Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Day in the Life in Gettysburg, PA

This knee-weakeningly beautiful late summer day, we Jingos took ourselves to Gettysburg, PA, to get our Civil War on.

It's odd, me being the John Mobberly buff, that we've never done this. It's quite close. We've been to all the big ones in the area -- Harpers Ferry a million times, Manassas, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg -- but never Gettysburg till now.

It's a very humbling place, and my intention had been to post up a sober photo essay on the battlefield. That will still happen; however, something else came up that I've got to get off my chest first.

You can't walk the whole battlefield, it's just too big. (That's one of the humbling things about it, really, imagining this entire stretch of land, from Oak Ridge to the Devil's Den, completely covered, like ants on a rotting apple-core, with thousands and thousands and thousands of men whose sole intent is on killing each other as efficiently as can be done.)

So we bought a CD at the Visitors Center; it contained a narrated automobile tour of the battlefield. We set off to do the tour, but only got about a third of the way through it (that narrator was one prolix son-of-a-bitch) before we all began to succumb to the crankiness that accompanies a rumbly in the familial tumbly.

Abandoning our tour with the promise to continue it another day, we drove into the extremely charming town of Gettysburg. We found a street that promised some passable restaurants, a sort of bohemian street with coffeeshops and hippie-tchotchke emporia. Just as I found a good parking spot and was about to pull into it, I glanced down an alley to my right and saw an absolute brigade of policemen, very much On the Job: They were keeping out of sight down this alley, it was plain, and looking at a particular address with grave purpose on their faces, racking shotguns, readying truncheons, gripping shields.

Holy shit! I believe I said. I'm an excellent example for our children. Look!

I pulled into the spot on two wheels. If it's actually possible to peel rubber while parallel parking, I did it. I really wanted to see what was going to go down. So, once they'd glimmed the circs, did the Fam.

We leaped out of the car as the phalanx of policemen stormed quite literally past our bumper and across the street. They bashed a door in, and piled into the residence, a three-story walkup, shouting lustily, as is the policeman's wont.

(At exactly that moment, a young man was entering the door immediately to the left of the raided house, a small grocery shop. The look on his face as he took in what was happening was utterly priceless.)

Only at this moment did it occur to Johnny Tourism that I had a perfectly functioning digital camera in my hand. So (discreetly, ever mindful that policemen rather object to having their photos taken while in performance of their duties; something about putting their souls in little boxes, no doubt) I began snapping away.

At first there was not much to see. My camera, though a very nice one, has the failing that it cannot penetrate walls.

After a very short while, though, I saw this appear on the roof of the house next to the raided residence. The raided house is the brick one, to the extreme right of the frame. The girl has plainly gone up a fire escape in the back of the house and gotten to the roof, and her intention is to do a Jason Bourne number and get out on the lam:

Be careful! I think I shouted. Incorrigible ghouls though we Jingos are, I had absolutely no desire for me -- or, God forbid, my children -- to watch a woman plunge to her death down a slippery roof. A policeman came out from an alley behind this house, and we all shouted to him, "She's on the roof! Look up! She's on the roof!"

We did this, I like to think, not because we wanted to rat out this panicked girl, but because we were genuinely afraid for her safety. I had a crazy thought of running across the street to break her fall, if need be.

John Law took over, and issued the most insane order I have ever heard from a First Defender: Go back to the window you came out of!

I actually yelled at him. No! No! She just crawled over that dangerous roof! Find a ladder! Don't make her crawl back! I wasn't trying to usurp his authority; I was trying to increase his fund of knowledge so he could make a better decision. I had seen that girl crawl across that roof. He had not.

At this point, Mr. Law decided that he didn't need hecklers, thanks very much, and ordered us sharply to vacate the street. This we did, but not before I got a few more surreptitious snaps. Sorry about the focus on this one. A few of Mr. Law's colleagues:

The girl disappeared from our view as we were following Mr. Law's orders. I got this last shot of her:

We Jingos, our store of adrenaline refreshed quite nicely, thanks very much, wandered down the street toward the restaurants. We stopped and looked back many times, but there was nothing more to see. As we got to the town square, a prowl car passed us. The girl's morose face gazed out the back window.

Thank goodness you're safe, honey.

If I had been advising the young lady on escape strategies, I might have advised her to stay on her own roof, behind whatever chimneys or HVAC equipment might be up there, and make herself very, very small. They were probably after her dope-dealer boyfriend, not her. Once they'd gotten him and vacated the premises, she could have crawled back in, older and quite a bit wiser.

Not that I'd know.


mg said...

When they kick at your front door, how you gonna come? Run across the rooftops or in a squad car looking dumb?

You can crush us you can bruise us, you can even chase us out the bedroom window for chrissakes but - oh oh - Guns of G-burg.

gregra&gar said...

Would you be better off today had the Jingos been of assistance to the police in the incident snidely implied by your, "not that I'd know," comment?

Your assumed summary of the scenario sounds awfully conscience salving. Not that she wouldn't have been caught anyway, but the fact remains, you turned her in, dude. Right out of the neutral blue. For her own good of course. Then again, she might have been a terrorist. Whew, thanks.

Neddie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
giggles said...

My goodness, Neddie, the places you've been, the people and things you've seen....

Neddie said...

I deleted my earlier comment because it was made in anger.

I refuse to be made to feel guilty because I alerted a first responder to a situation that was clearly, clearly, clearly dangerous. My beef is with the dumb-assed response by the cop, who didn't assess the situation correctly.

