Journal Entries September 1st to 13th, 2002

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Friday night, September 13, 10pm: Good day on the substation, thanks in part to volunteer Patrick's help. The new refrigerator is in place, as well as the bathroom sink and toilet. Still some plumbing to do. Lots of trim yet. Lots of details. Vaughn is taking from now until Thursday off work to help make sure everything gets done.

The buzz about the BBQ is building. We're going to see lots of truly interested people. We don't all agree on how to fix things, but I think we're committed to doing it. Maybe for the first time in many, many years. Coming together at this BBQ can be a little step forward, at least helping to open up communication between our neighborhoods. And perhaps a chance for this little block to show itself for what it could be, not what it's been.

The street has been pretty civilized so far today. Knock wood. The SPs are not so obvious, but they are coming and going, as are the BPD. I looked out the window this afternoon, about 4 and saw kids playing and adults coming and going to things like work and school, the look of life in their eyes. I remarked this to Pat and he said "you mean like a real neighborhood?" "Almost. We can hope." I replied. He lives with his family in the county.

I appreciate the recent entries in the guestbook and hope more will register their comments, too. There are many stories here to be shared. We're all part of what's happening here, whether through neglect or action.

Wednesday, September 11, 5:30pm: I'm pleased to report verteran anchorman WJZ TV's Don Scott will be hosting the event next Wednesday. Now we can be assured at least the speaker's program will be a success. It'll free us up to work on everything else.

Unfortunately, I did get an email from the assistant scheduling secretary for the mayor saying he regrets he will not be able to attend. I replied that naturally I was disappointed since he helped spur this project into action, but that I understand how busy he is and he's welcome to drop in if his schedule should change. I'll set aside a burger for him. We'll have a great time anyway. And Ms. Dixon will be here to do the official ribbon cutting.

After a slight mishap involving tile adhesive and my shorts, the floor is looking great. Expect to finish it tomorrow and have the wainscoting and other trim under way. There'll be some more pictures soon as the trim and fixtures go in, though hopefully most everyone will be seeing it for themselves about this time next

Wednesday, September 11, 7am: I woke very early this morning, about 4. One of those nights I couldn't get the wheels to stop turning. Just watched the light come up slowly through the cloudiness. A mild, peaceful morning. Let's pray it stays that way.

The events of this day a year ago brought home the fact we live in a small world community where we can't ignore our neighbors, the good or the bad, even if they're thousands of miles across oceans. It's a lesson we as a nation seem to forget every generation or so, always at the ultimate expense of many.

The same is true right here. When we try to isolate ourselves from our neighbors, ignoring their needs and wants, their problems grow and spill over. People are dying right here every day, in the shadows of affluence, because we don't care enough, thinking it doesn't affect us directly. We pretend we can't do anything. My father would say something like "ignore it long enough and it'll come back and kick you in the butt."

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of those concerned about the prostitution problem on northern Eutaw Place. (That's the street just a block east of us here.) Hard working, tax paying citizens. Many family people. Mostly homeowners, but a concerned tenant or two as well. Many ideas were suggested, soon to be distilled amongst the group for presentation to those in charge of the city. Many spoke of the need for neighbors to take direct action together and not wait for the city.

One thing repeated was to call 911 when you see prostitution. It was even suggested to call the neighbors and have them call 911 too. Apparently 311 isn't tracked and reported to Citistat so the police can see the areas and trends of crime. This morning I was thinking about this. It worries me we don't have a way to report and chart problems separate from emergencies. Imagine why? Where I live, we use 911 to report gunshots and muggings and screams and fires. And even then I've been put on hold. I usually dial 311 when I'm reporting flagrant dealing or people dumping. Fortunately those in Bolton Hill have fewer serious emergencies to report, but I'm sure they don't want to be put on hold when they desperately need an officer, an ambulance or a fireman.

I'd like to see a website setup where incidents of prostitution around here could be logged. Something like you'd call 311 and then go to the site to post the information. Those without access could call and leave the info on a machine, later to be transcribed to the log. It could then be printed, I think it'd be a big pile of paper fast, and dumped on the mayor and commissioner's desks. They could follow it online every day, too. This could be a way to track the specific problem and keep a record without burdening the emergency line. As suggested last night, "we have to do it ourselves."

