Just over a year ago, Butterscotch made a radical proposal. You knit, she said. Knit a baby blanket for the hospital over yonder, blotting out the sun to our south and west.
Tata: What? No. I’m a wretcherous knitter. I knit for lonesome cats, who do not care that I lack skill and of course it’s all about me. Wait, why are you doing this?
Butterscotch: Some people have babies and no blankets. It would be nice if we could send home every baby with a blanket.
Tata: How many babies are born there every month?
Butterscotch: I don’t know.
Tata: Do you have some sense of how many infants are born into poverty in that hospital?
Tata: So you and that group of nice people with yarn fixations in common are knitting indiscriminately for people who may not need your help, but also for people who may not have anything at all?
Butterscotch: That’s our plan.
Tata: I gotta mull over this one.
Despite what we see in Washington budget fights that leave the poor, sick, elderly and vulnerable high and dry, lots of people are motivated to help strangers. People are doing projects everywhere and it can be tricky to find a way to contribute to the common good without feeling like one is being conned. Some projects are presented with uncomfortably vague aims like Make a child smile. That is a project that probably doesn’t need doing. I don’t know about you, but I’m not leaving the house for that. The best thing for a perplexed prospective volunteer to do is find an existing organization with established aims and auditable balance sheets and join in. Maybe a good-deed-doer ladles green beans at the soup kitchen. That’s a good thing to do and can be done in March or July, probably with greater ease than in December, when all the other good-deed-doers try to horn in on the deed-doing action. Hey! Good deeds don’t even need holiday-based timetables. On any given Thursday night, a person could volunteer to ladle green beans.
But there’s more to it, because when we do good-deedery that doesn’t need doing, we create stuff and ill-feeling that we’d might be better off without. Say I decide my local women’s shelter needs new curtains because I just learned how to make curtains on my shiny new Singer Sewing Machine and I want to take that bad boy for a few blistering laps. So I make curtains and discover no one will tell me where the shelter is and I’ve no place to put my good will, let alone those pink gingham formal drapes. This is about me and not about what someone else needs. A little research at the beginning would have helped me create something someone needed, but now I have hostility-fortifying and bank account-draining clutter.
Yes, I’m being a little harsh. Yes, I’m the crazy person who’s been knitting cat blankets for nearly two years and could anyone need 100 rectangles of unevenly knotted yarn? I don’t know, but I trust Georg to tell me when enough is enough, if enough could be enough, if blankets even contribute anything to the common good. I worry about that. Back to Butterscotch: parents of newborns who don’t have blankets need a lot of help, of a kind I can’t offer. They need a pile of money for food and medical care and transportation and furniture and clothing and supplies and safe spaces and good advice and rest and quiet and all of this is what we picture when we imagine a birth. In America, more than half the population has that and can provide the essentials. Maybe Butterscotch’s blankets gather dust in a pile in a hospital closet, I thought, or maybe they go to people who have April-fresh plenty waiting at home for them. What were the odds that this project accomplished anything at all? I didn’t know and went on my way. This is of course all about me.
I know. You’re shocked.
Being judged on something I haven’t developed much skill at goes right to the core of my insecure wussiosity. I couldn’t knit something people would look at because people I don’t know would see how inadequate I was. Boy, was that stupid, because people who do know me cope with that every day. Thing is: figuring that out freed me to try it, so I knitted up a baby blanket. It took a million years and the product of all this knitting and fretting, while soft and potentially cozy, is the kind of thing you accidentally leave on the bus and forget about promptly. To my profound surprise, the object itself just wasn’t a big deal.
The thing is that when Miss Sasha was born, I had nothing. No food, no safe place to live, no furniture, no baby clothes or supplies, no money – not even cab fare home. A lot of people helped me, some of whom I never met, some I should remember but don’t, some I can never repay. So I made a second blanket and then a third and gave them, through existing organizations, to people who could use a little warmth. Probably.
A month ago, Butterscotch asked if I’d participate this year. Though I have doubts about what the project accomplishes, I said I would. Yesterday, Butterscotch sailed up the sidewalk in a windstorm, picked up the blanket and sailed off again. Inspiration, as you know, is the breath of the gods.
It’s 10:05 p.m. Pete and I finally just sat down and put our feet up after a grocery shopping trip to the Pathmark of the Damned on Route 1 in Edison, where nothing was on the shelves and zombies shambled through the frozen foods aisle. I’m so tired I could sleep for a week, but I’d wake up to find my stepmother Darla on the welcome mat and she’s got the appetite of a linebacker. Obviously, I should get up and go cook something. Today is the Solstice, we just saw lightning and the sky just opened up. Topaz has curled up on my lap while Sweetpea snores gently to my right. About two weeks ago:
Tata: I love you to bits, but it’s time for me to throw my crinolines over my head and –
Miss Sasha: MOM! It’s bedtime for the kids and we have to leave.
Tata: Oh, thank Demeter, it’s time for Grandma to start drinking –
Miss Sasha: MOM! Panky repeats everything! Don’t say that or I’m going to get phone calls from pre-school.
