Thursday, August 17, 2006

Civic Duty Wednesday.

I boarded the #4 headed to the Multnomah County Circuit Court. Civic duty was waiting for my arrival the past couple of weeks, along with various utility bills, and a living quarters debacle. The bus stops at fourth avenue and it’s off to the line wrapping itself around the outside of the building. Metal detectors and laxed, stagnant security awaited this day’s juror pool of democratically-enlightened optimists. Stories in the hallway would share their occupations: African American nurse who is an hour removed from her half-day nursing shift, thirty-something middle-management white male with a solid short-game and a pension for poor cellular phone etiquette, and a hundred or so more participants.

Room 130 is seated by the specified time of eight o’clock and has been summarized the day’s scenario by one of the county’s judges that will not be residing any trials by jury and a staff member who earlier handed me my plastic necklace with white keycard for identification. Morning hours were passed by reading and seated-sleep until news was announced concerning a trial requesting 15 jurors. My name was mispronounced and I responded with an affirming "here." My chance to practice my civil duty was upon me, and my fingers were crossed that I would fit into the desired profile of the attorneys. When introductions had come and gone, I had presented myself as a graduate student who recently returned from an internship without any knowledge of the judiciary faculty, prosecution, or defense. But after a brief recess to discuss and vie for jurors, I was dismissed from the courtroom/ passed over and left unable to determine the innocense of a fellow charged while intoxicated on what I assumed to be a combination of substances. Civic Duty was not to be. I wandered out of the courthouse for a lunch of solitude at Captain Ankeny’s to enjoy a tennis match on the television and the Willamette Week over a deep-dish pizza. The hour passed and I returned to the line wrapping itself around the outside of the building and to the second-half of that direct-action liberating feeling of awaiting an old woman’s voice to read the randomly-generated list. She had read 53 names out of the 55 requested for the hearing, when her dry deliberate delivery struck my attentive ear with "Steven (two second pause for anticipated mispronunciation)." To my astonishment she didn’t say anything resembling a domestic bird or manufactured chew product. The elation was recognized by a woman seated next to me, who was also rejected from the earlier trial. One more name would be listed with nervous anticipation. It wasn’t sick twist of fate in this secular sanctuary. The winners of the great juror selection process left defeated in the civil process and the rest of us were dismissed early to enjoy our afternoons knowing we have at least two-years until our civic duty may be practiced again.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Unalaska, Alaska Journal Entry 5

A thick gray mask has covered this island for the past couple of nights. The fog which has descended upon the village serves as a reminder that this region is an enigma; detached from the shared events of the whole. The present populace shows genuine concern with intimate interaction and displays a subsequent devotion to the indigenous. Forgetting the commercial aspect of the attached island of Amaknak and its port of Dutch Harbor, the Unalaskan village displays a faithful tie to its ancestral lineage. Influence of outside communities is evident-whether it’s the Russian Orthodox Church that represents one of the most recognizable man-made structures or the invasion of I-Pods amongst those adherent to a global technocracy- but, in my view, appears to be one of the last places in our nation to avoid immersion with an authentic sense. Members of the society have contemporary professions suited to the physical advantages the stretches of open water provide; leaving about eight-to-ten of the demographic to be directly connected to the sea (a potentially frustrating and sensitive topic being that the majority of this majority is not of the opposite sex). Levels ranging from: the immigrant fishery worker that departs his distant homeland for an opportunity to provide financial benefit, and hopeful comfort or escape to his family living lives away; to the coast guard worker serving a personally felt obligation to serve his country in a capacity he/she is restful in (not complacent?!); to someone convicted of a past misdemeanor, which he/she has distanced from and behaviorally recovered over, that can only discover employment in an encompassing factory at the end of the earth; et al. This is the career-oriented life found on the commercial side.

The village is tied to its surroundings in a natural manner that is aware, but not exploitive of these surroundings. A gratifying discovery remaining only in a handful of civil settings, which in my cynical view appear to be rapidly diminishing. This embedded pride in embracing the community predates the arrival of cutters and trappers, and will hopefully flourish long after their exploits conjure guilt. At a simplistic level that is why the cabin (note to reader: the cabin I previously wrote of, was completely incinerated a week after the memorable excursion) will be rebuilt. There is importance in maintaining a grip to the past and amplifying the positive impressions it has left with us. Leaving us with a higher level of community awareness.

This break from the reality of life in Portland has been refreshing and invigorating.