Wednesday, July 1, 2020

#IWSG – JULY 2020 CHECK IN – THE LIFE AND DEATH OF ELIJAH McCLAIN


I haven't checked in, or written a great deal, lately. Time and events have been rather overwhelming and when I do write, I find I write out of a sense of urgency, or because I'm so enraged by what I've witnessed, I cannot hold it in. My orchestra is on hiatus, for how long? Who knows? I live in a Red State, which has completely and very ham-fistedly bungled any head start the Medical Community possibly had on containing the Coronavirus and they re-opened much, much, too soon, as we are now seeing. The global window is rapidly closing, and there is a new swine flu virus in Asia, that is, supposedly, not transmissible to humans, although people who do work with swine there, have tested positive for it, but are asymptomatic, and there are no signs that the virus is transmissible from person to person*.

Shortly after I wrote my previous post regarding the evictions en masse in the lower-income housing not very far from my house, and the heart-breaking image of the children's toys came the death of George Floyd and the Revolution took to the streets. I really had nothing to say on that, other than, “about time” and “I can be your Trotsky, should you need one”, but felt the people were eloquent enough in their righteous anger and fury over the dis-enfranchisement and the breaking of the contract that America should have kept with Black Americans and POC. Besides, I mentioned “fault lines” in my last post prior to all of the civil disobedience and Here. We. Are. We all do want the same thing and deserve it: equal treatment under the Law, Safety, and Fairness. What could be easier?

                                                                                                                               courtesy of:junkee.com                                                           
Elijah McClain

But, apparently, we still have nameless gorms who prefer living in the bad old days of Jim Crow and “Whites Only”, or more recently "White Power". Again, I'm really glad my folks aren't here to see this travesty of a country we've become. I remember my father and his sister telling me of the time they were driving in the old flivver, with their father, Grandpa Wallace, in like 1937, in the back woods of Michigan, and they happened upon three white men, trying to string up a black man, who was on a lonely road, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. My grandfather, being a Wallace, stopped the car and like something out of “To Kill A Mockingbird”, confronted the men. He stood them down. Being the cowards that they were, they left the scene, leaving the black man alone.

My father was pretty young at the time and I got most of the story from his older sister, Mary, my namesake. It seems the black man was walking the back roads of the lower peninsula of Michigan, looking for work. His people were in Illinois. My Grandfather came from a long line of crofters in Scotland. Sir William was originally a farmer before he led armies. He was also literate, having been schooled by his uncle, the local Priest. Anyway, his great-great-great-great, many times over grandson took the man home and fed him, and gave him a place to sleep for a few weeks, while he helped my Grandmother with chores and my Grandfather in the fields. Winter was coming, so when the hard frost hit, my folks paid the man, and sent him home. My folks being of Scots blood didn't hold with all of this “colored this” and “colored that”; they had also known oppression in their day. , However, I really, really digress.

This is about the life and death of Elijah McClain; a young man I barely heard of until this week. There were a few things in the news about him. But, there's been so much lately. We started the year with an Impeachment Trial, Kobe Bryant died, which was huge and then, went right into Covid-19, with a side-helping of Aliens, courtesy of the U. S. Navy, in the early days of the Pandemic; I guess on the off-chance we'd all have whip-lash and have forgotten how to read. We closed the Economy, and then, when cases slowed, we opened the Economy, and... OOOPS! Too soon! Now, we're dealing with exponential increases in cases of Covid-19 and our global window is closing. We may as well just throw in the towel. Period.

But, back to Elijah McClain. A gentle-souled, sweet young man who lived in Aurora, Colorado. By all accounts, he was a wonderful person. He worked as a massage therapist and his clients loved him for his sweetness, warmth and the way he lit up a room. He played the violin and on his breaks, he would go to the local animal shelter and play for the homeless cats and dogs there. “It soothed them,” one young lady said. I wish I knew more about Elijah. I wish I knew him when he was alive.

One night last year, on August 24, 2019, Elijah went to get his brother an iced tea. He wore an open ski mask because he suffered from anemia and he would get cold. I know what that's like. Someone called the police and reported a “suspicious person, wearing a mask and waving his hands”. Although unarmed and just listening to music, police say a “struggle ensued”. A carotid hold was placed on Elijah and when he didn't calm down, he was injected with Ketamine**, a supposed “therapeutic dose” to calm him down. It put him into cardiac arrest. He was transported to the hospital and put on life support. His family finally had him taken off life support on August 30, brain-dead and covered in bruises.

                                                                  courtesy of:Junkee.com                                   

Elijah, playing his violin to the stray cats in the shelter. It soothed them the shelter workers said. My cats love it when I play.

