Thursday, May 18, 2006

Coeur d'Alene as an Urban Jungle?
Sometimes it just ain't the place it used to be...

When I drive on Sherman Avenue in the evening hours this time of year, I can't help but notice how much the downtown area has changed. Motorcycles line the streets. People are sitting outside at sidewalk tables, getting "loaded" on whatever they've ordered from the bar. Tonite, downtown was crawling with people. The motorists are rude and aggressive. I can hear loud, thumping music pouring out of the bars...even with my car windows closed. I witnessed a scene like this before; in PORTLAND, OREGON, over 10 years ago. Absolute anarchy on Cda's Sherman Avenue tonight, and it's only THURSDAY. It's as if, at night-time on a spring/summer's eve, the town I've always lived in becomes harsh, jet-setting, noisy, in-yer-face, and I just don't react well to situations like that and I never have.

I felt good this afternoon and went to the park late in the day to play guitar. Sitting at the seawall, I had my glasses off; I can't focus on my strings when I'm wearing them. There were kids all over the park, walking up and down the sidewalk. An odd-looking kid on a skateboard zoomed past, and my out-of-focus eyes saw him, and he was wearing a BIKINI TOP. I guess someone he knew was paying him, "on a dare" to wear it, I found out later. Anyway, I kinda thought, "huh? What?" and I went back to my guitar playing. He later came over, sat on a bench to hear me play guitar and I asked him, "why are you wearing that?" After we had talked about this for a bit, he got in my face all of a sudden, very angry, saying I was judging him. We had disagreements, and then he left. So I went back to my guitar playing. A half-hour later he came back, said one of his friends heard me say something about him, and that I had "disrespected" him. You know, the same kind of trash-talk you hear in the NBA. All I had said to someone else after he left was, "did he expect me NOT to comment on the fact he was wearing women's clothing?" Anyway, this kid got in my face, wanted me to fight, and actually threatened to KILL me. This, in Coeur d'Alene's city park. I am NOT exaggerating here. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I can't defend myself, being old, arthritic with a fairly pathetic lower back.

I know it's not safe to loiter around Pioneer Square in Portland, Oregon, after dark. I have heard that my birthplace, Hawthorne, California, is basically "jungleland" and has been taken over by gangs and is generally little short of a war zone at night. So, is Coeur d'Alene's downtown and City Park getting that way at night? After the above episode ran its course, I continued to play guitar. All of a sudden, cop cars came zooming THRU THE CITY PARK...they were looking for a girl who was walking thru the park; they spotted her; the cops got out of their cars, chased her down and put her in one of the cop cars and took off. It was like watching an episode of "Cops", where the P.D. is patrolling the ghetto. Later, I found out that she had been attacked by another girl. Her boyfriend had hauled off and hit this other girl, knocking her out; this happened near our world class CDA Rezzort, according to kids who had left there and came into the park and stopped, near where I was playing guitar.

The kid who got in my face earlier was "hopped up" on something, I believe. He was talking a mile a minute and I had the impression he was "tweaking", but I wasn't sure. Another couple of young people had been drinking wine coolers, they told me, and they were younger than drinking age. And, it seems like there is a lot more abusive and rude behavior in society than there used to be, especially from this up-and-coming bunch of tattooed, punky looking kids. I should feel safe in the city where I grew up, but I suppose I am in the same "fix" as other older citizens, locking my doors and staying in at night, for security of my life, limbs and happiness. Are kids not being raised right these days? Are there too many drugs? Is the whole hip-hop-tattoo-trash-talking-MTV mentality finally reaching North Idaho? Tonight in Coeur d'Alene's city park, I didn't feel like I was at home, AT ALL. No one seems to respect anyone anymore. Especially kids who run around in gangs, posturing and being obnoxious. All of a sudden I feel mortal, I feel afraid. Pat yourselves on the back, "SOCIETY", for turning out a generation of inconsiderate kids, the generation that will one day inherit the world!

Later on, though, a couple of young kids came thru the park; one 17 and the other 20, who were very nice, mild-mannered, articulate and soft-spoken. Those 2 kids also witnessed the cop car coming thru City Park. The younger kid was wondering why this kind of stuff had to happen. And his friend wondered the same thing. So maybe there is hope, for there are kids out there who are good kids. I guess it seems the bad kids are getting badder all the time. I do feel that the night-time wide-open atmosphere of downtown CDA, with motorcycles, streets full of young people with raging hormones, prevalence of alcohol, and cars and motorcycles zooming all over the place is basically a festering breeding ground for all kinds of trouble, which manifested itself tonight. I guess the City Park, for me, is off-limits at dusk. I don't know what else to do. When I was a kid growing up here, we'd go cruise Sherman at night, listen to the tape deck, see our friends, go to Pappy's Pizza for a deep-dish Pepperoni, and then go home. That was it. It's sure a lot different these days.

I don't know about you, but I am kinda afraid of the new culture out there these days. While we may not have a lot of "punks" in Coeur d'Alene who look like the kids in the above picture, I just get the feeling this new generation is "in your face", and I'm scared of that. I really am. So whenever I do meet a good kid working at his job, or in the park when I'm playing guitar, I really appreciate them. It has to be a lot harder trying to grow up these days. Age or experience doesn't matter to me; I appreciate good people of ANY age. And they were sure in short supply tonight. My Mom used to sing an old hymn titled, "I don't feel at home in this world anymore", and I really did feel that way tonight. In my hometown. Sad. I do know that City Park, as much as I've always genuinely loved it, seems to carry with it more hostility these days. Double sad.

Hopefully the light of the coming day will put all of this in perspective. Right now, I feel pretty bad about all of this.


Blogger Phil said...

Don't let the few bad kids get you down. The vast majority of teenagers are not like that. Yes, there's a great deal of apathy and selfishness, but most of the younger generation are not those "in your face" disrespectful types.

That being said, I also wouldn't wander around City Park (or any park) at night. It only takes one bad guy to spoil your evening.

I look for out of the way places to take my kids, away from the out-of-town crowds that might cause trouble. They generally stay near where their cars are parked. I've found that we can swim at NIC Beach and out on Tubbs Hill without all the annoying teenagers and tourists. Also, we go hiking to places like Mineral Ridge and English Point and never ever see "bad people"...

10:41 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

One last thing, "respect for other people and their property" is one of the utmost lessons I am teaching my children. So, don't fear... The future is not hopeless. I'm not the only one making sure their kids grow up right.

10:43 PM  
Blogger little ol' me said...

Hi, Phil...I don't like to have to amend my conduct for others; I don't like to have someone make me scared of visiting City Park, but yes, I have noticed the last 2 or 3 years that it's getting weird around dusk, and maybe that's a good time to vamoose. I think what bothers me so much is the lack of respect; I am an "elder" after all, although I don't look like one.

You might notice that after I'd commented on all of the bad kids, I typed another paragraph in which I stated I appreciate the good kids out there. Sounds like you're really a concerned parent, Phil, and people like you (and their kids) will make this world a better place. I hope.

12:27 AM  

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