Saturday, November 08, 2008

R.I.P. Tuba Man

This month we've been living in the south end of town for two years. This is the neighborhood where someone was shot to death a week before we moved in. This is the neighborhood where James "Flowerman" Paroline tended his flowers, and lost his life after "a passer by" (called to teach him a lesson by some girls) hit him so hard he fell, and hit his head on the curb edge of the intersection's island flower bed. He died on the spot.

The son of another neighbor took the bus up Renton Avenue one or two stops beyond the one that's closest to his house. "Because he wanted to ride his skateboard back down the hill," his father said. Three kids got off the bus at the same time as he. The moment the bus drove off they jumped him. "His skateboard was worth over a hundred bucks, and his backpack was expensive too, and he'd just bought himself an expensive phone, he wasn't going to let them have that," his dad said. So his son fought. The thugs kept on telling him to "stay down!" But he wouldn't he fought them with all his might. Finally his attackers ran off.

Seattle is a green city, and I don't just mean ecologically minded when I write that (although it is), I mean green, as in garden, as in Park-like. When you arrive by plane, you can see it from the sky, the city is green, the way Austin TX is green. In other words there are lots of trees, (live oak in TX, evergreens in WA). The people of Seattle have long been opposed to vertical growth, they didn't want high rise buildings, for that would spoil the image they had of their city, or perhaps I should say town. So the town sprawled and over time became a city, whether the folks liked it or not. And still Seattle was able to maintain that imago of being a Green City, a place where people live in garden or park-like settings. Perhaps we don't associate crime as much with a supposedly 'natural' setting, as with asphalt, concrete, glass and steel. And yet bad things happen in idyllic settings as well as in what some consider more ideal settings for crime to occur.

But bad things can happen in any neighborhood, whether it's a nice garden-city setting, a neglected part of town, or in what we consider the bustling tourist area at the foot of the Space Needle. As was the case when Tuba Man Ed McMichael was attacked by young thugs last week. Besides being robbed, McMichael, like Paroline last July, was attacked, fell and hit his head and now he's dead.

It makes me wonder: Where was the Police?
Apparently other people were attacked and mugged by the same rotten scoundrels, and they notified the Police. Officers arrived on the scene as McMichael was lying on the ground in fetal position being kicked and beaten.

The very first time I visited New York City, I was astounded by the number of policemen, it seemed there was an officer on every corner of every street in Manhattan. At the time (1976) that in it self scared me a bit, it made the city appear to be like a police state. Over the years I've come to appreciate the presence of the Police. Downtown Seattle you can see the police officers patrolling the streets on their bicycles, but what about the surrounding neighborhoods?

In a city so sprawled out that it's practically impossible for the Police to "walk the beat" where police cyclists outside the city center may feel they're too vulnerable for their own good, people often call for the police after the fact, after the problem has occurred.

We're supposed to feel fortunate when the Police drive through our neighborhoods in patrol cars period. Do they drive on regular intervals, so that they can spot thugs jumping kids coming off the bus? I'm not sure.

Do they patrol the area surrounding the Seattle Center Grounds to protect visitors to the popular tourist and cultural attraction so regularly that they can protect people such as the Tuba Man from being attacked?
Apparently not.

In 1976 I could never have dreamed that I'd ask for a police officer on every street corner, but here I am, 2008 hoping for more Police presence. And that's beside my hope and wish, that young people will learn to respect and honor life. Self respect can get you a long way. Unless you cross the path of someone who doesn't have any, not for him or herself, and therefor not for you.

We used to live on Queen Anne Hill. During the summer, when my husband worked on the Ring Cycle of the Seattle Opera, I'd often walk him to work at the Opera House, later to Marion Oliver McCaw Hall or MOM as the people who work there say. After I'd drop him off at the stage entrance, I'd sit on the edge of a planter near the entrance to MOM for what I considered the best fashion show in town. I'd watch the parade of people arriving for the show, stepping in or out of tune with the Tuba Man's tunes.

Today at 11 a.m. musicians will play at a memorial for Edward McMichael in front of MOM, where he used to sit and play.

McMichael is missed by opera lovers and sports fans allike. He was not only a fixture before shows at MOM, he also played in front of sports venues all over town.
Coming Wednesday at 6 p.m. there will be another memorial at the QWest Field Event Center.
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