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I live in an area of D.C. know as Bloomingdale, which is considered somewhat shady. It’s right on the border, in fact, of being all-out sketchy. But there are a couple of nice restaurants and just enough remodeled row houses and families that it’s a fairly decent place to live. There are some pretty unique finds in this area of mine, including a cool flea market, a farmer’s markets, and a bomb Jamaican restaurant, and one of these days I’ll write more about the those, but today is more of a neighborhood rant.

As I was driving through Georgetown today admiring the freshly groomed lawns and pristine houses, I started to consider the elements that really mark a desirable place to live, and conversely what aesthetically marks a neighborhood as a “ghetto.” Certainly upkeep and the size of the houses matter, but there is more to it. I decided to look up the term ghetto on Urban Dictionary, and this is what it says: A ghetto is “an impoverished, neglected, or otherwise disadvantaged residential area of a city, usually troubled by a disproportionately large amount of crime.” Now, at first glance you cannot necessarily know how much money someone makes or how bad crime is (unless you Google the crime report). So snap judgement suggests that :”neglect” is the true aesthetic tell.

Thinking a bit, this does seem to be the answer. Georgetown is kept immaculate. Yards are groomed frequently, no trash is lying about the streets, it seems…well, clean. I think about my neighbors, and some people have kept their yards well attended, but some have not. Today was trash day, and I went to grab the trash can from the alley this morning and stepped in poop. I know exactly who it belongs to: the pit bull that lives in the English basement below me. I have seen his owner time and time again take him to the alley, let him poop, then walk away. I have seen the same man let trash pile up in the alley and seen him blatantly litter on the sidewalk. It seems to me that the term “ghetto” has less to do with income and crime than it does with the residents’ care of and respect for a neighborhood.

It angers me to think that a few bad eggs in a neighborhood can bring the whole place down. I think of the different arguments one could make on behalf of trashing your own neighborhood, and some of them are reasonable. Privileged people can afford landscaping and dog walkers, while low-income people who work two jobs don’t have the time or money for upkeep; and while this is true, this particular guy has no such excuse. He works 9 to 5, doesn’t have children to keep him busy, and I doubt he makes less money than I do. From what I’ve seen, it’s just sheer laziness and lack of respect for those of us around who love our weird little neighborhood and want to keep it looking nice. So next time, I’m going to say to the guy downstairs “Hey! Pick up your poop!”