All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts... -Shakespeare
When I am on the bus or train, sometimes I like to play a game in my head called 'Casting' where I take everyone on the bus or in the car and decide what kind of movie or television show I can have with the people I see. On the bus it tends to go towards a Tyler Perry movie. On the train, if there is a cop, a security guard, or military people, it is an action adventure. It's all about the people.
The neighborhood is the same way. Yes, the built environment plays a part, like a set, but it is the cast of residents, workers, visitors, and others who come into a space playing a part that tells story of the neighborhood. Yet, there isn't one story, there are several stories, and depending on whose point of view, anyone could be an extra, nameless minor character with or without a spoken role, supporting actor, or the lead. Then there are the many unseen, the stage hands, the gaffers, transport captains, etc. All the people responsible for the Giant, the traffic lights, the coffee shops, the new buildings, the rehabbed old buildings, the vacant buildings, and the dollar store with the identity crisis, set up the scene. Sometimes people double as seen actors and behind the scenes, such as the resident who opens an eatery or a gym.
A few days ago I called 911 regarding a man who was laying in 7th St. Yes, he was on the asphalt, near a corner where a cab came dangerously close to running his feet over while turning. Why was he laying in the street? Beats me, I have theories and they are probably wrong. But walking up I asked him if he needed help. He was babbling something. So I asked him to grab my arm to help him up. He wasn't budging or making sense. Then from across the street a young African American man, who looked like he worked out at a gym, came over, pulled the guy up halfway onto the sidewalk, then ran back to catch his bus. While this was going on, a small group of elderly "people of Walmart" women were saying he should be left alone and nothing should be done. At some point I call 911, explain to the dispatcher where I am and what's going on, then while on the phone EMS shows up. Apparently the old guy in the street has done this before and has been hit before. I leave, pop into a restaurant to wash old guy off my hands and head home.
That is just one story of the neighborhood. It probably doesn't fit the preferred narrative of gentrification. Almost everyone in the story was black, me, the guy in the street, the fellow who picked him up, maybe the cabbie making that turn. The old guy may have been displaced by the progress in Shaw, but his mental health seemed to be his biggest problem. I am a homeowner and government worker, and I've enjoyed the changes. The well-toned fellow, looked like he belonged in one of those shiny new apartment buildings or condos they keep building around here. Maybe so, maybe not, that was just my impression. Maybe someone called 911 before I stepped onto the scene, but city services showed up quickly. Possibly chance, or more likely the behind the scenes efforts of people to improve the city's response to the area. There was a time when the wait for someone to bother to show up would not have been so quick or taken seriously.
Many play a role in the various scenes that unfold every day in Shaw. What's yours?