Journal Entries for October, 2004

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Sunday, October 31st, 2pm: Vaughn says Quentin doesn't look so good. "He seems lonely, never says hi anymore ... Maybe we should take up a collection for him." I wasn't aware the guy said hi to Vaughn. He usually just scowls at me. I like to imagine he's pondering his future as a McDonald's manager when crack dealing no longer pays. HIs confederates usually flip me the finger or aim their hand gesture guns and fire. There's no love lost between us.

I was watching him do his usual tour of the Pedestal "Garden." Meandering about amongst the church goers of AME Payne Memorial as usual. Looking for the next hungry crack customer. He's anxiously anticipating the government checks coming out in the next few days. This is the time for free samples and crack tabs (buying your crack on credit).

Some of our dealers have given up. A certain pair of brothers seem no where to be seen. Or maybe they've moved on to less troublesome turf, where no one calls the cops every time he sees a deal. Some are simply less blatant. They come and go from their stashes at PG and do the actual sales while walking down Wilson, rather than standing around like the dealers I was watching yesterday.

Saw the Central District Major drive through the other night. Always good to see him on the job. Like our Commissioner, he's very hands on. Unfortunately, his dark unmarked police car and his pretty white shirt uniform make him anything but unmarked. Like his troops, one can't see dealing when the players have all run before you arrive. "Woo hooo! Woo hooo!" is the usual warning from the boys on their bikes. Used to be "five O, five O." I suppose that old TV series has been forgotten by the kids slinging now.

The good Major is inviting those interested to ride along with an officer on November 20th. 2:30pm to 10pm. Transportation provided to and from the Savalot/Rite Aide parking lot at the corner of McMechan and Eutaw. Vaughn really enjoyed his ridealong a few months back. Learned a lot. He still regrets he, the officers and other ridealongers couldn't find the tossed gun they looked for that night. Maybe you'll be luckier. Call 410.727.5480 before November 17 to sign up. If you've never ridden along with an officer, you should. It's a real eye opener.

Friday, October 29th, 2pm: As usual again now, a couple dealers are on our corner, meandering around, wandering into 1715-1717 Madison to get more product. I've watched two girls from the Pedestal Gardens building walk up to them to "score." A few more walking over across the school yard. It's getting close to school closing time, when the dealing goes into full swing.

And as usual: No Pedestal Gardens security personnel to be seen.

I watched the other day as PG Officer Brown walked from their parking lot to Madison. As he did, three dealers walked down toward Laurens and two walked across Wilson to the school yard. That was good. That was doing his job: deterrence. When he disappeared again, they came right back. Later, we saw Mr. Brown and the other security officer tooling around in the latter's car.

Makes no sense: Those officers always hanging out together, attached as if at the hip. Complete waste of the extra taxpayer money being spent. With the exception of one or two of these guys, it seems their job is to avoid actually doing their job. Some even think that a dealer on the corner is not their concern. They don't hang around long enough to watch them come and go from the building they're supposed to be securing. Reminds me of the time a couple weeks ago when I called 911 to report a screaming match at the front door of 1717. No security people anywhere to be seen. I called an off duty guy to ask why. He called their offices in the basement of 1715. All three came out. Football game on, you know.

Was going to check on the substation the other day, but as I walked up to the door I recognized the voice of one of the SPS guys. Didn't really want to disturb them. As I turned to walk away I overheard "... Copinger [owner of SPS Security] knew. We can't be rattin each other! ..." That pretty well sums up the state of Pedestal Gardens security staff and management. Staff too often does as little as it can get away with and SPS management provides as little as the incompetent property management let's it get away with.

I used to have a good relationship with most of these guys. They're affable enough. But without any accountability, I suppose what's happened is just human nature. What motivation can one expect for 8 to 11 bucks an hour, especially with a boss like theirs? Of course, he gets well over $20 per man hour from what I recall of his contract. Generously paid for with your tax dollars. The better part of $200,000 per year paid for "security" at Pedestal Gardens.

