As the No. 6 bus lurched up Southeast Grand Avenue last Friday, the Nose scanned a newspaper account of the recent violent outburst in North and Northeast Portland.
The four shootings over two days left two young men dead and a lot of people looking for someone to blame.
Into this all-too-familiar breach waded state Sen. Margaret Carter. On Thursday she led a group of activists to the intersection of Northeast 18th Avenue and Junior Street, where four days earlier 14-year-old TyNiece McCorvey was shot in the head leaving a party in the wee hours of Feb. 1. McCorvey, a Jefferson High freshman, got caught in gang crossfire and is in fair condition at Legacy Emanuel hospital.
While some pointed their fingers at cops and politicians, Carter politely called out another group. Parents, she said, "need to know where all their kids are all the time."
Finally, someone had the guts to say, in so many words, "What the hell is a 14-year-old girl doing out on the city streets alone at 1 o'clock in the morning?"
Carter's moral authority comes, in part, from the fact that she has nine kids of her own. But the Nose also realizes that Carter has another advantage: Since she is black, her comments are unlikely to be viewed as racist.
It's silly that anyone would even need to think about that. Lord knows, lousy parents come in all flesh tones. (Just ask the neighbors of Ashley Pond out in Oregon City.) As if to prove the Nose's point, the bus door opened up at the intersection of Grand and Burnside to reveal a sandy-haired figure carrying a blue backpack that was almost as big as he was.
"I need to go to the Lloyd Center," he told the driver, holding a dollar in his small outstretched hand. "I mean the Rose Quarter. Is this the bus?"
The driver paused and eyed the boy, who was no more than 10 years old. "Where do you want to end up?" he asked in his friendliest voice.
"OK. Come on up. Have a seat and I'll let you know where to get off."
The boy grabbed his transfer, shrugged the pack off his shoulder and sat down, briefly scanning his fellow passengers before lowering his flushed face and fixing his gaze on his black Converse hightops.
A few blocks later, the driver yelled out, "Will the passenger who needs to go to Lloyd Center please come forward." As the bus paused at Multnomah Boulevard, the driver instructed the boy, "Go down the street three blocks and you'll see it."
The boy nodded and got off the bus. Then, as the doors closed and the bus moved forward, he turned around, pointed down the street and yelled, "Three blocks this way?"
This time there was no friendly public employee to answer his question, so he turned and made his best guess.
In a city where you'll be vilified for bringing an unleashed dog to certain parks, no one seems to mind that we let our kids walk the streets alone.
A few hours later, Portland Police Chief Derrick Foxworth announced some good news. His offices had arrested a suspect in McCorvey's shooting.
He is 16 years old.
As is typical in such cases, the police and the press named him, but not his parents.