A lot of people think where they live is rough. Fear has become a big industry in America. Sales of guns are skyrocketing and the amount of people prepping for some inchoate apocalypse is mind boggling. Follow the money I always say. However, the neighborhood I live in was recently named the 14th most dangerous in America. How do I live in a place like that? Here's what I do...
I'll wake up and look out the window to see what the weather is like. Then I generally have a nice, tall glass of water, fluoride and all, then contemplate what I might eat for lunch. Usually I haven't prepared very well, so I don't have anything, and I take to the mean streets and go to the next block where I often buy a turkey sandwich and a soft drink from the Middle Easterny looking guys who have a convenience store there. Almost always when I walk through the door the guy there says "Hey buddy, how are you today?," and I'll generally respond that things are favorable.
Then I'll go home and eat that and look out the window. It's a great view. Probably the most interesting one in the entire town. I've seen everything. The first year I moved in the restaurant I live behind put in a beach in the alley and had music shows all summer. I've seen fights and fucking and frolicking and more misery and dejection than I care to remember. The garbage dumpsters behind the row of restaurants are very popular among the homeless. But there's joy, too, mostly in the form of drunken revelry, but that counts, too.
I've always dreamed of living in such a place. I grew up in a small town where one can take a walk any time night or day and not get hassled. I'm not sure it would be wise to head south from my current location at night. I have to be honest and admit I don't have much business there and don't attempt it very often.
If you continued to Google Earth this down to street level you'd probably see me at the northernmost tip of this map manning one of the last poetry outposts in the pre post-Apocalyptic dystopia of Rockford. The average income is something like $8,600 in the shaded area. All around me is the area they are attempting to gentrify. I love it. I like to feel I am doing my bit to class things up. My mood often depends on which window I look out of. I have my choice. The historic Midway Theater and Faust Landmark Hotel, the Irish Rose and the great white North, or dumpsters and Latino dishwashers on break or carting the leavings of affluent white folks to the trash. This is where I make the poetry. This is where I watch the homeless turned out of the shelters each day make their way to the dollar store. This is where I watch the ambulance pick up the despondent elderly several times a week from The Faust. This is where I wonder when they will put a roof on the Midway Theater.
I like it. It suits me. It's various. I have my choice of half a dozen good restaurants in walking distance. Same with a cold beer or good live music. My experience in the shaded area is different from almost everyone else's. It's where I always wanted to be. At almost the exact geographic heart of Rockford, Illinois. I was born three blocks east of where I am now sitting. I inhabit this neighborhood, but I'm not any real part of it. Nothing I do here makes life any better for the rest of the people the city, state, and federal government has left behind.
So, the hipster kids down the block can print up a new batch of Tshirts about how ironic it is that the perception is this is a terrible place when it's really oh so lovely to them, but I'd feel slightly abashed if I wore such a thing and ran into one of the people around here who truly is miserable and feels helpless about it. I have one of those Tshirts because I like to support what other people are doing. It's soft. And oblivious of the suffering going on around it.
Like most of Rockford.