It's clear management of Pedestal Gardens has become complacent and just plain doesn't really care. Like the security company, it does as little as HUD let's it get away with. Pity, I really thought there was a good faith effort on their part to control their property.
Was I wrong! Things were getting better until HUD seemed to lose interest. Now that they know my patience is exhausted, I'm no longer their friend. Pedestal Gardens is a cancer in this neighborhood. A magnet for drugs. Just as Clarence Weston's crack house was. I gave Clarence more than a year's benefit of the doubt before realizing he was never going to be a good neighbor either.  I don't see how things can get better here the way PG's managed, or I should say not managed. Maybe, as the Eutaw Place crazies have said all along: It's time for Pedestal Gardens to go, just as with the public housing project on North Avenue and Eutaw that's gone. Replaced by Spicer's Run townhome community.

Woke up Monday morning to see this ...

Wire generator

This shot from the window above the substation door. For some reason, Wire staff decided to run a long extension cord down the alley to put this big diesel generator smack dab in front of the substation and under the windows of the kids who live in that building. Now, was it paranoia or just good sense that told me this was intentional? I think it had a lot to do with my screaming at them to get their equipment off the substation parking pad the week before. The arrogance just amazes me. Anyway, within a half hour of sending an email to Hannah Byron, director of the city film commission, I got a call from Wire staff apologizing and it was removed two minutes later.

Hannah reassured me that shooting for the season is over this week. One less hassle for a while.

Going to be changing the lock on the substation in the next couple weeks. Too many keys out there with PG security staff and officers who no longer work here. It'll be a slow process, involving a doorbell so I can give the officers currently using it the new key. This new one will lock when it's shut, too. Making it faster for them to leave 'cause they won't have to lock the deadbolt.

Also, going to restrict it to city officers only from now on. With a full apartment at their disposal, including kitchen and TV, PG security doesn't need this one. Not that some of them will care to again, having read what I think. This will also prevent certain policeman wannabes from pestering the "real" officers, pretending to be colleagues. I recall a few city officers telling me they prefer to avoid the substation when these guys are in there because they like to take a quiet break. I have noticed a city officer or two using the SPS break room too, usually at night. They just knock on the glass window.
That's fine with me. Unfortunately, more often than not, there's a PG guy in there. I was telling Vaughn the other day that if only a couple city officers request the new keys, I'll close down the substation and use it myself. I have noticed a drop off in officers using it lately. Sometimes I think it might be my politics or comments here. I don't know or care about that, but this has happened before. Shift rotations, vacations, more calls, etc. I'm counting visits now with a door counter. We'll see. Maybe in two years it's outlived its usefulness.

Am just now watching PG Officer Brown at the corner, supervising school let out. I haven't seen that in a while. Perhaps partly because I haven't noticed. That's great to see. One of the dealers who had been working exactly where Brown is standing is now below my window, frustrated, waiting for him to leave so his business can resume. Round the clock, 24/7 security with guys who actually keep their eyes open or it's a drug carnival. Amazing that's what it takes to control one small apartment building, but it's true.

Friday, October 22nd, 1pm: Listening to two lieutenants have quite the argument in front of their huge Cadillac Escalade. Dealer lieutenants mind you. Seems to be about who is who and where their boys should be. They're near the corner, across from the elementary school where the kids are playing at recess. Seems a bit like watching wolves discussing how to get their prey.

School closing bell is traditionally drug market opening bell here. Unfortunately, we seem to be back to our old ways way too often around here. I don't know how the dealers know when there won't be Flex Teams (task specific police teams, often in unmarked cars) or Pedestal Gardens security, but they sure do. Of course, the latter is obvious. There are only a couple of effective PG officers so when they're not on, Pedestal Gardens belongs to the dealers, just like it was a couple years ago, though I admit, they're not usually as obvious as they were then. They've evolved. Wonderfully adaptive entrepreneurs.

Speaking of adaptability: I'm learning to live with them. Strange to say, but true. I don't freak at seeing a hand to hand sale anymore. Don't dial 911 each time. What's the point, I think? I do call and leave a message for the Central District Major, reporting what's going on. Sometimes it's apparent he's heard me. Sometimes not. I'd like not to think I'm getting complacent, but maybe I am. I know the drug war was lost long ago, but like Vietnam, we don't know when to give up. It's not usually in my nature, either. Sometimes I feel like the captain of this decrepit old vessel called 1708 Madison,  resolved to go down with the ship.

