Friday, December 28, 2007

Karma Police

A true story...

Amy S. walked into the lobby of the police department, sobbing and moaning like a wounded animal. Her tear-stained face was red and swollen; her hair completely disheveled. She reeked of cigarettes and sadness.

It was the day after Christmas and her two young kids just that morning had been taken away by child services. She lost her job months ago, which caused her to get evicted from her apartment and subsequently categorized as an unfit mother by the local government.

Amy S. had nowhere to go, nobody close to cry to, nobody to hug her. After ringing a bell on the counter, she just sat on the short leather seat in front of the criminal evidence window, waiting for someone to help her.

The police department lobby, quieter and gloomier than usual, was empty except for me and Amy, her presence on the leather seat emphasized by the occasional sniffling and moaning coming from her direction.

Amy was hunched over, her shoulders bobbing up and down as she tried to contain her sobs. For an instant, I wanted very badly to just hug this poor stranger. But I didn't.

Suddenly a stout man with a blank expression came to the window and asked "May I help you?"

Amy stood up abruptly, and told the man the story about her kids, about how she had no one, about how it was the worst Christmas she'd ever had, and how the local Samaritan center wouldn't let her in without identification.

The man in the window stared at her and said nothing.

Amy asked him what time it was.

"4:15," he said.

"I have until 5 to get my ID, or at least a copy of it, so I can bring it to the shelter," she said, between sob-induced gasps. "I got a letter in the mail a few weeks ago that said you guys have my ID. David F. had it on him when you guys arrested him."

The man told Amy to wait while he went into the back room to locate her ID card. At 4:28, he returned and told Amy that there was no record of them ever having it.

"Sorry ma'am," he said. "Do you have a copy of the letter with you?"

"No," Amy replied, still crying. "Please, I have no one. You have to have it. I just need a copy of it. Please... I have no one."

"Are you sure David F. had your ID when he was arrested?" the man asked.

"I'm positive," she replied.

"I'm sorry ma'am. We don't have your ID. I suggest you go to the DMV next door and see if they can issue you a new one."

Amy sobbed even louder. She took one last look at the man and hurried out of the lobby, mumbling "I have no one, I have no one, I want my children" under her breath. Then, she was gone.

Out of curiosity, I walked up to the man at the counter, who knew me from my weekly visits to the police department to catalog local crimes for the newspaper, and asked him what David F. was arrested for.

"He was arrested for selling methamphetamines," he told me.

"And you really don't have record of sending her that letter?" I asked.

"No," he said. "This is the third day in a row she's come in."


"She got out of jail on Sunday and was there for drug offenses," he said, with a tone of amusement. "Her kids have been in government custody for months. I think David F. was her boyfriend, but he's not at this facility anymore."

"So do you think she really needs her ID?"

"I don't know."

"What if she keeps coming back?"

"She'll stop soon enough," he replied.

After that little incident, I wondered if Amy would be back the next day. I wondered if her "drug offenses" really were bad enough to warrant her misfortune.

I felt bad for her, but also angry that she made stupid decisions, causing her to go to jail and leave her children. Or maybe it was just the feeling of the holidays, making me more emotional and empathetic than usual.

But then I realized that on top of everything, it really didn't matter what I felt.
It all narrowed down to one over-dramatic, cliche version of the story... one that supports the idea that karma really is a bitch, and this time police really were involved.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I'll try anything once.

If I actually took the time right now to count all of my blessings, I think I'd eventually lose track of it all. It's been months since I last wrote anything on this blog and maybe it's because I've been suffering from a lack of inspiration. So this time, instead of writing about what the doors of perception are saying about other people... I'm going to talk about myself. I need to.

And by the time I finish, I'll have written everything without the need to talk about music. Because this IS my music.

The world's been a difficult place to deal with lately and all I can seem to think about are my own issues (or perhaps a lack thereof.) Don't get me wrong- I don't mean to suggest that I am in need of any personal drama. It's just that ever since I graduated from college in May, I've plateau-ed and it's just not any fun. I'm much too young to be hitting a midlife crisis... but that's another story.

Anyway, I started the month of November dreading the possibilities of what would come. Historically, November for me has always signified some type of change... usually something emotionally painful or traumatic- perhaps the ending of an important relationship or the birth of a new kind of resentment. In November of 2006, I sort of gained an enemy and lost a few valuable friendships in the process. November = Bad. It's like clockwork.

