The cultural dichotomy of my neighborhood is one that leaves me with polarized feelings of appreciation and resentment. Though my apartment building is technically located in Talmadge, it has more resemblance to City Heights. For all of the San Diego transplants, I’ll explain each. City Heights is one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the United States. It is located in central San Diego, in which the residents are mainly poor and “working poor”. Talmadge is adjacent to City Heights, and is a predominantly white, middle/upper-middle class suburb. Within Talmadge, there is a noticeable divide in which south of Madison Ave. resembles City Heights, more so than Talmadge. When I cross my street to the north, I literally go from Boyz N The Hood to Leave It To Beaver.

I’ve lived in this community for 6 years. I can afford some of the cheaper housing in the area, while enjoying the view of green lawns and eclectic homes during walks with my son. As a pre-licensed marriage and family therapist, and part-time college lecturer, I consider myself close to being on the verge of success. After three decades of poverty and struggle, I look forward to owning one of those homes that I mentioned. My sentiments towards Talmadge changed a bit after an incident that took place on the night of May 4th 2008.

It happened at approximately 10:00pm. After an intense argument with my lovely wife (ex-wife), I decided to use one of the anger management skills that I teach to troubled youth. I left my apartment and started walking. I had no destination, just needed to do something physical and get fresh air. Walking north of Madison Avenue, I called a close friend on my cell phone. About 10 minutes into my walk through the peaceful, quiet, and lit streets of Talmadge, I was startled by the headlights of a vehicle pulling up behind me. My heart took a brief recess, as I spun around, barely able to get the words “what the…” out of my mouth. The vehicle behind me was a white van with the words Talmadge Neighborhood Watch on the side. I made sure to stay on the phone, so that my friend could witness whatever was about to go down. The driver was a retirement aged white male and the passenger a white lady in her 40’s. My heart clocked back in to work (but at a vigorous pace), as the passenger asked me a series of questions:

“Where are you going”, “Where do you live”, and “What is your name”, etc…

By this time, a brief moment of fear had turned into anger. The lady claimed that residents in the area reported a suspicious looking man wondering through the neighborhood. She asked me if I was with the “two Hispanic women seen sitting in their car up the street”. My answers to her question were:

“Don’t worry about where I’m going”, “I live on Winona Ave.”, “You don’t need to know my name”, and “No, I’m not with them”.

Of course my answers also contained a few expletives. I refused to answer anymore of her questions, and continued walking and talking on my phone. About 5 minutes and a two blocks later, I noticed the van trailing a half block behind me. I stopped, waited for them to approach, and asked what the problem was. She continued to ask questions, almost inviting me to cuss her out. I told her to stop harassing me, and to call the police if I did something wrong. She replied:

“I already called them, they are on their way”.

I also told her that I have a right to walk in my neighborhood without being harassed. If I was a criminal, she would’ve been my very first victim! Besides, who burglarizes homes at night wearing a white t-shirt, grey sweats, and running shoes? I guess a crack head or a tweeker would…but I digress. I demanded the information to the next neighborhood watch meeting, so I could give them the business. She fumbled her words, while trying to quickly think of the false information that she gave me. I continued walking, and as I got closer to my apartment I spotted two police cars coming my way. They pulled over and I put my phone in my pocket without hanging up. Hopefully, I’d have a witness to my potential ass whoopin’ by America’s Finest. As one of the cops interviewed me and took my information, a third cop car pulled up. All of this for a suspicious wanderer! I’m sure that someone on the other side of El Cajon Boulevard was being stabbed or robbed, while they were shaking me down. However, the cop was a nice guy, and after he realized that the call was bullshit, he told me to have a good night. When I arrived at home, I took a shot of something warm, and watched ESPN Sportscenter. I had forgotten about the initial argument with my wife…it was irrelevant.

I found out the correct information for the neighborhood watch meeting from the Mid-City Police Department. Two weeks later, I went to the meeting and told them what happened. The “neighborhood zealot” was present and on the defense. She accused me of being belligerent and aggressive. Of course I was belligerent! She scared the mess out of me and then interrogated me! The end result was an apology by their person in charge, and an invitation to be a part of the neighborhood watch. No thanks!

