Monday, June 30, 2008

The Shooting

I think it's time to talk about The Shooting.

On Thursday, June 26, 2008, I met Mike at The Water Witch for breakfast. I had the Lean and Green, although I ordered it as the Lean and Mean, just to see if the waitress was paying attention. She was.

It's a pedestal dish of an avocado spread accompanied by cucumbers, tomatoes, asparagus, two kinds of marinated olives -- the kind I would have choked on as a kid -- orange slices, strawberries, and three warm rolls, each distinct from the others. It's served with a pretty pot of peppermint tea or coffee. I chose the latter.

We sat out on the porch, of course, and watched people stroll by. We engaged in lively conversation with each other. I drove Mike home and then went to the Voodoo Women to get some cat food, dog treats, and can covers, since Sunny isn't eating as eagerly as she used to.

When I returned, I could see that my street was separated from the sane world with yellow police tape. Half a dozen cars and SUVs and trucks were strewn about the intersection, making me think at first that there'd been an accident. My passenger-side window was down because Mike was last there and he never obeys and my windows aren't electric and I can't reach that far when I'm driving, so I was able to call out to the fat-man neighbor and his wife, "What have you done?"

They chuckled but said they didn't know what was going on. They offered their lawn, should I be unable to gain my own driveway. My alley wasn't blocked off, though, so I parked in my usual spot. I looked out the front window and saw that the house directly across from me was surrounded by the ominous tape, too.

Yikes, if I may say so.

I think that family has lived here at least ten years (to my fourteen). They're always cheerful and friendly and helpful. They don't celebrate Halloween. There are four children, in two groups: two young kids and two older ones that are out of high school now but still at home.

In my family, we had The Big Three (born in '48, '49, and '50) and The Boys ('55 and '59). Interestingly, and completely unrelatedly, Mike and I call his dogs The Boys, even though Sunny ('92) is a girl. Benji ('00?) is a boy.

I suppose that family across the street has nicknames for their groups, too. For several years, I thought the older boy was a girl. He just took a long time to get out of kidhood.

I didn't know any of their names, but they're always calling out, "Hey, Miss Barbara!" It's too embarrassing to respond, "Why, hey there, you, you, you neighbor, you!" but that's all I can do. I did ask one of the kids once, but I couldn't remember their names anyhow.

Now I know their names. The young woman is Sonia. The young man is Sharron -- like shuh-RON -- but no tellin' what the spelling is. There's Sean, who looks to be about ten but he's actually thirteen, and Sharee (with the accent, again, on the second syllable), who's, I don't know ... eight?

Sonia told me that they're such a mix of Scottish and Trinidadian and other things, that she just tells people Trinidad. The mother seems black and the father seems Gandhi-Indian or something. The parents have pretty accents, but the kids are American.

Okay. Back to the yellow tape.

I thought about marching out to the cops and insisting that I have a "right" to know what's going on. But do I? Is it my business? I don't even know now. In terms of simple human behavior, it sure is my right.

So I went out. Some cops were separately talking to two young black men who seemed to be witnesses, not suspects, although witnesses to what? suspects of what?

The fat detective in a suit told me that they'd already gone around the neighborhood, telling people what had happened.

School's out, but Sean had gone to the high school for a football camp. He returned with two friends. One of the boys had three guns, although the news later said only two. They were playing with the guns and Sean got shot. A bullet from a .357 went through his skinny little-kid arm and into and out of his chest. He's alive, though.

That was five days ago, and I don't know much more than that.

On the rare occasion when I see one of the vehicles in the driveway and I think I could go knock on the door, I think But when if he she they has finally gotten a chance to sleep? And god forbid I should look like a nosy neighbor.

On the day of the shooting, Dana came over. She's a smooth-skinned, pretty, chubby blond woman with perfect teeth from Arkansas who, along with her husband, is a chaplain with Hospice. We've smiled and waved in the two years she's been here, but that's about it.

I'm really glad she came over. We stood in my yard and looked over at the house and talked about our questions. Who's going to clean up the blood in there and how will they feel when they do it? How long did Sean lie there before someone dialed nine-one-one, and who did dial it? Are the parents going to feel like they're terrible parents now? Will they smother Sean, assuming he lives? How messed up is his life going to be now?