Pedestal Gardens mini drug ghetto did at least get its lights fixed. Saw them burning brightly last night.

flood lamps back on

The dealer boys don't like those lights. They know somebody is watching, calling in to report them as they go back and forth to "reup" from their stashes in that building. And it's not always me who calls them in now, I'm happy to say. Thank you, PG management, for fixing those lights. They are helpful.

I don't often look at the stats for this site, but did just now. Wondering if anyone is reading. I was shocked.

stats

There's a big spike in readership. I don't know why. Actually, I think this site is rather boring now. Perhaps that's a symptom of my complacency. Sure, there are lots of government visitors. I like to think HUD (
the Pedestal Gardens cash cow) people are reading. And hopefully communicating with PG the concerns expressed here. But there are a lot of other visitors, too.

I often think of closing the site down. Thinking that it accomplishes nothing so why bother? And then I see this and figure I should keep going. What would my readership do without their dose of real life in a drug market? Something like an aquarium of urban drug culture. Reports from the front. I suppose they'd watch The Wire more. <g>

Found a carton of cheese crackers and other supplies in the substation. Another contribution. This time with a note...

cracker note

Never fails to touch me when I see people who want to help. Really hard to think of closing the substation or the website down when so many seem to appreciate it. Thank you, Ryan.

Just came up from restocking sugar, sweet 'n lows and coffee down there. A few fast food lunch bags in the trash. Some cups and bottled waters gone since this morning's check up. It is impossible to think of closing the substation when I know it is a little haven, a small convenience to those on the front lines who keep us safe.

Wednesday, October 20th, 9am: The cover of the Baltimore Sun today has interesting articles on the controversy about local broadcasting giant, Sinclair and Jon Leiberman, who until yesterday was their Washington bureau chief.

I was quite impressed by Mr. Leiberman's comments and the integrity behind them when he criticized his employer for what seems the broadcasting company's most blatant attempt so far to force its political views on the naive. I recall being surprised and disappointed by his reporting from Washington, especially his broadcasting from Iraq. I had expected more honesty and less bias from him, but I understand better now. Fox 45 and WB 54's national and state news have always been slanted to say the least, and of course a reporter doesn't have control over what ends up on the cutting room floor.

Jon Leiberman and camera man
Jon Leiberman and camera man in front of the 1704 Madison Avenue Crackhouse.

I was also quite impressed when Mr. Leiberman did an excellent report
on Clarence Weston, while the local "Crime & Punishment" reporter for those stations .  He covered all the details: the rampant crack and heroin sales, the housing and health code violations, the $20,000 in unpaid city taxes and the fact Clarence is/was a city employee. If you don't already know that story, check out the Players section of this website. It helped bring attention to that house's malignancy, especially at city hall. Attention I know was essential in its eventual closing. We are grateful to him and wish him luck, though by the public reaction, I'd say his future is even brighter now.

Little dealing on the street yesterday. Little doubt why. I watched as a Flex Team of city officers jumped out of their unmarked car at the corner of Madison and Wilson, across from the school, and stopped a handful of people. The officers were in plain clothes, though all of them being white in this near segregated block is a tell. Unfortunately, they didn't get the drug gang that works here this time. They got some customers. All of them were patted down and released. Afterward, I saw two of the officers studying the sidewalk and street, no doubt for the vials or little plastic baggies I've noticed again tossed into our yard. Obviously the real players knew they were here and were discouraged. That's good police work in itself. Shame some security officers don't understand the word deterrence.

No Pedestal Gardens security to be seen of course. Until later, when one sauntered out of their basement hideaway in 1715, smiling and oblivious.
See no evil, hear no evil. Except in the case of one or two of that staff. A good reflection of the attitude of PG management since Spring. Complacency in action. Naturally, the floodlights there remain out, as I reported Monday. Was watching this morning as an obviously tuned out and turned off maintenance man ran a blower about the grounds there. Would have been good to see if he wasn't more blowing leaves and trash around and into the street than cleaning up. And apparently he's unaware the vacant lot next door is their responsibility too. To clean up would have taken concern ... as does changing light bulbs.

