer I spoke with was definitely concerned. I complied, paid another first and last month's rent and deposit and hauled my belongings across town, because I didn't know what else to do.

Stalkers are frightening. They are maddening. They are selfish and they are rude. But most of all, stalkers are a damned inconvenience.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rolling with a Recidivist

"Yo, you got the time?"

"Who says 'yo' anymore?" I thought, but instead looked at my iPhone and said, "7:02." He stared at my phone, then my purse, then my face.

"Oh, yeah yeah game's still on, I hope. First Seahawks I seen since I out. This last time I sprung, anyways." He caught up and started walking alongside me. Sammy didn't miss a beat, and kept on sniffing the broken sidewalk like it was paved with dog treats.

To myself again, "Who says 'sprung' anymore?" And then I continued, to myself, but almost out loud, "You have my undivided attention..."

"You mean from prison?" I indelicately inquired.

"Yeah, I been in and out for eight years, going on. They put me in for hittin' a guy. I get out, I hit a guy. It's what I do."

Well, isn't this a treat? A gang escort, right through the heart of his own territory. He asked me if I lived in the area, and when I said I did his posture relaxed.

"Oh. Yeah. Well I be in fights with a CO. You know what that is? It's a corrections officer, and they muthafuckahs. They hit on you an' pick fights an' when you retaliate? After they let you out of the joint they find you the next day and they put you back in for hittin' on a cop. Fuckas set me up," he explained.

At this point I thought he might need a little encouragement, so I told him I knew how bad it could get because I'd met people who had done hard time when I was in rehab. "Rehab isn't fun, but it isn't prison," I added, and I looked to him for a response.

"Rehab suck, prison suck harder but, yo, rehab suck."

I told him I knew intake could be the worst part of jail or prison, with all the searches and being tossed in with yet another group who might not be so welcoming. Too bad he'd endured it so many times. He gently tapped my arm in a familiar gesture. I'd gained a little trust, for the time being.

"So I hit a guy again, but I ain't been caught this time. He ain't said nothin' because he know he deserve it. He know it was comin'. What time you say it was, again? Can't wait for that game!" A broad grin took over his face.

No doubt he was an enforcer for his dealer. He was the muscle. Though he looked a mess, with his prison acne and torn coat, he was fairly broad in stature. Not exactly the kind of person you'd want to pass in a dark alley, and his halting motions and rapid head movement made me think he was in mild withdrawals--a dangerous condition for both him and anyone near him.

We came to the main intersection, and here he turned to a white cohort and waved. Then he suddenly shifted his gait, and limped toward a fellow black. He waived me off with a nod. I said, "See ya."

He wouldn't be seen with me. Me. A white, soccer mom-looking woman with what appeared to be some sort of designer dog in a little ski jacket. I suppose that could taint his credibility a bit.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Welcome to the Hood, Wisconsin!

Coming back from walking my dog today--Christmas Day, juggling a Starbucks latte and a bag of pastries--I noticed a car had been broken into. There was a duffel bag in the back seat, unzipped, that kind of looked like a golf bag. That's a little too much temptation for some of the junkies around here, so I before I saw the plates I knew the owner didn't live nearby.

I'm a concerned citizen in a rapidly declining, gang-infested neighborhood, so I stopped to ask a few neighbors if they had guests (no), then made a call to the po po to do a little snitchin'. Here's the conversation:

"Non-emergency services!" said a chipper female who sounded like smiley emoticons were floating out of her mouth. No further prompting for me to speak, so I tentatively started in.

"Uh, I'd like to report a car that has had its rear, driver's side window broken into. Wisconsin plates. I'm not the unfortunate tourist owner."

"If you're not the owner, there's nothing we can do but wait for them to call in!" I pictured her in an elf costume with a jar of candy canes on her desk.

"Seriously? You can't run a trace and get their number?"

"No, they will have to call, especially if they are from out of state!"

"And if I try to call Wisconsin State Patrol and see if they can help?"

"They won't be able to give you any information for security reasons!"

("The ship has sailed on security, lady," I wanted to say, but didn't.) "Okay, well. Uh. May I give you their license plate number?"

"Sure!" She chirped. Has this woman ever had a bad day?

