In a shady neighborhood

I live in a neighborhood that has, by all appearances, been steadily improving for the last big handful of years. There’s a higher concentration of families and baby strollers, equally matched by happy artsy hipsters riding their bikes to the farmer’s market up the street.

I’ve been here for the past few years, but I feel like I can claim it going even further back. I was, after all, born at the hospital right up the street. Yes, that hospital was roughly 15 miles from my family home, but whatever. It’s my ‘hood.

When I moved in, it was right on the verge of shady. It kinda felt like the scene at the end of Roger Rabbit, where if you turn left you can see the giggly, singing sun and bluebirds, and on the right you have cement, crazy-eyed villains, and steaming piles of Dip. But I never felt unsafe. Not once. I made wise choices, but even walking home from bart alone, well past midnight, I always felt secure.

So long, cozy safe feeling. Care to hear what’s happened in just the past month and a half, within a 2 block radius of my house?

• Someone shot bullet holes into the brand new, temporary Detour sign. I expect that in Montana. I expect a hell of a lot more than two little holes, in fact. But here? Literally feet from my door? And really, were they just shooting signs, or was the sign an innocent bystander? Lovely.

• I’ve caught completely unknown kids (or, humans younger than me, not necessarily kids by most folks definition of the term) 1) sleeping, 2) eating, 3) peeing, and 4) smoking illicit substances in my backyard and driveway.

• Someone ran up and down the street waving a hatchet. A hatchet. Again, this is Oakland, California. Not Oakland, Montana. Or Bellevue.

• A friend was held up at gunpoint. Two men approached him, one casually placed a gun right on his temple, my friend’s fight or flight instinct kicked in (and it’s tough to roundhouse kick a bullet out of the air, so he ran), and he was then pursued for a block and a bit, in the rain, until he was able to get into his girl’s apartment building and slam the glass door literally in his chaser’s face. Fun times.

• This actually deserves it’s own bullet point, since it’s one of my personal Oakland pet peeves, but it is really an expansion on the above point. The next morning, scraped and bruised, having taken some time to let his heart stop racing and his breathing slow, said friend called the police. After being given the run-around all day, he was eventually told that unless he was actually IN THE PROCESS of being murdered, then he was a fairly low priority, and somehow the cops never seem to get to the low priorities. ‘Cause, you know, there’s enough murderings in process that keep them all occupied. The good ones, anyways. The bad ones are off getting illicit handjobs in dark corners of parking lots. All of which makes me particularly worried when…

• Two plainclothes detectives approached me as I was sippin’ my fro-yo on the front steps today. They identified themselves as cops, then asked if I’d seen any women’s clothing around today. There’s often bits and pieces strewn around, including a really cute pair of men’s trousers on the neighbor’s rose bush yesterday, but nothing  today. “Mind if I look?” one said. “Go ahead,” I said. While he was poking, his partner made small talk. “Pretty quiet today?” “Yep,” I answered. “Did you happen to see a naked woman on the corner yesterday?” “Nope.”

Well, I’m glad they’re out and about and investigating. If, however, a woman somehow lost all her clothes on my street in what must have been an involuntary manner, I am not at all thrilled. Boonie dog, you’re going to have to hold your bladder until daylight, my dear.

Again, this is not a backlog of complaints. These are not stories I’ve been accumulating from my urban lifetime. This is the past 6 weeks, maybe 7. I never thought Montana would sound like a safe alternative. Okay, well, it still doesn’t, but it’s getting close.

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