I’m walking in the alley when my neighbor Mo walks by and says; “hey, Motorcycle Man, we talk about you on the block a lot, man... Want you to know, we proud of you and what you doing — keep it going, you doin it, you doing good for the hood.”
I smiled, thanked him and headed to my house — but Mo had no idea how the comment floored me.
Here I was, quietly working away in my garage and studio, making things I envisioned in my head with no realization that, in fact, I was building more than just metal and rubber machines, paintings and such. I was building hope. Bringing a bit of pride to a place that sometimes feels it has precious little. I live in a neighborhood that previously has been described as “The Most Incarcerated Zip Code in America”. The collective stereotypes and truths of what happens here can be disturbing and painful. But the 53206 I’ve come to know over the decades is not just a news soundbite or the continual stream of sirens and bullets: there are people, with dreams large and small, doing their best to be decent folk. Take care of their families, homes, neighbors. And believe it or not, some amazing people are here: well-known artists, muralists, musicians. Inventive and handy people, thinkers and doers, and people who genuinely want to see and do right by the place they live. Yea, sometimes bad stuff happens here, but most of us don’t run away, even with the means to do so, because the easy way out is rarely the most rewarding.
And that’s why I stay — I choose to. I live, love, am inspired by and build in the ‘06 because it’s home.
Just as life is a matter, not of milestones, but of moments — so is a neighborhood not a just a nameless, faceless WE, but an organism formed of individuals. And individuals can make a conscious decision to love their neighbor as themselves in all the best ways: Treat their loved ones with the care they deserve, truly look out for their neighbors next door, down the street and beyond. To be unafraid and passionate about, not only your job/craft, but your hopes and dreams as well. To inspire and be inspired by others.
There’s still good in the hood. I’m proud to be a part of it.