Am I Destined To Live In the Ghetto?

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I ask myself often: do I live in the ghetto? No, not really. I live in the suburbs.

But as time has gone on, and we’ve moved from one nice area that turned out to be not-so-nice, to another, I’ve come to realize something: the suburbs may be synonymous with the ghetto.

We moved on June 1st to a condo owned by my husband’s family. It was purchased for him and his brother, and as a general investment, when the community was first being built about ten years ago. They’ve had a slew of renters coming in and out for several years. Eventually he and his brother, and their various roommates, moved out and got married, and they had a family friend renting for a few years.

But as we recently found ourselves in the position of having to either (a) pay rent beyond our means in our prior apartment to stay in town near family, or to (b) move back to the city of Los Angeles (where my husband works) – we all realized that it was time for us to occupy the condo.

We really had no other choice if we wanted to stay close to our families, or should I say if our families wanted us to stay close to them.

About a month ago, I was pulling into the drive and parking my car when a crazy-looking, middle aged man approached me and my daughter getting out of my SUV. He was shaking – noticeably – and started screaming at me about how he didn’t like my driving before I even got out of the car. He went on to tell me that my garden on our patio offended him, and – just who did I think I was trying to make the rest of the neighbor’s patios look dumpy compared to my nice set up. Was this guy serious? I still don’t know. I did not engage him in a fight, I simply tried to calm him down and assured him that I drive much slower than I should need to, in a community where my kids and friends have almost been hit twice, already, by crazy drivers. And that we have only the best intentions with our admittedly nice things.

11872302_851094782623_7718313065513953767_o11921727_851094378433_5672761055234370595_oHe wasn’t having it though. For him, this confrontation was not about having a reasonable discussion – it was about the fact that he thought we were renters, just like all the other people that have come and gone through this, the family home. It was about the fact that he felt he needed to threaten me with his supposed-HOA credentials. And, I can only assume, it was about the fact that the guy clearly gets off on accosting and harassing young women in parking lots.

I finally gave up, and just walked into the house as he continued to scream – crying much harder than I should have been.

Naturally, as any blogger will do, I took my upsettedness to Facebook. I talked about the incident on my page, and about how the man brought me to tears. Many expressed sympathy, some talked about the actual issues in my community with me – something everyone should do, because no place is perfect. Then one friend (as she always does), asked “why does this crap always happen to you?” In response I answered a question with a question: “because we keep moving from ghetto to ghetto?”

I never said this was the ghetto.

I never said this place was a dump.

I never actually said anything, other than that I was accosted by a middle aged man in the parking lot, and that it upset me. I cracked a jokey question about ghetto behavior seeming to be everywhere.

(As anyone with any experience with others knows, anytime a white girl such as myself refers to something as “ghetto,” she is referring to a behavior, not necessarily a place.)

The response and the gossip that followed, however, turned into something I could have never – not in a million years – expected. It wasn’t about whether or not I was OK. It was about me saying I lived in the ghetto (which I didn’t ever actually say), me talking trash about my in-laws on Facebook (which, obviously, I would never do), me being ungrateful that we are “allowed” to live in and care for this home (didn’t realize that staying close to family while my husband still commutes 100 round trip miles a day for work, paying the monthly mortgage amount, and caring for the place as if it were our own was an allowance)…and so on and so forth…

So reported my husband, it eventually got to his parents and now – naturally – the gossip wheel left me feeling deflated and bullied, and looking like an asshole to his mom and dad.

All I really wanted was to come home and not be yelled at by a strange man.

Since then, there have been several more incidences:

-We received a letter in the mail that we had violated the HOA’s rules by screwing things into the front door and patio walls (there are no HOA rules about this, not to mention the things hanging are done so with removable, outdoor mounting tape).

-We received another letter in the mail that our plants were not sitting on proper drainage plates when set on the ledge around the patio (there is an HOA rule about this one; however, there absolutely are proper drainage plates under my ledge-lining plants, which I can’t say the same for our neighbors – some of whom are actually on the HOA).

