Tag Archives: politics

Day 27: 8 Wasted Hours

Even though I got no credit for anything I did today, I really wanted to write here about how I spent an entire day chasing a piece of paper. It is also of value to express how the government does not seem to know what to do with people who do what they are told.

My original log sheet for community service hours “expired” on November 1. They give log sheets that expire periodically so that you have the option of failing to renew it and then having to pay a duplicate fee for the same volunteer work. Yes, the state charges you to do your community service.

I was told that since I do not yet have a probation officer, I would need to travel to the probation office to get an APPROVAL to continue doing my community service hours. I pointed out the oddity of the premise behind this action, but the teller looked at my blankly, “we don’t have authority to give you an extension here.”

He concluding our conversation by asking about my animal riding charge.

The last time I checked in for probation I went to the central probation office. They told me that since I don’t have an officer yet and since my case is being transferred to Orange County (where I lay my head at night), I should go to the Rio Hondo probation office in Whittier since it is closest to where I am staying.

So– and I know this entry has been clear as mud so far– I drove to Whittier from downtown where the community service office is. After driving to downtown from Anaheim to begin with.

The Rio Hondo office was cleaner and smaller than the central office. My hopes rose for a split second that this was a sign of life.

I was sorely misstaken.

After checking in at the probation check in machine, I requested to speak to someone about the extension. I was told that since I do not have a probation officer, I would need to wait for the “officer of the day.”

After waiting over 40 minutes, a chubby woman yelled my name from a side door. Relieved, I rushed over at her with all my paperwork in hand. My plan was to get the approval from her and then take it back to downtown to get my new timesheet.

She looked at me like I was from the far end of the galaxy.

“Huuuuh? No. No, no, no, hun. We don’t know you at all. We can’t give you anything. You need to go back to your probation officer.”

I explained that I don’t have one. She looked irritated and had me wait another 15 minutes while she “checked.”

“McCall! Hey, yes. Yes you do have a probation officer. I wrote his name here on the sticky, Mr. Wesley. You need to go to him for an extension.”

And with that she slammed the door in my face. I got a distinct feeling that someone was being lazy.

I jumped back in my car for the trek to Crenshaw and Exposition in the heart of Los Angeles, past downtown this time. But before I did, I made sure to snap this photo:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have found the cervix and diagnosed it as incompetent.

Upon arriving 20 miles west in congested traffic, I walked in the central probation office trying not to cry. I walked up to the check in window and explained my dilemma.

“Oh, well, no. He’s not your probation officer. And anyway, he isn’t here today. Let me check and see who can see you.”

I waited 45 minutes. A short, bald man, poked his head out a side door and barked at me. “Why are you still here? You already checked in at the Rio Hondo office.”

Apparently, he hadn’t gotten the memo.

For the fifth (sixth? seventh?) time, I explained my need for an extension to continue doing my community service.

He reviewed the paperwork and suggested I just not do it until later on in my probation. I tried to remain respectful. Finally he said he’d have the officer of the day assist me.

“I was told the officer of the day at Rio Hondo couldn’t help me.”

“Just have a seat.” he grumbled.

Another 20 minutes and an grey haired woman called my name. She allowed me to come back to where he desk was so she could finally help me. This occurred at hour SIX.

She barked directions at me as she walked behind me: “Turn left. Turn right. Stop. Sit.”

It finally occurred to me that every probation officer walked behind me. It also occurred to me that most of the VOA staff walked behind me. It began to dawn on me that it was impossible for me to attack them this way. Better leave my nunchucks at home.

I once again explained my issue. This officer was a little bit slow so I explained it repeatedly. I was at her desk for almost an hour. I finally left with a paper in hand that she wasn’t sure was what they wanted. Good to feel like seven hours of your day was spent on something concrete and well researched. I trembled inside at how I would take the resistence from the community service office if this was the wrong paper.

Fortunately, my fears did not come to fruition and I finally had the paper I needed an hour later. It was a well achieved goal, after all I had spent eight hours trying to acquire it.

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Day 26: 97.5 Hours Remaining

Conrad Murray Junior. This is the new nickname I get for being the “hardest working woman at the VOA” today. A client who has been begging me for a phone call (tall white women are his “thing,” he says) asked once again for me to spare some time so he can wine and dine me. I explained, again, that I’m not interested in investing my time in this area right now, which caused him to turn to the staff nearby and complain about how I don’t want to have dinner with a black man.

