By Ernie McCray
I’ll always remember a moment in my childhood when a police officer told a screaming woman that he was going to have to arrest her for “disturbing the peace.” The setting was a rough neighborhood in my hometown referred to as “the strip” and the woman replied “What gn peace?”
That was the first time I can recall ever hearing the term “disturbing the peace” and, at the time, I didn’t fully understand what it meant but I laughed along with everybody else in earshot of the conversation in agreement with the woman.
But that was about sixty years ago and I now fully understand what “disturbing the peace” means because I live with my peace being disturbed daily and it’s no laughing matter. Oh, I am so tired of not being able to simply lay my head down at the end of the day without somebody, like the other night, around 1:00 AM,yelling: “Hi-Yo” like the Lone Ranger on steroids - while her companions laughed that rowdy throaty hacky gutteral “Har-Har” laugh that characterizes drunken fools.
The disturbers of my peace are the patrons of Hamilton’s Tavern which used to be Sparky’s Bar, an establishment that has ghettoized my block for far too many years.
Hamilton’s Tavern disturbs peace with a new twist: their phone number isn’t listed so if we want to complain we have to drag ourselves out of bed and trek across the street to talk to a bartender whose survival depends on customers living it up and having a good time.
What’s really hard to swallow is that this situation could have been avoided when Sparky’s closed its doors. We appealed to the Alcoholic Beverage Control to rid our neighborhood of bars but they made it very clear to us that Hamilton’s Tavern was to become a reality because our protestations could only apply to the previous bar. So, we in effect, were told to give the new bar a chance as though it would attract polite drinkers who would sip, rather than guzzle their beer and hold their wine glasses like teacups.
What’s harder to swallow is that between the closing of Sparky’s bar and the opening of Hamilton’s Tavern, a period of a few months, no one had sex in our hedges. No one peed or vomited in our yards or on our sidewalks. There were absolutely no late night or early morning conversations interrupting the silence of our darkened bedrooms..
But now all of the above is back louder and more blatant than ever.The bar is cavernous, designed to cater to a large number of drinkers. Added to the mix is a cafe next door which features outdoor chairs and a table which doesn’t contribute to the making of a peaceful neighborhood at all.
The area I grew up calling “the strip” back in the 40’s and 50’s, the mid-20th Century, is now one of the most peaceful neighborhoods in my hometown. Why pulling off such a transformation in a beautiful gentrifying community, in the early stages of the 21st Century which should be a century of advanced enlightenment, is baffling to me.
Hamilton’s Tavern was allowed to do business in my neighborhood based on “fairness,” I’ve been told. Well, they’ve, from the moment they opened, used up all their “fairness” chips. It is now time for the ABC and the police department to treat my family and my neighbors fairly and rid us of this plague on our wellbeing.. “What gn peace?” shouldn’t be a question we should ever have to ask.