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after Tksg. road trip...

Saturday, November 26, 2011
No Black Friday shopping for me, unless you are including a tank of gas, and snacks at the curbstore. I cannot imagine wanting anything enough to spend the night in a sleeping bag  on the side walk to get a bargain. 

I woke up about 4:30, left home around 5:30, so was in Q. by around 8:30, rearranged the lighting in the house, checked for trash as I assumed no one else had thought to take it out - and when I found it sitting in the big pick-up bin in the back yard, rolled it out to the street. How they expected the truck driver to know we had a wee little bag of trash awaiting in the bin sitting behind the house?... I cannot fathom.
Picked a bag 'o' satsumas to take and share, leaving the high ones I could not reach, and a few really low ones for the kids next door to enjoy. 

I stopped by J. Mitchell's house out off W. Screven St., for a little chat,  since I did not see her when I was there a couple of weeks ago, and gave her a handful of juicy little fruits. 

Went fifteen miles up Tallokas Rd. to Nichols Lake to visit for an hour or so, leaving a little trail of sweet, drippy satsuma-gifts, and on to Pavo and Thomasville, across the wiregrass through Camilla and Bainbridge, then south into Florida to Chattahoochee.  

We drove west across the river to someplace - Mariana, I think? - for lunch, and then back to Chatty., and just sat around visiting for several hours until we went north to Bainbridge, then  out in the country to the smack-dab middle of nowhere to meet relatives and have supper at the "Pond House" restaurant, a remarkably attractive, cypress sided building 'way to the west of town. I wondered 'are we in Alabama yet?' we went so far into the woods, but did not hit a body of flowing water, so I guess not...
When you live in the city, where 99 percent of the roads are paved, you can forget that you were raised differently and learned how to drive on dirt, rough, un-graded sandy stretches that turn into 'washboards' with sufficient time and travel. The last little stretch, when we got to the end of the 'hard road' was sandy, down a little hill, and into the unpaved parking area near the restaurant, located on the backside of nowhere. The drive out in the woods, which surely ended in Seminole County, made me think we had traveled as far south and west as possible to go and still be in GA. 

It reminded me of being fifteen years old in B.C., and grinding gears on the straight shift of the old Ford Fairlane station wagon. Anxious to do well, and nervous beyond description, with my dad riding shotgun, patient as Job, and far more confident than I about my 'readiness'.  I can remember stress over when to depress/release the clutch, struggling to coordinate hands and feet. Really a monumental task when up until then, the greatest complication of my life was using the skate key that I wore on a dirty little knotted string around my neck, and used to make sure the roller skates did not fall off as I rolled down the sidewalk south towards grandmothers house.

I wonder if I could do that now - all that hand/food coordinantion, but think it is probably like riding a bicycle- even if your skills get as rusty as the bike, your body parts never forget how to handle their particular assignments:  hands and feet, vision, balance - to keep everything going in the same direction at the same time.

The 'Fish Pond' location made me think of going with my parents and their friends years ago to the Homecoming fish restaurant in the woods of western Thomas County - you had to know where you were going to get there - and I think the advertising was kinda covert, all word of mouth - so someone who really liked you had to take you the first time to show you the route. Twisting and turning and veering down so many little cow-path-sized dirt roads, making you wish you'd brought a big ball of string to unwind that would help you find you way back to civilization before bedtime.

I left the friends to return to FL, patiently (or not so much) awaiting the birth of a grandbaby in Tallahassee... any news yet?

I think it was about 7:30 when I left that place in the woods, and started to feel my way back in the pitch black dark of a cloudy night, to Bainbridge and highway 27. Had to stop for some caffiene when I realized I was running off the road out there on the backside of darkness, and finally got back to Columbus at nearly 10:00, stopping at Walmart for cat food. I expected to be exhausted, wanted to fall into bed, but could not go to sleep until nearly midnight due to the soda I picked up at a curb store to keep me between the lines.

When I woke up this morning, I was pondering how far I had driven, and wish I had thought to make a note before I left home before first light on Friday morning. I know it is 167 miles from my house to the back door of 1209., and think my circuitous route to Bainbridge must have been another 100, then the loop back from north Florida would have to be as far as it is from C. to Q., so I am thinking close to 500 miles. 

I am pleased to say I do not have any plans for today.