The mystery of the Substation Santa has been solved. Our anonymous benefactor turned out to be a long time substation supporter. Susan doesn't have a key yet, so when she found no one home or in the substation, she went to the median at Eutaw Place where an officer was on traffic detail. The officer took a moment to let her in and lock up. She met a good officer, too. One I've seen do good work here, keeping his eyes open. Thank you again, Susan.

Monday, October 18th, 7:30pm: This is the scene right now at 1715-1717 Madison Avenue, the Pedestal Gardens building, yet again.

floodlamps out

If you'd like to see the building when it's not blacked out, click here.

What you don't see is the slow, steady sauntering of dealers into and out of both ends of the building, commuting to the corner where they're back to hanging out for long whiles. I've asked twice for the security officer I know to write it in his report, but I suppose it's too much to ask that PG managment read those reports and act. And apparently too much to expect the security officers on duty right now to be here, doing that duty. So very different when certain officers are on. Again, no supervision. No one responsible. And the neighborhood suffers.

I don't know where HUD is. They used to be more responsive. That seems to have changed. It will have to change back.

Found this cute little letter in the mail slot Thursday morning.

HBO letter
(be sure to click in the lower orange window in IE or click on the letter in Netscape to blow it up)

You can imagine how thrilled I was. Such a courteous notice the very morning they're taking over the block again. I looked out the front door and saw not a single no parking sign and a tow truck. I freaked. Called the location office. Called the film Commission. While calling another tow truck came by and now two cars were gone. I figured they'd just overlooked there were no signs and were making a buck, just like HBO. They did call me back. The Wire was not taking over the Avenue that day, only Wilson and the church parking lot again. Strange coincidence. And yes, with them I fear the worst.

Of course they promised not to throw debris all over the alley and they did anyway. They promised not to interfere with officer's access to the substation and they did anyway. At one point during filming that night they even put some equipment on the substation parking pad. I ran out and told the first passing staffer to remove that imediately or I would and it would not land on the concrete in very good condition. He looked startled. Understandably. I was enraged. The assistant locations manager came up to try to smooth things over. I ordered him and his staff off my property that moment.

I love the reference in the letter to the importance of their TV production to the economy of Baltimore. I wonder if what they bring to Baltimore is even a tenth the damage of the bad reputation they help reinforce. God knows they don't do residents here any favors. Just get in their way and make it impossible to sleep.

We hit 1101 dead soldiers in Iraq this morning. Quite a milestone. I still don't see why when we continue losing a war right here at home. Even advertising our defeat on TV.

Pleasant surprise yesterday: Went in to check on the substation and found a case of paper towels, hot chocolate and Oreo cookies waiting. No note. Don't know who left them. Will this anonymous benefactor let me know who you are? We sure appreciate the help. With the cold, the hot chocolates will be going fast again. And we always use paper towels. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, October 13th, noon: It was a rather quiet market last night from what I saw and heard. Whether from the fact checks are all spent, the weather, new efforts by city police or better work by Pedestal Gardens security I don't know. Just happy for it. Slept well.

Though I shouldn't read it because it can be aggravating, I read the Bolton Hill bulletin board the other day and saw a posting from one Spicer's Run BHer complaining about the speeding trucks and other cars down Eutaw, one block to our east. I loved the comment "While I know our neighbor to the west might think this a petty rant..." I'm not everyone's favorite in Bolton Hill or here, I know. Don't care to be. No one likes to be told their priorities are screwy. I would say when you live directly on a major thoroughfare, you're going to have traffic noise, but in this case I agree about the speeding down Eutaw.

Sometimes it's speeding dealers getting away or going to do business. Sometimes it's city buses. Most of the time it's just the typical Baltimoron driver who thinks his going wherever he's going is far more important than kids and sleepless residents. It's a tough street to cross too. I would suggest readers concerned about this call Central District Major Skinner to suggest he continue and increase the shifts where a patrol car is stationed in the median of Wilson near the big intersection of McMechan and Eutaw where it can watch out for speeders, prostitutes and see the school kids as they get out. Plus discourage the dealers from lining up along Wilson. A very efficient positioning of a cop if ever I saw one. Major Skinner's email is John.Skinner@BaltimorePolice.org.

