Unfortunately, there’s a strong perception that small town people are clueless about “big city” life. While it’s true that the rural “deep South” is where many African Americans have faced (and continue to face) some of the worst discrimination, that does not mean small-town people are unprepared for transplanting to a black, inner city neighborhood. I grew up in an affluent suburb of Pittsburgh and my husband comes from a small town of about 4,000 residents. He was definitely more prepared for living in Hough than me. Why? Here are the top seven reasons why Hough is like a small town.
1. Offensive graffiti on playground equipment. Basically, I have to accept that by the time my children can read, they will know that Johnny wants to f&^$ Sally, whether here in Cleveland or out in Geaugabula.
2. Random rusting “decorations” in the yard. Old tractors. Used cars. Lawn chairs. It’s Tin Man’s hell.
3. People actually walk. This is both because there are actual sidewalks, but also because there are more folks who have no other option.
4. Housing diversity. In a small town, it’s not uncommon to see a manicured century home next to new construction with a pool next to a trailer. In Hough, I look down the street to see a ten year old house with bar and hot tub next to an empty lot across from an antique apartment building. Suburban zoning typically favors rows of identically sized houses, all single family.
5. Teenagers with nothing to do. Whether it’s a meth lab in a basement or some bored kids spray painting their made up “gang” symbols… it’s a hard knock life for me.
6. Shopping? What shopping? I fantasized about urban neighborhoods where you could walk to school, church, and the grocery store. Instead I drive 20-30 minutes to buy a baby shower present. My small-town husband, on the other hand, was used to planning ahead for the Big Shopping Trip once a month.
7. Fireworks and firearms. In small towns or inner cities, you can assume a lot of people are packing. I now hate the Fourth of July, plus the months before and after when there are periodic explosions every night from dusk to midnight. One year we tried to escape to a party at my husband’s friend’s place out in the quiet, dark woods, where their favorite pastimes are bottle rockets and BB guns. Different scenery, same number of headaches.
This is part of a series on being a white person living in Cleveland’s African American Hough neighborhood. Read the first part here. Next up? A short history of Hough.