Tuesday, April 10, 2007

If you are what you drive, I'm screwed

Hummers, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

This is going to be a controversial post so brace yourselves.

I come from a long line of sensible car owners. My parents drive a sensible car, my brother drives a sensible car and I too drive a sensible car. By sensible I mean used and Japanese with really good gas mileage. Now earlier I wrote about the penchant for washing cars in Petworth. Now I'd like to take it one step further.

As you can see in the picture above, it looks like a Hummer has given birth to a baby Hummer. Well, I see these cars all the time in Petworth. I also see Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Cadillac and all the finest automobiles on the road. My question is: why? We all know that Petworth is a working/middle class sanctuary in Northwest DC. Frankly, the cars just don't fit. So, I get it - this is an image thing. But sometimes these cars are parked in front of houses that to put it mildly can use a lot of work. So does it really make sense to need a new roof and have a Bentley parked out front? I'm aware this is America and it is our choice to do as we please. And thank God for that. But it makes me wonder: are these cars being purchased or leased? Is this the wisest use of money for a middle class neighborhood. Does it spiral into a "keeping up with the Joneses"? To me it just doesn't make any sense. Does it trickle down into children wanting the most expensive clothes just for image. I'm not saying drive a Pinto and wear rags but be sensible. What is the lesson for the children?

Sure if you are wealthy and doing fine and paying your bills and saving for retirement etc buy whatever the hell you want. I expect to see these cars in Georgetown but in Petworth it always makes me shake my head. I realize people are going to go crazy so I admit there are exceptions. Not every fancy car in Petworth fits this mold. But I would say an awful lot of them do. All I'm saying is that America has a terrible problem with buying things they can't afford and going into terrible debt. For medical bills, unemployment, food I can understand and am saddened by it. But I'd hate to think that families in our beloved Petworth are going into debt just for image.

Am I crazy?


bill mcneal said...

The thing that bothers me about this is how much space each one takes up, especially in areas where on-street parking is at a premium. I got the idea from Richard at Rebuilding Place, www.urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com,
but I like the idea of charging significantly more for residential parking permits based on the size of your car. People who buy small cars shouldn't be paying the same as people who take up two spaces every time they park their car.

Oh yeah, for some laughs, check out www.fuH2.com

reuben said...

i live in brightwood (north of you) and often wonder the same thing about this "road bling."
but america is a materialst society, isnt it? and the degree to which folks are seduced by this "more is better" ethos isn't limited to those who can "afford it."

Anonymous said...

p.s. sorry for the additional virtual blather, but ive thought some more about this... and the car washing thing... i am going to make a couple of assumptions here, and forgive me if i go too far. you aren't originally from here, are you? not a judgement.. but an assumption. since the car washing thing is as dc as, alas, taxation without representation. one of the weird (my opinion) local quirks. both things ( big cars... global warming, anyone? and the polishing)
baffle the hell out of me.

bogfrog said...

I suspect a lot of Petworth inherited the houses from prior generations. If the adults now have a solid job, and no mortgage to pay, then why not?

Prince of Petworth said...

Sure if that is the case. What I question is the state of some of the homes, that look like they haven't been touched since the 50s. As you well know, homes require constant upkeep. Hell if they can do both more power to to them.

Anonymous said...

some people are just more concerned with their cars than they are their house... I, personally, think it is a shame; but ultimately it's up to them.

Anonymous said...

when your job is your credit, bling it out to the max

Anonymous said...

So they decided to spend their money on a vehicle instead of overpriced slum property. Whatever, dude.

Anonymous said...

You are not crazy. You are racist. You are attempting to put your suburban "sensible" values on Black people, yes, I said it. I'm sure that you have every best intention in creating an informative blog about "your neighborhood", yet you fail to realize that "...our beloved Petworth" was a stable place to live long before you were born.

I know, you did not say Black in your Blog... you said everything but that... but if you had any understanding of Black American Culture, you would realize how ignorant your whiny little questions are.

So here goes with your cultural lesson:

Black folks have always liked and prized our automobiles. It is a status that goes back to early memory of my 45 years. Cadillacs, Lincolns', and all other luxury cars that most other American's consume. Much of it is a reaction to having a dignity and respect that was denied to us for many generations. If we could not live in the finest neighborhood (denied by covenants and redlining from reputable financial institutions) then we could drive nice cars. It is a matter of pride and respect, things that have come easily to you.

Black people are culturally different than white people, though our DNA make-up is 99.9% the same, we have been shaped very differently by the cultures we live in. I am sure that if you dig deep into your history you will see this... remember all the Black people that came to your house for dinner when you were growing up? Right.