If that girl had fallen and I hadn't said anything, what kind of king-hell guilt would I be feeling now? Just to preserve my cool? My street-cred? The catholicity of my hatred for The Man?

Arrant balderdash. That girl was panicked, barefoot and doing something desperately dumb and dangerous.

If I'd seen the girl hidden as in my post, I'd have kept my mouth shut. It was the leaping from roof to roof that made me speak up.

Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

"It was the leaping from roof to roof that made me speak up."

Yeah, as your photos prove, she didn't exactly have the body of, say, Jennifer Garner (Alias) or, uh, Halle Berry (Catwoman). Or, ooooh, Carrie-Anne Moss (Matrix). She was probably a minute or two from pulling a Christopher Reeve.

Kevin Wolf said...

My holiday weekend? Okay. Didn't do much. But thanks for asking.

BTW: Not saying/yelling something about someone endangering themselves on a roof? With (supposedly) trained personal right there, in a position to assist? I'd have lost all respect for you, Mr Jingo. You did the right thing.

blue girl said...

What I can't stop imagining is the panic and fear of being totally busted that that girl must've felt to have climbed out a window and been jumping roof to roof like that. My God!

We were joking on another blog about "teaching moments" with your kids. *This* was a great teaching moment, Jeddie. What did your kids think of her doing that? I would think that's a moment they're not going to soon forget.

Do you see what can you?

Kate said...

Wow, look at that crown tooth molding on the blue house. Pity about the windows.

John B. said...

Neddie, I don't have a comment on the raid you and your family witnessed but I went to Gettysburg last October and it was a very enriching experience. An American experience. As you say, you can't walk the battlefield but you can walk Pickett's charge and start from Lee's post and move towards the Last Stand High Water Mark or whatever the specific point is where the beleagured and character defamed Armistead left his hat and his life...quite moving. Also, the Little Round Top and the story of Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine is quite a spot to reflect some...

Tom said...

Your reaction to Gettysburg is similar to my reaction to Shiloh; it was weird to walk around a rural landscape that was fairly unremarkable, save for all the monuments, and think of, for example, the fight at the Hornet's Nest, which in my memory is not a lot larger than your average vacant city lot.

WRT the lady on the roof: Hard to say. I might have been afraid that she'd panic when I said something and fall because of that. But I wasn't there, of course. Those are some interesting houses, by the way. Do you suppose they date back to the War?

Neddie said...

Pity about the windows.

Yeah, I suppose somebody got sick of the drafty sash-windows and decided to modernize on the cheap. Very pretty house -- pretty town.

Also, the Little Round Top and the story of Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine is quite a spot to reflect some...

We did stop at Little Round Top on the way out to Route 15, and yes you're right, it's pretty moving. There are two markers, perhaps 20 yards apart, that say "20th Maine (L) and "20th Maine (R)." I assume these marked their left and right flanks. If so, the ground between them has a whole lot of blood in it.

think of, for example, the fight at the Hornet's Nest, which in my memory is not a lot larger than your average vacant city lot.

Yeah. Bloody Lane at Appomattox is about the size of my garden...

Those are some interesting houses, by the way. Do you suppose they date back to the War?

I'm sure they do, or very soon after it. Gettysburg is a very charming town, and bears a lot of resemblance to other Civil-War era towns in the area -- Frederick, Fredericksburg, Lancaster, Leesburg: Brick town center, lots of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century charm. I really liked it.

the ugly editor said...

Holy Smokes! Now this is the kind of narrative that keeps me around these parts!
But honestly Neddie, when I read,
"We Jingos, our store of adrenaline refreshed quite nicely, thanks very much, wandered down the street toward the restaurants."
I couldn't help but picture the clan lazying down the street thinking to itself, "that was nice, but I wonder if they have pie?"

Neddie said...

The fuck else we supposed to do? Intervene? Call her a lawyer? (Hey! You're a lawyer!) Bail her out?

We were strangers in a strange town, tourists. Hungry tourists.

The incident certainly did dominate the lunch-table conversation -- Blue Girl's teaching moment idea certainly did come up -- but we had been ordered off the street, and we followed orders. The fuzz had the matter in hand (if incompetently), and there was very little else we could do.

I acknowledge that my write-up of the incident was a bit flippant. I was recovering from an adrenaline high, and I tend to resort to humor in those cases. But I assure you, we were appropriately disturbed by it.

blue girl said...

Jeddie, wanted to let you know that you've given me a new favorite phrase that I'm using constantly throughout the day...

Arrant balderdash.

But, there's an exclamation at the end when I use it! And I sort of say it like Frasier Crane.

Neddie said...

I went to high school with a guy, an Italian kid, named Arrant Balderdacci...

Ol' Pal D said...

All danger aside (regardless of circumstances, obviously no one wants someone falling off of a roof, etc), I'm a little surprised at your (inadvertent, I assume) natural tendency to blame Idiot Girl's *boyfriend* for the crime-to-be-named-later, N. Who's to say *she's* not the drug dealer/murderer/bad-person-who-knows-she's-in-so-much-shit-she's-gonna-risk-her-life? In fact, unless I'mmissing something, you've way more reasons to believe she *is* than *isn't*.

Ol' Pal Dagwood

Ol' Pal D said...

And (seriously) good call on alerting the cops, BTW, at least in my opinion. Get her down safe, sort it out in court.

Neddie said...

Fair point, D. She just didn't look the part.

Ol' Pal D said...

Land's End skirt?