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.