Thursday, July 27, 2006

Endangered Habitat

Another summer has almost passed here in the asphalt jungle. Much has happened since my last post. I have been mired in work, among other things. Once again, my company has transferred me to another store. I am no longer in a mall kiosk but an actual store with doors and windows. After two months, I am still adjusting. I almost miss the annoying assholes asking me where everything is, if they’re not asking me for a discount. Well, there is much to tell.

I have observed and experienced much. For starters, I have seen the dark underbelly of Rice Village, an outdoor upscale shopping area in Houston’s Inner Loop. Last month, I was awakened out of a dead sleep by a ringing phone. It was my boss asking me to explain to her if I had locked the door. That was the last question I wanted to answer at 6am. So, I trudged down to the store only to find Houston’s Finest awaiting my arrival.

No, I had not left the door unlocked. Instead, a band of marauding thieves used landscaping boulders to break into my store and stole us blind. I was a bit surprised to say the least, but then again, this is somehow expected to happen in an upscale area. Less than a month later, once again, there was another robbery, but at a boutique two doors down. A sales girl was beaten and kicked to the ground for confronting a shoplifter about a stolen shirt. Once again, I felt my habitat was threatened, and it made me wonder if this was really the best environment for me to work in.

I longed for the safety of a shopping mall, where security guards roamed endlessly. My plan is to stick it out until something better comes along, and hopefully, that will be sooner rather than later. Even my home habitat is being threatened. My grandmother recently informed me that the City of Texas City proposed a zoning ordinance in my old neighborhood. No longer would refinery workers be allowed to settle close to their jobs. Instead, the city plans to rezone the neighborhood from residential to light industrial.

Imminent domain giveth and taketh away. My parents can live in their house as long as they want, but if they decide to move, the house cannot be sold as residential. Instead, it would have to be sold as industrial. What’s really screwed up about the whole deal is that only those who are for the proposal are allowed to comment publicly. However, if my family has objections to the proposal, they have to express their views in a letter. I’m sorry, but if that was me, I’d be the most outspoken one at the meeting.

I ask this question. Where are my parents, grandmother, and dozens of my neighbors supposed to live if the city decides they want their houses for light industrial? It isn’t as if they can just pull up stakes and move elsewhere. The cost of living has gone up since my family settled there more than 30 years ago. What’s worse is fair market value is a ridiculous low-ball offer.

It’s too bad fair market value doesn’t include sentimental value. There’s a lot of that tied up in both my grandma’s house and my parents’ house. I learned to bake in my grandma’s kitchen. My parents’ house was the starting point for many of my sisters’ dates. There was the perfunctory screening process followed by curfew setting before my sisters went on their dates. I remember spending my 13th birthday swimming in my parents’ front yard after Hurricane Chantal blew threw the area.

Even the neighborhood has its own memories. I remember walks with my grandfather in search of cans and scrap to sell for cash. Somewhere around the corner is where I first kissed a girl whom I had a crush on in high school. Down the road is the church where I learned Bible stories, Up the street is the school where my sisters attended middle school. No value can be placed on the emotional investment in a home, in a neighborhood.

As much as I say I hated growing up in Texas City, there’s always good memories that outweigh the bad ones. The zoning ordinance was something that I should have seen coming, but never expected. I hope that the city does the right thing and takes into consideration that they are breaking up a large family of friends and neighbors. People who grew up together, who have shared so many memories together.

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