Marie, Vince and I were on the patio at Harry’s Place. It was ten days after the election and the weather was raw but it was better to be outside eating than to wait for space to open up inside.
The management had put up snow-fence to block the wind and awnings against the weather. It was brutal work for the waitresses, going from the over-heated interior to the frigid, mid-November chill outside. In a way, it was easier for the diners. We could stay bundled up.
Marie and I are deer-hunters. Vinnie had been in the military before becoming an accountant. He had been stationed in Greenland. “Layers" he said, "The secret is layers-and-layers.” Cold was a minor inconvenience. On the plus side, the beer didn't get warm as we ate.
I was enjoying my usual, a Pork BBQ, sweet-potato fries, a side of slaw and whatever IPA was on tap. I really liked Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale but was open-minded. Who knows, there might be an IPA that is even better. Founder’s Centennial IPA certainly gave them a run for the money.
We were talking about the goat-festival the election had turned into. Everybody had predicted it. This was one time when everybody was right.
One faction that seemed to be gaining the upper-hand was the faction that claimed the Speaker-of-the-House should run the country while the courts thrashed out which party won the Executive branch. That was something I had never expected.
President Bower was still president until the Inaugration Day but the radicals were taking preemptive actions, trying to cut him out of the Executive Branch two months ahead of time.
It came as no surprise that the initial legal go-aheads came out of the Ninth Circuit Court.
The Supreme Court was slow to pick up the case. Vince had some inside information. He still had some contacts inside the Beltway. The children of two of the Supreme Court Justices had been involved in traffic accidents within hours of each other. The press had been very hush-hush about it.
He cautioned us to not look to the Federal courts for a quick resolution.
Vince was beyond cynical. He had a sour, dyspeptic outlook on life and was infinitely sarcastic. He was a pessimist and I love him dearly.
Marie was the warm, hopeful one. She was a nurse in the hospice ward. She saw many a soul off to the great-beyond. It would have scorched the hearts of most people. She saw it as her great mission. “Just think, Tim. One minute they are looking at my face and the next minute they are seeing Jesus.”
I bit my tongue. Some of them undoubtedly woke up “on the other side” looking at the guy with horns and cloven feet. If that is what she needed to tell herself to gird her loins and head to work every morning, I wasn't going to rain on her parade.
Our phones went off within seconds of each other.
Since the troubles began, we had all installed apps that informed us when 911 calls picked up. We had restricted them to the local counties and municipalities to avoid noise and we then we them fused tight.
“Oh-oh!” Vince said. He put down his phone and started digging out his wallet.
“I got this” he said as he flipped a fifty on the table. Did I mention he was doing well as an accountant?
I had a new operating system on my phone so I was the last to dig out the app and read the alerts.
The demonstration at the Hall-of-Justice was getting out of hand.
That did not bode well for any of us.
I belong to a large, Catholic family. I describe us that way because that is how outsiders describe us. I don't think it means all that much because I grew up in a neighborhood filled with Catholic families and there were nice families, and mean families. Families that were pious and families filled with drunks and druggies. I my mind, "...large, Catholic family..." isn't very descriptive but it seems fraught with meaning to those who never had the benefit.
It is impossible to say what our ethnicity is because they keep redrawing the lines in Europe. I can say with certainty that I am ¼ Irish. Those lines haven’t changed since the last ice-age. But the other ¾ could be Ukrainian, or Polish or German or Austrian or Hungarian or Jewish or even Croatian. When asked, I tell the curious that “my people” came from Northern Europe and that I come from a long line of men who mucked out horse stalls.
An old Polack pieced together the syllables of my last name and informed me of that fact. He assured me that it was actually a prestigious position, back in the day. Only noblemen had horses and only the most trusted of stewards were allowed to care for them.
Mom still lives on Lansing’s Westside. A rotating string of fifteen caretakers cycle through the big house every week. Over the course of the week, there is approximately three hours when she does not have somebody in the house at her beck-and-call.
Mom is as cheerful as a chickadee. That is a blessing because it was the only thing that made it possible for Vince to retain outside help when Covid hit. When other families were losing caretakers, Mom's stood firm. Several told me, “I dropped my other ladies but I am keeping your Mom.”
When I asked why, they invariable mentioned that Mom was sincerely grateful for EVERYTHING they did for her. They would try to dismiss the thanks but Mom insisted, “Yes, I know you are paid to do that...but you did it with a smile.”
The only reason I was in town was because it was my day-and-night to spend with Mom. I was having a meal with two of my siblings while one of the other caretakers fed Mom dinner.
Oddly, caring for Mom was not a burden.
Yes, her mobility was close to zero. Yes, I had to help her in the bathroom and needed to physically hoist her out of bed and back into it. Yes, my back hurt for a week after my shift. None of those are things that sons should have to help their mothers with.
But, like I said, we are a big, Catholic family. The burden is carried by many. And mom is so very, very grateful that she did not have to go to a nursing-home and die alone, like so many others had in Michigan.
Shit, shit, shit and more shit.
The Hall-of-Justice was a scant half-mile from both Harry’s and from Mom’s house.
Earlier demonstrations had been at the State Capitol building. Five-thousand demonstrators showed up for the first demonstration. The governor told the State Police to protect the Capitol but refused to allow them more than riot gear. They were stripped of their firearms and ammo.
The governor didn't care. She was working from home, a home that was now surrounded by an eight-foot tall, electrified fence, courtesy of the Michigan taxpayers.
The Capitol withstood the siege, barely. The doors are 3” thick White Oak and the windows are lined with hurricane film.
The businesses and churches in the immediate vicinity were not so lucky.
The demonstrations escalated from there.
Downtown Lansing was gutted from the hospital to the State Capitol, from Oakland Avenue to I-496.
Today the rioters turned their attention from the Capitol building to the Orwellian named “Hall-of-Justice” on MLK Boulevard.
There were no nearby businesses to loot. The Hall-of-Justice had been sited in a distressed neighborhood where it was cheap to exercise eminent domain, condemn the houses and buy them and demolish them. Folks joked that there were other efficiencies. Those same distressed neighborhood generated a disproportionate number of people who interacted with the Hall-of-Justice.
There was still a band of rental/distressed housing around the Hall-of-Justice...and then the Proudly-Progressive, Dainty-oh-so-Precious, Gentrified, Westside Neighborhood.
The same Westside neighborhood where my mother had lived her entire life.