"It's 4**-***. I'd also like to give you the intersection where it's parked." I waited through 30 seconds of silence, half expecting to hear hold music in the form of Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters' jazzy rendition of "Jingle Bells".

"Go ahead!"

"*****-**st Ave. N.E. Gang territory, as you can no doubt see, so please add this to all the other stuff that goes on around here."

"Oh... Yes... Seattle, Lake City area... Okay... I'll definitely do that!"

I thanked her and hung up quickly, in case she was tempted to breach protocol and wish me a Merry Christmas. It was like talking to a cruise director; useless, but pleasant nonetheless.


Saturday, December 18, 2010


There's a new prostitute in this part of town, and I've nicknamed her "Lips". She has a pimp boyfriend, a crack habit and a boyish wardrobe. These are all standard issue. What isn't standard issue is her hairlip, more politely known as a cleft lip, that often accompanies a cleft palate.

When I arrived back home from attempting to get my dingbat dog to take a turd in the rain (he wouldn't), I did a little research and found out how little I knew about the condition. It's fairly common, for instance, and can range from imperceptible to nearly cutting someone's face in half. Clefts can occur in other gaps in the skull bones, and can be life threatening for reasons other than extreme difficulty with eating or breathing. Cleft lips and palates aren't necessarily related to any mental debility such as mental retardation or Down's Syndrome. That I knew, but I didn't know it was a dominant trait.

"Lips" probably knows all that, and then some. She's no doubt a high ranking member of the low self-esteem club because of her condition. It looks like someone, at some point in her life, cared enough to give her the gift of surgery, but they forgot to add finesse. It was easy to spot the deep fissure between her mouth and nose from half a block away.

I did my best not to stare, instead choosing to focus on her companion. She's rather short, and he was only a few inches taller. I'm 5'6" and I could have easily held my arms out to the side and completely cleared both their heads. He looked like an angry, sweaty stump who'd seen more than his fair share. It was impossible to tell his age by his crack-ravaged face. 18? He had "Lips" firmly by her left hand, and was pretty much dragging her down the sidewalk. In her right hand was a black plastic bag.

Black plastic bags are what dealers in this area use to exchange money for drugs, and boyfriends often make their girlfriends do the carrying. If no girlfriend is available, the younger of any two people is burdened with the baggy--sacrificial lambs in case the cops decide to check out the situation.

Someone was once quoted as saying that the most stressful job in existence is that of waitstaff. I'm pretty sure they never bothered to interview a prostitute with a cleft lip, as it has to enter into every negotiation she or her boyfriend makes. It's right there in the room during every transaction. Whatever vile thing a trick could possibly request of "Lips", she's no doubt had to do it to some sort of twisted narrative about her defective money-maker.

I made myself look at her again, hoping my expression was warm and pleasant not, "Oh, holy shit! How do you chew?" She blinked ever so slightly and attempted to return my smile, while Sam-dog eagerly sniffed her leg and ignored her boyfriend, entirely.

Thank you, genetics, for gifting me my slightly crooked smile. You'll never again hear me complain about it. Ever.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fat Is Funny? Ha Ha!

I awoke this morning to find that I'd been pulled into a controversy that had absolutely nothing to do with anything I'd said. I was unfollowed (even blocked) on Twitter by some people I really like, because I was placed on some sort of McCarthy-esque black list by someone I didn't have as a follower or followee.

An hour into the day, I discovered I was one of dozens of people who placed a simple little star next to a tweet about rape to acknowledge its humor and shock value. Here's that moment that's hard to both write and read for everyone: I've been raped.

Twice. I was molested but not ever penetrated as a child, so in fact, I lost my virginity to that first rapist. There's nothing funny about that reality, and the thought that those types of crimes even still exist is always a great disappointment. It's hard to have faith in humanity with all that selfish, psychotic stagnation going on, isn't it?

Later this morning I attended a funeral, which oddly enough allowed me to take a breather, and put things in perspective. Kind of. Double saddened, I came home and did something to make other people happy, which is typical of survivors of sex crimes, and took the star off the tweet.

Censorship has it's place. Child pornography is the most notable example of good censorship. Jokes about child pornography? Humor exists to shake things up, call things out and point out absurdities. I even wrote a blog post on it some months ago after a similar situation (All Things Domestic).

