Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lovin' Thy Neighbor, Trenton-style

Note: I've got some offensive language in this post, but almost all of it can be attributed to my neighbor. I am merely quoting him.

When humanity was instructed to love thy neighbor, there's a good chance our higher power did not know about MY neighbors. Sure, plenty of my neighbors are just like you and me, going about life, trying to get by, doing what we can to make our spot of Trenton more beautiful. But that's not the case for all of them; we have our fair share of knobs in these parts. I have refrained from saying too much about these people partially out of fear, but mostly out of respect for their privacy, but recently, the line was drawn, and since most of their shenanigans happen right out in the street, at full volume, they're idiots for expecting any kind of privacy.

So, today, I turn my attention to Julian, which is not his real name; I have no idea why I'm protecting his identity, when he obviously does not care about his own well-being, let alone mine. But I'll grant him this privacy, this time. Julian is part of the nice family right across the street; but he didn't live in the house when Glen and I moved to Trenton. He came later, which was fantastic, because we were dealing with other sorts of problems up the street in those early days...if Julian were around during that time, we would have moved for sure. So after the problems up the street more or less worked themselves out, Julian moved in across the street, with Julian's sweet grandmother. And suddenly, there was a lot of screaming. And when I say screaming, I do mean screaming: high-pitched primeval wail freak-outs several times a week that usually culminated in some sort of collapse in the middle of the street, and a visit from Uncle Fancy Car to help restore the peace, and a lot of sobbing for a few hours. All of the noise came from Julian. Screaming and sobbing in the middle of the road does not necessarily define a man, but in this case, believe me, it does: Julian is mentally unwell. I'm not saying that I don't care. I do. Or at least I did, at one time. Obviously, he has not received proper treatment, but my sympathy has just run out: he's a crazy, freakin' pain in the ass.

Like attracts like, right? Because this is true, Julian, of course, has unstable friends as well. There's one guy who likes to walk over to Julian, while Julian is sitting in his car (sitting in the car is what Julian does most of the time), with the volume cranked all the way, under our windows. The friend often has a beer, and predictably, he will always throw his empty bottles wherever he wants; the unpredictable part of this is WHERE the bottles will be thrown. A few weeks ago, it happened to be our backyard, while we were sitting in the backyard, which could not have been a worse place for Julian's friend to throw his empty. Glen tends to be more forgiving than I am about bad behaviors, but that was until Julian's halfwitted asshole friend threw a beer bottle into our yard, and suffice it to say, Glen's rage made me very proud. I'm certainly not into caveman antics, but in that case, it was totally appropriate, and totally cool with me. Julian apologized for his friend (which was the right thing to do, but whatever), since his friend couldn't, or wouldn't, and got into Glen's face instead. I hauled my pregnant self outside the fence, and when the friend saw me, I think began to feel badly, and he said, "I'm sorry ma'am," but I gave him the whatever wave-off, because there is no excuse for what he did, and I can't stand to be called "ma'am," besides. Glen attempted to hand the empty bottle — which miraculously didn't break against our new patio — back to the Julian's friend, but Julian grabbed it instead, still apologizing. Screw Julian, too, though, because he's never once stopped his asshole friend from throwing empty beer bottles willy-nilly, and there's no excuse for that, either.

Julian's got another stellar friend who pulls up in his pimped-out ghetto sled, with the volume at 11, and in doing so, we learn more than we ever wanted to know about edgy rap lyrics. Last weekend, we heard Nas's new song, Be a Nigger, in which the chorus is sung, cleverly, to the old Dr. Pepper jingle, and goes like this:

I'm a nigger, he's a nigger, she's a nigger, we some niggers
Wouldn't you like to be a nigger, too?
To all my kike niggers, spic niggers, guinea niggers, chink niggers
That's right, y'all my niggaz, too
I'm a nigger, he's a nigger, she's a nigger, we some niggers
Wouldn't you like to be a nigger, too
They like to strangle niggers, blamin niggers, shootin niggers, hangin niggers
Still you wanna be a nigger, too?

(See the whole video here, if you want.)

We were in the yard while this was going on. And it left us, well, speechless. I know that Nas is critically-acclaimed, and is the son of talented jazz musician Olu Dara so I'm not judging him or even Julian's friend for playing the song at top volume; but I have, too, lost count of how many times I have heard the casual use of the word "nigger" from the mouths of African Americans here in Trenton, and have not grown comfortable with it. I suppose I understand the concept of taking the word back, and in doing so, taking the power away; but I also believe in self-fulfilling prophecies, and when you call yourself disparaging terms, you come to believe those disparaging things about yourself. But perhaps I'm a fuddy-duddy?

