Kerry and Failing
28 May 2004 23:39 GMT
Street that is...
An article about violence, politics, neighborhood and myself.
Sometimes the first most obvious layer of meaning is glossed over, only to burst out screaming irony at the best opportunity. I live in what some would describe as the worst part of town—North Portland. I've denied this, even going so far as to say the opposite is true.
My friend, who's half-black was warned by his mother not to come over because he kept complaining to her that the police profiled him every time. Then police killed a black man as he reached to take off his seat belt during a routine traffic stop. This worried my friend and much more so his mother, but still he brought over his computer. It was having issues and was in danger of giving him an aneurysm.
I helped him with it, and networked our computers together to test it with one of the best games of all time—Half-Life. More specifically we played a module/modification of the game called Day of Defeat which is a World War II simulation. This is a first person shooter game, which means you are as close to the violence as computers can take you. We killed each other and other real people through our computers again and again in this very gory very fast paced medium.
But at the height of our play, just as the sun set, something like firecrackers sounded. It was a drive by shooting, a half block away at my corner—the corner of N Haight Ave and Failing St across from Unthank Park. We paused in disbelief, crossed ourselves and kept playing.
Four days later I followed my neighbor down to Unthank Park to shoot some hoops. We discovered John Kerry, the Presidential candidate, happened to be speaking at the community center there.
He came out and we walked over as he walked over. He shook my hand and griped my shoulder like he really cared. Failing Street was a step away and I wanted to warn him, but he stepped on for a photo opportunity before I could.
I wondered what he'd say about the drive by, but then I remembered that he's a war hero—or was that a war technically? He seemed like such a normal guy. My neighbor kept commenting on his olive tan, while I tried to beat into my head that this was somebody important, special, a real hero, but I was failing.
Maybe that isn't a bad thing—Kerry failing, but hate—I do hate Bush. It's a cross roads. As a normal man I could vote for John—it is a normal name.
I was thinking Nader, but John cared enough to come to my corner, my home—not that Nader wouldn't, he just happened not to. Yes, I will vote for John and hope he doesn't fail us so we don't have to hate him too.
My thoughts go back to the look in his eyes as he looked at me as if he was imagining himself as me, or himself at what he thought my age to be. I'm sure he thought I was between eighteen and twenty six. I'm twenty seven so when my neighbor, who's twenty, commented on the potential for another draft I jokingly said it didn't matter to me. But it does, my brother's only sixteen.
So somehow all these things have tied together in my mind using names as string and knots of irony. World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq swirling together. The place and street names about my home conflicting with the name John Kerry. Profiling, police shootings, and drive bys waring with my idealistic perception of my neighborhood.
Without a steady job I feel like I'm living half a life and play Half-Life as I ponder this. Oregon, led by Portland, still seems to be the forerunner of the bad economy. Is this part of why Kerry cared enough to come here? He was accessible to me because I live in the worst part of the worst economy of the largest economy of the world—not that I'm unthankful. All this seems to be focused with planetary alignment-like weirdness on my street corner.
So with this article I hope I've fulfilled my duty to share the oddness, the irony, and maybe even a hidden lesson.