I was walking home the other day and coming the other way were two teenage boys engaged in an intense conversation about "those people." One of them saw me coming towards them and was trying to get the other guy to shut up, since it'd be evident that they were talking about people like me.
"Oh shit," he says looking a little embarrassed, and I say "hey how's it goin'" like I didn't hear a thing and as they're walking away, he yells "I still hate you!"
And I am conscious of the fact that there's less melanin in my skin than his and that I contribute to the continued gentrification of the lower west side just by existing here. And the way people move around down here, bouncing from street to street, apartment to apartment, he probably hasn't been here all that long either.
And I know that urban planners cater to people my age, and it's frustrating when I see all the plans for developing this area and making it pretty and palatable for the bright young things who want a grownup playground full of places to see and be seen, while huge chunks of the east side are crumbling and the schools are failing. I guess it's nice if you don't have kids and have a job, but a lot of people have kids and a hard time finding work... what about them?
I look at the yuppie types who live here and think "I'm not like them. I don't live in a condo or a Better Homes and Gardens Victorian/urban cottage with a brand new Scion parked in front and jog down the street with my purebred dog and iPod not talking to anyone."
"I make ends meet because I split my already cheap rent with a roommate, live on beans and rice, and don't need much to keep me entertained. I live in the city because it's cheap, I have a good landlord, and this is where my life has been for the past 2 years, and I was more or less coming home to Lakewood to sleep."
But no one else knows that.
And sad as it is, for every group of people there will always be "those people" that are "messing up the neighborhood" for whatever reason. And there will always be people who perceive you as being a certain way even if you're not.
And for those of us looking for the life of the world to come, we will always be strangers and strange ones who will hopefully never quite fit in and buy into the ideologies that are constantly thrown at us, yet not be far removed.