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- Love in the War Zone
Love in the War Zone
I sigh as I approach my apartment. I can't wait to move out of this loud-ass neighborhood. I can't wait to settle down in North County, maybe even find me a nice surfer girl. But for some reason I don't understand, fresh blood stains on my porch steps make me smile.
After growing up as an upper-middle class white suburban kid I take great pride in the fact that my current neighborhood is nicknamed the War Zone, the result of conflict between The Hells Angels and a rival gang in a prior decade. Imagine the pride and joy my parents felt when I related the information.
I remember waking up to a strange noise in my living room the first night after I moved in. I walked out of my room and saw an old drugged out tweaker lady sitting on my couch watching TV with my remote in hand.
“Ahhh! What are you doing here?” - She screamed at me as if I had just walked into HER living room.
“I live here. What are you doing here? Get out,” I said. She ran around the room killing wounded soldiers (beers with only a few warm sips left which have been left out) before she left. "Crazy bitch," I thought as I stood there shaking my head.
Now, three years later neither breaking glass, street fights, nor the occasional paranoid-schizophrenic arguing with a stop sign can phase me. That’s just what I’ve come to expect living on this busy corner watching the world pass me by one summer at a time.
The racial connotations of the term "Porch-Monkey" should never allow its use in any PC conversation, but I'm allowed to use it if I self-apply, right? Imagine if you will a porch, elevated and overlooking a moderately busy corner. Now fill this imaginary porch with 5 to 10 blue collar construction workers ranging in age from 19 to 35 posted up drinking and smoking. Imagine this group lacks education slightly less than they lack responsibility, but don't doubt for a second their happiness. Their world is a simple happy place. The rules are simple, but if they become unclear at any point just put some Gangster Rap in your CD changer and start taking notes... at least that's where I assume the baggy-clothed skater punks who chill on the corner while acting hard are taking their cues. Now pardon me while I spark this blunt... or perhaps you should be the one toking to aid your imagination. I need only open my front door.
It was about 10 AM on a Sunday morning when I opened my door to join my fellow porch-monkeys. Our concerns ranged from the amount of beer left to electing someone to walk across the street to the liquor store to buy the next case. The sun is shining. Parrots squawk in the palms surrounding my building. The beach is coming alive. Traffic is backing up in front of the building. Bad news for drivers who leave their windows down at the stop sign.
“Aaaahhhh! You’re ridin in the car with a fat bitch!” Someone yells from the porch. “Ohhhh. God she ugly!” Everyone laughs and chucks water balloons as the car drives away.
"Damn guys, I was trying to sleep in," I announce. The point is moot since I can tell some of these guys haven't slept in a few days and sound a bit nasally. That's just how things go at "Four Corners," - the self titled name for our building. Don't like? Move.
On the surface, this part of town appears a bit dirtier than other beaches. OB boasts a large, but uncharacteristically organized homeless population. Random drugged out tweakers doing random drugged out tweaker things is commonplace. This element of the neighborhood combined with the rougher tattooed nature of its inhabitants effectively scares off most Mom and Pop family types, established corporations, and any sort of snooty arrogance that might trickle down from our more wealthy neighboring communities. It is this intimidating layer of Ocean Beach that has kept the area safe from ambitious real-estate developers and aspirations for a nicer, newer infrastructure. It also keeps the rent relatively low, as does the noise pollution from departing jetliners.
As one of my friends once put it, "It's like a ghetto on the beach." I personally wouldn't go that far since I don't know any ghettos with million dollar homes... but OB has a bit of Ghetto culture.
I like to describe Ocean Beach in contrast to the neighboring beaches. Ask anyone in OB what they think of our northern neighbor PB (Pacific Beach) and without hesitation they will say, "PB sucks. Nothing but Deuche-bags up there." Ask someone from PB what they think of OB and you might here, "OB is dirty. Nothing but stoners, hippies and surfers," or "I've never been to OB. I'm not exactly sure where that is."
I also like bringing out-of-towners to my neighborhood. They ask - "Is there like... a law that says you have to have a tattoo to live here?"
If you are the sailing type, stick to Point Loma. If you are the surfing type, cruise to OB. OB pride comes hand in hand with disdain for our neighbors. When an OB restaurant opens with a pricey menu that clearly caters to the Point Loma crowd we boycott and say, "Somebody break their windows! My rent just went up!"
When I feel alone, different or alienated from society in any way I need only to take a short walk before I pass 10 people who are way weirder and crazier than me. The thought brings me comfort. Unfortunately 9 out of the 10 people I pass interrupt my existential moment by asking for change.
My name is Brad Seraphin and I have lived at "Four Corners" longer than any other tenant. Sometimes I think of the Meth dealers who occupied my apartment prior to my arrival. I think about the Biker gang that lived here before the Meth-heads showed up. I think about my coke dealer neighbor who got locked up. I wonder what kind of legacy I will pass on to the next occupants. All this time I've been trying to make the hood better, safer and more respectable. I've tried to recruit tenants who have employment, values and a concern for the common good. I wanted to bring something good and solid and stable to this chaotic corner, but in the end it just feels like I ruined Anarchy Land. In OB there is a fine line between beauty and the depravity of man. Maybe that's why I smile when I see fresh blood stains on the street.