Posts Tagged ‘Keeling Neighborhood’

Yep, a lot of white folks are scared shitless of losing majority status in this country. Listen to the fear-mongering racist jerks and they’ll have you believing it’s a coming apocalypse.

It’s not. In my neighborhood, where white people are a minority, there are plenty of problems, but they aren’t related to race.

A lot of that has to do with Tucson’s being the most integrated million-plus city in the country, and my high-density neighborhood being the most integrated neighborhood in Tucson. People just get along here. We have to.

I moved here (The Keeling Neighborhood — Official Motto: “It’s not as bad as it looks”) in 1992. At the time, it was probably 55-60% Mexican, 30-35% white, and 5% to 10% black, with a scattering of Yaquis and Tohono O’odhams. When I moved in, in terms of violence it was somewhat like, though not as bad, as what I was used to in the North Mission in San Francisco: being constantly on edge and hypervigilant. (A few weeks before I left there, around dusk walking down Mission Street by the armory, I flattened against the wall as I heard rapid footsteps approaching coming up behind me — it was a guy with eyes wide as plates being chased by an equally crazed motherfucker brandishing a machete.)

When I moved in here, there were shots every night, but they were mostly a good half-mile away, not pleasant background noise, but far enough away to ignore. After living in the North Mission, this neighborhood was a relief in comparison.

Since then, things have gotten progressively more peaceful. The DEA hasn’t busted a meth lab on the block in over 15 years (there was only one such bust); it’s been almost as long since they busted the Hell’s Angels clubhouse three blocks south of here; there hasn’t been a murder within half a mile in over seven years; there hasn’t been a shootout on the corner (a hundred feet away — duplexes owned by slumlords) in well over five years (there have been two while I’ve been here); and the last real excitement was about two or three years ago when some asshole half a block down got busted by the ATF for building pipe bombs. Anymore, it’s rare to hear shots — no more than maybe once a month.

It’s become a safe neighborhood. Poor, but a pretty decent place for kids (but for the shitty, underfunded schools).

And you know? That improvement in the neighborhood has corresponded to a decrease in the white population. Right now the neighborhood is probably 65% Mexican, 10% to 15% black, and only 20% to 25% white.

Guess what, folks — we don’t need to fear our black and brown neighbors. All of the real problems, especially the economic ones, are systemic, not due to race. Let’s worry about those real problems, not made-up ones such as white people losing majority status.




by Zeke Teflon

Twenty years ago, when I moved here from San Francisco, I  had a great neighbor–Jesus, a really nice Mexican brick layer with a grade-school education from Nogales. My bro . My friend.

When he married a trailer-trash white chick I was appalled. I really didn’t like her (and it was mutual).

She screwed him in the inevitable divorce–I showed up at court with him, and told him “This is what you have to say.” (She had a lawyer; he didn’t.) But would he listen to me? No.  She got full custody and he got a $700-a-month child-support payment.

Then, a few months after she’d headed back to her native habitat, a trailer north of the Grapevine in the Central Valley, Jesus came over to my patio one night around midnight.

He’d wiped out on his bike a couple of weeks previously, and his right arm was in a cast up to his shoulder. He  knocked on my door, and said “Hey man, I need some help.”

Fine. Whatever.

We walked into his place, and he said, “Go into my closet and reach into my coat pocket.”  I thought that was passably strange, but did it anyway.

I pulled out a baggie  with a half ounce of rock cocaine.

I’d just gone down to Nogales and had brought back a liter bottle of Cuervo (yes, I know, terrible shit, but cheap).

We alternated lines and shots the rest of the night, calling it quits only when the sun came up.

I was hungover for two days. It was the last time I ever did coke or tequila.

Six months later, Jesus’s sister called me to tell me he’d died. His heart had stopped from doing too much cocaine. At age 37.

The moral to this tale? Stay away from coke. Stay away from hard booze.

Part of the royal screwing Jesus got in the divorce was losing his house, which is the only silver lining in this sorry tale. The best neighbors I’ve ever had, the Cárdenas, moved up from Mexico and bought the place. They’re both very good neighbors and very good friends.

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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia.

Free Radicals front cover

Front cover of "The Heretic's Handbook of Quotationsby Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

People are scared shitless of my neighborhood.

In one way I understand it, in another I don’t. It’s about 70% Mexican, 15% black, 15% white. The median income is probably about half the national average. I’m the only one on the block–worked my way through it in the ’70s–with a college education. There’s graffiti on most exposed walls. Cars up on blocks in front yards. Occasional gun shots at night, mostly semi-auto.

And my pal Dewayne thinks it’s “paradise.”  So do I.

Why? The remarkable lack of racial animosity.  Dewayne grew up in Cleveland, I grew up in a bad part of Phoenix, and I lived for over a decade in one of the worst parts of  San Francisco. Racial and ethnic animosity were a given. And constant fear and hyper-vigilance–always looking over your shoulder, always ready for violence.

Here, no.  I feel safe. Dewayne feels safe. The neighbors know each other, and we watch out for each other.

There isn’t much gang violence here, and when they do go after each other the gang bangers usually avoid “civilians.” (I came home three or four years ago to find cops looking for bullets in my mesquite tree and one of the walls–there was a shootout with–according to the cop I talked to–about 70 shots fired at one of the drug duplexes on the corner; all of the shots were directed at each other, not at us “civilians.”)

The lesson here is that people are people. No racial group is better or worse than any other. We have nothing to fear from each other. As Rodney King famously asked a quarter of a century ago, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Here, in Tucson’s  Keeling Neighborhood (“It’s not as bad as it looks”),  we do. Welcome to paradise.

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As a side note, if you’ve never heard it–hearkening back to the title of this post–do yourself a favor and give a listen to James Brown’s masterpiece CD “Gravity” (with the fantastic cut, “Living in America”). Other than “Live at the Apollo,” it’s probably his best recording. (“Hell” is right in there, too.)