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Getting lost in Houston

On July 11, I called my mother to wish her a happy birthday. As I was talking with her, I could hear a loud crackling over the phone. “Do you got static going on?” I asked.

“Yeah, I got a rip-roaring thunderstorm going on over my head.”

We talked just long enough for me to give her the news that I accepted a job offer as a Public Assistance Advocate.

“That’s great. Almost a birthday present in itself now that I don’t have to worry about you,” she said as the line crackled again. “Did you hear that?” she asked. “I think I need to get off the phone.”

“Call you tomorrow,” I said.

The job offer from MASH (Medical Advocacy Services for Healthcare} could not have come at a better time. I’ve been in Houston for over a month now and I’m just about flat broke. Thanks to food and other expenses being less than what I had anticipated, my funds have held up fairly well. But I’m not sure how I’m going to get through the next couple of weeks until my first check. I told my cat not to worry, though. Pigeons are plentiful here.

The job almost didn’t happen, and I really didn’t expect to be offered the position since I was horribly late for the interview. Although I’m getting better at finding my way around, Houston is, as some people say here, “inmenso” in its geographical size.

How big? Well, bigger than the state of Connecticut. Yeah, imagine that. Over 6,200 sq, miles compared to Connecticut’s area of 5,800 sq, miles. I’ve learned that when somebody says, “Oh, we’re just ‘cross town,” you better look at a map. They could be 40 to 60 miles from where you are. Though Houston is the fourth largest city in population, its geographical area makes it the largest city in the United States. Good luck if you get lost here. MapQuest even has a hard time figuring out where you are, much less where you want to go.

And so it was on the day of my interview with Tim Lacy that I happened to get quite lost on the 610 Loop. I headed out an hour before my 2pm appointment, figuring it wouldn’t take more than a half hour to get to the Washington Mutual building where he said his office was located. I followed the route exactly as MapQuest had given, except that when I got off the exit it gave, I could not find any of the landmarks Mr. Lacy had indicated. No cross street named Buffalo Speedway, no stadium, and no bank building. And even though the frontage road sign said I was in the 3000-3500 block, which is where I needed to be, something clearly wasn’t quite right.

I looked at the directions again. From the route it gave, I was where I was supposed to be, but it was obvious something was wrong. The only things adjacent to this block were a lone convenience store, and a run-down residential area. I looked at the time. Ten to two. Great. The one job opportunity that looked tailored made to my background in social service and education, and I felt like I was about to kiss it goodbye.

I hopped back on the 610 and started to backtrack in the direction I had come, but when I didn’t see anything that made sense as to where I was, much less where I was going, I pulled off and stopped at a Valero station. I approached the lady behind the counter. “Do you know how to get to S 3003 W Loop?” I asked. She shrugged her shoulders and said she didn’t know.

After asking a few more people, I gave up. It seems most people don’t know how to get to any other place in Houston, either, except the place they’re already in. Knowing I didn’t see anything that looked even close to what Mr. Lacy had described, I got back on the 610 and headed south. Ten minutes past two, I called Mr. Lacy and apologized for being late, and then explained I was quite lost. “Where are you?” he asked.

As if I knew.

“I just went back over the harbor channel heading south.”

“Oh, my, you’re quite a ways out. Didn’t you see Reliant stadium? We’re right across from there. You want to take the Buffalo Speedway exit and then turn left. The Washington Mutual building will be on the right. Don’t worry, though. My 2:30 is early, so I’ll start with her. Just try to be here in the next thirty minutes. I have a plane I need to catch back to Dallas.”

“On my way,” I said, thanking him for being understanding.

Twenty minutes later, Reliant Stadium came into view. And there on the left was the Washington Mutual building, I parked my car and jaunted up the stairs to the second floor. “Hi, I’m Scot Cunningham,” I said, announcing myself to the receptionist.

“Oh, you’re the gentleman who’s lost,” she said.

“Was,” I said.

“I’ll let Mr. Lacy know you’re here.”

Mr. Lacy proved to be very gracious and accepting. As I stood up and thanked him for taking the time to meet with me, I apologized once again for being so horribly late.

“Can I see the directions you got from MapQuest?” he asked.

I handed him my printout.

Chuckling, he said, “Well, here’s the problem. We’re S 3003 W Loop, but the address you put in is N 3003 W Loop.”