Was a bit concerned the other day when I saw several people loitering along Madison Avenue in front of this house and the former crack house. All the way to the corner. Smoking cigarettes and talking, mostly quietly, but I was thinking furtive. My concern went to smile when I realized they were all heading into the NIMROD Community Center building across the street for what I think was a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Sometimes it's better to be wrong. So good to see people here doing something positive and good to see another community purpose for that underutilized building.

Friday, October 8th, 6pm: It's a rather sad state of affairs when a group of young guys can't hang out on a stoop, shooting the breeze, without someone calling them in to 911. Would have been happy to let them yak, loud and boisterous, like young men do, until I saw one walk into the street to attend to business. I don't sit here watching. I look out occasionally. Pretty good odds that what I do see is what is going on constantly.

Same problem Pedestal Gardens management has. I'm not their guardian. Not my job to watch the apartment house 24/7. I just see what I see. Interesting that IRM, the property management company, loves me when I say good things and says I am a liar when I report bad things. Just like some questionable security guards.  I hope HUD realizes I have no agenda other than the truth here.  I just want it a safe neighborhood. I don't care who lives here so long as they are neighbors and not perpetrators.

I wish I could say better about the "neighbors" across the alley. The Druid Heights Development Corporation feeds the rats every trash day .. just by being irresponsible. I have asked them about it several times. Don't put your 100 bags of flimsy kitchen bag trash out about 9pm on so the rats can feast on it all night long. I'm tired of the debris the next morning too. It blows into the police substation parking lot. It's neither right nor legal that such a supposedly neighborhood positive organization would be such an irresponsible neighbor. I'm sorry to say a formal, legal complaint is soon to happen. I wonder where that will go against an organization that buys three worthless houses, two blocks down, from the same real estate company for $75k apiece. They remain somewhat boarded though have been used in the crack network here. Sure seems like yet another Balimore nonprofit guise to be anything other than nonprofit. I wonder now what that organization is really about.

Listening to the boys on the steps next door at 1710 and 1712. They were discussing business. Quotas, return, etc. Just like every businessman, if a bit louder. Now that I've called 911 twice and the Major as well, two of them have left. Easy to monitor police bands. The party seems to have mysteriously broken up, though. Wonder why?

Wednesday, October 6th, 1pm (updated at 5pm): Was awakened this morning by a loud argument in front of the house then heard a loud pop, but was glad to hear the yelling continue. Don't know what the pop was. Thought I might need to call 911. Two identically dressed young black men, both in black t-shirts and huge jeans. Both wearing white t-shirts underneath. The one was yelling at the other hard, obviously the boss. The single most interesting thing he yelled very loudly into the other's face was ...

"Check the -ucking safe! Check the safe, man!"

Where do you suppose he went? That's right. 1715-1717 Madison Avenue.

Now, I'm sure this was just a legitimate safe in a taxpayer paid for apartment where the family jewels and cash are kept. Yes, that's it, the little pretty shiny ones with multi colored tops. And the roll of small bills totaling more than I've ever made in a month.

It's absolutely quiet out there as I write this, but that will end soon. The dealers consider the school closing bell their opening bell. I will watch them move amongst the kids and parents and start to hang out on the corner to begin their slow circuit between PG and down Wilson to Druid Hill Avenue. Government checks are out and getting cashed. Always good for business.

Since Clarence Weston's crack house was closed, the dealers have been trying harder to get into other apartments here. It's been obvious for many months that again we have a thriving base of operations for dealers running out of the Pedestal Gardens building. I can't thank PG management enough for ignoring it, doing nothing. Good work Don, Richard, Joyce. I'm sure they'll say "we spend a fortune on security!" Problem is they don't care what they're getting for the taxpayer money they're spending.

A day or two ago there was yet another argument going on at the entry way to 1717 Madison. Quite loud. I could hear it through a closed window half way down the block and across the street. It looked like it might well escalate to violence as they frequently do. No "security" to be seen at all. Called the city police. Then called Officer Vogt to talk about his new pup and mentioned it. He called their office in the basement of the building. All three "officers" on duty came out shortly afterward together. Important three officers do the work of one. I guess they couldn't hear the argument over the football game they were enjoying. Pretty shameful. No supervision.

PG management doesn't care. The security company owner has nothing but contempt for us and even his own staff. And too many of the PG security don't do their job now.

