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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Detailed Cartography: The Grind

The Grind
     The Grind sprang up in the vacant area between Meridian and Sherwood and Dante during the Great Depression. The displaced people set up shanties in the area, and tried, many times futilely, to find day work in the towns. The name Grind came into being because the people felt that they were being ground down. When Fairhaven and Meridian formed Belport, the new construction of the City Center created enough jobs for the displaced people to work. The shanties soon became more permanent structures, and the Grind started building itself at a pace that matched City Center, even if on a less grandiose scale. The Grind became the main source of workforce to both Dante and Shoreward, and became a semi-industrialized area, though the area had no kind of government, and fell outside of all the jurisdiction of the existing towns. The Grind quickly became the worst area to be associated with for its rampant crime. Since no one would go inside of it, it became a haven for drug dealers, mafia, prostitutes, gangs, and all other manner of disreputable figures.
     After World War II came the incorporation of Shoreward, Dante, and the Grind into Belport. For years afterward, the Grind continued to be a neighborhood that people would go out of their way to avoid. Attempts at regulating the area mostly failed so that police in the Grind either turned a blind eye or were a part of the problem. It wasn't until Mitch Harrison, a city councilman and former DA, led a strong push to reform the Grind after it began to encroach on Meriville. The encroachment itself wasn't necessarily the problem, but Merivillers, seeing how close the Grind was and how bad their neighborhoods were becoming, would relocate to other, safer areas. The turning point for the Grind was when eight people were massacred at a local restaurant. This polarized the city and Harrison won the bid for mayor and began massive reform initiatives, tripling the police presence in the Grind and reversing much of the damage done. Efforts were made to revitalize the area to restore it to Meriville, but Meridian Street, which had once served as the center of town, had become Meriville's southern border, and no amount of revitalization changed that. The revitalization was successful in curbing the criminal activity in the Grind. It is still not the safest place to be at night, and known for its roughness, but the most hardened activity belongs to Dante and Shoreward, now.
     The Grind is considered the heart of Belport's night life. It has more nightclubs and bars per block than the rest of Belport combined. The semi-industrial nature of the Grind appeals to younger people, and so many college students, both from Belport College and DeGradi University, frequent its nightclubs and parties, and even raves in its infrequent warehouses. The Meriville side of the Grind—AKA the Upper Grind—being the entire area of what was formerly Meriville, from Meridian Street down to Townsend Avenue—the old border of Meridian—the Grind is more trendy than dangerous. The roots of Meriville's quirky artistic side reside there and there are art studios, coffee shops, and even the occasional gallery, though more than a few of these have been repurposed into night clubs and bars.
     The Lower Grind, at the borders of Shoreward and Dante's Forge, is the last remnant of the original Grind. In these places it is nearly unchanged from its original, criminal roots, but the surrounding areas of Shoreward and Dante have become so bad as to match it, making it indistinct, now.

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