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Officer Alex eats bad Chinese food and contemplates the neighborhood
I was sitting in the filthy booth of Chinese restaurant on East 23rd Street resting my chin on the palm of my hand, staring listlessly out of a grimy window overlooking its barren parking lot when I again came to the conclusion that all indications suggested that the greater East Lake area was still an uninhabitable wasteland, abandoned by law enforcement and unwatched by God Himself.
It was not the first time I’d pondered this, but the answer provided comfort to me, particularly in light of my apparent inability to do anything about it.
Make no mistake: I’d done my part over and over, but I could still see no tangible effect despite my best efforts. Was this my life? Was it to be spent putting Band-Aids on the festering arms and legs of this horrible graveyard of a community, doing no more than God’s “busy work” as its indigenous people went about their days and nights seemingly able only to demonstrate how to stand in direct opposition to everything that makes America great?
I wasn’t there at the beginning, but I am still relatively hopeful that this country wasn’t founded on fornicating, drug use and theft. Or was it? Out of psychological desperation I once tried to be reasonable and considered how two out of the three could work statistically. Even then I thought that was stretching it a bit.
I wasn’t just being a cry-baby or anything, mind you. I’m not talking about the usual craven and gutless acts of pig-men that commit rapes and home invasions, no. While awful, those were legal and societal anomalies and I dealt with them quite well.
They were what I was “supposed to deal with” and they fit into the scheme of things. It was the little things that were eating away at me, I supposed…the busy work that individually shouldn’t bother me, but after months (and years) becomes the small drips that can eventually bore into stone.
I had just left a home in the 100 block of Morningside Drive, a revitalized neighborhood that held the pimps and thieves at bay by sheer will and steady use of the department’s non-emergency line. It was a rental house occupied by a handful of twenty-something hippie wannabes, the smell of patchouli and bong water just taking hold in the mismatched furniture and piles of clothing that was their little piece of Nirvana, right down to a caged pet marmot.
They called because someone had stolen their water hose and a bicycle left in the yard by the sidewalk, and they just couldn’t understand a society that would do such a thing. I took their information and gave them vague but reassuring answers on how I would deal with this situation before departing to complete the report.
Twenty minutes later, my employment-challenged customers called for my return. They were beside themselves and wanted to again impress upon me the fact that they had saved for that bicycle, and it meant a great deal to them. I gritted my teeth but attempted to placate them with the love of my own childhood bicycle, backed with suggestions of canvassing the neighborhood.
Door-to-door interviews, perhaps post pictures of said bike on street poles and solicit information for a reward?
They grew annoyed, so I suggested a field trip, a little jaunt just one block east to the 1700 block of South Hawthorne Street. In other words, the neighborhood they had moved next to, which did not go without consequence, particularly when it was in need of eco-friendly transportation. The kind of neighborhood that gave slumlords a good name, and intravenous drug addicts a vacation spot. The kind of place that did not play host to a group of young men that thought sitting around getting high and watching “Star Trek: The Next Generation” marathons was preferable to stabbing someone over smudged shoes.
In accordance with such, they should consider not leaving their shit in the yard and creating an opportunity for any asshole walking by to consider taking it for themselves. I assured them that I would, however, keep an eye out for their “hose”. (They may not have been satisfied with this, but they were quiet, and realizing I’d snapped somewhere along the way, I decided to leave.)
Back at the restaurant, I still continued to peer out of the partially tinted glass. By “partially”, I mean the tint had been peeled off half the window, leaving a cloudy residue that fairly well matched the ambience of the establishment, but I had never complained. The proprietors were kind and grateful, and the food was good. OK, the food was free. Movement across the parking lot caught my attention, and I saw a medium-sized dog squatting there in the middle of the lot, legs bowed and shivering madly in the throes of taking a very painful and apparently very unsuccessful shit despite the activity around him, and five minutes passed before I even realized I was still watching. I grew disgusted with myself and my station all over again.
“Unwatched by God Himself,” I thought. “Yup.”