But what of fat jokes, ugly jokes, jokes about things people can't help? Those are far more offensive to me than any rape joke ever will be. In a rape joke, I repeat myself, the perpetrator is the one being made fun of, even if it's subtle. However, I've read some extremely cruel fat jokes, even in the last hour. What about horror films? Torture porn? Animal cruelty? I see jokes about that stuff all the time. Maybe they're not my cup of tea, but at least they more resemble the "make fun of the perp" variety, so it's easier to let them go than a snide remark about someone's acne.

As my penance for unstarring her tweet, I began following the woman who made the joke. I'm glad I did, because it turns out she's coming from the exact same place I thought she was. I only hope she'll share her blog with me some day, because it sounds enlightening.

After that, I connected with my black-lister, and she turned out to be a nice person. Very sweet. She apologized for what she'd done in light of what I told her about myself. It was easy to forgive each other, and she has a naughty little sense of humor, besides. I was looking forward to what she had to say about her life.

We followed each other and then, to my utter dismay, she quit Twitter.

A year ago I'd have dismissed all of the above and said, "Who cares! It's just Twitter!" Boy, was I wrong. It's starting to feel like a school yard, work place, place of worship or any other grand societal experiment. I now know to expect good and bad things from it, they will shape me going forward, and if you can't take the bad with the good? Unfollow me now!

*restars tweet*

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Man Who Hollahs "Hey!"


From the street below my window I hear, "Hey! Hey! Hey hey!" At first it was loud, but it's fading into the distance. Phew.

That's all he says, while moving in groovy yet agitated circles. Pedestrians give him a wide berth, and don't make eye contact unless it's by accident. "Hey!" he'll say, abruptly pivoting to face them. He slides and glides like a Soul Train dancer.

I estimate his height to be around 6'5", and his weight at around 160. He's very dark skinned, wears a knit cap over his close-cropped knots of hair and his eyes reach out at you as if to grab you and pull you into his skull.

"Hey! Hey!" When I'm on the street, I give him a wide berth and do my best to avoid eye contact.

He's one of several overt schizophrenics wandering the city, unattended, unmedicated and under fed. There is no real way to keep them under control without violating their civil rights, and so we wait until something bad happens and then we jail or hospitalize them. Then comes a court order to medicate, and the long process of convincing someone in another reality to take their pills no matter how god awful the side effects.

One hallmark of the disease is self-isolation. They are alone in their world, often in darkness, yelling at passing shadows. "Where are you going? Get in here and keep me company, damn you! Help me!"

"Hey!" Here he comes again.

"Crap, that's annoying," I say to no one in particular, as I glide across the room and close the window.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Slowmo Slim Jim

It was like watching someone play Grand Theft Auto in slow motion. He poked and jabbed around the driver's side window with a flattened beer can, muttering, cursing and teetering. He knocked at the frame and tried the door handle several times before noticing me. "Can't find my keys. Heh heh." I smiled and let my dog sniff a nearby tree a bit longer. After another reassuring "Heh heh," he resumed.

The car is an icy blue Jaguar that is always parked in front of a retirement home, on what is rapidly turning into the worst street in the area. It stands out like a diamond in a coal mine. Construction on an extension of the retirement home has slowed because of cold weather, leaving the site abandoned for days at a time. Expensive equipment was stolen, so stadium lighting guards the replacements at night. The tempting Jag bathes in this light.

I passed up and down the street, under the guise of searching for a poop spot for doggy, to further assess the situation. Do I call the police? Do I confront? Is it his car? I chuckled at the thought of him being charged with a DUI, but without the D part. A group of teens walked by and offered insight.

"Hey, dude! You need help stealing that car? Ha ha ha! Dumbass!"

The last time I locked my keys in my car, the guy who helped me left his slim jim on the hood. Without knowing his name there was no way to find him and return it, so I still have this hard-to-get, notched, metal bar somewhere in the mess inside my trunk. It's illegal for anyone but a locksmith or tow company to own one in this state, and ownership requires character assessment. My good Samaritan helped a white female with a worn Nissan, who in turn had to decide whether or not to help a black man poking at a mint condition Jag.

