Trouble town

I hate this weed.

Mostly it grows in pathways, but occasionally the burmuda grass and foxtails get into a garden bed, and that sucks. So I was outside pulling up these weedy grasses, which have invaded the parking strip even though I covered the parking strip with straw then wood chips up to six inches thick. Weeding can be satisfying work. Passers-by say hello, chew the fat, ask me for a quarter. Because remember, I’m not living some rural lifestyle with baby goats and rabbits. I’m living some urban lifestyle with baby goats and rabbits.

A reminder of my urban farm: gun fire. Two shots, very close. Somehow muffled. Now, it IS firework season, but I knew those were bullets. Eventually the cops came.

I went upstairs to take the photos, because I think the police don’t like cameras.

Then I went back downstairs and kept weeding. “What happened?” A guy in a reggae hat asked. I had been eavesdropping on the cops, so I knew a man had been shot, not killed, upstairs in the apartment across the street. I became the town crier. A family who frequents the goat area drove by and asked. I grew tired of telling the news.

Then a guy named Kilo who squats in the big brick building came out and asked what happened. He seemed shocked, in awe. Since I had absorbed the information for over an hour, I said, “No big deal, it happens all the time.” Kilo and I have a strange relationship–he wants to hate me, but he can’t quite. But my casual observation set him off. “You say that–that it’s no big deal because they’re black,” he said. He sneered and looked at me with disgust. “Oh please,” I said.

He walked away, and for the rest of the day, I was haunted by his accusation. At first I was in denial. Shootings DO happen all the time here. But that I had become so casual about it–that IS disturbing. And those who die, shoot, and kill are 99% black. But was that why I was being cavalier? In my heart of hearts, I don’t think so. I think I’ve just become desensitized to the violence. I mean, how could I say a man getting shot isn’t a big deal? I pledged to apologize to Kilo, and waited for him to come back.

I weeded all the burmuda grass in the two parking strips. I overheard one of the cops, a woman, say “Happy Mother’s Day,” and then she sped off. Then I put down more mulch. I heard more gunfire. Kilo never came back.

I stood and looked at the passion flower. Soon there will be fruit.

6 responses to “Trouble town

  1. Novella:
    This is a powerful post. Living in Yorkshire, UK, I can’t believe you live like that amongst gunfire and I can completely understand you getting de-sensitised and just generally fed up with it. The problem is – most people want a peaceful life and so I can understand Kilo’s reaction too. Everyone’s edgy. Are *you* safe while kneeling and gardening? I love this photo of the plot.

  2. Living in the UK’s capital, I’m used to stabbings, but not gun shots. There was a shooting a few years back near my house, but I’ve never actually heard a gun shot. The violence in urban areas can be terrible and yes, people get used to it quickly. No one can be expected to break up every time they hear someone’s been shot or stabbed, it’s a fact of urban life…

  3. Novella-
    I loved seeing this picture of your ‘ranch’. Sad about the shooting, though. What can you do. I think about that. What could ‘I’ do?! There has to be something. But then, you totally are. Talking to your neighbors, hanging out outside; those have to be good things.

    Side topic: How do you keep the goats and chickens out of the garden beds. I see fencing around some of them – what of the others?

  4. thanks you guys! i finally apologized to kilo and we’re friends again. he said it makes him mad when the news/media makes a big deal about white people getting killed or shot, but when it’s black people, no one even bothers to write a story about it. if i had more time (and perhaps access) i would love to devote a blog to the stories of the people who live, get shot, and die here. while kilo, billy and i ate some homemade pork cracklings (i *still* have pork in the freezer) and drank some wine, kilo told us about prison. he said he wants to help his community, but right now he’s just trying to stay out of jail.
    daniela, to answer your fencing question, the goats and chickens are in our backyard on the southend of our apartment, the lot is on the east side. the chickens and turkys sometimes fly over the fences and hang out in the lot, which is why i put up the flimsy chicken wire–that and stray cats love to poop in the beds. bastards! but they do keep the mouse/rat population in check.

  5. i have an urban garden too, and i’m really enjoying reading about yours! i’m not sure what kind of kitty controls you’ve been using, but i have found that crushed nut shells and lengths of blackberry vines both help to keep cat poop away. (i do feel bad for the cats sometimes; when i look around i see no bare dirt apart from my beds.)

  6. Pingback: Those who don’t know history are doomed… « FutureOakland

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