And why should they? They're getting away with it ... for now. But things change. Just ask Clarence Weston. Or look at the tightly boarded 1704 Madison Avenue.

You must read the article in the City Paper this week if you care about criminal landlords. People who get away with it.

5pm: Just looked outside to see only kids playing. No dealers walking in and out of 1715-1717. And then I see why: Pedestal Gardens Officer Brown in the parking lot of their building doing a patrol. I hope he stays there for a bit. Such a shame a security officer has to constantly babysit that building, but that's sure the case. I've also seen Dirt Bike Cop do a loop and would guess we have a cruiser on Eutaw, just around the corner doing traffic/prostitution. Ah, and now a cruiser is stopping by the station. Keeping the peace is a team effort.

Monday, October 4th, 1pm: Was going down to clean the substation an hour or so ago when I heard a few officers and smelled the Chinese take out. Decided to leave them their privacy. After about 15 minutes they were gone. When I went in the yard later, Dirt Bike Cop was just leaving, bottle of water propped in it's place among his equipment. The substation smelled like a Chinese restaurant, but most of the packaging was carefully stuffed in the can. Most officers are pretty tidy about the place. I think they realize it's a convenience and there is no maid but me. After two years, I still smile when I see them use it. It doesn't get old for me though now I don't notice them come and go as I used to.

I have an unusual invitation to speak on an online radio talk show. They made an entry in the guest book. The talk show is called "Raunch Foxx and Mile High Guy." Here's their website, if you're curious. I'm not a fan of talk shows, though I haven't listened to this one. While I appreciate the invitation, I don't know that I have anything to say I haven't already said more than enough right here.

cruiser lights out front

Was startled by the tweak of a siren and flashing blue strobes in the living room a couple nights ago. Not such a common occurance on this street ... anymore. Watched out the window as five squad cars and the PGP officer's car converged on one mini-van. Saw the driver grab her insurance papers from the glove box as a couple officers stood by her door. Apparently she'd failed to yield to an ambulance a distance away and thought it OK to drive to her sister's next door. I can understand a lone woman worrying about the authenticity of a police car (that scam has been done before), but it seems a bit unlikely five police cars would be bogus. Anyway, she got a ticket and drove away.

As the police cars pulled up, Vaughn drove up. He assumed, as I had at first, that it was a buyer who'd gotten caught, lamenting they'd lost the dealer. As he passed a woman standing on her steps next door, he said to her something like "there's just not going to be any more dealing here." Wishful thinking more than reality I'm sorry to say, but Vaughn says I'm always negative. The woman from next door just glowered firecely at him, with reason ... this time.

We'd both heard Foxtrot buzzing the neighborhood earlier: "Get off the corner. Go home!" No doubt the dealer boys had set up shop on the coner of McCulloh and Wilson, out of sight of this nosey neighbor. Apparently, Carlton from the funeral home had called, but maybe not. Now that his house is a set for a TV show, the prevalence of dealers here is good for his new cash cow. God forbid crack should be driven out of Baltimore. What would David Simon do for a living? And what would a million TV viewers do for entertainment? That last reminds me of Christians and lions.

Our most recent runaway Pit Bull has found a happy home. Wonderfully, with Officer Jimmy whose found homes for others in the time I've known him. Her new name is Lacie. She's happily playing now in his fenced in yard with his seven year old daughter and cat. Council President Dixon should go visit. I recall her comment a couple years ago to reporters that something must be done about this vicious breed. I also recall an email I sent telling her that such prejudice was entirely unfounded. That Pit Bulls are how they are raised. Just like the too many kids in this neighborhood who start out perfectly fine and grow up to become vicious klling machines. I doubt she would propose legislation against young black men because they all deal drugs. I also recall telling her that anyone coming to my house to take my two Pits would be met with a 12 gauge. I was very angry.

I'm sure Lacie's life is far from the abuse she suffered at the hands of those cretons who have no respect for the value of any life, human or otherwise, including their own. No wonder she ran away. There was a scene about Pit Bull fighting in the last episode of The Wire. Again, another instance of something I am too familiar with making that show just too aggravating for me. Pit Bull fighting and the drug trade seem to go hand in hand in Baltimore. A pitiful culture of drugs, glorified violence and music that encourages it. Homogenized by a writer for the entertainment of suburbanites. I sure wish the good kids would not dress like dealers because it's cool. Hopefully most will never find out that that those they envy have only superficial and fleeting success, if that.

