Like I said before; you don't have to die to go to hell, all you have to do is be born into a wretched life, under the worst of circumstances that never seem to let up...or you could just move to the projects where hell is a combination of several concepts:the sardine can, the Indian reservation, and concentration camps.
Already having been born to a wretched life, moving to the projects in 1981, after spending the first fourteen years of my wretched life in the squalid but spacious and somewhat communal neighborhood of East 100th st
was like sinking further down into the depths of hell, my whole existence uprooted and plopped right down into the lake of fire.
While East 100th street was a slum, the squalor came mostly from the buildings and the apartments being severely lived in, the pre-war buildings-as they would later be described by some greedy land lord early in the year 2000 when the renovation process was complete to help lure White people-were old and worn down, almost antiquated in their appearance, but warm and spacious, large rooms and deep closets that I would hide in whenever my parents were fighting. The floors were all wooden, adding a pleasant personal touch in every floorboard. Plus there was a fire escape by my bedroom window.
As a small child, and even as a teenager, I would open up the window on warm days, and plenty of cold ones, and set myself on it to stare out at the world. Right across the street stood Metropolitan hospital, a huge off white figure blocking out any sign of life coming from downtown. Beneath us was the parking most of the doctors from Metropolitan kept their cars in, a lot that was split between the nice cars driven by the doctors and the dirty white trucks of the Sanitation department, which covered the First Avenue side of the parking lot, to the left.
The Sanitation Department's building was a dirty red brick building that resembled a garage, the door to it being an actual garage door that needed to lifted in order to enter.
From our fifth floor window all you could really see was the black tar roof and the water tower that was perched on top of it. Between Metropolitan Hospital, and the Sanitation building was a sliver of the East river where you could see the water in a tiny swatch of scenery. To the right there was a glimpse of the nearby projects that bordered my old neighborhood on Second Avenue, one of the buildings that was perched on the corner of 98th street. From my fire escape it looked like a straggler, as if it was lagging behind the rest of the housing complex which was called Washington projects.
With so much of Washington projects being blocked off by Metropolitan hospital, that one lone building looked like a nice place to live in, the rest of it shrouded by the massive structure that was Metropolitan hospital, leaving a lot to the imagination. It looked a lot better than the place I lived in, at least on the outside. Then in June of 1981 reality struck, hitting my family hard.
East 100th street was going to undergo a massive
reconstruction, every building shut down and completely renovated. Later on, possibly in high school when life no longer spared me any illusions I learned the proper term for that massive reconstruction was gentrification, move the po' folks out,and fix up the place for upscale White folks who were willing to pay out the nose for the New York experience. This is the Indian reservation concept of the projects, to uproot an entire group of people and confine them to one particular area, one particular stretch of land by using the propelling force
behind America's expansion since it first came to be.
My mother, who was the head of the household, and was fortunate enough to be saddled with only two kids at the time of our relocation instead of six the way she had been early in her marriage, was given a bit of money for her troubles, and was quickly relocated to the projects with the dead weight of my father's refusal to involve himself in our lives still in tow. And it wasn't just any housing project, it was the worst housing project in East Harlem, with only Black Harlem, and the South Bronx having projects that were worse, or of equal depravity, the whole thing being a constructed nightmare that went on all day, everyday.
I didn't like it from the word go. To this day if I'm even walking by a housing project, no mater where it is, all the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, a shiver of dread snapping each one to attention at the sight of those overgrown cinder blocks. The only way to truly describe how I feel about having to grow up in the projects would be to imagine a holocaust survivor laying eyes on Aushwitz or Dachau after having survived it. This is part of the concentration camp concept coming into play-not all of it-just the tip of the iceberg, the rounding up of innocents, and sending them off to their demise at a specific location where they will encounter every conceivable horror imaginable, followed by every inconceivable one after that.
Going from a fifth floor walk up with a run down stairwell, poorly lit on some floors, and the walls lined with graffiti, to a fourteen floor rat trap wasn't a step up. A step up to living in the projects would be to die. JESUS,MARY,AND JOSEPH!!!!!!!!!! Hell really did exist and it had an exact location that ran all along Lexington Avenue, from 101st straight into Black Harlem on 125th street, branching out on all sides from First Avenue to the West side.
We were plopped down right in the middle of that long stretch of death. Where exactly? I'd rather not say. Just bringing up this much makes me depressed enough to even believe that I survived it. And like all housing projects, it was named after some historical figure, some president like Taft or Washington, who wouldn't have wanted their name associated with all the insanity that goes on in those fucking loony bins.
Somewhere in the next life all these historical figures are rolling over in their graves, their skeletal remains twisting and turning from side to side with the knowledge that so many lunatic asylums have been named in their honor. Jefferson, Taft, Washington, Carver, Roosevelt, all of them crying out from their graves.