Your Neighbor’s Wall Is Ablaze


“Your own safety is at stake when your neighbor’s wall is ablaze.” – Horace

The B’more Big Girl House is still in the works, but it’s been challenging to move the plans forward. My Kardashian taste does not suit my Gary Coleman budget*, nor the current value of the neighborhood into which I am moving. You can’t build a $500K house in a $90K community. It isn’t smart, and it isn’t allowed by the bank.

I have come to terms with the fact that my house won’t be exactly what I want it to be from the get-go, but that doesn’t make the process of scaling back easier. Determining what should be done now so that future improvements are less taxing isn’t simple, and the bank’s rules are only making it harder.

I planned to add a master bathroom on the second floor, and a half-bath on the first. When costs began to escalate, I asked if we could rough-in the bathrooms so that I could finish them at a later date. Seemed like an elegant solution to me, the roughing in. The contractors are re-doing the plumbing and wiring anyway, but leaving the new bathrooms unfinished would save me from having to spend on fixtures.

The bank said, “No.” I’m still not sure why they said no, but I am sure that I can’t leave the bathrooms unfinished. If they’re started, they must be finished. So what is one to do? Not prepare for the future while the walls are down and the plumbing exposed? That’s just dumb. So instead of asking IF I finish the bathrooms, I have to ask HOW.

Renovations aside, my concern for today isn’t about the house itself, but the neighborhood in which it resides. Even before I bought the place, I knew that Westport, a low income community located in South Baltimore, wasn’t my ideal location for my first home. There aren’t any trees, for one, and it’s mostly abandoned, for another. Its industrial roots are clear in the presence of railroad tracks and substations, which do little to improve the view. But I thought that the neighborhood could – and would – be fixed. Development is in the works, I was told. Lots of changes coming, they said.

That development is indeed in the works, and changes are in fact coming, but what does one do in the interim? There is crime in the neighborhood, serious, violent crime, and it seems to be on the rise.

I am scared to pieces. I will not deny it, nor will I belittle that fear with humor like I usually do. Internet, I am telling you that I am really and truly scared.

Without any way to alleviate my fear, I am taking action as best I can. I have been asked to run for the Board of our neighborhood association, and I am going to do so. I have been advised by a fortune cookie that, “To build a better world, start in your community.” So I am going to try and fix the world by making Westport better.

I have spent most of today reaching out to city government officials about the infrastructure of the neighborhood, and to other neighborhood associations to learn how they implemented programs in their areas. I have contacted the developer of the waterfront project for more information. I have researched crime prevention programs.

I have made lists of ideas and things to do so that my plan is in place, at least in part. But my fear has not been alleviated. I am afraid to live in the house I am buying. I am afraid of the people I will live near, as some of those people’s walls are ablaze – they are involved in dangerous dealings. And truthfully, I am afraid to be too open about the change I wish to bring, because I know the people involved in those dangerous dealings will not like it.

I do not want to give up on the B’more Big Girl House. I believe that this neighborhood will improve when the developers start work on the waterfront project, and if that happens then it will put me in a strong financial position. The truth is that I would never be able to afford a home in the Washington Metropolitan Area unless it was a situation like this one.

What is more, I am excited to be involved in the area’s growth. In the short time I have participated with the neighborhood association, I have grown to like and respect the people working to bring about change in Westport. But a large part of me worries that this project is too big for me, and that my courage isn’t courageous enough.

I am not Norma Rae, fearlessly rocking the boat to bring about positive change. I’m Billy Ray, singing about going back to Alabama and achey breaky hearts.

Have any of you been in a similar situation? How did you improve your community? And how did you remain stalwart while things were bad?

*I totally stole that from an episode of My Fair Wedding with David Tutera. It suits and it makes me giggle.

Comment  / on /  Your Neighbor’s Wall Is Ablaze

One Response to Your Neighbor’s Wall Is Ablaze

  1. Alarming! I haven’t ever been in any kind of situation like that, but I admire the fact that you’re taking this on. I’m betting your courage is courageous enough, and the steps you’re taking sound sand and rational. I’d be scared to pieces, too, and probably not as efficient in taking the reins and trying to *do* something. Best, best, best luck in this!

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