What about little Sharee? She left school at the regular time and was walking home when she saw the clutter of vehicles on her street. Her big sister was waiting for her in the van, waiting to pull her inside and tell her what happened and take her to the hospital where the rest of the family was.

Then the rain got fast enough for Dana and me to go inside, so she left. Her three-year-old Jackson was napping, and goddess forbid I should invite someone into my heck-hole.

I still feel disturbed by all this, but I don't even know why. I drove somewhere later and the radio was on in my car. It was NPR news. It was talking about gun control.

Look, I know two murderers (Thom Ayers and Donnie Ayers; cousins, I think, in separate incidents) but I don't know anyone who's been murdered.

And that's the thing with saying there was A Shooting. The implication is: A Death. A Shooting = A Death.

And it seems like no one's saying, "Sean got shot." It's just A Shooting.

Seems like I read somewhere that most kids know, by the time they're ten, a murdered person. Is that possible?

Later in the day, when all the tape was gone and all the vehicles elsewhere, a young woman drove up in a Fox13 van and parked in front of my house. Well, of course, she actually parked across the street from the house where The Shooting took place. I watched her set up her tripod. I marched outside.

"Are you a journalist?"

Well, of course she is. I don't even know what was motivating me, except that it seemed like the family was somehow being violated. They're cluttered up in the hospital waiting room, pacing and slumped and worried and praying and shocked, waiting to see if their son and brother will even freaking live, and here's this damned woman taking pictures of the house for ... for ... I don't even know.

I was certain the woman would try to make the house look like bad people lived there. Or she'd sensationalize an already sensational situation. A soccer ball has been out on the lawn for a couple days, which is unusual for this tidy family. I just knew she'd focus on that ball and try to make us all cry because -- sob! -- Sean may never kick that ball again. I mean, even if it's true, even if Sean dies (oh please NO!), the journalist should just shut up and wait and see what happens.

Not that I, you understand, should shut up and wait and see what happens ...

"Yes. I'm a journalist."

"What are you doing?"

"Taking a picture of the house."


She actually glanced at me at this point. "Because there was A Shooting here this morning."

"Yeah. So?"

"So I'm taking a picture."


She surely had taken Lunatic Bystanders 101, so she quit talking to me.

I pounded back inside, seething. My arms were shaking, my forearms. I grabbed my camera and went back out and started taking pictures of her as she packed up her equipment. She knew what I was doing. My digital camera is set to sound like a miniature alien robotic dog barking and I'm pretty sure she figured it wasn't Benji. She never turned around though.

"That's not exactly my best side," she said.

I actually thought she used the word "asset," but I'm sure my hearing is affected when I'm bristling with righteous indignation.

"Asset? Surely you didn't say that was your best asset!"

She denied that and I said that a little wordplay was always welcome, and then we ended our friendship as she drove away.

And then look at this hypocrisy. I sat down right here and googled Fox13 and watched the news that I was so abhorring in her presence. The other reporters at least stood in front of the police station in Gulfport. The pictures of my street could have been any old street around here. I don't know if the picture of the house was ever shown on TV.

It turns out that the Campbells are Jehovah's Witnesses and they have a ton of support, according to Dana. In fact, a dear friend called last night to chat and when I mentioned The Shooting, she said she works with three women who are JoHos, too, and they've been gathering around the Campbells. Sean was in surgery till about three in the morning that day, but he's mending.

See? It's a small world even in a city.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Fernando, the Dominican Republican owner of Don Fernando, a restaurant at 2805 38th Avenue North in St. Petersburg (FL), let me know that bien is Spanish for "good." Ditto French. And all that was in my original entry that got lost, about which I shall seethe until the bovines meander back home ...

You locals should check out Don Fernando if you haven't already. It's at the site of the original Saffron's, which is long gone, both from that location and from the epicurean scene in St. Petersburg. The daily special at Don Fernando is affordable, which is always nice, and the food is good. It's one of the few places I can get Malta, that intense molasses-flavored soda. I first had it in Ghana (do I have to add West Africa or does everyone know where Ghana is?). It's the only soda pop I like.

