Thursday, November 20, 2003

Ghetto Not So Fabulous

today i want to use this space to discuss my wacky neighborhood and how much i've learned to both hate and accept it. since i'm locked into a year lease, it'll do me no good to let my disdain for this shithole consume too much of my energy, but yeah, it sucks here.

now don't get me wrong. i'm not some prissy rich bitch who grew up in beverly hills with silver spoons and picket fences, though i will admit to having a misguided crush on ricky schroeder in my youth. anyone who has been to my hometown of van nuys will tell you it's not the great area that comes to mind when one thinks of, like, the valley. people usually think of places like encino, where michael jackson's family lived, and granada hills, where valley twang is at its strongest.

no, van nuys' great claim to fame is being the porn capital of the world. examine any of your vivid videotapes/dvds and you'll find a van nuys postal address. we also had some gangs, most notably BVN (boyz van nuyz), and tons of undocumented immigrants. but in spite of all that, it was neither the worst nor best place to live -- standard working-class neighborhoods, plenty of used car lots on van nuys boulevard, strip malls galore. in short, it was a slightly rundown suburban hell that could get sketchy at times, but it was nothing like south central or detroit.

after that, i lived in my fair share of other assorted, sordid areas in both los angeles and san francisco. can deal with sketch, no prob. when in da hood, i know to keep my hoody on and my eyes averted. i avoid confrontations, walk quickly and act nonchalantly. urban survivalist, that's me.

but before i drift too far into tangentland, let's get back to the current hood and how much i fucking hate it. again, moving here was so we could be close to the metrolink (which finally started running again, yay!), since pabs and i are sharing one car. i could complain about the ridiculous traffic congestion (especially during hollywood bowl season), lack of parking, the charming dog shit lining the sidewalks, but i won't. that doesn't really irk me.

what does irk me, however, are the fucking cop cars that appear at least twice a week on my street. one time, they even taped off the entire block next to mine while they waited for a shooting suspect to emerge from an apartment building. oh boy, was that fun! i was ready to grab a bag of popcorn and stand around watching and waiting with the rest of the rubbernecks.

and another night, i came home to find a mountain of trash -- couches, broken chairs, garbage -- piled high in the middle of my street. i dumbly thought it might be a piece of expressionist art, but it turns out a tenant from a neighboring building didn't like his eviction notice, so he decided he would burn down the entire block by setting the pile of shit on fire.

but wait, i'm forgetting my favorite one: one time i was casually looking out my second-floor window when i saw a cop car breezing down the street, its blowhorn blaring, "quit buying drugs on that corner. hey, i can see you buying those drugs!"

oh yes, the junkies. (funny, as i write this i'm hearing sirens approach -- i shit you not.) seen lots of junkies talking to themselves, yelling at other people, lighting their crack pipes in the parking lot behind my building. there's been some hookers and pimps, too, and there was even that one guy i passed on my way home from the video store one night, the one who ran from a darkened alley, pants falling to his ankles. wonder what lucky lady (or tranny hooker) he left in his wake. silly people, why didn't they just use the motel 6 down the street like everyone else? and let's not forget the miserable couples that argue up a storm nearly every day. there seems to be a set in each building and when they all start their bitching at once -- wow, what a crescendo!

i should have known better. the two "checks cashed" places directly across the street from each other on hollywood boulevard should have tipped me off to what a dump this place is. is it as bad as i'm making it sound? yeah, probably. is it livable for the next two years? yeah, definitely. but as i approach (gasp) 30, i feel a bit crankier and less inclined to live in what i used to romanticize as bohemian centers -- just brimming with life, dude. now i see them for what they really are: GHETTOS. granted, it's still no south central or detroit, it's more ghetto-lite, but it's ghetto enough for me.

i've sworn to myself that my next residence will come equipped with a parking space. the neighborhood should also have well-manicured lawns, and the dumpsters should not smell like dead bodies.

but in the meantime, i've made my proverbial bed. besides, my apartment is really gorgeous and relatively cheap, and i have truly never (knock on wood) felt unsafe here. more annoyed than anything -- especially when i step in that dog shit.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Hermitism and My Diva Moment

(yes, that's a real word. i thought it might be "hermitude," but i looked it up and the noun form is indeed "hermitism." now onward with the entry.)

haven't felt much like doing much of anything lately. maybe it's the change in the weather, which, granted, is minimal compared to worldwide standards but huge if you've spent most of your life in sunny hell-lay. temperature's down, clouds are up. i generally like that scenario, especially when i can be at home with warm socks on and a cup of cocoa, staring out the window as the puddles fill up. maybe that explains the apathy and why i haven't been too interested in the rest of the world lately. friends, school, work, family -- no, thank you. i just want to sleep in and be left alone.

the good news is i can do just that, as the semester is finally winding down, leaving me with just two papers to write and a shitload of ones to grade for my TAship. that, i think i can manage before year's end. then comes next semester, the final semester.

the bad news is i'll have to take one more class than i thought i would if i want to graduate on time. this is because i dropped my thesis and need to make up the units. why, you ask? well, i thought i would try to 'push the envelope,' as they say (sorry for the cliche, but it's apt here), by doing a lengthy broadcast piece on the straight men who do gay porn. yes, the very fascinating gay-for-pay phenomenon that runs through the porn industry. chicks do it all the time, why not guys? i think most people would be surprised to learn that about a third of the guys who do gay porn are straight. i was gonna take that into an exploration of the vast divide that separates sex and sexuality. they're not the same thing. it was going to be educational. stellar idea, i thought.

the faculty disagreed. but wow, some of the looks that crossed their (old, white man) faces were priceless. they gave me every excuse: "it's not the topic itself, it's that it's not 'newsy' enough"; "how do you think this will further your professional goals?"; "what's the real purpose of doing something like this?" and so on. it was an ordeal. there were some heated debates. but in the end, i'm still the lowly student and they have all the power. they insisted i choose something else, but i said if i couldn't do what i really wanted, then i wouldn't do anything at all. so i had my little diva moment and that was that.

i'm not really surprised by the school's resistance, just a little disappointed. if anything, it justs proves their hypocrisy. college can be a pretty liberal place, but only if you want to focus on welfare reform or the three-strikes law in california (two topics of my friends' theses). but start talking about sodomy, and whoa, sister, slow down! i understand, though. it's their school -- they make the rules. but it's my fucking money.

yet in all honesty, i'm a bit relieved that it didn't work out, because it would have been a shitload of work and i was already way behind schedule. it's november already. by now i would have had to turn in my outline. so instead of all that, i'll need to take an extra class. i'm trying to find an easy one.