Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I am turning into Michael Douglas

Do you remember the ad for that movie "Falling Down?" Perhaps the trailer? I never actually saw the full movie but I fear that I am becoming that man. I think that my 'hood is getting to me. I have been thinking mean, stereotyping, horrible thoughts. I can understand the potential of the gated community or the suburbs or even, God forbid, Park Slope.

I am tired of walking through yucky downtrodden streets full of scraps, poo piles, stacks of metal, rat-dinner leftovers and their accompanying turds. I am tired of jumping over the fast moving currents of fire hydrant waterfalls. I am sick of watching kids dance in plastic swimming pools to an incredibly loud car stereo playing mexi-polka music in the middle of a shit block of tenements on the sidewalk. I am sick of seeing infants in G-Unit onesies with parents sitting in lawn chairs right next to bags of garbage. I am sick of my neighbor's kid and his friend playing Pep Boys every weekend, revving the engines in the hot afternoon heat. Last night the hateful DJ from down the block was at it again, practicing cutting up the beats so all could hear. A regular song I can perhaps tolerate for twenty minutes but random noises, fades and layered beats that make no sense that are so loud the house shakes on a Monday night? My dinner enjoyment was corrupted. I yelled "Try some headphones" out my kitchen window. I contemplated a confrontation, or calling the cops, but luckily it stopped. I imagine tonight I will lug out the two large cymbals from the basement and stand in front of said house and just bang away by a window for about 45 minutes.

I read something in a short story this week about gentrification and how it seems that a neighborhood will take one step forward and then two steps back never seeming to make any actual progress. I don't want a trendy coffee shop or a trendy anything on my block. I don't care about that. But I am just sick of the visual grossness. The lifestyle, the ambivalence to the squalor. The lack of care. I am sick of the bass thumping cars and fire alarms. Two examples of the two steps back.

1. The Salvation Army Day Care on my block. It used to be open, with plenty of very young kids. I would see them lining up to take a walk in the mornings and watch their moms and dads pick them up on my way home from work. It seemed like a really caring and great resource for the neighborhood. Then it closed for some reason.? Now it is abandoned and has piles upon piles of trash and debris piled up in front. I saw a homeless woman take a crap in there. Oddly, a hot dog stand opens up shop right in front of this place on a day to day basis now. Why would you put your moveable hot dog cart in front of this rotten stinkhole? Why doesn't it get cleaned up? wHy is this acceptable?

2. A 6 family or so was boarded up and everyone had to leave. It lay fallow for months. Recently it was broken into and all the windows were taken, graffiti appears in the interiors. I assume people are living in there? Why is this acceptable? I see the police cruise by this property all the time so someone must be aware of what it going on. But i guess it is fine to just have this nightmare place sit open like that. At first I was really transfixed by this place, this brazen display of lawlessness. I wanted to explore. Now I just walk by and avert my gaze.

When I moved to our house I had some idea of what I was getting into. In fact the move really opened my eyes and I felt keenly politically active. My understanding of the world was turned upside down. I sympathized with the indignities that poorer families in New York have to deal with. I championed the hard work and family values and the general amiability and helpfullness of our neighbors. I still do. I don't know. The visual squalor is just frustrating and I wonder if I was too idealistic? Did we make a bad choice? Is it just the dog days of summer? I don't know what exactly I want. New york is hard.

41 comments:

fairy butler said...

Re-reading this I am afraid I sound like a asshole and maybe I am. I am trying to be honest. I realize that I am the outsider to a different culture. I am not expecting Darien, Connecticut here. It think it is just a tipping point type of thing when the negatives start to gang up on me and overwhelm the positive. And I question my motivation - self-interest. I think I am digging a deeper and deeper hole. ugh.

fairy butler said...

when I say "shit block of tenements" I mean:

multi-family apartment buildings that are not well looked after, not the fault of the tenants, more the fault of cheap ass slum lords that don't care. I do see plenty of folks sweeping the crumbling front steps and hosing down the garbage can area, but they can only do so much. But the people who live there need to live somewhere they can afford.

fairy butler said...

the "expectation" is that Arthur and I would spend around 400-500$ (?) for a 2 bedroom co-op situation in a nice brooklyn nabe with good public schools. we could jot down the way to the nice cafe or take a stroll to the independent book store. All this is good and fine but we cannot afford this. We just can't. We don't have family money. I make a shit salary as a freelancer/artist. I am also a bit suspicious of having to do this. I'm insane maybe. I don't even know what my point here is. Maybe it is that A & I have always done our own thing and been willing and open to alternatives.

mountain man said...

