7.06.2009

Max and the Coons

I’ve never met Max. He is one of many people who periodically read and comment on my blog. I read and comment on his blog once in a while, as well. One of the best things about writing a blog is that sometimes you develop long distance conversations with strangers that would not ordinarily happen in the course of your life. For me, my long distance conversation with Max is one of those conversations.

Based on where he lives, I would never accidentally run across this guy. I don’t always agree with him. He seems like a great guy and I like the way his head works. If I could put together a writer’s round-table for discussion, like the one that used to take place at the Algonquin in New York, fueled by good wine and good food, his would be the first invitation that I would issue.

Ours would be a friendship powered by intellect, conversation and debate.

So why am I writing about Max, well, he did a post today that got me thinking about things, again. You can check him out here, and go through your own thought process.....

I was going to comment on his post, but comments, to my mind, should be short and sweet, not equal to the length of the original post.

So I am resorting to my own blog in order to continue my thoughts which were generated by his post.

So without further ado...

My father moved us to the suburbs when I was 16. I had grown up in the Bougie city neighborhoods prior to the move, surrounded by upwardly mobile college educated black professionals and hard working blue collar folks and their families. We had yards, dogs, picket fences, houses and walnut trees for climbing in the back yard.

Yet my father wasn’t satisfied. He wanted more apparently, and more meant a house in the burbs surrounded by white people. We “broke” the block, in fact, as one of our soon to take flight neighbors informed us. I was the only black female in the graduating class of 1968. There were only four of us all told.

I spent the longest year and a half of my life, living in a place called Mt. Healthy. It wasn’t, healthy or cool. Yet I didn’t know exactly what it was that made me dislike the place so, from the very beginning.

Wasn’t just the white people...I’ve always been the fly who had to swim through the buttermilk, so I was okay, if not totally comfortable or trusting around them. Among other things they taught me that there is a difference between Jewish people and white people. But that’s another story for another time..

In fact, it wasn’t until I moved back to the city, when I was 18 to start college that it came to me what was wrong..I missed the noise of everyday living...There were no life sounds...no people on the streets....no kids making a racket outside your window...no conversations on the porch...no, knowing your neighbors, intimately..no barking dogs......I

Nothing except identical houses, with identical lawns, with identical cars in the driveway with the requisite number of children and pets, and people pretending to live, yet quick to hit the mute volume at sunset.

I was too naive at the time to see all the secret living going on behind closed doors or to discern the destination of all the secret trips into the city to engage in forbidden pleasures and fantasies with people not welcome in the burbs.

Our natural tonal richness with which we were gifted at birth, was bleached out and faded in order to blend with our vanilla surroundings.

No coons...except for the ones who occasionally wandered out of Winton Woods Park.

Lifeless....If this was the American dream...I did not want it....

Tears came to my eyes the first night I went to sleep in my own tiny apartment, listening to the too loud sounds of the winos on Lincoln, walking to the Down Beat Bar on the corner, a few blocks away.

I missed life and I made myself a promise to never lose it again. 40 years later, I still live in the cities among the people and not too far from that first tiny apartment.

Got to have it...This tangible life is vital to my personal well being, and I suspect, if we were all honest, speaks to something in all of us. We need life, good or bad, in order to mutate into something different. We need life to grow.

I have a home, filled with the mementoes of a very successful professional life. A relatively new car parked in the driveway of a home, a rather large home. But instead of the burbs, it’s in the city. The corner bar is gone, but the kids are still noisy, the Seventh Day Adventist and the Mormons still ring my doorbell on Saturday. I have to cut grass, but not as much as my dad. I even have deer in my side yard and real coons the size of my smallest dog, who happens to tip the scales at 75 pounds these days.

My dad got mad at me one time because I told him the only thing his home in the burbs was missing was a moat filled with alligators. His anger told me I’d struck a nerve. He didn’t want to live with coons, yet he couldn’t happily live without them, either.

40 years later, they have come to him. His suburb has changed and he’s not happy. But he’s too old and too entrenched to move. White flight took place when we moved in. Bougie flight happens when the people from the projects invade, chased out by the yuppies who think it’s cool to live and renovate the big old homes of the city and take over the life that happens, just because... never realizing they are destroying that life when they squeeze out the people who already reside there.

We watch BET, Black Embarrassment Television, because it is our last connection to some parts of our life, that, if we’re honest about....we miss...

We know and miss the people that Tyler Perry talks about.

Celebrating the American dream became a drive to deny who we are....It became a suppression of our differences from the dominant culture....

In an effort to integrate, we lose our identity. We reconnect only by watching the overblown characterizations of Black life perpetrated by the hip hop generation. Sometimes we laugh at it..sometimes we don’t...But, usually we always watch from the safe distance of the burbs and inwardly, it doesn’t feel so good...

In the 1960s we screamed “I’m Black and I’m Proud.”

Today, we wear our hair natural...yet...we still look for that American Dream and it’s house and a yard with a picket fence in the suburbs as the true symbol of success...bereft of life...colorless....unfulfilling...

I don’t have an ending or answer...this is a ramble that goes on...

to be continued...
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