-Someone has stolen and/or destroyed at least 75% of the plants on our patio.

-We saw someone in the middle of the night, just a few nights ago, creeping onto our porch at 4:15 in the morning, and pouring something into our plants (I was wondering why my last crop died suddenly and unexpectedly in August).

-The list goes on…and on…and on…

However, I don’t feel as though I can talk or post or say anything about it to anyone, because the results of me saying anything disparaging about people around here are: gossip, outright lies, and harassment from people that (a) don’t even live here themselves, and (b) should be loving and supportive.

Today – the doozy – I opened the garage door to take my daughter to tennis, only to find the wife of the guy that accosted me standing there. She yelled just like her husband did, that I am not allowed to open my garage like that. I said “like what?” and she replied “have it open unless you are coming and going.” I responded “um, I’m taking my daughter to tennis…I am literally in my car and we are literally talking as I have halfway backed out of the garage. By the way, are they doing anything about getting some speed limit signs up in this drive?”

She told me that the speed with which people drive through the community is not the HOA’s problem.

My daughter got into the car and we drove off, closing the garage door behind us. I saw that the woman had moved on to another victim: our neighbor, who she apparently finds reason to illegally tape record.

Yes, the HOA woman had climbed into the bushes of our neighbor, and was leaning into the balcony to tape record a conversation going on inside. When we got home from tennis, I saw her out by the school next to our complex. She was yelling at the crossing guard about the position of her chair, where the volunteer sits waiting to make sure children safely cross the street.

Finally I realized that I couldn’t take it anymore: I had to talk about this. I had to share about the experience on my Facebook page. I had to write this blog about it.

Not only because this experience is just another in a long list of behaviors that are not-so-nice, in a community that could otherwise be a very good one; but because lies and gossip should not dictate whether or not I speak out about what I think to be right and wrong.

A lot of people may not like that I say this, but the suburbs – at least in my experience – are ghetto.

This isn’t to say that there are are only trashy communities in the suburbs.

This isn’t to say that there are only terrible people in the suburbs.

Actually, quite the contrary: the suburbs are often much more beautiful than the city, more well-kept. You find better landscaping, and often better neighbors in suburbs.

I’m just saying that there is a common thread that the suburbs of any major metropolis are known for, and that is the suburban sense of entitlement. People in the suburbs often pay more, so a lot of them – read a lot of them, not all – think they can tell other people what to do. They don’t give a fuck about who sees them acting however they are acting, and on that note they often believe that what they do is the right thing (even when it’s sitting on your front lawn with no shirt on guzzling beers). They think they own everything – the streets, the neighborhood, other people’s patios – and that they can tell others what to do.

Again: a lot of, not all. But enough for it to have earned suburbanites a reputation.

In the city, this is one of the biggest complaints people have about the ‘burbs. Everyone is up in each other’s business, and everyone wants to tell others how to live. And this, well this is ghetto. It’s unsavory to act so trashy, entitled, arrogant, and self-centered.

Of course then in bigger cities, you do have true ghettos. Like the Jewish ghettos during WWII, where minorities are segregated into run-down, slum-like districts that have been gentrified for years to keep the bad behaving the way they do because they have no other choice. So between the slums of the gentrified inner-cities, and the truly trashy behavior of a fair percentage of suburbanites, we are stuck. There will always be a chance that someone will act ghetto in a place that is otherwise nice. And we’ve all seen what happens to Hilldale in Back to the Future – there will always come a time when the newest and nicest community becomes the next gentrified, slummy neighborhood.

This of course leads me to believe that: yes, I am destined to live in the ghetto. Until some of these attitudes change – until people are willing to talk about the issues, and not bully those who want to make a change; until people put a stop to gentrification and change their attitudes about what they are and are not entitled to do and say – we all are.

Funniest_Memes_only-in-the-ghetto-will-you-find_7759Oh, and for the record, there’s a lot of stereotypically ghetto shit going on around here all the time too. Like the weekly ghetto cardio, i.e. some random guy running down my street being chased by the police. The random shopping cart that occupies parking space #210. And the tumbleweave that’s been in the grass across from our garage for going on two months now. And we live in the *nice* area of town.

