Everyone knows what “the other side of the tracks” means.
It’s the dividing line between “us” and “them.”
Railroad tracks, boulevards, embankments, power lines — they all serve useful purposes. But where they’re placed in our towns and communities sometimes has a far more austere significance, however subtle.
In fact, they are dividing lines. They may was well be national boundaries. They are most certainly economic boundaries — and in many cases — racial and cultural borders.
If you happened to be born on the “right” side of the tracks (as I was), consider yourself fortunate. If you’re on the wrong side however, then your ambition is most likely to cross the imaginary divide and overcome invisible barriers which exist to this day.
Today, I’m crossing the railroad tracks. I’m headed to the other side.
Bell Gardens is what you would call — a city on the other side. Mostly Hispanic now, it used to be one of the most dangerous areas of the city, as recently as 10 to 15 years ago. Most of the shootings here were related to drug trafficking. But those days are pretty much over now. Today, it’s a quiet community which has undergone a remarkable transformation. I’d even go so far as to call it a small miracle. Yes — Bell Gardens is where I’m staying during the next two weeks, which happens to be where the famous Bicycle Casino is located.
I must confess that were it not for this working assignment at what’s come to be known to most poker players simply as “The Bike,” I’d probably stay somewhere else. Which tells you everything about our lingering perceptions about the other side of the tracks — biases which to which I’m undoubtedly shackled. But my previous visits here have reshaped some old perceptions. I’ve gained an awareness for what I would have missed had I not stayed here and been forced to integrate myself into this community. I would have missed plenty and in the end I’d have been poorer for it. Alas, the longer I’m here the more comfortable I am within this community and the greater appreciation I have for the people who live here.Read More