I'm not Reeeallllly that old, am I?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Spent a couple of days last weekend in south GA, reconnecting with my past - there was a multi-year high school reunion that covered over a decade. I'm not sure how many were in the classes before I graduated, but guess they would, over time, average out to be 80-100. Which should indicate what a sheltered life one can lead in a small rural town, when there are six public high schools here, (plus several private/church smaller schools) with classes that might have 350-400 seniors. So just guesstimating at 100 x 12 years, there was the potential for a thousand people there, allowing for farming accidents and beef-eating, sausage-gravy, biscuit poisoning heart attacks. I guess the crowd was pretty good in a bad, slow economy with any number of reasons for people not attending, including, I am sure, just not knowing they could have been there amusing themselves by observing how 'everyone else' has aged.

My cousin and I enjoyed ourselves, probably him more than myself, as it appeared he had stayed connected with folks from the past better than I. I looked for people I did not find, and have to wonder if I just didn't recognize them. I got really good at walking around and sticking out my hand to introduce myself, then asking 'am I supposed to know you'? If that person had married into Brooks County, instead of being raised there, I did feel a whole lot better at demonstrating my ignorance! And many were of classes far enough ahead of mine that I only vaguely might associate their family names with my alma mater.

I remember looking up Quitman, GA in an encyclopedia in my college days and finding the population (early 1970's so that information would have likely been outdated/over ten years old) was just over 5,000. I think I remember hearing someone report over the weekend that the latest census report indicates a number closer to 3,000. It is distressing to go and see 2/3 of the store fronts in that little town (with a retail area of aboutsix commercial blocks) empty, blank, devoid of enterprise.

There are people who are joining together to try to  improve the economic situation, but unless a major industry falls out of the sky and lands in Brooks County, I am not optimistic. I get occasional emails from 'destination Brooks', so I know there are folks in town who are continually making the effort to attract business and keep the population stable, but it is so sad to go and see a town that was once a hub of commerce languishing. If it were not for several traffic lights the DOT installed after they bull-dozed the city into agreeing to allow a four-laned main street (Hwy 84) through town, the semi-tractor/trailers that barrel through day and night would blow the little town off the map entirely.

Many of the people I saw who had returned after life elsewhere, careers in industry or military, are retired, and choose to settle back into a slower pace. So maybe the area needs to focus on that age bracket: a haven for senior citizens. Certainly a group that has a reliable steady income, and no need for employment in a town that has little to offer in the way of opportunity or advancement. So: do you wanna move to south GA? It's a peaceful place, but seems to be at the end of a cul-de-sac.

law enforcement ride along, part 4

Thursday, November 10, 2011
I went on a Saturday night with a deputy for my last in the series. After I arrived at the government center, and was directed up stairs to the Sherriffs' office, I sat and listened to their router/call center operater (only one person as compared to at least six with the police department - but most of the calls that come to the Sherriffs office are directed there from the 911 call center). When the deputy came in from his car to get me, he said that people who have lived in more rural areas, and are unfamiliar with police, will often call and request a deputy rather than a patrol officer, so they do respond to calls, but most of their work is related to the court system.

He has several summons he needed to serve, to people who were needed to serve on the Grand Jury. We made the stops, but most places there had already been a visit by a deputy, and a card stuck in the door with a note to call. He is required by law to place the summons in the hands of the person listed, unless that person is a  minor, and cannot leave the paperwork with anyone else in the house. After failing to find any of the people at home, he drove out on the north side of town, up on I-185, to monitor traffic. We spent an hour of so doing traffic stops. With the new 'superspeeder' law, and the state law that requires motorists to slow down or move over for emergency vehicles, they like to work in pairs - to catch passersby who flaunt the 'move over' law. The DMV will send a bill for $200, and suspend the license if it is not paid: surprise!

The deputy had several locations people have requested they periodically check for party-ing on the weekends, so we cruised around a school and construction site. He was telling me that in his spare time he does some geneaology work, helping people locate old grave sites, and searching for cemeteries that are not on city maps. And said that being in a patrol car, with a uniform on is very helpful in getting people to provide information they would otherwise be reluctant to share. This guy is one of the few people I have met while living in Columbus who says he was born and raised here,and  has lived here all his life. People who can remember 'back when' have some really interesting stories to tell about what the area looked like thirty or fifty years ago.

This is the last of the four ride-alongs, and nearing the end of the Citizen's Law Enforcement Academy classes. It is been a real eye-opener. I think everyone who benefits from feeling safe and secure in our community would find the experience invaluable - and it would likely make them all, as I am, vastly  appreciative of the people who choose a profession in law enforcement as keepers of the peace. I have become a flag-waving fool in recent years, supporting members of the military and what they volunteer to do - and feel the same way about all those in public safety. Thanks for your commitment.

law enforcement ride along, part 3

I went on a Friday night for the evening events with a detective. I'd gotten pretty anxious about going in general, as it would keep me up later than normal, and was sincerely hoping that I would neither be an embarrassment or get in a situation where my squeamishness would make them wish I was not present. Remembering my experiences when working with Head Start program and doing home visits going into places that still make me uneasy when they come to mind all these years later, I was a little fearful about where law enforcers do business.