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My Neighbor and I Both Ate Our Emotions Today

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My neighbor and I both ate our emotions today. Though, while mine was not exactly healthy, it wasn’t quite as horrifying as hers either.

Before I get into that, I should first talk about the eating of emotions. We’ve all done it at one time or another. Some people do it often and don’t even realize it. Others drink they’re emotions, which is a whole other issue altogether. They’re sad and depressed, or stressed out. Suddenly they wake up one day and realize they’ve eaten a combination of Thin Mints and Oreos for every single meal, for weeks. It’s OK. Everyone (for the most part) has gone through this phase at one time or another, and once you realize it you get it in check.

Maybe.

I definitely wouldn’t condone eating away your feelings often. First and foremost, it isn’t like someone thinks to themselves “man, I’m having a really shitty day, I’m going to go home and eat kale until I fucking puke.” Actually, if you ate kale until you puked, you’d probably be actually eating kale until you shit your pants, making your shitty day literal. So it’s either that or because kale tastes like a filthy 1970s shag carpet. I don’t know, but I do know that people don’t usually run home and eat away their emotions with super healthy super foods.

That isn’t entirely true, though. I am “Facebook” friends with this girl I went to high school with who tells us all the time about how after a stressful day she goes home to eat a pile of apple slices, or a bucket of celery. It’s really obnoxious too because she always has to add in the precursor: rather than go home and pig out on pizza and cookies like fat people do after a hard day, I’m going to …

Shut the fuck up, bitch. No one wants to hear your fat shaming bullshit. PS we all know the reason you are like this now is because of how you looked back then…

But I digress.

So I wouldn’t condone eating away feelings often, or all the time. But I definitely believe that sometimes a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, or a nice bag of Twizzlers Nibs are just what the doctor ordered. Dare I suggest that many doctors I know do suggest that once in a while letting go and indulging after a hard time is … healthy?

It’s healthy because, simply put, repressing stress is probably the worst thing a person can do to their body. People have to let that energy out, or it keeps building. We’ve all heard the analogy of the bottled up feelings, being shaken and shaken until one day all those feelings come splurging out in an explosion of yuck. This is my entirely unscientific and non medical opinion, here, but I think it’s pretty right on. At least in my experience.

Plus there is a moderate way to destress with food. Don’t keep enough junk in the house to overdo it. Make sure to put what you want in a plate or a bowl so as to keep to your portion size. Find something low fat, or low carb, or low cal that still fulfills your urge to pork down all your rage and hurt feelings until you pass out. There are a lot of ways to get around the really and true badness of bad eating.

This isn’t rocket surgery or brain science here. It’s just fucking common sense.

Today, when I was super stressed out about all the things going on, and a shit ton of money I have to spend to take a vacation to Texas (of all places) that I REALLY don’t want to take, just so my daughter can see her Biological Bum (whom she adamantly does not want to see) and all the issues this is bringing up which is another blog post for another day …I just needed to do something to feel better fast. I needed it so badly, and fortunately there was little junk food in my house to indulge on.

Except the Salsa Con Queso.

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I have a weird relationship with Salsa Con Queso. I won’t eat it for a really long time and be totally tired of it. Then I’ll eat it with chips every day for lunch for like three days straight. The plus side of this is that it has a lot of tomatoes and onions and shit in it that is actually good for you. The other plus is that the calories and fat isn’t quite like a Snickers bar or a bucket of neopolitan ice cream might be.

I keep telling myself this. Rationalize, rationalize, rationalize. Regardless of your feelings about my rationalization of this, let’s just agree that there are a lot of things that I could be eating that are much much worse for me to pork away my emotions and frustrations on than this. Okay?

Glad we agree.

I encountered what one of those “much much worse” things was today, shortly after my uninhibited love affair with my Tostitoes and my Salsa Con Queso dip.

