City Living

When Mr. Squab and I were house hunting, I was adamant that we look only in the city limits of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Mr. Squab would have been happy to check out the inner ring of suburbs, but I was determined to stay in the city. Part of this was political: I think it’s important for educated, priveleged honkys like us to commit to the city and its development. And part of it was aesthetic – I love the mixed zones of city living, with single-family houses cheek-by-jowl with apartments and coffee shops and corner grocery stores and cafes, etc., etc. I love being able to walk places instead of driving. I like the pace of the city, and exploring different neighborhoods to find the hidden treasures that only the locals know. Plus, in Mpls/St. Paul it’s not exactly a concrete jungle – there are lots of parks and green spaces. So I was determined, and because we’re not independently wealthy, we walked the tightrope of finding a house we could afford in a neighborhood we could feel safe in. We ended up in a nice old house that needed some TLC, in a neighborhood that could best be described as “up and coming.” Not ghetto, but sort of right next door to the ghetto – the kind of neighborhood that will probably be highly desireable in maybe 10 years.

This has been just fine for the most part – the neighbors we’ve met seem nice enough and there are lots of young families. But as the summer heat kicks in (this last week has been a real scorcher, unseasonably warm), it seems that the locals get a little less “neighbor” and a little more “‘hood,” if you know what I mean. A few nights ago there was a big ole party at one house down the street, which culminated in a highly vocal argument around midnight about someone’s fuckin’ cell phone. Hard to sleep through, that. And then there was the group of folks who decided they needed to jumpstart their van engine at about 1 am, which involved some shouting when the jumper cables sparked, and lots of squealing by the several 3-5 year-olds who were running around at the time.

These events are irritating, to be sure, but nothing you can’t live with every once in a while. You call the cops if the noise gets too loud and that’s pretty much that. But this morning, we were woken from our memorial day slumbers at about 5 am by what sounded suspiciously like gunshots. We both sat up in bed and looked out the window – there was a car and some teenage kids outside the house where the party/fight had been who looked kind of suspicious. They took off pretty quick and it wasn’t too long after that that the police showed up, along with an ambulance and a fire truck. Mr. Squab went out to see what he could see, and sure enough, there were 4-5 9mm cartridges lying in the road just up the street from our house. The woman at the party/fight house was sitting on the front steps, rocking back and forth and saying it would never happen again, she didn’t know those people, it was her brother’s 24th birthday and she didn’t know where they came from, she was sorry, etc., etc.

Mr. Squab didn’t get much info from the police; they got their evidence and took off. And we can’t find anything in the local papers or newscasts, so we’re still not sure exactly what happened. But it’s left me … a little freaked out. It’s so easy for me to imagine terrible outcomes that might have been. What if we’d been downstairs at the time? What if I’d been nursing the Hatchling on the sofa when it happened? What if one of the bullets had ricocheted off something and come into the house? The possibilities are – literally – too awful to consider. And as Mr. Squab said, what’s to be done? It’s not like we can just up and move to another house. Then, too, if we’re committed to living in the city don’t we also have to be prepared to handle stuff like this? Maybe it’s a once-in-10-years occurence and nothing like that will happen the rest of the time we’re living here. Maybe it’s nothing to worry about. But I’m a little shaken and jittery, and I wish this hadn’t happened so soon after we moved. Anyone have any tips on how to process this?

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