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.