Write On Grrrl

Voice of Empowerment. Not reason.

East Versus West

On the menu last Saturday? Grilled pork chops.

Or that was the plan.

What I actually ate? A heaping Styrofoam plate of marinated skirt steak, rice, macaroni AND potato salad, passed over the fence from our neighbors, who were celebrating the birthday of their mom, visiting from Guatemala. Awww, right? And so not an isolated incident. Two weeks prior, three Coronas, from a completely different set of neighbors, traveled the same route over the fence.

Life is just kinder here on the West End.

For thirteen years, my husband André and I rented on the East Side. It's typically known as the most desirable area of the city. Clean. Safe. Quiet. Cultured. Highly educated. Professional. And very white (not advertised in polite company, but so, so true). As a result, it's also about four times more expensive to buy real estate here than in other Providence neighborhoods--as well as one of the biggest reasons of why we were renting, for thirteen years, on the East Side.

At first, the West Side, and more specifically, the Armory District, appealed to my bargain hunter instinct. We could buy a single family home here, a historic one even, built on the grounds of the Providence Greys baseball field grandstand, with a backyard, for cheaper than an East Side condo. Sorta like TJMaxx for the real estate market. But the longer we live here--and we're at two years and counting--the more we fall in love.

There's a real sense of community in this part of town. Folks are just, truly, more friendly. During all of our time on the East Side, we made exactly two connections: our friend Courtney, who we would continuously scare in the basement laundry room, and our next-door neighbor Ann. Dozens of tenants passed through our apartment building during our stay there, with an amazingly large number afraid to make eye contact, even if we were within feet of each other.

Invisible? That's not something that I play very well. I'm also not a fan of unfriendly. Or homogeneous. I want to live somewhere that challenges me. And makes me feel alive. And has people who aren't afraid to talk to each other because of the color of their skin. Or how they spend their working hours.

Granted, the West End is still urban living. Gangs are in effect, drugs are bought and sold and an unlocked door might invite someone inside to make off with your tv. But if you don't think that there's an element of this anywhere, you're pretty damn naive.

For us, the vibrancy and unexpected quirks more than make up for its perceived shortcomings. Where else are you gonna see a neighbor manning a powerful telescope on the sidewalk, educating the 'hood to the night sky. Or an Asian vendor at the farmer's market happy to share their recipe for bitter melon. Or dudes pimpin down the street, with a parrot on their shoulder.

Yup. It's good to be home.