A couple of weeks ago I noticed that Dave Winer was using Cyclemeter, a iPhone app that measures and maps out your ride times. While I don’t cycle too much to work (with all of the construction, storage is at a premium), I have been walking a lot and using Walkmeter to track, map, and guilt me into walking more. So far I hate it but I am walking around 6.14 kms a day. While I was walking home the other day, I ran into a neighbor who was asking us if we were moving because we have been working in the yard this summer. The truth is that with Wendy’s depression hitting on schedule this spring, we just got behind and were catching up. Instead of walking into Safeway, saying hi to Wendy, and then heading down Avenue D, we went down Avenue B. It was like I was in a different city. Girls working the block, abandoned homes, boarded up windows, overgrown yards; it was a mess. As we walked down the street he said to me, “this part of Mayfair has gone to shit” and I couldn’t agree more. The housing stock has always been poor on these two blocks but it has gotten worse in the last couple of years. The sidewalks were a mess and the roads were, well like a lot of roads in the city, a mess.
It’s just not Avenue B. On Sunday afternoon Wendy had run to Co-op to get some Peat Moss for the yard and I was out watering some of it and enjoying a rather bland diabetic friendly iced tea on the front stop. A women walked by, lifted her shirt, showed her chest and cooled herself off. She then offered to give me a blow job for some of that beer (iced tea) that I was drinking. Bring propositioned was one thing but flashing my 12 year old son wasn’t that cool (although he may disagree with me). I have heard that prostitution is down on 33rd Street but it has moved along the side streets. Wendy sees them many times while walking to Safeway for a 2:00 p.m. shift while Mark has been solicited (again, he is twelve) many times walking to and from the store, a distance of two blocks. Prostitution is like a game of “whack a mole”, you remove from one area, it springs up in different areas. The crackdown on 20th Street moved it to 33rd, the crackdown on 33rd moves it to my block. Apparently that is progress. I have confidence in the police. They will crack down on Avenue’s C, D, and E, and the problem will move somewhere else. I don’t blame the police for this but as a homeowner you wish the “mole” hadn’t appeared on your street and that the prostitution had gone somewhere else.
Tonight was probably the last night that I will think of Mayfair as home. Tonight Wendy and I were chatting about an upcoming trip and we heard a gunshot. As I looked up the non 9-1-1 number, another gunshot went off behind what sounded to be Carpenter’s Church. Gunshot number three sounded like it was in our backyard (although I assumed it was in the vacant lot or alley behind us) and we saw the muzzle flash of gunshot number four (although Wendy says we saw muzzle flash number 3 and just heard number 4).
Wendy had called the police and we were asked, “how do you know it’s a gunshot” and it’s a fair question which is hard to answer without being flippant. We have fireworks and fire crackers going off here all summer along. The dogs don’t even respond to it. We don’t respond to it. There is a distinctive noise that a gun makes and one that a fire cracker makes. This was a gun (at the cabin we hear gun fire all of the time but in rural Saskatchewan its not that threatening). I was told that Saskatoon Police responded and didn’t find a weapon so they can’t open an investigation. That’s not their fault yet part of me goes what happens next time when one of those shots goes into Oliver’s bedroom?
Mayfair has had two long time drug house running drug houses on the 1200 block of Avenue D (one closed, one still active), one on Avenue E (closed), two massage parlours on 33rd Street (open), another illegal brothel on Avenue D (run by someone on federal parole and now closed), a massage parlour run by Hell’s Angels, the bar that hosts the Terror Squad, illegal boarding house after illegal boarding house all over the neighbourhood, one really high profile location that flaunts their non-compliance with zoning, a regular dial-a-dope drop on my street corner (by the time it clicks in what just happened, they are gone). The vaunted Local Area Plan (of which I am a believer) has been delayed longer than the city’s recycling plan. Of course when it was planned, I was told that Mayfair was next because it was a neighborhood in crisis. Nothing helps a crisis like a year long delay. There is no functioning community association, Wendy gets solicited walking home from Safeway on a regular basis and my neighbours are scared. I used to ignore them and their fears but now I agree with what they are saying.
Tomorrow when I complain to the police (for not even letting us know via the phone that they had driven by) I will hear that crime is down in the area, patrols are up, and there are beat cops on 33rd and all of it is true. Then I will spend some time thinking how much longer I want to live in what is becoming increasingly violent and scary area of Saskatoon.
One of my core beliefs that it never gets so bad that you can’t make it better. I have always criticized those that fled to other neighborhoods when it got tough because this is what happens but where the hell do you go from here? I just don’t know.