Saturday, May 28, 2005

My neighborhood, the good and the bad.

I live in GradSchoolShitTownVille. Populations in small college towns such as this don't follow the same trends as those in the big cities in which I've lived. Instead you get four major groups:

1. Bratty, rich, annoying college undergrads from the closest big city suburbs.
2. Families young and old who are native to the town.
3. Graduate students from every corner of the planet.
4. Townies.

It's quite strange, living in this town. Around the campus, it feels like the average age is 19.7 and that I'm in some kind of MTV jam party video. Outside the campus, especially in my neighborhood, it feels more like an episode of Picket Fences or The Andy Griffith Show. Being a few miles from campus, my own neighborhood represents only the latter three categories. Two doors down and across the street are graduate students from Florida, China, and Michigan. Next door is a young family with two young boys who help me in the yard from time to time. Across the street is an older couple who both went to the university in the 1930's and are trying to find the right combinations of medicine for their cholesterol and arthritis. Also across the street is Vernon, an unemployed, illiterate man in his 50's who spends most of the day drinking on his porch.

The old couple across the street are my informally adopted grandparents. Having no family in town, and having no living grandparents, I spend a lot of time at their place. I visit on Wednesday mornings with the wife, G. while her husband W. is at his Lions meeting. I enjoy our visits, though I'm often badgered about my weight, my lack of husband, and that I don't get enough calcium. Usually our visits are complimented by Fox News in the background, and a sandwich in the afternoon. Sometimes we go on covert operations so that her husband doesn't know how much money she spent on her grandaughter's birthday gift. In her 80's, G. is a dedicated republican and devout catholic, but it's interesting to discover the small non-conservative facets of her political platform.

In our last visit, we were talking about a boy she had a crush on when she was at the university. "He was Lutheran, so of course Mom and Dad didn't approve. But he got a girl halfway pregnant, so it was probably best I didn't date him anyway."
"Halfway pregnant?" I asked.

"Well, she took care of it. Abortions were illegal in those days, but everyone knew the doctor on campus who took care of stuff like that. Not everyone knew, but every dorm had 'that girl' who'd had an abortion. In those days, we took care of each other. A girl was pregnant, and we'd raise the $200 to pay for the abortion. None of us had much money, but a few dollars here, and five bucks there would add up. One girl even charged 5 bucks for nookie."

"Nookie?" I asked.

"Yeah, she'd go in her room with some boy and charge him 5 bucks. We didn't ask what she did, but you know..."

"Isn't that protitution?" I asked.

"Not if it's for a good cause."

Just next door to G. and her husband is Vernon. I think of Vernon as the owner of the neighborhood skank hostel where other alcoholics come and go. Some days, he'll have drinking buddies, and they stay for a few months. Other days, he's alone with his barking dog. Currently, he's got a new guest who left a letter in my mailbox last week. Part of me wants to shrug it off as an innocent crush. If I ignore it, it will go away. That's hard to do when every two and a half minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted. I did a little searching, and in my state's Department of Correction website, this guy is listed as being on parole for a burglery charge. He was let out of prison in February.

Today, I called the police to report the letter. An officer came by and wrote my name, birthdate, address, and description of the situation on a 3x5 card. He says he'll look into the guy and talk to him if he thinks it won't escalate the situation. I figure he'll make his report and go back to eating his doughnuts. On his way out, G. noticed the police car and was out with her cane interrogating the officer about his presence. I had to go over to assure her I was alright. She called her daughter-in-law, who lives down the street, to declare, "We need to circle the wagons for FemaleCSGradStudent!"

On the one hand, I'm angry that I have to be afraid of going into my own house as the creepy guy sits on Vernon's porch and drinks. On the other, I'm impressed that I've got a neighborhood comprised of a midwestern posse.


shannon said...

I'm glad to hear you have a posse to take care of you! I received a freak letter like that too about a year ago at the shop. I called the cops and they were rather blase' about it. "If you get another one, call it in...I doubt you'll get another one." It pissed me off that the cop was so...

We are looking forward to seeing you. Not sure that the get together on that Friday night will work, but we ARE hiking! :)

FemaleCSGradStudent said...

Ah, but remember how thoughtful the Tri-Met guy was? You had a little posse, too. It's just too bad Portland's finest aren't so responsive.