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Caddywampus, Arms Akimbo

(January 18, 2007)
  Long term readers know that I love it when something doesn't quite fit together.

This afternoon, I took a walk up the hill that stands behind my little town. The place is postcard idyllic. The streets run 1,2,3,4,5, Mission. The Mission church itself seems to be at the gateway to the hill. From behind the Mission Church, you can see out to San Francisco Bay.

Fourth Street is hopping most of the time. White upper middle class singles jostle with Latinos who have made it. The street is a picture perfect rendition of a diversity poster though it, like most of California, is short of black faces. Fourth Street is the picture of Northern California as paradise.

There's the arts cinema, home to the California Film Institute where I've gotten to see most of the Academy Award nominees in the foreign film category. There are more than fifty restaurants in an eight block radius... Italian, Mexican, Guatemalan, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Chinese, Brewpubs, Thai, Donuts, Vegan Pizza, Puerto Rican, Vietnamese, French, Greek, Fusion. There are easily a half dozen coffee shops with wireless. Japanese home furnishings, Scandinavian Designs, four  new age/Tibetan Buddhist stores (including one with live entertainment). Music stores, bakeries, rug stores and on and on.

It really looks good but something is caddywampus.

The hill I climbed goes to the top of the city. It passes through a half mile stretch of "Public Land: Open From Sunrise to Sunset. As I looked closely, I saw large clusters of homeless people, mostly Latino, clearly dirt encrusted from living outside, very threatening, moving in groups of six to eight. I saw white homeless people surrounded by clothes sitting in the cars on the street across from the Public Land. As I walked up the hill I drew harsh stares from local residents of the houses that bordered the land. I drew equally hostile  looks from the homeless. The people in the homeless cars tried not to make eye contact.

I was surprised. This is not my image of my town. Anxiously, I walked quickly back down to the apparent safety of the main drag.

It was as if some magic dust had been sprinkled on the town. The homeless seemed to spring up from every sidewalk crack. The city took an entirely different texture. It became clear that the main white drag was a thin veneer on something very, very different.

People see what they believe.

I am sure that I am not the only one who looks right through the reality of the world I inhabit. I'm reasonably sure that few people take the time to notice. It takes living and working in the town when the only others who seem to do so are lower class and/or homeless.

I just didn't get the magnitude. It's a shame to call it a war for talent when it's really a question of human development and talent optimization. Today, I walked through a world of wasting resources.

caddywampus: means kittycorner, or askew. Example: The tornado blew the house all caddywampus. (The liquor store is caddywampus from the Lovely Mullet Hair Say-lon. )
Arms Akimbo: Arms at the waist, elbows thrust forward.

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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