Sitting on the couch, working on editing my upcoming book, and yelling up the stairs various threats of punishment that will come if the homeschooling work was not finished “by the time I get up there…” I noticed my neighbor standing on her porch. We live in a townhome, so the proximity was fairly close. She was standing there looking longingly toward the parking lot. She appeared sad, but she sort of always does. Then, in a moment of sheer horror then amazement then fear then entertainment then genuine concern, I saw her pork down one Twinkie after another until she had eaten not one, not two, but TWELVE MOTHERFUCKING TWINKIES.

My neighbor and I both ate our emotions today. Tomorrow I will probably eat my Salsa Con Queso again, since there is still about 1/2 a jar left and watching the Twinkie hog down sort of stressed me out just witnessing it.

The Worst Part About California

Don’t believe anything the tourist ads, or the hipsters with their million dollar trust funds, tell you. California has a lot of downsides.

Sure, the weather is typically pretty nice; although, there are even some bad parts to that. For one, you no longer have much change to the seasons, which is sort of depressing. There is something very beautiful about the fall of leaves; about the first snowfall; and, about the beginning of spring and of summer. You don’t get that in California. But it also rains a lot here during the winter, and California is entirely ill-prepared for it. We don’t have proper drainage, no matter how many floods there are. Despite all the landslides of mud and water, which kill people every year, we do nothing to put up proper drainage walls. And don’t get me started on the lack of fire protection.

The bad things about California go well beyond that, though. There’s the cost of living, which is exponentially higher than most of the country. The $27 cake at Whole Foods down the street from our apartment is only $8 at the Whole Foods just outside Chicago. Our electric bills are higher. Our water bills are through the roof (despite the fact that we live right along a body of water). And our rents are almost double what they would be in other, equally as nice, areas of the country.

The hipsters are overruling California, making the environment a terribly narcissistic and pretentious place to live. Every weekend there are local, hippy fests wreaking havoc on traffic and the peace and quiet some of us enjoy – crappy music festivals, art walks where people sell paintings of local scenery, farmer’s markets with absolutely no health standards at all. The last time we went to the farmer’s market, I bought strawberries and the guy put down his macaroni salad and licked his fingers, then grabbed my bushel of strawberries and got macaroni and mayonnaise all over the bag.

Then there is the overwhelming hillbilly population, leftover from all the Okies that came over during the Great Depression to pick fruit. They have racetracks in almost every city it seems. Every county has a fair, and it isn’t a classy fair; it’s an “eat fried butter and wrestle with pigs” kind of event. The streets are lined with trucks covered in mud from their most recent four-bying excursion. Guns are big. Overalls are big. Beating you wife is huge.

Everyone is trying to break into the film industry, which is an awful industry (to say the least). It uses people for everything it can, and then spits them out quicker than you can say “this was a mistake.” The people that actually keep a job for a while are expected to sacrifice everything. My husband is one of them, who sacrifices lunch breaks, weekends with his family, and night after night after night of just a little bit of quality time to satisfy his bosses. He doesn’t even know how many personal days he gets every year, it’s been so long since he took them. And when confronted with the low wages and high demands, the only response is: “most people in the film industry don’t have families.”

The lifestyle in California – even if you are not in the film industry – is so ridiculously fast-paced and high stress, everyone is always rushing. Everyone is always on the go. No one has time to be nice, or to say “hello” to a stranger. That’s considered rude. People cut you off, flip you off, and feel entitled to take your place in line because they are in a hurry. At the grocery store the other day, a woman cut in line in front of us at the deli because she said her daughter was waiting for her. Really bitch? The grocery workers just let it happen, because in California it isn’t what is fair or what is common courtesy, it’s who has the biggest voice.

It isn’t just all this, though, that is the worst part about California. And there are other miscellaneous nuances that make the place miserable. The traffic. The cost of doing anything besides breathe. The horrible public transportation. The jobs. The education. The public schools. The corrupt politicians. The union stranglehold. The homeless. The way people treat the homeless. The beaches with warnings that hypodermic needles could be buried in the sand.

All this and more is not, and never will be, the worst part about California.