Oh, I'm pontificating again. Must stop that. Too pretty a day. And I'm going to work on my anti-negativity more. Going back to making a window sill.

Friday, October 1st, 1pm
: Very quiet last night. I was out till 1am, but when I came home was glad to see Officer Jimmy on. He allows me the confidence to be out late. That's pretty amazing. I feel the same about certain other city officers, too. When I know they're on, I don't have to be.

A couple days ago I was watching a few guys have a conference in front of 1715. Don't know if they were good or bad, but did wonder why they'd have the time to talk for hours in the middle of the day. I have my suspicions.

A conference on ?

Was awakened this morning by a young man yelling. "If that phone rings and it shows 'Damon,' you hand that to me quick." Looked out to see a young woman sitting on the steps. I suspect the man was not expecting a casting call from Matt. It's the first of the month. Business is bustling. Just now, listening to an SUV stereo that is literally shaking the house, while I hear children playing in the school yard and see many cars parked for some function at the big church.

Watched John Water's new movie, Dirty Shame, last night at the Senator. Bizarre, disgusting movie, but funny. Later, a buddy said it didn't reflect well on Baltimore, but it was funny. I had to tell him I thought sexual perverts reflected the lunacy of Baltimorons better than anything David Simon has done.

Watched The Wire again a couple nights ago. I must stop doing that to myself. It riles me so. Was truly disgusted to see Ed Norris playing his part, actually using his real name. I suppose that makes sense. He was pretending to be our police commissioner while here so why not pretend to be an officer on a TV show? Anyway, I thought he was in prison. Guess not. Celebrity justice I suppose. I can hope he's using the paycheck from David to repay the money he stole from the city. Still, I think it's an evil jab at all Baltimoreans to whore us out so and blame Mr. Simon squarely for that.

Before the John Water's film, there was a preview for Ladder 49. Looks like a good flick. It starts tonight at the Senator. A line in the preview spoke of courage. Looks like a good rendition of this city and it's people, idiosyncracies and all, unlike The Wire. God knows, those who work and live here are an odd lot. Probably why I feel so at home.

Was scrubbing coffee stains off the counter in the substation this morning when our dirt bike cop pulled up. He was just taking off his helmet to use the head when a call came through talking about a guy dressed all in black, going into a place with a gun in his waistband. Dirt Bike Cop said some expletive and hustled out as I said "be careful."  I was reminded that courageous guys and gals, real heroes, use our restroom every day.

A sentimental exception to my usual rule against this being a personal blog: The hamster I met while walking in the Bolton Hill dog park last year died the other day. I met him while searching for a turtle some college kid had abandoned with his hamsters there. He was 6 inches from my foot when I noticed him. Standing upright, he was munching on a blade of grass, oblivious to the carnage. I imagined him saying to himself "I'm sure he'll be right back. We're just on a field trip." I'd found several of his friends dead already, scattered around the grounds. I can't repeat the expletives I had for the subhuman who would just abandon his pets in the park because they were inconvenient. I can't fathom such thinking.

Hamster lived in a 50 gallon aquarium in my living room for a long while, but eventually he didn't have the energy to use his wheel or to carve milk cartons into forts anymore. With a two year life span, I suppose the geriatric phase does happen quick. He was in bad shape. I didn't know what to do so I called the vet who treats our canine friends. I explained my dilemma. He said "bring him in. I'll give him a little injection. He'll go to sleep and not wake up." I was touched that another grown man would have such compassion for such a tiny soul. Vaughn took him in and brought him back for me, gone, but at least not suffering.

He now rests under the little maple in the yard. Soon to be a part of it. I put bricks over his little place to prevent any interference with his becoming one with the tree. Now when I go out in the yard with my pups I give his wheel a little spin and remember a little guy who blissfully never knew what stupidity higher intellects can create for themselves. Even now, he reminds me what's important in life. As Martha would say from her new prison suite, "that's a good thing."

RIP

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