Yet Another “Kooky Night”

It’s Kind of Like Full Moon Fever…

 

When I say “kooky night” I don’t mean I went out and partied so hard that everything got crazy. No, anytime I use that term it always means something bad, or rather, somethings bad. Every now and then (more so when a holiday is coming up), there’s a night, which is sometimes precluded by a similar day, where everyone seems to have lost their ever-lovin’ minds. On such days or nights it almost feels as if Satan or some other dark force has visited Earth for a small moment just so he can cause as much trouble in the few free minutes he has. Trust me, once I give you an example you’ll see that these short occasions are anything but normal.

I have no idea what causes these strange moments of chaos, but I’d like to think it has to do with several lines of personal karma all colliding or aligning at once, like the fate of everyone in the vicinity have somehow combined and caused a shift. Sometimes my own line is involved in the process, and sometimes I’m just an innocent observer. Whatever it is that causes such an unexpected clustering of strange events isn’t simple, though. It’s hard to explain, but I always get an uneasy feeling when stuff like this happens.

So, in short, a “kooky moment” is when everything around you seems to go out of control, and you end up surrounded by uncommon or even extraordinary events. Don’t worry, I’ll show you what I mean soon.

 

Tuesday Night Was the Worst

 

I end up going through these “kooky moments” fairly often because of the area I live in, but last Tuesday night (May 27th) was exceptional compared to all the others. I’ve seen all sorts of madness, like mobs blocking the streets, high-speed police chases that run right by my house, fights galore (even with weapons), and once there was this crazy man (which we confirmed when the police found out because they knew him well) stumbling around in the middle of the street in front of my house, threatening my fiancé in an oblique fashion (we later found out from the police that someone had claimed the man had hidden a gun in his jacket). When you read what happened Tuesday you’ll probably start thinking “this isn’t that bad”, but my reason for getting so shaken about it stems more from emotions and the underlying meanings behind what happened than anything else. Let’s start from the top.

A Simple Trip to the Store is Never ‘Simple’ Here

Late Tuesday night (shortly before midnight) I realized that I needed to run to the Safeway down the street before they closed. There was no way around it because the stuff we needed couldn’t be bought anywhere else in the area, and they were products we use first thing in the morning (like coffee creamer and sugar). The Safeway I always shop at closes at 1 am, so I had just enough time to make it as long as I hurried. I power-walked down there, picked up everything I needed, and left just in time for them to lock the doors.

As I was walking home (now barely into Wednesday) I noticed how quiet it seemed. The weather was mild and the traffic was very thin, but I just shrugged it off since it was a weeknight. My walk was going really well for most of the trip, but when I was drawing near a major intersection a few blocks from my house the peace I’d enjoyed was shattered.

I’m Always Edgy Around Here

I’m not saying that this is the worst neighborhood in America or anything, but it certainly isn’t anywhere near classy or sophisticated. I do consider SE Portland to be a ghetto of sorts, and I’m not the only one. After two and a half years of periodic gun shots, a couple of small bombs, finding numerous dirty syringes on the ground, and occasionally being confused as a hooker I’ve learned to never let my guard down when I’m out and about around here. I don’t trust a single stranger until they prove through body language and voice that they’re friendly enough to converse with, and I’m always looking out for those who might mean me harm.

There are many reasons for this area’s darker reputation, but there’s a certain establishment here that has become a sort of hot-spot for trouble, especially on the weekends. I like strip clubs as much as most men, and more than some women, but there’s a popular one (the name of which I won’t publish because I don’t wish to slander them) at the intersection I was coming up on that usually ends up requiring police assistance on a fairly regular basis. Of course, it isn’t the club’s fault that aggressive people like to congregate there, and no one can be expected to prevent violence and crime entirely.

I’ve seen police show up at that club enough to make me nervous about walking in front of it, particularly when I’m crossing the entrances to the parking lot, but usually weeknights are calm there. The path I’d taken Tuesday night doesn’t grant a clear view of the club or its parking lot because of large bushes that skirt the edge of the sidewalk, so when a loud unidentifiable noise came from beyond those shrubs it not only took me by surprise, but also freaked me out a bit. I’m ashamed to admit that I even jumped a little from the sudden aural assault.

Suspicions and Stink Eyes

The noise caused me to stop in my tracks, making me wonder if it was advisable to continue and risk becoming a witness to something bad. The sound was nothing like a gun shot, but I’m beyond the point of being shocked by the occasionally extreme crimes committed in this area, so it wouldn’t have surprised me to find something gruesome around the corner. In the end, I had no choice but to continue. At that point it hadn’t become a “kooky moment” yet, but when exceptional things happen that carry a violent tone I hurry on home and stay there, so I soldiered on.

It only took a few steps for me to get close enough to figure out what had happened. A man, looking to be in his 20’s, was maneuvering his black sedan in the parking lot, pulling away from a red car that had a distinctive dent in the rear door. Considering the direction the guy in the car was driving and the erratic, almost hesitant way he pulled onto the street (he cut someone off who was turning into the lot, only missing them by a few inches, and actually fully stopped in the turn lane for a moment before slowly sneaking away), it didn’t take much for me to figure out that he’d hit that car. His behavior, which had a fearful quality to it, also suggested that the driver of that car was drunk to some extent.

As soon as I figured out what was happening right before my eyes I planned to do the right thing, but something really weird prevented me from being so bold. I’d wanted to observe as much as I could about the car that was leaving the scene, and had hoped to get a glimpse of the license plate so I could go into the club, tell them what happened, and have them call the police. I was particularly worried about the possibly inebriated state of the driver (there’s a very good reason for my stance against drunk driving, but that’s a story for another day). But remember how I’d said the guy responsible had almost hit another car (a brand new black Cadillac, too) on his way out? Well, they decided to act strange as well.

