Nice Knowing You, Inglewood Neighbors

If the stages of grief can apply to the impending loss of good neighbors -- a kind of death, for sure -- then I have to confess that I'm in the throes of stage two: anger.

I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago, how this young couple put their house up for sale without telling us because of strained relations with their own neighbors who were occasionally involved in activity I'll just call shady. At one point that activity erupted into gunfire -- not directed at the couple, but that was it for them. They couldn't conceive of raising their infant son in such an atmosphere, and so they put their house on the market. Never mind that they bought less than three years ago and that the prices around this part of Inglewood haven't exactly rebounded since the crash of '08. Probably never will. But no matter, they're leaving. Some things you can't put a price on.

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When I got the news by accident -- driving home one night, I spotted the sign on their lawn -- I launched into the first stage of grief, denial. Moving? Them? It didn't feel possible. It was ridiculous. These two have only been around a short time but have made themselves mainstays, primarily because they were so excited to be here. They made it a point to know everyone on their block, they immediately set about making improvements to their modest house; they even rescue dogs. On warm days, they kept their front door open so you could literally see into their house clear through to the backyard, an almost reflexive gesture of openness and transparency that said it all. The four of us even made it out to dinner once and had a great time, something I've never done with my other neighbors who I've known a lot longer (annual Christmas block club dinners don't really count). These two were looking to stay, put down roots, and told us so.

But now that reality is settling in, I'm getting sullen. I'm starting to take the move personally. It's not just a neighborhood in crisis they're leaving behind, it's me. I feel betrayed; we all had a deal, and they reneged. When I walk by the house now and see the preparations for a move, I keep walking where I used to stop and see if anyone was home. What's the point of talking now? People make promises to keep in touch, but those promises already feel empty. Frankly, I don't want to hear them. I know it's small-spirited, but when I practice saying in my mind, "Good luck in your new place," I fail. I don't want to say it. I don't want to put on a good face, assume somebody equally simpatico will take their place. That could certainly happen, but the pain I'm left with is the fact that our neighborhood is nice, but not nice enough to fight for. In the end -- and the end can come more quickly than any of us want to think about -- it simply isn't worth it. Hurts to think about it.

Stage three of grief is bargaining. I think I've already been through that, tried to encourage my new friends to stay put and not be too impulsive, but they're resolute. It's a good future they want, and they've agreed -- reluctantly -- that they won't find it here. I and my husband and our good wishes and our own penchant for rescuing dogs can't convince them otherwise. I'm angry alright, mostly because I am not reason enough for them to stay. At the bottom of my ego-izing the situation is a nagging question: If they can't see a future here, what do I see? Sometimes it hurts to think about that, too.

About the Author

Journalist and op-ed columnist Erin Aubry Kaplan's first-person accounts of politics and identity in L.A., with an eye toward the city's African American community, appear weekly on KCET's SoCal Focus blog.
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