Tata: Then make sure he pronounces everything correctly: It’s time for Grandma to start drinking.
Miss Sasha: MOM! I’ve got a toddler under each arm and I’ll break down the door with my forehead if I have to.
Tata: Good night, my darlings!
There’s more than one way to get some peace and quiet.
The last ten minutes of last night’s 48 Hours made me so angry I was still stomping my foot this morning. You can watch it here, but I’m warning you: you will come away howling. And though it’s a story about murdered women and dismembered body parts, you will know whose head has got to roll.
Pete says the cop is setting someone up. What I hear is a man blotting women out.
Added In the CBS interview, the cop says Shannan Gilbert got disoriented in the woods and drowned. Erin Moriarty gives him several opportunities to walk that back, but he doesn’t. Here we find this nonsense in another form:
Theories going around the past couple weeks were that she got disoriented trying to navigate the mud and thicket, and possibly fell, got stuck and drowned. This should come at some relief to her family who have been searching for the girl since she went missing in May, that it was a random accident and not a sinister and sexually motivated crime by some sicko. Still, getting trapped and dying in a swamp seems like something more apropos for the dessert, the mountains, or the Everglades and not a quiet little beach community on the South Shore.
Gilbert was last seen knocking on a stranger’s door and acting irrationally before she vanished, so clearly she was distressed and not thinking properly, or under the influence, which would not have been unusual in her profession – working as prostitute.
IQs plunge when people talk about prostitutes. No opinion is too stupid to articulate. Most of the victims were women and one was either a fetus or an infant. They were people. And the police are now saying there’s a serial killer on Long Island who dumped bodies in a small area and Shannan Gilbert, fleeing for her life, stumbled into that area, accidentally got separated from her clothing and belongings and drowned.
Yeah. That happened. Sure.
Second addition Ah! Transcript found. Here is where I shouted at the TV.
In most of these cases, police sat on missing persons reports – losing not only time, but valuable evidence. In Shannan Gilbert’s disappearance, security video at the Oak Beach gate that could have provided important clues was apparently recorded over. Shannan’s jacket, which Joe Brewer says sat in his driveway for days, may have been lost.
“This is a tough question Commissioner, but, if that had been a wife of a resident there who had made this panicked 911 call and then suddenly disappears, wouldn’t there have been much more of a search than there was for Shannan Gilbert?” Moriarty asked.
“No, I disagree with you – strongly,” [Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard] Dormer replies. “Number one, when the officer responded, he didn’t know that that was a sex worker. …he conducted a search in that area. … this was a normal – if there is such a thing – normal missing case of an adult. And the officer responded.”
“This wasn’t normal,” Moriarty says. “She was hysterical. She said, ‘they’re trying to kill me’ on the phone. This wasn’t a normal missing case.”
“I don’t want to, in any way, say that we didn’t do the right thing that morning,” Dormer responded. “The officer – we looked at his actions and he searched that area that morning, which was appropriate…”
And, says Dormer, they have devoted unprecedented manpower and resources to finding Shannan.
“We kept going back there over the months…and never gave up,” he said.
So far, I was only shouting about how a frightened woman is a frightened woman, no matter what job she does, but then there was this that sent me over the edge.
Asked if he believed Shannan Gilbert was murdered, Dormer told Moriarty,” There’s no evidence whatsoever to show that anyone was out to harm her that night…”
“She clearly was in fear for her life,” noted Moriarty.
“Now, we’re awaiting results of the medical examiner’s examination of her remains. And so we have to have an open mind on that,” Dormer said. “But I would caution right now that we don’t believe that she was a victim of foul play…”
DID HE JUST BLAME THE DEAD WOMAN? HE DID!
Even though the autopsy is not yet complete, the police commissioner says he believes a disoriented Shannan ran into the tangled brush of the marsh – possibly trying to make it to the parkway – and accidentally drowned.
“But does it make sense, Commissioner, that her belongings would be found in one spot, including her clothes and her body a quarter mile away?” Moriarty asked.
“That’s explainable because she’s hysterical,” Dormer replied. “And she’s discarding her possessions as she moves along.”
I SWEAR TO GOD I SAW HIS MOUTH SAY THOSE WORDS.
“But her clothes?”
“Well, her jeans could have come off from running in that environment,” Dormer explaine[d], “and that is a possibility that the jeans came off and she kept running…”
THIS MOTHERFUCKER WILL DO ANYTHING IN HIS POWER TO AVOID SOLVING THIS MURDER, INCLUDING DETACH WHOLLY FROM REALITY.
Vernon Geberth isn’t buying it.
“Did she take her clothes off before she went for a dip,” Geberth asked. “I think that the fact that her purse, her cell phone, and her pants were found in this location and her body someplace else is highly consistent with someone dumping the body and getting rid of evidence.”
Yes. Yes, it is consistent with dumping a body, isn’t it? It’s the Long Island connection, but when Dormer talks, all I hear is the Mayor of Amity refusing to close the beaches as the corpses pile up.