The Tribe

Eleven o’clock on a summer morning and the place was seemingly deserted, no dogs, nothing. Where’s everybody at? Where’s the kids I thought as I slowly drove past one house after another in the upscale housing development.

I gazed upon one perfectly manicured lawn after another, each bisected by ribbons of clean concrete drives and sidewalks. There probably wasn’t a dandelion in the whole damn allotment.

The carefully designed scene, instead of evoking envy, made me feel a little sad, especially for the chubby kids huddled around their TV’s and computers breathing stale, conditioned air. Kids who’ve never heard of kick the can, or knew the pleasure of playing hide and seek outside after dark. Kids who’ve never danced in the warm summer rain or gotten into a good fist fight. To me, this atmosphere was cold, sterile, and alien.

Day after day, aside from the occasional guy who still mowed his own lawn, or his wife coming and going in her new S.U.V., I rarely saw anyone. The only noise in the neighborhood was the sound of construction around the new over-priced home we were building.

I thought about my own childhood days growing up in the housing project and realized how lucky I’d been. There, in the summer, small dandelion-cluttered yards would be full of bare foot kids playing games in the grass. On the blacktop sidewalks they’d be riding bikes, or skipping ropes while their mothers huddled together on the front porch stoops gabbing amongst themselves.

I remembered the laughter, crying, barking dogs, smells of food cooking, back yards full of clothes hanging on lines while drying in the hot sun. We were a tribe of poor, noisy, blue collar common folk, but we were alive, and we had fun.

No music blared from boom boxes, no guns, gangs, or drugs. That would all come later, after corporate greed, TV, and welfare had taken their toll on the working class and stripped us of our pride.

***

I’ve created a stereotype here to prove the point that as we’ve sought to better ourselves by improving our social position we have also lost the need for each other. We have perverted our natural herding instinct by choosing to live in close proximity to, yet totally separate from, our neighbors. We’ve broken away from the tribe and have decided to go it alone.

These modern developments are a shining example of our separation. We surround ourselves with every modern convenience we can afford, close the doors to our large, self contained homes and spend our days locked within our mini-castles.

Instead of a moat and drawbridge, we have a security system. Instead of Knights in shining armor to protect us, we have a uniformed police force waiting close by to apprehend any neighbor foolish enough to break the thin red line. Have we created a modern version of Camelot and are regressing back to the Middle Ages?

I don’t know, maybe I’m just getting old, but I sure do miss my friends and those lovely, sunny bright medicinal flowers that have become a curse, as have their neighbors, to so many.

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