All I can say is I’m glad it wasn’t a Yellow Cab position I had applied for. Still, I seriously doubted I’d be offered the position considering I was such a numbskull on passing the mental test with typing in the wrong address. The position I applied for requires accuracy with processing information, and yet I botched a simple rule of always making sure to double check. No wonder why Map Quest couldn’t figure out where I needed to be.

When Mr. Lacy did call and offered me the position after reviewing the results of a personality and temperament test I’d taken the previous morning, I just about gelled into my car seat. Come Monday, I’ll begin a new adventure in a career that will be similar to the work I did as a Medicaid eligibility specialist with the state of Florida many years ago.

Moving to Houston from Maine has been like moving from the trunk of the car to the engine. It’s a city with a lot of rev. As I sat on the Woodhead Bridge over Highway 59 later that evening, watching streamers of red shoot out from underneath me, I felt grateful that after several applications and interviews, I finally had a job. Taking in the sun setting on an orange creamsical sky, I thought, I'm going to like it here just fine.

By S. L. Cunningham


Just a note

Yesterday I closed the door to my apartment for the last time. Today, I'll be on the road heading for Houston. It is good to have an adventure everynow and then. It keeps us from becoming too complacent with our daily lives.

I'll continue to post whenever I have the opportunity to do so, but it might not be until I'm settled in before I'm able to post on a regular basis.

To my fellow bloggers, I thank you for your readership and support during this past year. I promise not to make the wait too long.

Until then,

Scot Cunningham


Opening the window to chili, honky-tonk, & the promise of better days ahead

May in New England is always a welcomed change, especially when the days become noticeably longer and warmer with sultry mid-afternoons that hint of summer days to come. It is good to open the windows in the morning—the air fresh with the smell of green grass and dandelions.

After I get home from work, I change my shoes and head right back out the door. With the rain and warm temperatures we’ve had this past week, the drab browns of winter are all but gone as the trees have started to unfurl leaves of greens, yellows, and reds.

Unlike the end of fall when you begin to feel a certain sense of dread, late spring seems to bring promise of better days ahead. This past month has been a busy time at the apartment complex where I live. It seems no one so far has taken up on the landlord’s offer to sell them their own apartment, as is, for $109,000. In Building One, three people have moved out during the last couple of weeks. A few people, including myself, will be moving at the end of this month, and several more will be vacating in June and July. After conversion, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for my apartment to be bought for $150,000. At least it will have new kitchen cabinets, appliances, flooring, and bathroom fixtures.

I’ve managed to get a few boxes packed so far. I’ve also thrown quite a bit out. When I come across something I’ve forgotten about, I ask myself, “Do I need this?” If the answer is “No,” then I’ll either put it in a box with other items to be donated to the Salvation Army, or list it for sale, or put it in the trash bag and banish it from my life for good.

I’m too old to be squirreling, and so I’ve decided this is one move I’m going to make simple. I’m not taking anything with me that can be easily replaced when I get to where it is that I finally settle, which will be somewhere in Texas, either in Houston, or possibly Austin.

My son’s combination futon/bunk bed was sold for $40 this week. I could have possibly gotten more for it, but considering who I sold it to—and who he bought it for—made me feel pretty good.

I had placed an ad in Uncle Henry’s, the weekly swap it or sell it guide that’s distributed throughout Maine and New England. It may not be slick or colorful, but it sure is effective. A couple of days after my ad placed, my phone began to busy itself during the day recording messages from prospective buyers who expressed interest in the particular items I had listed.

One call in particular caught my attention. “Yes, this is David Ferrazza. I’m calling about the combination futon/bunk bed and the Canadian rocker you have for sale.”

David Ferrazza? I wasn’t sure why, but the name sounded very familiar. I called the number he had given. “Yeah, I know where that apartment complex is. I can be there in ten minutes.”

When I answered the door, I was more than certain I knew this individual from somewhere. I took him to the bedroom and showed him the futon/bunk bed. I had bought it for my son as a birthday present, but he didn’t get much use out of it before moving to Houston a year later. It’s quite a space saving design. Constructed of black, tubular steel, it has a single bed on top, coupled with a futon sofa bed on the bottom. After my son left home, our cat, Pebbles, took the bed over as his personal perch and lookout.