This is the bare-bones, brief story. For months, the body-cam footage was not released by the APD. When released, an officer can be heard admitting that Elijah had done nothing illegal prior to his arrest. Another officer accuses Elijah of trying to grab one of their guns. In the meantime, Elijah can be heard trying to say he's turning off his music; he vomits, and says his house is “right there”, then apologizes. “I wasn't trying to do that. I just can't breathe correctly.” One of the officers can be heard threatening to sic his dog on Elijah and also that he showed an “extreme show of strength when officers tried to pin back his arms”.

Very little of the officers' protocol can be observed however, due to their contention that their body cams all fell off during the arrest. The autopsy was inconclusive, and subsequent news reports seemed to point to McClaine himself as the unwitting cause of his own demise, because he struggled so, but, as Mari Newman, an attorney for the McClain family stated at the time, “Whatever the report says, it's clear if the police had not attacked Elijah McClain, he would be alive today.”

The officers, as officers in just about every one of these cases, with the notable exceptions of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and most recently Rayshard Brooks, got off, initially, but a ground-swell of outrage and a plea from the Aurora, CO community and then, the nation, led the Attorney General of CO to re-open the Elijah McClain case and take a good, hard look at the injustice that was done to this fine, young man.

As a musician, I feel this. As a human being, this is just beyond the pale. Last Thursday evening, there was a violin vigil held for Elijah McClain in Aurora, in a park. Many string players showed up to play and practicing social distancing, they were playing Pachelbel's “Canon in D”. I know this piece by heart. I can riff on it, play it blues-y, play it jazz-y, play it in my sleep, play it upside down. But, I didn't get to hear much of what these talented, young musicians were doing, because the cops showed up. They showed up and they did what they do best. They threw a bunch of pepper spray or tear gas and they were in full riot gear. I could not hear any music over the screaming of “NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!” My poor kitty Allie could hear this and she got distressed. What is so wrong with us as a country that we can no longer assemble as is OUR RIGHT UNDER THE LAW! Not just any right, but our 1st AMENDMENT RIGHT!

These people weren't preaching sedition, or treason (why bother, we have a treasonous bastard for a President?), nor were they plotting the overthrow of the government, although it may be time to start thinking about a major change, because this shit ain't working!

 courtesy of:@ohsnapitztab via the CUT            

MUSIC transcends color, sex, orientation, religion, culture, time and belongs to everyone. I will NEVER get to hear Elijah McClain play, but boy, do I wish I did. I think I really missed out on something lovely. The more we take the beauty and grace out of our society the uglier we become. I, for one, don't want to see this happen. Say his name. Elijah McClain. Remember him. Say his name. Someone must; I know he's indelibly etched upon my heart.

====================================================================


*CNN Report, June 29, 2020
**Ketamine was approved for use on humans in 1962. Prior to that it was used primarily as a horse tranquilizer. It is known as Vitamin K, Special K on the street and is known to cause seizures, dementia and can cause arrhythmia when used in people with heart conditions.

Monday, May 25, 2020

#AMWRITING #BLOGGING - WE ARE A NATION OF HOLLOW DREAMS


For the last three months I have been in a voluntary quarantine. As soon as I heard about the Coronavirus and the first cases were announced in Seattle, I went straight to my PCP and in our short-hand lingo, discussed triage, supplies and what it all would mean for me, as I'm high-risk. Having worked in a tertiary care facility for four years, I knew that I was way down on the list for any kind of care, other than palliative, and in five minutes, I knew that I would be staying indoors for the duration of whatever this was, until a suitable vaccine was cobbled up, by our health industry.

I just had no idea that beneath the layers of what seemed to be a functioning (albeit, a dysfunctional one) nation, lay fault lines that were well-nigh insurmountable and that, moreover, the Powers-That-Be would not be swayed by a mere Pandemic to let their Better Angels out to save the day. No, all this lay ahead, to be peeled back in an ugly and rapacious manner that becomes uglier and meaner each day.

In early March*, when it seemed that we would have most of our work force staying “at home”, with the exception of the essential workers, and it was being bandied about in the House and Senate regarding Incentive checks and PPP for small businesses, there was also discussion about rent and mortgage “forgiveness” that would allow people to stay in their homes or apartments if they were furloughed. It was called H.R. 6515 and introduced 4/17/2020. This was to take care of folks to make sure that the homeless population didn't worsen, and to keep PEOPLE IN PLACE, during the Pandemic.
*Not precisely sure of the time lines, or when this was first talked about. 

I hate changing tracks like this, but I must at this juncture; one of the reasons I haven't blogged as much as I used to, as everything has overwhelming, but this, this is too much. My fiancé came home the other day from work (he works for the DOD and IS essential) and had a small children's bicycle, and a kids' hot-wheels toy in the trunk. I asked him where they had come from.