It’s all about race, even when I don’t make it that way.

Somehow things turned to my conviction and the staff mentioned I was involved with a birth.

“Did you cut the cord?” someone asked.

“Yes.” Duh.

The fellah shrugged. Apparently cutting the cord was proof I’m a felon.

It didn’t dawn on me until afterward that I actually DIDN’T cut this particulary baby’s cord. Se la vie. I had already earned the Conrad Jr. title.

Earlier on this morning, while walking to the shelter, Eric asked me what I thought about the verdict. My response came through shivering lips since the temperatures on skid row have now plummeted into the forties.

“I don’t know. The whole thing is complicated. But I do know that the video of the judge reading the verdict and the clerk announcing it… the video of the cheering crowd in response… it made me feel sick.” I’m sure my face demonstrated the terror and grief that rushes through my body any time I remember that moment in my life when a jury of people who know nothing about midwifery found me guilty of a felony.

“Yeah, what people don’t seem to remember is that Dr. Murray and Jackson were friends. I imagine it hurt the doctor to see his friend die. People forget that. They forget what he might be feelin.”

“Perhaps it’s still too close to my own trial date.” I gulp hard here, remembering that Dr. Murray faces four years in prison, max, while I faced three. My body shudders again, remember the stress of awaiting my sentencing date. Each day more excruciating than the last.

There is some level of projected understanding beneath Eric’s tough exterior that feels like he’s been where I’m at. I wish I knew why. I haven’t known many people who have crossed that line through the looking glass. The white rabbit isn’t really all that exciting and most people who’ve actually BEEN there don’t necessarily want to relive the horrors.

But I do. I want to talk and paint and scream it out all over anyone who will listen. I want people to KNOW what real judgement feels like so they learn to protect others from it when it isn’t warranted.

I had lunch with a couple who lost their children a long time ago, despite the fact that they have had their charges dropped. The system still has their children locked away from them. Innocent parents being punished for not being typical parents. They have lost everything in their quest to regain their babies. They are now living on skid row, in a shelter just up the street. So strange to sit across from intelligent, hardworking people, who are forced into subjection by the judgement of a handful of childless social workers. Judgement of victimless crimes is a foe of true liberty.


Day 22: 129 Hours Remaining

My friend Debbie came for a lunch visit today.

Debbie is black. She was also accosted on the short walk from her parked car to the shelter. She didn’t even make it before she had to kick someone, or, as she put it “defend myself from my own people.” So she turned around and went back to her car and picked me up in her vehicle.

Poor girl couldn’t find her way out of a basket. She was so lost in skid row. I finally directed her away from a throng of street dwellers who seemed very interested as she drove by slowly. Eventually she caught sight of me and her smile lit up the entire street.

“Tell your friend to quit smiling so much.” Matt sarcastic poked fun as I left the shelter behind for a moment.

So strange to see a member of my old life pushed up against the backdrop. She seemed a little shocked. I thanked her for taking the time. She said everyone should see this.

Over lunch we discussed midwifery politics, my case and then landed on the question that has burned through my brain for 21 solid days. Why is nearly everyone on skid row black? I mean, really. Another black friend of mine said he once stopped on 6th and San Pedro and thought, “Wow. So this is where the black folks are.”

We pondered all the various reasons… Katrina, lack of education, neurological predispositions to various drugs. But nothing seemed to fit the bill.

After she left it occurred to me. Almost everyone here has a record. And now I’m convinced I’m partially looking at the end result of racism in the criminal system. Yes, the chicken may indeed come before the egg. The cause and effect needs to be looked at from the opposite perspective to connect the telling dots.

I saw the same thing in jail. Almost everyone was black there too. And the defendents in the courthouse… at least the ones with a yawning court appointed attorney.

And now the shelter staff looks shinier against that back drop. Most of them are survivors as well as felons. And they’ve found the will to turn around and make a difference. Not a difference for everyone, or even most, but a difference in some. A difference in a few. Hell, even a difference in ONE is an eternal reward.

An 82 year old man walked on the grounds and proclaimed himself homeless. I have a hard time telling the age of black men. They have this perpetual youth thing down. I would not have thought he was as old as he was if he didn’t tell us. Perhaps the fact that he walked with a cane and was slower than the other men would’ve given me a hint.

He was beautiful.

Another older client gawked at his age and told us that he didn’t want to live to be 82. He philosophized that growing that old means that all your loved ones are gone. He said he doesn’t want to say goodbye to everyone and be all alone.

