Thursday, August 14, 2008

Your Friendly Local Nazihood Association

Every time we Americans go to war someone always resurrects the ghost of Hitler. And each time the inevitable question comes up, “If you could go back to 1933, would you kill Hitler?” The answer is always, “Yes,” and Johnny and Johnetta go off to war.

But ’33 would have been too late. The seeds had already been sown. Himmler, Goebbels, somebody would’ve taken his place. If you ask me you’ve gotta go back even further—to, say, 1923. But where would you have found Adolf? Vienna? Berlin? Munich?

If you ask me, you probably would’ve found him in the suburbs of Frankfurt, skulking. He would’ve been sobbing in his beer. “I’ll never be an architect. That war really sucked. What is an authoritarian Aryan with autocratic aspirations to do?” His flat beer would’ve rested bitterly on his tongue, and he would’ve looked across the strasse to see Herr Finkle tending his garden. And in that old man’s fat, grubby, little hands would’ve been a garden gnome. A fat, cheery, disgustingly decadent garden gnome with that stupid red hat and bulbous beer gut of his. The outrage would’ve been too much. “Ah, hells to the naw! This sheisse’s got to stop!”

Hitler would’ve had to do something. And he did, walking up to his next-door neighbor, Herr Schmidt, tending his well-manicured lawn in his snazzy, new brown shirt. “We gotsta git dat buster. A motherfuckin’ garden gnomes?!” Schmidt nodded, silently, knowingly, and led the young Hitler to his garden shed. Arming themselves, they gathered other concerned neighbors and confronted the hapless Finkle.

“This shit’s gotsta git gone, homie,” Hitler announced, whipping out his clipboard.

Finkle screamed as the neighborhood toughs terrorized his yard. The gnome (too ugly) was smashed to bits, pink geraniums (too gay) were shredded, tulips (too Dutch, no! too African) were ripped to pieces, and the hedges were utterly destroyed, being 3cm above regulation height. Thus, the neighborhood association was born.

The Allies thought they’d smashed Nazism in May of ’45. They were certain they swept up all the remaining pieces at the Nuremberg trials. Little did they know that fascistic shards went flying all around the globe: Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Suburbia USA!

My wife and I first cut our teeth on one in Atlanta in the ‘90s. We were on the front lines of a weird sort of gentrification. Our little “Parque” was going from aging, mellow hippies to younger, angry yuppies. Our neighborhood association was relentless, and they were on a righteous mission: to remove the bus line from our street.

We lived on a main road that connected downtown to a hip, little commercial district. Cars zoomed through our street and buses would rumble by, causing little earthquakes with their passing. It was annoying, but there was this vital connection and an assembly plant whose employees used the bus. I just chocked it up to living in a city. Just like our large, open living room windows would prompt the homeless to panhandle us while watching Survivor (it was so bad, once some guy pounded on our door at three in the morning—I gave him a can of soup—I try to give when I can).

Our association felt differently and went into action. They actually wrangled a hearing with the city to change the line. My wife and I went. It was a sad affair at the MLK Center, which ended up being (like pretty much everything in the ATL) quite racial—white haves against black have-nots. The night was filled with tragic stories of loss and desolation: “I don’t have a car—how am I gonna get to work?”; “My geraniums fell off my windowsill”; “My business depends on this bus line—will I have to close shop?”; “I was awakened from my mid-morning nap.” You get the idea. We hit absolute bottom when a blind guy got up talking about how, being blind in the city, he needs to know exactly where he’s going and if they moved the bus line to the less populated, proposed road, he wouldn’t know where he was and nobody would be around to help him (there really are no pedestrians in that city), and how would he get to his job. Through sympathetic sobs in the crowd, an association woman got up, and tearfully responded, “We all have our tragedies, I understand that, but my house shakes.”

Having had enough, I got up and faced-off against my neighbors, evoking the memory of King (I know, cheap shot), the sense of community that cities inspire, the need for public transportation, and that this basically all came down to choices: poor folks don’t have a choice but to take the bus, and the people would could choose to buy these newly-expensive homes in the city also had the choice, if they didn’t like urban living, to move back out to the suburbs.

My speech was so eloquent, so persuasive, that black and white embraced, burst out in song, and started a revolutionary program to improve city schools. Well, at least the bus line stayed. Score one for freedom!

