Tom and I didn't think it was a big deal. After all, Shockoe Bottom already has plenty of shades of shadiness, from the strip club and tattoo parlors to the bail bondsman, the biker gatherings and a couple of places with vibes that are vaguely punk-S&M-I-don't-want-to-know.
Apparently, though, our more gentrified neighborhood neighbor, Church Hill, got worried. They freaked over the fact that the clinic sits just a block downhill (a very steep hill) from a school. Some bills are being introduced at the state legislature to prevent such proximity from happening again.
I'm a little baffled by that reaction. I walk by the clinic fairly often and fail to see a danger to the kids up there. It's not as if the methadone is being dispensed on the street. The most you have is a bunch of people waiting around for their turn inside ... not unlike the bunches of people standing around on weekend mornings to get into brunch at Millie's.
What makes the clinic people scarier than the restaurant people? The connection to drugs? That would be an illogical answer, because the very fact that people are at a methadone clinic means they are taking steps to deal with their problems. The same can't be known for the Millie's crowd.
So the fear is simply, "There are people hanging out on the street there." O-kay. I guess I've heard that before, from suburban acquaintances who are afraid to come into the city. I don't understand that, either, because hey everybody, they're just people. Sure, some might be dangerous, but just as many (probably more) are harmless, living their lives and dying their deaths like the rest of us.
My preference is to not seal myself off from the life and lives of others, pretending that I am safe behind yards of yard. I want to see the possibilities of life from all angles, including the ones that tell me about poverty, scrambling and yes, the ravages of addiction.
Everyone has a story. Maybe being a writer makes me more willing to read those stories in the raw, instead of waiting for the cleaned-up movie version.
All I really know is that running to the suburbs, or gentrifying a neighborhood, isn't going to make the stories go away. They'll still be there in all their messy reality. We can either live with them or make life sterile and meaningless.
I vote for the clinic, the urban messiness and the stories.