Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Mischievous Bullet

Warning: cussin' laden

I suppose I am one of those people who thinks the universe is opinionless about our lives. It's not for lack of exploration or lack of desire to have some kind of belief in god. I'm not looking to debate, or get converted, or convert. It's just what I've been able to discern from my time here, and that's all, and I mention it so you may better understand my heart as I offer my latest tale of woe from Trenton.

I don't mind randomness as a general rule. Sure, it can be a big scary world out there, but that's just not completely fair. We live on a lush, round planet, and it is not difficult to see the beauty in the chaos, if you want to see it.

And, I think, regardless of our motivation for finding and being and doing good, most people, in most communities do want to find meaning in the randomness. It's what we humans are designed to do. We may have no choice but to live in a random universe, but it is in our nature to defy that uncertainty, all the same. So most people try to make positive and meaningful lives, with the resources they're given.

But I have found myself in a place where making our lives count is plain difficult, where the negative aspects of randomness are celebrated. This became clear to me earlier in the week when we discovered a bullet hole in our garage door, which led to the discovery of a bullet lodged in the radiator of Glen's car.

Do I live in a city where a random fucking bullet does not matter?

I think I do. And, I'm probably wasting my time bitching about the random fucking bullet that hit our car and put a hole in our garage, since a different random fucking bullet that hit 7-year-old Tajahnique Lee in the face in 2006 (while riding her bike), and yet another random fucking bullet that killed 13-year-old Tamrah Leonard (at a block party), failed to sustain the proper indignation among the good people in Trenton to crush the mentality that breeds random fucking bullet shooting assholery.

You pro-gun people out there: please don't fret: I'm not making any kind of statement about the rights to your firearms. I'm just saying that average citizens who use them in cities a) don't have any common fucking sense, and b) are assholes. If you don't agree with me on this one, well, maybe you a) and b), too.

So. Back to my random fucking bullet. Upon its discovery, Glen, of course, called the police. Despite this abhorrent act, my neighborhood has seen so much improvement — albeit with a little up and down — over the years. Yet, in the last weeks, we have found ourselves at the relative center of some of the ward's hot spots. We know this because a not-so-random bullet took down (but did not kill) a local thug a block a way, and Glen was around to hear the activity. And, there have been other skirmishes, on the other side of Olden as well. When your garage and car have been shot in your usually random fucking bullet-free neighborhood, it may not be your first thought to remind the officers of the problems nearby, especially since, well, come on, they should already know.

The officers who responded to Glen's call did not, in fact, know of any recent problems in our neck of the East Ward, nor did they remember any reports of guns fired. Therefore, our random fucking bullet was relegated to mischief, but only if we wanted to file a report at the station.

The now-mischievous fucking bullet, of course, could have just as easily hit the house, a window, a child, MY child, a friend, a neighbor; it could have even easily hit an asshole down the street. But it hit our garage and our car. Everything about this bullet is appalling and unacceptable, and it changes everything.

Yes, yes, I hear you, all of you: I am not so egotistical or stupid to not see relocating the fuck out of Trenton is a viable option. We have lost much sleep over this mischievous fucking bullet, and it brings me no peace to say, "well, at least it's the first time in six years THIS has happened." It's a bullet, for crying out loud. I'm pissed at the assholes who put the bullet through the garage and into our car; I am pissed at (some of) our empty-headed, elected seatwarmers who do nothing to improve the city because they're too busy trying to impress their friends, and I'm pissed at their friends for being impressed with their mediocrity; I'm pissed at the cops who dismissed this particular bullet as unworthy of further investigation*; I am pissed that my friends and family will be all the more unlikely to visit; and I'm pissed that the yard I love so much is mere feet away from the bullet's trajectory.

I'm just so pissed about this – obviously. And, I really don't know what to do. You know, in a practical sense. Yes, again, I hear you: we could move. But do you really think that will happen tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Don't we all know people in super-appealing suburban neighborhoods who've been selling their homes for MONTHS, even YEARS? Okay. Let's move on.

Right now, all I feel I can do is bring attention to this, and to continue to bitch that random fucking bullets are not acceptable. And they're not mischievous. I want a new way of thinking for my neighbors who have grown so accustomed to poverty and violence that their priorities are stunted to the point that they have forgotten that we, as humans, are capable of so much more than simply getting and giving that stupid ghetto version of respect. I want them to remember our design, our strengths, and stop shooting at anything, even if no children are harmed in the process. I want them to have a glorious Personal Responsibility Epiphany, which motivates them to shun the deplorable conditions and people they once considered companions.