I heard Julian screaming in the street again just recently, and I thought he was assaulting one of his family members, but it turns out, he was mad about something outside our quiet little hamlet, and needed some family back-up, so he called for Uncle Fancy Car. Uncle Fancy Car has always seemed like a good guy: church-going, looks in after his mom and siblings, is cool-headed, etc. But on that particular day, he pulled up in his fancy car, and Julian got into the back seat, screaming "Cleveland! Cleveland!" which I took to mean the avenue not too far from here, rather than the city in Ohio, and the car sped away. A short time later, Julian returned, covered in blood, which I saw because — in case it isn't clear — I spend a lot of time in my backyard, where the view of Julian and his antics is always great. Apparently things did not go so well over on Cleveland. We're not sure what happened with Uncle Fancy Car, but he returned a short time later, intact, and unbloodied.

Julian sat out in his car, under our window, for the better part of that evening, listening to music loudly, and, I think, drinking, which made me see red: it's been hot, and we're all uncomfortable, but I am nearly 7 months pregnant, and it just isn't easy for me. I have no fucking patience for Julian — none. Luckily (I guess, for some people) I'm moving kinda slow these days, or else I would have gone out there that night and just starting punching him, but Glen was able to stop me before I could command my fat, achy legs to get out of the bed. (Dammit.) I'll be honest, Glen and I do not see eye to eye on how to deal with the neighborhood's assholery: most of the time, I lean more toward some sort of direct, "oh, hi, how you doing? I just want you to know that I'm watching you and your stupid antics" approach, and Glen prefers to observe quietly. I do respect that, but am not sure how much longer the hormones will allow me to help him do that (thanks, Miss Karen, for offering to contribute to my defense fund; if anyone else is interested, I'll set up an account).

But, for the record, I'm glad Glen was able to roll me back into bed, because we got to hear Julian's whole story about what happened on Cleveland Avenue. I'll spare you the details, even though it does involve a rather bizarre traffic accident, in which Julian was hit from behind, which pushed Julian's car into the car in front of him, and he didn't find out until some time later that the man in the car behind him was the son of the woman in front of him. It boiled down to your typical "talkin' shit," and "disrespeck" which needed to be addressed over on Cleveland Avenue, and resulted in Julian's busted up face.*

I wish I had no more to say about Julian, that's not the case. I guess, really, it's for the best, because it really is some fantastic stuff, even if it is a bit scary. We've witnessed Julian completely fall apart, screaming and thrashing, on several occasions, and usually, his uncle swoops in, and is able to regain control. A few times, though, that hasn't happened. Once, I saw the police and an ambulance show up, and talk with Julian for some time; he eventually calmed down, but for the life of me, I have no idea why he wasn't taken into custody — he was out of his mind that day, and in my opinion, likely to hurt someone. After the officials left, he strutted around, outside, as if to show off. I guess you develop street cred if you're almost crazy enough to be taken to the psych ward?

On another similar occasion, Julian was causing some sort of damage inside his house; only his grandmother was home at the time. He came outside, to the corner, and posed like the Incredible Hulk, except, he looks more like a 20-something guy who hasn't quite lost his youthful tone, but is going to pork out ANY DAY.

And he SCREAMED, and he SCREAMED, and he SCREAMED.
No words.

A neighbor (both helpful and comical) yelled out of a second story window, "Hey, pal, SHUT THE FUCK UP!"

And Julian let out one more scream, and then bellowed, "WHO SAID THAT? WHO THE FUCK SAID THAT?"

A little, but confident, voice from somewhere down the block said, "I did."

And another voice chimed in, "Yeah, buddy, SHUT THE FUCK UP."

Julian screamed some more, and offered to kill the people who told him to be quiet. He started hollering, "I don't know if I'm a Bloods foot soldier, or the president of the United States, but I'm going to KILL SOMEONE," and then ranted that he wished he had gone to Iraq and gotten killed, instead of off to college. I know it's wrong to admit this, but oh, if only...

I heard the pleading voice of his beleaguered grandmother urging Julian to come back into the house, to which he flippantly replied, "No, I'm not fuckin' coming in, yo." Which I didn't think was a very nice thing to say to his grandmother. He stayed out on the corner, and looked toward the second floor windows where he heard the voices, and saw the large groups of people assembled on their porches, and said, "What the FUCK are you looking at? You can ALL suck MY DICK. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart."

