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2003-10-15 - 4:05 p.m.

I think our pup has “post-traumatic stress syndrome” but other than that, he’s going to be okay. He’s jumpy and nervous, and barks at every little noise from outside. I don’t blame him, I feel like barking, too.

Piper, in a great act of bravery, sought an appointment with the executive at the big institution that owns most of the rental property in our neighborhood. She took in the packet of research I did about pit bulls, organized and highlighted, and a photo of our little puff ball of a dog. And then she presented her case, requesting that the institution not rent to owners of vicious dogs. I was afraid that he would not take it seriously, but amazingly he did. Not only did he apologize, but he stated his intention to add a vicious animal restriction to their leases. I am so proud of Piper for taking that step, which will help to salvage our peace of mind eventually, and quite possibly could save somebody’s life.

This has been one of those weeks when the difficulty of living in this neighborhood has taken up far more space in my mind than it should. Sometimes it seems easy, and we congratulate ourselves on living in this cozy little enclave in the heart of the city, within walking distance of most of the city’s best amenities. But other times I wonder if being a committed urbanite is worth all the struggle. When I visited my Mother last weekend, in deepest suburbia, I found myself coveting the quiet expanses of lawn, the driveways and garages and people minding their own business in their own yards. Although I know they have their problems, too. Nothing that we will ever be able to afford is going to be perfect, but I wish it was better.

Sunday, the renters who live two houses down had another huge, all-day drunken bash in the street and front yard. These are the people who partied in the streets (loudly) until 5:00 am on several occasions this summer, and routinely have so many friends over that the people who live on the block can’t park there. They have blocked the narrow one-way street and refused to let us drive through, thrown trash in our yard, and encouraged their kids to play any place they want to on the block, irrespective of property ownership. I had an early encounter with them that seemed minor to me (I told one of the kids who was tromping through my plants that my yard was private property and he needed to ask permission before coming in…. and I’m not talking about toddlers here, but big boys who threw a football into the yard repeatedly and trampled everything in their path to retrieve it.) and they have blown it out of proportion and declared war on us. Although at one point they agreed to tone down the parties, and keep their friends’ kids out of our yard, I guess they just decided to blow it off and retaliate instead. While I was at my Mother’s, the men heckled Piper every time she came out with the dog. And when I arrived home, and had to park on another block and walk to the house, they yelled at me, threatened me and called me a “bitch.” I have to admit I was pretty shaken up. I keep thinking I should have done something braver, but when a big gang of drunks was yelling obscenities at me, all I could do was run for the door.

The huge irony here… at least in my mind…. Is that they seem to think they are defending their children and their children’s rights to play anyplace they want to… but the damage to these children is NOT in learning that some places are off limits to them…. The damage is seeing the example being set by their elders: drinking in the streets, damaging property, intimidating people, shouting obscenities at women. If those kids grow up to be hoodlums, it won’t be because they didn’t get to play football in our yard.

I’ve lost several nights of sleep over this, trying to think of what to do, being afraid, being angry. I guess this is my own version of post-traumatic stress. Whenever something happens that is really upsetting to me, I replay it my mind again and again, trying to imagine a different outcome. Sometimes I fantasize that I could go up and start kicking and flipping them like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I hate feeling victimized, but I don’t know what to do. It isn’t fair that we should have to hide in our house, and be too intimidated to come and go as we please. But with vicious dogs in the back and hostile drunks in the front, behind closed doors seems like the only safe place. In many ways, the front yard problem may be more difficult to solve.

I worried for a couple of days, and then decided to write a letter to their landlords, the O’Bannions, who also live in the neighborhood. I have called them before to complain about the parties, and all that happened was that they told the renters that we had complained, and that just added fuel to the fire. But I needed to get it down in writing so they would have a record of it, and so I would feel like I was at least doing something. If they handle it the same way, it might be putting us in danger, but we may already be in danger. If something happens, I want there to be a record of our complaints against them. So every time they have a party, I am writing a letter. That’s all I can do with all my anger and fear… just hope that the pen is mightier than the sword.

 

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