The helicopter kept us all awake. It was circling overhead, and we all eventually went to sleep with the sound of the pounding rotors in our heads. What we all knew, but didn't say, was that we knew there war trouble nearby. We also knew that it wasn't a television news chopper. They don't come out after ten o'clock. The news for the day has already been made by then. What we were hearing was trouble in progress.
Sure enough, when we woke up the next morning, my wife got the news from the TV without a helicopter. Two men had been shot by police and DEA agents just about the time we were all trying to pull the covers over our heads and close out the day. Six blocks from our house. It made me think of the way our realtor described our neighborhood fourteen years ago as we looked at properties around Oakland: "Some streets are nice and quiet, but you can walk just a few streets one way or another, and it's completely different." At the time, I trusted him. I still do, but it doesn't always make me more relaxed.
My trip to school every day takes me on a path that winds through those streets. The shrines with candles and Remy Martin bottles. The graffiti tags that describe and define territory. The debris that tells a story left in the gutters and the middle of the street. The sun is up, and sometimes you have to go around the caution tape, but the immediate danger has passed.
I suppose I do myself a favor by not associating with known felons or gang members. I know my neighbors and they know me. But sometimes I don't recognize the city in which I live. It's the city we chose to raise our child. It's the city that gave us speed bumps on our street to slow down the traffic. It's the city where I work and play. It's Oakland. It's home.
Sometimes home can be a very scary place.