Volume 52: Summer Predictions

“The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as the spring itself.”
 -Ernest Hemmingway

Note: My mind is all over the place today. It was only two months ago when newscasters were still reporting on major snowstorms brewing for the weekend. Residents of my hometown grew frustrated with mounds of snow well over two feet high. Philadelphia experienced its worst snow clean-up efforts ever from the city-streets where most minorities reside resembled an ice-skating ring from inadequate plowing, while the suburban streets and Center City blocks that attract tourists were neat and drivable. The streets of ice resulting from a lazy, biased clean up effort resulted in many slip-and-falls from residents- many who were
poor and without adequate health insurance to cover their injuries. Tickets were given out left-and-right from the Philadelphia Parking Authority-due to cars parked in odd locations and at odd angles due to scarce space. Fights broke out between residents over parking spaces that were shoveled, and then saved with personal items, ranging from folding chairs and parking cones…to old lamps shades and even a baby stroller. Not a day went by where you didn’t hear a resident complain about the winter, anxiously awaiting spring. Anne Brads once said, “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant. If we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
Last week, the signs of spring were evident. There were several days with temperatures in the high 60’s and 70’s. A Philadelphia favorite-Rita’s Water Ice-had reopened for business. Hundreds stood in lines a block long, awaiting the annual Free Water Ice on opening day. Due to my 65-hour a week work-schedule, I rarely got a chance to appreciate the good weather, but on Sunday I took a drive in the warm sun and thought about the beautiful days that spring 2010 will have in store. But in a city like Philadelphia, the good weather can bring out the worst on some people. Random acts of idiocy associated with winter will temporarily go away-seemingly in a state of hibernation-while other problems and issues will awaken this spring to wreak havoc on America’s 5th largest city. Here’s what to expect for the summer of 2010:

1) Ahhh…The Philadelphia Fashion! I never knew that a city so large could be so small-minded fashion wise. At one time, Philly was a fashion-forward and the residents dressed how they wanted to dress, not because some magazine in Paris or some rapper/singer said so. Long gone are the days where people here dressed to make a statement and expressed their individuality. The only statements observed now are that the vast majority would rather play it safe and look just like the next man…from head to toe. 

White tees, oversized baseball caps, blue jeans and sneakers…typical Philadelphia resident. Some wear solid or multi-colored polo shirts and some wear Dickies, but everyone is a sad mirror image of the next goon. The next thing that is evident? BEARDS! Lots and lots of big ass beards!!! It’s like waking up in Iraq! (sigh) Many women don’t wear their real hair here. Weaves everywhere! Bodies heavily inked with various tattoos-from ghetto names and nicknames to various sayings and quotes that the owner oftentimes can’t even live up to. I know what you’re thinking, Ladies. You’re thinking there’s nothing wrong with a little weave every now and then. But no man wants to see women with fake hair every day. Weaves were designed to convince the public that your hair was longer than it actually was, and as a man…I like to be convinced every now and then. Long silky Asian hair does not grow from the scalp of African American women. C’mon Philly! I actually happen to like the way the sistas from here dress (although I hate grown ass women in Timberland boots) but I’ve had my fill of fake hair on 9 out of 10 women. When you see a sista in Philly with a natural do or some well-kept locks… it’s like Christmas. We’ve seen some dreadful trends here- we’ll see what surfaces in the months to come.
2) The Combination of Good Weather and Black People- It’s a well-known fact that crime in Philadelphia-specifically homicide-increases with the warmer weather. It is also a well-known fact that more teens here find themselves involved in trouble during warmer months likely due to their inability to find constructive things to do. Is it a lack of resources? Many of their parents, unwilling to accept their part in their children’s likelihood for eventual incarceration, will tell you that there aren’t enough resources for their little bastards to thrive. But when given information to the nearest Boy Scout Troop, Summer Camp, Karate School, Church Camp or Summer School Continuing Education program…they simply respond with mocking laughter or complain about the cost…moments before grabbing their $1,300 Gucci bag and strut off muttering in their $400 Louis Vuitton shoes towards their tricked out cars.
As if teens here weren’t bad enough; now you hafta be prepared for FLASH MOB incidents in Philadelphia. Now many of my out-of-state friends are probably asking, what the hell is a flash mob? Well, I’m glad you asked. A flash mob is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual or pointless act for a brief time; they then quickly disperse. The term is generally applied only to gatherings organized via telecommunications, social media or emails. Leave it up to Philadelphia to turn a harmless flash mob prank, into a frenzied crazy event-one as recently as a few weeks ago-in which teens assembled somewhere because of a circulating twitter message, and destroyed property, beat innocent people up, and displayed various forms of Niggatry for the salivating media to write about.
I’m starting to notice the trends of kids jumping adults. Some view it as a new thing that kids are doing, but youth actually have been doing things like this for a long time. I remember hearing about games that suburban kids would play, where they beat up bums in the park. What’s fun about that? Damned if I know. To many, it’s considered a new development because you have black teens jumping random innocent adults. It could be an old man, a woman, the Pizza Delivery Man, or the Corporate douche-bag catching a cab from a 3:00 meeting. There have been a few fatal incidents where older assailants have had been beaten, suffered heart attacks and died. I’m not a fan of guns, but I’m strongly considering the options of walking the streets locked and loaded. These little bastards are armed and dangerous. Perhaps it’s time we are too.