Fairy, all I can say is that you don't at all, not one bit, sound like an asshole. You sound fair, open-minded and frustrated. You work really hard and there is no sense either in your career or in the ny real estate crap that there is any reward waiting for you to pay you back for your hard work. It is horrible. But maybe there is another better neighborhood for you? Somewhere less oppressive? The summer heat could certainly be contributing, but maybe somewhere it could get a little better? Is that naive? I hate thinking of my friends being oppressed by their neighborhoods...

mountain man said...

Your place is so beautiful on the inside and your garden is amazing...maybe there is a way to shut out the crap more? But I guess not if the house shakes from noise and the stinks and it all seems wrong. I don't know. Hearts to you FB. I hope the sparkles of magic will featherdust themselves all around you.

krixfort said...

hi FB.

You are not an asshole. I've seen a lot of my friends pick up houses in transitional areas. It has worked out well for all of them. When Minerva and I moved to the square, I thought to myself, my friends will be afraid of this neighborhood. But Minerva and I erected a tough exterior and were secretly excited about our huge rental coup. . .3 stops to the city, an extra bedroom for guests, a ginormous kitchen. . .all for the price of a 400 sq ft studio in Hells Kitchen. Plus I secretly liked the "edginess" of living in a slightly sketchy hood.

Then the reality set it. Minerva didn't see it at first as she was commuting to a job in North Jersey. I, on the other hand, was privvy to the squalor you describe on my daily walk to the PATH. Then through my summer of unemployment I fantasized about sweeping my street's sidewalk, one block each day, and how my actions would inspire my neighbors to WANT to clean up the surroundings. Minerva said her mom had a saying, "Poor does not have to equal dirty." I wanted to print that saying on a sign and plaster ever telephone pole on my street. She and I are over it now. We are thinking of moving to nicer digs; we will pay a little more and relocate to a neighborhood which has a better grocery than a C-Town and more services than Fried Chicken & Liquor or 99cent stores.

mountain man said...

PS - I saw Falling Down. This is a behavior I have always understood.

fairy butler said...

I think down the road we will probably move but I don't feel ready to throw the towel in yet. We dearly love our little house and yard and many other things about where we are, ie, proximity to my studio, williamsburg and friends, parking, nice neighbors (only a few stinkers). I feel there is real potential down the road where we live but it is years away and it is usually fine for me day to day too, but lately the sores have become more open wounds in my eyes. You are right MM that I am feeling a bit oppressed lately. Thank you for listening to my rantings. Writing this down helps me sort out my thoughts.

mountain man said...

Krix, I get that wanting to live in an edgier hood thing. Gentrification is nauseating. My neighborhood used to be quiet and lovely and is now completely overrun by noisy animals in the shape of tourists and cheesy types herding all about drunkenly. Noisy. Yelling and drunken fighting all night. No seats in any restaurants. Horrible families in your way all the time. Girls waddling around in stilt-like shoes with their boobs hanging out. Whenever I hear the tranny prostitutes fighting, I wish for them to come in with clubs and take over. I would prefer packs of noisy fighting trannies to the heinous products of gentrification that ooze into the neighborhood by the thousands. I have little to complain about, but FB, definitely I agree with your comment about the perils of trendiness...

fairy butler said...

Krix, your comment that:

Plus I secretly liked the "edginess" of living in a slightly sketchy hood.

I relate to this. It is not that I want to be seen as edgy and cool, but that I don't want to have to live only in the expected places. I don't want to believe that I need to be segregated to these expected areas where everyone will be like me. This is another kind of oppression for me. W'burg can get really exhausting this way, but at the same time it was sort of easier to deal with in other ways. There isn't really an answer.

fairy butler said...

Oprah has the saying "poor people have poor ways" or something like that and I have to say that it may be true for some.

Example:

There is this abandoned building that I have complained about many times where herds of rats live. They come out to feast when it is garbage night because the people that live in the buildings there just put the bags on the street, not in bins so the rats can get at them. Anyway, it was one nigh not long ago ARthur and I were walking home. I veered out into the street to avoid walking through the rat speedway because it disgusts me. But lo and behold an group of women (my age probably) and their kids were sittin in lawn chairs out in front of their ap't while their kids played. They watched us approach and Arthur just walked defiantly through the rat zone. Of course a rat ran on his shoe and freaked him out a bit. The women were watching and they chuckled and said "The rats are horrible here" or something like that. and A agreed and it was all friendly. But I am bothered that they can just sit there and watch that. Their kids are playing hopscotch right there. It's like there is no expectation kf a better reality.

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fairy butler said...

MM,

I would like to see the battle between the night trannies, the tourists, and the fancy fancies.

mountain man said...

