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My neighborhood’s reputation is not good. In the few months that I’ve lived here, I can really see why. Aside from having vice cops hunkered down in my backyard, there is an abandoned car parked in the yard that is not my yard, but that looks like it should be, people walk by all hours of the night and day swearing at each other on those goddamn Nextel walkie-talkie phones, I witnessed a drug deal go bad on my way home from work but it barely registered with me, and there’s a bullet hole in one of my front windows. That said: I have a really nice apartment, which is even nicer now that I’ve painted it. It’s huge and airy, cheap for the city, and I really, really like it. I have on-site laundry for the first time in 7 years, off-street parking, and my landlady is pretty cool.

One thing that I’m really fed up with, despite the positives of my place, is the mail theft. Before I moved out here, the power cord for my laptop was fried to the point of sparking and being a general safety hazard. I decided to not take it with me, and instead, order a new one to arrive in Providence about the same time I did. Genius? Yes. Unfortunately, it did not arrive. I had a laptop with wireless but the battery was dead so I had no internet. The only place in the entire city of Providence where you can go and use a computer with internet is the public library. Since I moved over labor day weekend, I had to wait until Tuesday to check on the status of my order. Apparently, the item in question had been delivered 2 days before I arrived, but my landlady (who I asked to look out for it), had not seen it anywhere. I tried to give my neighborhood the benefit of the doubt, told Dell that it never arrived, and got a replacement 5-8 days later.

Now USPS.com is telling me that the two items I ordered from Amazon.com were delivered Wednesday, December 19. I do not have these items. I ambushed my friendly mailman today and asked if he remembered dropping anything off for me on Wednesday. He remembered a package that arrived the previous week (I swear I don’t do that much internet shopping, it’s just been a run of things), but didn’t recall anything from Wednesday. Then in true Providence fashion he proceeded to tell me stuff that was none of my business and most likely, classified: the lady two doors down had received a number of smaller boxes (he held one up as an example), and that the gentleman next door had gotten something on Thursday, but he just didn’t recall anything for me.

“I usually leave your packages by the back door, you know. You didn’t see anything there?”

I told him no, and thanked him for being so thoughtful as to do that (I really do love my mailman), then I said that USPS.com had the package status as delivered 12:13pm on Wednesday the 19th. His face just fell, “It said delivered, huh? That’s not good. That’s the time I usually end up at your place too.”

I concurred that he was very punctual, and that was also the reason for my concern in this matter (he’s kind of amazing in the punctuality department, even the day after the “blizzard” he was dropping off my Netflix at 12:05).

“I’ll call Amazon,” I assured him, “and have them re-send it. I just wanted to check with you first.”

“Man, I feel terrible.” He deflated, right in front of me. “I hate this street. I just really hate this street. It’s even worse than (here he named some street that I’ve never been on, but hope I can avoid).

So fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. People in my neighborhood steal mail. I always thought the whole “it’s a felony” thing was so scary that no one would ever actually do it, but I guess when you’re already a drug dealer, you might as well rack up the charges. So I hope some young (or old) felon is out there smoking crack and enjoying the amazing performance of Bette Davis in “All About Eve”, while I wait for my replacement shipment.

A week ago I was leaving my apartment about 5:45pm, just as it was starting to get dark. I walked out the door, and saw two cops hunkered down in my neighbor’s driveway. One was Hispanic, and the other White, both were unexpected by me. The Hispanic one waved gleefully as I stopped short and stared gape-mouthed, wondering if I was in some kind of trouble. The White cop just looked stern.

“Is there something wrong?” I asked, glancing around for an obvious pimp or knife-wielding maniac.

“Thehs been some drug activity in the naybahhood.” White cop told me. “Weah just keeping an eye on things. Do you mind if we stay heah for a couple a owaz?”

I just shrugged, “It’s not my house.”

And I thought that would be the end of it.

Monday nights I have class in downtown Providence that goes from 6:30-9:15pm. It’s only about a mile and a half, and there’s no parking downtown, so I walk. It’s a nice little walk, but it’s solidly dark when I come home, though the streets are well-lit. My neighborhood is low-income (and apparently has a drug problem), but everyone I encounter just ignores me, and I’m not going to assume the worst, or at least I wasn’t going to.

I had brunch with a friend and a friend of that friend and that friend’s friend, Donna. Donna is from Georgia and is apparently convinced that Providence is on par with Detroit or DC in terms of dangerous cities. “I was walking the dog the other day, and this car full of Mexicans stopped and were whistling at me. That’s what they do, you know, they stop you when you’re walking and kidnap you.” She also wanted the friend of a friend to pull up the reported police activity by neighborhood so she could study it, and maybe, I’m assuming, come up with excuses never to leave the house.

So I had stupid Donna’s voice in my head as I made my trek home in the dark. It was as uneventful as ever, actually more so, because the rather shady bar that I walk by wasn’t doing as much business as usual. I passed three teenagers, who ignored me, and no one else. Finally I got to my driveway, got my keys out, and saw a man approach me from our own yard inside our fence. I jumped, and got my hand on my pepper spray as he stepped into the light.

“I’m sorry to scayuh you, my name’s Dan.”

Dan is the stern White cop from the other day, and is once again hiding out in my backyard.

“I wanted ta introduce myself, we’ve been keepin an eye in the house down the street, and the way Providence is laid out, yeh always in someone’s backyaad.”

So Dan proceeded to tell me all about this house that is selling tons of drugs, and how they just can’t catch them, “they keep swallowin it, it’s a tough nut to crack.” I think Dan may have been a little bored because he told me way more information than I think he should have, “theyah usin that payphone over theah… we’ll probably just hafta tackle a guy.”

So I called my landlady, and told her that if she sees someone skulking around the backyard, it’s most likely Officer Dan. I guess it’s good that the only person to bother me when I’m out walking after dark is a police officer, I just wish he wasn’t hiding in my backyard.