No, faihtful blog followers. No there is a much different thing that is the worst part about California. None of this will ever top it, either. “What in God’s name could be so awful, so heinous, to top all of that?” I’m sure you are asking yourself.

Simple answer: the ghetto trash.

Yesterday I went to pick up some soup, because we’re all sick and I wanted something spicy to clear out my sinuses. I parked my car, went in to get my soup, and came out to find that a car had been parked next to mine, and it was completely blocking me from getting into my car.

The drivers of said car were standing outside of it, two of them making out and one of them smoking a cigarette. Clearly a gang bang was about to happen.

For a brief second I thought about trying to squeeze in, but when I saw that their mirror had been smashed down by my driver’s side door, I decided to just politely ask them to move the car.

I was very nice. They were kids – clearly teenagers, driving their parent’s car. I was very, very nice.

“Is this your car?”

The girl making out put her gum back into her mouth, looked me up and down and said “yeah, what’s it to you?”

Really?

“Ok, well I can’t get into my car without scratching up yours … do you think you could move your car just a little?”

The guy smoking said “sure, sorry about that ma’am.” Then the girl piped up again, “you don’t have to be such a bitch about it.”

The guy had already moved his car by then. I got in my car and drove off.

This is the worst part of California. It’s the medical assistant who acts like you’ve morally offended her because you called to schedule an appointment with your doctor. It’s the cashier at Starbucks who gives you attitude because you point out that she gave you the wrong change. It’s the waitress that acts like she’s doing you a favor to let you pay to eat in her establishment. It’s the girls in the bathroom at Target that tell you you’d better “watch your back” wearing clothing that people don’t like. It’s the trashy kids sitting on cars in the parking lot, making out and dressing like total skanks. It’s the people that are constantly on guard, totally abrassive, and ready to call people out for something they have not even done.

California is filled with it. It’s in even the nicest of communities – which ours is fabled to be. This ghetto trash, these bottom-feeders, are what make California intolerable. Because while the weather issues are annoying, the cost of living sucks, and the hipsters and film industry get under your skin, they don’t get in your face like ghetto trash does.

In-N-Out versus In-N-Out

Anyone that has been to California knows that one of the “must-dos” of the state is a trip to In-N-Out. Even if you don’t eat fast food, or you don’t eat meat, you still do it. They actually are very good at catering to people’s health and otherwise needs: they have a huge “secret” menu, available to anyone. Grilled cheese, veggie sandwiches, fresh and unprocessed fries…

Of course I think that’s about the only good thing about In-N-Out. Personally, I think it’s a little overrated.

If I am in the mood for a burger joint kind of place, I do usually go there. I don’t eat red meat, so the grilled cheese is pretty decent. It’s close. And more than anything, it’s cheap – my favorite thing. It’s relatively infrequent that I go, though, so you can imagine how truly over it I am after going twice in the last week.

Early last week, I hit up In-N-Out near my apartment in Camarillo on the way out of town for my little solo jaunt to Solvang, CA. The one near our place is my preference – it’s clean, in a good area, and during the week is especially quiet. Camarillo is something like a retirement community. Most of the people that live here either are super old or super young; young families that work outside of the area coupled with the geezers playing shuffleboard. In fact, the In-N-Out is directly across the street from a 50-and-over neighborhood. My experience was pretty laid back: there weren’t too many people around, a man brought his wife that worked there flowers and a birthday balloon, it started to get a little busy right before I left. Nothing too big, though.

Then today, my husband wanted to go to the In-N-Out nearby where we were shopping in the southern part of Oxnard. Those of you that have never been to the Ventura County (nestled between LA and Santa Barbara on the coast of California), Oxnard (particularly the south part) is the more ghetto of the community. There is a lot of gang activity. There is a pretty fair amount of crime. Being from Chicago, it’s sort of child’s play to me, but I still don’t mess around when people start flashing gang signs and swearing in languages I cannot even decipher.

Needless to say, my experience was a little different today than early last week.