We, of course, have no children. We're going to fix them up and give them away; it just breaks my heart to see them.

It turns out that there is an apartment complex about ½ mile from our house, and it is for lower-income people. Our dog, Ripley, always runs over there and plays with all the other dogs when he gets off of his chain, or out of the house; we're familiar with the people there. So, James told me that people are being evicted right and left there. There are toys, clothing; kids' clothing, furniture, all piled up out there. I'm just enraged. What happened to all this “forgiveness” of rent? Is it because we're living in a Red State, but this doesn't translate to a Black or Brown State? Did the money just disappear into some fat cat's pocket up there in Columbia, or Raleigh, or wherever?


The toys are well-used and also well-kept. The children obviously were proud of them.

Every one of those toys is some kids' ruined dream; a failure on the part of this country. We can't teach them, we can't house, feed, or clothe them. What is wrong with this society, and what do we have to fear by teaching everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, to the best of our ability, to be the best that they can be. NO child should have his or her dream, or ideal kicked to the curb by some money-grubbing fat bastard who doesn't need another goddamned dime from the American Public, or from anyone, period!


We have no way of knowing where the families may have gone, or if they're homeless. We're in a small town. So, they're probably in Greenville, or Spartanburg.

The Pandemic laid bare the fault lines that may have remained hidden for five years, or a decade. This country has become a weakened shell; a former chimera of itself. Our infrastructure has rotted to nothing. Bridges collapse daily, killing people in cars trying to cross them. Dams burst, flooding towns; two in Michigan burst last week. We have a golden opportunity to put together another CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) to re-build our infrastructure, yet, our government is so corrupt with nepotism and incompetence and revolving door-ism, if Trump doesn't like the cut of someone's jib that nothing gets done, except some more GOP judges, who are unfit to judge dog shows are packed onto benches, because right-wing matters. If Trump doesn't like the news, he either lies about it, or he lies about what he just said, claiming it was "sarcasm". Who does that?


My baby Glenn, wondering why Mama's crying.

I've said this before and I'll say it again; two of the finest Americans who were at total opposites of the spectrum as regards politics are no longer with us and I'm talking about my parents. My father used to joke about how he was to the right of the John Birch Society and my mother used to say she was a bomb-thrower (Anarchist, for those not in the know), yet, we had some of the best political discourse around our dinner table that I'll never forget, and I'm so goddamned glad they're not here to see this mess of a country. I have a passport and don't think that I'm not thinking about maybe packing it in and making it back to the Auld Sod, as an Ex-Pat, when all of this shit is over. I'm so done with whatever is going on here and I'm not even sure if the U. S. is able to see its way out of the mess that is COVID-19.

As long as people keep lying to themselves and going outside and doing all of the things that are counter-intuitive and playing politics, there is going to be THIS Pandemic. Coronavirus don't care if you're GOP, DEM or INDEPENDENT. It's not about politics. It's not about your stupid freedoms. You're not having a “Rosa Parks” moment, by defying any government's (Federal or State's) orders and herding up together with your friends. Your Civil Rights are not being trampled. Imagine this were WW II. Would you go outside in London during the Blitz, because the German bombs were taking away your rights to stand in the streets and get blown to bits? I thought not. Think on that, this Memorial Day, and remember those who died for us, so we could live.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

#A-TO-Z-CHALLENGE – LETTER “G” - GLENN WALLACE, THE CAT


Glenn Wallace, the cat is a pretty amazing cat, although it must be said, he's actually pretty ridiculous most of the time. He's scary-smart. My better half named him after my late father, who was himself a pretty amazing, and scary-smart man, and also had his ridiculous moments. Glenn came to us in a rather startling way; we live out in the country on a corner parcel. There's just a lonely water tower and not much else around. Part of the land is abutted by forest and that's where Ripley the yodeling dog's imaginary pals live.

I spend most of the day ensconced in a house that is very secure and because of the day and the age, I am very aware of what's going on around me. It's quiet and Ripley will bark if people show up, so we're pretty safe. However, someone managed to sneak a black-and-white tuxedo kitten into our front door, between the screen door and the front door and there he stayed for a full ten hours, while James was at work. Now, the kitten may have wandered in there and gotten caught, I don't know. All that I do know, is when James came home, he said “Mary, how did the cat get out?”, when he opened the door. He was holding a black-and-white tuxedo kitten. I had not been out all day; hadn't opened the door. Our two chuckleheads were inside, busily dismantling the bedroom.


This is what Glenn looked like his first night with us. James was calling him "Kitler" from an old website from the 00s, that featured kittens with Hitler mustaches, that I had remembered. I was like, "Erm, no."

