The Duality of Addiction & Gentrification

8:48 A - Point Breeze - Mid-July:

The concrete streets glow as the sun beats down on the city. There are no trees in sight from the tiny cafe, I just started working here, the only shade is provided by bodega corners and the two feet of shade row-homes drape along the sidewalks. 

There are close to a dozen of the most worn down people I’ve ever seen; black men that look 73 years old but are only 52 and older white women with neck tattoos lined up outside the beer store while I set up the outdoor seating area. Minutes pass, they shuffle into the beer store and come out with cracked cans of Steel Reserve poking out of black plastic bags. 

In what seems to be an arbitrary cycle, these people migrate from stoop to stoop as the homeowners in the area kick them off of their property in what looks like a frequent ritual. 

As destructive as their behavior is, the more I watch, the happier they look. In the sun, free of care about people like me or what I think. These people are sick, addicts, and alcoholics, they converge in places they aren’t wanted and do what they want because no one is helping them and no one really cares about them. They are carefree, in a sense that they don’t care because no one cares about them. This is the one place, where these sick people can care about each other.

It takes an addict to understand addicts. It takes one to know one. I have addictive tendencies, I get wrapped up in anything I do, with little to no control over how I react to things. I’m aware that stoop conferences with my fellow addicts are a possible future if I don’t practice self-care. 

These people I look out at, as I make $2.83 an hour, waiting for someone rich enough to by the gentrified eggs this cafe sells, are right. Why bother in a world that can’t bother with you? If you can exist as a functional addict, I say why not? 

What is the value of sobriety?

You show me, someone who is completely clean, I’ll show you a monster. Anyone with a grip on the world around them should be prescribed a sedative to help them cope with reality. Sobriety is for people of faith. Faith is for the disillusioned. 

My respect and empathy are with the drunks of the world, they continue to poison themselves because the world hasn’t given them a reason not to. I’ve seen way more homeless people help passers-by with directions and small tasks that I’ve seen any clergyman.

People of note don’t come to the places I live, I am the lowest level gentrifier. 

I’m a poor white man, in massive amounts of debt battling to make rent while I fall behind on loans. My rent is inflated and I have now lived in two of the poorest areas in Philadelphia. These are the only places I can afford to live and I couldn’t be happier. My neighbors are kind, the communities are strong, and these places are constantly misrepresented.

In North Philadelphia, the students are the problem, I at one point in my life was the problem. I’m not well enough to be the solution, but I find solace in my honesty.