Would you be happier paying $1,500 for a closet and eating dried beans in a stranger’s city? This is what I’m asking these days. Why are all these graphic designers moving to 35th Street, 32nd Street, 30th Street in my city? The last bartender I met said my neighborhood of origin is a bad one. He said this two blocks from the apartment I live in now, which is a good one? Last year, a musician asked if I grew up in the ghetto or the good part. I said neither. What should I have said? How do you explain when all you’ve wanted to do is leave, leave. How do you also stay proud?
This month, all the snow has melted and you can see a winter’s worth of plastic bags caught in bushes along the freeway.
A long time ago, I met a student from New York City who seemed older than everyone else. Our conversation ended when he said I would never “make it” in New York. I hadn’t even said I wanted to try. It was puzzling because we were 16. Did he think he had “made it” by being born somewhere special?
I felt satisfied in my jealousy and its opposite when I found a poet whom I realized wouldn’t be able to “make it” in Milwaukee. He’d lived in New York previously. We wouldn’t be able to stoke his ego with local competition. We are just not that important. We are like the houses my grandparents lived in, demolished, one for a highway, another for a retaining pond. We are the same neighborhood described in different ways. We are my mother’s landlady, the one who hit her ceiling with a broom handle because my little sister and I were dancing. We ask too many questions at the Q&A. We wonder why anyone would ever move here. We are dirty snow, a tough crowd. It’s just like anyplace else.