On the 4th Friday of every month I paint myself up as a goth and go out to ARA. I've long stopped my regular clubbing outings in Manchester as my awareness of or the amount of violence on weekend evenings has risen. I'd rather have a nice night in watching Big Brother than face the hordes of drunken ruffians out for a night of brawling. But ARA and what it offers me is different in a way that makes going out worthwhile and up until recently, safe.

The night is run by a pair of couples who are extremely friendly and extraordinarily kind. When we get to the door, there isn't the scowl and demand for tickets or bag searches. We receive friendly chat about what's happening in everyone's lives, who we've brought with us or just comments that on a particular night I look a bit Rockabilly. I look forward to going in and I look forward to going out. It's such a remarkable experience to find that kind of openness in a place referred to as a club and one I find brightens the whole month.

On a normal outing, we go in and find a pew to set our stuff on and sit for a bit looking around or watching a movie. See, there aren't the sticky tables and broken chairs of your regular club. The night is held at Sacred Trinity Church in Salford, with the blessing of the Reverend. People that come are aware of the grounds, the beauty of the building and respect it as such. You won't find many being slammed into the wall, or lazily spilling their drinks. That respect stretches to the behavior of the club goers as well. We have yet to see people on the floor with telltale plastic baggies, just bottles of wine they've bought at the local market and perhaps a pack of cigarettes for outside conversation.

Just near the doors, on gravestones, is where the conversation happens. We stand around with our glasses and laugh, sometimes fleeing back indoors when we hear a particular bump of a song we like. During the summer it's hard to move through the corridors for the traffic running back and forth. Subsequently we've made some friends and remain open to all who come running.

I'm constantly encouraging people to go. I keep thrusting them in the direction of ARA, expounding on the evening's possibilities. My husband and I have been attending almost since they started and always find ourselves pleased. Friends that have gone keep returning for more, even if they don't particularly like the genre or the subculture. It's just one big friendly party that's held in an amazingly lovely church and we've always been grateful for it.

And it is that open vibe that makes the events of last night so distressing for me.

Around the corner from the church is a real pub that seems to attract some elements unlike ours and more typical of what you'd expect. I saw them last night, grouped around the place with pints of something. I remember thinking that I wouldn't like to walk past them because of their shaved heads and an aura of violence. Two months ago, in what we suspect is connected to that pub, one of the other regulars was mugged. We thought that it was a one off, what are the odds of something like that happening again so far outside of the city centre at a local church? But yesterday was different and so much worse.

I didn't witness any of the worst parts, thankfully. The first I knew of something happening was when my husband grabbed me mid dance to What do I get? to let me know something had happened and to get my phone. Later stories told of how four kids had been kicked out of the bar around the corner and decided to randomly take their aggression out on the people outside, before trying to venture in to get some more action. They swung at my husband, who made a lucky dodge and grazed one of the guys in our group. They managed to get someone else on the ground, though he was fighting them the best he could. They punched one of the women who runs it and then proceeded to stomp one person we didn't realize had been left outside after the doors had been barricaded.

It took 7 minutes and 21 seconds for me to get police and an ambulance despatched. I probably made the whole process more difficult, since my head was still stuck in the moment I watched one of my friends being used as a rope in a tug of war. A police officer did eventually arrive after about 10-15 minutes, too late to catch the thugs and too inneffectual to get everyone's statements. By then we'd discovered that when the doors were shut, one of the other organizers had been left outside and was badly hurt. An ambulance did eventually turn up after another 10 minutes or so and treated the one on the ground, who left a small circle of blood behind. The others were told nothing, or to go to Accident and Emergency.

I'm still horrified about it all. The randomness and brutality of the attack has left one in the hospital. Perhaps strangely, what's most angering is the lack of respect these people showed to the church grounds. ARA is sanctuary, that's what the organizers want and that's what we get. Troublemakers and those who disrespect the rules are typically not tolerated. Do what the sign says, or leave. It's supposed to be, like the church, a haven from all the idiocy, violence and aggression of everywhere else there is to go out. Yet somehow something so basic as to respect that universal symbol of peace hasn't been taught to these perpetrators. I can't even begin to comprehend what that means.

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Disused Buildings

Originally uploaded by vulgarcriminal.
Getting from my Mother's house in Hillsboro to one of the main attractions in Tigard (see: shopping mall) provided various options with degrees of acceptability. You could fight traffic on Transvestite Highway, fight traffic on the constant parking lot Highway 26, or you could go for a lovely country drive via Farmington and giggle at the Loughridge Nut Farm. Usually she chose the latter. It wasn't just the puerile amusement at mental health references or the escape from stop start suburb traffic that made it such a pleasant drive. There were so many things to look at that didn't include the funeral home or the graffiti underpass of another grey flyover. We watched as rolling hills and farms grew gray and small in the distance. We smiled at the oddness of the products from the Alpaca farm. And then there was my favorite thing on the whole journey, the thing that came and went so quickly that I almost didn't notice, the big derelict farmhouse.

I asked Mom one day if she would stop and let us tromp around inside one in particular. A few miles before you hit the intersection and the tavern there was a two story house long browned and bowed with age. I could never tell if anyone still lived in that house but I could see things piled up in the second story windows. I wanted to go hunt through and see what treasures had been left behind, imagining it a vacant refuge for some Gothic tragedy. Alas, I never did get to find out, since it's been torn down to make room for more plaster board domiciles for Intelites but when I think of abandoned buildings, I think of that house and wonder what it was and how it became to be that way for at least 10 years. I think I'd rather not know.

These guys share my obsession.


300th post... Thank you Beth at Powell's

I am the least photogenic person in the world. Whenever the camera flashes, I seem to make a transition from normal looking person to something better suited to 19th century tent audiences. For the last few weeks (I wish I was kidding) I've been trying to get a good shot of something very special that helped to soothe my homesickness a little bit. I think I did it, this is the one where I look least like I'm going to eat the neighborhood cat population in a drunken frenzy. Lifehacker mostly to the rescue. I still look a little deranged.... There are some things Photoshop can't hide.

So, Beth at Powell's, this one's for you :)