Monday, March 9, 2009

Did the Times present a limited picture of the Inland Empire?

Perhaps you saw Susan Straight's piece on the Inland Empire in the Los Angeles Times. If you didn't, here's a taste of it.

The house next door, and the one next to that, have been empty since October. Their yards have gone feral, with hundreds of dandelion heads glistening gray in the night....

Last week, a woman stole a pair of shoes right off my neighbor Maria's front porch. Maria woke her son, who ran down the street and confronted the woman. She threw the shoes back at him. After a pair of clippers disappeared from my yard, I've started taking ladders and anything else of possible worth inside at night.

Our mailman, Randy, said this week that from what he sees in his letter bag (he reminds me that Americans have no secrets from the letter carrier), about one in eight homes in our neighborhood are in foreclosure or a few months away. The street already has six empty houses, some vacant for nearly a year. And people walking aimlessly in the street make life eerie and uncertain.

Here in the Inland Empire, we joke that our people are canaries but we don't die.

Now I could get all haughty and claim that the Times is exaggerating things in a desperate move to get out of bankruptcy itself, or I could point out more reasonably that the experience described here is not the typical experience of the majority of Inland Empire residents, but this is Straight's experience - I don't think she's writing fiction here.

And, even though I can leave shoes on my front porch without fear of losing them, one thing that Straight said does ring true:

But this feels different. More desperate.

And that's true no matter where you live.

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