Heaven and Hell are two sides of the same coin.
I’ve seen more than my fair share of winter this year. I went down to Patagonia in the austral autumn (April) and stayed there until July, when I went on to Australia. I visited briefly with summer in Hawaii and Vancouver — and then headed up to Nuuk, Greenland. I returned to Seattle in the middle of October — just as the stormy, rainy weather returned. And now it’s dark early — and cold a lot of the time. But I’m back in the same city as Alene — and so I don’t care about the weather. Besides, the dark and cold of winter allow for enjoyment of one of life’s greatest pleasures — a hot beverage spiked with booze.
I continued to be haunted by the episode of Monday morning — very fearful of encountering that person again. But tonight, I heard a story on NPR news which rather put things in perspective.
The story concerned Fay Wells, the black female executive who ended up facing nineteen Santa Monica police officers (some with guns drawn) after being locked out of her apartment one night. A white neighbor called the police to report a burglary. (You can read the whole story here.)
I have to stay I’m somewhat staggered at the size of the police response. My late father was a cop for thirty years — and routinely investigated reported burglaries — often alone — and always unarmed — because this was in England over twenty years ago. Yes, I know Santa Monica in 2015 hardly compares to an English city in 1978 — but I fail to see the need for nineteen police officers to attend something as “routine” as a burglary. I often hear of staffing shortages with police departments, including here in Seattle. If police capacity is indeed spread so thin, surely such a big response to a single incident leaves many neighborhoods unprotected.
A few years ago, I witnessed a rather ludicrous scene in West Seattle. The suspect was a white man — and I mention this because I can’t image what the response would have been for a black suspect!! This white man had been drinking in a neighborhood bar and was asked to leave. Somewhat belligerent, he proceeded to harass people on the street — including using the n-word to insult the black Real Change vendor on the corner — and finally kicking someone’s small dog — at which the Real Change vendor punched the guy. A few police officers arrived, tazered the suspect and stuffed him under a patrol car. This is where I arrived on the scene (I’ve filled in the details from what the Real Change vendor told me the next day!)
So the suspect has been apprehended and is now restrained. At this point, my dad would be ready to wrap things up — radio for a car to drive the suspect downtown and book him — and then take statements from witnesses. But the neighborhood was loud with sirens as more and more patrol cars converged on the scene — and more and more officers gathered — to do what? It really looked to me as though the scene was well under control. (To their credit though, the police didn’t charge the Real Change vendor with anything, despite the punch.)
So, enough of my rather amusing story – and back to Fay Wells. She no longer feels safe in her apartment or her neighborhood — and she fears the police in a way she never did before. By comparison, I am merely fearful of a repeat encounter with someone who is hopefully a random stranger. And I feel safe and happy at home in my apartment.
I’ve been enjoying Drabblecast. The strange and wonderful stories I’ve heard have almost restored me to normalcy. I’m going to post this — and then Mark and I will enjoy some wine.
I have had strange experiences all my life. When I was younger my dad worried I might be schizophrenic. His concerns were actually raised by a conversation we once had about my drinking. I’d never been in trouble with alcohol as I am a very responsible person not given to recklessness. But I could put away vast quantities of wine in the safety of my own home.
A string of lucky business ventures allowed me to buy a rather nice home in London’s stockbroker belt before I was thirty – my wife’s dream home, at that time anyway. In return for allowing her full control over decorating and furnishing the place, I insisted on a den of my own, to which I could retire with a good book and a bottle of wine. I also made a space of own at the end of the large back garden, hanging a hammock between a pair of conveniently spaced cherry trees. This was where I spent much of my free time – often with a bottle. And it’s where my dad found me one evening after one particularly “lazy sunny afternoon.”
Dad hadn’t come to lecture me. He even acknowledged that I didn’t seem drunk at all – just happy. But he was worried that I made such a habit of it. I reminded him of when he sat out in the his garden on summer nights, trying to tune into his favorite radio station and having difficulty from all the other radio stations crowding that part of the dial – especially French-language stations from across the Channel! And then there were the annoying whining and buzzing sounds from all the electromagnetic flotsam and jetsam in the atmosphere. I told him that my mind was often crowded with such interference – and that when I drank, the background noise quickly faded out leaving one station coming in loud and clear – the station I really wanted to listen to.