“I’ll take it,” David said. “My nephew’s turning 13, and I think he’ll like this for a present.” I went and got an Allen wrench from the utility drawer in the kitchen. After a good half hour of tearing it down, I helped Dave load it into the back of his truck. I then went and got the Canadian rocker that he said he’d take, along with a brand new coffee maker I bought recently but hadn’t used. After everything was loaded up, he paid me the amount I had asked for. “Say, hope you don’t mind me being familiar, but do I know you from somewhere?”

“Well, I would think so,” he said. “You were my eighth grade English teacher.”

I stood there looking at him. It had been sixteen years since I had taught at Crosby Jr. High, and trying to picture the man as the boy who had been in my class put a real hurtin’ on my memory. The name and resemblance was familiar, but the details weren’t. “I wasn’t your best student,” he said. “I was kind of a pain.”

It seems my memory is quite selective. If something is really good, or really bad, I don’t have any difficulty recalling specific details. I remember a few students who had made me feel like the navigator on the Titanic, and I can recall almost every iceberg I had hit with them.

“You pass English that year?” I asked.

“Yeah, I did,” he said, chuckling.

“Well, if you passed, you couldn’t have been that terrible of a student.”

After catching up on the years, I thanked him for helping me get rid of a few items that made my move look less formidable. “Sorry I was a pain,” he said. He got in his truck and drove away.

When I went back into my apartment, I discovered I had a very distressed cat. It seems he was rather fond of the bed I had just sold, and he spent the next couple of hours pacing from one end of the apartment to the other, yowling. Pebbles had been my son’s cat, and when he took to the bunk bed, I thought it was because he liked being perched high up from the floor with a view that extended into the living room. But it seems he was also attached to the bed because he had associated it with my son. I set up another place for him on the desk next to my computer table. At first he didn’t take to it, but now when I sit down to my computer to write, he’ll settle in just fine.

Only a few more weeks left before I begin a new adventure. I don’t like the idea of leaving Belfast, but “affordability” has become a real issue with me. The sale of the apartment complex I live in has made me think long and hard about the sense of trying to live in an area that is beginning to exceed what I can reasonably pay in terms of rent or mortgage.

It used to be that only certain towns and cities on the coast of Maine were considered “gentrified.” If you had the money, and wanted to retire nicely, you could choose Kennebunkport, Boothbay, Camden, or Bar Harbor. Common folk who worked everyday jobs could live fairly well in places like Rockland, or Belfast.

However, even these places are becoming gentrified. For those of us who work regular jobs, our incomes are not keeping up with the increased costs of housing. It’s as if we’re being forced to pay Rolls Royce prices with a Chevy Malibu paycheck. Bring up the issue of “affordability," though, and the realtors and lenders will defend themselves with feigned chagrin by saying, “You’re being provided with the opportunity of owing your own home.” Never mind the fact, though, that you may have to pay over 40 percent of your net income for mortgage, property taxes, and insurance. In light of such apparent chicanery, I have to ask, what kind of opportunity is that?

Not a very viable one I’ve decided. Like so many places on the Maine coast, if you choose to live here in Belfast without the necessary means to do so, you may as well chuck your shoe to spite your foot. If you’re a long-time resident with a modest income, your ability to remain in your home is going to become even more difficult with continued increases in property values and taxes that can only be described as exorbitant and stifling.

I sit down at the table and look out the window. The air is filled with the sound of lawnmowers. It will not be easy to leave this place I so identify with—the rolling hills that meet the sea, the rocky shoreline, and the islands that dot the Penobscot Bay—but it will always be here for many visits to come.

Moving to Texas certainly will be a change, an entirely different culture and way of life, but then again, I just might find a bowl of chili, clear skies, wide-open spaces, and the promise of better days ahead to be a pretty fair trade-off, more so than I may have even imagined. George Strait, anybody?

S. L. Cunningham
Village Soup Citizen, 05/17/2006:29


Moving on

Last Wednesday’s Planning Board meeting in regard to accepting the proposal to convert the Pines Apartments into condominiums could be likened to putting a marshmallow on a turd and then asking the tenants to accept it as dessert. No matter how the attorney presented the owners’ reasoning for providing an opportunity for home ownership, though, it still stunk.

$109,000 for an apartment in "as is" condition, which the owners describe as affordable, I suppose, has to be appreciated in a relativistic sense, since houses in the surrounding area are selling for $180,000 and up. Of course there will be some updating to the outside property, according to the owners, who also said they’re planning on building a gazebo.