He was joined by a coherent, younger man who began aggressively abusing the window frame with a coat hanger. I decided they were trying to steal the car, because no proper owner of such a beautiful object would allow such cruelty to take place. The young man gave me a look that let me know he wouldn't tolerate an audience so I went on my way, hoping I wouldn't hear the sound of a sweet, purring Jaguar engine as it comes to life.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Right to Heat

Seattle has a well-known, moving target of a homeless shelter called Nickelsville. It was sarcastically named after our former Mayor, who attempted to drive our homeless population out of the city by arresting the residents of a large cluster of tents. Ultimately the shelter was ordered to relocate every few months lieu of continuing this practice. If Hooverville comes to mind, well, you are historically correct and also an old fart like me.

Nickelsville is currently located in an abandoned fire station about four blocks from my place. There is a food bank within comfortable walking distance, and this happens to be my dog's most favored evening poop route. The food bank is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. On those days, Sam and I are now joined by what can only be described as a pilgrimage of cackling drunks, limping disabled veterans and schizophrenic twenty-somethings, all headed toward their bi-weekly ration of stale hamburger buns and canned turnips.

There are those who think that beggars can't be choosers. But canned turnips?

Anyway, If you follow my blog you know that my neighborhood isn't exactly Beverly Hills. It's kind of a mixed bag. Some of my building mates have cars worth more than my 343 square foot condo. Some are barely hanging onto what they have, and steal what they don't have. It is, however, surrounded by large clusters of single family dwellings with landscaping, a Subaru in the driveway, a Grand Cherokee in the garage and an alarm system to keep out the riffraff.

Much of our canned-turnip-donating middle class votes liberal because they believe it's the right thing to do, so you'd think they would be open minded about a homeless shelter. You'd be wrong. In fact, there has been a surprising outcry against the current location of Nickelsville. Last week I read some op-ed pieces and responses to news blogs, by people who think their children are in danger from the influx of homeless. From my perspective somewhere between poor and middle class, I see fewer homeless people on the street than ever. They are spending most of the time inside. Wednesdays and Saturdays are the exceptions, and most are too busy trying to get to the food bank to bother terrorizing kids. You'd think opponents would have noticed the "improvement", but obviously not.

"Why don't they get jobs? They're just lazy drunks." The factors that go into making someone homeless are many and varied. It usually isn't one thing or another, but a series of events, that finally forces someone out their front door for the last time. To me this shows a strong will to live wherever they can. Let's face it, the other option is suicide. Survival is a full-time job for everyone.

This past week nighttime temperatures dipped into the low teens. Seattle rarely sees temperatures so low that exposure can be fatal within hours. Realizing what they were railing against, even the most public opponents of Nickelsville kept to themselves. Maybe a few of them learned that those "lazy drunks" don't deserve to freeze to death no matter why they're homeless.

Shelters exist to protect from the unexpected, not the expected.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I'm not going to sugar coat this. Living in a multicultural environment has its hilarious moments. Whenever a new group of people introduces itself into an established society, there is the inevitable confusion. The adjustment period can last from mere days, to several years, to a lifetime, and the gaffs follow a prescribed pattern.

Exhibit A, The Recycling Bins: The rules about garbage and recycling are confusing for everyone at first, but as a native English speaker, I have the advantage of being able to follow detailed instruction. I also read what we natives refer to as "forward". Many Asian languages do not read "forward", so any positives become negatives. If someone in my building notices that there is garbage in the recycling and vice versa, they post a sign. Within days, the problem grows worse. A second sign goes up with highlighter, exclamation points and underscoring, "Do NOT NOT NOT put garbage in the recycling!!!" Unless they are walked into the trash room with a bag of garbage in one hand and a bag of bottles in the other--and their arms are guided like a tennis lesson--progress is slow.

Exhibit B, The Elevator: Let's pretend that a group of us U.S. citizens decide to move to Africa. Our plane touches down next to a large village, where we are greeted warmly, offered the local fermented beverage and introduced to our new mode of transport--a camel. Now what? How do we mount it, how do we make it move, and how on earth do we prevent a mortal kicking injury? Meanwhile, our friendly townsmen are laughing heartily as we stand there, staring at the smelly beast and wishing for home. Help!

Elevators are baffling to those who have never even seen a multistory building. One of my new neighbors from the deepest depths of the Ivory Coast stepped onto the elevator for the first time the other day, and with what I'm sure was a great deal of trepidation, let the door close behind him. And there he was, this brave man who has probably been witness to the most awful of human atrocities, stymied by 100-year-old technology. The elevator didn't move, the door wouldn't open. Help!

