Lately Phoenix has been breaking my heart.
I feel like we’re not fighting a losing battle anymore; we’re fighting a lost one. I feel like Monsanto won, gentrification won, racism and sexism and all the isms I rage against have won.
And we’re going to be a failed ghost town in a matter of years anyway.
Last night at Ric’s birthday party I sat at a big table outside with many of the people I love most in the world and we talked about it all. How the elections went, how the Grand Avenue Festival made us sad, how we don’t know how to reconcile our lives.
Two days ago was the Grand Avenue Festival and man, was it a sight. Grand Ave, you remember, is the Fuck You street that slices through downtown at an angle. It always screws up Phoenix newbies.
The festival featured artists, food, crafts, etc. A street littered with fanfare. I was working my new hiptastic coffee shop, slinging lattes and bagels all day, while my buddy Raquel wandered the festival with my new puppy. (We’ll talk about him.) She said it made her heart ache to see the white-washed charade all over our avenue. She said she kept hearing heart-breaking snippets of conversation. People saying they were so glad Phoenix is being cleaned up, how its getting safer, how there’s getting to be some “culture”.
Its the same well-meaning but ignorant rhetoric I hear all the time. Restaurants keep opening and failing on Grand Avenue and every business owner seems obsessed with “bringing people downtown”, as if there aren’t thousands of people here already, who have been here for years.
My heart is breaking because, oh man, there is already “culture” down here, its just not one of which you speak the language. You say you wanna grow Phoenix up but what you mean is “fix” it. We don’t need to be fixed.
It’s the same with the do-gooders who “just want to serve” at my downtown church. Y’all come down here with your lofty ideas of what it means to “reach out” to a group of people. You think you’re “bringing Jesus” to a place where he’s been for literally ever. You wanna be a light? Well you’re fluorescent and you’re giving us a headache.
Stop making service projects out of my friends.
Last night we laughed about it.
“I’m always like…yeah,that’s cool, awesome…hey this is random; have you heard of the book, When Helping Hurts?”
Like, how do you subtly tell someone they’re ruining everything?
Johnny’s outside from sun-up to sun-down working in the garden, fixing fences, taking care of animals, dealing with plumbing and cleaning and planting and sowing and everything, and when we get a group of garden volunteers they spend two hours dicking around on the farm and taking water breaks every half hour.
Johnny says if nothing else, he tries to make sure everyone gets fed and that he’s not an asshole.
I’m trying to adopt that mentality. We all are. All of us who’ve made our homes and lives down here on the ground are just trying to not hate the ones who are “reaching out” to us. We’re all just trying to reconcile growth with preservation. Johnny says we need leaders who know how to nurture. We wanna be part of the community that’s already here. We want racial reconciliation, we want to be heard, we wanna hear, we love your hipster cupcake shops but we need you to vote for our candidates, yo. We are making friends, falling in love, dealing with our addictions and our hopes and each other, and no one here is a service project for each other.
So Phoenix is breaking my heart, because the well-meaning do-gooders are fucking it up and because the soil is polluted, the air is polluted, the food is poison, my friends are disillusioned and everything sucks and I’ve been sick with chemical allergies or something since I came back from Summer Camp. I’m trying to regain some sense of hope. I’m trying to remember why we’re fighting, why we’re still breathing this poisoned air. And I think of that Andrea Gibson poem, where in it she says,
“anyone who has ever sat in lotus for more than a few seconds
knows it takes a hell of a lot more muscle to stay than to go.“
So I’m flexing. I’m staying. I’m a mess and I’m trying. I’m in love with the stubborn resiliency of this community and the way their incarnate love seeps into every hang-out.
But man its hard for a lotus to grow in depleted soil, ya dig?
PS this is my new puppy, Maroussi.
One of the girls at Garden Club told me about her brother’s pitbull having puppies, so I went to “look” at them. That was five weeks ago. I fell in love with this baby and now he’s mine and hangs out with me at the coffee shop every day. I live a pretty charmed life sometimes.