3) Excessive Loitering- what is it that magically draws black men to stand outside of stores? It can be 12 degrees in February or 90 degrees in July. There will never be a shortage of unemployed fools to stand outside of a random store and do nothing. It’s the weirdest shit in the world, but that’s what one can look forward to with the increasing temperature. I realized that the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia was starting to change some years ago. We started to get new businesses coming in that only the fucked up parts of Philadelphia get. We got a Crown Fried Chicken, a Metro PCS, a Sneaker Villa and a multitude of Chinese Stores! People started shooting dice at the basketball courts out in the open, and of course we had the inevitable homicides. The influxes of businesses that cater to the ignorant (Cell-phone Stores, Sneaker Stores, Pizza Shops, etc.) provide a utopia for the loitering Negro. I’ve never seen a crowd of black people stand outside a Library or stand outside of a Karate Dojo, a Starbucks or Pet Store. When was the last time you saw a group of ignorant bastards stand outside of Staples or Kinko’s?

I took a ride down to the Philadelphia Museum of Art with my camera to relax and take in some of the city’s sights while clearing my mind. I took notice to the legion of tourists who were fascinated with the Rocky Statue and I watched morons run up and down the art museum’s steps and raise their hands in victory at the top, like Stallone did in the movie, Rocky. I smiled at the vendors selling Rocky Water Ice and T-shirts and forgot about Philadelphia’s crimes. I watched people of all ethnicities in the same space; their races, religious beliefs and economic statuses weren’t a factor. This is the Philadelphia that I love. I’ve said for a long time that I have a serious Love/Hate relationship with Philly; I love the cityhate the people. But today felt different. Instead of continuing on a rant of things that I do not look forward to seeing this summer, I took a few moments to remember why I’m here and why Philadelphia can one day be one of the best cities in the nation to live in (actually it was ranked #10 in The Ten Greatest Cities for African Americans to Live In a few years ago).

My city is more than a bunch of Professional Sports teams and random violence. Philly is more than Allen Iverson, Bernard Hopkins and a fictional Rocky character. We’re more than the Liberty Bell and cheese steaks. We are a hard-nose city with stories and experiences that can prepare anyone for anything. They say if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere…but if one can take all of what Philadelphia has to offer you are guaranteed to make it. Our struggles make our tales of success legendary. We are Philadelphia. Buckle your seatbelts…it’s gonna be a long summer…

…These Are The Random Thoughts Of Ronald Gray…