Sunday, August 2, 2009

City Childhood

I know for a fact that some people think I'm overly secretive because I don't talk a lot about my childhood. You know why? Having people react with horror to stories you don't think are such a big deal gets tiring.

People who've lived in a rural setting their whole life are a different sort of critter than I am, and an easy illustration of this is the difference in attitudes between my dad and C's: when my father asks what our weekend plans are, and I say "wandering around Boston" he tells me to drive carefully and to have fun. C's dad insists on driving us to the train and worries that we'll be mugged or raped or murdered. And I don't just mean it was like this when we were young - he still is worried now that we're in our 30s!

Boston is not scary. Lawrence is not scary. Neither is Albany, or what I've experience of NYC. I can't imagine what it's like to be paranoid and terrified that city-dwellers are going to get you. Kind of sad, really.

As usual, I've digressed. Let me tell you some "horror" stories from my childhood.

* When I was five, my parents walked me to church on a hot summer night. Everyone from our neighborhood went, including the previously mentioned Georgie and Eric, and our friends Cal and Jonathan (most of my pre-adolescent friends were boys). I didn't think it was odd at the time that Georgie and Eric came too, but if I were older I might since they were Catholic. When we got there the grownups went to sign hymns, and us kids did art activities. Eric cried because they sent Georgie to an older class than us and Cal. After a few hours, we all walked back home.

Turns out that the reason that we went to church was because there was a very large shoot out between cops and gangs going on just a few miles from our apartment complex. The pastor opened to the general public, thinking that people would be safe there. He was right.

* We moved to the other end of Lawrence when I was eight; my family was "encouraged" to leave the other place because our mob next door neighbor's gambling ring was busted up and they thought my parents turned them in. Not long after we moved I made friends with the little girl upstairs, Kristy. She and I took ballet lessons together for two years. Sometimes my mom would babysit Kristy and her baby sister Lindsey, who was about a year younger than Vynce. Kristy's parents looked after us a couple of times too, early on. The reason it only happened early on is my parents figured out that Kristy's parents were dealing drugs after someone tried to break into our apartment a couple of times. Dad put a sign on the back door saying that the drugs were up stairs, and that solved that. The thing is, Kristy's parents were nice people. I know you're supposed to think drug dealers are scum, but they weren't. Our downstairs neighbor, who was eventually arrested for using his kids to make kiddie porn was scum, but not the drug dealers.

* There was a street near my babysitter's house that we never went down. I walked to my school for 4th grade (my third elementary school) from the babysitter's and was told never to go down "crack alley" alone. I didn't. It sounded dangerous, if it was in bad enough shape that they said it was cracked. Right? It never for a second occurred to me what was meant by "crack" at that age.

To other people stories like this sound scary. To me they're just things that were. I never felt unsafe during my childhood. People react like I should have been terrified, but... I hated living in Taunton from the ages of 18-20 a whole lot more, but I didn't feel unsafe there, either.

"I had someone to shoot, and you know I plan to lie about it." - Caledonia, Restless Year (download it here)

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