Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bus Stop Wake & Bake.

Every morning at the bus stop there is a man, and sometimes 2 or 3 men either together or not, smoking a thin cigar that is at least partly filled with marijuana. At first I thought it was just some very strong tobacco that reminded me of marijuana, but after days of smelling it, I'm sure it's pot. These guys look dressed for work, one of them, the one I see most frequently, wears a dress shirt and tie. I catch the bus at about 8:30 a.m. I'm very curious about this.

Once again I find myself in a neighborhood where I am treated with indifference or contempt. I have vowed to continue to say "good morning" to the people I pass on the street or see at the bus stop, whether or not -- and almost invariably it's not -- they reciprocate, but it's disheartening. Basically I live here for the same reason they do, which is because I'm poor and have few options. (I understand that I am poor because I chose to go back to college instead of working, and that I have always been poor because I chose a vocation I don't make money at, that my poverty is to some extent intentional, etc., but it's still poverty.)

Not that, if I suddenly had some money I would move across the interstate to a white neighborhood. (One of the things I love about this part of town is that it is ethnically mixed -- black and Mexican with a smattering of white folks -- but then I have to wonder why a mixed neighborhood is so great if people can't be neighborly to people who aren't like them.) Still, I might choose a slightly less bleak mixed neighborhood. The difference between most of my neighbors and me is that my family does not live here. And ethnically speaking I am in their neighborhood. It's not that I don't understand the hostility directed at my whiteness, but I always wonder where it leaves me personally. Just because I am white, am I the colonizer? And, if so, then what is my obligation? Does my whiteness and privilege obligate me to pursue a job that will pay enough for me to afford to live in a white middle-class neighborhood?

Anyway, all that to say that, though I am curious about the morning pot smoking, I don't know how I would find out more about it. The pot-smoking men are black.

There is a young black woman I frequently pass on the way to the bus. She's walking the other way with a baby and a toddler, and she always smiles when I greet her. I find myself hoping I'll see her, craving her smile.

1 comment:

ep said...

Interesting questions. I don't know Austin at all, but I wonder if it is as much of a race issue as an outsider/culture issue? As artists, no matter how hard we try, we always seem a bit apart, never quite fit in. I feel this very much with the other parents at the kid's school. And I work at a museum! I also think that for whatever reason, folks on the "coasts" of our country have the room to be more open. I can't believe how many people say hello around here, but some of the tourists from the Midwest seem very closed and uptight. Of course that could be because they're in the "big city" for the first time and afraid of getting ripped off.