Perhaps the same could be done for the dealing in our area. We'd have to transcribe more calls, because fewer of the good neighbors here have computers. Logs like this could be very persuasive evidence in arguing the case for specific, targeted responses.

Just as I do here, I rambled on a bit too much at the meeting about our efforts and how the prostitution there is tied to the dealing here. I passed out little invitations to the BBQ. I think many will join us, as have so many Bolton Hillers in support of the substation.

On the way home, I was joined by a neighbor from the Hill and three of our Midtown Community Benefits men in their red uniforms. They bravely walked me home. I was told the Midtown staff are not allowed to walk down my street anymore. I assured them I understood why. The Bolton Hiller who joined us said that in 30+ years he'd never walked over to our street. I understand that, too.

When we turned the corner I was relieved to see the street clear of dealers. It looked downright serene. It was obvious why: Three of the Special Police came up from different directions. Together we all came around back where they got the tour of the station. I'm hoping to see all of them at the BBQ, too. The Midtown guys and the Special Police security team are part of the solution.

While we stood in the alley talking, the SPs watched through our yard to Madison as an infamous prostitute who lives on our block conducted some business or other at a car they knew well. It was a rather amusing end to the evening.

I'm sorry these comments are getting so long. I suppose it's because things seem to be happening here. Good things. Sometimes I've gone on and on about the bad things too much. If you've seen one crack vial, you've seen them all. If you've seen one prostitute, you've seen them all. Seeing progress is a lot more fun.

I'm going to get into my grubbies and work on the station now.

Tuesday, September 10, 10am: About midnight I was watching out the window as two squad cars questioned the owner of an SUV often seen on this block. It's often busy with people walking to and from and loitering around it, even parked. Apparently they thought it was suspicious. I didn't see them take anyone away and the car was there later so I assume it was not what it looked to be.

This reminds me yet again that innocent people here on this street and elsewhere must get very tired of being "hassled" by the police because they look like they're dealing and are in the middle of an open air market. They get very frustrated, I'm sure, at being seen as the bad guys just because they're in a bad place. On the other hand, I know the local beat cops here are frustrated at how often they know they've stopped the right person or car, but their timing was bad. The evidence is no where to be found.

I know this is nothing new, but watching it happen over and over again in person makes it real, the frustration palpable.

Last night there was no obvious "camping out" from either the BPD or the HUD police. There was a lot more traffic naturally.

I'm planning on attending "The Prostitute Meeting" at Strawbridge Church in Bolton Hill tonight at 7. I doubt there'll be many prostitutes unless they send a spy. <g> Bolton Hillers and especially those on Eutaw are really tired of living in a red light district. I'm really tired of living in the blue light district. Reminds me of Kmart. Crack samples free under [what will be] the flashing blue light.

From my point of view, the dealing here is the partner in crime to the prostitution and the burglary plague over there. We're right next door. As I've said, I see the prostitutes march over here to get a fix right along with guys hawking freshly swiped tools and lawn chairs.

And now the station news ...

I'm hoping to interest a prominent local newscaster in MCing our BBQ next week. We realize there may be many more people than expected. Frankly, I can't do it. No problem writing, but I can't speak. We think a professional is called for. Ms. Dixon will definitely be attending, as will a rep from the BPD. We don't know about the mayor yet, but are still hopeful his schedule will allow. The moonbounce is reserved. The street closure is confirmed. Sergeant Hess assures me we'll have plenty of officers to help with the street and the station.

He also repeated that he expects many of our officers to use the station and even mentioned the possibility of using it for community relations meetings and sector meetings perhaps to discuss immediate local issues. We need a bigger table.

I'm going to be putting down tile this afternoon, rather than Sunday thanks to my screw up in getting the rented roller. Once the trim is in, the fixtures will go in fast. They're all lined up and ready to go. I'll be good to get them out of the dining room and where they belong.

I'm very stressed about how close we're cutting this, but still sure we'll be open before the grand opening, even if it's only minutes before. I may be the one with a pipe wrench under the sink at the BBQ. Vaughn has more experience arranging events like this so he's not concerned about it. I worry people won't turn out. Everyone assures me I should worry more about having too many.