Next, I simply ask our elected officials to banish your dumb ideas, egos, and designer clothing and accessories in favor of more sensible attire that can sustain a bit of dirt. I am pleading with you to wash your brains and kick your own asses, in the appropriate amounts, depending on the amount of time you spent warming seats instead of rolling up your sleeves and getting busy. PLEASE get outside and and lead by example. I urge you to not only look outside this city, but also to the city's newcomers who have made homes here, for ideas of how things work on the outside. And things DO function outside the city. What's happening in Trenton, isn't. If you recoil at this simple request, please look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, "What have I done so far that has worked?" I invoke you to keep staring deep into your own eyes, and into your soul — I know it's still there — until the answer comes angrily from your own lips: "Nothing! Nothing! Nothing!" I call upon you to use this shocking revelation to motivate you to stop tolerating bullshit, turning a blind eye to self-serving favoritism, idiotic accusations of zoophilia, and appointing your friends to key and/or imaginary — yet well-paid — positions because, look the fuck around: your actions to date haven't stopped the lifeblood from hemorrhaging from this city's arteries. I want you to continue to look deep into your reflection, until you're whimpering, "no more." Then, get your ass outside and, I don't know, maybe weed an abandoned property, stand with other good people on the drug dealer's corner, scare off the state workers who come sniffing for drugs on payday, help a prostitute clean up her life, feed the hungry, play with some kids, sift the shit out of the litter boxes at the animal shelter, or do something for no other reason than to help. Yeah, I know it's not your job, but times are tough. Plenty of us are doing those things besides, and we're not on the city's payroll.

Perhaps I've lost my mind entirely, but wouldn't it be lovely if all of the Trenton-hating, white-flight pizza eating mofos just shut up for a minute about the city, because, come on: even with random/mischievous fucking bullets, it is not NEARLY as bad as they say. There are wonderful people here; I spent Thursday evening at Papa's with easily 30 such folks, many of whom I never met before. The problems in Trenton are everyone's problems, in the form of higher taxes, failing schools, creeping-into-the suburbs violence, and wasted lives. Writing off an entire city, or even a specific group of people, does nothing to make anything better. Instead of hating Trenton, and eating your suburban (and inferior) pizza, maybe you can help ease the burden in our heartbreaking animal shelter; you can help plant and maintain gardens around our meticulous and graceful architecture; you can ease the pain of the homeless and the hungry and the addicted. By doing so, you help to break that cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy of poverty and underachievement. On a fun note, you can come to our great ethnic restaurants, and our nifty bookstore and art galleries. Visit our museums, or watch show at the planetarium. You can try our bakeries and of course, our outstanding pizzerias, or take a tour and see that this place is not a write-off, and in fact, full of beauty and history. Or, you can sit on your asses and post nasty, racist, and poorly constructed comments on the Trentonian's website. If you do that, well, you suck.

We live in a random universe, and while many people and communities rail against the chaos in favor of order, we live in close proximity to far more people who exacerbate the randomness, and we are currently led by those seemingly inept at even holding a flashlight for us to pull ourselves onto solid earth. We see and experience so much frustration that whittles away at our quality of life; we have a different set of standards for the behavior that happens here. I hope that we cling to the good core within us, and stop using phrases like, "well, it's not bad, by Trenton standards." We need to look in that mirror too, and stop accepting depravity from our neighbors and halfassedness from the employees of the city. We need to sweep our porches and make it uncomfortable for knuckleheads to do their stupid, knuckleheady things. And we just have to stop tolerating random fucking bullets.


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* The community affairs officer has since been made aware, and has acknowledged that maybe the random/mischievous fucking bullet was part of something bigger. That's where we stand now. Maybe someone would like to take a closer look at the entrance hole or the bullet, or SOMETHING, because maybe, somehow, it's tied to something else. Maybe? I would think in a normal place, there would be follow-up. Here, I'm not so sure. Someone, please prove me wrong.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Farewell to an invertebrate

"Hey, how about Election Night, eh?" — Mister Clean

I don't care if Gino Melone is black or white, Irish or Italian, gay or straight, or republican or democrat: those words don't reveal anything about his character or ability to serve the public. Gino Melone was the councilman in my ward in Trenton for nearly the whole time we've lived here. He lives a few blocks from us; he's been to my house once; I've talked to him on the phone a few times; we've sat through long meetings with him; we see him around.

