Not long after I went on the service desk for the final 2 hours of the day on Friday, from 4-6, our sheriff's deputy came up off the stairs and asked me if anything was going on. His walkie-talkie was crackling with dispatches. I knew nothing. He walked past me out the doors to Park Avenue. Not long after that, I heard that a man had been knifed in the gazebo in the park. I immediately informed our Director. I heard sirens: growing louder, converging.
I had clocked the gazebo at lunch. I like to sit there to smoke and read, if I can. But today, as it has been lately, the gazebo was occupied by homeless white men, who had parked their baggage there and made it their camp. The local shelter turns them out during the day. There were more of them than usual today. All of the shady, comfortable spots in or around the gazebo were occupied by these men. I repaired to another spot under a magnolia, where a library fire escape issues out behind the Chamber of Commerce next door.
They had moved in to fill the vacuum left by some of the black teens who attend the nearby Life Skills Academy, which occupies the premises of the old Trailways Bus Station.
The Life Skills Academy attempts to educate teens who have been expelled from high school in the rudiments of modern life: how to apply for a job, how to get a bank account, etc. The gazebo had become the gathering place for Life Skills bad boys, until the city sent in the narcs, busting a number of them for drug possession.
It wasn't always this way. Time was when the gazebo and park were quiet spaces, inviting working Tallahasseans on their lunch breaks to enjoy them. A sign of the times, I guess.
P.S. According to today's paper, the victim is in stable condition at Tallahassee Memorial. His assailant was caught a few blocks away.