Friday, April 19, 2013

The Symbolism Response -- Writer's Poke #445

Murders are rare in Rochester, Minnesota. To my knowledge, only one has occurred in the past two years, and it took place in my neighborhood – about a ½ mile from my front door.

My neighborhood loops in a circle, and the backside of the circle is a crappy road surrounded on both sides by brush and woods. A few houses sprinkle these woods, but it’s basically an isolated spot.

Sometimes in the summers, we’ll walk the loop. I’m not paranoid, but every time I walk this section – even before the murder – I find myself wondering what I’d do if a car drove up, and the occupants inside started to mess with me. Would I stand and fight? Would I try to flee into the brush? Or would I just stand and wait to see my fate?

I feel safe where I live, but I try to be conscious of my surroundings at all times. When the young man was murdered – apparently the victim of a drug-related crime – no police officers swept our neighborhood looking for the suspects. In fact, we noticed no additional level of police presence in our neighborhood whatsoever. If I hadn’t happened upon a newspaper that week, I might never even have known that a murder had taken place.

Stories like the Rochester murder aren’t heavily reported. Reporters from CNN don’t stand next to the memorial and report live from the scene where the victim was “brutally and senselessly murdered.” No one shares pictures of the victim on facebook.

I don’t know why some crimes should be treated differently than others. Some crimes seem to take on symbolic value, and the criminals behind such crimes apparently commit their acts out of a knowledge that symbolism matters. It will get the attention of the masses. It will be labeled “senseless” and so on, as if a crime with a motive behind it is any less horrible.

Some American cities experience scores, if not hundreds, of murders every year. Never have I heard of such a city being placed on “lockdown” so that police can find the killers, and yet it’s a safe bet that most of these urban killers live in the same neighborhoods as the people they’ve killed. What makes the lives of these urban victims – or the victim of the young man killed in Rochester – any less valuable to police and media attention? Since when should the symbolism behind the crime count for more than the crime’s substance?

What is the appropriate police response to a criminal act? Should symbolic acts of violence elicit a greater police response?

“The toilets at a local police station have been stolen. Police say they have nothing to go on.” – Ronnie Baker

I Dream of India -- Writer's Poke #444

One of my fantasies is to visit India in July.

I dream it to be, well, hotter than hell. The upside to that, of course, is less tourists.

I dream it to be dirty, and I dream it to be crowded, and I dream it to be poor. On the other hand, I dream it to be the opposite of those things, too.

I dream of India because I have never been there, and I honestly have no idea what it’s like.

Why dream of India? Fair question, dear reader, but do you have control over what dreams invade your sleep at night? Neither do I, and neither do I have control, really, over what I dream about when I’m awake.

It’s a cliché to say that life’s a dream, but behind the cliché is at least some truth. While I dream of India from miles away, other people have taken the leap to experience their dreams in person. What do they see when they arrive in the place once only dreamt upon? Does the reality live up to the dream, or is the reality simply an extension of the dream – experienced as life, but actually no different from the dream itself?

How does one “experience” the dream? I’ve been places. Not India, but other places. My experiences in these places are now housed in memories. If memories are not enough, I have pictures on my computer to show me that I was there, and these pictures compete with memory. Both inform my experience, but both are incomplete, often providing alternative narratives of what I would like to designate as “reality.” Maybe I should go back to these places to see for myself, but going back is impossible. Perhaps, then, I should just go to sleep. Let the questions of memory and experience and reality fade into nothingness – until the visions of India rise out of nowhere once more, tempting me to create stories of reality from my places of fantasy.

Where do your dreams take you?

“Without a dream you’ll not get anywhere.” – Kofi Annan

Liftoff -- Writer's Poke #443

I like to think I’m special, but if forced to examine what makes me special, I might have to be honest. I’ve had a lot of breaks and opportunities. You have, too, right? People that have had a chance to explore their specialness have been blessed with a luxury that other people all around the world have been denied.

Human potential. I strongly believe in it, but I also recognize that most people do not live in circumstances that allow them to realize their potential. I’m sure that many – probably all –  kids born on May 24, 1973, have talents, skills, perspectives, etc., which make them every bit as special as I am. How many of them have already died before figuring out what made them special? How many continue to live in developing countries, spending most of their energies finding ways to survive from day to day?

At this point in my life, I don’t feel like I’ve reached my potential. I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be in that regard. I keep studying, and I keep thinking, and I keep working, but my ever-visible goals remains in front of me – always just beyond my reach. From this life of privilege I’ve enjoyed, I still feel as though my life’s mission is on the launching pad, but when will I be given the green light to take off?

My life has been in the countdown stage for a long time now, and perhaps the blastoff moment is near. Or, perhaps the mission will be delayed, again, and I’ll remain on the launching pad for a little while longer. I’m simply thankful that I’ve made it to the launching pad; most people, or so it seems to me, never even have a chance to dream about exploring regions beyond hand-to-mouth existence.

Has your life experienced liftoff?

“For NASA, space is still a high priority.” – Dan Quayle

Monday, April 15, 2013

Frank and Louie -- Writer's Poke #442

Frank and Louie is a two-faced cat. Or, to put it another way, Frank and Louie is a cat with two faces. Seems pretty freaky when you first see it, but my thought is simply this: Does it know how to use a litter box, and does it use its litter box each and every time it goes to the bathroom. If so, then that cat’s alright with me.

We’ve been keeping our cat, Turkey, locked up in the basement because she keeps peeing on our beds when she’s upstairs. She’s literally lived in a barn for the first few months of her live, and I suppose you can take the cat out of the barn, but you cannot take the barn out of the cat.

Last night I felt pity for her and I let her out of the basement. She was good all day yesterday, but this morning as I was running around getting ready for work, she peed all over my comforter. Maybe it was a relief for her, but it didn’t provide me with the same feeling. Needless to say, Turkey is now back the basement and will be for the foreseeable future.

While she’s in the basement, she uses her litter box religiously. That is, she’s very devout about using her litter box. Or, maybe I should just say she doesn’t have any problems using her litter box. Liberate her to the rest of the house, however, and she takes on this carpe diem attitude of “I will pee whenever and wherever the mood strikes me.” I guess she just doesn’t want to make the effort to go down stairs. Maybe the basement scares her?

Why are pets worth the trouble?

“Those who’ll play with cats must expect to be scratched.” – Cervantes