It seems every culture knows that red is an emergency color, so he did what any of us would do: he pressed the red button. A human being on an elevator that won't move is considered a life threatening situation, so shortly thereafter a fire truck pulled up and I happened to be the one to let the first responders in the front door. We pressed the "up" button and the elevator arrived, empty and ready for use. Sneaking quietly up the stairs, my African neighbor made himself as small as he could and vanished in a puff of humiliation.

Exhibit C, Courtesy: This same fellow is the most gentlemanly of gentlemen. If you recall the movie "Coming to America" with Eddie Murphy, you'll know what I mean when I say that his accent and volume are rather, well, loud and ingratiating. He's not used to women doing him a kindness but he's nonetheless grateful, so when holding a door open for him I'm greeted with, "THANK YOU SO MUCH! I'M SORRY SO MUCH!" You're welcome so much, my friend.

Many Asian cultures don't have such niceties. I've been glared at for holding open doors, trying to help with directions or even smiling. They're not being rude, it's simply the way things are. At first I was hurt, but I now know to expect it until the adjustment period is over. Once that period is over, they give small gifts of food, or pirated movies arrive in my email inbox, and I know I've been accepted into the fold.

I also fully expect that they are going to hate my dog on sight, and overtly cringe away from him even when he's nowhere near. One woman will sometimes allow Sam to greet her child, while other times she'll shake her head and say, "No no no no no," rapid-fire, and whip the stroller around a corner with the g-force of 10 rockets. I can almost see her daughter's cheeks flap.

Is there a lesson in acceptance and understanding to be learned from all this? Maybe, but mostly what it's good for is a shared laugh.

Monday, November 15, 2010

How a Local Business Celebrated Veteran's Day

I pass this "theatre" daily, during my dog walking adventures. It's conveniently located near a pawn shop, a mini-mart that stocks mostly beer and a VA hospital. There are odd inlets and alleyways where the homeless and junkies can get a little privacy
while they sleep,
poop, or battle
a needle.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I'm a Model

"You're tall and skinny. I've enrolled you in a modeling class."

Those are the words that every girl openly longs to hear, but in my case it was my mother's way of letting me know I needed to earn my keep. At age 11 there aren't many ways for a tall, skinny girl to make herself useful, but to stand around looking tall and skinny. It was my call to arms, my 'ask not what my mother can do for me, but what I can do for my mother,' my manifest destiny. I was her last, best hope for the good life and she was willing to pimp me out.

She was very attractive, as was my father. My brother's looks hadn't taken any kind of shape, but still my mother once looked at the two of us standing together and asked, "How could two such good looking people have two such funny looking kids?" She laughed to indicate it was meant as a joke, and apologized when she saw what was probably a look of horror on my face. My brother barely noticed, and continued on his beggarly quest for a McDonald's Happy Meal and a toy gun. "No," she replied. "We don't have the money for that."

My instructor was a homely yet photogenic, shapeless woman, who had taken up teaching because she was getting too long in the tooth to scare up work. Her teaching method was thus: She would place a book on our heads, and push us down a make-shift catwalk, then tell us what we did wrong. I'd been in ballet classes most of my young life, so I had a grace of movement that most of the less symmetry challenged girls lacked. This didn't make up for my lack of self worth in every other aspect, and this woman read me like, well, like a book.

And so she decided to make me the star of our final modeling exam, and fit me into an ugly, floral dress that made me look like a bouquet of Forget-me-nots on white stalks. The featured model always goes last, and is the one who--in a real show--gets to act all nicey nicey with the designer. Unless J.C. Penney himself put that monstrosity together, I doubt anyone did much designing. I wasn't happy about the dress nor the attention, but I was flattered, and did my absolute best. I managed to complete my pass without tripping, doing a perfect model's turn at the end of the runway and ducking backstage before I peed myself. There was a tiny bit of applause from somewhere near where my family sat.

Once classes were complete, our instructor submitted our photos to various agencies around town. My photos didn't pass the test, which was just as well. I may have looked 16 but I was far too young to launch a career, certainly not in an industry marred by hypersexuality, drug abuse and potential encounters with Andy Warhol. The same could be said for a dancer's life. I'd dodged four bullets, the third being acting and the fourth, musician. Phew!

