Bringing out the Worst and Best in People

Photo by PoPville flickr user sssdc1

Ever since last week I can’t get this one rant/revel out of my head:

“Rave: I bought a house!

Rave 2: Neighbor on the left is awesome – very welcoming and an expert on the neighborhood. Her kids go to my old high school and are very sweet.

Rant: Neighbor on the right shut the door in my face when I went to introduce myself after muttering “should have stayed in your neighborhoods, you’re messing up my f****** property taxes”.

Rant 2: Although I’ve lived here 21 years (born in Italy), went through DCPS, worked for the city gov and volunteer in the school system, I am still considered an “outsider” by most of my neighbors. I just wanted to be a homeowner and was priced out of most of the city 🙁

Rave 3: I have developed a master plan to win everyone over by inviting them to my house and cooking them delicious Southern Italian food 🙂 “

The first rant is sad and frustrating to read but Rave 3 gives me incredible hope for our city. If I ever feel frustrated in the future I’m gonna think of this amazing PoPville resident. I hope you will too.

46 Comment

  • Kill ’em with kindness.

  • I like the “kill ’em with kindness” concept, but man, people need to realize: no ethnic/cultural group “owns” any jurisdiction in the US, okay? You don’t get to exclude your fellow citizens. That’s what makes them your fellow citizens: we’re all in this together. If someone from DC wants to move to Montana, fine. If someone from Alaska wants to move to DC, that’s cool too. It has to be. You don’t get to build a fence around your city/state and tell your fellow countrymen to fuck off!

  • Not gonna get into any of that…

    But rock on OP. Seriously huge props, wish you moved in next to me.

  • I would’ve invited you in for gumbo!
    Sorry you have a crappy neighbor. Give them some time (and some great food) and I get they’ll come around.

  • It’s a sad fact of life in DC. A few years ago I read The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, by Dinaw Mengestu, a fictional account of what happened when a white woman tried to move to Logan Circle in the early 90’s. As a white woman who had recently been driven out of a gentrifying neighborhood by some angry and violent residents, the story couldn’t have been truer to me. Here’s hoping the subject of this post only has to deal with rudeness and does not become a crime/harassment target.

    • P.S. – I would get a better feel for the next door neighbors before inviting them over. If you have anything nice in your home, or it looks like you could have something valuable hidden away, he/she might be inspired to break in and steal things (or mention it to a friend/relative who would be more inclined to). They might want to do this because they’re angry at you, because they want to drive you out of the neighborhood, or simply because they want your stuff. I know I must sound like a crazy paranoid person who doesn’t trust anyone, but a few days before I was burglarized someone knocked on my door and was trying to peer inside when I opened it. Just be smart about being friendly.

      • You’re right… It is sad but you do sound like a crazy paranoid person to me.

        The rationalization of your fears can be applied to any neighborhood anywhere in the world.

        Where will you live then?

        • I’m not talking about the neighborhood; I’m talking about the social dynamics with this particular neighbor. The neighbor has already made it clear that he/she doesn’t want the person there, and that’s what makes it a delicate situation. If the neighbor were friendly in the first place I wouldn’t think it’s a potentially dangerous idea.

          • Yet on the other hand you yourself recognized your reaction as a paranoid.

          • What can I say, I’ve been burned a few times so I’m a little less trusting than I used to be. The OP sounds like a very trusting person as well, and I’d hate to hear about something horrible happening to someone that’s so kind and generous. Hence my warning.

      • austindc

        Maybe a good call. We started by baking cookies for our neighbors and bringing them to their houses (sorry, wife baked them, I did the hard work of arranging them on a plate). We’re lucky though–our neighbors on both sides are awesome people who have been in the neighborhood for a long time.

        • Yeah, I’d start with bringing over baked goods or doing little favors (sweeping his leaves for example) and see how it goes. Meanwhile, I’d focus on getting other people on the block to like you. Perhaps if you have enough people “on your side” he’ll see how ridiculous he’s being and come around.

          • austindc

            Precisely. Then, when they least expect it, go through their mail, open their property taxes, and mess with them hardcore. Checkmate.

