My stay at the corner of Chelsea and Hyde Park in Memphis was bracketed by gang violence. The day before I arrived a guy had been gunned down just up the block from the auto shop where me and Bandit were staying. His T-shirt was one of two planted in a makeshift memorial, in an untended lot just across the street from where Bandit and I were holed up (see header pic). A daily reminder of the senseless randomness of street thuggery in the US today, a good deal of which is fueled by the ongoing refusal of some states to come to terms with legalizing marijuana. As was the case with alcohol prohibition, this inevitably leads to black market activity and violence is the only ‘legal’ recourse for solving “market” disputes. There’s a “Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre” happening almost every day somewhere in the poorer parts of the American landscape, but since the dead are mostly poor Blacks and not upscale Italian mobsters, it doesn’t make the ‘news’. I knew moving in here that the area was a sketchy, but this was underscored in a seriously dramatic fashion Sunday evening.
Why We Left
There was an honest to goodness running gun battle that took place right at this spot early Sunday evening.
Bandit and I hunkered in for the night and when daylight appeared Monday morning, I decided not to continue to remain in an area that appears, for all intents and purposes, to be one of the primary gang “drug dealerships” in Memphis.
To be fair, I had never before felt personally threatened by the gang activity. I was living in their neighborhood and they treated me with kindness, dignity and respect. There was no hint of racial animosity whatsoever. This in no way abated the fact that the internecine gang skirmishes were a fact of life or that the general deprivations of the area played heavily on my ability to retain my exuberant upbeat attitude. None of the businesses seen in the pics below are open and even the church shown in this slideshow was ‘out of business”. You know things are bad when both the pool hall and the church give up on the area!
Though the deprivations in our living arrangements were harsh. I was thankful to have a place for me and Bandit to bivouac while attending to the issues of the van that my friend Drew Pittman had so graciously gifted me. I consider Drew one of my secular guardian angels. The van he gave us is truly a life saver and game changer for me and Bandit as we continue the daily struggle to rebuild our lives back here in the US.
Bandit and I have moved to a safe location outside Memphis and are in a holding pattern awaiting paperwork on the van which has been promised to be forthcoming. I will be meeting with Drew over the fourth of July weekend to finalize all that before heading on to Pike’s Peak as has been my intention since arriving back in the US last November. In the meantime we are both doing fine and expect to have a wonderful Fourth of July weekend just like the rest of America. Memphis wasn’t all bad by any means and I do not wish to leave that impression. We loved the parks and the general vibrancy of the city. Memphis is definitely moving in the right direction and there is a lot of opportunity awaiting those with the gumption to grab it.
The circumstances of my poverty greatly exacerbated the situation and though I actually started working within a week of my arrival, getting both the van in shape and trying to acquire the basic items necessary for life made it difficult to accumulate any real wealth. It’ll be touch and go for sure until we’re actually in Colorado and settled in but that challenge is more appealing to me at this point than gambling with my safety in Memphis.