My mother continued to encourage me to model, act, dance and sing but I ultimately let her vicarious aspirations of wealth and fame go down the drain by ending my growth spurt at a non-lofty 5'6". Then came several dozen pounds and acne, and a star was unborn.

Some years later I asked her why she would put a shy, terrified girl through such an ordeal, even if it meant we would all live in comfort. Why such a looks-based industry when I had other qualities to lean on? I was a good student, had a natural ability to write, paint and invent, and even excelled in math. So why modeling?

"To build your self confidence, of course." To her, it made perfect sense.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dear Officer Turner:

The following is a letter I wrote to the Crime Stop liaison for my district, describing an incident that just occurred. Those of you who have followed me on Twitter for longer than a few weeks, or who have read my blog, will be familiar with my humorous and understanding side of what I witness every day. What happened this evening might change all that. I'll edit this down and print copies to give to the moronic manager of my building (who claims not to notice anything--the asshole), as well as the Chief of Police and the Mayor's office.


"Dear Officer Turner:

My street is a popular location for drugs, prostitution and gang activity. There is a bar that appears to be a front for drugs, as well as some suspected apartment buildings and intersections. A criminal element is obvious to anyone who has to be outside at regular intervals. I have a dog, so I’m out several times a day.

When I was returning from a dog walk this evening, I saw a fight start. Several men and one woman were involved, and one of the men was on the ground. A few brave souls came out of their businesses and started to yell at and approach them, but the fight was escalating so they stayed back. It appeared to be getting quite violent.

Because I was concerned for everyone's safety and was so close to the fight, myself, I called 911. I told the fighters I was on the phone to hopefully get them off their victim so he wouldn't get seriously injured, and a couple of them came toward me while the others continued to hit at their victim. I thought the news that I had called 911 would make them stop, but they didn’t. They kept trying to intimidate me by moving forward and staring directly at me. At the same time, when their original victim tried to run they would block him.

I was panicked. I finally started yelling at the 911 operator and stomping my feet at my would-be assailants like you would at a rabid dog. They stopped, stood ground, then the woman approached. She probably would have attacked (I've witnessed her anger, before), but one of the men grabbed her, lunged toward me in a threatening manner, then turned and then they all scattered. Most were on foot, and two got into a beat-up red truck and drove away so fast they almost hit several cars.

These people see me all the time. They know me, they especially know my dog, and now they know I’m willing to call for help instead of pretending I didn't see anything. The 911 operator asked if they were still in the area, but they were dispersing and hiding. She said that in that case, there was NOTHING THE POLICE COULD DO, and she canceled the request for a car to come to my aid. She kept asking if I had seen a weapon. I had not, but felt that a man's life being at stake was reason enough to send help. I've seen two fights like that in the past, and both of the other victims ended up almost dying.

This whole scenario is unacceptable. I feel like I’m now in danger, and all to protect someone who is just as likely to hurt me as help me—the guy on the ground. Though I empathize with the plight of addicts and prostitutes--even kids who are coerced into joining gangs--I do not empathize with violence, bullying and displays of dominance.

By the way, these are not kids or teens. They are adults in their 20s and 30s, mostly African American. The woman is either white or Hispanic, and one of the men is white. Making matters worse, there is a growing at-risk homeless population, some of whom have been the victims of the younger suspected gang members.

Please encourage 911 dispatchers to err on the side of caution, and let them know that a squad car is always necessary in this location. Even if the situation isn’t as immediate there are constant scuffles, and a more dangerous group of users and dealers is taking over. I haven’t seen as many regular patrols, lately, and it feels like police have given up.

I appreciate any help you can give, and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions.


[chick who's scared for her mother fucking life]"


Normally I'd feel bad for what I'm about to write, but like I said, tonight I can't be nice. If harsh language and talk of violent sexual acts is upsetting to you, then don't read any further.

The woman I wrote of is in a gang, and might even be the head. Being up top in a gang takes the kind of brutality only a sociopath can muster, and female gangs are the worst because they have the most to prove.

Her looks are distinctive. She is thin but very strongly built and has a face like a piece of sandpaper. White or Hispanic(Latina). Her hair is over-dyed to a bluish black. I would recognize her 20 years from now, even before tonight's incident.

