please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Eastside, Then and Now

I've been having some problems with the neighbors, of late.
They don't pay money or anything. They just sort of live downstairs on the stoop of the restaurant space that currently hosts no restaurant. I have suggested nicely that they leave, but so far they haven't heard it. She is a tiny, acne-ridden terror that screams at you if you fail to provide her with a cigarette, and he is a child currently inhabiting the body of (I'm gonna say) a twenty-year old, maybe younger. They're pretty clearly junkies, and like all good junkies, claim to be trying to stay away from all those bad people who live down the block who are trying to sell them heroin.
It does not do at all to argue with them. The man of the two (accompanied by his shrill, screeching child-bride who keeps up a slightly off-rhythm commentary of her own, so as to dis-orient one) explained to me: "Look, I know you've heard this before, but I was in jail for dealin' weed, and I lost my house..."
And I said, "You're right. I've heard this before."
This is not a couple of people who enjoy the relatively harmless (yes, though it tends to make one not especially motivated, granted) marijuana. These people are addicted to, and sell their bodies for, and attract violent-or-at-least-sketchy folks because of something much worse that certainly looks like heroin, but who the fuck knows or cares, really?
I mean, we're not people who don't care about other people in this neighborhood. We just don't want you to be shitty to us (including literally shitting on the sidewalk, thanks). If you're down on your luck, we'll do all we can to help, but if you're two little schemers who seem to have jumped on this whole poverty-is-cool bandwagon circa age 18 or so, and then got your miserable ass addicted to a stupid person's drug, then fuck you, and fuck your goddamn dog you somehow seem to have acquired, as well.
Last night, a houseguest of ours called the cops. She explained that she is all of four-foot-nothin' (and this is true), and feels...Well, threatened by all these here assholes who (as of last evening) had extended in population to include both sides of the door from the sidewalk to here. The cops responded by harrassing the shitheads downstairs, but since we do not own this building, and could not press charges, they really could only tell them to move on, and not even really enforce that.
Nonetheless, when I came home this afternoon, they weren't there. Acne-job was getting into a car with two sinister-looking dudes, and instead of feeling sorry for her simple, never-had-a-chance ass, it just made me feel militant about the whole thing. I immediately went over to the door where she and her man (?) normally sleep.
I saw a tall man, back to the sidewalk, doing something that he wished the rest of us could not see. When he noticed I was staring at him, he spun around, hands behind his back.
"Whatcha got back there?" I asked.
"Nothing." he said. "None of your concern."
"Really? 'None of my concern'? I live here, and it sure looks like there's something there. So what is it?"
"Nothing. It's personal. It's no big deal-"
"So why can't I see it?"
"Because it's nothing!"
"Doesn't look like nothing."
"It's personal!"
"Here on the sidewalk?"
"It's no big-"
"-And none of the other bullshit things that all the resta these sketchy fucks do is, either. I'm fuckin' sick of this shit."
He starts walking away, and I follow him.
"Look, I'm sorry okay?" He says. "I'm just waiting here for my pastor-" I wave this line of bullshit away. I'm sick of that so often being part of the lie. They never get it: Hey Man of God, I'll talk to you when you're not using it as part of your hustle.
We stand there and vent. At this point we're laughing. I'm laughing about how the block where I live seems no longer to be all that much like home, and he's laughing about how standing in a doorway might earn one some random harrassment.
But he also gets it. From the look of him, he's homeless, but I don't think he's a junkie. He knows how impossible it can be to deal with their whiny, entitlement-syndrome asses. Or...He's just lying, too.
Then he introduces himself as Steven Stroud.
Conversation killer. If I wasn't from Portland, that might not mean anything to me, but I am, and I remember how he and two of his friends made national news in this city, eighteen years ago.
They were members of the Eastside White Pride, and felt the need to club an Ethiopian man named Mulugeta Seraw to death, about fifteen blocks from here. Now, they all went to prison, but something else happened that is still of interest.
Since the assailants all claimed to be loyal followers of the teachings of one Tom Metzger, the de facto leader of the Aryan Nations, Metzger's organization was put on trial, and ultimately bankrupted; run out of business.
Now of course, we all cheered roundabout here, but we all wondered: what door just got opened? Will there be a time, somewhere in the near future, where if someone listens to me and then commits a crime, It'll be my fault? Tom Metzger never specifically told those three idiots to go kill someone whose main crime was walking down the street.
Still, I likes to see me some fat, self-satisfied fuck get done for: watching Metzger go begging was sweet...But as much as I hate white supremacy, I hate police states even more.
The upshot? Portland, which had a fairly healthy skinhead movement all through the '80's, suddenly saw them all go into hiding. A lot of them went not very far at all to find a place that would welcome them. Just up into the hills.
In the summer of '89, Petunia and I went out driving, as we were like to do when bored. Somewhere out near Helvetia Road, we took off into the farmland surrounding. I've always been a big fan of exploring abandoned structures, and I saw what looked like one, so we stopped.
Standing there-both of us blonde haired, blue eyed, but hippies, clearly-I asked her, "Does that look kind of like someone's watching us?"
It did, sort of. Like just one eye, a bit of cheek, bald forehead, peeking from the corner of a window. I wasn't sure if I was seeing an optical illusion, or there really was...
My reverie was interrupted by three snarling Rottweilers rounding the corner, heading right for us. We hopped in our little car and tore ass outta there.

