To the editors.
While reading Lynda Gorov's "Neighborhood News" piece in the August 5 Reader, my imagination started percolating. Percolating because the trouble on the 3200 block of Clifton (teenagers acting out the worst of our I'm bad and I'll say and do what I want motherfuckin' culture) sounded just like home to me. And I don't live on Clifton; I live on the 1500 block of Ardmore. Come to think of it, we lived with the same situation on Olive St. So putting the little pieces together, including all the bits told by discouraged friends, I realized this is no small potatoes problem: not if home means more than a place to slink in and out of, or more than a place where the noises that even seep through closed windows are the mean and threatening human bellowings that one associates, at best, with 'C' movies.
The why, the how comes, the whose fault of this situation with certain teenagers who reign on our city streets can't be dismissed, but neither can the real fight that's taking place between the various cultural values vying for street preeminence. Power grabbers and cliche mouthers fill our magical screens--role models for the disenchanted of any age. Attempting not to forget the larger problem doesn't then make its ramifications right to have to live with, not when one person's freedom denies proportionally another person's freedom. Why is it that privacy (including the right to expect relative public silence) has become a luxury, only obtainable more and more with exclusivity?
As the Clifton block group decided, calling the police is appropriate--surprising the number of disgruntled people who won't even do that. When I lived on Olive St., we came up with the idea of many people suddenly coming out of their houses or apartments and all of a sudden being a real presence on the street. This can really spoil the stage for certain street dictators. It can be loosely planned using a phone tree system. Of course you have to come out when the street action is on. If you arrive first, the scene is played elsewhere.
People in this city, not just in the areas that are gentrifying, that are weary and afraid of groups, gangs, (individuals momentarily lost to one mindset) have to start putting pressure on city government and the police to have regular ride-throughs by unmarked cars. Loitering, disturbing the peace, abusive language and action, and even ignoring curfew are criteria for asking questions and making these kids know that we're up to our necks in bad guys (and ladies)--on screen and off. I wish these kids would stop wasting their time in these minor roles and get on to the business, often associated with youth, of exposing some of the more blatant and ugly bugaboos of this society. Those roles are wide open, but they have to be created fresh not copied.
Let me add that since the whole neighborhood scenario that we live with isn't just in the streets, remember that the word gentrifying must also be understood with its negative connotation: an uprooting of neighborhoods not always done because of a love for improvement as much as for a love of the piles of filthy lucre that the future of inflation promises to investors in real estate. This too adds its part in the making of miserable human drama.