Friday, November 10, 2006

tales from ghettoland.

Cincinnati ranks 354 out of 371 US cities, with the safest city being #1, and Detroit being #371.

Clifton, short-form for Clifton Heights, is the area around the University of Cincinnati campus. It's, well, not pretty. It's certainly not the pristine yuppie-ville that you'd expect around a campus. It's definitely not the West side of Vancouver, for example. Here, you will not find any yoga temples, no sushi joints, no lululemon and no girls with chihuahuas in their Louis Vuitton purses. The law school is not surrounded by posh, hip hangouts to remind its debt-saddled, impoverished law students that someday, yes, someday, they will make six figures. Right.

Instead, you find places like the dive bar across from the law school. They will never get shut down for their likely infinite health code violations, of course, because they have supplied law students with their requisite IVs of the horror known as Miller Light beer for god only knows how long. The girl's bathroom - the stall that works and isn't flooded - has about an inch of space between the toilet and the door. The sink occasionally just doesn't work, leading us to squirt about five gallons of hand sanitizer between our fingers to kill all the bacteria we've picked up from just existing in that place for too long. There is a huge buck head on the wall, for no fathomable reason. Walking in there makes me think of It, for some reason.

In addition, instead of e-mails about new condos overseeing the nude beach, you get much more exciting e-mails, the kind that thrill you about life (far more than nude beaches!). First week before school, I was bombarded by e-mails from the school about the various on-campus/near-campus muggings, rapes, and other such wonderful, inviting occurrences that make any international student feel welcome.

I walked to campus for the first time in August to visit the International Student Whatever Office, to declare my alien presence in these charming lands. The lady took me into her office, and patiently explained to me how to sign a cheque, what a debit card was, that a credit card was only for people who could be responsible "My daughter only uses a debit card, because she doesn't feel like she's responsible enough for a credit card yet," and that Kroger, my grocery store, was a den of gangbangers. Not in those words, of course. I tried to interrupt during the debit card lecture, but gave up. I nodded and smiled. A lot. For an hour.

Kroger, during the day, was not so bad, except for all the guys who instantly gravitated to the girl in a skirt (suffice to say, I will never wear a skirt again to Kroger. It was hot, okay?), asked me when they could pick me up, and followed me into the store until they couldn't keep up with my speedy flip-flopping into the frozen foods aisle.

Guys, in general, do not feel much safer. We had a string of male-on-male rapes, and 'sexual impositions', as our last batch of security e-mails have informed us. Driving is not much better. Driving down into Over-the-Rhine, the much more violent equivalent of Vancouver's downtown eastside, results in a) people walking out in front of you and trying to get into your car, or b) realizing you are in between two very angry gangs with big guns while in front of a red light. Hmm, ticket or guns, ticket or guns... decisions, decisions.

What can I say. It's a classy city.

Finally, walking home from school the other day, I passed by the gas station a few blocks from my apartment and heard an argument break out behind me. God, if they shoot each other, I thought, please don't let the bullet ricochet and hit me in the arm. I need to type for exams. Seriously. Then I waited at the excruciatingly slow light to cross the street. The argument got louder. "You backing up from me, man? Hey, you backing up? Why you backing up for? Huh?" I prayed again that whoever had the gun had decent aim.

Apparently, it stopped short of that. Another guy, a student with the requisite gangbanger 'look', came up to me wide-eyed. "Did you see that?" he asked, incredulously. "That guy tried to steal something off the table, and the other guy showed him his gun and started pushin' him!"

(By table, he means the vendor tables around the gas station. Random people sell random crap by the gas station every day.)

He shrugged. "Clifton, man," he said, put his headphones back on, and swaggered down the street.

Ah, Clifton. It's like every stressed out law student's dream of a positive, nurturing environment, only, you know, not.

Whereas in those swanky top-10 law schools, students try to get out without failing their classes or ranking in the bottom third, we mostly try to get through law school without getting shot. It's the joke around here, but it's not really that far-fetched a joke, despite how far removed from reality law students tend to be.

What can I say. Clifton keeps us grounded.

(On an utterly unrelated note, I have come to realize that gay/bi/etc people should not use the term 'gay' to describe everything, as I unabashedly do. This only results in repeats of conversations like this:

Me: That's (that being something law school related, most like) gay.
Lesbian friend: You're gay.
Me: Yeah, well, you're gayer.
My sister(if she were here): And you're gayest.
Me: Oh yeah? Well you're the gayest...est.

You can figure out where this goes. You see? It only results in the unforgiveable abuse of the English language.)


Anonymous said...

can i add a link to your site on my blog? i hope you're doing well in cinncinati. muah.

syl said...

yeah sure :) nice picture of you, btw! i'll add links to your blog and others whenever i get a chance to fiddling with the template... soooooo busy

Adrian said...


Thanks for the shout on my page. Holy fuck; Clifton sounds intense!

I'm in freaking happyland compared to you, and the English call my 'hood "hard". It's not scary at all though... English guys are either small and pale, or big and extremely drunk. (Actually, they're all extremely drunk) This country is one big pisstank.

My only advice is try to make some friends, preferably big ones. Best of luck!


(and yes, you do write a lot)

syl said...

clifton is just ghetto. it's not even really scary - at night it is if you're walking around alone, which i don't do, obviously, but i'm kind of blase about it. i have friends with cars, that always helps :)

i just think about saying 'hood' with an english accent and it cracks me up. ahhh england. :)