Friday, August 20, 2004

in the lap of sinful luxury

I used to look at Fullerton as a really cool town. I used to toodle up there in my Kharmann Ghia to see the ska bands of the day in old warehouses that were converted into makeshift teen night clubs. I still marvel at the beauty of the Old Town. The brick buildings, the antique stores and classic video arcade. I love being able to eat spaghetti with browned butter and mizithra cheese in a refurbished train depot. I love buying unique shoes in a store filled with incense smoke and girls with green hair. I love walking into a hipster dive bar. But today I realized something. Just across the street from the beauty and heritage that I love about Fullerton is the reality that is Fullerton. Desperate souls running in the heat to catch a bus. Homeless men panhandling outside of a discount clothing store. Generic grocery stores that don't have club cards or a matching set of shopping carts and have armed security standing outside, just in case the desperation explodes. Babies with crackling coughs being tugged along through shopping malls, where the air conditioning is free and the ambience is thick with Ranchero music and the Spanish language. Fullerton is a place where restaurants have names like "Mary #2" and the menu is adhered to the window by cheap vinyl stickers in abbreviations that are nearly nonsensical. Where $2.99 can buy you a meal, $10 can buy you 5 t-shirts, and $15 can buy you car insurance. Today, I saw a store that sold pagers, cell phones, and car registration.

As I drove through, I was overcome with sadness. Pangs of guilt prickled my spine. I felt sorry for these people, who have no where else to go. Victims of bad-luck stories, young parents, incomplete educations. My heart aches for the children who grow up, never knowing the difference. Living and breathing this run-down way of live, never hoping for more, never wanting better. Destined to be surrounded by gangs and thieves. Where visiting friends and family in jail is a regular occurence and a dentist is a foreign concept.

But then somewhere, at the back of that guilt was something worse... the need to go home. To go back to my little niche neighborhood that is safe and clean and warm. Where the trees are plentiful and the landscaping managed professionally. Where the dry cleaners are bustling and the gas prices $0.30 higher. Where the houses all match and the cul de sacs end in plush forest belts. Where the pools sparkle and new cars shine. Admittedly, I do not belong here. My scrimping and saving and constant financial panic would wash away if I would only concede defeat and go somewhere else... to a place like Fullerton, where I can afford to live, and where some might say that I am doing well for myself. But this is where I came from and not where I am going. I fight even harder to stay ahead, to keep running from a place like that. I don't know if anyone's destiny can really be changed, but I am paddling furiously to stay on top of this wave and not get pulled under and ultimately shipwrecked in a place like that.

"A nice place to visit but/ I don't want to die here /I stay on my toes/ whenever I go by here" - Mighty Mighty Bosstones

"If you lived here/ you'd be home by now/ but if I lived here/ I'd be dead by now/ I'd put a little bullet/ in my head right now" - Mojo Apostles

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