Monday, March 29, 2010

Gardening and drugs

We don't have much of a front or side yard, and over the last few years, I've been trying to turn those "yards" into pretty little city gardens, with relatively disappointing results. Sure, there are some show stoppers: an azalea and stargazer rhododendron that were here when we moved in; some great irises which were given to me by my mother a few years ago, which finally started to bloom two years ago. Between those three items, we have a nice show for a couple of weeks in the spring, and then the property looks ratty. When we first moved in, we were accosted by a number of entrepreneurs who wanted to mow our lawn — if you can call it "lawn" — but as I've mentioned before, it's a cheap labor force here, and it feels really icky to find your landscaping guy slumped over from an OD behind your garage. So the goal was to fill the "lawn" with tons of plants, especially those that would spread quickly, and erase our lawn and, more importantly, the need for a landscaper, or even a lawnmower.

We have one lawn/bed along the side of the house that's been particularly troubling because of a large root system tangled throughout it, the hook-up for our oil tank, and the lousy northern sun it gets. Our house and the tree with the aforementioned root system, block most of the sun from this spot, and when the sun does get through, it's a scorching late afternoon exposure. Not very many plants do well in those conditions, and thus far, the ones that work are on the boring side.

My father, down in Maryland, has recently retired, and my mom has been gone for almost two years now (hard to believe), and he's making some changes to his property, as well. So, last week, he brought up three buckets of irises and day lilies. He placed them in my backyard and my goal was to get some of them in that challenging side yard over the weekend.


My dad and I hung out here at the house for a few hours, and when Glen got home from work, we headed over to Rossi's for dinner. My father and Glen both ordered burgers; "rare, but warm" were my father's instructions to the waitress, and I recoiled a bit as he devoured his cow on a bun. It was worth it, though; afterward, my father proclaimed it to be the best burger he's ever had. "Perfect," he said.

We got home just as the sun was going down. As we parked the car, the young drug dealer who lives up the street sauntered down the alley, and sold drugs to the person waiting in a nearby car. My father gave me "the look." You may know it: it's concern, and dread, and disapproval all rolled into one economical look. Our nice visit and "perfect" meal were now tainted by the knucklehead. Frustrating.

It is deeply embarrassing to me to bring loved ones to my home, to have them witness drug dealing en plein air. Many of our friends and family tell us to move, which is easier said than done. We love our home, and we've made some nice friends here; we don't want to move. But we hate what's going on around us. I am not exaggerating when I say that nearly every time I look out the window, or pull up next to the house, there's a drug deal going on. Maybe I have great timing, and just catch it each time it happens, but logically, I'm inclined to believe that I'm not seeing the half of it. We know of several drug houses near us, and the police know about them too. These sorts of problems are slow to develop, and apparently, slow to clean up, but it's exhausting and irritating to me, all the same. When we think about how long we have endured the drug dealing in our neighborhood, and taking into account the fairly sensational (and not in a good way) news going on with the school system last week (the possibility of 200+ kids not graduating, schools closing, layoffs, along with the usual stories of violence and underachieving), I can't help but wonder if we are totally delusional for staying here, as difficult it is to move.


It is hard to garden with Matthew, but at least our back yard is fenced, so I've been able to tinker here and there out back; but I can't take on any larger projects, and I wouldn't even try to work in our problematic side or front yards, where the street is just a few feet from our door. Glen took Matty out for errands on Saturday morning, and I figured I'd spend some time in the "Northeastern Lawn" and get some of my mother's lilies and irises into the earth. If I can make my corner look more appealing, it may have an affect on the mindset of both the dealers and the buyers. Plus, if I'm out there, maybe it would force them to use another spot to conduct business.

So I thought.

Within 15 minutes of digging and rearranging my plants, a beat-up Mustang pulled up, incredulously, right alongside me. There was a young white kid in the driver's seat. Forgive me if this sounds racist, but we only have one other white person in our immediate vicinity, and no one — of any color — visits him. So if there's a white person parked along the house, there are two reasons: I know him/her or he/she is buying drugs.

I was raking right next to his car, and I could see the cell phone in his hand, the wad of cash in the other. I opted to stay right there, and raked at fantom twigs and leaves, just to see what the jerk would do. He made a phone call. I BURNED, terrified and filled with anger. I thought about asking him to move along. Instead, I held my ground, raking at my little patch of dirt.

Within a minute, one of our local dealers came around the corner; he actually said hello to me, and kept walking. I looked at the kid in the car: he was confused. Impulsively, he leapt out of his car and chased after the dealer.

I can only imagine how that exchange would have gone. The dealer had enough sense or manners (or whatever) to know not to make a deal right in front of me, so he must have been thrilled to have a white frat boy chasing after him up Cuyler Avenue.

I continued to rake, dumbly and with agitation. I had better things to do closer to the house, but I suppose was itching for some kind of exchange with the buyer, and didn't want him to sneak away. I moved my pile of debris from here to there. A few minutes later, the white kid came back, and he gave me a little bit of a smirk. I was infuriated, and was half inclined to grab my shovel and beat the bejesus out of him and his dilapidated Mustang.

Instead, I said, "I don't care what you do with your life, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't do it near my house."

He said, "I don't know what you're talking about," with a big smile on his face.

"Yes, you do," I said, through my teeth.

He began to say something else, but I was growing more irritated, so I said, "You better go. Now."

He did.


Glen and Matthew returned home a few minutes later; Matty was asleep in the back seat of the car. I was shaken from the conversation with the drug buyer, and debated whether or not to tell Glen, because I expected him to be upset with me. But there was the more immediate task of unloading groceries and baby, so I waited to tell him until we got inside. To my surprise, Glen wasn't worried or disappointed. I'd like to say that with Glen's support, I felt bolstered and encouraged to engage directly with the drug buyers in the future, but I don't. I feel unfocused and a little crazy. Also, I'm irritated that my little side yard is full of my mother's flowering plants, but still looks like hell.

I know that it's still very early in the season; the plants will fill out, and there's still time to get a few more things into the ground, and in a few months, the garden should look different, if not much better. I hope that's the case with the blatant drug dealing on my corner as well. I guess we'll see.

1 comment:

Taneshia said...

On a couple of occasions we've been stopped in front of our house by drivers that fit the profile of your "neighborhood visitor" asking us for directions to Perry Street. We suspect they too are looking for drugs.