I am a Johnny-Come-Lately and because of that, when I look at Gino, I don't see him sentimentally: he wasn't my brother's schoolmate, for instance, or the kid next door. He was the councilman who sat in my living room who said so many impressive things, and as a result, I voted for him in 2006. I truly thought it was the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship. Because he earned my trust and vote, after the election, I contacted him on a few occasions about the nuisance properties on my block; I contacted him repeatedly because our corner — just a mere 4 or 5 blocks from his home — is a magnet for car accidents. I never expected him to press a magic button to solve my problems, but I did expect a response. He drank my coffee and ate my cookies and said all the right things, but I never heard from him again.

It's one thing to be singly ignored by your council representative (maybe I'm a pain in the ass?), but it's another entirely when he (or she) begins voting with utter disregard for his (or her) constituents. Sure, I know my opinions aren't shared by all of my neighbors: we're all not going to agree on everything. But, it became clear in Gino's last term that catering to a despotic — yet well-connected — mayor who didn't even live in the city was more important than doing what was right for the people who voted for him. And then he didn't even answer our calls or emails when we asked him about it. Gino had forsaken the people who nurtured his career in politics here in the hood, and intended to be installed as our next county clerk.

Would the conservatives of Mercer County vote the party line? Were they paying attention to Gino's track record in the city, where he was Doug Palmer's lap dog, and allegedly a democrat?

Trenton's East Ward has not been thriving, and while Gino can't be held entirely accountable, he did little to improve life here while he was in office. Take a look at the scads of once stunning, now decaying, homes along Greenwood Avenue, all within the East Ward, to see how far we've fallen. Despite the nagging issues that compromise our quality of life, I'm sure there are quite a few here on the East side who remember Gino as a kid and voted for him to be our next county clerk for that reason alone, even though his inaction on council did little to honor the good old days. Outside the ward (and maybe within), a few thousand people voted for him only because his name was in the republican column, even though that term doesn't erase his spinelessness on Trenton's City Council, and impotence (or lack of care?) to improve his own neighborhood. I passed him on my way in to vote on Tuesday, and wished him luck. All the same, I'm glad the voters of Mercer County elected someone else.

Gino is still young enough that maybe he'll learn that he can't say one thing and do another, at least not so often; he can't expect to lead and then not respond to the needs of the people. If he's learned some lessons this year, maybe he'll run again in a few years, and the results will be different.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Embarrassment isn't all bad

There's a reason why people urinate (and worse) on the grounds of city hall

I'm a little uptight. I've always been that way. My sister found a picture of our family, and my mother was goofing off in the picture. I was about 10 at the time, and I looked mortified. I've lightened up a tad over the years, and, a few times, I've acted without restraint, probably while I was in college, or shortly thereafter. But mostly, the fear of embarrassment continues to motivate me. I wish I could chill out a bit more, because I could see how it could be immensely satisfying to, say, mouth off to a lousy cashier, or curse at all the other drivers, all the time, or even just act really, really silly in public.

My concern, though, if I began to do those things, is that I'd start to flaunt the rules of society. I need a clear line, or perhaps, I'd stop paying my bills. I'd answer the door the way my husband does (and you know how that is if you've come over, or have been reading this blog). Maybe I'd make a scene if asked to do the very things everyone else in our society is expected to do. I would be above the pesky, annoying laws and rules of society.

I clearly have issues, but all the same, I wish some of our local officials were motivated by the fear of burning embarrassment and the judgment of others, A LITTLE BIT. Just a little bit. Without that ability to feel embarrassment, it's really frigging easy to cross over into the land of amorality. Our new mayor continues to make crazy misstep after crazy misstep, without the "burden" of worrying about what we, the people in his care, think. A judge he appointed to enforce the rules of society upon us, is, herself, so above us that she thinks she need not pay the fee to keep her license, or submit to the background check before taking office, or even pay her personal bills. I'm sure both Tony Mack and the honorable (?) Renee Lamarre Sumners occasionally do the right thing in life, because, well, that happens sometimes when you just don't give a shit.