It's taken a while, but I've developed a pretty good relationship with all the bad things in my neighborhood. Not that I've turned aluminum into gold, or that I've learned to see my daily landscape through rose-colored glasses. Nor is it that I've convinced myself in that fake, fair-and-balanced kind of way that Inglewood has roughly the same ratio of good points to downsides as communities like Santa Monica and Culver City, and is therefore roughly the same as those places (nice idea, but untrue).
No, what's happened is that I've stopped marking the hard line between what Inglewood is and what it lacks, what it has and what it doesn't have that I hold against it. In short, I've come to accept what it is and where it's at.
This doesn't mean I love everything. Far from it. But it does mean that I've stopped letting resentment about the city's less loveable aspects cloud the genuine affection I have for it overall. I'm willing to give that affection some air now, at least as much air as I've given my grievances over the years. Put another way, I don't withhold that affection pending the permanent removal of graffiti, the addition of decent stores, the building of viable industry, the advent of education reform, those sorts of things.
Maybe I've shifted because in these politically venal times, I'm tending more toward compassion than criticism. Inglewood, like me, is part of the 99 percent -- down on its luck despite having made enough effort to deserve a better condition it which it now finds itself. Of course it's done some pretty boneheaded things too, like repeatedly undervaluing itself and failing to take advantage of its own human capital. It's acted too slowly and cautiously and not often enough. But the point is that now it needs my help. I give it by being more forgiving.
Here's what happened in my neighborhood yesterday. On my morning rounds with the three dogs, I stopped and chatted with neighbors I like a lot, a youngish husband and wife who managed to enroll their kids in neighboring El Segundo school district this year because Inglewood's just isn't up to snuff (and, thanks to the shrinking tax base and some administrative missteps over time, our district is now perched on the brink of insolvency).
I walk down a block with trees whose leaves have turned late-autumn yellow, except one tree in the middle whose leaves shimmer a bright, almost fiery red. It's a startling and beautiful sight. A few blocks on, amid more lovely trees, I catch sight of graffiti on the brick fence of an alley; more is scribbled on a utility box across the street near the corner. I go up a hill into Century Heights and chat with another neighbor whose long, shaded front porch has one of the best west-facing views I've ever seen in L.A.
I stop at a new restaurant on Crenshaw that's only been open for weeks, a gumbo spot that's not greasy but cool and airy inside, downright chic. It's closed, and it shouldn't be. I don't know what that means but figure I'll come back later. I'll support.
Overall it was a good day.
Journalist and op-ed columnist Erin Aubry Kaplan's first-person accounts of politics and identity in Los Angeles, with an eye towards the city's African American community, appear every Thursday on KCET's SoCal Focus blog. Read all her posts here.
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