      • Caroline doesn’t sound crazy or paranoid to me, but maybe I’m crazy/paranoid too.

        The OP is very generous to want to invite his neighbors over, and if he’s comfortable with that, that’s his prerogative.

        But as others point out, making food and bringing it to neighbors is an option too.

      • I’m curious about this book Caroline mentions. I knew white people who lived near Logan Circle in the early 90s, and I (also white) lived there in the mid-90s. I don’t recall any racial issues or gentrification issues then. Incidentally, that’s the neighborhood I was priced out of when it was time to buy, so I guess I’ve been on both sides of the gentrification phenomenon (though I just thought of it as prices going up and being too late).

  • I’m guessing and hoping that OP’s grumpy neighbor to the right is unrepresentative of the vast majority of OP’s new neighbors. I’m white and I’m not from DC. Two years ago from last week I moved into a fixer-upper row house on a nearly all-Black block in Truxton Circle. Within a few weeks of moving into the house, I awoke one morning to the sound of a neighbor shoveling my sidewalks from the season’s first snowfall. My neighbors welcomed me and steadily warmed up to my presence over the course of weeks and months . . . some more quickly than others. I shoveled their walks, carried their groceries, offered them beers on hot summer days, invited them to parties . . . all the things that neighbors do. Two years into my residency, I couldn’t be more happy with, nor feel more welcomed by, my neighbors. OP’s got the right idea. Kill them with kindness . . . and food and drink. I love DC!

  • Definitely the right attitude. Good luck!

  • Awesome response and also I wanna come over too!

  • The “Raver/Ranter” in this story seems like exactly the person we’d all like to have as a neighbor. But although the surly neighbor was out-of-line in his response to attempted friendliness, his concerns shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The rising prices of DC real estateight not always be a benefit if a person who is happy in their neighborhood is forced to move or put in financial straits by rising property taxes. There certainly are better ways to deal with this, but a person who suffered through the bad years in a neighborhood and now feels that they might be forced out by the new arrivals, who often seem tone deaf to these feelings and seek only to make the neighborhood more “upscale,” has a valid reason to be concerned. Like I said, that valid reason does not excuse anyone from being an asshole, though. The Ranter’s attitude is admirable, but stating that it gives hope for the future of the city is a bit more saccharine than I can take. Let’s keep things in perspective.

    • My thoughts exactly.

    • “The rising prices of DC real estate not always be a benefit if a person who is happy in their neighborhood is forced to move or put in financial straits by rising property taxes”

      Why won’t this tired trope just die? Property tax increases are capped. Assessments have gone down in the last two years. If a homeowner has difficulty with property taxes, DC offers a number of assistance programs, and separate assistance programs for seniors. No one is forced out of their home by property taxes. The whole montra is clearly code for “this is a black neighborhood, stay out.” Obvious code is obvious.

      • +1. That property value argument is so weak, and so clearly not what anybody is upset about.

        • Agreed. It’s hard for me to feel sympathy for someone whose property taxes might go up a few percent, when they bought their house in 1975 at a huge bargain, and have owned it free and clear for years.

      • Not to mention at the rate DC moves, a forced sale due to back taxes is as likely as a flying pig.

      • Ah. Right on cue. The tone-deafness I mentioned above. Do you know the person’s financial situation? Do you know whether he knows about the program you mentioned? How do you know what his motivation was? Unless you can answer those questions, your post is seriously undercut.

        • We know at the very least that he owns rather than rents, and have good reason to think that he lives in the home he owns. Right there we know he gets the homesteading deduction, $67,500 off his assessment, which is definitely not nothing. And as said above, property tax assessments peaked in most neighborhoods a few years ago, and are going down. The 2012 assessments are already available on the DC Real Property Database, and for my house are $10,000 lower. He’s complaining about something that was happening three to five years ago, and is in no way the fault of the new neighbor.

          • No one is defending his behavior. But the idea that he’s got nothing about which to worry from the changes in his neighborhood is not proven.

          • It doesn’t really matter whether this individual has anything to worry about or not — the “property taxes” trope is a race-based I-was-here fist code, and you’d have to be impossibly dense not to recognize that. Its kind of like The Plan, savvy?

