Holy Moses and the freaky-ass burning ganja bush, there is some ugly, scary shit on East Fourth Street. One look at that strip proves two things about Reno: that it is not really a First World city and that it is not in the slightest a Christian city. Any meaningful combination of First World code enforcement standards and Christian charity in the local context of a First World city would prevent the development of such a hellscape. A local society whose values are not intractably callous would at least plant some fucking street trees to compensate for the aesthetic horror of the SRO’s on East Fourth and the human horrors that they must contain. Any code enforcement officer with functioning common sense would take one look at these weekly motels and arrange top-to-bottom inspections. Things have to be wrong with these properties; they’re fucking dumps, total eyesores.
They aren’t private Sanford and Son home junkyards, either. That sort of thing is vaguely tolerable, if annoying to the neighbors, since it’s confined to one slob’s property and personally affects only the strictly private associations between the owner or primary tenant and whatever questionable company he keeps around the house. These SRO’s are high-volume tenancy operations. They’re commercial in nature. Their landlords and managers aren’t renting that shit out to friends.
What would private Christian organizations do about such a skid row? It’s a theoretical question, since I’m not convinced that there are any Christian organizations in Washoe County. A Christian organization would sit by quietly with its thumbs up its ass while its city turns into Reno. I can explain this. The leaders of the soi-disant Christian communities in Reno are not living miserably in equality. This isn’t some Acts 2:44 type of deal where all God’s people are chilling out in the same Eastside dump, maybe I’ll be there to shake your hand, strengthening themselves in fellowship and the Word and the breaking of the bread and all that shit, maybe I’ll be there to share the land, there’s always room for another brother by another mother in the Highway 40 low rider, when we all live together, talkin’ ’bout together, now. It is nothing of the sort. I know enough about this scene nationally to know for the next thing to a fact that the vast majority of Reno’s avowed Christians are sniveling bourgeois hypocrites. It’s true of American Christians in general, and Reno is an all-American city. What the fuck are the happy-clappy nondenominationals going to do about East Fourth? If past is prologue, nothing. Are the Catholics interested in remedying this mess? Looking at the condition and location of their parishes, and listening to the topics that fascinate our priests enough to feature in their homilies, I’d say not. Christianity in Reno, as in so many American cities, is a high-hat affair for those who know how to hold the physical high ground in the course of ceding the moral high ground.
Who claims the moral high ground in this situation? No one. There must be low-class churches, the sort often named after specific Bible verses, ministering to Reno’s skid row and barrio neighborhoods from within the same neighborhoods, although I can’t specifically recall coming across any, but I would assume that these are worth a pot of shit as vectors of Christian virtue, either. Low-class American churches generally have unseemly fixations on the most salacious sins of the individual: sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, that sort of thing. The problem is that the sinner turns to demon drink, the loose woman, and maybe the meth pipe instead of coming to Jesus. The problem is never that various individuals and, more importantly, communal entities other than the individual sinner on skid row screwed the pooch on urban planning, code enforcement, and generally giving a shit about the condition of properties serving the public on major streets under their jurisdiction. It’s always about the internal locus of control. Never mind that wealthier people routinely have recourse to hard liquor, hard drugs, juicy loosies, and thicky tricks without turning their neighborhoods into East Fourth Street.
The result is liberty for me but not for thee. Rush Limbaugh certainly gets hard at this idea. It’s an American classic. When highbrow Philadelphians get shitfaced in Manayunk, it’s revitalization; when stone cold sober streetwalkers try to work in Strawberry Mansion, it’s a public nuisance and a crime problem. This isn’t really about race, by the way. There’s a significant black minority out and about in Manayunk on the night shift (on the night shift, even if the tunes aren’t as smooth as they once were), but the Negro, too, pays his fee to whatever the hell fascist mafia outfit runs the neighborhood. I call the latter fascists because Hitler was all about the public-private partnership, too. Manayunk is a manifestation of fascist economics, not fascist penology, although we’re starting to have some of that stateside, too. It doesn’t have to be Dachau to be really bad news, cracka.
Speaking of white boys, though, a lot of black hooker dig us. Damn straight they’ll love up on a honky. “I [heart emoticon] White Boys” doesn’t put too fine a point on it, nor does it put a ring on it, since these are honest whores, not dishonest ones playing chaste amateurs, and they’re sensible enough women not to let any guy on the block buy the cow when he is not in fact getting the milk for free. He pays for it, just like he would at Superfresh. Still think it’s expensive? Try Whole Foods, or marriage to a crazy bitch.
Anyway, streetwalkers are as likely as anyone to clean up the Badlands and make them low rider-friendly for friends of all races. Every organization that has vowed to clean up the Badlands has failed. Success, such as it has been under the Philadelphia Police Department and the patchwork of government agencies and private and religious charities working to bring brotherly love back to the ghetto, has still yielded neighborhood murder rates worthy of Honduras and housing infrastructure worthy of postwar Dresden. Streetwalkers have a business incentive to make the Badlands safe for Whitey. Turning tricks with white boys behind the dumpster is basically a way to get foreign exchange from the Main Line and the Top of the Hill. Why do it behind the dumpster? Because indoor work in the Badlands isn’t what it would be in an intact building, and because working in a different neighborhood would involve SEPTA. The decent locals might as well get some white people up in this motherfucker, as has been said of the junkies in Camden, and not just the cops. Given the choice between an armed gang of shanty Irish bruisers who have been commissioned by the city government to hassle the locals and freelance milquetoasts from the suburbs who just want to get laid or DUUUUUUUUDE NEW DOPE SET, not everyone in the ghetto would choose the cops. Oh, you say, the cops aren’t all Irish? Well, they sure know how to act like the worst of the Irish, don’t they? This supposedly has something to do with their protecting the neighborhoods, but they’re aren’t exactly protecting Black Kensington.
