Life Is Good In...the Ghetto?

The Cape a ghetto? It's those shady Garden Clubbers.

Editor's Note:  Posted this blog again just in case you missed it earlier this week. It's a great one!

I was having an after-school chat with my kids one afternoon last week about their day, and one of them mentioned that the Cape is referred to by some of their non-Cape middle school friends as "ghetto," as in, "The Cape is SO ghetto." I was taken aback at this casual comment because the word ghetto is loaded with a variety of heavy meanings and connotations, most of which my children do not even understand. How was it possible that our ordinary, happy, suburban life in the Cape could be considered "ghetto" by anyone?

I went online to look up definitions of "ghetto." Obviously the word brings to mind impoverished, crime ridden, inner city neighborhoods where violence, lawlessness, and lack of opportunity prevail. I know the Cape has its unsavory elements as evidenced by the odd drug bust, rundown home, and incidents of vandalism, but it certainly does not rise to the level of this description.

The origin of the word ghetto dates back to the 14th century when persecuted Jews were forced to live in poor conditions on the Venetian island of Getto. Of course, we are all familiar with the Jewish ghettos created centuries later by Nazis, the most infamous of which was the terrible Warsaw ghetto. Again, not the type of ghetto with which the Cape was being labeled.

No, I think the way that ghetto is being used to stereotype the Cape fits better under the definition that I found online at Urban Dictionary: "An improperly overused word that most teenagers and young adults use to describe something that is old, run down, or dirty." Not that I'm suggesting "mean kids" are going around Magothy River Middle openly degrading those they perceive to have less. The way the use of "ghetto" was described to me by my daughter was more joking than nasty, but there's still an underlying message there that I don't love.

My mind flashed back over the 18 years we've lived in the Cape to try and grasp this perception of the place we've come to know as home. I have affectionately referred to this community in the past as "redneck'lectic" to describe the somewhat eclectic vibe of the neighborhood tinted with its "local color." We have a wide socio-economic range in the Cape, and we certainly harbor a few unsavory characters across the spectrum. Some people have the means to shield themselves from such elements in gated or upscale communities. Some do not. Others weigh them against their personal comfort level and decide if the benefits of their chosen home outweigh the negatives.

The latter applies to our choice to live in the Cape. We were drawn here by the sense of community that comes with having our own quality schools in walking distance, a shopping center, post office, gas station, churches, beaches, marinas, restaurants, fire station, swim club, etc. We fell in love with the trees, non-cookie-cutter homes, quirky character, and fabulous water access. We loved it enough to choose it twice when we bought our second home in the Cape. We are not blind to the few distasteful aspects of this place, but find enough value to continue to make it our home. Everyone makes tradeoffs when they select a place to live and raise a family. We are fully satisfied with the ones we've made.

Since I know I cannot significantly alter the Cape's rap as "ghetto" for those who insist on labeling, I think instead I will own it. People who survive ghettos are marvels of resourcefulness and toughness. These are qualities I can embrace as I get in touch with my inner Cape ghetto mama. Our kids will be tougher for walking the mean, hard streets of the Cape on their way to sailing camp at lovely Lake Claire beach, to swim team practice at the Swim Club, to get an ice cream at Rita's, or to participate in the yearly Strawberry Festival parade or Elementary School 5K race. It's rough out there in the 'hood, Capers, but we're made of tenacious stuff. Don't mess with the Cape or the feared CSC Improvement Association might go all gangsta' on you. Oh, and watch out for those little Garden Club ladies. They might be packing...

See photos at top right of recent Garden Club vandalism at the shopping center (can nobody put an end to their reign of terror)...

Cape Blogger

*For the record, I have no idea if the Garden Club is comprised of "little ladies," and the pretty flower beds at the shopping center may not be their handiwork. I do have my suspicions that they're packing, though. Here's the link to the Cape Garden Club website with information about the "plant sale" this weekend. Don't let the pretty flower pictures fool you. They will mess you up...

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Christy Roberts May 16, 2011 at 09:37 PM
:) Actually, the only other house we seriously considered buying before we bought our first home in the Cape was in Mago Vista. You could JUST see the water from the back deck (more like swamp). We were so desperate to be anywhere near the water that we considered a pretty rundown place. My father-in-law set us straight when he took a look and said we would be at risk of an electrical fire among other catastrophes. I often wonder how different our lives would have been if we had chosen that place over our split foyer on Latrobe. Something guided us to the Cape, I guess (or maybe it was just that we had next to no down payment...).
Melanie Norris May 16, 2011 at 11:58 PM
Good belly laugh while reading that!
Mandy Johnson May 19, 2011 at 03:45 PM
I met Cape St. Claire in 1977 when transferred here from Heidelberg, Germany. I got my hair cut and styled (no mean task even then) at TNT at it's original site, slaughtered some crab dip and cheese bread while waiting for my appointment and then took a look around..I fell in love with the main beach and within three months settled on my first home. Between my husband and I we've had three homes here....Love it, love it, love it. Artists, writers, guvvies, techies, educators, producers, directors, Oscar winners,once upon a time movie stars on vacation, craftspeople, hippies, townies,musicians, maybe muggles, wizards, witches, Graul's Bourbon Street Pasta, great places to eat and tons of super smart homeowners who know Cape St. Claire rocks and always did. Where else can you live like this at this price even with the occasional power outages - Rather like that song from "Cheers" years ago, I want to be where everybody knows your name...
Cape Blogger May 20, 2011 at 03:32 PM
I agree, Mandy. Love the historical perspective. I think two homes in the Cape will do it for us. We are happy with our spot, although there is one lot in the community that I covet. Maybe one day I will have a vacation home - in the Cape!
Edy and Don Seyfferth August 05, 2013 at 10:20 AM
I chose Cape St Claire, 20 years ago, after living in the then UPSCALE Crofton. My main reasons for making cape st claire MY HOME, was the AWESOME youth sports organization, which my daughter participated in just about every sport offered. With her love of softball, we had an amazing team that played and stayed together until HIGH SCHOOL. We literally handed Broadneck High the elite of the elite girls softball team. The coach at the time, unfortunately tore the team apart and destroyed these girls LOVE OF THE GAME. Also A HUGE factor was the ratings of the schools. Obviousley, whomever labeled our wonderful community as GHETTO, does not know the true meaning. This community has always pulled together in time of Fun and CRISIS..... It is where we have chosen to plant our roots and as we prepare for our next generation of family, we are PROUD to call Cape our home and our business location.....


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