One of the staff piped up, “I wouldn’t mind. I want to live to be a real old man. I’d just make me a whole new setta friends.”

It’s this positive attitude that makes the staff glow.

Eventually Eric came out and met with him. He spoke kindly to him and slowed with the respect children are rightfully taught to show their elders. The fact the man was even homeless was a shame on all of us. Eric slowly walked him to his office and found him a safe place to go for shelter. And with that I began to see that these case workers are doing the work of all of us.


Day 17: 164.5 Hours Remaining

I’m feeling a bit down in the mouth today.

The sky was spitting as I walked skid row this morning. Little smudges of humanity skidded muddily all up and down the sidewalk and into the gutters. Their faces were like muddied watercolors on a grey piece of parchment.

Rain actually means less work to do at the shelter. The gate was locked to all but those who secured beds. The shelter discourages sitting in the rain. I can’t imagine the clients want to sit in the rain anyway.

When the rain subsided I tried to make up things to do since I had been left idle most of the morning. I scooped up fallen leaves and swept water into rain gutters. Perhaps this is what led to my sadness… the insufferable idleness. I have never been able to just sit.

I am reduced to two dimensions at the shelter by most folks. I’m either praised for my beauty, sexually preyed upon, asked out on a date… OR… I’m viewed as too good to include. References to Lindsey Lohan, my “parking tickets” (how everyone seems to assume I got here), my home in West L.A. (don’t I wish!), and today: my BMW, abound.

There are so few people who understand where I’m coming from. The word “felony” pre-supposes something. Wait a minute. It IS something. Innocent until proven guilty. I was proven at this point. There is no more demand for absolution. It doesn’t exist. I am a felon. Period.

And that thought propels me into trying to find other felons. Someplace I “belong.”

Rejected by the people of California. Paying my dues to the nameless, faceless victims who were saved from my midwifery practice. Being told I need to prove that I have been reformed. Reformed from what? From thinking for myself? From honoring someone’s rights? From protecting someone in danger? From trying to do my best?

The only person at the shelter I seem to see my reflection in appears too frightened to open up to me since he has a son my age. There are some life experiences that remove the barriers of age, race, gender, personality. There are certain depths that bond people together to the point that you recognize your own pain in them without saying a word.

My old roommate once said he could recognize someone who had been institutionalized by just seeing them from a distance. I didn’t believe him. Now I do.

I can see the ones whose best was not enough.


Day 1: 280 Hours Remaining

The tedious driving to south central only reveals that the Assistance League office at that location no longer exists. How typical. How joyous. More wasted gas with a court ordered cessation of income. Hoorah.

I’ve learned my lesson so I decide to attempt a call to the next office listed. Ring. Ring. Ring. Times fifty. Nope, that won’t work either.

When all else fails, the traffic court is always open. That beauty of beurocracy… the Hill Street Hilarious. The paperwork says the Assistance League is on the 2nd floor, 9th window. The 9th window says the Assistance League is at the 2nd window. The hours of operation are different than the paperwork. More waiting and more parking fees.

Finally there is a person. She is mousy, hispanic and full of smiles. Relief washes over me. A HUMAN! She asks me to fill out paperwork, which has become my full time job these days. Boxes to check and my vital stats repeated in numerous places. I mark that I have been convicted of B&P 2052, a felony.

She types into her computer and looks up over her glasses. “Whatchoo get arrested for?” she asks with a puzzled expression.

“Practicing medicine without a license. I caught a baby.”

“That’s a new one.” She purses her lips with that ghetto distate. “Hold on.”

She returns with an apologetic expression. “I’m sorry Mija. Looks like ju gonna have ‘drive or ride and animal’ on jor paperwork. Nobody in here knows why but da computer says dat every time I type in jor conviction number.”

Great. Not only am I a felon, but now whoever I do my community service work for is going to think I was arrested for bestiality.

“How many hours ju got?”

“240 plus 40 with CalTrans.”

She types some more and gives me three options. She tells me my options are limited because very few places for community service want felons. Two of the places have hours that would require me to pay money for childcare I don’t have since I can no longer work.

“Ooooh, Mija… this one might work for ju. It’s with the VOA and it’s nights.”

“Perfect.” I tell her. Skid Row, here I come: a midwife convicted for riding an animal. Maybe they’ve confused me with Boudicca.*

*http://www.unc.edu/celtic/catalogue/boudica/catalog.html