If keeping the ghetto safe were their actual goal, the cops wouldn’t turn down intelligence from corner dope dealers. A lot of those guys would turn state’s evidence in a heartbeat if they didn’t expect to be arrested for their trouble. “Here’s the deal: I’m trying to move product, and I’ve got a kill whitey crew moving in and scaring off my customers. This is heroin. I ain’t sellin’ this shit to the brothers, Nome sane? [Ed.: Seriously, what is it with Caucasians and the opiates?] Y’all able to run the kill whiteys off this corner, at least? I don’t need the rape-a-white-bitch niggas on this corner. Seriously, send an undercover in here and I’ll show you who’s starting this shit. I’ll point them out.” Streetwalkers would be at least as useful an intelligence resource for good cops who actually want to protect their beats from thugs. They dress well, if whorishly, and if they discriminate by race, it’s against the dark meat. Yes, I’m talking about black hookers, too. It has to do with black clients getting rough, mostly.
Streetwalkers would beautify East Fourth Street in Reno, too. Maybe they already do, although it isn’t because the vice cops aren’t trying to put a stop to their efforts. Having women who dress well keeping eyes on the street and cowboy dress boots on the ground would be a huge improvement over the current sweatpants and wifebeater crowd. Even if they’re wearing stiletto heels again, because the signaling has to go from head to toe and must preclude sensible shoes, they’ll inevitably improve such an awful neighborhood. Let’s be honest, though: streetwalkers would improve many neighborhoods. Like Manayunk or the Gaslamp Quarter. We’re talking about sober, streetsmart chicks who give normal guys without dirtbag shtick the time of day, not crazy bitches who communicate with cat noises. Streetwalkers are consistent with revitalization, just the wrong kind of revitalization. They don’t fork over the payola to the right mafiosi and Tammany Hall operators.
I can envision a world in which streetwalkers volunteer with the Arbor Day Foundation from time to time and finally give East Fourth and mid-Ridge Avenue the trees that their city governments can’t get around to planting just because gaaaaaaah, and because it’s the ghetto, but our betters can’t envision this world, and they wouldn’t want to envision it if they could. See, most hookers work in free markets that are natural, emergent, and resilient without government regulation, while club dirtbags work in artificial markets shot through with regulatory capture. This is how they’re able to profit from so handsomely from schemes to corral highbrow drunks in specific drinking districts pursuant to revitalization. Something like Cypress Avenue in Redding, which is basically a clean, well-run, mixed-use red light district with a bunch of hotels and restaurants in the mix, is possible only in that civic sweet spot that at once prevents both a St. Louis County-style rotten borough clusterfuck (too little civics) and a Vancouver, WA-style bitchfest about OMG whores! sullying the honorable profession of massage! (too much civics, and the wrong kind).
There are probably some hookers involved in the Ferguson protests, too, and they obviously have higher items on the civic agenda than MOAR TREEZ. Canfield Green had fairly nice tree cover before the Michael Brown shooting, as it happened. Its tree cover was certainly better than its police coverage in the form of Darren Wilson. When it comes to policing, Washoe County is no St. Louis County. I’ll grant it that. I won’t, however, grant the local notables dispensation to blame zero-sum civics at the national scale for their total failure of urban planning on skid row. St. Louis County has to get its house in order on law enforcement, and Reno has to get its house in order on neighborhoods that make one want to barf from the first glance.
I’m writing this screed in a Starbucks off East McCarran. Earlier this afternoon I hung around out front watching planes land. It was cool, but it wasn’t the sort of Christianity that I accused Reno’s avowed Christians of breaching. Why do I have a clean conscience about having surrendered to this sloth? Because I didn’t do it in Christ’s name, for one thing. I try to live in truth, and, but for the grace of God, in better motels than the ones I drove by this morning. Seriously, sleeping in my car at rest areas is much less degrading than knowing that other people live in these dumps. As Americans, we should be ashamed that we’re about to get our worship on. If we’re going to get anything on, other than Marvin Gaye’s It, it should be some fucking civics. True, I’m not about to get my own civics on, because I’m about to get my Maverik on instead, or maybe my Bully’s (it is a mystery how such a fucked up city can harbor so many fine purveyors of sammich), but at least I’m proposing something better than unrelenting smugness about the spiritual state of a public that tolerates East Fourth Street in its own city.
Yuck. I’m not sure right now whether I’m hungry for righteousness, or just for food, but at least there’s some good lodging for cheap around here, and at least Nevadans aren’t narcissistic about their Nevadaness the way Oregonians are about their Oregonanism. I might as well bring this screed to its conclusion with an off-color portmanteau instead of yet another refill on the mug of bitter. I started heading south the day the blueberry job ended, and I’ve now gone more than a day without hearing ANNNNgela KELLLLLLnerrrrrr aver that it’s NPR for Oregonians. I’ll be back up there to pick up my paycheck on Friday, but I’m avoiding the fart-snorters while I can. If you’ve ever had to listen to those fuckers, you’ll probably agree that it’s a blessing. They take the empty wine glass, that’s for sure.
Never mind. It’s lunchtime in America, at least for those of us who can afford lunch.