When They Were Bad
This weekend during a visit to the Clarion Content
offices, Aaron tried to distinguish for us between neighborhoods that might actually be dangerous, and the ones people are just scared of. It got me thinking about the way ignorance and confidence have protected me in more than one unfamiliar city.
In 2003, with the Cantankerous Consumer
, I blithely strolled through a prostitute- and drug-ridden area of Toronto, two nights in a row, to get to the gay bar we liked. In New Orleans, three years earlier, Dana, Jared
and I walked back to The Funky Butt to hear some music, after passing it with a walking tour earlier in the day. In both instances, a local later shook his head at us with widened eyes, saying, "you shouldn't have done that." I guess the best bars are in the worst places.
On the first day of my last year of college, I was driving around the outskirts of Trenton when my old Volvo started belching black smoke, so I pulled off in a quiet neighborhood of decaying Victorians. Being pre-cell phone, I started walking, but the neighborhood being residential, I had to walk for a while. Finally I found an elementary school that hadn't opened yet for the year, where the janitor let me in and I used the phone in the faculty room to call my roommate and a tow truck. Back at the car, I started getting antsy and was heading back to call again when I saw the janitor, a wizened old black dude, walking down the street toward me. When we met he said, "I just had to come back to check on you, miss. This isn't a good neighborhood for you to be walking around. A young girl was killed here a little while ago, and you really favor her. You look so much like her, I had to come back to see if you were OK."
Of course then, with the knowledge about how scared I should have been, I felt scared. The tow truck pulled up, so I hugged the janitor, and thanked him. Turns out I had friends who lived on that street, and one of them had her car stolen from outside the house shortly after. When she got it back, it had a pen jammed in the ignition and she had to replace it. There was a dog who hung around their house that they referred to as "Bloody Dog." Sometimes it's better not to know.