Thursday, May 09, 2013
The day started with the scent of rain on the wind. During our morning walk Champ was alert to the change in air, pausing, sniffing, rolling in loud, abandoned glee, moaning and wriggling against the spring grass as only a pitbull can. The oxeye daisies are in bloom now, constellations of white and yellow. To Champ’s delight the ravens were flying low and coming to perch in the cedar tree, calling to us and hopping from limb to limb. Champ has ambitions. He’d like to climb trees. Sometimes he tries, but he doesn’t get all that far.
Still, our morning walk limbers both of us up, and sets my mind clear for whatever the day might bring.
And a good thing, since the day continued not all that much later with loud words and then, as I looked up, startled, from my keyboard, with a blow.
One young guy had hauled off and hit another. The injured guy flew, or stumbled, gracefully enough, down the north steps.
I was out the door in a flash with my “this is a safe zone, hitting is not okay” speech. The guy continued with some loud accusations and a lot of “he needs to go back where he came from” ranting, and walked across the road. There he was met by another guy, tall, with a sweet wide eyed puppy in tow. The puppy’s guy started yelling about how uncool it was to hit my young friend.
Oh, I’ve seen a lot of discussions like this. There’s lots of walking back and forth. Lots of “fuck you!”. Lots and lots of drama.
A friend joined me on the porch for a bit, as I watched and listened. The energy was still pretty rough, so I decided to cross the street myself.
As I waited for a opening in the stream of cars a local businessman drove by, rolled down his window, yelled out “get out of my town”. Okay, then…
And my third young friend, the one with the pretty puppy, was throwing his hands in the air, crying out “I give up! I just give up on all this rainbow stuff . Everyone is nothing but selfish!”
Well, I made it across. Introduced myself to the hitter. “I know you, Kathy” he said, but he offered to spell his name in case I needed to call the cops, who knew him pretty well, he said ruefully.
I assured him I wasn’t calling anyone.
He told me he’d been called a dirty traveling kid the other day. Him! He grew up here! And someone said bad things to his girl (she was waiting patiently in the dusty car, with her dog). He told me he just wanted all the kids to go home, to leave the town. All those others.
Meanwhile the slender punched out kid joined us, assured by the puppy’s guy that no more hitting was gonna go down.
In fact they all eagerly assured me no more hitting was happening. I told them I was glad of that, and I suggested, maybe, soft yelling if people had to be yelling. Just for the calm of it. They laughed.
So we had a discussion, there on the street with the promise of rain.
We talked about drugs and about bigotry. We talked about respect, tagging, the death of a much loved 16 year old gir. We talked of knives, fights, struggles, hurts.
Everyone apologized for bringing the struggle to my peaceful porch.
The kid with the bruised cheek decided he’d spend the rest of the day cleaning off the tags written on a few walls.
The kid who hit him thought that was cool.
The dude with the puppy checked for consensus, and the friend I’d spoken with on the porch crossed the road bearing a gardenia flower “for the peacemaker”. Thanks, David.
I told them they were leaders, I could tell. But what about all the kids arriving, coming to town, taking advantage? Asked the angry young man who’d started this all.
You are a leader, I told him again. And I believe we can cope with anything if we meet it with strength and kindness. And being together is much better than fighting one another.
He said “I have to start here, with me, with myself”. I smiled.
Later that afternoon I saw him downtown, laughing with some newcomer kids and a friend I recognized from last summer. “Having a better afternoon?” I asked him.
Yeah, yeah he was.