by RIP RENSE
You find them everywhere. Blowing down
sidewalks, crumpled up in bushes, rumpled and stained in curbside gutters. Bits and pieces
of daily lives, discarded or lost, there at your feet. Each one a chapter from a story,
somewhere in the middle of a human book. Call them city footnotes. . .
City Footnote # 1:
It was very far from Valentine's Day,
literally and figuratively, for the Valentines (whose first names will be omitted here.)
The crud-encrusted remains of their marriage lay in a Santa Monica gutter, one gray
"Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa
County. . ." the 1995 document began. "IT IS ORDERED setting Hearing on
Petitioner's Motion re: Sanctions, Continuing Trial, Extend Date for Business Valuation
Experts to Complete Appraisals, Respondent's Motion for Attorney Fees and Sanctions,
Respondent's Motion to Compel Petitioner's Participation in Vocational Evaluation for Oct.
23 blah blah blah. . ."
City Footnote # 2: No
A piece of lined notebook paper, ripped
out of a theme book, this item bore exactly two sentences, printed in a script not unlike
gang graffiti. It emerged underfoot in West L.A.:
"I HAVE NO STRESS CAUSE I DON'T
CARE. F*** THIS."
While I don't think this is a recipe for
success in life, it does have its applications.
Evidently, the young author---let's say a
male, based on the bold script---had been given a homework assignment to write about
stress. Evidently, he had found the assignment. . .too stressful.
City Footnote # 3:
The talking bear on the front of the
"Tender Thoughts Greetings" card spoke to me from a lawn.
"There's one advantage to sending belated
birthday cards," he said.
Okay, I thought, I'll bite, and picked it
"They always arrive on time!"
Ho ho. And underneath, in hasty
"Sorry this is late. Here's a little
something to help keep body and soul together. Love, Martha."
I figure if the recipient was having
trouble keeping body and soul together, the card might have been later than Martha
City Footnote # 4: Syringe
Next to a recycling bin:
A copy of a memo, or series of memos,
from Kim to Alex, forwarded to Dean from Kim, forwarded from Dean to Peter, who wrote back
to Alex, "cc'ing" Dean, Roderick and Michael.
Good God! It was the bureaucratic
labyrinth, embodied! The Gordian Knot of human inertia, encapsulated! The reason, at least
symbolically, that I can't get my dumpster replaced!
"Alex. How are you enjoying the
job?" wrote Peter. "I got a call today from Lou ____, a medical consultant who
is doing some work for the SurgicaCorp (a start-up?) in Sacramento. They have an
Alzheimer's drug in early clinicals which sounds like it is administered through an
indwelling catheter. . ."
Indwelling catheter? Good name
for a band. . .
The memo went on: "Currently, the
end user (nurse/doctor?) fills a hypo syringe with saline, but it is critical that the
syringe exterior be sterile, so they don't have to open a bulk package of these syringes
and take one out."
I don't know about you, I don't want
"end users" anywhere near me with a syringe. And it sounds like they want to
wipe down that syringe and reuse it just to save money on opening "bulk
Pete's handwritten response:
"Discuss further. It sounds like
they really do not know what they want."
Bravo, Pete! Except uh. . .why are you
answering your own memo? Perhaps you should volunteer for the Alzheimer's clinicals,
yourself? (If you do, be sure and "cc" Kim, Alex, Dean, Roderick, and Michael.)
City Footnote # 5: Damning
"Dear God," the printed note began,
there on a sidewalk near an L.A. high school, "Maybe you don't know this, or maybe
It was from "Ariel L.,"
and she was one despondent kid. The rest, verbatim:
"I am very unhappy maybe you do not
know why. You probably given up on me and you sent all the bad demons after me. I don't
know but I had enough I am going to give up on you because you showed me no hope. Why do
boys r so mean? Why don't they keep their comments to themselves. You probably made me by
mistake and made me one of satans demons. Maybe you should have thought more closer of how
you let people out into the world.
"Not truly yours, Ariel L."
There were two P.S.'s on the back
of this single sheet of notebook paper:
"You already know what the nasty
comments are." And. . .
"Why me? Why not someone else. Maybe
you picked me because I am ugly?"
Could be the benign musings of a
typically troubled teenager. Could be a suicide note. Could be the anguish of a child just
before raiding Dad's gun cabinet. I don't know what one could say to poor Ariel, except
that she is a sensitive girl going through a sensitive time, and the world isn't as
bad as all that. But that would be typical adult prattle.
Perhaps better to say that people
are mean, and they deliberately hurt one another. And yes, God should think "more
closer" about the kind of people He lets into the world. Beginning with "mean
boys," demographers and Madonna. And two more things: Ariel's sensitivity and
questions about injustice and cruelty demonstrate clearly that she is not one of
"satans demons," but, if anything, angelic in her outlook.
And that's about as far from ugly
as you can get.
I took Ariel L.'s note to a high
school counselor in hopes that someone might offer her comfort, but, I'm not optimistic.
For more City Footnotes, watch
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