Since then, I’ve moved a couple of blocks away, but still on the more affordable side of Talmadge. There is an alley behind my apartment building, where some shady activities occur sometimes. I often wonder, “Where was that ‘neighborhood zealot’ when someone knocked down my patio fence running from the police?” Where were they when a suspected pimp beat the mess out of a lady right in front of my bedroom window? Or, when someone stole my grandpa’s fishing poles out of my patio? Would she have pulled up behind that pimp, driving the Talmadge-mobile and asked him where he lived? I doubt that. I also realize that if the over-zealous patrol woman was armed, it could’ve easily turned into a Travon Martin incident. Vigilantes are often more dangerous than the police.

Despite all of this, I continue to enjoy walks with my son through the “Mayfield” side of the neighborhood. In the daytime, the people of Talmadge are nice and friendly. At night however, they are vigilant and suspicious of those who look different. How could a counselor, educator, and law abiding citizen turn into the boogie man within a few hours? Regardless of the answer, I got their message loud and clear. If I need to take a night-time walk, I’m better off walking down El Cajon Blvd. where I blend in.

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Comments

Mindy Ross Sept. 6, 2012 @ 1:51 a.m.

I may not need that Ambien after all...

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Jay Allen Sanford Sept. 6, 2012 @ 6:45 a.m.

"When I cross my street to the north, I literally go from Boyz N The Hood to Leave It To Beaver." Not being very familiar with Talmadge, I enjoyed this insider overview!

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Joaquin_de_la_Mesa Sept. 14, 2012 @ 1:25 p.m.

So did I... except for the stupid modern use of "literally." Note to everybody: look up the meaning of literally before you (mis)use it again.

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a_beautiful_mess Sept. 20, 2012 @ 9:02 p.m.

thank you so much for taking the time to edit my blog post. you must do this for a living. sorry, i should've used "figuratively", instead of "literally". i wish that i could be a professional writer like you.

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maria52 Oct. 4, 2012 @ 9:33 p.m.

how patronizing can you be? short on the positive feedback, and long on the negative. nice. and a little pathetic.

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maria52 Oct. 5, 2012 @ 8:25 a.m.

really, pup? causing trouble for sticking up for this writer that you so rudely dissed...you and the rest of your band? as usual you make no sense. read the reply from author concerning joaquin's critique...if he was genuinely thanking joaquin for correcting his use of "literally" i will be dismayed. author has too much passion to listen to nitpicking shit...what?do you all just like to attack newcomers that don't subscribe to what i've extrapolated from reading previous posts, your conservative far right agendas? and your lack of empathy? if that's causing trouble, i'm proud to be a troublemaker.

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SurfPuppy619 Oct. 5, 2012 @ 9:45 a.m.

LOL...I had a feeling that would cause a maria meltdown......this is too easy.....it was sarcastic !!!!!!!

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maria52 Oct. 5, 2012 @ 2:24 p.m.

what was sarcastic? the author thanking joaquin? that is what i meant. i hope he was being sarcastic. and honnney, i am not having a meltdown. i am slightly amused and that is it. why would i have a meltdown? about what? i couldn't care less what you're political or moral leanings are.

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halimaaziz Sept. 17, 2012 @ 12:44 a.m.

The reality of racial profiling and it's potential deadly effect on my three year old sons has become a reoccurring nightmare. I wish I could sleep as well as you Mindy. Still, I pray that Jermaine's courage to write the experience of the voiceless and the murdered will be heard by the countless vigilantes whom parallel criminality with Blackness.

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maria52 Oct. 4, 2012 @ 9:32 p.m.

