Monday, August 10, 2009

This Week on 2nd Betwen Blanchard and Bell

The weekly meeting of People's Belltown Republic this week was pretty mellow and marked by a cameo appearance by Margaret Thatcher.

I started on my own this week, and cleaned the corner of 2nd and Blanchard and in front of the Crocodile before the crew showed up. I found three pizza boxes, which are sold on the street for $5 on the weekends. I also found the typical tall-boy beer cans, but the block was noticeably absent of Jooze cans. I guess the street got sick of Jooze--it must have too many vitamins or something.

I cleaned up the corner of 2nd and Blanchard on my own, and cleaned around two men who were standing on the corner looking to score or deal some crack. I cleaned around them, and one of them ACTUALLY recycled the tall-boy can of the beer he was drinking from a paper bag. When he recycled it felt like a bit of progress or a small victory because often the crack people throw the cans in the bushes. It felt good.

The stormwater gutters on the street had started accumulating trash and cigarette butts again, so we cleaned them out. We only pulled one garbage bag worth of trash from the gutter, and it was a huge improvement over our last gutter clean-out.

Our "trash find of the week" was an empty food container on which was written a message to a homeless person. The author offered the homeless person Indian cuisine and signed the message as Margaret Thatcher. Bloody brilliant, Maggie!

In the gardening department we are batting a big zero. All of our plants died in the record heat, and the soil in the beds is like dust. We now realize that we should have worked on amending and improving the soil of the planting beds we adopted prior to planting. We're planning on doing some sheet mulching this fall to try to regenerate the soil a bit. We plan this on our adopted corner planters, as well as in front of Zoe. Hopefully this winter, the soil will be improved and we will be able to plant root vegetables to break up the soil in the spring.

We're also going to start working on some art. Hopefully soon. Keep your fingers crossed....

Monday, August 3, 2009

Historical Crack Market and the Decline of Jooze

It's been a while since I have posted an update to our People's Belltown Republic (PBR) group effort of making our little slice of Belltown paradise (On 2nd between Bell and Blanchard).

If you haven't heard yet, Seattle has been a hotbox. We had a week of record heat in the nineties and reached a record high at Seatac of 102. Our little block has been sweltering and the soil in the flower beds on the corners are dust. Every plant we put in our beds is pretty much dead. Despite the heat, we've managed to get out there every Sunday and work.

Our big realization is that the smoking ban has been bad for salmon. Smokers throw cigarette buts into the gutters and planters on our street. They end up washed into the Puget Sound, so we kind of think we have a population of nicotine addicted fish. We spent one afternoon cleaning butts out of the gutters. We hauled four full garbage bags of butts and it made a huge difference to the way the block looked. We were all pretty amazed by the work we did.

Anyway, we noticed waaaaaaay more cigarette butts in the planter on the corner of 2nd and Blanchard since the Crocodile reopened. We talked with the manager, and they graciously added the cleanup of the street and flowerbed to their nightly checklist. Thanks Croc! You guys rule.

As far as our trash tally goes, things have been pretty quiet lately in the flowerbeds. I found a pair of dirty pants last week (ewww), a needle (eee!). There's definitely an uptick in beer cans being stashed in the bushes. Searching for and dealing crack can work up a thirst. On an interesting note, the consumption of Jooze is down and Busch Light is up. Dealers must be going for a more refreshing, summer time flavor.

The crackheads are also big into noticing who is a cop or part of Belltown's Citizens on Patrol. Recently, we were picking up trash in front of the record store near a group of people who appeared to be doing a crack transaction. One of them yelled out the alarm to the others: "C>O>P! Citizens on Patrolll!" I said: "No. We're picking up garbage."

On another note, I watched another crack deal outside my building on Saturday morning at 9AM in broad daylight. I watched a gentlemen in his sixties take money from a guy in his twenties and give him a rock. Then, I watched the younger guy light up and walk away. It was pretty brazen but not surprising.

I have a theory that our block is like a historic crack hunting ground. I base this on the book: Emerald City. The Environmental History of Seattle. In the book, the author shares that Belltown has always been one of the city's "centers of sin." If Belltown has always been a center of sin, then perhaps our corner is a historic center of the drug black market passed down from one generation of users to the next. Perhaps my corner is the epicenter.

Who knows. I do know, however, that we're in the center of Crackville USA and it's not getting better.