Tag Archives: home

Ferguson

14 Aug
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This is my home.

Well, that is, in an extended sort of way. I grew up in St. Louis, on the other side of town. Or rather the other “quarter” of town, because that is always how St. Louis has been divvied up, based on its socioeconomic populations. There’s West County, the safe, predominantly upper-middle and upper class white suburbia of St. Louis. Then South County, the older part of town populated by the lower-middle class echelon of African Americans and elderly white folks – unless you hit the “West End,” the posh upper class carved-out part of downtown. Then East St. Louis, the portion of my city responsible for putting us at #1 on the US’s Most Dangerous Cities list some years back. And finally, NoCo. North County. Ferguson.

Ferguson was essentially another SoCo. A mix of lower-middle class folks that in St. Louis constituted the “average African American,” “white trash,” and “old fogies.” My paternal grandmother lived there for most of her life. For me, it was a place to visit. Not a place to live. But still, it was a place that while I was in high school my mother would have only required me to call her when I got there and when I was leaving, not every five minutes, as would have been the case with downtown or East St. Louis.

Ferguson was not supposed to be that much of a time bomb.

I have never particularly loved my city. In fact, come the close of high school, I did every damn thing I could to get myself out of it. The Midwest, it’s such a closed-in place. The same sights, same ideas, same issues. All just sitting there. Caged in the bound middle of the country. Stewing. I ran away to the West Coast, where people colorful and vibrant in every sense of the words filled the streets.

The Midwest has always frightened me. It is a place of putting up white picket fences to hide the blood pooling in our yards from the wounds we all carry. It is a place where racial tension continues to draw and quarter our city, literally, and yet nobody will talk about it.

It’s a place where a wrong (i.e. “liberal”) word can get you hit by you father and a wrong movement can get you shot by a stranger.

It’s a place where everyone dresses according to the rules of their sector. Different branches of the same store will carry different types of clothing, depending on whether they’re catering to the prep kids of West County or the blinged-out teenagers of SoCo.

It’s a place where trusting the police force is a crapshoot. It’s all one big algorithm, hinging on variables like skin color and county location and whether or not you happened to be driving a particularly nice car. My grandfather was once head of security for much of downtown; it was always his mission to diffuse any issues with the least amount of conflict necessary. He wanted to calm people, not create statements. It was people he worked to keep safe, over buildings or signs or ideology.

Apparently not so, these days.

My city resounds with the cry of “I am big and you are little. I am right, and you are wrong.” It is a presumption that has always terrified me the most about that Arch-bound city. Walk under that Arch, and you must subscribe to a certain level of conformity. Break from that conformity, even just gathering to say that you don’t agree with the way something is going down, and – well, I guess we’re seeing now how that plays out.

I am right, and you are wrong.

Stay on your side of this line, and I’ll not say you’ve threatened mine.

My city is divided into four quarters. Apparently now we’re killing to keep people in them.

I’m sorry, Ferguson. I didn’t ever think we’d treat you this badly. The whole point of calling something a “quarter” is to indicate it’s needed to make up part of a whole.

Despite all its posturing, my city has not been whole for quite a while now.

I Do Not Want Excitement

25 Nov

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I am probably not your typical twenty-something. I do not want excitement. I do not long for the rush of the big city, the adrenaline of packed boxes and a newly signed lease for a shared apartment seven cities away. I do not yearn for the clunking whir of train tracks rushing beneath me or an airplane engine revving to life under the wings. I do not seek the fast-paced, the tight-scheduled, the not-enough-time-but-hey-it-was-worth it.

No, I do not want excitement. I want to be fulfilled.

Now, I don’t mean – oh god, no way in hell do I mean the little-house-on-the-prairie kind of life. I do not want monotony. I do not want the same plodding expectable, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute. Dear lord, I would go bat shit crazy.

I think, more correctly, perhaps, I should say that I want roots. I want ties that are stable but are not limiting, that support without restricting. You see, I’ve done the whole tear-yourself-away-from-everything-and-throw-yourself-upon-the-world thing. And it sucked.

Perhaps I was just forced upon it with the wrong footing. You see, every time I’ve been forced into an unexpected journey, a total life reorganization, it’s because I was sick. I had to pluck myself out of where I was and ship myself off to treatment, often without parental support or any idea where I was going. I just had to leave. That was all.

And then, when I returned, chose to come back to where I had left rather than stay in treatment longer because I felt that I learned what the journey had to teach me and my heart was aching for the friends I left behind, I realized, finally, that it is not a what or a where, a something doing or somewhere being that really define my happiness. Because, you see, I grow my roots in people.

And then they all graduated. Or went away, for some reason and for some time or other. My roots were torn up, leaving me gasping for air and starving for the water that had been holding me up. It’s hard to enjoy adventure, when you can feel yourself withering through the whole thing.

Excitement becomes mere pain, new becomes a strangeness that rubs and chafes the heart. Adventure is no high, wild dream but a slowly executed torture.

I do not mind exploring. I just want a home base to come back to. I want to know that there is still a place – even if that place is not so much somewhere tangible – where I can still know that I belong. I would not mind the packed boxes, the newly signed lease, the road trip, the excitement, the strangeness – as long as through it all, there’s a hand holding mine.

Because then, home becomes a place that can be carried with you.

Because then, home is the place where you are not empty, but fulfilled.

Because then, home is the place where you are not alone.