Richmond, VA: More Turds Than Dirt
The Worm, as we called the head of the household below us, would savagely beat her preteen son and his two younger sisters after a long day of beatdowns handed out by the kid himself. Neither me or my roommate were exactly employed, so we were home to hear skulls thumping off the walls at midday. I swear I smelled that oldest kid burning a cat or something in the alleyway before lunchtime one day.
Once the kids set off a bunch of firecrackers in the living room and blew parts of the window out into the yard. The oldest girl -- no more than eleven, mind you -- would crank Metallica and stand on the porch in miniskirt and stare off in the distance through squinty, hardened eyes. Her older brother got in a fistfight with the kid from upstairs -- next door to me and my roommate - and threw him into the door to the upstairs of the building.
His fat little body cracked the rotten wood of what turned out to be a hollow door, and all these cereal boxes fell right out. Apparently our landlord put them in there for insulation or something. They didn't even make some of that cereal anymore. Remember Waffle-O's?
Although the kid whose body broke the door was headed down a rotten path, he wasn't a serial killer in training pants like our little buddy from downstairs. That little involuntary battering ram was a good kid going bad, raised by an earth-shakingly stupid single parent whose only contact with greens as a food involved a box of lime Jell-O. My roommate and I would take turns calling child welfare, the cops, anyone with the power to involve a social worker. Nobody ever made it. Our hearts went out to these people, and we tried like hell to help them out when we could and generally be good neighbors.
Then we got exhausted and real, real jaded.
There was this dog that belonged to our neighbors on the second floor. The dog was named Shadow. Shadow's owner, the dumb kid's dumb mom, would occasionally walk Shadow, but usually he stayed chained up out back, barking furiously at anything from black people in the alleyway to minor changes in barometric pressure. Shadow and his vocal cords rose at dawn. The kid's mom was leaning on her second-floor balcony one day when the rotten railing underneath fresh paint just snapped and she barrel-rolled out into space, hitting the ground and sustaining a compound fracture to her arm. No more walks for Shadow.
Nobody ever, EVER cleaned up after Shadow. The whole back yard was just dead branches and dog turds in various states of decomposition. We did the math one time, crunched the numbers and worked out that one dog times 30 square feet time three turds a day for 3 years -- it meant that the yard was more turds than dirt. A thick layer of turd dust was covering everything at the ground level in our backyard. The dust would rehydrate when it rained, releasing an unbearable stale stench.
People that walked their dogs in front of the building never cleaned up after their dogs either. The whole grassy strip between curb and sidewalk was an absolute slippery minefield. I almost got into a fistfight one day for shouting at a man that if he didn't pick up his dog's shit, I was gonna jam it back in there.
One night I snapped. I had been stepping over one pile of shit, and in doing so, stepped into an entirely different pile of shit. My roommate and I took to the street, circling every turd we saw with bright orange spray paint, the kind they use to mark sewer lines. It was a public service, and for a while it worked. You could step right over the slimy little land mines, and other people were hesitant to let their dogs stop for too long.
These guys have elevated that sense of furious fecal art-making into a whole new realm. When I saw this gallery today, I laughed so hard I started crying. See if you don't agree with me ... and if you've got a dog, see that you've got a plastic bag handy, too.