The Slums of Glendale & The Ghosts of Fayetteville
There is a PTSD to being financially insecure. Tied to that, there's another level to it when you live in a slum. Black mold and enough roaches to where you start coming up with cute nicknames with your partner as a dark humor coping mechanism. We used to live in an apartment complex called Glendale that was this experience. The upside? There was some real salt of the Earth people that were our neighbors. Laverne, the sweetest grandma who was still very much having to work a job with a racist boss. But she was never ever negative and honestly, she would have had every right to be. She loved old Jazz. We ended up inadvertently keeping some of her albums since she had died suddenly and her family never really talked to us. Her teenage grandson? Died on the grounds from, I think, a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Bukowski said that no one suffers like the poor and he was absolutely right.
There were a number of Katrina evacuees there too and they were all lovely. There was Herbert and this other man, whose name I can't recall, that would play Mahalia Jackson on hot summer afternoons. These men were gold.
It was tenants like them that got evicted when the new company that had bought Glendale, ironically named Mi Casa. Things were slummy before Mi Casa but they went straight to Hell when they took over. The heater died during the winter, as did the AC during the summer. The ground's old repairman, a really nice man named Glenn, was fired by Mi Casa, after working for the complex for over 15 years. Holes started appearing between the ceiling and the cinderblock walls, allowing ice air during the cold and then, as Spring came, wasps. I actually got really good at capturing rogue wasps. We lost all cold water, with only scalding hot water to shower in. Summer in the South is no joke but it was so unforgiving in the apartment that it was literally cooler outside. My parents were kind enough to let us shower at their house and it felt like a soul reprieve.
We started seeing people getting slowly kicked out in the buildings across from us, some of whom had been tenants longer than us. Renters with disabilities, working-class families, the elderly, all getting the boot as men in hazmat suits started going in and out of the newly vacated rooms. It was the worst kind of surreal and felt like the universe telling us to get the hell out before we were next. Thankfully, close friends of ours had moved to a better and most importantly, affordable for us, complex, recently and gave us the heads up. This afforded us to move out on our own terms, which felt beyond tantamount to us.
Glendale became a ghost and restructured into an expensive "Eco Flat," making all the good pseudo-liberals in town feel so nice about how progressive the city is. Yes, progress while good men and women were thrown out into the streets in the name of money and gentrification. We both would try to explain this to friends of ours at the time and nobody seemed to care.
Trauma makes you feel lonely already, so this is when raw became haunted and scarred. Pretty surfaces appease eyes that are blind to tears and the suffering of the poor and lower classes. I will never stop being sick bout this.
It's been a little over a decade and I still have a burning ember of hate in my heart over this. I should be more zen or whatever, but fuck it. The second English word I ever said as a baby was "bullshit." My mom took it as a sign to monitor her language around me but as an adult, I like to think that even in my early form, I was already tired of seeing things not right around me. You should never accept bullshit as normal. None of us should. Seeing this old article about the award-winning "Eco Flats" is one of the most obscene things ever. People think obscenity means blue language or the unharmed nude consenting adult form...wrong wrong wrong. Real obscenity is when no one cares about their fellow humans and tramples on them in the name of glossy surfaces and attracting money. The latter, while important on a basic survival level, is temporary. When we're dead in the ground, it matters nothing at all. It is our imprint that survives us. Our actions determine whether it is a legacy in glorious heart and vision or a stain tattooed in the ghosts of misery. I will never ever forget or forgive this misdeed. We got to leave on our own terms but knowing that so many didn't get that luxury stays with me as a thorn fused into my skin.
Bukowski was right. Nobody suffers like the poor, indeed.
Here is the article that further rubs salt in the wound.
-- Read Me Mondo Heather