Sunday, May 15, 2005

My Neighborhood

I’m a city girl. Have always been. Even though I was raised in the ‘burbs. The clean, safe, nature ridden, low property taxed ‘burbs, however, could not hold this girl. Nope, raced into Detroit and, just to be sure I wouldn’t try to escape at my first experience of conflict, I bought. It cost 40 Gs because of the neighborhood, which was actually pretty good for Detroit. I only heard gunshot’s three times in my full three years of living there. I thought those good numbers. One thing that did bother me though, was the infestation of garbage strewn about each street.

So, after selling my house at a tidy profit, I moved to Portland Oregon, in hopes of a cleaner city. It was. But it was also a city of idealistic liberals and self-important do-gooders, convinced that they can easily change the world if “everyone were just more like us.” But my sense of “us” was white, middle class, entitled and progressive in regards to trees and social issues. But progressive in the later sense only in so far as theory because their theory was never tested. Oddly enough, everyone that lived in Portland was “just like” them.*

I quickly found myself yearning for “real” folks with problems and struggles. Blue collar folks that worked hard and played hard. That drank PBR and didn’t give a shit about the trees. “Fuck those trees, I gotta put food on the table.” I get that approach to life. Don’t get me wrong, I was raised middle class and entitled. I was also raised by a life long UAW worker, professed and loyal democrat alongside a feminist, if in theory only, with an idea that we could only earn our place on earth by skootching over a little for folks that didn’t have enough space of their own.

Hence, South Philly. South Philly is nothing if not blue collar, full of struggles and conflict. But again with the god forsaken trash! I can’t take it, makes me crazy. Walking to Rita’s to get a water ice, I had to step over empty bags blowing in the wind, cigarette butts, cans and bottles…you name it. And then it occurred to me, instead of ticketing litter bugs (which never happens as far as I can tell), ticket those folks that don’t keep up their sidewalk, especially merchants. Should be part of the cost of doing business in a community; should be a legal responsibility. I mean why not? All of that trash comes from merchants, right? McDonald’s bags, coke cans, ice tea bottles, snickers wrappers….all making money, all sold in my community, all littering my life, all contributing to a sense of helplessness and depression. All sucking big time. So way can’t the consumer demand that the merchant give back by sweeping three times a day…whatever it takes. Why not??

*Please note that along with my general experience in Portland, it remains on the of the cities in which I made the closest, most generous group of friends a gal could ask for. This group of people, I still contend, though I’m sure they may beg to differ, were the exception to the rule.


Blogger Kempernorton said...

You need to imitate everything. Trust me.

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Portland remains close to my heart, mostly for the people that aren't stinking up the joint with being full of themselves. Good humans to say the very least.

As far as the garbage problem goes, living in Seattle I was sitting at a light one day and saw a man just throw his can on the ground. I was speechless. Who does that?!? What about Woodsy the Owl? Give a hoot, don't polltue? Then I began to think maybe my generation was made to care, where his was not (he was an older guy). There was a garbage can nearby. Had I been walking I would have probably picked it up (then used hand sanitizer, 'cause as I get older I get freakier about germs).

This was a pretty isolated incident, nothing as you describe. I'm not sure of the answer, unless you got some grabage pinchers and a burlap sack with which to collect garbage. Though that may categorize you as a crazy garbage person, which would be bad, and it would take too long.

9:44 AM  
Blogger Aerenchyma said...

Get this anon, SK and I were sitting in front of our apartment a few years back and this guy (our age) was walking down the street with a glass bottle (me thinks iced tea). No more than THREE steps from a trash can, he bent down and cracked the bottle on the sidewalk leaving glass everywhere. We were completely dumbfounded...same response you had, Who does that?!?! I mean, WHO DOES THAT?!?

I've comtemplated the crazy garbage person scenario before...can't do it, even though I'd like to...mostly b/c of the taking too long aspect.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy, I sure do think you're wrong about Portland... I'll certainly agree it's not as diverse as Philly or NY, and that bothers me, but the sort of sanctimonious brush you tar the general populace with seems to me a tad unfair, OK, a lot unfair.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Amy McWeasel said...

