Those of you that have been around here for a while know that I have a history of living in ghettos.
It’s – of course – of no fault of my own. We’re renters, so there is always the gamble that comes with renting. The area could change over time. The company that manages your building could switch, change it’s policies…who knows? There is never any guarantee that you get what you are billed when renting, because – quite frankly – that is what renting business is all about. Conceal and disguise. Change and turnover to get more rents. Really there are these same risks when owning; and in fact, this is the reason why we choose to rent instead of buy – so we always have the easy out of the end of a lease.
But it’s been a challenge to find a place that is not in the heart of the ghetto. A challenge that has taken almost five years, and a familiarity with our local moving company.
The first place that my husband and I rented was in Los Angeles, city proper (outside of downtown but still a Los Angeles address). The place seemed nice enough – it was bigger than we thought we’d be able to afford, and had a gated entry to the building. I should have known something was up, though when we moved in. To get our bed into the apartment, we had to ask the neighbor to open his front door so ours could be maneuvered through the narrow hallway between the two units. Standing there in his underpants, scratching himself occasionally, we learned all about his “lady friend” who we should not be alarmed to see coming and going occasionally at odd hours.
Then two weeks later my tires got slashed in the garage. Three months later the garage flooded during a mild rain. There were also no windows on one side of the apartment, so the average temperature was somewhere between 90 and 245 degrees.
The second place we lived was in Culver City. Our dog got run over outside the complex (true story, it was absolutely devastating). But beyond just bad memories, this place was so ghetto that there was a constant smell of weed smoke wafting around the courtyard; and whenever it rained the awning fell off the side of the building.
After Culver City, we had had enough of city life. We tried it. We failed it. There was no way we could afford the rents or mortgages or nice cardboard boxes in better areas of town so close to the city. So we ventured back towards where we came from – along the coast about halfway between LA and Santa Barbara.
Right back into the ghetto. We lived in our first ghetto outside of Los Angeles for almost two years. Fist fights at two in the morning outside were common place. Evictions all around us happened regularly. Someone reported a meth lab in one of the complex buildings and the entire building was evacuated for two weeks to be cleaned out. Our bedroom window faced the parking lot, so routinely we heard people’s outdoors arguments, and one time listened to a teenage girl sob uncontrollably for three, straight hours because her boyfriend dry-humped some other girl under the bleachers at school.
After that place, I thought it could not get any more ghetto on a day-to-day basis than that. I mean we had lived in the city, which was pretty bad; but it wasn’t daily. There were at least some days in the city – once in a while – that you could leave your house and not see a gang fight going on in the parking lot; days when you didn’t get held up because you were being questioned by the police after someone had been arrested for drugs; or at the very least you could through your pathway to the parking lot without tripping over beer cans. I thought if anything, moving again would just be that same moderate level of daily ghetto we had come to accept as commonplace.
Then we moved to the Barranca Vista, and that daily level of moderate ghetto was paltry compared to what the Barranca Vista had in store for us.
Our lease at the last ghetto came up for renewal and they gave us a 14 month or a 16 month option. At the same time we were in the process of helping my dad sell his house so he could move in with us, so we were going to be needing a bigger place and more flexibility on our lease anyway. We looked for any place we could find that had a shorter term of lease, and we found the Barranca Vista as pretty much the only option.
I really, really wanted to love the Barranca Vista as our temporary home. It was closer to my dad’s house, which would make helping with the sale easier. We had two stories there too, so there would be more space. And there was a park – a beautiful, nice, park – in the back of the complex.
But gotdamn was that place ghetto. Most of the neighbors were unemployed, so there was a constant stream of people swearing, screaming, fighting, and letting their kids run around and terrorize everyone. There was always someone’s furniture being thrown out on the front lawn. A girl right across from us, about 12 years old, lived as a foster child with a hispanic family. They had no less than 25 people living in their unit. She would sit outside on the porch and make out with the younger boys in the house. There were gun shots occasionally down the street at night. One time we came home from the grocery store and police were outside our building. They said they were there to pick up someone on a warrant, and that we should get into our apartment and stay away from the windows.
Within about a month I felt like I was developing PTSD from being in a constant state of ghetto warfare. It was horrible, and thankfully my dad’s house sold with lightning speed and we were out of there.
Now I’m not meaning to say that all rentals in the community in which we live are ghetto. Not by a long shot – California, particularly the Central Coast (where we live) is gorgeous, even when it’s foggy and rainy and rattling from earthquakes. As with all places, there are just pockets – a lot of pockets – where shit gets real.
Now, after two months of living in our new home – which is bigger, cleaner, quieter, safer, and in a really good area of town – I can say, without a doubt, that at least for now we are not in the ghetto anymore. I have yet to see any arrests, or gang fights. No one has screamed at all hours of the night. There have been no meth labs, no drug busts, and no evictions. No furniture left on the lawn, no clothes thrown out a bedroom window by a woman named Titiana, screaming “you take yo shit to that whore’s house!” You never know, it could go downhill. But until then: now that we no longer live in the ghetto, what will I complain about? This place is so uneventful and quiet and normal that it’s bordering on boring. There’s nothing to talk about, nothing to gossip over. I almost feel a little reminiscent of the days when police reports and middle of the night arguments were common place…