Sunday, October 18, 2009

Good w/ the 'Hood: Introduction

Recently I read a post by Second City Cop where the (mostly anonymous) comments included a few remarks about White Liberals moving into neighborhoods slated for Urban Renewal, and how these White Bread suburbanites (Bourbonites) could not navigate reality worth a damn. How they would alternate their liberal snobbishness with panic to the police who saved their butts. I’m sure they’ve seen it happen that way a million times.

Well, the cops were my friend--no, not my friend, because we were working, not goofing around--the arbiter of second-to-last resort, as it were. Mostly I didn’t need them. Sometimes I really needed them, though, and they were always nice to me.
We moved to this neighborhood for cheap rent, which was what we could afford. We wanted a place with enough room, maybe a little architectural feature or two, our budget sucked, and we were renting. This place looked secure: top story of a storefront, now used as a warehouse, formerly a cop bar. Iron grates on the bottom floor, the front door, and a long hallway to get to our stairwell.
 Of course it wasn’t safe—people climbed the iron grate to the sidewalk running between two buildings, which stretched up twelve feet and had barbed wire as a crown (in "RiverTown", a sidewalk between two buildings is an alley, it’s private, and it’s your yard). They stole my husband’s bike three times out of that alley (that’s three different bikes) and if they had been truly bloodthirsty toward my husband and me, they could have:

A. Stepped onto the awning, which was sturdy and solid;
B. Come into the front window without even stooping down, and
C. Murdered us in our beds, although,
D. What would anyone have gained from it? Not so much that would sell on the street, not cash either. Not that this matters. Even though we thought we were broke, we made more money than anyone else on that street. And had no kids.
    The front windows didn’t lock, and anyway the windows were frequently open. Yes, there were screens. Not that screens would have made a difference either.

    That was the summer of 1991, when RiverTown was the murder capital of America. All summer long, through our open windows, burglar alarms rang from the mostly-swanky Garden Heights, untended, twenty-four hours a day.

    That summer, the week we moved in, somebody committed arson on two houses down our street. Those two families had objected to drug dealing going on in front of their toddlers.

    That summer, one night, someone with a gun methodically went through the neighborhood shooting all the dogs. It wasn’t hard to figure out that it had nothing to do with hating dogs. Canine-icide was all about who ruled the now-silent streets of IrishTown.

    That summer, I never saw a cop car with all four hubcaps. Bunches of them had smashed headlights. You had to wonder how many of them were Completely out of commission that you didn’t see.

    We lived in that location for six to eight years? Okay, a lot of bad stuff happened, but nothing I couldn’t laugh about afterward—the “WTF wuz I thinking” kind of laugh. Also remarkable stuff, or sad stuff. Stay tuned. I’ve been a lucky woman.

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