I've long believed that the reason no one keeps their New Year's resolutions is because the new year happens in January — the dead of winter. The new year starts for me in early February, when the Memphis winter eases and spring bulbs send up tender shoots of green. On the first warm, sunny day, I'm ready to "get in shape," so for the past few weeks, I've been jogging/walking around Midtown several days a week.
Last Saturday, I was striding purposefully along North Hawthorne Street with Ry Cooder's "Why Don't You Try Me" filling my ears, when a man walked out of his front door and waved me down. He was carrying two liter bottles of white wine in one hand, a lit cigarette and wine glass in the other. He said something, but I couldn't hear him, so I pulled out my earbuds and said, "What?"
"Call 911," he said. "Someone is committing arson in the back of my house." He said this casually, as though he were saying, "I really like your running shoes."
"Seriously?" I said.
"Yes," he said, calmly, taking a drag. "They're closing the windows and lighting things on fire. Oh, wait. I've got to go get my dog out." He walked back up the sidewalk, opened the front door, and a confused-looking miniature Doberman pinscher skittered out. "Stay, Randall," the man said.
I called 911, told the dispatcher what was happening, and within three minutes a couple of large fire trucks came roaring up, sirens blasting. At that point, I figured I'd done my civic duty and left. As one of my co-workers said later when I told him this tale: "It's not every day you walk into a David Lynch movie." Which is true.
But the incident did make me think about what firefighters and other emergency responders have to deal with on a daily basis. Those firefighters had no idea what they'd find when they entered that house. It could have been a blazing fire or Truman Capote seated in a La-Z-Boy with a gun — and they had to be ready to deal with either circumstance.
Federal, state, and local budgets are now being balanced on the backs of working people, while the Wall Street fund managers and corporations who precipated our current financial doldrums get huge bonuses and tax breaks. Who do you think should be sacrificing more? As far as I'm concerned, it shouldn't be the people who teach our children, answer emergency calls, and put out our fires.