Sunday, September 8, 2pm: I don't always get fan letters of this site. Sometimes it's valid criticism, sometimes all out personal attacks. I can defend myself against words so such things don't really worry me, but they do give me things to think about.

This morning I got an email from a woman who is frustrated with the larger issues that fuel the dealing and problems on the street. She laments the policies that allow the supply of drugs, the poor schools, lack of health care, etc. She made many good points, but unless she gives me permission, I don't feel I have liberty to publish it here.

One thing I do want to address is her comment I made fun of and looked down on those forced to "sling" drugs and others here. That has never been my intention.

To anyone who feels I made fun of them, I'm sorry. Actually, I don't see much that's funny around here at all. I have sharply criticized some individuals whose actions I have witnessed. Recently, a reader corrected my generalization about two men hanging out in the street. I apologized here. When one is hanging out with dealers, I tend to assume they're part of the problem. I have to remember people often don't have a choice. They live and work in their midst. Some consider "slinging" to be an acceptable career. I do not, but I come from a very different mindset and time.

I was just saying the other day that whenever I hear "greens, yellows, pinks, reds, whites," yelled out like they were hawking fruit at the open air market, I cringe. It affects me deeply and emotionally. It's difficult for me to control the emotions it conjures sometimes. To me, they're peddling death and ruined lives. And doing it next door to an elementary school. It makes no sense. The logic of the situation we've all created defies me.

Work proceeds on the substation. One thing I do find funny around here is that one wall of the station has decided to shed it's new paint in many places, along with thin layers of plaster. This vexation will not delay the opening. It isn't going to be perfect. Never expected it to be. I don't think the officers will mind if I'm in there fixing things occasionally. Going back to that now after a meeting with Vaughn about hamburgers and hot dogs and ketchup and pickles.

Saturday, September 7, 3pm: Vaughn's down in the station doing some more paint. I'm being lazy. Have been all day. Perhaps I'll get to it later. I'm often a night owl. I just want the paint done. It and prep, including the mudding itself, have to be my least favorite. Just behind hanging doors. I hate that, probably because I'm really bad at it. I want to put in the finish trim and the new stuff: sink, fridge, micro, toilet. In a few days I'll get to do that, I'm sure.

1704 continues to be a dealer hotspot. Right in front of us last night, one guy drove up and gave a lineup of his sellers their evening's sales quota. Literally right in front, as Vaughn was in the yard near the fence with the dogs. About midnight. No officers of any kind around. If there had been, they would have done it inside. How does the owner of that building go to sleep at night?

This is the same man who owes the city nearly $11,000 on a building from which he collects almost $2000 a month in rent* Seems to me he could afford to pay the bill. I hear he works for the city. Someone should ask about that. I don't want to meddle. I just want him to pay his taxes, like I work to do, and give a damn about the people he rents to and what they do, like sell drugs to kids and hide their pit bulls in a garbage filled, rat infested garage. He's been lucky about some of his tenants, like the ones in the back I think. I wish he could be forced to live in that building with his wife and kids.

*I haven't checked today if the website still shows it unpaid. What do you guess? Click here for the details.

Friday, September 6, 5pm: Here's a shot of the paint.

The white part is a wainscot panel that will go in after the tile is down this weekend. It'll cover most of the missing plaster areas at the base of the walls. There's even chair rail trim. It is amazing what fresh paint will do. Hides a world of cracks. 100+ year old horsehair plaster sucks up a lot of paint, btw, about twice as much as the new wallboard.

While I began writing this I was listening to guys yelling their colors. Three of them are currently peddled here. Loud, strident, incessant. A couple of them were arguing out in front. I thought it was going to be a long night. Then nothing. Except for the kids playing in the school playground. Sure enough, the green Blazer had appeared. The dealers just don't like the HUD officers here. Shame it takes a constant presence to drive them away. Especially when it's right next to a school.

Friday, September 6, noon: I got a smile this morning. It was for the tenacity of entrepreneurism among so many of our young people. It was about nine and I was working at my desk as usual in the am. I heard "yellows out" and looked across the street to see a gaggle of the boys in the uniform loitering about, waiting for their customers, most of whom weren't up yet. A lot earlier than usual. They have to work different hours more now thanks to the persistent presence of the HUD officers during what was their usual peak hours. That and the increased attention we're seeing from the BPD.