This was a wonderful article. Very well-written, thought-provoking and dynamic. Like the narrative. A very honest and deadly accurate account of what goes on with these ridiculous people. Glad you brought it to our attention--these disenfranchising people doing more harm than good. Good for you for sticking up for yourself and the all the rest of us as well. I hope you were being sarcastic with your reply from Joaquin. As talented and smart as you are, I'm sure you were. You may not be a professional writer, but you write professionally. And I can see through your article that you don't enjoy being patronized. You are a strong man.

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SurfPuppy619 Oct. 4, 2012 @ 10:37 p.m.

If that busy body wannabe tried that shit with me, on a public street, she would get a few hundred F-bombs lobed her way, and I have in fact done just that.

Of course it is much funner when some dorky cop pulls this shit-and they end up in a big lawsuit.,... nothing is funner than dragging a dirty cop around the courtroom by the nose until they cry uncle- and pay up.

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tomjohnston Oct. 4, 2012 @ 11 p.m.

You're a classy guy, surfpuppy, classy guy.

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SurfPuppy619 Oct. 5, 2012 @ 9:50 a.m.

Hey, whats a few F-Bombs between friends..........the fact is if you do NOTHING it encourages this kind of over the top, over zealous conduct, and it usually comes from untrained morons (like here), who desperately want to try to use some sort of "power' to control others who have done nothing wrong. That is not what this country is about, never has been. Luckily the cops, the real cops, don't do it too often. The first reaction i thought of when reading this article was Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, where a kid just walking down the street is confronted by an untrained, overzealous and ARMED wannabe rent-a-cop/neighborhood volunteer, under identical circumstances as here, and ends up dead....... for what??? B/C some idiot tried to play cowboy.......BTW TJ it is very easy to make the "classy guy" comments when you have never been subject to police, gov or "neighborhood watch" misconduct. You get falsely arrested or harassed by a dirty cop and I guarantee your tude would be different. Maybe then you would appreciate the 1st Amendment and the right to speak freely, no matter what the content.

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SurfPuppy619 Oct. 5, 2012 @ 2:26 p.m.

surfpuppy619, I was involved with the antiwar movement while I was at Berkeley, late 60's and early 70's. Very involved. I can guarantee you that I was subjected to more " police, gov or "neighborhood watch" misconduct ", including physical, than you could fathom... I don't know about that.......I can fathom quite a lot....

I cannot recall the class act quote form Dirty Harry, only the "..do you feel lucky, will do ya punk", and" Make my day".

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tomjohnston Oct. 5, 2012 @ 2:47 p.m.

Oh I can imagine that you do; You have quite the vivid, and active, imagination. The quote wasn't from Dirty Harry. It was from ADA D'Ambrosia, played by Carmen Argenziano. Sudden Impact, elevator scene, beginning of the movie somewhere around 8-10 minutes into it. I know what a busy camper you are, so I'd look up the exact time for you, but we're not at in town, so I don't have access to the DVD right now. HAHAHA.

BTW, you were what, about 7 or 8 when I started college? Unless your were actually there and participated you really can't fathom what it was actually like.

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maria52 Oct. 5, 2012 @ 2:32 p.m.

okay, now you're saying something substantive, here, pup. good on you!

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maria52 Oct. 5, 2012 @ 3:24 p.m.

must say you are quite the individual. been reading your posts...very entertaining...you have to be an independent thinker...intractable in your beliefs, not afraid to say what is on your mind, and not influenced by dogma. now that i can admire...even if i don't agree with your stances all the time.

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tomjohnston Oct. 5, 2012 @ 3:56 p.m.

what fun would it be if everyone agreed with everyone else all the time? too much happy happy, joy joy for me, I'll tell you that much. Now surfpuppy619, he's an incredibly sensitive man, who inspires joy-joy feelings in all those around him.

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SurfPuppy619 Oct. 4, 2012 @ 10:43 p.m.

You may not be a professional writer, but you write professionally. And I can see through your article that you don't enjoy being patronized. You are a strong man.

.............OK, please tell me you didn't write that on your own.

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Scapegoat Nov. 21, 2012 @ 5:14 p.m.

For those who care, this kind of thing happens to me - and many other homeless people all of the time.

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