Imagine that, a gazebo! What a leisurely sit that will be as you watch the high school kids get out, or bask in the glow of the stadium lights during football season. I’m sure not many places can tout an amenity such as that. Of course, trash pick up, grounds keeping and snow plowing will still be provided. Provided? More like included as part of the expense that’s to be covered by the $170 a month condo fee.

Many of the residents didn’t see this as an opportunity for home ownership. Robert Coller, who spoke before the board, said he had been a home owner at one time, but ended up having to sell because of the continual increases in property taxes that forced him out of his home.

It is mind boggling to think of how many people are being impacted by this, of how many people are going to have to move out of their apartments, of how many people are not going to be able to remain in the area because there isn’t any other available housing that’s comparable or as affordable.

Civic leadership has never been one of Belfast's better qualities. Taking the Pines off the market for available apartments in the city can only have a negative impact on housing costs, especially since the MBNA apartment complex is also going condo. There just aren’t enough apartments in Belfast to absorb the loss.

“I understand where the residents are coming from,” said Board member Elizabeth Minor. “I’m getting priced out of Belfast, too. But we can only follow the laws of the city and state.”

Other members of the board sympathized with the tenants, who had hoped to change the outcome. But as Larry Gleeson said, “We’re constrained by what we can do here.”

City Planner Wayne Marshall said that their only role was to determine whether or not the proposal to convert the Pines Apartments into condominiums was a permitted use under city and state guidelines. Since they determined it was, they didn’t have any other choice except to approve the application. Only one board member abstained, who did so because he felt the issue of affordable housing continues not to be taken seriously.

When I walked home that night, I clearly understood the individual fates that the owners had predetermined for us, that human actions do have their effects on others, and that the consequences of their actions will be felt and argued for some time. After I got back to my place, I sat down on the couch and took in the quiet ambiance of my furnishings and decorations, and realized I’ll have to get busy real soon. It’s time to sort, tear down, throw out, donate, and pack up.

I’ve looked at few places already, and ended up walking away disheartened and discouraged. I love Belfast, the state, the beauty and easy pace of life, but I've never appreciated the hardship that seems to come with it. And since the rest of the state and New England seems to be both equally expensive and economically oppressive, I find myself considering other possibilities.

After looking at a small two-room apartment in town for $550 a month with no closets, I decided economic serfdom is not a good reason for staying here. It may be a necessary condition for living here, but it certainly isn’t a sufficient one. Thus, come the first of June, my cat and I are going to take a pass on what amounts to a life of peonage and move to Houston.

Scot Cunningham


Dear Pines Residents

Last year when the apartment complex I live in was bought by a couple of real estate investors, I knew it couldn’t be good.

It seems real estate investors today only get in on something if it promises a quick return on their money. Settling into a long term investment, such as what would be normally expected of an apartment complex, is anathema to their current business model. As I said to one of my neighbors, “Only two reasons why real estate investors would buy a complex like this. Either to upgrade the place and flip it, or to convert the apartments into condos.”

After the apartments were surveyed in January, I had a strong feeling the answer would be conversion. Sure enough, that’s exactly what the investors announced in a letter mailed to residents last week. Aside from mentioning the few minor improvements they made to the complex, and promising to continue to do so, they also announced that it is their intent “to convert the Pines apartments into condominiums within the next year.”

Belfast is not known for affordable rental housing, mostly because supply is limited. Most of what’s available for apartments can be found in houses and buildings that have been converted into apartments over the years. These places, when advertised, are described as either “spacious and clean,” or “newly renovated.” “Spacious and clean,” as in putting a marble in the corner of the living room floor and watching it roll to the middle, can be affordable, but “newly renovated” seldom is.

Apartment complexes, though, are few and far between. There’s an apartment complex for low-income people across the street from the hospital, and another ‘cross river, a few complexes for the elderly, and a complex built by MBNA for its employees—which, incidentally, is also going condo—but that’s about it.

Located across the street from the high school, the Pines consist of three two-story buildings with four apartments on each floor. It’s the only complex of its kind within city limits that rents to mid-income people who either work or are retired.

Most of the elderly who live here have retirement incomes that make then ineligible for low-income housing, but for some it isn’t enough to afford living in a retirement community. It is these people who are facing an even worse predicament.

