Monday, March 27, 2006

What's With All the White People?

I looked out my window this Sunday morning and saw more white people in my neighborhood than I have ever seen in the entire three years I've lived here. They were all volunteers for Philadelphia Green, and they were planting trees along the Kingsessing and on the grounds of the recreation center.

Not that I mind the trees, but since March 2003 I have essentially been the white guy on the block (I'm also the youngest: I think Kelvin from the IRS is a couple years older. Maybe.)

Last summer my neighbor Carolyn, who's been here thirty years remarked, to me from the front porch we share, "When I was a girl, I couldn't even come in this neighborhood. That pool?" she added, pointing across the avenue to the rec center. "That was for white people. We lived southeast of here."

The third time I used that pool was the last: I was harrassed by ghetto kids.

"Yeah, back in the day this block was something. You know that rosebush in my backyard? Back in the day, each of these houses had a rosebush in the front yard and one in the back." She was right: on my southwest corner, the thorny remains of a bush were barely hanging on underneath the raspberries and trumpet vine. George, my neighbor to the west, has remains in his backyard too.

"So you know, when they made the highway, Whitey he decide to get out, because when the Black move in, Whitey get scared and leave." "Whitey. The Black. She said it as if referring to monoliths. "I always said, Whitey gonna come back at some point, I've been here thirty years and said Whitey was coming back to get his land back sometime." From the direct way she addressed me, I honestly didn't know if I counted as Whitey or not. I paid $35,000 for my house. A house smaller than mine, in worse shape, with a tree about to crash on the roof, but on the eastern side of 49th street is asking $130,000. Am I Whitey? I bought my house to live in, not to flip in a get-rich-quick scheme. (But oh, if things get difficult the temptation is there...)

So I looked out my window on Sunday, scratched my head and said "What the fuck are all these white people doing here?"


Buck Owens died this weekend, and in Philadelphia at least, country music didn't notice. I listen to 92.5 WXTU every day, and while I'm not awake or near the radio for 24 hours at a time, I didn't hear a single mention of Owens, who scored 19 #1 hits and racked up 14 other top 10 albums during my drive into or home from work, and I work 9-5. Nothing. How much would you bet that when Jimmy Page dies, you'll hear Led Zeppelin on every station from light rock to the heaviest of metal stations? When Joey Ramone kicked it, his music was everywhere. I would be willing to wager The Ramones were even on some oldies stations!

You may think you don't know Buck Owens, but if you've heard Ringo Starr sing "Act Naturally", you've heard a Buck Owens song. If you've wondered when or why country music acquired it's rock-n-roll edge, you need to listen to Buck Owens, one of the first performers to embrace the drums. Yet if you were a contemporary country music fan, you wouldn't know one of contemporary country's original innovators had passed on.

That's shameful.

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I'll be leading a Buck Owens tribute at the Tritone in April.


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