She is filled with hatred, and will take that out on anyone she can. She's yelled and postured at me on a number of occasions for merely glancing in her direction. One of her favorite past-times is to make sexual advances on women who don't speak English, then threaten violence because the women "dissed her". I've helped a couple of women escape her bullying by pretending I knew them and hurrying them along.

She's disgusting, and I don't care how many times her father sodomized her or her mother pimped her out. I don't care how many of her johns have tortured her with cigarettes or forced her into porn. My life hasn't been as bad as hers, but it hasn't been great, either. So she needs to suck it up, big time, or I'll be thrilled to help treat her to her next prison rape experience.


Time to take my frighted dog to my semi-secure garage, and let him piss on some tires. It's getting late, and I'm not quite ready to take my bravado to the streets.


The Snitch

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Indirect Route

Being hotly pursued on a dating website is nothing new, but this guy was persistent. It takes me several weeks to agree to a date. I need to suss out the situation, decide if my suitor is safe, if they have controlling personalities, or riddled with bitterness. Thankfully, most people are transparent enough that a quick review of their emails tells their story. His did not.

After the first date we were a reluctant couple. We were giddy but still guarded, and intense but we couldn't verbalize our feelings. He was recently divorced, had slept around considerably and was still being obsessively texted by two or three girls. I was involved with a couple of other men. He was nine years my junior, and was in the habit of bedding down girls half his age. "Self-proclaimed bondage sluts with daddy issues," he confessed.

He claimed he met them in all different places and ways--some online, one at a mini-mart, two were friends of friends of friends of someone else... too many to be a coincidence. I asked him if not getting that sort of thing in bed with me was going to be a problem, and he responded, "I'm not into tying up and torturing, but they wanted it so I did it." He was offended that I would even dare ask such a question, and he pinched me very hard under the guise of teasing. I told him to knock it off or leave, and that he was only confirming my suspicions. He left and didn't call for several days.

When he did call, he attempted nonchalance, then asked if he could come over. I told him he could as long as we practiced some mutual respect. We then entered into a phase of general calm, enjoying each others' company and keeping the sniping to a minimum. He would reprimand me if I cut him off in conversation, but I didn't ever bother to point out that he only talked about himself. Endlessly. I decided to pick my battles and adjust, and would wait until he was even boring himself before stepping in.

Then came the big blowup. We were supposed to attend a party together but he was called away to help his ex with an emergency she could have handled. Because he was afraid of her and her power to take away his children, he usually jumped when she said jump. He kept telling me he'd be done "any minute" so I kept waiting, until I finally called the hostess and told her I was going to try and make it on my own. "Oh. It's over, already." I'd missed her daughter's birthday celebration entirely. 'Hurry up and wait' at its finest.

When he finally arrived I tried to explain to him why I was upset. He had a bad habit of assuming I knew better than to question his actions, so he sat there. Saying nothing. Until I burst.

"I understand she has you by the balls, but this is happening way too often. She's acting like a child and you're playing into it, and you'll have to figure out some way to explain all this to me because I'm not getting it. I don't read minds, I read people, and I get why you're afraid. The details are what are escaping me. I'm sorry I'm mad. It's a gut reaction to a frustrating situation, and it's not just frustrating for YOU! What does she have on you?"

He felt like he deserved respect no matter what his actions. I felt like that was absurd. It's my belief that respect is earned, day to day, one action at a time. We went to bed angry.

The next morning we fell into an old habit of morning sex, but at one point he pulled my hair and pretty much forced me to do something I didn't want to do. He wasn't staying hard, and maybe that was his solution. When I told him that was never okay with me and asked if we could try again, he yelled, "Don't start something you can't fucking finish!" I realized, to my horror, that he'd said that once before. He'd taken out his inability to perform on the one person who was trying to love and understand him.

While we were apart for the next few weeks... I went on a date with a man I'd met before, with a completely different set of problems. For now, let it suffice that seeing him made me think my "current" situation wasn't so bad. I made a phone call. I needed to know my ex-not-ex understood how frightening his behavior had been and maybe we could AGAIN start respecting each other.

But I didn't respect him. I couldn't and I wasn't even aware of it until it was all I could think about. And the more he spoke about his life, the less I understood this strange, cold man. I realized he didn't love his kids for who the were, but because they were his creations and reflections of his virility. How sad. A manic mother and a cold father. I wanted to kidnap them and take them away from the madness, and I hadn't even met them.


