Weedwhacking The N-word, or "Toto, we’re not in Riverdale (or RI) anymore"

Stephanie was out of town visiting her folks in Chicago and doing some work at a conference, so I had the house to myself this week (well, if you include the parade of workers that come by here on a semi-regular basis, including the mysteriously named FX, who is a good egg and has proved helpful.

So, the big question on that everybody likes to ask is “How’s it going?” And the answer is: S ……… L ……. O ……. W ………… L ………… Y .

We keep on making schedules and ideas with Aaron, and cutting back what we thought we were going to be able to get done… And the list of things we are going to be able to do is getting longer, and the things that are done is getting shorter, but much more slowly than the first list. The truth seems to be- the house is going to be fixed on the timeframe it chooses.

As Aaron said to me, when I groused to him about how slowly everything is going “Listen, I wish it was going faster too. A lot of this stuff is meticulous work that needs to be done right. I could do a poor job a little bit faster, but you don’t want me to do that either.” Which is true. Aaron is a hard worker, and he is meticulous about it. But what it means is that we had our cabinets, tin ceiling, floor tile, and just about everything else delivered WAY too early. It’s disheartening.

So about the N-word:

On Sunday, I decided to pull out our old friend the weed-whacker and see if I could give the gardening thing a go. Well, I managed to figure it out, and not cut off my shins in the process. I’m busy working on the front yard (which was truly jungle like) when a group of guys starts talking on the corner where our house is. One guy is saying “The po-lice rolled up on my crib last night” and another guy is saying “They didn’t bring you in, did they?” And other stuff like this. So immediately, I am a little wary of these fine young gentlemen, who for whatever reason have decided that in front of my house was the right place for all this. And I’m busy trying to whack weeds, y’know?

I’m not sure if I mentioned, but every other word out of these guy’s mouthes is the n-word. (I’ll write it once here, so you know which one I mean– nigga.) And as those of you who know me know, That’s not the way I roll. I’m a little more whitebread than that. And I feel a little uncomfortable with the word, as I’m sure most white people do. And suddenly it’s being bandied about on my block.

I’m trying not to pay too much attention to these guys. It’s Sunday afternoon, I’m trying to do a little gardening. Then the guys get a little vociferous, and I hear one say, “If you robbed that guy’s sister, you crossed the line, N!” And then they start bumping chests, getting in each other’s faces, and one of them takes off his shirt, and it looks like there is going to be a fight or something, and I am thinking “Okay, leave the weedwhacking, don’t get involved, go inside, and if guns get involved DUCK!” But I don’t, I play it relatively cool and just go about my business. And as this continues, my neighbor (who’s a black guy) comes up and says “Do you want me to break this up?” and I say, “Well, I’m not happy about it, but I don’t really want to get involved at all.” And then I continue with my weedwhacking. And next I hear, my neighbor is wading in, saying, “Hey you are disrespecting the house owners” EXACTLY, what I didn’t want him to do. I’m half afraid that now these guys will forget their differences, and unite against a common enemy– the guy holding the weed whacker. (which by the way, is ME!)

To make a long story short– those guys eventually calmed down and left, but I am starting to have doubts about the wisdom to purchase our house. Later that afternoon, I went up to Park Hill to visit the last remains of a yard sale my friends were having– and sitting on their beautiful stone wall, drinking lemonade as the sky slowly gets darker and the twilight sets in, and it’s beautiful and seemingly private, and I’m thinking “Whose awful idea was it to live down there?”

Hey, I like diversity. I like that our neighborhood isn’t one color, and that a lot of the language you hear around here is Spanish. I don’t have Fear of a Black Planet–I like different cultures, and the Mexican ice cream place, and the Middle Eastern restaurant, and the Peruvian joint, and the El Salvadoran joint, etc, etc. I like that we live in a neighborhood on the way up (and truthfully, that’s what we could afford) I like that there’s a bodega block away, and that we’re close to the bus, and to shopping, and that there’s an urban feel here. But I want to feel safe and secure in our neighborhood and house. And while it’s a good block– this incident did not inspire confidence.

Up above I said I like diversity, but I guess there’s a diversity that I don’t like –the diversity where you have criminals and victims. (Because I don’t want to be a victim, and I’m not a criminal) Our neighborhood is on the rise, but it can’t rise quickly enough for me.






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