Oh dearest reader, we have let you down. We, like Icarus, aimed too high. We wanted so dearly in the molecules of our cardiac fiber to respond to the alluring flyer we received promoting a “crime expo” at the Mann Museum here in town.
A crime expo? And what is the Mann Museum? Would there be rows of vendors selling burglar bars and pepper sprays and mace foam? Would there be self-defense experts teaching ninja moves to soccer moms worried about ruffians? And would there be wildlife learning at the Mann Wildlife Learning Museum?
After all, the electronic handbill carried with it a most nefarious image of a highly-dangerous criminal clutching a ring of keys and wearing a cartoonish “robber” mask. Where did he get those keys? If he is merely a janitor or custodian, why is he wearing a backwards baseball cap and that suspicious Lone Ranger mask? FEAR!!!!
So we put on our reporter hats and wigs and we Googled this “Mann Wildlife Learning Museum.” Turns out, it’s part of the city zoo complex. So we drove and we drove. With a 6 p.m. start time, we were in a mad post-work scramble. Must eat food! Must find hidden museum! Must be there before judo lessons and taser demonstrations!
We arrive ready to take notes. When people think of Montgomery, they often bring up crime. The image is that our urban area is full of crooks, thugs, hoodlums, and no-goodniks. Douse that gumbo with a healthy degree of classic new and old Southern Racism, along with very real poverty and urban decay, and you’ve got a lot of people talking about crime all the time. This talk fuels white flight and is the enemy of those looking to redevelop downtown. The fear monster is alive and well among folks of all races and walks of life. Oh, and there’s actual crime too.
So we were ready to be critical and yet honest in our time-tested Lost in Montgomery way. If we saw a creepy police state thing, we’d call it. If we saw a good deal on lethal and/or non-lethal weapons, we’d report those deals. (Note: The hot pink pepper spray was not a good deal). If the whole thing came off as a cheesy PR stunt for law enforcement, we planned on holding up the light of scrutiny to the whole scene.
So we got there at 6:05 or so. One way in, one way out. Single door. Sign in when you get there. And you walk in at the “front” of the room, meaning all of the chairs are facing you as you walk in. There are about 50 people there, maybe 60. We pass the empty podium and walk to the back. There in the back, amid a bunch of weird empty aquariums are the crime expo “exhibits.” Some of the aquariums are empty. Some are terrariums that have living creatures in them. They look to be in bad shape. Many have lots of moss growing on their foggy glass making whatever is inside super difficult to see. Some are labeled (newts, other swampy critters). Others are unlabeled. And an entire display case is empty as if undergoing renovations or something. It appears it once had poison dart frogs. The entire “museum” looked underfunded and sketchy. But maybe that’s because it was cleared out for this meeting. Clearly we’ll go back for another trip during normal business hours, in hopes that we will see more than stuffed turkeys lining a hallway.
In the far back are walls covered with stuffed fish: Big bass, marlins, etc. There are four tables there. The first is from ADT, the home alarm company. They have the usual sales pitch handouts about crooks and the need for alarms. Another table is from MADD. They are against drunk driving. As usual. Another table is from a gun dealer. They have a few tasers on display and a few pistols. Nothing remarkable. And the final table is from Christ for Crime Victims. Evidently, this is a Jesus-based charity that involves bringing new doors and windows and other anti-crime fortifications to folks who have been victimized by crime. And then (I guess) they tell you about the Lord or something. Unclear. And that’s it for exhibits. Takes us about 10 minutes to make “the rounds” to all four tables. The meeting still has not started.
We find seats. The crowd is multi-racial. Many of the black folks there are wearing the red shirts of the “Enough is Enough” campaign that is pretty big here in Montgomery. It’s an anti-violence, anti-gang campaign run by Rev. Ed Nettles of the Freewill Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. Nettles himself was present, as were a ton of police officers and a bunch of old people. We were the youngest people there by a good margin.
So we sit. And sit. And it’s now 6:30. And we have to be somewhere at 8. We thought we could stay from 6 until 7:45 or so and hit the road. We thought we’d see some cool exhibits. Wrong. When it’s 6:30 and nothing has started yet and they’re telling people to go enter a raffle to win some ADT security package, we get worried. The doors we entered are soon going to close. Then people (possibly people in police uniforms) will stand in front of those doors and start talking. And we won’t be able to leave.
So, dear reader, we failed you. We did not stay for the informative law enforcement programming. We did not learn about crime in our beloved community and what the police want us to do about it. We did not get to ask our burning questions about the “Volunteer Police” who hilariously cruise our neighborhood. We have some brochures about what to do in case we see “someone suspicious.” And the back of the “Enough of Enough” shirts have the word “VIOLENCE” in a circle with a big slash through it … and under it says: “Try Jesus!”
So if that helps you, we are grateful. But we carry a heavy sense of guilt at our journalistic failings. You, the crime wary citizens of this body politic, deserve only the finest information about the doings of our order-preserving guardians.