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Trouble on the block

January 10, 2019

January 8, 2019

The day started normally enough, although I didn’t drag myself out of bed right away.  P. brought me a cup of coffee.  The stuff I made was too strong yesterday.  Gunther and I headed out for our morning constitutional walk.  Our dog wanted to walk around the block clockwise, so I followed him, listening through earbuds to the Welsh opera:  Blodwen.  I will sing in the chorus here in Billings when it opens May 19.  The songs are all in Welsh, hence the need to practice. Our maestro, Dr. Dulais Rhys, sent us exquisite recordings.

A house at the end of our block was in disarray.

I wasn’t totally surprised.  Last summer I had stopped to speak to one of the occupants there, a woman and her grown son.  

That’s when I found out her son had been struggling with a mental illness.  For years, I too have been struggling, so I suggested attending a NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) meeting.  She was apologetic and embarrassed.  She said she needed NAMI at least as much as her son.

Anyhow, this morning I heard much roaring and hollering, “SHIT,” cried a loud, angry voice.  At first I walked past, then because the house is near the alley, I walked Gunther down the alley a short distance, righted a big dumpster that was sideways, collected Gunther’s poop.  I heard more shouting.  More cursing. Anyone else would intervene somehow, I thought.

Gunther and I returned to the front door and a young man, perhaps in his 20s, came out.  Tattooed, wearing a black tee shirt, he smoked one of those vaping cigarettes.  He told me he was sorry he had been shouting.  The vaping device had a blue light. I could identify with him.

“Sounds like you are hurting badly,” I observed.  He said yes, he was in pain and he didn’t want to frighten me.  He seemed remarkably composed, considering the ruckus he had been making.  I told him I wasn’t afraid, but I was willing to help.  I told him I had some experience with people on meds, like my own brother.  (This was an understatement.  When I worked for the Indian Health Service on the local reservations, I had become friends with dozens of schizophrenic and bipolar and depressed sufferers.  Several close relatives wrestle with mental illnesses.)

He replied he thought he needed meds.  He said he had been locked up before, and he had tried the local Crisis Center.  They don’t send you home with prescriptions, he said.  At the Crisis Center “You have to stand in line for hours behind a whole bunch of homeless people,” he complained.

I promised to ask my nephew, Jon Angel, who counsels mentally ill people, for advice for him.

Gunther and I finished our walk home, then I took him to an appointment with Dr. Kate Kilzer, veterinarian.  Fortunately, Gunther is in excellent condition, but he needed blood work and two immunizations and a course of some sort of good-tasting pill to prevent worms.  Gunther is afraid of the veterinarian’s office. He lost control of his bowels and got a sitz bath there.

Meanwhile, I spoke to Jon who invited me to have the cursing guy on the end of the block phone him.  “If he’s on Medicaid, he can get help immediately,” Jon said. “I’d be happy to see him once for free.”

So I stopped back to visit the guy at the end of the block.  Broken glass crunched underfoot as I approached his front door. It had a broken window.  I knocked.  

The tattooed guy with black tee shirt opened.  I relayed Jon’s message to him.  I told him that Jon is a licensed mental health counselor and that he loves to get patients just like him.  He looked pleased.  He invited me in.  He closed the broken door.

The room was dark because the shades were drawn.  The TV was on, I think, possibly with a video game that I didn’t recognize.  Candles burned. The vaping device shined blue.

Previously I had told Jon about the broken stuff—lilac sticks and glass—I had seen out front of the house.  Jon surmised the guy might be angry and took out his anger on stuff, not people.  A good thing.  I told Jon I thought the guy’s mother was probably in her bedroom with cotton stuffed in her ears.

However, once my eyes adjusted, I was relieved to see lots of decorative glass objects—crystal goblets—in the living room, artfully displayed.  Reminded me of a religious shrine.

A circle with a star, several feet across, made of duct tape was on the carpet.  The candles burned in some of the goblets.  The man invited me to sit, so I had him call Jon with my phone.  Jon didn’t pick up.  It went to voicemail and the guy (whom I’ll call Jerry) handed it back to me.   I left a message for Jon to please call Jerry.  We traded names and phone numbers, I urged him to hang in there, and I assured him that we will stick together.  He gave me a warm handshake.  I reminded him that we are neighbors.

As I left I asked about his mom.  His mother, he said, was at work.  He had a broom and dustpan for the broken glass.  There was some evidence that he had swept up some of it.

Next day we drove to Deer Lodge to get a dog for our son’s family. Jerry called when we were in Butte. I texted him Jon’s phone number. He thanked me.

After returning to our block we walked Gunther and Velma. We found a kitchen knife with a burned blade along with what looked like burned newspapers on the sidewalk in front of Jerry’s house. I dropped the knife on the porch. A fellow who called himself AJ came out. He said he was staying with Jerry.

This morning when I walked the new dog at 4:30 I saw no evidence the mess on the porch had been cleaned up. The broom looked broken, but the house was quiet. I walked past the burnt newspaper.

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