“I can’t do this,” said the elderly lady who lives across the hall from me. “But I don’t know where else to go. I love Belfast. I have a lot of friends here. Where else will I be able to find something similar to what I have now? That’s as nice and as affordable?”

Indeed, that’s the million dollar question the Planning Board will be faced with on April 12, since taking a complex like this off the market can only exacerbate Belfast’s affordable housing crisis.

I look at the letter again, its friendly tone, its promise of making sure that the impact and disruption upon our lives will not be immediate, its reassurance that we will have plenty of time to either decide on purchasing our unit at a reduced rate, or in moving.

At the prices I’ve heard they’ll be asking, I doubt very many of the residents who live here, including myself, will be able to afford buying a condo with a mortgage of $800 or more a month. When you add in a $200 a month condo fee, taxes and insurance, that $800 or more swells to about $1300 a month. That right there, prices me and most of the other residents currently living here right out of the market.

It’s been a good three years here, but since my life has never been about staying in any one place too long, perhaps it is time to think about moving on. Where, though, I don’t know. I suppose I could find a smaller place here in town. Or try finding something similar in Rockland.

As I sit on the couch looking about the room, I’m struck by how much stuff I’ve accumulated over the years. Things. Lots of things, some purposeful and sentimental, but most not fulfilling any specific need except taking up space. The wine barrel used as a lamp table that’s in the corner of the room makes a nice decoration, but I don’t need it. Boxes of books and magazines I’ve read once but likely will never read again can be donated to the school library. Bags and bags of worn out or out of style clothes kept in the closet can also be donated or simply thrown out. At least that would be a start.

From there I can tackle each room and organize my “things” into three categories: must keep, must sell, and . . . just get rid of it, all of it, everything and anything that is of no value or use at all, sentimental or otherwise.

I sit down at the table and look out the window. It’s been raining all day, but with a drop in temperature, the rain has changed to a heavy wet snow with quarter sized flakes. Perhaps April is the cruelest month of the year, a time that promises both uncertainty and new beginnings. I grab my coat and head out the door, wondering about my choices as to where I might move should the planning board give its blessing.

S. L. Cunningham,
Village Soup Citizen, 4/12/06:25


Lay da smack down

Even though winter seems to be trying to hang on with significant snowfall throughout the mid-west, here in Maine we have bare ground, sunny skies, and mild temperatures. On many of the ponds and lakes, ice is out, almost three weeks earlier than what would be expected in a normal season. More than likely, winter this year will be remembered here as the winter that wasn’t, at least here on the mid-coast of Maine. Our only significant snow was a half foot that fell during the third week of December. It didn’t last long with the rain that fell a few days later. Actually, about the only place in Maine that had winter was northern Aroostook County. Almost everywhere else, though, had very little snow, and the convenience stores, restaurants, and hotels that depend on snowmobilers and cross-country skiing enthusiasts suffered multi-million dollar losses.

This past week has afforded some of the driest weather we’ve had so far. Though still below freezing at night, the day temperatures have been in the mid-forties. The drive to work in the morning on Highway 1 is now in full light of the sun as it glistens on the water of Penobscot Bay. Most days at work I categorized as either good, or not so good. Good, in that the kids had little difficulty with being in class and managed not being asked to take a time out by the teacher. At the residential home where I work, kids first have school on site, and depending on individual circumstances, may eventually be allowed to take a regular class at the high school. Very seldom, though, do we have any kids who are able to attend high school full time.

Today I had to go to the high school to pick up a student and an ed-tech, who had been assigned to him, and drive them to Rockland for his GED preparation class. As I stood in the hallway outside the library to wait for them, I watched the students pass to their classes after the bell rang, and became amused by a simple observation. Like most of our kids back at the house, many of the kids that went by me were dressed in similar fashion. With sagged pants, shirts two sizes too big, and hats worn sideways, it seems hip-hop has become far more influential than I had even imagined.

Not that there’s anything wrong with hip-hop, at least no more so than rock and roll was to my generation. But with hip-hop there seems to be an undercurrent that goes beyond simply challenging the status quo, an undercurrent perhaps far more insidious and pervasive than the gang culture depicted in West Side Story, which almost seems tame compared to what is shown and heard on much of MTV today. Want to know what your kids are tuning into? Just watch. Or better yet, listen to a couple of tracks by G-Unit or the Black Eyed Peas. Pimps, Thugs, Bitches, and a lot of f-this and f-that in-between. Oh, yeah. I be talkin’ now.

