That's what Daisy said this evening, about 45 minutes in: this is the most fun Earth Hour we've had. I had to give her a firm high-five. Because we've had some good ones, but maybe I'm a little chapped after receiving this Earth Hour non-message from Bindy herself: Quinn and I were laughing last night about your earth day. We remember the 20 made-in-china candles, burning black toxic smoke against your mirror in the living room. Really, what earth day, Bindy? If you can't remember the name, why do you remember black smoke that didn't happen? What the hell kind of memory is that? Know what else? Quinn left a message for me about Earth Hour. She didn't pick up when I called her right back, but she called. Earth Hour 2013: Monopoly Junior Party in candlelight, talking about the earth, and dancing to Marvin Gaye.
I took my children on a short Sunday drive to walk in the redwoods. They were cranky, and it wasn't a smooth process to get them walking. When they finally chilled, they insisted we take turns reading the guided tour in our pamphlet. They ran circles around me, thanking me for taking them there as we breathed in the beautiful air.
Later, at home, Daisy had a meltdown that challenged me greatly to say the least. Sometimes, helping a kid decompress means weathering an emo storm you never saw coming.
Forty minutes from the sprawl of Silicon Valley, my town is
isolated, like an island, bordered by mountains and ocean. I have met people here
who have never been “over the hill” in their entire lives.
I moved outside the city limits in the fall, to an even
smaller town with two main roads. It’s quiet, a relief after living amid the
growing population of drifters, addicts, and mentally unstable people around my
old apartment. The local bumper sticker campaign to keep my city weird is a
success. You can check that one off the list.
In my experience, over the last couple decades, the weirdness
has mostly been aesthetic. While I was eating lunch at a table outside a deli in the middle of downtown years
ago, I noticed an unusual man who once gave me a small box carved out of bamboo and decorated with suns and
moons, antler and purple stones, approach a tall man with dreads to
discuss the powerful magic of the spring afternoon. I listened, fascinated, by
the spiritual tone of their conversation. I’ve forgotten what they said, but I
will never forget the deer that came suddenly barreling in through the backdoor
of the deli, hooves beating against the wood floor rhythmically until it burst
out the front door and streaked by, the tall man declaring, “That’s powerful
My town’s stereotypical hippie vibe is a draw for people who
embody more of the so-called weirdness than the families who have lived here for
generations, though I don’t think this is what co-workers meant when describing Jeremy Goulet
as weird. Goulet’s weirdness was much darker. Reportedly, he came here a
couple months ago for a new start.
I have lived in a city where police behaved inappropriately;
my family and friends have experienced police harassment firsthand. That is generally not the case here.
In my college days, my friend had more alcohol than he could
handle one night, coming to in his running car, in an intersection, facing an
ocean cliff he was feet away from with a police officer standing over him. He came
to my friend’s aid, parking his car and driving him downtown to a payphone.
Before the officer drove away and after a lecture about how lucky he was he
didn’t end up in the ocean, he handed my friend a quarter to make the call,
saying, “Remember, Santa Cruz cops are cool!”
When I was assistant principal at the charter high school, I
used to team with the neighboring sheriff’s department. One sheriff was a body
builder who went on Oprah to discuss the molestation he experienced as a boy at
the hands of a Catholic priest. Another was an ex-NBA player, a father of a
teenager himself, who worked with me to scare kids just enough to keep them out
of juvi. He also coached youth
This is a town where you know faces.When I worked a downtown job, I became
familiar with the bank tellers, shopowners, chefs, parking enforcement officers
and florists. I knew a little about their jobs and backgrounds, and over the
years, I’ve watched a few of them raise families from a distance. After living
here for several years, there seems to be no more than one degree of separation
between any two people.
The police officers who were killed in our town were
familiar faces. Detective Elizabeth Butler might have been the one to give my daughter’s brownie troop a
tour of the police station. Over the years, I’ve noticed her driving by in her
police car and talking to homeless people downtown. Sergeant Butch Baker signed
a fixit ticket for me a couple years ago. When I approached him, he was patiently talking to a man who
seemed half out of his mind - and a big fan of Baker’s. I have driven by police incidents and glimpsed at one or the other officer
many times over the years. The aura of these two people always seemed
calming, not elevating.
Goulet was one of those new arrivals who like
so many others in our town, thought a new location was the answer to his
problems. Perhaps he hated police. He must not have been able to see these two
people for who they were – kind, hardworking, humble contributors to the
community he was drawn to.
In the style of our strangely interconnected town, a popular
astrologist with a local column used to live where the police officers were
killed, and her daughter now lives next to Butler’s home. Her assessment was
To understand it more deeply & as I wrote a friend
this morning, violence in our cities will accelerate. It doesn’t have anything
to do with guns. It has to do with the changing of the ages = a time when laws
no longer hold sway. It is a time of all levels of social breakdown. Societal
restraints will no longer be respected. It is a time when each of us must
choose where, how and with whom we will live in order to have protection and
safety. It will not be in the cities, large or small. Gangs will take over the
cities. It has already begun.
I’m not one to spout doom and gloom, but I have to wonder
after what I saw around my old apartment, a short walk from where the murders
occurred. The growing number of people who seem to be good candidates for
social services of some kind, the slashed city budgets, the overcrowded jails,
the lack of decent jobs, the high cost of living, and the reputation of our
town drawing mentally unstable people flame the instability and chaos. And gangs
are certainly in the mix - selling, stealing, threatening, and protecting.
Recently, I was running errands with the kids. We stopped by
Whole Foods, across the street from where Goulet lived. As we walked in, a man
behind us got close and I turned around, expecting to recognize the
person, but instead it was a stranger with a smile and look in his eyes that
made me uncomfortable enough to grasp the girls' hands in mine as we walked away. He resembled
the pictures I’ve seen of Goulet in the paper. It might seem like a long shot
that it was the same person but maybe not in this town.
Our community is wounded. It’s not that murders don’t happen
here; they do. But to take away two public servants so brutally and unfairly is
the end of an innocent era.
This is not something that gun control laws can fix. A
person who is capable of this kind of violence is not concerned with permits.
S/he will obtain a gun illegally or use a different weapon. The problem of people
who are not connected to their communities in productive ways, who need health
services, who need jobs, who need education, cannot be ignored without great cost.