Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gentrify This

There's a new trend in city maintenance: red bark. I don't understand it. It's ugly, it gets everywhere and my dog won't poop on it. I live in an urban world, and those little patches of dirt with trees that poke up from the sidewalks at even intervals are what we urbanites--and our dogs--rely upon for the task.

I can't get too peeved, though. The city is trying to make my neighborhood all nice and pretty so the criminal element will go somewhere else, like the suburbs. I'm all in favor of that. If I lived in the suburbs, well, I wouldn't live in the suburbs. I have friends who grew up in suburbs, and trust me. They are wholly unprepared for a visit.

Who is doing some of the work? Convicts. I'm delighted by this. I wonder if some have been sent back to the same places they were popped to make amends with the locals? In fact, the XXX "Theatre" has a nice, new facade with potted plants surrounded by red bark. If you've been exposed to such a place (pardon the pun), you know what happens when a client ignores the code of conduct. I envision registered sex offenders delicately patting red bark around geraniums, right under a window display with a scantily clad mannequin in a suggestive pose.

The other thing they're doing in an attempt to cut down on the lurking about is to add a lower deck of lights to every street light. This is being done by qualified professionals--I hope. Not that being a convict rules out the 'lineman for the county' skill set, but there might be some liability issues.

These lower lights stay on all night, unlike the higher street lights, and have already had the noticeable effect of not digging the homeless population out of their sleeping quarters. Can't hide in a dark doorway if it isn't dark, right? It's harder for them to relieve themselves without an audience, is all. Urine pooled on a bus stop bench is one thing, but inadvertently catching a glimpse of the urinator in the act is an experience I hope never to repeat.

Bright lights shining away, the dealers and prostitutes busily do what they need to do between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. as always. The drunken fights outside the bars still happen, as inebriated individuals have no sense of their surroundings. The more gang-inclined young men stand like peacocks under the new lighting, perhaps hoping their gold jewelry will glint all the more. That's what I'd do.

The good result is that I feel less likely to be mugged or attacked as I pass near patches of red bark and stare into the bright bulbs. It might be a false sense of security, but I'm thoroughly conditioned. It's in literature and folklore that light and clean is good, and dark and dirty is bad.

It's also impossible to grow up in a larger city without being taught a few survival skills that include light vs. dark training. I've learned from friends, enemies, experts, parents, teachers and my own encounters with the dark side. Stay clear of alleys and doorways, walk with a purpose, hold your purse tight and your chastity tighter!


  1. As the father of two daughters I appreciated this post. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Two girls? Oof. Hang in there, dad!