Life in the ‘hood with a 7-pound monkey-wrench – Day Two

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It’s spring time.  The sun was just making its broader presence known and I was enjoying a very good cup of coffee while I swept the front walk, which we shared with the unit next to us.  And here she came, the neighbor that is, my new nosy neighbor, shuffling out the door in her house slippers she shoved a thick stack of paper stapled together into my face and says, “these are the rules.”  I looked down at the top page of the sheaf of paper and saw that it was indeed the rules for the residents in the units under the domain of this homeowners association in the ‘hood.

“And a good morning to you too ma’am,” I tried to ease the tension a bit since she resembled Whoopie Goldberg crossed with a pitbull with an impacted colon.  They get pretty mean when all they can do is eat and there’s nowhere for it to go.  I politely reached for the rule book, and she pulled it away snipping “no, this is my copy, you’re welcome to read it but I want it back.”  I agreed and she reluctantly handed me the rulebook and I gingerly held it in my hands as if it were printed on very thin rice paper.  I had decided to read it and return it as soon as possible without so much as a hint of a smear or fingerprint.

As it turns out ghetto rules are pretty much like any other neighborhood with a homeowners association.  A large list of dogs you can’t own, don’t think about painting the exterior without their permission, and if you have a grievance by all means bug the heck out of the homeowners association president.  Which our new neighbor apparently had down to a science. 

 The next neighbor to introduce himself, much more gracefully, was the neighbor on the other side of miss “I’m all up in your business.”   He was a middle-aged Vietnam vet with some issues living on disability and food stamps.  More typical of how our veterans end up in America and a damn shame too.  But he had lived in this ‘hood for awhile and was able to update me on each and every neighbor around us.  It’s amazing how much people know about each other in the ghettos.  It’s not like the snotty gated neighborhoods where they fear the rest of us want their stuff.  Personally I’m glad they lock themselves into their little cages at night all safe and tucked in with the alarms on.  The fewer paranoid people in public the better. 

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LIfe in the ‘hood with a 7-pound monkey-wrench – Day One

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DAY ONE

The last thing most people expect to see residing in the ‘hood these days is an educated middle-aged white guy with gray hair.  Least of all this ‘hood; now my home, my sanctuary from the rat race.  A depressed economy forced me through two layoffs in as many years.  They call them reductions in force I call them a knife through the ribs when you’re barely hanging on as it is.  Unable to even secure a part-time “I’ll do anything you want” job, I ended up negotiating labor for rent in a townhouse that needed a lot of work.  And the adventure in the ‘hood began.

The first day I pulled into the parking lot there were at least 5 or 6 people standing around and every set of eyes were focused dead on me.  And then we started unloading boxes and such because all I had to move my belongings with was the car; a very old, yet still faithful car.  Then their gaze intensified into “what do these crackers think they’re doing?”  Meanwhile I could see them discussing our behavior among themselves.

No one ever said a word.  No one approached us.  No one offered to help us move in.  They just silently watched as we moved into their ‘hood.  Numerous trips were required and each time just silent gazing from the same or similar group, although after the sunset the group grew in size increasing the overall impact of their gaze.  As intimidating as it may have been for some I wasn’t really concerned.  I grew up poor.  I know what being poor in a very poor neighborhood is about only in my past that had entailed trailer parks full of alcoholic rednecks, many with pain pill addictions thrown in.  However, having experienced both environments I can honestly say the level of illiteracy and developmental disability is about the same.  Those factors cross all ethnic and racial barriers when you’re poor.

I didn’t have to wait long for my first introduction to one of the neighbors.  It was the very next morning after completing the move.  She came at me with a thick printout stapled together and labeled “Homeowners Association Rules.”  I knew I was in for it right then and there.

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So when does the healing start?

With all the turmoil in the fiscal world the words “double dip” have been thrown around the media, leaving most of us to respond “I’m not so certain we’re even headed out of the first dip yet.”  Add to that while we have been in an economic recession we have sunk into a national depression.  Just look around you, it is apparent that anyone not wealthy is depressed right now to different degrees.