So now you find yourselve immersed in a "culture" that you have no understanding of. "...our beloved Petworth", really, give me a break. Face it, though you, like I, paid big bucks to live here, we moved into a metropolitan area that is primarily African-American. Not only did you move to a city, but you moved to a Black neighborhood... why? Because it was all you could afford. If you could have afforded to move to Friendship Heights you would have. And if you did live in Friendship Heights, I doubt you would be questioning whether your neighbors leased or owned their cars. What business is that of yours anyway?

Hipsters, and such take note: Petworth was fine before you came here. It does not need your revitalization. Most people here do not consider their houses as investments, they are the places where they have lived. You have brought in your values and attempted to push them on the majority of this culture... shame on you. I doubt that you even talk to your neighbors... just blog about it... blah, blah, blah?

Anonymous said...

Damn, Anonymous. You sure schooled Whitey, didn't you? So please enlighten us on one other thing - do black people like to surround themselves with trash too? Because it sure seems like it with all the trash I see purposely dumped on the streets of Petworth by the aforementioned. Do fill us in.

Anonymous said...

No Black people do not like to surround themselves with trash; when are you moving?

Anonymous said...

Excellent comeback, Angry Black Anonymous. Are you the same charming young gentleman that called me a "white-[explicative]-[explicative]" on my walk home from the Metro the other night? I know that exchange made me wanna get to know my "neighbors" better. I guess I need to study up on the "culture" a little bit though, as I am not used to hurling racial, sexist epithets at strangers (or anyone for that matter).

Brenda said...

I think some of you are getting off track about the car. But I have lived in this area since 1978, and even I don't know what my neighbors make. There are lawyers, doctors and people from all backgrounds living in this neighborhood even before we were invaded by the newcomers. I recently purchased a used Mercedes, renovated my kitchen, have two children that are attorneys and my youngest son just finished Ohio State last year and all employed. I treated myself to what I want for all those years of putting my children first. It is always easy to critize others, but walk in their shoes first.

Prince of Petworth said...

Invaded? That is not very nice. Seems like we should all heed our own advice. At any rate the message of the post has clearly been lost. One of my favorite songs has a line "judge not less you judge yourself".

Anonymous said...


Lets just say it is a black thing, and as much as you try to understand it, you won't be able to. It may not make sense to you, but it does for us.

If all you have to worry about is adjusting to the Idiosyncrasies of your neighbors, I would trade your spot in a minute. I would rather not worry about discrimation on a daily basis, I would rather not face predujice every day for the rest of my life and only worry about what kind of cars the neighbors are driving.

Check this out PoP, cultures tend to adjust to injustice by modifying behaviors. What angry black man is saying is that owning cars as a way of getting respect is a behavior inherited as a reaction for 300 years of slavery, housing discrimation, job discrimation etc. etc. We were not able to acumulate wealth, as your grand or great grand parents probably did (this is an assumption).

Ok PoP, I can see you asking me, What that heck are you talking about?.

To that I repond, it is a black thing, you wouldn't understand

Prince of Petworth said...

Anon. Thanks for the comments. I understand exactly what you are talking about and I thank you for articulating it very well.

Prince of Petworth said...

If I could just add one comment though: that doesn't seem to be a healthy way to have a discussion. It seems overly simplified that I will never understand. I may not be the smartest kid in the world but I am also far from the stupidiest. I didn't grow up in Iowa (not that there is anything wrong with that). I have been blessed to be surrounded by diversity for many years. I like talking about tough issues. I like to be set straight if that is the case. I also like to wonder and observe. And that should not be stiffled even if you disagree with a comment.

Hummers said...

To the Prince of Petworth

We are the owners of the "Hummers" and we work VERY HARD to establish the American Dream or better yet "Our Dream." Are you saying that we can't have a dream living in the Petworth area or do we have to live in Georgetown. We are highly educated individuals and we take offense to individuals like you who think that the only thing out of life is - in your words - "driving sensible vehicles." You are miss guided and what you see on the outside is a representation of what is on the inside of the yellow house on the corner. The problem with individuals like you is that "You Just Don't Know How to Mind your Business." Please use your blog to promote the positive changes and diversity in the Petworth neighborhood.

Prince of Petworth said...

I wasn't saying that you can't drive luxury cars in Petworth. I probably just didn't explain my observation properly. I wasn't picking on any individual in particular. Please understanding that I wasn't trying to stick my nose in other people's business. I was making a general observation. Just like if I saw everyone in the neighborhood had helicopters. I think that would be weird if everyone had helicopters. But I can see why you are upset. For that I apologize. I hope you can accept my sincere apology. I very much like what you said at the end of your comment. I will absolutely make my best effort to promote positive change and diversity in the Petworth neighborhood. And again I do apologize for any perceived offense.