More paint today on the station. It's getting there. I promise pictures tonight finally.

Oh. We got permission to close Madison Avenue's 1700 block for the BBQ. If we can get it, we may put the moonbounce right out in the middle of the street.

Thursday, September 5, 6am: Had a nice chat with Officer Richards yesterday afternoon as he was on his post across the street between 1715 and Nimrod Center. We spoke of many things like how this area's been over his eleven years on the job and his team's recently stepped up presence. I assured him they're doing wonders. I'm sure the neighbors who back up to the building from Eutaw have noticed an improvement, too.

I'd be interested to know if the prostitute problem up Eutaw has gotten any better now that there's slightly less dealing so close to their stomping grounds. Has anyone from up that way noticed a change? I've often said I feel the two are strongly connected here.

As I left him on my way to the market across the street he said he was going down the block to get a soda, too. I reminded him that soon he'll be able to just go across the street and get a soda or coffee.

Things are progressing well with the station. Should have pictures of new paint and be laying tile by the weekend. Taken a bit longer than expected, but it's good to be so close. Been a long time coming. I'll be happy when the station is open and the BBQ done. I sure hope the weather is as nice that day as it's been lately.

Wednesday, September 4, 2:30am: Cino had alerted there was a problem while I was watching TV just a bit ago. I looked out the window. A young man, not young from street terms, but young from life, perhaps 30, was sitting on the stoop in front of the house. Cino had barked and barked until I had addressed it. The man sat there. And sat. And then I noticed. He was picking at himself. Like me with my poison ivy rash. Nevously looking from left to right. Trembling. Scared. In need. So quiet yet devastating was his fear.

As he sat, a woman quietly plodded along down from Linden, with her walker. She went along, all the way to the corner. Where to go, I have no idea. I called 311 about her. I was afraid she was one of those women who had no idea where she was. The dispatcher sweetly understood my concern and dispatched an officer. I didn't see him. I hoped he or she helped.

The guy was looking for his dealers, I have no doubt. Is that a good sign? Not for him. The street is very quiet. He walked along eventually. On Wilson I'm sure he found what he needed.

Tuesday, September 3, 7pm: 15 days to grand opening. Barring any unforeseen calamities, like nails, poison ivy, boating accidents, we should easily be done before the grand opening, but unofficially open next week.

Today the mudding and prep for the wall paint is completely done. As done as I'm going to get it. That's a real skill, one that takes practice to do well. I think it's been one of those things I've over fretted, but I've decided it's done well enough now. I doubt the officers are going to critique my drywall and plaster skills. Tomorrow will be paint. Also put in a new flood lamp for the entry and parking areas. Should be good and bright.

1704 continues to be a gathering place for dealers, but also a place for the residents to escape the heat of their apartments. More business is happening back on Wilson now. The recognizable cars are trying to stay more out of site of the often present HUD police. They surface again on the street in front the moment those officers leave. I think the police car traffic through the Tiffany Alley will interrupt business and make pretty much the whole block inhospitable to them. We can hope.

Looking to form a community association of people who make their homes on this block. We're not part of any of the neighboring associations. To accomplish the things needed here, we need the auspices of an association, according to the Community Law Center. I doubt there'll be many members, but perhaps people will feel more at liberty to join and help after the station is open. Perhaps we can meet new members at the BBQ. I'm not suggesting a homeowners association. Vaughn and I are the only owner occupied home on this hundred block, as far as I know. Rather, a group of concerned residents.

I'm a little concerned about the cost of the
Moonbounce for the BBQ. Would still appreciate it a lot if any group would like to sponsor that. Also, now's the time for any ideas of things we could do, within the financial constraints. Got any ideas? Please send 'em along.

Labor Day, September 2, noon: 16 days to opening. You wouldn't know it looking in there now, but we'll definitely be done soon. I'm expecting it to be ready by the 12th. Possibly before. Haven't had as much help lately, but then some of the jobs are more one person type now. My rash is nearly healed. No more excuses.

Going back to work on it now. Spackle and paint. Not my favorite jobs. Tile may be going in today, more likely tomorrow.

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