A Poor Neighborhood is Not For You

Via Jeff on Facebook, sweet baby Jesus:

Last week, on the first stop of the $45 tour, guide Lynn Battaglia, from Pittsburgh, pointed out a housing project. She then mocked the Grand Concourse, modeled after a Parisian boulevard.

“Do you feel like we’re on the Champs-Elysées?” she teased a couple from Paris.

As the bus idled across from historic St. Ann’s Episcopalian Church, Battaglia launched into a description of the crime, poverty and violence that plagued the South Bronx during the 1970s recession.

As she spoke, a line of two dozen poor people — including one man visibly agitated by the onlookers — waited for handouts from the church pantry.

“I don’t know what that line’s about, but every Wednesday we see it,” Battaglia told the tourists. “We see them go in with empty carts, and we see them come out with carts full.”

The bus stopped in front of St. Mary’s Park, where she credited Mayor Rudy Giuliani for curbing crime.

“If it were 1980 and you said to me, ‘Lynn, I want to die.’ My answer would be, ‘You’re in the right neighborhood,’ ” she said.

Chicago does some of these types of things too, true-crime tours and mob-themed tours and things, and it’s always gross, but not quite as gross as making people’s poverty your fucking theme park. Do all your proceeds, and not profits, I mean proceeds, go to helping this neighborhood? No? Then how dare you use it as your set piece? Even then, how dare you? THEY LIVE THERE. This is their HOME. If it seems so horrible to you, if it seems so unsafe and scandalous and you’re being so very daring, think about how it must be to be there, all the time.

(“They should move then.” I can hear it now from Smuggy McPublican. Bitchass, not everybody sees problems where you do, and also, abandoning your parents’ and grandparents’ homes is hard, even if you do have the means. All things being equal, moving is fucking expensive. Even if you and a few friends and a case of Bud Light do it, moving is expensive. Do YOU have the equivalent of first and last month’s market-rate yuppie-ville rent plus security deposit on you at all times, and a job from which you can take time off to look for a new place without losing more money? If not, STFU.)

This goes back to the whole “I can’t go there without a sidearm” kind of thing I was talking about before, where you assume people who don’t live in your neighborhood aren’t real. They don’t, say, get up and go to work or come home and sit on their porch reading or listening to the game. They don’t love their children or drive through the hamburger place or check books out of the library or get their hair cut or drink coffee. They think violence is normal and gang affiliation is awesome and everybody be slingin’ tonight. Their ways are strange to us all. I mean, God Almighty:

“I don’t know what that line’s about, but every Wednesday we see it,” Battaglia told the tourists. “We see them go in with empty carts, and we see them come out with carts full.”

GO ASK JESUS HOW HARD IS THIS SHIT. Go over to the strange “natives” and ask what’s up. Nine times out of 10, someone will tell you, gladly. This is America, almost everybody speaks enough English to satisfy your curiosity about almost anything at all, and even those that don’t will find you somebody who does or get by with hand gestures, because 90 percent of people are basically decent and want to help your clueless ass so long as it doesn’t unduly interfere with their days.

I am all for visiting everywhere in a place when you visit it. And I know that sometimes that can be a knife-edge of difference between looking and gawking, and I’m absolutely sure I’ve come down on the wrong side of it in my life. But there are about a hundred miles between going to see a place you are curious about, and making a buck alienating human beings from one another. This company is gross.


5 thoughts on “A Poor Neighborhood is Not For You

  1. Erm, seems to me that this company should be embarrassed to show foreign tourists how citizens here have to stand on line for charity food because our government just doesn’t give a shit.

  2. My grandparents lived in the Bronx, and I remember my father telling me that it was a big move up from the Lower East Side. Their new apartment had an elevator and steam heat, and that had to count for something. By the time I was going for weekend dinners, the Bronx was on the slope down, but there were still lots of nice middle class apartments. The big collapse was another 5 or 10 years in the future.
    The Grand Concourse never quite rivaled the Champs Elysee. It was more like Park Avenue North and a fair bit cheaper. Even now, it has some pretty nice buildings, though I have no idea of how well maintained they are.
    This is typical tour guide crap. There’s actually a lot of interesting stuff to show off and talk about in the Bronx, including the poverty and immigration and the union movements and the rising middle class and the great collapse and the crack epidemic and so on. Unfortunately, the tour guides are like our journalists, so they tend to get things wrong.

  3. This reminds me of another version of this back when I lived in the Castro in San Francisco, lo these many years ago. I *hated* the tour buses that would block Market Street so the rubes could gawk at the people in the neighborhood going about their business. I’m not a f*cking tourist attraction, assholes. And it’s not like any of the tourists would actually get out of the bus and spend money in the local businesses or, god forbid, actually interact with any of those “dirty homos”.
    Then again, the same sort of thing happens in Chinatown all the freaking time too except the epithets used to describe the neighborhood residents are different…

  4. there was a fatal shooting in the 4800 block of W. Iowa St. this weekend. just a block south of the school at which i teach. and it wasn’t the first since i’ve been there. chicago’s 500th murder of last hear took place a block south.
    haven’t seen any tour buses tho.

  5. The answer is, of course, to spread Ms. Bataglia’s dipshittery far and wide, and when her company goes bankrupt the Gee Oh Pee can take credit for the free market’s invisible hand.
    But we should hold her up as an example of how NOT to give a tour. She’s a useless ucker.

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