Friday, January 27, 2012

A new chapter

It's been a long time since I've written, and so much has happened in my life; much of which I didn't want to share, or couldn't share. Maybe now it's time to at least to scratch the surface.

Glen and I didn't make it. We didn't make it as a couple that is. It's probably the same story that's happened to millions of other couples. The common occurrence doesn't make it easier for us, though. It's complicated and it's personal, too. I think a huge part of what went wrong for us is that SO much went wrong for us, more so than for many other couples: we lost our daughter, and we each lost a parent; we lost a really great dog, and a not so great (but loved anyway) cat. I lost most of my work, without warning. All within the span of two years. We were laden with grief, broke, and living in hell.

Life in Trenton did not help our relationship. Trenton is not the reason we failed as a couple, but it certainly didn't help. Do you call the police at least 10 times a week? Kick thugs off your porch and/or stoop? Listen to endless noise? Have the asshole kid from across the street sit on the mailbox under your bedroom window and throw beer bottles in the street — on your wedding night? Take down license plate numbers of drug buyers for hours on end, with no positive results? And then, out of sheer frustration and anger, stand on the curb and stare at the white people who are not related to you, who pull up alongside your house to buy drugs, hoping to shame them into fucking off? Have you had to listen to ATVs ride around, and around, and around, and around, and around your block all day and all night, and know where they are garaged, and call the police with this information, only to have one — to emphasize, that is one; which is less than two, but more than zero — confiscated years later, after you've already moved to Hamilton? Maybe you have a crazy neighbor who stands on his porch and screams horrifically frightening primal, caveman/psychopath screams at all hours of the day or night? And on his good days, he simply parks his car next to your bedroom window and blasts cuss-laden "music" from his really awesome speakers at 1 a.m.? Do you engage in civic activities, only to see the delusional, incompetent, egomaniacal, and/or possibly criminal continue to get elected and appointed? Is your backyard and alley thoroughly overrun by stray and feral cats? Have you spent thousands and thousands of dollars to care for these cats, only to a) have them repay you in copious amounts of urine, feces and beheaded and de-tailed squirrels all over your yard, and b) see no end to the problem, because there's always some asshole who abandons his/her non-sterile cat? Have you given up answering your door because you know it will only be the crackhead from the other side of the alley needing a few bucks for his next hit, or a racist "alarm salesman," or the damned Jehovah Witnesses? Do your local committeepeople even know what is going on? Do you fantasize about putting a hunting perch in your attic?

This was our life in Trenton. Disastrous.

And, it's my fault. It really is. I went to the college formerly known as Trenton State, and lived in Chambersburg for a few years in the 1990s. I spoke so well of the city that when Glen and I were ready to buy a house, Glen looked specifically in Trenton, based on my glowing memories. Glen, I am so sorry for the way things wound up, and I'm specifically sorry about the whole Trenton thing.

I won't write any more about Glen and me, because it's our business, but because this blog has always been Trenton-centric, I wanted to address how leaving Trenton has affected me. In case you missed it, I'm in Hamilton now. Despite all the horrible things I said about Trenton, I've also said some horrible things about Hamilton. Matty and I share a tiny apartment in an old — but not old enough to have character — complex on the south side of town, and that's hard after having a house and yard. Even one that gets hit by occasional, stray gunfire, or a stray beer bottle from the crazy screaming neighbor's friend who thinks it's okay to whip his recyclables into the pregnant lady's backyard. While she's sitting in it. I am convinced that most everyone in Trenton suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder — no joke. We have seen too much we shouldn't have, endured more than what most people think is possible. And we fight for it, anyway. One day, not long ago, I woke up here in Hamilton, edgy and ready to fight, because that's how I greeted every day for the last 7 years. Except I could hear the birds singing, and leaves blowing in the wind. It was so quiet in Hamilton that my ears are still ringing from lack of stimulation.

So. On one hand, HOLY MOLY, I am so glad to be out of Trenton. I am SO glad to have Matthew out of there. Glen agrees. It was SO much work, and without ANY damn reward, at least on the quality of life front. My kid cannot and will not go to school there. And, I wasn't afraid, but I never felt 100% comfortable walking up the street to the playground. While there are no guarantees in life, it is SO nice to be able to walk around with my kid and my dog these days and not worry about random bullets and pit bulls. It is SO nice to not have to step around garbage, or have to look at loud, ignorant idiots wasting their lives.

On the other hand, the silence is deafening. I hate Trenton, and I adore it, broken and all. I have met the most wonderful modern day revolutionaries — passionate, strong, devoted underdogs — and I'm certain those kinds of people do not exist elsewhere.* Politics in a place like Trenton transcend typical republican/democrat idiocy and divisiveness because politics are so complicated in a place like Trenton. I love the challenge of finding balance. It was invigorating, and connecting with the community was stimulating (if ultimately maddening). Getting to know people in Trenton has been life affirming. Potent.

My life is kind messy right now. My heart aches. For the obvious reasons. But it aches, too, for Trenton. Glen and I have significant shared experiences, and a child we adore; we'll be good to each other. But how do I make peace with Trenton? Can I? My dog is buried there. My mom's irises bloom there. Trenton is the place where I withered away and died...and then found myself again. I loved it. I hated it. And, now, I'm gone.


