Thursday, May 08, 2014


Jake LaMotta: Come on, hit me. Harder. Harder.
Joey LaMotta: What the fuck do you want? That's hard. What are you trying to prove?

-- Raging Bull

Martin Dysart: In an ultimate sense I cannot know what I do in this place, but I do ultimate things, irreversible things. And I...I stand in the dark with a blade in my hand, striking at heads. I need, more desperately than my children need me, a way of seeing in the dark. What way is this? What dark in this? I cannot fully ordain, but God, I cannot go so far! I will, however, pay so much hardship. There is now in my mouth this sharp chafe. It never comes out.

-- Equus
I like to think of life as a daily restructuring of your mores and past beliefs. What you believed one thing to be the day prior might be another thing the next morning, and it's always sound to be prepared for such abrupt occurrences. In baseball, the metaphor is a curveball, although I've always thought the knuckleball is a more apt analogy. In cinema, it's called a twist, and both examples show how we try to explain the confusion of interruptions in our lives through physics.

I am not the man I was yesterday; nor will I be the man I am now tomorrow. But the change is imperceptible, like trying to watch epidermis grow. It's only after days, months, years that some things become apparent, but they can be accepted because they occur naturally and have the benefit of time as we define it. A cancer patient dying after years of suffering is something we accept; a person being run over in the street by a careless driver is something we do not. These contradictory leaps in time of what we consider a normal passage and what we find bizarre, cruel, or unjust, are what define us as people, and what can lead to our undoing.

I have never had so much anger in my heart as I have felt toward Tommy Canton, who killed my parents while they were returning home after watching a Giants game at Candlestick Park in the summer of 1993. My father had stopped for gas at a station in Solano when he was robbed at gunpoint and then killed by Canton. My mother, at the time pregnant with her second child after me and scheduled to have induced labor two days later, was shot twice in the neck. After the state police arrived, she was airlifted to NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield, where she died of her wounds.

My sister was saved. I was at home studying for a math test and had fallen asleep before midnight, before my parents had been killed. At 4:30, an officer knocked on my door to tell me what had happened. Groggy, I didn't fully comprehend the situation until I was at NorthBay, where doctors and police told me that I was an orphan.

It has been twenty-one years since that day. My sister, whom my aunt Tracey -- her sole guardian until I was legally able to take care of her -- named her Clarissa, but I named her Mercy, and "Merk" is her nickname. She is now a sophomore at Stanford, majoring in Law. She has pretty blue eyes, just like her mother's. She won't ever see those in person, but I have some photos and Polaroids from over the years that I show her.

On July 16, 2013, at 6:43 PM, Thomas Canton was executed by the State of California. He remains the first death row inmate to be executed in California since 2006. His last words are these:

"I just want to tell the family that I'm sorry. Sorry for your loss. I wish I could take it back, but I can't. I hope this gives you closure. I did not murder your loved one, it was an accident. I didn't mean for it to happen. I take full responsibility. To my family, we've talked earlier and you know I'm at peace. God is the ultimate judge, he knows what happened. We talked earlier. I love all of y'all. I'm ready, Warden."

It is said that time heals all wounds. But this is only true when the wounded are left alive, and given time to heal.

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