So would I FB. The Trannies get to have broken bottles as well as clubs. They must win.

fairy butler said...

ok, it all comes down to me winning the lottery, or quitting the artist dream and getting a 3 figure job (and even that might not be enough. i don't have the figure or the stomach for stripping either so this is not an option)

fairy butler said...

my friend thinks I should start practicing card counting and that we could become a black jack team. These are the ideas that come up.

mountain man said...

Your descriptions are really sad and scary, but somehow it's just a fact of life for them I guess. I wonder what your neighbors' level of oppressed feelings are. I suppose they are possibly more used to it but I can't imagine that rats and trash make them happy. And also I hate to say "they" so many times. I am sorry, it is all kind of hard to parse. In concept it is what cities are all about to have different kinds of people all mixed together. But pride in your surroundings need to be a part of it for it to work out. I don't know.

mountain man said...

Stripping. Hmmm. I don't know, FB, I think you could do it...

fairy butler said...

If i were a stripper I would want to be entirely shaved, head to toe. My stage name would be "Nudey". Dork dancing would be part of my act.

fairy butler said...

Nude panty hose would be the inspiration for my act. L'eggs.

krixfort said...

Strip it FB!! Strip it!

Sometimes I wonder if the people in my neighborhood bother to reflect on the things we've been talking about. Then I see a car drive down my street, a window rolls down, and a bag of fast food trash comes flying out onto my sidewalk. WTF??? Why?? I don't get it.

krixfort said...

Nudey, you just made me snort. Now the cublings are looking. They suspect things.

fairy butler said...

littering like that enrages me - and luckily this is less of a factor in my hood - but i do see it. all i can say is that is utter lack of self-respect and respect for others.

fairy butler said...

nudey will sometimes wear a jeweled nude leotard - a sheer leotard - and will perform with gymnastics rings suspended from the ceiling.

fairy butler said...

when wearing said leotard the pubic hair will be allowed to grow out a little.

nardlet said...

FB, I emailed you an article about Bushwick. When we were living there, I sent money to local community and youth organizations. I simultaneously felt hope & belief in the neighborhood, and guilt about notions of being a white lady swooping in with ideas of "fixing" a poor, non-white community. It was all very vexing and confusing.

p.s. you are much prettier than Michael Douglas!

sloth said...

nice - stubble poking thru leotard - scratchy fun!

fairy butler said...

sloth, thank you for the article! Very interesting to read. I think it has changed a bunch since 2000 - there are two new bars in the area and the Life Cafe. I see more an more of the hipster types roaming the streets also - definitely over by McKibben. A & I had brunch at a local restaurant a month ago and were amazed at the diverse and busy scene. We will have to have you and HFP over to the house sometime to bring back the memories for ya.

fairy butler said...

Like the article I am torn by my appearance being the doom of gentrification for the area. but hey, it could use a touch of of tlc - not so much that it overwhelms but you know what i mean.

fairy butler said...

i have to code now. being bad. will return in a bit.

sloth said...

Cool - nabe is on the upswing. The rooftop garden was my refuge, & kept me sane... sounds like your house and backyard are a nice oasis, which is key. Do you have a bathtub?

sloth said...

Banish the guilts. In every community, a perceived "outsider" is going to cause some people to say "there goes the neighborhood..." but you have the same right to live there as anyone else.

AlsoArthur said...

I think your current gennui [i](gentrification inspired ennui)[/i] is the result of an evil axis.

1) Houseguests from out of town and their reaction/interaction with a slummier hood than they are used to. All of them live in overwhelmingly white, clean, boring Cali neighborhoods. So you sort of see your own situation anew through their eyes.

2) Hot, humid dog days that make everything feel uglier or more hopeless than usual.

3) See above, and the neighborhood's reaction to it. Extra stooping, extra noise. Extra garbage. Extra scenes of children playing at 1am.


There are some things that will never change. Sure, they might wax and wane but we knew what we were getting into, and no matter how many letters are written, flower boxes are planted or friendly relations are created...the basic underlying problems will remain.

AlsoArthur said...

Now click on this link and think happy thoughts.

http://www.box7box.com/tinygrow.html

Manbaby said...

Next time you have weird houseguests, I will come over to add spice and stink to the fun times. I will wear my helmet so I may bash my head about. I want to help, FB, I do, I do.

fairy butler said...

i know you do manbaby. i know you do.

fairy butler said...

the stooping. yes. it is a terrible thought but i keep wishing the folks would go back inside and watch tv. ow. lightning hot.

krixfort said...

I LOVE that crazy tree thing. I could probably waste hours at it.

sloth said...

yes, it is a thing of beauty. thank you, arthur!

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