As soon as the detective picked me up, she said she was headed to an apartment where others would meet her. There as a felony warrant out on an individual they had located, stopped in a rental/moving truck and discovered a gallon bag full of very fragrant weed, which she had in a paper bag in her backseat. We were constantly suffused with that unique aroma: smelling remarkably suspect ourselves. The search for the (alleged) felon started several days earlier with an altercation involving a firearm had brought about the warrant, so they were holding three of the men from the vehicle, one of whom was the brother of the person they wanted.Needless to say, they all denied knowledge of the controlled substance.

I went along when they searched the apartment, and was secretly horrified: thinking Yikes - they go through some very personal stuff - what if this was Mine?. These guys do a Very Thorough job - looking Everywhere. I stood aside and watched them put on their gloves, and go through all the piles of clothing, all the dresser drawers, all the moving boxes, all the appliances, all the cupboards, all the closets, all the OTC stored in the bathroom, every personal item in the house, all the upholstered furniture, even the crawl space above the ceiling. They found some misc. pills, in baggies, unidentified, plus several boxes of zip-bags, that indicated to the detectives a possibility/likelihood to distribute the gallon of very potent smelling weed.

We went back to the Public Safety building, where the three men from the truck were being held, in separate rooms. The detectives started the questioning process. Naturally each of the guys proceeded to deny everything. The detectives started the process of inventorying each item that was consficated: weighing the weed, identifying the misc. pills, sorting, counting, photographing the $1500 in cash one of the guys had, logging it all into evidence.

I left the building at 12:30, still smelling like a pot-head, and their job/shift was only half over. So you can imagine all the things that particular adventure makes me thankful for. Stuff it never occurred to me to do, like shoot people, sell illegal drugs, hang out with suspects, stay up all night being interrogated all the while expecting to be locked up when the questioning is over. Plus thankful for my dull, mundane, ho-hum, routine, law-abiding life.

law enforcement ride along, part 2

Wednesday, November 2, 2011
I went to another 'ride along' as part of  the Citizens' Law Enforcement Classes I  have been participating in since back in early September. The classes meet each Thursday night, most have been at the Public Safety Complex, but some in other places, like the Training/Firing Range for the CPD or the Sherriff's office in the Government Center. A couple of weeks ago, on a weekend, I was signed up to go to Public Safety and observe the activities of the staff of the 911 Center. Their facility is underground in the lowest level of Public Safety building, where it was moved into, after this new building was completed about ten years ago. Previously housed below the Government Center, they now actually have a removable floor, so new wiring for all the technology can be added as needed. Needless to say: lots of computers, and multiple screens everywhere.

Each responder was sitting in front of four screens at eye level, and one large one hanging from the ceiling tiles above head level. I think there were six or seven people there with headphones on answering calls from citizens, plus a shift supervisor. When a phone call would come in, the map on the overhead screen would show the precise location of where the call originated: I guess this is what the 'enhanced' 911 is all about - pinpointing a location for quicker response. (Big Brother is truly watching - giving us all the google eye even when you think you are safe hiding under the bed)

It seemed like it was a fairly 'slow' night,with mostly routine events, like fender benders and traffic stops.The most interesting call I overheard when they plugged me into the sound system with a hearing device was from someone who was reporting her husband had brought home an elderly woman he found lying in the street. It turns out she was intoxicated, and had left a residential facility for the disabled, located a number of blocks away in the downtown area. I think an officer retrieved and returned her, but I suspect she probably had a history of problematic behavior and the shelter management was not happy to see her stagger in. Various and sundry other events that would naturally have a huge impact on the people who were at the scene, but overall for the few hours I spent as an observer, probably just routine calls for the staff to direct response from peace officers out patrolling on the street. 

Once again, it made me so thankful for my dull, uneventful, life - one where I do not think I have ever had occasion to dial 911 to report a mishap of a personal nature. Funny that I never thought of ''law-abiding" as a blessing, but putting it in the perspective of ones who go to work everyday expecting to hear from, see, interact on a daily basis and lock up those in the community who won't or don't live within the bounds of legality - I am thankful to be living on the mundane, low-key end of the spectrum.