Friday, July 18, 2008

Bitter Laughter

pumpkin flower 2
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
This morning on my way out the door to work, my across the street neighbor called to me. These are my super incredibly cool neighbors, the ones I would like to be friends with but somehow, since we're all so busy and they're in that Small Children phase of life which I thankfully left behind about 6 years ago, it's never happened. Actually they're the people I thought about when I read this totally fabulous and poignant Harvey Pekar (if you don't know Harvey Pekar, you should) comic. By the way, every single story in this series is totally worth spending some time with.

Anyway. My neighbor wanted me to know about a series of break ins that have been happening up and down our street. I laughed this off with my usual "it will never happen to me and I refuse to live in fear like a Fox News watching suburbanite" insouciance. This is the same method I used the other day when my dog walking friend told me I should be way more worried about people lurking in the tall grass at the park than bears in the trees. I told my neighbor that, well, my two intrepid dogs will bravely lick them if they try to get in (although, actually, Django is not fond of strangers and could conceivably be kind of scary particularly if they tried to steal something from under my bed where he would no doubt be hiding) and also something to the effect that I would totally not prosecute burglars as long as they agreed to take everything in the garage, leaving nothing behind. This is, of course, not entirely true, since I would weep should burglars take either Frosty the light up snowman or my giant animatronic Halloween spider, but there's a lot of shit out there they could totally have, including but not limited to the dead rat I strongly suspect is lurking behind some boxes.

The news of the break ins was unsettling though, particularly coming on the heels of a meeting I attended on Tuesday, where I heard that graffiti and vandalism around our downtown building has increased at an alarming rate and that there have been a bunch of attempted break ins (or people lurking creepily anyway.) That in turn had followed a report by the people who run the lot where I park every day of increased car break ins; they even posted a sign telling people to take everything out of their cars. My neighbor this morning made a grim joke: "Well," he said, "I guess there will just be more and more of this as we, you know, turn into a third world country."
"Yeah," I said, "I think there's getting to be a lot of anger out there." And we shared a moment of bitter laughter; the kind of laughter that we're all familiar with here in the land of the sky.

There is a lot of anger. It's expensive as hell to live in Asheville nowadays; as always here, wages are low, costs are high. People who have been squeezed further and further out to the country by the insanely increasing rents and housing costs in the city now face gas prices that make that commute impossible; Manna food bank is staging emergency food drives; and food prices have, as we all know, skyrocketed. It's tough out there and getting tougher and that is making many of us angry. Yeah, us. I may not plan on taking out my anger by breaking into expensive yuppie cars or houses in neighborhoods where my family and I can no longer afford to live, but you know what? I'm angry too and watching more and more and more developments of "affordable" condos that start at $140,000 or more and, of course, luxury lofts and boutique fucking hotels and tiny stores selling $200 hippie skirts to whoever the hell those size 2 rich women are, is not helping one bit. I don't advocate crime, obviously, but I sure as hell can understand it.


boringpostcards said...

This is an excellent post.

I agree with you about the crime and the anger... we got an email from our local police via the neighborhood watch folks (more about them in a second) saying that there have been something like 60 carjackings around our area so far this year, mostly at red lights and fast-food drive thrus. That freaked me out a little, but at the same time I wasn't surprised. We live in a very blue-collar area, and I honestly don't know how a lot of those folks keep their heads above water. (Apparently, some of them aren't.)

But I also know what you mean about the "refusing to live in fear" thing. I've ALWAYS been like that... I don't think you could live in a city with any other attitude. Our immediate neighborhood was all old people when we moved in, but now it's gotten slightly yuppified- not horrible, and a lot of the young folks who have moved in a are sort of cool and bohemian, but they DID start a neighborhood watch group. I joined it, mostly to keep an eye on THEM. I don't want them doing something dumb and/or draconian, so I go to the meetings to kind of play the skeptic. Because you know how one or two scared people can whip up hysteria in a crowd... we have those people, so I figured somebody needs to be there to try to defuse the tension a little bit.

OK, this may be my longest blog comment ever. Heh.

mygothlaundry said...

Thanks, Lee. The neighborhood watch/self righteous gentrifying yuppies exist here too, or they did in my old neighborhood but I never joined them and eventually they just disappeared anyway. I guess they succeeded in driving all the poor black people away and felt their work was done. Wait, sorry, that's too harsh, I know. Still. There's an ugly element of truth to it. The wave of profiteering/gentrification/upscaling that the Bush administration has brought us is unprecedented, I think, and I don't know why anyone would be surprised that higher crime rates go hand in hand with our increasingly middle class free society. When the rich are too rich, and the poor are too poor -