So here I was yesterday, talking to Steven Stroud, looking like hell. Dirty coat, and the kind of scars that either mean he'd been beat pretty bad, of late, or he was banging heroin after all. He claims that since prison, he'd been going around the northwest, preaching against the nascent white supremacy movement.
I mentioned this idiot I went to high school with, who never ever quite found that ready-made identity, and eventually went skin. He claimed to be friends with Stroud and his ilk, back in the day, but the name didn't ring any bells.
Last time I saw that particular fool, he was on the way to reinventing himself as a long-haired peacenik. He and I were on our way to a draft resistance seminar at Reed College (1st Gulf War), and I was stunned to find out who he was. He had just renounced white supremacy on national television (he said), and there even was footage of him 'surrendering' his Doc Martens'.
I've never done any serious research to see if he really was on "20/20". I've done no serious research to see if I can find a picture on the internet of the guy I spoke with yesterday. The name he gave me definitely wasn't an attempt to score points, and there's plenty that happens when you Google 'Steven Stroud'. Go check it out.



Blogger disco boy said...

the idiot that you mention from high school: my father reduced him to a tearful accusation of "you tried to maim me!" during a halfcourt game of hoops, (apparently, the hip check was a little too harda' foul) just before the era when said idiot joined the boots n' braces crowd. ol' button down bob really laid one on him (yeah, right...).

which is prob'ly why he never said word one to me in school.

it's such an uncomfortable age, and it just burns the souls of the hormonal and anonymous to crave attention and strength. i know it burned mine. luckily, not enough to join into some store-bought racial pride maquerading as fear. sad, really, and such a waste of time.

12:39 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

Worse yet? I forgot said loser's actual name when bringing it up to Stroud there...I said 'John Bauer', who is actually this sort of whiny gay dude from St. Looie who lives around here...No wonder he hadn't heard of him...

1:57 AM  
Blogger Jacq said...

Make sure someone keeps a pooper scooper handy to pick the shit off the sidewalk.

6:23 AM  
Blogger BitchSlap The Monkey said...

From some Googling it looks like Steven Strasser may be the person you're thinking of who took part in the murder of Seraw. Steven Stroud is someone different:
he appears to be co-founder (along with PSU prof and frequent OPB commentator Randy Blazak) of Spotlight, a group that keeps tabs on groups of nasty folks and their nefarious deeds.

6:24 PM  
Blogger carrier said...

The mention of addiction to drugs and senseless beatings caused me to wonder about your own struggle to toss over those smooth brown Shermans you favor.

Did you find it necessary to leave behind the equally smooth and smokey brown liquid with which you love to wet your whistle?

I'm sure we would all enjoy an update concerning your attempt to avoid a premature mortal spiral Rich.

9:31 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

Strasser. Right. Damn.
And to my brother over there: I remain a non-smoker, and I almost feel guilty that it was easy as it was. Them vitamin supplements made all the difference, that and how busy I was: i.e. I didn't have time to think about it.
I can drink in a smoky bar without wanting to smoke. I furthermore have ceased purchasing whiskey for home use, for the time being. Make it so I gotta go somewhere to get it.
Lastly, I just signed up for take the exam one takes to become a postal service employee. I've been meaning to tell you that.

1:25 PM  
Blogger carrier said...

Good for you regarding the mastery of the nicotin. Don't let your guard down.

And the postal exam, good luck with that. Your fantastic memory will serve you well on the exam.

A little brushing up on the association tricks wouldn't hurt though. You need to score in the nineties to look good on the register. Let me know how it goes.

2:52 PM  

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