I love being surrounded by languages other than English, and you'll find that at Don Fernando. When I've tried my clumsy Spanish on the employees, they're entirely good-natured about it. Well, wait a minute! What do I know? My Spanish isn't good at all. Maybe they're saying, "Listen to this honkey-ass old woman spewing Spanglish like a two-year-old! She should be hung by her thumbs and flogged with plantain peels!" I suppose they'd say, "gringa-ass vieja," though ...

Go eat there. You'll like it.

Hmm ... I had to change the time again in the Post date and time window. I wonder what I'm doing wrong? As you know if you've been paying attention, all mistakes here are mine.


Well, damn! This isn't boding so well.

I had half a dozen paragraphs and then I hit PUBLISH POST (at least, I THINK I did) but all I got was the first paragraph and now, frankly, I'm sick of the whole thing.

Y'know, I've been working with computerized typesetting equipment since 1973, and desktop publishing since 1993, and my stomach still hurts when something messes up like this. "Something" messes up. Well, in the Olden Days, it really could be the equipment. These days, though, it seems as if Operator Error is the only way to mess up.

I chatted about my art car and its name, and my "bien" name and all that, and now it's apparently lost in space. Because of me.

Damned technology!

Let's try again.

Oh. But first ... let me complain about there having to be a title. Jeeze.

And now I see that the times are way off. It's 10:20, not 7:something. Sigh. And why should the draft be one typeface and my actual entry another?

God. Is this what Andy Rooney feels like?

Okay. I'll try to recapture the joy and beauty of my original, mostly-lost entry ...

I don't like to name things. I never have. That's why I'm whining about "having" to name each entry here. Goodness! I'm not that organized. How do I know what I'm going to be yammering about? Plus, what? you think I'm going to stick to one topic? Who do you think I am?

I drive an art car, though, and the people at shows always want names for the cars. Well, I've referred to all my cars as My Car, but art car organizers won't accept that. Therefore, my current car is named bien5. The bien is phonetic for my initials, BN, and the 5 indicates that it's the fifth car I've painted. I can live with that, but I still call it My Car.

Now, my buddy Sonny Fenwick, who's been nagging me to blog, has The Bubble Truck. He has outfittied a big truck with bubble-making gear and, yes, it makes sense to name it The Bubble Truck.

My car, however, is a mish of West African symbols and grandma's quilt and paisley and that healing hand or Hindu hand or Cherokee hand or whatever it is. I'm redoing that hand for the art car show in Louisville on August 1 and 2.

Anyway, what would YOU name that car?

Now, after I painted my current car, I painted two trucks and a golf cart for a local nursery, and I'm going to be painting Mark's car in July. Would my next car therefore be bien6 or bien9. See? and that's just one reason I don't like to name things.

I have a friend who named her cat Inlieu because, fed up with men, Liz decided to give her affection and attention to the cat. I'm happy to report that the cat lasted longer than its name.

I guess I think names are like tattoos -- they're just too permanent. What if and what if and what if?

One day, maybe a decade ago, I realized that my dinner plates were the same ones I'd bought twenty years ago. Yes. That means they're thirty years old now. And I still like them. So I guess I could have gotten a tattoo after all ...

My cat, whom I love, is named Mittens. Yes, yes. Of course she has the extra toes and yes, her feet are white while the rest of her is sort of grey, else why would someone have named her Mittens? She was a stray (and possibly astray, too, because she showed up at Bob's house with a couple of kittens). He named her Mittens. I never would have been so trite, but I then I also would have left her unnamed until the neighbors started hearing me call for her. "Hey, My Cat! Come on! My Cat! My Cat!"

Ah ... and in the lost entry, I also cried about the lack of Smart Quotes here with Mister Google. Dang. It's actually painful to me, as a typographer, to see inch marks instead of quotes, foot marks for apostrophes. My queenery for an en dash!
Welcome to my first-ever blog entry. Ah. I suppose I could use that as my title. The truth is, I don't like to name things. I don't know why, either. I just don't. I had a cat I named Chicken once, just to be hyper-cute.