His main source of income I'll keep to myself. Well, it's probably best to keep his other two jobs out of this, too. What I will say is that over 10 years before we met he was part of a drug dealing ring. He was the money guy.

For those who don't know, volume dealers rarely touch the drugs, the money and the gun at the same time. Never the money and drugs, as that's a dead giveaway to law enforcement. Part of the busines is collections--yes, coercion, threats and physical harm fall under that umbrella. Should the muscle be unable or unwilling, someone needs to step up, and on at least one occasion he stepped up, beat the hell out of someone, was arrested but never convicted. There were other arrests without convictions for various other deeds.

So now we have bondage, abuse, illegal activity, dangerous hobbies (included in one of his other jobs), a punishment mentality toward me and others, and all manner of other frightening behaviors. Naturally he was abused as a child, and he came out of that with the attitude that if he could survive the pain, so could everyone else. It didn't bother him one tiny bit to watch someone else suffer. My reaction to childhood trauma was to feel too much, and that's where we clashed the loudest.

We began to drift apart. His ex-wife's behavior was growing increasingly bipolar and manipulative, so it was difficult for him to find time away from his kids. At that point, we'd been together for almost 10 months. I asked about meeting them and he said, "Yes. That would be nice." I asked for details on how we could make that easy on them and the ex. He didn't offer much. After that he didn't call much, either. He'd been calling every day up to that point. When I asked him about that, he claimed to not remember the daily calls. I found that odd, but then again, he forgot lots of things. Stress, perhaps.

A month into this relatively distant period, he called to let me know his ex had given over complete control of the children. She'd been a neglectful, inconsistent, addicted mother as it was, but I'd never known anyone who would do such a thing. He couldn't believe his luck, that she would just back down and let him move forward with them, hire sitters to get more of a social life, see me more often, have more fun time with his kids, etc. Things seemed like they might be improving.

One of the last times we spoke, he called with some disturbing news. To him it was merely odd, but it cemented everything I'd ever wondered about. He underwent frequent background checks for his job, and there had never been a problem. It was almost as if his arrest record was sealed. It was almost as if he had had help with the sealing of it, and what came next made me think that maybe his ex had let some sort of cat out of the bag. She'd met him when he was involved with drugs, because she was a client living in the same crack house his boss controlled. She knew everything.

He had innocently applied to volunteer for a cause I won't disclose, and part of acceptance was a background check. Up popped several things. It was, I suspect, the beginning of his undoing. His primary job wasn't doing well, and his other more nefarious activities weren't reliable. The stress he must have been under, well, I can't imagine. And now this. Did his ex cause this out of bipolar vengeance? Did someone protecting him decide to suddenly stop?

It dawned on me that maybe I should be a little more concerned about my safety. Not that I thought he'd try anything with me again, perhaps misguidedly. His frustration with not being dominant over someone was obvious. His ex may have had him by the balls at that point, but she had been the sub in their marriage.

No, my concern grew as I started to realize that some of his business dealings could get him killed. He sold a certain product to a certain group of people who, well, let's just say they are capable of making the biggest bad-ass cry like a baby. After he would meet with them, he'd visit me because I was close by their favorite restaurant. Months later I thought, "Oh, shit. I hope he took an indirect route, because I never want people like that to know where I live."

This charming crew of career criminals are also rumored to be in the sex trade. Specifically, they are allegedly involved in the peddling of sex slaves, bondage films and torture pornography. If what I was thinking was accurate, it was through them that he kept meeting bondage sluts. He had stories for how he met each one, but that didn't mean they were true.

I'll never know how things ended up for him. A few days went by, then he called and asked if he could come over on his lunch break. We sat in silence. My head was resting on his shoulder, swimming in conjecture, dying to ask what was really going on and drowning in sadness. He left me with a kiss on the forehead, then felt like it was coming from a desperately frightened man.

I called about a week later and got voicemail, and left a message offering friendship if he ever needed it. It was a difficult holiday after that, because what got me through the bulk of the relationship was my vision of the future for us and his kids. They were still very young and needed a mom, and I wanted to be one; and it was, as it turns out, most likely my last chance to be one.