I'm consistently amazed, awed and disgusted by the selfishness I see around me each day. I wish the incidents of people littering while a few steps from a trash cat were isolated but they're not. What a pity that people can be so self-absorbed/self-important to think they're entitled to throw their trash on the ground, as if it's someone else's problem or job to clean up after them.

My dad always taught me to leave a place better than how I found it, and I'm passing that on to Cole. Sad, really, that it has to be taught and isn't inherent for all people. My friend Neil wishes that litterers would magically find all the garbage they've littered that day in their beds that night. :)

11:28 AM  
Blogger Aerenchyma said...

I hear you anon II, and I expected that kind of reaction. I honestly felt that way while there. As I mentioned, I meet some great people there. I also meet with an institutionalized sense of quiet superiority...a covert racism/sexism/ism-ism that made me incredibly uncomfortable. The question that I needed to ask myself was whether I am more comfortable with covert or overt isms, because you can't get away from it anywhere. So I picked overt. You, may pick covert, which is cool, but not healthy for me.

As for being "sanctimonious", I've gotta say that I'm not feigning righteousness, I am righteous.

Heh, I kill me.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I wasn't calling *you* sanctimoneous, I meant you were calling most Portlanders that, and I didn't agree. I suspect if you go to a MoveOn fundraiser in Philly, Seattle, Portland, or DC, in any city you'll still see a roomful of mostly-white smug liberals, so i don't think Philly gets extra points for being more "real" or something. Heh. Ask me about my knee-jerk reactions to Philly sometime, an opinion I feel entitled to have having lived there for several years. Point being, living in a place for a few years doesn't make any of us experts except in our own reactions, seen thru our personal filters. I just don't see that any place can be summed up as neatly as you seem to want to sum up pdx.

But I still love you!

12:52 PM  
Blogger Aerenchyma said...

Huh. My limited experience in Portland, was, indeed, limited. No doubt. Just my sense, just why I left --and for school. Dunno, we've been thinking about moving back b/c of the mugging and trash and shooting (two kids were shot dead two blocks away), oh and the serial rapist that hit no more than 800 yards from my home last week, but then I think about how truly nuts I felt in pdx. I felt like, "Is it me or was that racist?" or "Is it me or was that incredibily condescending to me as a woman?" or ...on and on...and when I'm in philly I don't ever wonder if it's me because I know. I know that whatever that was done was racist...racists here leave no doubt about their actions...same with sexists...very little subtly.

I think the most profound thing I take from this discussion with you is that I hate to feel nuts and in Philly I don't feel nuts. I feel like I can see it in all of its ugliness and in pdx I felt like I was losing my mind with all of the pleasentries but still feeling undermined and objectified and somehow hurt.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why work when I can weigh in on the Portland debate?

You raise a good point about initial impressions make a lasting one. Imagine what your impression of Portland might have been if you had lived off of Alberta or Killingsworth instead of near Trendy 23rd and attended PSU. (alas, the aforementioned 'diverse' neighborhoods have become more gentrified than diverse) What would Philly have been like for you if you had lived in Rittenhouse Square or Queen's Village or the Main Line? What does "diverse" really mean anyway? While Portland does not have a large African-American community, the Latino and Asian community is growing by leaps and bounds.

I find it somewhat amusing, having grown up in NJ, worked in NYC, lived and worked in Philly, that I perceived an undercurrent of racism (and that you feel it's out in the open). Sure, I worked for companies that hired black people, but would never promote them.

The only area of the countty I feel is pretty open about race relations is the south - there is no mistaking how people feel in the south, believe me!

Too bad we couldn't all meet for a cup of coffee and continue this discussion ... and then move on to discussions about moisterizer. I'm really obsessed about moisterizer these days.


9:48 AM  
Blogger Aerenchyma said...

Donna, you simply must try the grapeseed body butter by The Body Shop. De-lish!

12:07 PM  

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