Ordering Our Food

We got there and I had to pee. I always have to pee – my guinea pig has a larger bladder than I do. And I drink a lot of Diet Coke. So my husband got in line while I ran in to quickly use the bathroom. As I came out, I eeked my way through the line, saying “excuse me, my husband is up front” and when I got to him, this crazy-looking lady with a tattoo across her forehead said “hey, step the fuck back to the end of the line where you belong.”

I smiled and just stepped to the side, Nick already knew what I wanted anyway.

Finding Our Table

We originally planned on eating there. Then it was going to be t0-go because there was nowhere to sit; and only a second before we got our food did we find a table open up. This place was like the state of nature for seating. Everyone was fighting. A woman in a wheelchair started screaming at people to get out of her way so she could snag a table. As we left, I could see people all hovering over the tables that looked as though they were about ready to finish. I overheard two guys in maintenance uniforms laughing about how badly people wanted their seats and how much they weren’t budging until their lunch break was completely over.

Getting Our Ketchup

So around the time I went to get our ketchup, napkins, and little packets of salt was when shit really started to go down. I was pumping the ketchup out of their old-style ketchup pump into these little, paper cups they provide when this woman shoved me to the side so she could have more room to slop ketchup directly onto her tray of animal-style fries. She pumped and pumped and pumped and it was slopped all over the tray. I kept thinking to myself ‘am I mad this woman shoved me or angry because of the mess she’s making for these poor employees to clean up?’

As I turned to walk away – having finished pumping my own meager supply of ketchup compared to hers – she turned and smacked me so hard in the boobs with her purse that I was pretty sure some after-jiggle occurred. Those of you that are women with big boobs know what I’m talking about – when you run without a bra, or laugh too hard in your pajamas … after-jiggle.

Eating Our Food

There is nothing about the food that is too spectacular to report. As I said, In-N-Out is a little overrated in my book. I had the grilled cheese again today, along with some fries and a Diet Coke (of course).

As I sat eating, though, I continued to peruse around the busy restaurant. People were lined out the door at that point. All registers were open and employees were screaming – literally screaming – at each other, it was just that loud in there. My husband and I don’t have shit to talk to each other about over meals anymore. Unless it’s about his day at work or some bullshit I want to complain about, usually he’s too busy hogging his food down like it’s feeding time at the barnyard to get in a word edgewise. So I continued to look around, only to find (to my dismay) that the guy sitting next to us was reading a book called “Dealing With Your Psychopathy.”

Real fucking nice.

Leaving The Shithole, Never To Return

As always happens, the real “event” of it all didn’t happen until the end, as we were about to leave. I know what you’re saying – some ugly ass bitch with a tattoo across her forehead telling you to “step the fuck back” wasn’t an event? Being shoved and smacked in the boobs for the sake of a tray full of ketchup was not an ordeal?

Not compared to Turd Girl.

Right before we left, a little girl and her mom sat down at the table next to us. The tables are in pretty close proximity to each other, so I could hear their every word. Her dad was waiting for a table near them to open up so that he too could sit down. They decided to just start porking down their food anyway.

Turd Girl couldn’t have been any older than five; six tops. Nonetheless, she was shoveling a double-double (a double cheeseburger) and animal-style fries (french fries covered in secret sauce, cheese, and grilled onions) down her itty-bitty gullet. And then she said the words that made her earn her title: “Huhuhuh … mom, my fries look like the turd I dropped this morning.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

I thought her mom was going to say something; oh, I don’t know, like that she should speak a little more lady-like in public. If it were me I would have smacked those animal-style fries right out of her hands. Turd Girl’s mom did nothing but laugh, though. Together, they laughed and laughed and laughed at just how much the french fries they continued to shove into their mouths looked like human feces.

So about that In-N-Out. It attracts a particular kind of crowd – at least the one in south Oxnard. The only other one I’ve been to has been in Hollywood with my friend Jeremy – quite a few years ago, while he was out on a visit. I remember we were sitting there eating when all of a sudden a bridal party came in to get In-N-Out after their wedding ceremony. The bride looked about 18; the groom was wearing a blinged-out baseball cap. This is why I don’t eat fast food.