It's only 1:14 pm and already this has been a very strange day in a high holidays, week-off, down-time away from the craziness at work period. Imagine that while you were listening to NPR, your hand strayed to the dial and you suddenly found yourself listening to something in a foreign language with a loud, screechy back beat.
The first person I saw on my way to St. Honore Bakery for life-affirming coffee and an almond croissant was the nameless yuppie albino guy with the buzz cut and the big butt. If I don't describe him in very flattering terms, it is because he's one of the few neighbors who won't speak to people who live in apartments east of NW 27th and throws paper and trash on the ground as he walks along babbling to his friends. To his credit, he doesn't seem to be a chronic cell phone or bluetooth abuser and I haven't seen him set foot on a Segway although it may only be a matter of time. This gentleman was walking along in front of me with an umbrella stuffed into the back of his pants. OK, if you don't want to carry your umbrella in your hand maybe you think stuffing it down the back of your pants solves the problem. But no, neighbor, it does not when it makes a large butt look even bigger, when you keep fiddling with it and when people behind you have a view that would mortify you if you were able to see it yourself.
A mere block further along I was horrified to see a tiny kitten, perhaps five-weeks-old, bounce out into the middle of 25th. Cars were coming from both directions and I thought, "you are going to be a kitten pancake." Amazingly, the little waif, who was in mid-road, managed to avoid both cars while being buffeted by the turbulence produced and deposited under a car parked on the east side of the street.
I dashed over, knelt on the sidewalk and looked underneath. No kitten. Calling, "Kitty, kitty" and making mama cat noises, I checked the front and the back of the car and then the bushes on the other side of the walk for good measure. No kitten! This morsel was too small to leap up into the undercarriage of the car so where did he go? All the way to the corner, I kept looking back to see if he would put in an appearance and . . . no kitten.
Turning onto Thurman, I was treated to the sight of an otherwise seemingly normal 20-something eating a cookie and walking toward me wearing only the bottoms of blue plaid pajamas.
A block later, my purchase of a paper at Food Front was interrupted by a loud, crazy guy standing in the doorway yelling that the management needed to call the cops on the Equal Rights canvassers because they were Nazis and had put a swasika on the window. Curious eyes turned to the window which was completely blank. The guy railed for a minute or so and then left.
Which brings me to a story that I read in the Oregonian after finally sitting down to my coffee at St. Honore. This front page article titled, "Use of illegal drugs up 9 percent, study finds" notes that Ecstasy and meth use increased by double digits in 2009. Washington sez, "The rate of illegal drug use rose last year to the highest level in nearly a decade, fueled by a sharp increase in marijuana use . . ."
A clueless cog in the governmental bureaucracy machine, Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, seems primarily outraged by the rise in weed use which he blames on "eroding attitudes" and a growing number of states approving medicinal marijuana.
Apparently Mr. Kerlikowske hasn't considered that we're in a deep recession and that many people are severely depressed, broke and out of work. Maybe it hasn't entered his mind that the market for medical marijuana has grown since we live in an MS and Parkinson's belt, we have an large aging population of baby boomers with associated aches and pains plus a bumper crop of various injured and tramatized veterans of our country's various wars, preemptive attacks and occupations.
Perhaps Mr. Kerlikowske doesn't see what I see on the street. Some of it isn't as weirdly harmless as a ghost kitten or a guy with no fashion sense. Some of it makes you want to cry. People who once had enough to live on, who have no family, whose social and government support networks have evaporated. People who could steal but, instead, try to make it by picking bottles and precycling things out of dumpsters. A few days ago I watched a guy on a bike approach the smoking bench outside the building where I work. He deftly upended the butt pail into a newspaper, carefully folded it up, stuffed it into his pack and rode off on an old bike. I flashed on the stories of German aristocrats picking the butts of American GIs out of the gutters in postwar Berlin. If these people can scrape together enough to occasionally self-medicate because they can't afford a counselor of a pharmaceutical company's overpriced antidepressants who can blame them?
Apparently self-righteous people like Mr. Kerlikowske. These same people, it seems, agreed with Mr. Obama that poverty includes people who make a quarter of a million dollars.
It's all a matter of perspective and today, I ask these questions because I need to write them down.