The last time I saw James Paroline, he told me he had renovated his bathroom, "it's a little Taj Mahal," he said. "That's one lucky woman," I jested. He smiled. I believe he lived alone with his two old dogs, but a man who tended so lovingly to his own yard as well as the center garden of the round-about in the intersection, of 61st Avenue South and Cooper street, a man who had the silhouettes of two sets of lovebirds in one of his windows, a man who would take the time to talk and listen, he would surely not be without womenfolk in his life.
The first winter in this for me and my husband's new neighborhood I hoped our pooch Mocha, a foxy mutt, would aid in making contact with people in the area. If anything I'd meet other dog owners, or at least count on exchanging greetings, even with people without dogs. Mocha is the kind of creature that makes people wonder out loud what kind of a dog she is.
One cold day I talked to an old dog, who followed Mocha and me, then asked the man across the street whether the animal was his. The man equally bundled up as I, was working in his yard. Yes the dog was his, and demented, he sometimes wandered off, not knowing where he was going. He told me all about the car that had come flying through the intersection (before the round-about was there) into his garden, crashing into the south-east corner of his house, the fender ending up only inches from him and his dogs. The accident had triggered memories of his time in Vietnam… I guessed the damage done by the careless drivers was not restricted to the damage of his house, the damage went much deeper, he felt attacked.
As far as I could tell, Paroline was a caring person. Each time that I would run into him after that first encounter, we talked. About journalism and psychology, about PTSD and therapists. Sometimes, when I was in a rush, I'd take another route, just so I wouldn't be tempted to stop and chat. It's easy to lose track of time when you find an interesting conversationalist who takes more than a moment to share his point of view and listen to yours.
I'm so sorry I'll never again have the chance to chat with James Paroline our good neigbhor (I heard him introduce himself as Jay, but since have read on blogs he went by Jage). Jay died last Friday of trauma to his head after a passer-by knocked him out and he hit his head on the pavement.
On Friday evening his death brought folks in the neighborhood together for a candle light vigil. A good 100 neighbors of all ages gathered in front of Jay's house circling the round-about. My husband and I learned about what had happened from watching the evening news, and immediately walked over with flowers to pay our respect. We had missed the lighting of candles and speeches, but we sensed a feeling of urgency and connection among all who were present. While the expression on many faces was solemn, I noticed that some present were already engaged in conversations of a totally different nature.
So I was relieved to notice reminiscing did continue as I heard an elderly Japanese American man tell a police officer: "I'm painting my house, and Jay gave me the paint to do it."
Apparently a neighborhood community organizer spoke before our arrival of the importance of people to find each other and work together for the safety of all. There's nothing good about a person's life coming to an end like this. But if Jay's death has lead to people in our neighborhood working together for the greater good, there is a spark of hope.
May James Paroline rest in peace.
Visit the blog of Sable Verity, someone who has known the neighborhood better than we newcomers, for a more in depth coverage of the situation.