I’d stopped on the edge of the entrance to the parking lot because I was nervous about the guy fleeing the scene, and I’d wanted him to go first just to be on the safe side. The Cadillac they’d cut off immediately started pulling in, never giving me a chance to continue, but they didn’t just keep going like any normal person would. Instead, they slowed to a stop in a position that was just right for blocking the entire sidewalk. Not only did they cut me off for a long moment, but they (there were two people) also stared at me the entire time in a very nerve-wracking way.

I’ve gained a good amount of experience in the darker sides of society, so I know how to spot some types of criminal behavior, and the look those guys gave me wasn’t just regular curiosity. I’ve felt similar calculating stares in the past, and every time it was because someone was trying to decide if I was the kind of person they could trust. Basically, they were looking for signs that I was a snitch. Most of the people who utilize such practices have become very good at reading people, and it never bodes well if they don’t like what they see in you. That is why, as soon as that Cadillac finally pulled out of my way, I kept walking as fast as I could without looking suspicious.

I have no idea if the guys in the Cadillac were associated with ‘Hit and Run Dude’ or not. For all I know, they could have just been drug dealers who like to play it safe by staying aware of their surroundings. Now, just because someone owns a shiny new Cadillac it doesn’t mean they’re a criminal, but as I’ve said before, my ability to pinpoint others of my previous ilk is pretty reliable. I know what I saw, and those types aren’t people you want to tangle with. Their intense scrutiny gave me a strong urge to skedaddle, no matter their reason.

The Icing on the Cake

Because of my weird visual confrontation with the guys in the Cadillac I decided to avoid going into the club, and instead formulated my Plan B. Rather than trying to find the owner of the red car and risking some altercation with my ‘admirers’ I started to head for the Plaid Pantry that was kitty-corner to the strip club. I know all the people who work in that particular store pretty well (for those of you who aren’t familiar with the name, Plaid Pantries are like a regional version of 7-Eleven) so I knew I could trust them to call the police in my stead. It would have worked out well, but my intentions were derailed yet again.

If you’ve kept up with my articles lately you’ve probably read my post that mentions the safety issues pedestrians face in Portland. If you haven’t seen it, well, long story short, Portland is a dangerous place for those who walk or bike to their destinations. Accidents between cars and pedestrians are so commonplace that I’ve become desensitized to reports about them. I still get really angry when someone in a car risks my health for the sake of shaving a few seconds off of their travel time, of course, but I face these kinds of threats at least once a week. Such close-calls have become almost inconsequential.

I’ve had just about every form of vehicle threaten me at some point, from tiny sedans to school buses, motorcycles to full-blown semi trucks, but the last type of car I ever expected to see barreling down on me was one of these:

By M.O. Stevens (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By M.O. Stevens (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Even though there was no traffic to worry about, I still waited for the stop light to signal me before crossing the street (I’m just a tad  inflexible about crossing at the wrong times), but following the rules didn’t do me a single bit of good. As I stepped into the crosswalk a car heading in the same direction as I started to move forward, but I didn’t bother glancing at it. The lack of distractions around us and the likelihood that they’d just continue driving straight (like most people who drove in that lane did) had caused me to harbor some undue faith in the driver. I paid for that mistake a few strides later when the car swung toward me, the reinforced ‘push bar’ on the front of the cruiser heading right for my knees.

It was lucky that the officer saw me before it was too late because they were about to floor it after a car that had just passed. I know this because of the behavior they exhibited once I’d gotten over my shock and moved out of their path; they sped away as fast as they could, giving me an accusing glare before they took off. But here’s the kicker: they didn’t give a single indication that they were in ’emergency mode’ (lights, sirens, etc.).

Unless an officer has something they need to rush to they are required to follow the same laws everyone else does, which means that I had the right-of-way. They didn’t even try to get my attention. It makes complete sense that they wouldn’t want to turn on their lights too soon since that might cause the person they’re after to flee, but they could have at least rolled down their window and verbally told me what they planned to do. I was standing in plain sight, too, just a few feet from them.

In the end, I was more upset about who was driving the car than the threat of injury. Police and other emergency personnel were the only people I trusted on the road. Yes, they get a sort of free pass when they turn on their lights, but considering their professions, you would think they’d be less likely to make such stupid mistakes. So, now I can’t even relax when a police cruiser passes me.

 

That’s Some Pretty Heavy Straw

 

Once I almost got squashed by a cop car I was done, plain and simple. All of the strange stuff that took me over 2,000 words to explain all took place in less than 5 minutes, and when that much weirdness crowds itself together I get out of Dodge, so to speak. So I practically ran to the other side of the road, watching as the negligent officer drove on down the road without consideration for anyone else that might cross his route and wondering what this world has come to. I was so tense from the previous chain of events that I immediately perceived a man standing on the sidewalk I had to traverse as a threat.

As it turned out, the man was heading in the same direction that I was, and I was pleasantly surprised by his friendly personality. He’d witnessed my run-in with the cop and struck up a conversation with me about it as he matched me stride for stride. We talked about various life-oriented subjects during the four blocks it took to get to my street, then we parted ways with no fuss. Our short interaction almost made the stressful moments just before it completely worth it.

Aside from meeting a nice stranger, that’s what a ‘kooky moment’ is.It’s when the world around you goes bonkers for a few minutes (or days). Have you ever seen this happen?

 

Oh, and one last thing: that cop ended up speeding off in the opposite direction as the guy that hit the red car. And it didn’t surprise me a bit. They never seem to be in the right place at the right time around here.