After a record two-month dry spell in Seattle, it has at last begun to rain. Locals are relieved.
The election has already started, with a number of states opening their polls early and absentee ballots flowing. Washington hasn’t sent out mail-in ballots yet, but they are due this week. Fewer and fewer people actually go to the polls. I’ve been working on the Obama campaign – making calls and hosting a few events at my house.
Feelings are so intense that I’ve heard of previously friendly neighbors who aren’t speaking to each other. Many of us can’t quite believe that our otherwise rational friends and acquaintances have taken positions that diverge from all logic and compassion.
Since this country is blessed with a certain amount of freedom of speech, everyone is allowed their say, no matter how offensive it might be. I drove past these people the other day and had to turn around and visit.
They gave me a couple of info sheets quoting the 90-year-old LaRouche, who says, “Obama is a danger to mankind.” And “sheer evil.” And “mass murderer.” Notice the Hitler moustache they added to the President’s face. Oh, well. I had an extended conversation with the people at the table who asked me for a donation. This is truly a diverse nation.
Thanksgiving Next Month
My brother and sister-in-law occupy some acreage north of Seattle and they are raising two turkeys for this year’s Thanksgiving. Eric, in the end, couldn’t bear to slaughter his own bird last year, and took it somewhere to be killed and cleaned.
Mothers of Madness
As I continue to plod along on my book project, I am now editing some of the interviews. Every time I read them, I am struck as if I’m reading the material for the first time. As I’ve explained in an earlier post, the book is a series of interviews with women whose children have/had major mental illness and committed crimes. This is my friend Dennise Zamora, whose son Isaac, a paranoid schizophrenic, murdered six people in his neighborhood in a town north of Seattle four years ago.
Here is a partial quote from my 32-page interview with Dennise.
BERYL: Have you ever spoken to the victims’ families?
DENNISE: I wanted to. I wanted to go and sit by them, or go visit them over at the prosecutor’s office after court was over, but somebody told me, no, we don’t do that here.
BERYL: Then I’m sure they didn’t want to see you.
DENNISE: Yeah, the guy came out and said “I’m sorry, there’s just” – he says I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but it just wouldn’t be a good time…. I would have traded places with them so that they wouldn’t have to suffer, you know?
BERYL: Right. And there are so many of them.
DENNISE: It’s not like their loved ones died in a car accident, which is natural, or had a dad gum heart attack or something. But, you know, as I reflect back on it, we have ourselves as a society to blame as well, because the mentally ill just do not get tended to properly. Hardly anywhere in the world. But not here for sure, and we’ve got more resources than anything; but oh, we’ve got another dad gum war to pay for. How can we afford to take care of them? I think I told you that documentary filmmaker from Holland, said to me, you guys, you Americans take care of the rest of the world whether they want it or not but you allow your most vulnerable people to live under bridges and they are punished because they have a medical condition called mental illness. What’s up with that? I said, I don’t know what to tell ya. You know?
BERYL: I couldn’t have said it better.
DENNISE: Yeah. And I remember telling the governor, she was on the speaker phone, and I said, this is going to happen again and again. She cut the budget for every dollar for beds for the mentally ill. Cut every dollar. Look, it’s happened since this tragedy four years ago, just in this state we’ve had three more severely mentally ill people that didn’t get the help they needed. It happened just two months later where that guy killed a hiker, and I think a forest ranger. And then there was the guy in Seattle that just three months ago killed five people and himself. And other ones…
BERYL: What other ones?
DENNISE: I can’t remember, but there’s been three more since then. We’re lucky. I said one of these days somebody’s going to go in to a school and wipe out the kindergarten class. I said, what’s it gonna take for y’all to get it? You know? Nobody gets it. It doesn’t matter what their politics are. Our society doesn’t get it. That’s why they don’t have to be accountable. Everybody else has got a lobbying group behind ‘em. You can’t overpay doctors and nurses and teachers. But you know what? They’ve got power. They’re powerful. If doctors don’t go to work, we’re all in trouble. Policemen don’t go, we’re in trouble. Teachers don’t go. They’ve got a lobbying group that extracts that money. It had to come from somewhere because those people vote. The mentally ill don’t. That’s why I’m desperate to have a really powerful documentary that speaks to what’s going on. And I’m not talking about one of those silly things from Geraldo Rivera. I’m talking about something solid that speaks to this issue of the mentally ill – you know?
I went there recently, as my 95 y/o Aunt Rose, one of my favorite people, was dying. It is an awful place, Detroit, but there are signs of progress. New housing downtown and the resurgence of General Motors have brought jobs and vitality to the place.
Here’s a pic of my zippy cousin Esther, in Farmington Hills, a Detroit suburb. If you google Esther Korinsky (she is now Esther Woodward), you will see her connected to Iggy Pop and the Stooges. Friend her on Facebook to see rare old rocker photos.
Esther and I were about to enter an orthodox synagogue for Yom Kippur services. Neither of us had cried since my aunt’s death, but hearing the haunting melody of the sacred Kol Nidre, brought the tears out of both of us.
And here is a pic of me with the Blues Brothers in the Chicago airport. BTW, I love Southwest Airlines.
Fall In Seattle
By accident, I stumbled on this giant vegetable contest in north Seattle.
My friend Eleanor Owen reads from her memoirs of girhood in a raucus Italian family in upstate New York. She is reading her piece from a memoir collection called, We Came Back to Say. Eleanor is writing the preface for Mothers of Madness and is the co-founder of NAMI, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
Garden Open House
We went to the annual open house in Arthur Lee Jacobson’s back garden. He had delicious snacks and lots of odd plants for sale. I bought a Japanese ginger for $5 and he gave me about four additional plants. He’s a well-know horticulture guy in Seattle and has published a number of books including Trees of Seattle and the recent Wild Plants of Greater Seattle. Here is one of the more appreciative attendees at the event.
Arthur Lee Jacobson