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Monday, September 28, 2009

Not everyone is a stereotype, but some folks actually work towards it.


yesterday was a hard day. I was directed to a very posh community, in what turned out to be a semi gated community. Now, i don't want to disparage everyone in this neighborhood, but the neighborhood itself was painful, weird and unfriendly in a way that no other part of the city even comes close to.
First, the first house I went to had a nice woman who full understood the connection between art, business and hippy-traveller/entrepeneurialism that I was driving at. I'm on my pal's computer, so, I'm not sure I spelled that last one right, but whatever. Anyway, the very NEXT house, the lady looked at me sort of coldly and said, "we require tags for this part of the city. I was like, fine, good luck, as I always say. Three more houses down, a 17 year old comes to the door, I say, "are your parents available?", and before he can even say yes or no, he catches himself, actually lies to my face, says no (yes, I see them) and says, "what's this about?" I said, "If I can't get a straight answer, I'm leaving." he actually apologized for lying and shut the door! Next, I stop at another house, the lady says the same thing, "you need a tag in this part of the city. I say, well, I'm a traveller, and are the other folks creative, doing their own thing, or just selling magazines? She tells me they aren't, but it doesn't matter. Fine, good luck! And I move on.
I have to add here, I have NEVER heard this before in SIX MONTHS of working in Oakland and Berkeley.
I'm at a final house, on the corner, a women comes to the door, a woman that appears to have some class. I give her my short spiel, which takes at most 15 seconds, but she cuts me off in the middle and says "no thanks." Ok, Great. I say good luck. I'm walking away, and this woman takes the time to come back out of her door, and call down to me, "excuse me sir, sir..." I spin around, "let me guess, " I say, "I need a tag?" She nods. I look at her and I say, "I've been doing this for six months in the city, and I have never heard this before, yet I have heard it three times in this neighborhood. Do you know what that tells me about this neighborhood?" She looks at me and says, "no, what?" I respond: "I'm not going to tell you, you figure it out." At which point she ran inside, probably to call the police on the surly itinerant artist in her midst.

There are many wonderful, lovely folks in Oakland, and a little later, I was down by the Grand, talking with an old black lady. I told her I had been in this specific, though it shall remain nameless, neighborhood. She rolled her eyes. "The rich," she said, and told me where there were more mixed neighborhoods where, despite any other form of rejection, people treat each other with decency and don't lie to avoid conflict as a family value. I don't have a problem with rejection: I do have a problem with people who lump a 46 year old scholar/musician/artist with 16 year old ghetto youth that sell crooked magazine subscriptions. On the way to a neighborhood that looks clean, where did so many residents lose all their class? The other neighborhoods, with all their good people, struggling to get by and good, even if they reject me, to a humble artist, makes this one, despite all it's fancy lawns, pretty houses and clean children, look bad, filthy and dirty.

Some places may look nice, have pretty lawns, even have access to good schools, but the class of people in them is so low, that I think it would be an embarrassment to raise one's children there, for fear that they might become as crass as their neighbors.

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