Wednesday, August 12, 2009

East City Heights

It is cool and overcast in City Heights this morning. Growing up in Oregon I never fully appreciated the wonder of an overcast morning. The cool misty fog spreads a layer of calm over the otherwise baking and busy street that we live on.

As I get up and prepare our ritual oatmeal and coffee this morning, the language I hear spoken outside my windows is Spanish. About every 30 minutes a car drives by blasting some form of Mexican music. Michael and I love this.

If you turn down the block however, you realize this is not merely another Latino neighborhood in San Diego, but something much more strange and interesting. Just around the corner a Vietnamese husband and wife sell an odd assortment of vacuum cleaners, DVD players, and other garage sale items (incidentally this is where I purchased my vacuum and DVD player 2 weeks ago for $20 each, the former of which works great and the later... not so much). Walk another block down and you come upon Buddhist monks in their bright orange robes preparing to serve the daily bread line at their brightly painted temple. Across the street from the temple Somali women draped in richly textured cloths from head to toe carry their groceries on their heads. Or maybe they are coming from the hair salon around the corner which advertises private rooms for Muslim women.

If I were to walk down my street in the other direction I would be greeted by friendly African-American women sitting in plastic chairs in front of their appartments. A young white couple walking down the street would look rather out of place on these blocks. How strange we must have seemed two nights ago playing croquet in our front yard with five of our friends. And yet "strange" takes on a different meaning on Altadena Ave. Everyone seems to take it in stride.

Houses in my neighborhood vary in size and maitenence, though most tend on the smaller side. Some are falling apart with dirt lawns, others have gardens more meticulously maintained than I've seen in the ritziest suburbs (albiet with more practical and productive vegitation). The cars are similarly diverse, from the souped up racers to the ancient camper vans blaring tinny music and plastered with ice-cream labels.

Just three blocks from our house is a large park where Thai women get their morning exercise under the protective shade of an umbrella or large hat, Mexican women burn off calories in swishy pants and long sleeved shirts. I'm probably the only person "working on my tan" in the whole neighborhood.

In this same park we gathered a week ago with our Asain, Latin, and African neighbors for our local National Night Out event. We ate hot-dogs, painted tiles, listened to brief speaches from localrepresentatives and politicians, watched the Asian youth preform impressive breakdancing stunts on the grass, and finally marched around the park chanting "No more violence!" We paused on the edge of this park at the small memorial cross of a young Mexican youth who was gunned down here two years ago. The fervor of our chanting increases as we brandish our candles in his memory and chant "No more violence! No more violence!"

Michael and I LOVE this.


Blogger B├ęthany said...

No kidding :) America is so much more interesting as a place where people from everywhere congregate, than it would be as some sort of white country with small enclaves of exceptions (which is what many try to define it as).

11:14 AM  
Blogger Allison said...

pamela - i can't believe you're blogging again!
i'm so excited for you and the direction your life is taking. it sounds like you guys are really being able to serve. i'm so glad you're loving life :)

8:51 AM  
Blogger Kent said...

Plammy, I love it when you post. The neighborhood sounds fascinating. Thanks for the wonderful description.

O.K., one little bit of parental advice: when you hear shots, hit the floor not the door.

8:58 AM  

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