Culture

Things that go Bump in the Night in Suburbia

It’s funny that when I move to Berkeley more than a decade ago people were surprised when I stated that I was actually scared to walk alone at night there. People would look at me quizzically and ask “well, aren’t you from New York?” Meaning, New York is the big ugga bugga-the big scary city where danger lurks behind every corner and shadow. Well, yes crime occurs in New York-as it does in any big city. As a matter of fact New York city crime rates have been dropping and are lower than many other major cities (i.e. Chicago).  I would answer those who questioned me in a most matter-of-fact way: “if a mugger is after me in NYC, I can run into a bodega and they will protect me. Where do I run to in Berkeley?” ostensibly the suburbs where every street was dark and there were not that many people walking about and not many storefronts or businesses. People didn’t quite get my answer. Of course, using the example a mugger probably didn’t help. But seriously, in the burbs where do you run to. There is a reason why most horror films take place in suburbia. There danger can truly lurk behind every shadow. Wink wink.

Growing up, I grew up in the South Bronx. I learned to speed walk because that’s what we do and that’s how you truly don’t get followed. I never understood the appeal of living in a suburban house.  One of my first nights in Berkeley, I was walking at night (probably around 9pm) and I saw what I thought were two children dressed in costumes standing next to a beautiful Victorian house. They seemed both a little creepy and cute. I thought they were preparing for Halloween.  I actually went to get a little closer to them to see their costume when to my horror I realized they were not children. Instead, these two creatures were raccoons. They were standing upright sneering at me.  I was frightened beyond belief and my fight or flight reaction kicked into high gear and I backed up as quickly as possible and ran all the way home.  Ok. I had never seen a raccoon before and they just were so at ease standing there as if they owned the lot. Apparently those raccoons and their friends felt quite at home in this town as we heard tales of raccoons entering houses through the dog doors and eating kitchen leftovers.  Ok, that is frightening, gross and weird. And, people thought that the South Bronx was a zoo (in the most pejorative meaning).

I found my sanity five years later and returned to the Big Apple.  For the most part, I can outrun and outwalk weirdos. Then I lost my sanity again and hoofed it to the burbs once again. Things have been all well and good. But let me tell you it’s still spooky in the burbs.

Last night was typical of the oddities I experience. Obviously, it’s been getting darker earlier and there are just not that many street lights. I looked out my enormously steeped yard and wondered what was lurking back there. A few years back, there was a person who was actually camped out at the top of our property and the park police came to warn us about that. How creepy is that? So, anyway, when I look at the yard in the dark I do wonder if deer, coyote, raccoon, or human eyes will peer back.  When I was growing up my mom had scared me into believing that if you looked into a mirror at night something would look back. I know, I know…yet another Puerto Rican superstition. After randomly peering out into the dark I go to take a bath. As I am playing civilization on my ipad, I start to see black stuff floating about. Ok. That’s weird, I think. I ignore and then I see more. I look about and am startled to see black goo coming out of the bath jets.  I think I have seen that scene countless times in movies where the woman is either about to be killed or she attacked (and she escapes)-this all of course depending on her virginity status.  I rush up and empty the tub. More black goo kept coming out. I couldn’t figure out what that was about. I somehow put that behind me and went to work out on my treadmill-which is located in the super scary basement. Everytime I am in the basement I put all lights on and close all the doors (storage, bathroom). See my back is to the rest of the room while I run on the treadmill and that just scares the hell out of me. I keep imagining that some killer (Jason from Halloween) will come out of that back storage room. Worse yet, I am afraid to look in the TV reflection for fear that something will be looking back at me from behind. Again, that’s an old fear instilled in me by my mother and her superstitions. I do sometimes think her spirit may be hanging around there just to give me a good old frights-she loved, loved loved pulling pranks on people. Anyway, I was watching Hawaii Five O while working out when all of a sudden a spider is over my head. Ok. I think I saw that movie as well (Arachnophobia anyone?). After my heart doubly accelerated workout, I went to the kitchen to down a coke zero. Yes, I drink soda after working out. It’s no different really than Gatorade. I swear it so!  As I was drinking my Coke Zero, I noticed a Cicada on my blind. What?! Really? Locusts now?

All together now, I was starting to get a little spooked.  The goo, the spider, the cicada were all trying to tell me something right?  The suburban night noises were getting to me. I had to find a way to turn this all around.  I grabbed the cicada, grabbed the cooking spray, turned the stove on and fried that cicada. That is what one is supposed to do to drive the evil spirits away, right?

The moral of the story is threefold: Things occur in threes. My mother really got me more invested in those superstitions than I thought. This was actually a warped love letter to New York City.

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