While I stood there reflecting on this, I noticed a young lady, about 5’4, in a pink sweatshirt, as she ran down the hallway. Suddenly, as if zeroing in on a target, she leapt about ten feet forward, planting both her hands on the back shoulders of a girl in front of her and knocked her flat to the floor. “Don’t you ever talk shit about me behind my back again, you bitch.”

She then turned and walked away. The girl that was pushed down to the floor gathered up her papers and books and stood up. She looked stunned and uncertain as to what to do next. What I found more upsetting about the incident, though, is that none of the other students offered to help her. I noticed a couple of teachers that were on the other side of the hallway, oblivious to what had just happened. I walked over to them. “Did either of you see what just happened?” I asked.

“Oh, the girl that tripped,” one of the teachers responded.

“Tripped? She was shoved to the floor by that girl,” I said, pointing to the young lady who was now down the other end of the hallway.

“You actually saw that she was pushed?” the other teacher asked.

I was perturbed by his response. “It wouldn’t be too much to ask if one of you went and brought that girl to the office, would it?”

Finally, one decided to go and get the girl and the other left to inform the principal. After the girl had been brought to the office, the principal approached me and asked if I would be willing to write a signed statement, which I did, as to what I saw.

After I had signed my statement, I left with the student and ed tech I had come to pick up. As we were walking out to the van, the student asked why I had to be such a snitch. “Snitch?” I asked.

“Yeah, besides it wasn’t your business,” he said. “You’re supposed to leave it as it is.”

“I’m not sure if I follow you,” I said.

“It’s simple. Someone talks trash about you, you lay da smack down on ‘em.”

“Just like that, huh.”

“Oh yeah, got to keep it real with your homies . . . keep your respect.”

“So, you just give into your emotions, regardless of the consequences. Is that it?” I asked.

“That’s it,” he said.

I didn’t continue further with the discussion. I was still upset by what I had witnessed and found it difficult to concentrate on anything else, let alone a discussion with a kid who thinks smacking other people is a perfectly acceptable way to command respect from your “homies.” Besides, there would be plenty of other opportunities to work that topic in with the discussion group my colleague and I conduct each week with him and the other students.

Later that day as I drove back home under a robin’s-egg blue sky that signified warm spring days ahead, I found myself experiencing a sense of disassociation. I rolled my window down a couple of inches: the cool air, fresh and inviting. In my youth I never felt separate from my home, family, friends, school, or the community I lived in. Whether white collar, blue collar or otherwise, it was if the neighborhoods we lived in existed as mosaics that consolidated a comfortable sense of purpose and belonging.

Even with those of us who chose to have moments of rebelliousness, the community was able to absorb our challenge to the status quo without any lasting consequences. We put away our bell bottoms, beads, and peace buttons, cut our hair, and moved on to pursue bigger and better dreams.

For most young people today, hip-hop is where it’s at. And for most, like those of us who were caught up in the craze of rock and roll, they, too, will eventually move past it. They’ll go on to college, work or the service. Those are the kids I don’t worry about. Our communities are still strong enough to accommodate another generation’s rite of passage without necessarily sacrificing the values that have allowed people over a period of decades to thrive and succeed.

It’s the kids I work with that worry me. Too many of our young people are in trouble today. As to why, though, ends up being a question that gives itself to a lot of rough generalizations rather than any specific answers. Both parents work. Sometimes they lose jobs or can’t hold jobs. Sometimes jobs just disappear. Parents can’t agree on what kind of expectations or limits they should set for their children. The father drinks while the mother is subjected to his continual abuse. And so it goes.

Regardless of whatever the reasons may be, one thing is certain: in an environment of uncertainty, children become anxious and confused. They begin to feel pushed away, unwanted, and left to themselves. Without a clear sense of purpose and belonging, it isn’t long before they seek out and join with others who also feel left out. With its tribalistic style of dress, music, mannerisms, and code of ethics that espouses and glorifies drug dealing, pimping woman, and drive-by shootings--that says easy status can be gained by beating the crap out of somebody, or even shooting somebody--it isn’t surprising that these kids have bought into the Gangsta culture that has proliferated across America. “Hey, Homey G, welcome to da house.”

By S. L. Cunningham