From the middle class on down people report losing sleep worrying; no job really feels secure anymore; their appetites and diets have changed, especially with ever climbing food costs; tempers are becoming quicker as frustration with our leadership is at its highest ever; and most significantly people are reporting overwhelming feelings of helplessness and a loss of hope.  Helplessness is the killer.  Helplessness leads people to do irrational things.

There is a cure for our national depression.  It’s the same one that cures depression individually.  We the people must become proactive in our government.  We have to get off the couch and vote out every single politician that isn’t getting the job done, which unfortunately is the overwhelming majority of them.  And thankfully, starting in 2008 it would appear that more and more voters have woken up to the reality that is our government, and they are voting accordingly.  Now those of us that are aware and vigilantly paying attention with both eyes wide open just have to keep waking up the people around us until the majorities, the true majority, have had our say.

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A rose is still a rose in spite of the gunsmoke

Once again life reminds us that our time is finite.  Once again we must take a few cleansing breaths and then move forward.  The art is in the grieving if we allow ourselves the luxury that is.  Knee-jerk emotional reactions never bode well.  Yet, billions of voices cry out every day “why,” but “why” is the wrong question.  Perhaps, as Albert Camus once related, “the foremost question of philosophy is why one should not commit suicide.”  And once those values are identified the next question should be “how?”  How do I move forward and continue this journey towards more happiness?

It takes some time to accept that basically, if allowed to, life sucks.  There are plenty of indications that it does.  There is death all around us, if not from some religious fanatic gone completely off the deep end of reason, then from the insane that dwell around us every day.  Our own government leveraged our future on pure speculation and has eroded away the foundation of the Constitutional freedoms we were once assured.  The resultant corruption guarantees us that we have the best legislatures in America that money can buy.  Public trust exists only in dictionaries.

It has gotten so bad with our leadership that we turned a cynical eye on each other while the media did its usual cheerleading for a fight.  A big one; a real can of whoop-ass because Americans are angry and they just want to smack the daylights out of somebody, and hey the next door neighbor looks like easy pickings, so let’s hate on him because I saw “that” political party’s sign on his front yard.  If nothing else we can crucify him on Facebook!

The only positive way out of this death spiral of negativity is to change the filters.  Take off the media colored glasses and the whole world will look different.  The key lies in where we look.  If we look inside ourselves, we find fear and frustration, joy and sadness, elation and anger; all the wonderful things that make us human.  And so we can be reminded that the infrequency of random acts of violence should be encouraging.  There isn’t a boogeyman hiding behind every other tree waiting to shoot us down or rape our children.  Are they out there?  Sure they are, but the odds of them being in your neighborhood are lower than being hit by lightning.

Matter of fact the Department of Justice revealed data that showed a significant decline in violent crimes over the last 20 years.  Our streets are actually as safe as they were in the 1950’s, back when school children safely walked themselves to school, or waited on a bus by themselves.  Yes America is as safe as then, but just look at the helicopter parents in that ridiculous line of vehicles leading to the school house door twice a day.  Reality is going to hit quite a few children head-on one day because they were over-protected by well-meaning caregivers.

Another angle might consider the volume of homo sapiens sharing tight spaces in cities all over the globe while demonstrating a death rate from totally senseless acts that is relatively low.  Until we figure in the Middle East and the like.  And therein lies the rub; therein lies the quandary.  The religiously insane have been with us since the beginning of time.  And as long as religions are around to brainwash and rob individuals of their free will there will be the extremists who believe non-believers get an automatic death sentence, which ups the odds for the rest of us that we could fall prey to their madness one day.  And all because of ideology and lack of agreement about who the Creator may or may not be, and who the Creator holds in favor.

All the more reason to stop and smell those roses, every chance you get.  The Creator that gave us free will knew we’d need them especially with the human knack for slinging manure at each other at every possible opportunity.  Let’s be fair to ourselves for once though and ask ourselves if our anger is towards our leadership that has failed us repeatedly, why are we the ones left standing bloodied and bruised and covered with crap while they jet off to their next fund-raiser smelling like, well, a rose?

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