However, if you roll through the neighborhood now, you’ll see that the assembly plant has been replaced by a condo community and you can’t park on that main, city street without a neighborhood permit. So, while they lost that first battle, it looks like they’re winning the war. Wake up, people! This is Sudetenland ’39! They have got to be stopped!

Of course, I’m to blame, too. I’ve been sleeping. Living in DC proper for the last few years where these associations’ power holds no sway, I’d forgotten the tyranny that looms outside city limits. But now we’re in the suburbs, and, as Ice Cube once said, “Once again, it’s on.”

The first shot came when I found out I couldn’t barbecue in our little backyard space. They say it’s a county regulation, but I’ve smelled those beautiful smoky embers emanating from other “condo communities” around here (I mean, who you foolin’? This is an apartment complex. Whatever). So, I have my suspicions. Having lived in a fifth-floor apartment the last six years, I immediately cracked out the Weber. Alas, it now sits gathering dust in basement storage.

They won that one, but trouble was right around the corner. Green-thumb moms came down from the ‘Burgh with a vision. She saw our “weeded-out” back patch of land and went to work. We dug up the weeds and planted a flower bed. It’s quite cute. Our neighborhood association didn’t think so, though.

They rolled on us, twelve-deep, armed with clipboards and disapproving glares. They were marking down furiously, shaking their heads and sighing heavily. I didn’t know what to do. I was scared. But I was alone with my daughter, and I had to protect my own. So, I bowed up my chest, gave them the scowl made so famous by Ice Cube in Boyz ‘n’ the Hood and every other movie he’s ever been in, put on my deepest voice with my Ebonics-est twang (which is quite pathetic, really), went out there, and said, “We got a problem.”

“Oh, no. No, sir. Not at all.”

They scurried off, rattling their clipboards. But I knew they weren’t done. We apparently had to get written permission to pull up weeds and plant flowers in the back of the building, which only we can see. It was OK this time, but we better watch our asses.

They were 0-2, but hey, even Hitler had to spend some time in jail before he took over the nation. And like Mao and the Long March, sometimes you have to retreat in order to claim victory. And victory they got, and they got it over a little piece of pavement.

See, in our “condo community,” one has to get a permit to park in the parking lot. Fair enough. We got one. But a previous tenant of our ground-floor “condo” had been confined to a wheelchair. To accommodate him, they allowed him to build a little driveway to the back, sliding glass door. It was a deciding factor in getting the place. I figured, with a baby, car seat, stroller, my cool-ass “Daddy” Crumpler messenger bag, the groceries, etc., it would be great to just park right outside your door and put all that stuff into your apartment.

The neighborhood association feels differently. They have deemed our little, 20-foot piece of pavement an “access road,” and we are no longer free to park there. No signs, no pre-existing rules or regulations. Nope. They’ve just decided that this strip is an access road, and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it. I’ve argued that an “access road” that was built for and ends at your residence is called a “driveway” and who’s ever heard of people being refused to park in their own driveways. But they disagree. So does our landlord. There’s nothing we can do. We can no longer park behind our building, where no one can see our car.

I’m vexed. I’m fuming. I’m screaming the Marseillaise in a wind tunnel, and no one can hear me. But come on, people! We cannot be cowed! We must fight back! They can’t just make up rules out of the ether and we must comply for fear of punishment! We cannot let these Commissars of Conformity rule our every move! This is not Berlin ’33! This is Frankfurt ’23! Remember Herr Finkle? First, it’s the garden gnome, then the hedges, then we’re all wearing pink triangles and yellow stars and being marched off to the camps!!!

Is it not bad enough there’s a Starbucks on every corner?! The internet records our every click-through?! Security cameras our every movement?! The banks our every transaction?! Isn’t it bad enough that Carson Daly has a career at all?!!!
Fight! Fight now! Rage! Rage against the dying of the light!!!

I’m doing my part. I’m going right now to put my car up on blocks! Are you with me, people? Can I count on you? On your love of liberty?

Sing with me, people:

Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny's
Bloody standard is raised
Listen to the sound in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts

Hurry, before it's too late! Before we’re all singing “Suburbia Uber Alles!”

1 comment:

RonStrelecki said...

I am willing to pitch in: I will go back in time to 1993... and kill Carson Daly.