Sunday, July 24, 2005

early this morning

I wish I had looked at the clock, because I can't recall the exact time. I'm guessing it was about 3 in the morning. I was having a nightmare of sorts. All I remember was the image of my neighbor (a dream neighbor, who bore no resemblence to my real neighbors) about to bludgen me to death with a two-by-four.

I jolted awake to escape this fate and, in less than a second, I heard six gun shots in the not-so-distant distance -- I'd say half a block south.

I got up and called 911 and got a machine: Do not hang up! Please hold...

While on hold, I heard tires screach from generally the same direction and distance as the shots.

Twenty, maybe thrity seconds later the operator came on and I told her about the shots. She said she'd gotten other calls from the vacinity.

I peaked out the windows a few times, trying to get a glimpse of some excitement, but I saw none, so I went to bed.

This is the second time I've heard shots in the middle of the night in my neighborhood. The first was a week after we moved in.

In neither instance did I feel scared.

Now I'm sitting out on my front porch and the birds are singing and it's the same safe, quiet neighborhood it's always been.

It all makes me think about my profession. How many times have we read an article about the inner-city where they used the phrase "shots rang out in the night," or some variation thereof? I know for a fact that I have in at least one article. I've definitely lingered for a while on details of shootings to set the scene for whatever urban tale I'm telling.

And there's nothing wrong with that. Periodic shootings are somewhat peculiar to poorer, urban neighborhoods, and reporters, who hail primarily from neighborhoods where shootings are very, very rare, tend to zero in on them.

The problem (or should I say "challenge?") is how do you point out this peculiar aspect without making the shootings out to be more than they are: noisy flair-ups from folks living dangerous lives, incidents that tend to hurt the risk-takers, not the majority of the folks in the neighborhood, for whom it's basically a safe place most of the time? Too often, the details aboout the shootings make it seem like neighborhoods like mine are all about shooting. Like we're just ducking bullets left and right.

I wish there were an easy way to put things into perspective. So-called 'hoods are safe places. It's the city, so you shouldn't just go walking around after dark. But the real dangers aren't the guys with the guns, not for honest, clean-living folks anyway. Like, I have less of a chance of getting hit by an errant bullet near my home than I do getting hit by a drunk driver on I-35 in JoCo.

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