CAN'T SHAKE THE DEVIL'S HAND AND SAY YOU'RE ONLY KIDDING
The landscape of my apartment building is changing, but it only serves to illustrate that there are some things about certain aspects of American life that do not.
I live a rather isolated existence. Most people don't believe this, but it's true. I spend most of my days by myself, writing. Now that I don't go to the gym, but exercise at home, I have days where I don't even go outside. I've lived in the same place for nearly four years, I think, and I only know five other residents by name that I can think of off the top of my head. Most of what goes on around here I am oblivious to.
But apparently a lot of Mexicans are moving into the building. I've been hearing other residents talk about it. It's interesting how such things are spoken of. Assume the all-caps are words spoken at a normal volume, and see if this doesn't illustrate it: "THEN THERE IS THAT APARTMENT DOWN THE HALL WHERE ALL THOSE mexicans LIVE." One person said to me that he had decided to start making plans to move, despite having lived here longer than I have, because of the "kind of people" the management seems to be courting. I said, quite honestly, "Oh, you mean all the families who now have kids running around?" He replied, "No, I don't mind them." I didn't really have any idea at the time what he might've really meant, and I still don't know if my suspicions are correct, but it's hard now not to think his comments were racist. (To be fair, he also noted the management's rather slow approach to general maintenance as a factor.)
It's funny, because in California, I wouldn't have thought anything of seeing non-Caucasians everywhere. Yet, it's hard not to have this kind of thinking infect you, even while railing against it. I have new neighbors on one side, and they introduced themselves by staying up late and heartily (read: loudly) enjoying themselves. I haven't actually seen them, but I think they are of some kind of Latin persuasion judging by the music they listen to. Never mind the fact that last night I was up as late as they were, and at the volume I had my music at when I went into the bedroom to read, I could no longer hear the beat of theirs. I was still agitated by them.
Then I remembered the overweight white guy who was in that apartment two tenants ago. I used to have to turn up my television all the time to overcome the explosions in his action movies (I think we had our TVs against the same wall), and he watched porn every Saturday morning at the crack of dawn, the moans bleeding through the plaster. The truth is that I find the existence of other people abrasive to mine--in general, not in specific. Why do people have to assign some sort of meaning to the color of someone else's skin or, even if you look above, why did I have to say "overweight" when my point was about race? The man who lives on the other side of me, who may be the building's oldest resident both in terms of age and length of stay, regularly sits outside and chats with his Mexican neighbors, so he doesn't seem to mind. (This gentleman also likes to sometimes blast Notorious B.I.G., Eminem, and I kid you not, the Dixie Chicks at full volume, so there is no common profile to those of us with big speakers.) And did no one notice that the only crime and vandalism that I've seen here, which happened just in the past couple of months, was perpetrated by a white woman? Should I be more afraid, then, if they admit more residents with big, fake breasts who like to post Democratic bumper stickers in their windows and run from their apartment to the vending machine in her underwear in the middle of the night?
It's all ridiculous and disheartening. I guess my duty from here on out is to maybe make a point to say hello more often when I pass my neighbors outside and cultivate a friendly air. And next time I hear someone else drop the word "Mexican" in a barely audible whisper, say, "YOU KNOW WHAT REALLY FREAKS ME OUT...oregonians."
Current Soundtrack: Paul Weller, "Shine On;" Kate Bush, "King of the Mountain"
Current Mood: uncomfortable
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2005 Jamie S. Rich