Sunday, February 01, 2004

I live in Trinity Park, a Durham neighborhood that's considered "historic." OK, actually I live in the slums of Trinity Park--there are several streets in the neighborhood with grand old houses and historic mansions, but I live in the part of the neighborhood that has mostly little charming old houses and a few not-so-charming. Our house was one of many identical bungalows built in the '20s for the managers of a nearby cotton mill. Around the corner are some teensy little charmless duplexes that were built to house the rank-and-file workers at the mill. And at the ends of our block are a few apartment buildings that seem to house mostly Duke students and/or recent immigrants from lands south of here. Overall, our neighborhood is charming, with tree-lined streets, yada yada yada, and a few rough edges that make it feel authentic to me (like real people live here).

We have a Yahoo group for our neighborhood, where the homeowners can kvetch about zoning, those awful renters and absentee landlords, speeding cars and the threat of encroachment by less-than-desirable retail operations at the fringes of our neighborhood. There are a few people who rent on the list, and they are always having to defend their ilk from snide comments by people who see the renters as a source of all that is wrong with the neighborhood because they have no stake in its future and don't care if it goes down the toilet. I don't participate in the discussions much because most of the people who do seem like such self-important, uptight, shrill NIMBY types who are trying to out-do each other for the title of "Most Concerned Neighborhood Citizen." And they occasionally make snide comments about people like me who don't bother to go to the neighborhood association meetings or get all hot under the collar about "neighborhood issues."

I'm not even sure why I subscribe to the list, but it did once help me get a cute little dog adopted out--a woman had written a note to the list about how a local rescue group didn't want to adopt to her because her yard wasn't fenced, so I suggested that she call a sanctuary that I help out occasionally. She did, and she ended up adopting Nigel, a cute little stray that I had been trying to help find a home for. So the list isn't such a waste. But after living in Chicago, where one of the mottoes is "If you don't like the neighborhood, walk a block or two and it will change," I don't get bothered by the same stuff that bothers my neighbors. There are good and bad spots in Chicago, and they're often right next to each other. So you take the good with the bad, and learn not to get uptight when you hear the occasional gunshot. (We moved into a condo in Andersonville, and a few weeks later I heard five rapid gunshots nearby. I glanced out the window but just kept reading. It wasn't until I heard sirens nearby that I decided to get up and check it out, and sure enough, a guy had been shot right across the street. But it was a great neighborhood to live in, so why get uptight about a little shooting? They weren't shooting at us.)

Anywho, the latest hot neighborhood topic has been planned inspections by the city designed to find code violations and--the local homeowners seem to hope--bust some of the absentee landlords who rent out substandard eyesores to students and other neighborhood undesirables. The city is supposed to nose around folks' properties and also investigate citizen complaints. So if you don't like the noisy students next door or even the guy across the street whose property makes yours look bad, you can rat them out and the city is supposed to come check it out.

Well now someone calling themselves the "Trinity Park Neighbors For A Better Neighborhood" has sent letters to some of the uptight homeowners stating that violations have been noted on their properties and reported to the city. The e-mail list is all abuzz: Who are these people? What right do they have to do this to US, the Concerned Homeowners of Trinity Park? This is clearly a crime--using U.S. Mail to boot! These people must be disgruntled renters, absentee landlords, outsiders and/or civil libertarians! They must be stopped! One brave soul did post a reply questioning how exactly the letters are a crime and pointing out that there's a little bit of hypocrisy at work here. I expect she'll be tarred and feathered soon.

I think it's all such a hoot. Finally someone has taken a pin to some of the balloon heads around here. I hope they keep it up.

But if I report that our house has been firebombed it probably means that someone from the neighborhood association has read this blog. They probably already have a file on me anyway.

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