I've missed writing, but couldn't because it was too painful and personal to share. I'm hoping to get back into the habit, though. But I feel like a hypocrite continuing to write here on TrentonKat, as I now live in Hamilton. But Glen is still in Trenton, and Matty is with him several days a week, so like most former Trenton residents, I am still tethered to the city. So who knows? Maybe I'll keep writing here. If you don't see anything, though, check my new blog, Blog of Ott. A warning, though: I hope like hell to be done with politics and bitching incessantly about quality of life issues. I don't know enough about Hamilton politics to like or dislike the folks running the joint, but either way, it runs, and the White Flight Pizza is not so bad. So, I might focus on cooking and art and crafts and just life in general, but I'll be honest: I just got a new couch, and it is SO comfortable, and no one — no one!! — is selling drugs in front of my place! I've got about a year's worth of TV to catch up on, so we'll see if I do any writing any time soon.


* Today, I received my copy of The Hamiltonian, and the cover story was Mercer's 50 Most Interesting People... Granted, there's not enough room in The Hamiltonian to run the bios of ALL 50 people — due to, I'm guessing, Angela's very important full page beauty advice column, and the three full pages of high school sports, and well, all of the ads. So, this month features the more boring of the 50 — 26-50. Not a single one, as in NONE, of the folks mentioned in that article was from Trenton. There were a couple of lawyers and business owners; a politician or two; a politician wannabe or two, you know, some REALLY INTERESTING peop....zzzzzzzzzzz.....

I'll let you know when February's issue — containing the 25 most interesting people in Mercer — arrives. because I'm sure it will be FULL of citizens from Trenton.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your activism and hard work, especially with the recall attempt. Best wishes for a happy life in your new home.

Kevin M said...

Christine - The best of luck to you and Matty. I'm sure things have been hard, but you sound positive, determined, and in a good place. God Bless!

Anonymous said...

As a long time follower of your life in Trenton, I was always reassured that others see it like me too.

Like you, I have put in nearly 25 years of civic action, neighborhood involvement, home renovation, etc. I've since lost my career, most of my money and soon, my home. No, its not Trenton's fault, but it was definitely a major contributing factor. If I could, I'd sell to the first thug who'd pay for my house.

I can't handle the open air drug dealing, litter, foul language, booming car radios, pants on the ground etc., ALL while be viewed as an uptight racist. I"m done. Bye-bye Trenton!!!!

Anonymous said...

As a long time fan, I am incredibly sad. You brought such an intriguing view on Trenton. But on other hand, I'm so relieved. It's like holding your breath for years. And now, you can exhale. Enjoy.

Lost in the Supermarket said...

I'm sorry about what happened between you and Glen. Divorce/separation is life-wrenching and disorienting, but rebuilding a life is rewarding. I wish you and Matty the best together in your new home. Please feel free to call if you want to chat.


Mister Clean said...

For all of the mind-boggling dysfunction that carries the day in Trenton - which you have continually described more beautifully than I ever could have dreamed of doing myself - I had gotten to know more kind, intelligent, funny, interesting, productive, worthwhile people during my years within her boundaries, than I ever had before, or probably will hence. I am honored to count you among them.

I have found most people in my new suburban setting suburb to be mind-numbingly dull, but...I have had to pick up a grand total of four pieces of litter in the past 15 months, I forgot what a car alarm sounds like, and I couldn't even tell you the local PD's non-emergency phone number.

Anyway, as trite and cliche as it may sound, you fought the good fight. Enjoy the peace and quiet, friend.

"In Art and Labor" (har!)
Mr. Clean

Greg Forester said...

Hi Chrissy -

It's Greg Forester. I hope everything works out...I can't feign understanding of relationship issues like this but it sounds like you accept the situation, and that seems like a good thing.

Living in Philly is great, but I miss the civic involvement of Trenton, and the city itself. I remember when I chose my apartment in Port Richmond, Nabila (who moved home to work in a judicial clerkship) said "I hate this neighborhood ... and I know why you picked it --- it looks like f-ing Trenton."

It's fine --- I am definitely tied in with this much larger city's major issues. I have fallen in love with Philly's number-one characteristic: grit...that spans all the diverse peoples who live here. But the sheer size of the city prevents making a difference in the same way that is possible in Trenton.

Trenton's problems always seemed to bring out the best in the people I associated with in tackling civic matters. Piggy-backing on Mr Clean's comments, I met some of the most impressive, caring people there.

Reflecting on the burbs, the irony is that you don't get as much civic interaction because there just aren't as many glaring, mind-wrenching problems to rally the populace into action. So I guess the silver-lining of issues with quality of life and municipal government are benefits in terms of direct civic experience with driven, dedicated citizens like yourself!

Converns about children, employment, and personal safety probably outweigh the invigoration afforded by civic involvement...but it's still something I miss, and wonder about as I watch old Polish ladies go about their business on my street in Port Richmond.

Best wishes in Hamilton. You are talented and creative and I am sure everything will work out for you.