You can all suck my dick, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. My god, that was awesome! That was the most fantastic thing I have ever heard in my entire life! That is, until the police arrived. When the police arrived, they escorted Julian to the front porch of his grandmother's house, and sat him down, and immediately tried to calm him: he was breathing heavy, and his eyes were wild. One of the officers said, "We all go through tough times, pal, it will be okay." And Julian replied, "Oh, NO, not like THIS. You have NO idea what THIS is like. I was FINE until YOU BITCHES showed up."

The officers stood him up, cuffed him, and loaded him into the car.

I was FINE until YOU BITCHES showed up is now my all-time favorite line, and so, I thank Julian for that, even though he is a total douche.

Unfortunately — or fortunately, I'm not sure; after all, this stuff is better than television — Julian was back a few hours later, calmer, more centered. And speaking of loving thy neighbors earlier, he was talking theology with some of his boyz. I was letting Steve out to pee, and only heard the very conclusion of the conversation, but what I heard was intriguing.

"The crackers," said Julian conspiratorily, "invented Christianity to make us — [pointing to himself and gesturing to his friends] the niggers — into the devil."

"What?!" said his friend, and I'm so glad he did, because the repeat allowed me to commit the quote to memory.

"The crackers," said Julian, "invented Christianity to make us — the niggers — into the devil."

I, with my lily white cracker legs kicked up in my patio chair, just on the other side of the fence — watching my new, little black and white dog run around the yard with my gardening glove in his mouth, shaking it ferociously — felt like protesting. Protesting the casual use of the word "nigger," mostly. Reminding them that a cracker or two resides just feet away from their discussion, and perhaps common courtesy should prevail more regularly than it has been lately, and perhaps they shouldn't throw around racist terms — and just plain bullshit — so freely. I'm not religious, so I had no idea of how to argue with him about crackers inventing Christianity to turn black people into the devil, but I knew I wasn't up for the task, even though it might be one of the most preposterous claims I've heard in a good long while. However, I could see how Julian may have — in his particular, tortured mind — come to that conclusion: black people have received the short end of the stick throughout time, and there have been a lot of deaths in the name of religion; despite that, I know that Christianity wasn't "invented" to keep black people down, and several of Julian's friends agreed with me after bickering for a few moments.

"No, man," said one, "The WORD is THE WORD. Okay?"
"Yeah," said the other, "The WORD is THE WORD, yo."
Julian inhaled, and looked thoughtful for a moment. "Okay," he said, "The word IS the word," and the group dispersed.

I hope whatever knowledge Julian gained from his friends on the street will keep him under control for even one week. I'd be happy with that. I don't need to love my neighbor — particularly Julian — but I would like to stop hating him for just a little while.

*While the car accident/fight story is not particularly gripping, I mentioned it because Julian is so ridiculous that perhaps his fight on Cleveland Avenue will bring about a retaliatory hard rain in these quieter parts, and if that happens, I might completely unravel. Also, I think it's pretty awesome that the po-po was able to solve the May 1 murder of Trenton resident Arrel Bell, because the murderers — oh so intelligently — wrote about it on My Space. So I'm documenting Julian's activities because, really, there's a far better chance of him losing his mind before I do, and with violent consequences, and I hope to provide a historical record of that, when the time comes.


Mister Clean said...

I'm so glad I don't know my neighbors.

"You can all suck my dick, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

Little known fact there, Chrissy... Stevie Wonder once wrote that very line down on manuscript paper. He thought better of the first part and scratched it out in favor of "I just called to say I Love You." Instant #1 hit!

Why don't you just move to Robbinsvile (sic)?

Anonymous said...

What kind of fence do you have? Can these guys see you sitting there while they discuss cracker theology?

Chrissy said...

Mr. Clean: I now have Miss Karen's ohrwurmig singing "I Just Called to Say I Love You," over and over again in my head. I suppose it could be worse, though, right?

Anon: well, I'd say an observant person is able to see me through the fence -- especially as I come bounding out of the back door with my hyper little Steve; the back door/back porch is above the fence line, and I usually will say hello to the neighbors, if they should be getting in and out of their cars (or what-have-you) while I'm bounding into the yard. However, I reckon the boys were too caught up in their theological discussion to pay me any mind. I don't seem to register with the 20-something urban set anyway, which in some ways, is kind of insulting, but in others, totally liberating.