I came home from the library with Louis Theroux's new book Call of the Weird. Theroux is a documentary maker from the BBC who has developed some kind of fascination with American Weirdness. This book is a follow-up to his series of documentary-ettes called Louis Theroux: Weird Weekends. Of course, I was compelled to dive in immediately, so I made a cup of coffee and sat on the porch to read. (It occurs to me that only a weird person would drag coffee out on an Alabama porch in the summertime.)
I looked up just in time to make out a familiar figure walking up the steps to the house next door. I couldn't resist. Laura, I said. Are you looking for your cat? She told me that her cat had gone missing when she had to go away. I assured her that her cat, albeit now the baby-mama of some wild ghetto kittens, was fine. The neighbors had been feeding her. She was relieved and walked down the street to find her.
She looked good. Beautiful even. A little less emaciated, still thin. Shiny hair. A denim skirt with a white t-shirt and a belt and espadrilles. Lipstick. She wouldn't have looked out of place at the Big Church on Sunday, but I'm willing to bet she would have felt it. You look good, Laura, I said. She told one of my neighbors that she'd been in rehab. I can't think she has been there nearly long enough, though. She's living downtown, now, with the same boyfriend. The cynic in me thinks she's clean for a week or two, but I hope that maybe, just maybe, this will be it for Laura. Godspeed, Girl. Angels on your body.
It comes at a weird time for me. Someone in the neighborhood set up a Google group for the folks living down on 15th Avenue. It got pretty popular pretty fast, and now there are something like 80 members of which I am one. These are some strange folks. Mostly upper-middle class, many yankees, most democrats. I'm not sure why they're here, though. Most of them seem to hate the Southside. The buzz of the past month has been about a house at the end of the street occupied by a group of fraternity boys from UAB. Or, more specifically, the beer bottles they leave in the yard, the window they broke the "illegal" fence they erected and the "party basement" they are building. (Just how the posters know about their basement is unclear.) Let's make a petition, one poster implores us, to get RID OF THEM! I have an image in my mind of a reality show: Survivor Southside! Better pick up your trash, or your neighbors will VOTE YOU OFF THE STREET! It sours my stomach. It literally makes me want to thump somebody. Right up a side of they head, if you know what I mean.
I want to reply to their posts, but I'm not sure how much difference it would make to them that I would literally have to walk past four crackhouses to get from my house to the frat house and we live about 300 yards apart. (Not to mention the felony sex offenders.) I want to hold their faces under water for just a minute and say You KNEW this wasn't a nice neighborhood when you MOVED here. WHY EXACTLY DO YOU STAY? It's the Paris Hilton scandal of the neighborhood and the "media" can't leave it alone to cover, for one measly minute, the fact that every night of the year someone is cooking a fix under a bush somewhere on their street. I don't think there was this much reaction when the police found a murder victim in the alley behind their houses.
This makes me think of the marvellous idea someone had to move here and plant a church for the city! For Southside! We'll LOVE our neighbors! What a bunch of naive crackers we turned out to be. What a colossal failure. The best of my life.