Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Robbin' in the Hood

So, without giving too much away, we live in a big city. It has nice parts, very nice parts, amazing parts, not so great parts and...(cue Elvis) The Ghettooooohhhhh....Guess where we live? Now, I am not new to Ghetto fabulousness, I lived in Los Feliz when it was...Elvis? will you do us the honor....the Ghettooo...thank you. Eagle Rock and Mount Washington...when it was a little like...Elvis? "the ghetto", less letters, lower case...see not so ghetto. But we have returned...big, bold and beautiful to THE HOOD and while you can ride a Vespa and get to a good part of town in about 148 seconds, our street is still HOOD-dee lah dee dah HOOD!

Okay, let me tell you about our short block where SO MUCH happens, daily. First of all, as stated in previous posts I am one of only 3 "Americans" living in our hood, the other two live on the nicer street and one is an opera singer and the other works for DWP and gives away free stuff. Our side is the Latino side. NO ONE...and I will repeat NOT ONE PERSON over the age of 8 speaks English. The Nice Mommy Neighbor kinda sorta mostly-ish speaks English, enough to communicate about shopping, showering the kids and we work together on solving disputes between disgruntled 5 year olds. I am still not sure she is using her real name as everyone BUT me, calls her by a different first name and I know she talks behind my back, but she also brings me tea and medicine when I'm sick. So my final (fluctuating) assessment of her is, she trusts me about as much as I trust her which is about 78% of the time with each of us ready to throw the other under the bus at a moment's notice. If it came to defending her space, read: growing it by taking ours, or her children read: supporting her kids stealing and lying, then she would toss us to the wind and fight for the right to get ahead anyway she can. However, this has improved over the year and she has actually returned stolen items to us, vs. said they were hers when they, CLEARLY AND IN BOLD PRINT, had my kid's names on them....fail.

However, I have grown to really like her and I think likes she, me. She even said she is bored when I am not here and misses us, as she hasn't got anyone to really hang out with. We make each other food, but usually I feed her kids. However, she also feeds mine...so we share. Her husband is a TOTAL JERK...there isn't anything I have nice to say about him at all, not one stinking word. The only time he has ever even spoken to me was to pick a fight with someone who stole my screen door. I must say I swooned a bit thinking maybe this stoic, wife beating man was softening...but "no" it turns out he has a beef with those neighbors and wanted to strut his tail feathers.

So, we have learned to completely, utterly and absolutely, disregard each other. He does like Big Diva and fancies she will marry his son, (strange on so many levels...which I will talk about later) and he is remarkably sweet to her, but Me...NADA, Zilch, "no le interesa". I was told in Spanlish by his wife that he "doesn't like" me because I am able to provide the same for my family as he does for his and I am only a woman...while this was garbled in many misused words and Spanglish I didn't quite understand, I got the point. So, in order to make peace with the fact that I can buy EXACTLY what he can, as a woman, he tries to make what is mine, his...usually by taking my SPACE as we share a yard. We finally fenced in our area so he couldn't throw beer cans on it or set fire to it as he had tried to when he decided to put a backyard bonfire right next to my kid's (very expensive) wooden play structure. Now I just have to contend with his darn puppy in my house ALL THE TIME and his freaking bunnies, pooping all over the place. Not to mention his drunk buddies stumbling all over the yard....not exactly the way I wanted my innocent girls growing up. It's funny, I like a nice glass of wine, but I have it at dinner in pretty glasses and I DON'T sit in the yard with a magnum of wine and a paper cup and plow through that bad boy until I'm blurry eyed. But Neighbor Dad, he's half tanked by 10pm and this is after taking down a 12 pack. I don't want to get anymore annoyed but I will applaud myself for standing up for our space and my kid's future by tattling to the landlords and setting up clear boundaries. Which include privacy fences that mostly protect my kids from the insane amount of drinking that goes on in our back yard.

Again, I'm all for a party, but if lunch and dinner consist of 24 cans of Tecate...I may just have a bit of a problem with it. However, at the moment, our weapons are down. SO...this has NOTHING to do with the title of my post.... :)

One further note...as if I'm not having enough trouble getting to the point. Across the street and down three houses is the "black" side of the street. All the houses from the third house across the street down are inhabited by black people. They have never once crossed to our side of the street, nor have they acknowledged my kids. Apart from this one awesome guy who rides his bike down our street everyday and waves at the girls and yells "great family" to me...just for the record, I love that guy. Now, I must confess, I haven't crossed the street baring pie, to introduce myself, so why on earth would I assume that just because my kids are black and they are black that we would want anything to do with one another. Really if I wanted to hang out with them, it was my move and I didn't make it. Granted there were no "Mrs. Mayberry RFD's" waving me over, so I didn't want to be the dorky white person who was like, "Hi, I made pie and guess what my kids are black too"...ick. So we just exist roughly 4 houses and a street away from one another.

