Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hood-Raized Habitz

I currently live in a decent part of town where my house is on a very Suburban-ish street. I mean, I live in a neighborhood where people feel safe enough to jog late into the night, everyone has a nicely groomed dog or puppy to walk every morning, an kids skateboard or play catch every evening. I would be lying if I said I jog around the block but I do often walk around the neighborhood when I feel like getting some fresh air. As I walk around the neighborhood, nice cars drive by without spinner rims or blaring reggaeton and/or G-Unit music. Another thing I observed is that plenty houses leave their garage doors open even though they're inside the house. What I'm feverishly trying to imply is that my current neighborhood is safe. It's as safe as a MacBook with all the anti-virus programs known to mankind - that doesn't ever connect to the internet other than to update the virus definitions.

This environment of my suburbia is a shocking contrast to what I grew up around. This is the first nice neighborhood that I've ever lived in since I was like 7. I never grew up in slums or project housing but I've always lived in what all suburbanites might consider the "hood". While my current neighborhood isn't all white-and-right, I'm used to living with the minorities and poor people. It's everything that I've known up until late 2006. People wouldn't jog with weight vests, they'd jog with bulletproof vests. People walked pitbulls and terriers and stuff. There were no garages, just parking complexes and parking meters. I can recall many instances where I'd just see bums and shirtless peddlers ready to harass pedestrians. It was no 5th ward or Cabrini Green, but I usually lived in the same area if not vicinity. I've been mugged, chased, screamed at for no reason, asked if I wanted to buy illegal substances, and asked if I had any to sell. It's my version of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood that would air on like, BET or something.

I'm not trying to flex my ghetto pass or anything; it's hardly a thing to brag. I'm comparing these two neighborhoods and what I'm used to because I've come to realize that there is certainly a social and environmental context in terms of habit-forming that I've discovered in myself. I hang out with a lot of upper middle-class people who have lived in the suburbs for more than half their lives, and our habit and "ticks" are very different at times.

I have a friend who never locks his doors. I won't disclose anymore information but the fact that he doesn't think about doing a small thing like locking doors is almost a culture shock to me. Growing up in my usual neighborhoods, it's the first thing you do and the last thing you check to make sure that you locked the doors. I remember seeing a news segment where they left a car out on a bad side of town with the doors locked. For about two days, no one touched the car. But the next day, the door was unlocked and maybe a window rolled down half-way. Within a day or two that car was stripped naked like that one Demi Moore movie. That's like an unwritten rule in poverty-ridden neighborhoods. You lock everything and keep a close eye out on your belongings. You never leave behind anything on a table or open window sill unless you want to buy it back from Hustle Man (referencing to Tracy Morgan's character on Martin).

Which brings me to my next point. While I'm here in the nice part of town, and going to a fairly safe and decent University, people leave their ish EVERYWHERE. As of the current moment, I'm sitting at the school restaurant and popular studying area. Students always leave their bags and belongings on an empty table to go to the bathroom outside of the restaurant and sickeningly away from sight. A few minutes ago, some chick left all her books and bags to do whatever in the table right in front of me. Looking at the other people around, no one would have given me a second look had I decided to grab all of her stuff, sell her books to the bookstore and maybe strike gold to find a laptop in her bag. It's just a habit over here to not be so cautious nor anal about your belongings. I do not leave my stuff on a table unless I have a perfectly clear view of it from wherever I need to go. I'll make that extra effort to carry the extra weight over my shoulder just so I don't have to take the risk. Seriously, if I was still going through that whole "stealing impulse" phase, I'd have a lot more stuff to sell on EBay.

But I'm not trying to make fun of the people who grew up here in the nice part of town. Why should they take the extra precaution and lock their doors? These areas are safe so it's not that big of a deal. I understand that and I find myself being a lot less cautious these days. My guard is lowered and yet I hope to never fully let it down when it comes to my shizzle. It's all a matter of habit. It's been my habit to watch over my stuff and safeguard it. I grew up around people with quick hands so it's just in me to keep my stuff with me. It's some sort of environmental factor that gives me this cautious and "watchful eye" thoughtfulness. Maybe it's a nature vs. nurture concept that although I always feel safe when I'm at home or with family, I don't trust any public establishment enough to leave my stuff behind.

I know I'm not the only one who finds this funny yet saddening at the same time. The fact that there are extreme differences between two separate towns in the same EFFIN' American state (if not the same American city) gives me the idea that there is still a lot of segregation and socioeconomic separation in this great country. The fact that I experienced what could be equivalent to "culture shock", not in terms of different ethnicities but in terms of different sides of the poverty line, in the same fussin' land of the free suggests to me that we're a long ways from equality. So this blog is not simply a matter of environment, it's almost a testament to the sad truth that there are still tragic class issues in this very modern and well-developed nation. I'm not being political at all, I'm being more than that. I'm being realistic and observant. I'm not trying to be pessimistic, I'm just trying to say "damn, there's still a lot of work left to be done".

So, damn, there's still a lot of work left to be done.

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