Saturday, July 23, 2011

Vandalism, and my thoughts on Hometowns

Thanks to my girl C who gave me some cleansers and scrubbies, and thanks to the fact the trailer is under the trees in the shade and there was a wonderful breeze, I was able to tackle the graffiti and the trailer can go to summer camp tonight and not be an embarrassment to our Scoutmaster and the troop.

Here are the before shots:

I will return to the last photo later in this entry for some thoughts. Here are the after shots:

Our Scoutmaster took the trailer up to his house yesterday evening, and washed the trailer after I told him that one side now looked incredibly better than the other, because it had been scrubbed and waxed and cleaned up. Shiny and lovely, one can barely see the markings. I stopped scrubbing hard because I felt I was scrubbing the green paint off of the trailer where the alleged "pot leaves" were drawn. Those were the hardest to get off.

I was incredibly relieved that the text of "the worst fucking town to live in" came right off. And while I was there scrubbing the hell out of this thing, I thought about that. Is our town the worst fucking town to live in? Really? Really kids? Honestly?

It began to really irritate me that these individuals, and to be honest, most kids the age of my son and daughter, feel this way about this hometown. So incredibly sorry that your parents didn't want to raise you in Lawrence or Lynn. So incredibly sorry that your parents maybe don't have the money to raise you in Newburyport or Newton. And I am so incredibly sorry that you are so bored, so filled with ennui, that this is your form of self-satisfaction and entertainment.

Also, I am so very sorry that your parents didn't send you to a school system with a better ART PROGRAM so you can learn to draw a fucking POT LEAF. Well drawn, Picaso! Not. Maybe if you are so damn bored you should ask to take art lessons. They actually offer them at the summer program at the high school. You could learn a thing or two. Or ten.

I grew up in the Projects. I've written about this before. The house catty corner to the apartment I grew up in was a drug den. The parking lot of the school across the street is often a battle ground. On Monday morning, the groundskeeper at the school has to come out and clean up needles, condoms and other detritus left over from the weekend fun that people would have there.

A big part of what I wanted for my kids was that they not have to grow up inside the house because it is flat out dangerous in the neighborhood, or that they fall into the "wrong" group of cohorts and do bad, awful, horrible, self-injurious things to themselves.

Geoff and I had a long talk about the "fucking worst town" and he agrees, it is awful here. There are so many bullies in school, and there is nothing to do. You can't really walk anywhere and have fun.

I asked him if he'd rather live in say, Lawrence.

"Yes. They have that great Mexican restaurant! And you can walk to stores and jobs and there are buses! And so many different types of people! Our town is SO WHITE!"

Well, he's totally right about the Mexican Restaurant. We love to go to Cafe Azteca! No lie. They do have stores, I'm not really sure how many jobs Lawrence has that I or he or anyone can walk to at this point in time, but I see his point -- there are two pizza joints and two quickie marts in our town, and a lack of job opportunities for 15 year old boys. 

So that's the problem? White people like yourself are boring? You want more diversity of people in your town? I'm sorry that I can't force people who aren't white to move here. We do have non-white people who live here, some of them are in your own grade, kid. For some reason,  you just don't hang out with them.

When you are old enough, go move somewhere else, and see if you like it or not. And then we can talk.

It's kind of the opposite of Springsteen's "My Hometown" while being the same. Instead of there being factory shut downs and "a lot of fights between the blacks and the whites"... But I want to tell him, "son take a good look around, this is your hometown" and have him love it.

Or at least like it.

When I go back to Huntington NY, which is a really big town, I go to the parts I like. The parts that are pretty, crime free (relatively) and where I feel happy. Downtown shopping, buses that go places, harbor with boats, and the big huge rich people houses. I didn't have the same growing up experience as say my friends Kate and Jenny, or my friend Chris Campion, who writes beautifully about Huntington in his autobiography "Escape from Bellevue."  I wrote an extensive review of the book when it was released, and it is fascinating to me how we view our hometowns. Click here if you want to read what I had to say then. 

I do not go to Huntington Station, to the home my parents lived in for 30 plus years. Hometown, but not home.

I wonder what can be done to help kids be happier where they live, more engaged, happy. I know I try with Geoff to try and make him happy and love it like a wistful Springsteen. I know that he will live places where he will not be happy, maybe won't be safe, and that is a fact. Maybe he'll come back here, even if we don't live here, and go up the hill at the park and look around, or ride down the road to the new bridge into the next town and remember when that used to be a horrible bridge into the next town. He'll drive by his elementary school and love the giraffe sign out front.

I don't think this is the fucking worst town to live in. I like it here. I want to stay here. And I don't care to relocate at this time. And when I do, I'm picking a town like it.

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