Column: Powerful memories

By David Solana

I once titled a poem “Bottle of Memories.” Everyone believed it was about some sort of alcohol – rum was the frontrunner based on the tropical island imagery. Oddly enough, no one ever really believed me when I divulged the actual reference.

The poem itself was about how you can mentally relive your past with a simple smell or taste. Thanks to a happy chance that simultaneously put a fresh loaf of bread and not-too-old tomatoes in my kitchen, I was able to experience this phenomenon again. I smattered the bread with a good splash of olive oil, covered it up with a thick slab of tomato and sprinkled just a touch of salt over the top of the tomato. I watched as the small salt crystals dissolved into the acidic tomato juices and then set about savoring my past.

I traveled back to my time in Spain, where toast and tomato was the regional breakfast of choice. The bread was basic, but the tomato topping varied from simple tomato slices to crushed tomato juice. The best, however, was a pur‚e of tomato and olive oil with a touch of salt.

I decided to protest the government of that culinarily beautiful nation with my roommates the night before their national elections. We took to the streets because the government was hiding important facts about a recent terrorist attack for political purposes. Looking back, it’s probably fortunate the police weren’t brutal in that protest – both as a political maneuver and for my personal health.

That experience was a lot like the manner in which the Champaign and University police dealt with student revelry this Saturday and Monday. It struck me as the true purpose of a police force. They protected private and public property from indiscriminate destruction, but avoided severe incidents with students. Don’t get me wrong – they were quick to the punch in enforcement of laws I don’t necessarily agree with, but they didn’t make arrests unless people were really doing stupid things.

    Join Our Newsletter

    Case in point: I saw some student with a huge plastic bottle filled with a clear liquid. I can’t say whether the bottle held alcohol, but the police avoided an escalated confrontation by simply confronting him and pouring it out without making an arrest or eliciting a violent backlash from inebriated students.

    That’s a responsible use of power – protection coupled with a firm, gentle hand. In contrast, Michigan State students were tear gassed for congregating after their Final Four loss Saturday. ABC’s East Lansing affiliate reported there had been no violence prior to the gassing. They quoted police Lt. Kevin Daley saying gas is a manner to disperse a crowd before “it takes on a life of its own.”

    I saw and heard students doing and saying some stupid stuff about wanting to riot, but the only real dynamic the crowd had was to move to the Quad. Then most people went home.

    But picture this: students are congregating – fine, jaywalking is illegal – peacefully. If they are suddenly gassed, who is the aggressor? The pre-emptive strike doesn’t yield the desired effect.

    Self defense usually holds up in court. So if the students at Michigan State who were gassed had pulled out beanbag guns and shot the police, what would have happened? I could see them making a good point by saying they were trying to control an unruly mob of police officers. They probably wouldn’t win in court, but they would certainly be making a valid point.

    At any rate, a simple loaf of bread and tomato helped me appreciate what our police forces didn’t do. My thanks and praise go to the local police departments.

    And, oh yeah, the next time you’re washing your hair, see if it doesn’t put you somewhere warm, sandy and sunny with palm trees and rum. Then you’ll have found my bottle.