Sunday, February 20, 2011

Domestic Row

Recently there has been a regime change, and not just in the Middle East. The block south of mine has shown some signs of improvement. Perhaps it's partly due to the cold weather, but I think it's something bigger than that. By all appearances, the man who used to control the neighborhood has succumbed to his own demons.

If you can't keep track of your crew, you can't lead. Impairment in any form--physical disability, drug addiction, mental illness, poverty, distraction--can cost a leader his job. One thing has remained, and it's more unpredictable and dangerous than any gang-related skirmish. He fights with his lady.

Law enforcement hates domestic fights. I have a cousin who patrols a neighboring city, and whenever he's called out on a "domestic" he braces himself for the worst. If a fight happens because of a deal gone bad or crew member getting out of line, the presence of police is usually enough to halt the would-be assailants. A fight born of deep emotion, betrayal, fading love or abuse of a loved one doesn't stop just because of an audience; even if that audience is armed. Tension rises in my cousin's voice when he relays stories of men dragging women into the street by their hair. Or a wife brandishing a knife and taking stabs at her controlling husband. Or a woman prepared to shoot her boyfriend because he won't pay back money he owes her.

What fuels the fights between my neighbor and his better half I cannot say, but there's certainly plenty to fight about. The last few times the police have been called in, they were able to enter the apartment complex where Mr. Ex-Pimp and his little band of crack addicts reside. With some effort they were able to quash the domestic, and once inside they could confiscate drugs and dealers. Impairment of emotion left that door wide open.

Now that Mr. Ex-Pimp has lost his edge, a newer, showier brand of boss has stepped in and kept the various mini-gangs in line. Fights involve shouting matches, posturing, puffery. When the volume hits a certain level, Mr. Yellow Hummer and Mr. Vintage White Jag appear out of nowhere, and the shouting stops. After all, noise makes us all aware of the problem, and noise is usually what causes us upstanding citizens to call cops; and cops are bad for business. Simple as that.

The prostitution has slowed due to the cold weather, but it's possible it won't come back this spring. That's not the focus of the new regime, as keeping a bunch of beaten, bedragled girls in line and doped up is a lot of work for not much payout. The ego of the old guard liked the feeling of power that came with controlling women. The new guys are more likely to become clients.

One trend I noticed even months ago was the one-on-one pimp/prostitute combo pack. A couple, desperate for drug money, supports itself via the girl turning tricks. There is no way to keep a woman safe if you don't have a reputation as a badass, and addicts aren't badasses. They're impaired. It becomes a domestic problem, and one that I imagine is difficult to track and control.

Love in the world of drugs: It's a beautiful thing.


  1. I don't know if I should be happy for you or terrified.

  2. Indeed. Trading one problem for another doesn't feel like a huge leap forward.

    Paraphrasing someone on Twitter: She lived next to a gang leader who kept the neighborhood quieter, but went on to kill his girlfriend. If things revert to how they were, when I was in more danger, could that prevent the taking of a life in the future? Maybe.

    Love a good dilemma on a Sunday!

  3. I agree with Mean Marie, but somehow I get the sense that you're strong enough to handle a lot, though it pays to remember Hemingway's advice--the world breaks the weak and the strong without regard, and eventually it breaks everyone. I won't advise you to move, since that's your business, but as my wife says, "Jesus, be careful." Only strong prose could move me to dishing out this kind of advice.

  4. If only moving were an option. Family owned condo in a down market. Meanwhile, staying in well-lit areas and learning to make eye contact only with those who seem stable are two excellent self-defense tactics.

    "Strong prose" is high praise from a talented poet and educator. Thank you.

  5. A raw and compelling post as usual. I think you could keep me on the edge of my seat describing a bowl of sugar.

  6. Ooh. Sugar. Yum. I'll add a spoonful to the food post I'm reworking.