I pointed behind me to the two hoodlums and said, “I haven't opened the door all day; haven't been out! Look, here are our two goons!” I thought to myself “That trickster. James; he's just looking for a way to sneak another kitten into this household. Ha ha!” And he was looking at me like, “Mary, she's such a card! Looking for a way to get another new kitten in this house!”


Glenn, as he looks now. Don't let the beauty fool you; he's thinking of either his next meal, or what kinda shenanigans he can get into next. His favorite thing is to run rampant under my kitchen cabinets. I've told him that's Chthulu's timeshare, but Glenn doesn't care, much as my father wouldn't have cared.

James came all the way into the house with the new kitten. We could see that he (we checked that out right away, and he was an un-neutered male) was distressed; hot, dehydrated, hungry and rather skinny. He was about the same size as our two kittens. This was in October, so he was about six months old. Our kittens were both inoculated and up-to-date on their vaccinations, so he couldn't make them sick. The first thing we did was call the shelter for the county we now live in. They had no room for a kitten and the earliest they could neuter the kitten was in December. I didn't like that they had no room, and this wasn't a “no kill” shelter, so we decided to keep him.

James bathed him. This wasn't like the epic baths that my father used to give our cat, Oliver, when Oliver rolled in motor oil. My dad would lock them both in the bathroom and the yowling, screeching, and tearing of shower curtains and crashing around would commence. They'd both exit the bathroom, licking their wounds and treated bath time as some type of blood sport. The pair had an on-going feud? game? for ages, which my mom and I both enjoyed.


Eddifer and Glenn draped over, sleeping on the corner of my bed. Glenn looks like Superman or something here. I gave up trying to make the bed, because they all run around under the sheets, like a bunch of worms. Honestly.

Anyway, after Glenn's bath, we introduced Allie and Eddie to Glenn. We still hadn't picked out a name for him. We didn't have a feel for his personality. He was fine with the other cats, but was really, really hungry, so we fed him.

And, continued to feed him. About this time, I noticed that my hamburger buns on top of the microwave had a gnawed corner, in the bag and one of the buns had had some tiny bites taken out of it. I thought we had mice and since none of the kittens had really had mothers to teach them to hunt, I assumed that a tiny intruder was in my kitchen.

That week, when we went to the grocery store and I brought home a fresh loaf of bread, Glenn – who'd earned his name by doing something asinine that amused James, who while laughing, said “I'm gonna name this kitten after your Dad!”, and I, of course, being in on the entire ridiculousness of the situation, said, “Please do!” – saw this fresh loaf of bread and took a tiny, kitten-sized chomp squarely out of the middle of it as I watched, and I realized who the “mouse” in the house really was. I took the old loaf's sleeve and the piece Glenn had tried to eat, gave Glenn the chomped piece of bread, put the old sleeve on the new bread, took the new sleeve with the chomp in it, tossed it in the garbage and put all of the bread either in the microwave or the fridge, for safe-keeping. I give him the heels and now, Eddifer's in on this game of playing with/eating pieces of stale bread, when I make sandwiches. I don't give them much; just a bit to play with, and then eat. They're supposed to be carnivores, after all.


I know this is blurry; a testament to my fine picture-taking and my essential tremor, but this is the saddest pair of eyes I've ever seen. Poor Glenn! He only had to wear the cone for about 48 hours, but it was an eternity in terms of the Drama that unfolded in his mind, I'm sure!

Glenn is also the longest cat I've ever seen; long legs, tail and whiskers. He's almost four feet long when he stretches out on the floor and he's not fully grown yet. Like he's part Cheetah, and he gallops around the house like a little horsey. I think he revels in the sound his feet make on the hardwood floor. All he needs are little horsey shoesies.

He's also the one who goes in for all the weird, odd, and animated toys that James brings home. Glenn will be right on those crazy things and play with them for hours. He knows his name and will heel to hand commands, too. I've only had to tell him once and it's embedded in his little cat brain. Of all the cats, he's most bonded with me, with Misty being a close second. They are the two smartest, but I worry about Eddifer. Sometimes he gets lost in the scrum of life and will go off by himself. I make sure Eddie gets plenty of love. Allie is James' cat and she loves him to death. I'm an okay substitute, but there's no doubting who she loves best.


See what I mean about Drama? Allie is asleep all calm and Glenn is like, "I'M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP, MR. DEMILLE!"

Ripley just kind of watches it all, bemused and the birds just add to the general life and noise around here. It's a happy house, with the animals, people and the music. We feel blessed. I hope everyone is having a great #atozchallenge!

I hope you stop by on April 19th, 2020 to meet Andy Toppin, Jr., and learn about his book “Rowan's Chronicle, Volume 1”. He's an awesome person, and a terrific writer!