Wake Up and Write Writer's Retreat Workshop
When I leave here I will walk out the door still shaking inside. I will drive home and take refuge in my apartment, take comfort in the fact that I have locks on the door and that I’m surrounded by military folk who live in the other apartments and are there to study at Defense Language Institute in Monterey.
It didn’t even occur to me not to call 911. It didn’t occur to me not to acknowledge that I thought I could recognize the young man, even if my description wasn’t perfect or in the greatest detail. When I spoke with one of the residents in our transitional housing program, who had also been around, that individual said they told the person with them to look away, so they couldn’t identify the shooter. Survival instincts, learned on the streets,
I can still feel the adrenalin coursing through my body – is it in the veins? Funny, I have no idea. All I know is I can feel it. I can type, but there’s a weird kind of numbness in my fingers. I’m hungry, and wondering when I’ll be able to go home and eat. Wanting in the worst way to get some comfort food, and knowing that no matter what I get, it will be hard to swallow it. And I won’t get comfort food, because I won’t want to stop for anything on this trip home. Once I get in that car I want to go straight home.
This isn’t what I’d planned for my blog. But I have to do something as I wait. Don’t I?
One thing I didn’t know about the chronically homeless before I worked here (those who are homeless again and again, not just someone who loses their home for a short time in an emergency), is that often they experience mental illness of some kind. In Chinatown it was determined by one of the local service providers that more than 90% of the community suffered from some form of mental illness or another. Many of these folks are not capable of holding down a job or taking care of themselves, yet the system makes it incredibly hard for anyone else to take care of them.
Did you know that many substance abuse programs won’t take people with mental illness, and many mental health facilities won’t take people with substance abuse issues. So if you have a dual diagnosis (both mental illness and substance abuse) then there are very few places you can go. There are groups trying to address that, but it’s a serious problem, with not a lot of help out there now.
So the folks living all around this neighborhood are the least able to take care of themselves, and in the midst of that, we have the drug dealers who work on the streets of Chinatown, but generally don’t sleep here.
According to media speculation, we have a gang war over drug territory here in Chinatown. We used to hear about the shootings or stabbings or fights that happened at night or on the weekends. Now it’s in the middle of the day, the middle of the week.
This is the first time I’ve written today. Saturday is normally one of my days to dive into the second draft of my novel, but not today. Tomorrow, maybe. It’s not as if I spent all day thinking about the shooting. I guess I should now say the homicide. The police never did call to ask about my seeing the shooter. The news said there were a number of witnesses, and they probably had some that actually saw the shooting, which I did not. Okay by me.
I did some of my usual Saturday things – went to the laundromat, watched the IndyCar qualifying for tomorrow’s race, played games on my iPad, visited Animal Friends Rescue Project and played with one of the puppies for a bit. I didn’t go write at Asilomar, but I did go down to the beach for a bit. There were some sea otters hanging out offshore.
I love sea otters. I could spend all day watching them at Monterey Aquarium; I love the way they float on the water so in the waves you can see their noses and head, and their toes (I don’t think they’re really toes, but from a distance, who cares?). Like many wild animals, they are beautiful and appealing and do not want to play with you.
The only exception I’ve ever seen to that were the squirrels and baby spotted skunks at Tassajara. I’ve had a squirrel jump up on my lap while I was reading, and place its front paws on my arm and look up into my face as if to say, “Well, don’t you have a treat for me?” I never did, because I know it’s not good to feed them, but boy, that one was sure cute. The spotted skunk babies, during my last summer at Tassajara, became so comfortable around humans they would skitter around under and over foot in the dining room, trying to find scraps.
It seems crazy that these things exist in the same world, and they do. In an episode of West Wing, President Bartlet says of some home-grown terrorists, “They weren’t born wanting to do this.”
The young man yesterday who killed another young man apparently burned his fingers on the barrel of the gun, that’s why I saw it in his hands – it was too hot to hide in his pocket or jeans. An experienced killer would have known better. That doesn’t excuse him, nor does it mean he shouldn’t be caught and take responsibility for what he did. But he wasn’t born wanting to commit a murder. No one is.
I don’t have any great wisdom around any of this. I just wanted to share it. I’m grateful that I can.
Take care – seriously, take care,
Carol (Doc) Dougherty
An avid reader, writer, and student, with a penchant for horse racing, Shakespeare, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.