Dad talked with Mum, and she talked with her sister and a close friend, and it ended with me being urged to see a doctor – which I did, as I am not inclined to be uncooperative with people who care about me. And I had a serious of psychological and psychiatric assessments which turned up nothing conclusive – although I was encouraged to think about quitting drinking. I never did. And my family left me alone to enjoy that radio station.
I had lots of recurring dreams. In my teens I dreamed of Cornwall a lot, even though we never once went there on holiday. I like painting and I painted several pictures of an island that I kept seeing in dreams. I was amazed when I saw it on postcard of Pentire Point on the north coast. In my late twenties I kept seeing a pony with a white star on his forehead – shaped perfectly like a diamond. My pony-obssessed daughter was always begging me to paint pictures of ponies for her – and I always painted the one with the pretty white star.
In my mid-thirties I suffered a nervous breakdown and spent a couple of months in a psychiatric facility. In one counseling session I was asked if I ever heard voices. I was about to say no – but I paused – and then burst into laughter. I wasn’t hearing voices as such, but in my dreams I kept hearing interchanges that were hilariously funny and had me laughing during my after-dinner nap. There were several regular characters, my favorite being a rather colorful character called Opal. I drew a picture of her to show my counselor and I attempted to impersonate her manner of speaking. She was American and had a daughter called Jenny and they both lived in a rooming house with an even more colorful lady called Myrtle. Almost every day I had an update about Opal. She broke up with her boyfriend Sam when he confessed to being in love with daughter Jenny, after which she pulled herself together and ran for a vacant seat on the Pine Valley Town Council – and I was discharged as fit for human life again!
Over the next fifteen years I threw myself into my work and enjoyed my family. I worked long hours and drank a lot, so sleep was often more about unconsciousness than dreams – although I do remember repeated appearances of the same little MG sportscar – and the view from behind the wheel as I drove it along a highway in America. I did enjoy alone time with wine in my hammock at the end of the garden and I took to reading Mark Twain.
Like most successful English businessmen, I eventually bought a small country home in France. My wife didn’t care much for France and bought herself a condo in West Palm Beach, Florida – so we started taking holidays apart – which was fine by me. I never felt alone in my French retreat. I always felt I was going there to meet with a secret, special friend.
And in 1999, I found out who she was.
I have left my wrist watch and electronic devices on Seattle time so that I can keep my day reasonably synchronized with Alene’s schedule. We are using Puerto Williams in southern Chile as our local time reference. Alene has added Puerto Williams to her list of cities in the Living Earth app on her iPhone – so she can have a rough idea of when sunrise and sunset happen relative to Seattle time. We’re actually just four hours apart, so it’s not like we’d be bothering each other in the middle of the night. When we were first together, we handled the five hour difference between the UK and the eastern USA with no problem.
Presently, sunrise here is about two hours earlier than in Seattle, so this morning, I woke up a couple of hours before Alene. The view of the insides of her eyeballs while she sleeps is not very interesting, so I used the time to clean up the galley kitchen and pack up garbage to walk down to the storage facility later on. I waited until Alene was up to make breakfast so that we could enjoy our oatmeal together. We considered how sunrise would be changing as we approach the solstice and realized that our sunrises will be converging in time over the next few weeks – getting earlier in Seattle and later here – and we will end up waking up together. By then, of course, sunset here will be happening around midday Seattle time – but I will enjoy watching summer afternoons from afar as I sip on instant hot chocolate.
Allen spent today fussing over what to read. He has enough titles on his Nook to keep him busy for many years – perhaps even for the rest of his life as he’s a bit of a slow reader:) He insists he’s finally going to read War And Peace, but I don’t see that happening.
Myself, I’m intent on reading another classic that has beaten me at every attempt – George Eliot’s Middlemarch. It’s supposed to be her masterpiece, but it beats the heck out of me why! The smug martyrdom of Dorothea Brooke always ends up pissing me off. I’ve always joked I’d have to spend a prolonged period of time someplace really boring to read Middlemarch all the way through.
Hello world? Hello world, indeed.