The author describes his neighborhood in this chapter where every surface was covered with graffiti—deemed as the most visible marker of urban blight. Across from Avenue D projects stood another manifestation of poverty: the slums. He describes the condition as if some social scientist had constructed a very crude experiment, randomly assigning people with low socioeconomic status to live on one side of the street to the other. The people living in this neighborhood were all living off food stamps; some on welfare; others worked; and it made no difference. He notes that every family that experiences a socioeconomic setback must come up with its own narrative why it happened; and considered that theirs was “Too far ahead of his time”. They worked on this rationale, this excuse, telling and retelling Walter's story to hone its details and to forgive for being guilty of that ultimate sin in American society: downward mobility.
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