Today, a friend commented on my living in the "projects" - of course, a white girl would NEVER live in the projects, would she? Well, not a white girl from Oregon, I suppose. Unless, of course, you're me. ;-) No, of course I didn't live in the typical projects you all are probably thinking of, "Cabrini-Green", "Robert Taylor Homes", "South Central L.A.", hoodville's. And, to be honest, there was really only, technically, one true "projects" that I knew of in Portland, but to me it's not just about the building - it's about the atmosphere, the people, the community (good and bad) of the area that makes it "The Projects".
Ask anyone who knew me from "back in the day" and they'll tell you that where I lived in North Portland was not exactly the nicest part of town. We lived on the edge of the Rolling 60's (Crips, and now not sure what territory they have...) - they tagged about 2 blocks away from us on a regular basis - right by where I caught the bus in the morning to go to work. Also, the Unthank Park Hustlers (Bloods) had territory that was close to the edge that the Crips would claim - I think that this was more of a battle line than anything. The UPH claimed territory from NE Tillamook up to NE Shaver, and I-5 over to MLK Jr. Blvd. Technically, we should have been in their territory, but the 60's territory started around Shaver, I think - thus, the reason we probably saw both sets of action and had so many problems (there was also the Irving City Park, not far away, that also boasted a large amount of UPH). The one good thing is that I don't think my friends ever really knew we were that close to "gang activity", unless I pointed it out. When they heard gunshots I'd write it off as not a big issue, just someone doing "something stupid". AO moved into the area, and as far as I know she never had any major issues. The story of how I got into that area, though, is worthy of a whole other entry.
A little back-story on me, that I haven't already mentioned. I became fascinated with "The Ghetto" as a child. Poverty, despair, degradation, gangs, territory, community and lack thereof, drugs, etc. - all of it. I breathed it in and it felt like a crisp winter morning inside my mind. Why? I'm not sure, but I'll also freely admit that Genocide in history and, separately, WWII Nazism on the Sociological aspect of how it affected the people of Germany fascinates me to no end. Growing up, I loved watching Good Times (and The Jefferson's, even though they moved out of "The Ghetto"), and now as an adult own the series (or at least most of both). When I met CW and took a trip to Chicago in 1991 I was thrilled at her stories of Chicago Gangland Lore, and the fact that I could see the Cabrini-Green buildings from the top of the John Hancock building. Amazing. I lived in a couple of scary areas in L.A. and loved it, so it only made sense, somehow, that in 1991 I'd end up in North Portland and stay there until I moved in 1994. To me, that was home. I also fail to mention, TL and I would drive around in her red truck, in known Blood territory, at night, looking for boarded up crack houses (she was, at the time, studying drugs and drug abuse in college and found this stuff just as fascinating as I did) - oh, and she insisted we leave the dome light on so that "everyone will see we're white girls and not gang bangers! I don't want them shooting up my pretty truck!"
As for living there, I loved it. I should write an entry about some of my experiences there, as they're highly amusing, to say the least. I managed to talk a bunch of people into moving into that little pocket with me (we abutted I-5 on a corner - this area, by the way, is now very upscale, trendy, nice...so different from the solitude I used to feel in this neighborhood).
To continue on with the ghetto theme of my neighborhood, here's a picture of a church that I recall was pretty close to where we lived (this is UPH territory), and following that is the Hostess store that I used to go to that wasn't that far away:
Oh, and an exciting internet find for me - the market you see in this picture below (on the left, past the abandoned building) was literally about 2 blocks away from where I was living. This was on Mississippi and about a block off Fremont. I would go in there and buy chips and such...the black guys always looked at me a little funny, but I think they respected that I didn't have any issue with supporting their business. The place was dinky, always had a bunch of guys hanging around inside doing nothing, talking, sporting colors (red), but it was all good...the pocket we were in was insanely odd, to say the least.
So, that's just a little back-drop to things to come - but, it's a start of information, I suppose. This entry took kind of a different route than I wanted it to, but here it is!
Additionally, in Los Angeles, the second place I lived was here - the link far below should take you to the street address directly, and it's the apartment complex there next to the parking lot. If you pull out on the map and look around you'll see how close we were to South Central and to the famed "L.A. River".
Enjoy, and I should be back later with more...of course. I think I need to expand here on my time there.