The deputy's final words of advise were for me to swing west to Verlinden before heading south, into the neighborhood.
The deputy informed me that power wires were down and fires were still burning in the neighborhood, releasing toxic fumes.
The wind had clocked around to the northwest since midnight and I would avoid the worst of the fumes if I stuck to the west edge of the neighborhood.
It took me a half mile out of my way but I appreciated the her information. As I moved south along Verlinden, I could see into the neighborhood. It was like a scene from Dante’s Inferno. The only thing still upright were chimneys and the trunks of some massive shade trees. Even the utility poles had caught fire and burned down.
Visually estimating, it looked like the better part of eight blocks had been leveled by the fires.
I was baffled by the fringe of unburned houses along Verlinden. At first, I thought maybe Alex’s forces on the berm had beaten back the rioters, but then the light of the rising sun lit up the brass in the middle of the streets. Lots of brass.
Somebody had taken a stand and beaten back the crazed rioters. Stupid tactics, standing in the middle of the streets and shooting, but braver than hell.
Damned if it wasn’t the renters! The renters had defended their homes while the double-income, home-owners had rolled over. That was the complete opposite of what I expected to have happen.
It gave me grist for the mill as I walked. The renters had children. The renters did not have the monetary resources of the DINKs. By the time I got to Alex’s domain I had reworked my worldview: Having kids sinks roots into a community more than owning a home.
A secondary factor may have been that DINKs can afford the luxury of believing the world is a gentle and altruistic place. The renters lived in a more rough-and-tumble reality. In their reality, somebody WILL stand on your foot and it is your job to shove them off of it.
I tipped my hat to Alex as I passed by. His face was covered with soot and tracked with sweat. I doubt that he had slept yet.
Vince’s house had burned. I guess I wasn’t surprised. His house was Ground Zero for where the rioters got their mad-on.
I took photos on my phone and texted them to him. He could forward them to his insurance company although it seemed likely they would have some loophole regarding civil unrest.
The good news was that Vince was truly anal about storing stuff on multiple servers. If it could be digitized, Vince had copies and back-ups to the copies in multiple places, with multiple vendors. Pictures, contracts, IDs...you name it.
Then I went to Jamie’s house.
I called Psylla. “Are you still at your friends?” I asked.
“Yup” she replied.
“Is your mom with you?” I asked.
“Nope. She is with Grandpa Johnson. He had chest-pains last night” Psylla said.
Ruth was providing elder-care for her father. Unlike our side of the family, it was only her.
Her dad was recovering from a nasty bout of pneumonia. Now he was suffering from chest-pains. I had no doubt that Ruth had spent the night in the hospital parking lot.
“I don’t suppose you took the dog with you last night?” I asked.
“No, we left Grasshopper in his crate. The fireworks were driving him nuts and D'Asia’s mom has a cat. It wouldn’t have worked out to bring him” Psylla said.
Grasshopper was Jamie’s dog. I could not believe it when he bragged that he had spent $1800 on a mutt...sorry, designer dog.
Jamie went on-and-on about how the breeder took applications and only accepted 20% of the people who wanted her dogs. She gave the entire family the Myer-Briggs personality test. Then, a half year after receiving the deposit she had the “perfect” puppy: The best parents, the best personality match from the litter.
Personally, I think mutts are the best. It is a great way to avoid inbreeding depression and if you pick two breeds are are a similar size you are less likely to get a surprise in that regard.
Still, $1800?!? And the vetting process; what a crock of sales-hooie.
Grasshopper was a happy-go-lucky dog. Always up for a romp or to chase the ball. He was one of the family. He had been with Jamie for ten years and didn’t have a mean bone in his body.
“Hey, I want you to do me a favor” I told Psylla. “Give me a bump on the phone before you head back home, OK?”
That got Psylla’s antennas up. “Why, what is up?”
“Just give me a bump, OK?” I repeated.
“Uncle Tim. I am an adult. You don’t have to protect my feelings. Just tell me what is going on” Psylla demanded.
One of my weaknesses is that I take people at their word. Psylla said she was an adult. She said she wanted to know. I told her.
“The rioters burned down your house last night. That is why I wanted to know where your mom and Grasshopper were” I said.
Less then ten minutes later Psylla was trying to paw through the coals. She was wearing a bathrobe and her crocs. I told her to get away from the foundation or I would knock her on her ass and carry her over my shoulder.
She could tell I was not joking.
“Why, Uncle Tim? Why would anybody burn down our house? Why?” Psylla asked.
“Grasshopper never threatened anybody. Why would anybody MURDER him?” she asked, tears streaming down her face.
When we are in pain, we do not want elegant, intellectual answers. We want raw truth without the window-dressing.
“Psylla, they burned down your house and killed your dog because they are bullies. They did it because they are bullies and they could get away with it and they will keep doing things like that until somebody stops them.”
I didn’t have a better answer at the time, and to this day I still don’t.
"How can I help?" Psylla asked.
That was a surprise. I thought she was firmly on the side of the Marxists.
Thinking a couple of seconds, I asked "Was all of your photographic equipment in the house?"
"Most of it was, but I have a backup camera and lenses in Dryad's Jeep." Psylla informed me.
"The police are letting most of the demonstrators go home but they are taking some of them into custody on suspicion of arson. I don't suppose you could sneak around and get mug-shots of some of the arsonists." I said.
I really didn't have much hope she could. The cops had the area cordoned off with crime-scene tape and it seemed unlikely that even somebody as tiny and as non-threatening as Psylla could sneak in and just start taking photos.
Psylla gave me that haughty, superior look that young people give mature citizens when they say something stupid, especially what it involves technology.
"Watch and learn Uncle Timmy" is all she said.
Seriously, how many people have $3000 of photographic equipment as back-up? She had a mid-level, Canon EOS, a tripod and telephoto lenses in the back of Dryad's Jeep.
She set-up beneath a neighbor's lilac bush and took high-quality mug-shots of every person taken into custody at the high school.
I had no doubt that those photos would be showing up on the internet in short order.