          • Your certainty is your undoing. Usually, attacking somebody else as being “dense” means you’ve run out of good arguments. You have to prove your assertion that his attitude is based on race. I’m not a fan of the view that gentrifiers are “myopic twits,” but your views make it easier for those who wish to to level that charge.

      • A family who used to live next to me, had lived there for several years, and were absolutely wonderful neighbors, moved away two years ago because they couldn’t afford it anymore. They were renters, so its different than this situation, but it was pretty clear that they were the victims of gentrification and rising property values.

        I don’t know how this fits into the bigger picture, in terms of overall trends, but when talking about neighbors I really cared about I don’t particularly care: I was devastated to see them leave, and feel guilty about my role in driving up their rent.

        So, while there is no doubt that the rude neighbor in this post was… rude… it’s possible that the chip on his shoulder is based in something real. Maybe he’s lost his favorite neighbors this way, recently. Maybe he’s lost ALL his neighbors. Maybe friends or family were forced to move by rising rent. Maybe he IS dealing with DC’s “assistance programs,” and has found it to be a total pain in the ass that and brings stress and frustration into his life and undercuts his sense of stability and self-worth.

        Clearly he’s a jerk with some issues, but it just rubs me wrong to dismiss him entirely. Killing with kindness is cool, but killing with kindness AND compassion is cooler.

        • Very well said.

        • Yeah, I think in these situations it’s not so much about the property taxes, but the fact that people who have been living alongside them for decades are suddenly and rapidly being replaced with strangers. For someone who isn’t good at dealing with change, and wasn’t expecting to ever have to, it must be frustrating. Not that it excuses his behaviour, but if his best friend was evicted from the house you later bought I don’t think a Southern Italian dinner is going to smooth things over, even though your intentions are sincere and you did nothing wrong.

          • And that isn’t the original poster’s fault. The fact they were so kind as to think of cooking for this person tells me that they’re far kinder and less dismissive than most.

  • andy

    people who want to oppose outsiders will come up with their own rationalizations. if you knock one down, they will come up with another. you just have to bend over backwards until they think of you differently on a personal level.

  • You can never tell which one will be the better neighbor. My extroverted, friendly neighbor was so bossy she once planted a bush in my yard. The grouchy neighbors who never said hello turned out to be really cool. Maybe the grouch will be the one who chases the bad guys off your porch.

    • I am always suspicious of extroverted people, it can be hard to know if they’re being genuine. At least with grouchy people you know what you’re getting.


      (Actually, I’m only half joking…)

  • I had a similar experience while I was shopping for a home in Petworth. This was about three years ago. My realtor and I went to look at a lovely old rowhouse. The owner was an older woman, whom I suspect had lived in the house for a long time. She was very pleasant and welcoming.

    After viewing the house, my realtor and I were walking back to his car. There was an older black couple walking down the sidewalk, and when the man saw us he started belting out racist epithets. He said they had “moved up here to get away from all the f*cking white people” and basically told me and my realtor that we weren’t welcome in ‘his’ neighborhood.

    I did what I usually do when someone talks out of their ass, which is ignore him. It was definitely upsetting, though. It really came as kind of shock that there were still people that racist living in our society. I mean seriously, WTF?!

    I am a very tolerant person, but I have no tolerance for racist xenophobia. There are no ‘white neighborhoods’ or ‘black neighborhoods’, just neighborhoods. This is the United States of America, damnit, and Americans have an inherent right to live where they please. The historical presence of a certain ethnic group in a given area is no justification for preventing ‘outsiders’ from moving in.

    If you still believe in ‘race’ apart from the human race, grow up, and get over yourself.

    • Don’t be so naive. We live in a white person’s society, believe it or not. Wouldn’t you be interested in a non-white person’s assessment? By any small chance? I’m playing the world’s tiniest violin for your white-person fee-fees hurting… “racism” is not a two-way street, its like an interstate meeting an unpaved country road.

  • Now there’s a case when you know race is the issue. No need for a belief in “code words.”

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