Monday, June 16, 2008

Gangsta's Paradise

We love our regular yard guy. He's a nice person, always does a great job, and up until a month ago was as reliable as they come. Then he stopped showing up. We live in a relatively nice neighborhood. Our street is horseshoe shaped, and the houses on the other side of the horseshoe back up to a private golf course. The homeowner's association are out of control Nazi's that love nothing better than intimidating the neighbors into towing the line, under threat of foreclosure, and our grass hasn't been mowed in two weeks. Last Friday was the last straw, and as I was making peace with the fact that I was going to have to find the time to take care of the yard myself, the doorbell rang.

There was a young teenager at the door, asking if we needed someone to cut our grass. I could see his lawnmower on the street near the mailbox. He was shirtless but polite, and obviously on foot, so I knew that he must live nearby. I said yes and he got to work.

He was small, and looked to be about twelve years old. I later found out that he was fourteen, and saving his money to buy a game console. He was soft spoken and did a passable job. After he was finished I had him come inside to meet my wife. I told him not to be afraid of the dogs; they like to jump up on people as a greeting, but are very sweet animals. We made arrangements to have him come once a week.

I've never been prejudiced. I don't judge on appearance or background, and tend to give everyone I meet the benefit of the doubt. Some friends of ours in the neighborhood mentioned that there was a gang living in the house across the street from them. This information was passed on by a police detective that knocked on their door a few months ago to ask them a few questions about their new neighbors. It never dawned on me that this polite young man could be living in the "gang house", as it has come to be known. A few hours later my wife remembered the story about the gangsters, and asked me if we should be concerned.

Today I was having coffee with my friends, and asked them to point out the gang house. Sure enough, they pointed to the home that my new yard guy said he lived in. "Oh man, I can't believe you let him into your house!" They proceeded to catch me up on all the latest activity. There doesn't seem to be anyone in the house over the age of twenty one. The woman that lives next door to the gang house has had her windows broken on two occasions, she's found stolen motorcycles in her backyard that the police had to retrieve, and when she complained to the gangsters that both of their pit bulls were defecating in her yard, she came home the next day to find her front steps covered with dog shit. Recently there have been a number of cars pulling up to the house on weekends for a few seconds before roaring off. The general consensus is that the gangsters are probably selling drugs in our neighborhood, and as I've mentioned, it's a nice neighborhood.

I know that I'm naive sometimes, but from what I've heard this kid hasn't done anything wrong. It's the adults, or more correctly, the soon to be adults, that have caused all the problems. It could very well be that this young man has seen the direction the rest of his household is heading, and wants to walk the straight and narrow.

Or it could be that I've invited a junior gangster into our home and allowed him to make friends with our dogs.

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