Naturally, I went through a period of intense depression, pain AND resentment. It has been a REALLY rough year.

But since then, I've been blessed with something so much bigger than a few broken bonds. I discovered something that I actually had all along- something that I took for granted for most of my life- something that I now KNOW stays in the deepest part of my heart all the time and never goes away: FAMILY.

Instead of experiencing the usual painful change associated with the month of November, I made it a point to spend as much time as I could counting my blessings and falling back in love with the people who've taken care of me. It was like trying to avoid a bad superstition by playing all your lucky numbers.

Well now that it's December- I think maybe now, it's time to reflect.

I almost cried tonight, all because my baby brother decided to call me 'just to talk.' I won't go into the details of our conversation because that's private- but what matters for the purpose of this blog is that RIGHT NOW I feel like the luckiest person alive because of how incredible my family is. I really, truly, love them more than anything or anyone else in the world.

And the fact is, I really don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that - which makes me wonder how many other people in the world could be lucky enough to love their parents, siblings and children as much as I do mine. For the sake of mankind, I hope many could say the same although my own observations of the people around me suggest otherwise.

How many families do you know could sit around all together until 3 in the morning just talking about everything (from sex to religion to drugs to EVERYTHING) in a completely open forum? How many families still sit down to have meals together- because they want to- and if they don't, it must've been a weird day? How many families actually ENJOY going on vacations and spending as much time as they possibly can in this life TOGETHER?

How many people can love their siblings so hard that they're almost embarrassed to talk about it to each other in person? Not a lot.

Which brings me here... ranting on a blog because I think it's so important to explain to everybody else just how much I love and adore my family.

And I guess to best exemplify what I'm talking about - I want to recall, particularly, the last few experiences of the month of November 2007.

I flew to San Francisco on Nov. 27 to go job hunting and to spend some time with my brother Josh (who turned 21 the night before). It was a Tuesday. I spent most of the time wandering the city in a state of introspective bliss, while Josh worked during the day. He made me a quasi-itinerary, complete with bus routes to get me from point A to point B. He showed me Clement Street and the Blue Danube. Nights were good. We smoked cigarettes, drank beer, listened to This American Life, visited Twin Peaks and had dinner in Union Square. We talked... and smoked more cigarettes.

My parents, my 17-year-old brother Nathan, my 8-year-old son Francis and my two cousins (who are both 21), drove up that Friday and we all went to Napa/Sonoma to go wine tasting for Josh's 21st birthday celebration. The first night, we all stayed up until 3 a.m. getting drunk and spilling our guts out. Francis played and watched cartoons.

During the rest of the trip in no particular order: My dad had a few tears in his eyes while he talked to us about how important it is to raise our kids to be strong and confident. We were in awe. Our voices were heightened. We drank and smoked cigarettes. We talked about love, pain, marijuana, our dreams, and the right thing to do versus the desirable thing to do. Francis kicked ass with his etch-a-sketch key chain. We wore our jackets outside on the porch while having good talks. We indulged in a flight of wine at a vineyard. We took pictures, drank more wine, had more talks and barbecued. We played scrabble in teams, played ping-pong and billiards, ate late-night bagels with lox, sang songs while Nathan played guitar and smoked more cigarettes.

We went back to San Francisco on Sunday- DEC 2. We showed mom Clement Street. Josh bought a crepe for all of us to share and my cousin drank a sangria outside on the sidewalk. We didn't want to go home. But we had to, and we said goodbye to Josh around 5 p.m. In the car, we laughed about John Stamos until 1 a.m.

TODAY IS DECEMBER 9. Josh is coming home tomorrow night from his trip to NY. He's flying back to SF on Tuesday morning. Tradition will call for a late-night cigarette. It will probably be too late for coffee.

So maybe these experiences seem completely mundane to anybody else - but to me, they're extraordinary. When I have nothing else... these are the kinds of experiences that I can always look forward to having. These are the people I can share my life with... no matter what.


EDIT: 12/10/07 11:13 a.m.
I forgot to mention something. I really hope that nobody else takes offense to my entry - it isn't me trying to brag. Really, I'm just trying to share the thought and maybe spread a sense of "family" along to other people who may come across this... to show that it's plausible if you want it.
It took years and years of some serious fighting and (mis)understanding for my family to get to where we are now... Nothing worth having comes easily.