I will say that within the first week of moving in, I was invited to two birthday parties and a christening on our side and while I feel like an alien who can't speak the language, I do feel that there is a sense of limited "like" for me. My kids are a different story. Big Diva...RULES THE STREET. She is the queen of all...I swear, I am not bragging, that kid has everyone bowing and kowtowing to her, which I don't always think is a good thing. But that's her style she is a leader and damn if she isn't going to lead...even in a foreign language. I do have to pull in her reigns a bit, but it still doesn't stop the Big Diva idolization and worship that goes on around here. Little Diva is just coming out of her shell and is being given adoration, mostly cause she is Big Diva's sister...but really its all about Big Diva. SO....to MY POINT.

Robbin' in the hood. Part of the beauty and sadness of this area is we are all poor. (yep, I'm poor, I'm rich in many things...but money ain't one of them). So, I have learned (the hard way) that "If it ain't nailed down or locked up...its stolen). We are in a safe neighborhood nobody hurts each other, apart from domestic disputes (which suck) but folks here are just poor. Their mentality is...if you left it out, you must not want it, and well, "I need it" so "I'll take it" its not stealing as much as acquiescing stuff that clearly the owner is relinquishing. And if you tell them, that "no" you didn't want to lose your stuff, well, diverting your eyes and pretending that you don't understand, really helps you hold on to your newly acquired stuff.

That being said, this same mentality also helps find AMAZING free stuff and INCREDIBLE deals. I have been privy to some of the best financial finds of my life because my neighbors have clued me into a great sale, deal or giveaway in the area. I have even been lead by hand to freebees that my neighbors have not been able to tell me about in English. I LOVE THIS ABOUT THEM, I am never left out of the good stuff. I have gotten, food, toys, backpacks, clothes, you name it, all given to me cause a neighbor dragged me off to some "first come first served, giveaway" in the neighborhood.

So, I really do love them...and I am so blessed. I feel so connected to this community that my kids will be going to a dual immersion school and will be learning in both Spanish and English, graduating from sixth grade fluent in Spanish...that is so cool and I hope to learn with them.

So, my neighbors across the street lost their house, the bank foreclosed their house after a fire destroyed their income property and they were not able to make the payments. After two years of not being able to catch up on the mortgage, the bank locked them out. They HAD NOTHING... I heard that they were not allowed to get their stuff inside the house and lost everything. So, one day I was out in the yard with the kids and saw a HUGE (the size of a small country) moving van pulling up to the house. I knocked on Nice Neighbor Mommy's door and told her about the truck, as she knew the people who lived there, who were somehow (and I may never really know how) related to her. She called them on their cell and was able to rally the neighborhood together to stand with the stuff collecting on the street and protect it from looters and the moving guys until the family was able to come and claim it. They stayed out there for at least three hours, just sitting in front of the stuff as the movers (also "Americans") were at a loss, not knowing what move to make next. They finally left (but their truck stayed) for a few hours. But every time they went to put a piece of furniture in their truck, the neighbors threw themselves on it, all cussing and telling off the movers. When passer-bys started to pick through it, they did the same. Finally the owners showed up and reclaimed their things. And as everyone in our hood owns a truck, 5 or 6 trucks all belonging to various neighbors showed up and in two loads moved all of the stuff. The women stood vigil until dark and each piece was gone.

So, while I am a stranger in a strange new land, I am grateful to be learning a new language and a new code of ethics. While I don't plan on adopting all of what I am learning, nor will I be teaching it to my children, I did see a five hour span of time turn into a peaceful demonstration of will and determination to not allow Robbin' in their hood and this I WILL teach my children. I will teach them that it is noble, right and honorable to defend another person...even if "The Man" is taking their stuff...stand strong and defend what is right. Bravo folks, I wish I spoke enough Spanish to understand what was happening, but by the end of the day I knew. These poor folks may have lost their home, but you made sure that they didn't lose their stuff too!

While some of this post may have seemed elitist or racist, it is not. I live here too and I am just making observations on my life. Remember, I am an outsider looking in, as NONE of the cultures on my block are the ones I was raised in, however it they were, this blog would be scathing :)

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