Living in the donut hole

(The Condos Lewis Downey)

My friend Tara and talking today about how our experience of Philadelphia is most likely quite different from many many other residents. Shawn once described Centre City as the donut hole--a small, insulated area of cute little row homes and Whole Foods stores and byob's--while out in the wider donut is the real Philadelphia with its mean streets, boarded up buildings, violence, and poor who are largely ignored and certainly not assisted or even seen except by each other. I saw some of this from looking around in Fishtown; everything is delineated on a street by street basis as good or bad with little falling in between. I was thinking about this yesterday b/c I saw this small black man crouched down near a doorstep, facing a building and it appeared like he was lighting a pipe. It seemed very unlikely to me that some guy would be smoking crack at 5:30 PM near 9th and South, but it's not impossible. So, my reaction is either me being really naive (of course there's shit like that happening all over the place; my eyes just don't pick up on it) or me being really racist (of course a black man is smoking crack); because I don't know for sure what he was doing, I only know that my reaction to it was surprise and suspicion. And it's not like violence doesn't happen in Bella Vista. Most mornings when I walk past Whole Foods on South Street, I have a fleeting thought about that female medical student who was beaten over the head with a baseball bat by a man she barely knew on a Sunday afternoon this fall after she exited the grocery store. She died. And last week, I saw a white guy take hold of a black guy on S. and 8th and punch him repeatedly in the face. This was again right after work. The black guy's lip split open and he stepped in front of a truck to stop traffic, plastering himself against the grill and yelling, I'm not moving! Everyone on the street slowed to watch. I dialed 911 and shouted at the operator until she told me to lower my voice. I hung up on her. Sometimes, we hear couples yelling at each other on the street, usually late at night and then Shawn and I turn off the lights in our apartment so we can peer through the mini blinds without being seen at all.