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04 November 2010 @ 11:21 am
I, Citizen  
Despite the fact that Beacon Hill has been the area where everyone that works in the International District has lived for 100 years, the neighborhood still feels like it is in an awkward teenage phase. It's well-balanced with lovely Victorian homes and urban-density-smart apartment blocks, lots of greenbelts, p-patches and indy markets, a bitchin' library branch and light rail but you can't get a decent cocktail anywhere on it. Since we Beacon Hill denizens are forced to do our drinking elsewhere it is a good thing Beacon is easy access to everywhere: two miles or less in any direction will put you in Georgetown, Columbia City, the ID, Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill and most of the interesting bodies of water around here. I love walking around my neighborhood, especially on gorgeous days like we've had this week.

In my travels around Beacon Hill yesterday I saw a pretty sunset, a hilarious giant orange "You Are Here" dot painted on someone's garage, and a man lying on the sidewalk. The scene was like something from a Boy Scout morality scenario: an older man, unkempt but clean, fallen half on the sidewalk and half on the grass along an arterial street. Next to him on the ground were a cane and a bottle of medication. He was wearing a hospital arm band. I watched three people walk past him without stopping.

There were a couple of men leaning on a retaining wall nearby. "Is he going to be okay?" I asked them. The said that they'd called the police a while ago but no one had responded. I knelt next to the fallen man. He was shaking, and muttering about how cold he was. I asked his name, and what was the matter. He was mostly incoherent. I looked at the pills, they were not in his name. The man was likely transient, mentally disabled, alcoholic or some combination of the three. I pulled his sweater closer around him and dialed 911.

There are a number of halfway houses on Beacon, I've lived near two of them (and before you cry "Aha!" and point to undesirables in the neighborhood as a reason for Beacon's lack of social spine, I'd invite you to check the sex offender's register. You'll find there are over 100 more registered sex offenders near Boom Noodle on Cap Hill than there are by my house.) Seattle is pretty good about scattering social services around the city, and making them un-intrusive in their neighborhood but still on the bus lines. Attention to social services-- you know, like fire fighters and shelter for the disabled-- is one of the reasons I love Seattle and choose to live here, a fact scraped raw by the voter response to Tuesday's elections.

We'd better get walking to the bar and get drinkin', since the only tax money Olympia is going to get any time soon is on state-run liquor.

A guy out for a jog stopped and asked me if the fallen man was going to be okay. By then I was sitting on the grass next to him, keeping him talking and waiting for the emergency responders. The jogger called 911 again, on the theory that if a whole bunch of people called maybe that would get people here faster. That done we settled in to wait, two cranky men on the retaining wall, the jogger, and me, all shouldering some measure of responsibility for a man that had fallen down in our neighborhood.

"No help! No more ambu-lance since y'all voted down them initiatives on Toosday!" one of the cranky men said to us. "What?!" The jogger and I squawked, and immediately started babbling about what we'd voted for and why we were disappointed. It reminded me of something a friend said about how a public behaves: "the obvious thing is the blazing hypocrisy of it all. It's not that *I* should stop using Medicare, it's that *people* should stop doing it. Kind of like how *people* should stop boning musicians by copying MP3s, but *I* would like to borrow that CD of yours."

So the two people that stop to help in a neighborhood of 22,000 are the ones that voted against social services are we, Mr. Crankypants? Of course not. But we're the ones that stopped, and by doing so let ourselves in for participation. We acknowledged and accepted our part as citizens; we took responsibility. That, I think, is where the frustration lies: we are not unified in thinking that our fellow citizens share the burden, blessings and mess, for living here. This is our state, our city, our neighborhood. I'm active in it, even the un-pretty parts where a stranger that might be drunk or crazy fell down on a sidewalk that I paid for. It is my job to look out for the sidewalk and stranger. It is my great hope that when I fall down on the sidewalk my neighbor will do the same.

Il faut cultiver notre jardin.
To Mega Thereminrwx on November 4th, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC)
...and surprisingly, that *isn't* why boom noodle sucks so much.
Keep your fork there's pie!jennaxide on November 4th, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous) on November 5th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)
that we both got pretty much the same thing out of that experience...http://beaconhill.seattle.wa.us/2010/11/05/opinion-the-fallen-man-on-the-sidewalk/

thanks for stopping and helping a stranger in need, I didn't realize that it's becoming less fashionable to do in Seattle these days...
Keep your fork there's pie!jennaxide on November 5th, 2010 07:37 pm (UTC)
Re: funny...
Neat-o! Nice to meetcha, Ryan