Poplar St. @ Oak Vista St.
November 2010–In the middle of Oak Vista Street sits Reveille Park, the center of the Santa Rosa community. There is not much at the park except a broken down playground, a filthy pool, tiny basketball court, a track, an uncut field, and a trashy bayou. Sitting at the park, I see the same people from the same walk of life. As I walk the track, which circles the park, I pass the playground surrounded by a few trees. The rusted green structure is filled with children running around unsupervised. I think to myself maybe they live across the street and their parents are watching them. The broken down swings sit right next to the playground.
As I pass the playground, I pass the pool to my left, which is closed for the fall and is filled with dirt, leaves, and all kinds of foreign objects. There is a pipe on the edge of the pool where the diving board used to be. It was taken off, because a diver hit their head on it and almost drowned. The gate around the pool is not fit to keep anyone out, I guess that is why the city lets the pool get so filthy.
Straight-ahead is the bayou, which is just as dirty as the pool. Sims Bayou runs from the outskirts of Fort Bend County to the Houston Ship Channel and in the process passes on the side of Reveille Park. There once was grass with trails running through it, but there were to many problems. Bodies were dumped, young women were sexually assaulted, and criminals would lose the cops by running through the grass.
While I stroll around the track two young teenage boys, wearing their school uniforms, sit on the edge of the
water smoking a blunt. As I walk by they turn to see whom it is, then take another puff. I then see what once was a baseball field, but now it is just an empty field, which the track encircles. There are fathers on the field trying to teach their sons to play baseball, but it’s hard when their kids can’t get the feel of a real baseball field.
After I pass the field I approach a small wooded area where homeless people sleep. At times cops swing by and run them off, only to have them come back. While walking through the wooded area I see where the homeless keep their property. From previous experiences, they are very protective of it and will not hesitate to run me out of their home. Still walking on the track, I come to the parking lot on my right. The lot is bumpy and full of holes, which is it hard to maneuver through with a car. If I come to that parking lot at night I see people in their cars doing indecent things.
Looking left, I see the small concrete basketball court, which is barely big enough to hold a two on two game. The double rim and metal backboard make it impossible to make a shot. In the summer the court is packed with gangs of youth waiting to play. As I sit on one of the many benches and wait for the working day to end, I see a hoard of people all with different tasks on their mind. In the field twenty or so Mexican males play soccer using trash cans as the goals, yet still find a way to leave all their trash on the ground. They play shirts and skins and the men waiting for the next game sit on their tailgates and drink beer.
Hispanic females walk around the track while their children have their fun on the playground. Two middle age women walk the track, one wearing a trash bag suit and the other a bright purple shirt and lime green biker shorts. I overhear one say to the other, “Can you see if Bobby is OK?” “I’m sure he is, Freddie is with him,” the other responds.
Around the same time I notice a suspicious smoke gray vehicle pull into the parking lot and park three spaces from the corner of the lot, under the shade of a tree. I walk to another bench to take a closer look, a white Toyota Corolla pulls beside the first. A Hispanic male in his early twenties, wearing blue jeans and yellow Fubu shirt, gets off the second car and walks to the passenger window of the first. I can’t tell who is in the first car, but a brown paper bag is passed out the passenger window. The second guy in the yellow shirt spots me and a Hispanic male pokes his baldhead out of the smoke gray car’s passenger window. The door opens with screech and he begins walking slowly toward me.
He is young, about seventeen, five feet eight inches, one hundred and eighty pounds, wearing baggy khaki pants and a white muscle shirt. I guess his name is Juan, because of the tattoo on his forearm. About three feet away from me he says, “Say, dawg, you need something.”
“What you got?” I ask. After pulling three blunts out of his pocket and holding them out, I say, “I’m not interested.” He looks me up and down standing there for a moment. I ask if there is a problem and without response he walks back to his friend’s car and leaves. Around that time friends I hadn’t seen since middle school showed up.
Ronnie, Nene, and Lupe pull up in a black older model BMW. I ask what they have been up to, Ronnie says, “I dropped out of school and started working with my pops.” He tells me his dad was laid off, but since he still had his job, he was supporting his family. Nene had gotten his girlfriend pregnant the year before, but still managed to finish school while working. He says that he wants to go to college, but it would be hard while trying to keep food on the table. Lupe tells me that he had not even attended high school. He had started his own business, selling drugs. He says that he didn’t need school, because the money was steady pouring in. They ask me what I have been up to.
I tell them, and they laugh, because they do not figure me as the college type. As they continue on, to go play basketball, I walk to the swings. A fight breaks out as a small crowd forms. Two young Hispanic males began punching one another. The one in the uniform has the upper hand until friends of the one in the white shirt jump in and start beating him. A man walking on by runs over and brakes them up. The young man in the uniform takes off running while the others walk off casually.
I approach the group and ask why the fight broke out. They explain that the young man in the uniform had looked at them while they were sitting on the bench. They asked if he had a problem and the teen said, “Shut up and get out of my face.” It took off when the young man in the white shirt swung. I watch them joke on how they beat the young man, as they walk away.
Following that, I decide to sit and smoke a cigarette. A homeless man walks up and asks if I have another smoke. I give him one, and then we begin conversing about his life.
He tells me that he had pretty much grown up on the street. His name is Bob and he was from New Mexico. Bob says that when he was eighteen he came to Houston to find a job, since the town he was from was small and there were not many opportunities. Once he was here, he found a job as a janitor at a small company. The company went bankrupt and he was laid off. Unable to find another job because lack of work experience, he was evicted from his apartment. Since he had no family in Houston, he was forced to live on the street. On the street Bob got involved in drugs and alcohol, trying to forget his troubles he overdosed. Luckily, the other homeless people he was staying with were able to call an ambulance. Since then he says that he still drinks, but does not do any drugs. Bob says that he tried staying at a shelter, but it was like being a little kid and having someone tell you what to do. He had got accustomed to living on the street so he went back. After being kicked out of places he found Reveille Park and says that he has been staying in the area for about two years.
I give Bob a couple more cigarettes and five dollars and he goes on his way. After that I decide to sit near the bayou. As I sit near the water looking at the apartments across the bayou, I hear a few gunshots and tires screech. A few kids come running from the playground to see where the shots came from. I wonder where their parents are and why they haven’t scooped them up and left the park, so I walk back up to the track only to see everyone going on about their business as if nothing had happened. I realize that this park really does represent the community. I do not know if the people’s lack reaction is because they are not frightened or if they have just become immune to the crime. Either way Reveille Park will always be a symbol of the community’s state of mind, whatever that might be.
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