I live in one of the more diverse (racially, financially and otherwise) neighborhoods in one of the whitest, most affluent and “liberal” cities in the country. I love my neighborhood. I bought my house for what seemed like a lot of money at the time when I was still single, in my 20s and when the neighborhood was still due for its come-up. As a first-time buyer with no experience, I got the perfect realtor who treated me like she was the mama bird and I was the eaglet getting ready to fly. I had enough prior experience with “rough” neighborhoods, living close to, and even in, the downtown area to feel competent to handle the new area, even as a “vulnerable ” young lady. Truth is, I’ve always been able to talk my way out of most situations, so while it could have been overconfidence at the time, it all turned out alright as I still live in the same house.
A week ago or so, we had our first day of spring. Some people believe that date is pegged to the calendar, and astrologically it is, but I’m talking about the first day of the year when it hits 60° and is not raining. Typically, the subjective first day of spring (SFDS) is around my birthday, in the first half of February, but this year that was absolutely not the case and it has been rainy or really cold for the first 10 weeks of the year.
What I like to try to do on the SFDS is go for an extra long walk with the dogs, either on a new route, or just a greater distance, or even on a drive to one of the largest urban forested parks in the US, which so happens to be about 1 mile from my house. This time, we went to some normal haunts, on a fairly regular route, but took a couple more zigs instead of zags and ended up walking probably about 3 miles. We also stopped and chatted with a fair number of folks, other walkers or neighbors sitting on their porches or doing yard work. These are the conversations I had and some of the things I learned.
I get to another nearby park and upon entering, I come up to an older gentleman walking alone toward me. He doesn’t seem to be interested in my dogs, but he does like to talk. With immediate hat-tipping pleasantries aside, we start talking about race, politics and sex (all the things you’re not supposed to talk about), I find out he’s 76 years old and has been 100% clean and sober for 17 years. His name is Richard and he used to live in New York, where people were definitely not racist like they are here. He also walks the park almost every day, hates carrying keys, wallet and phone on his walks so he leaves them at home, but he considers carrying a gun for self-protection. His lady friend would prefer he carry his phone, but he knows better and told her to leave him alone. He was grateful that I was also not carrying my phone or wearing earbuds so that we could talk. I told him I had to get moving again when the mosquitoes found us all and the dogs starting getting testy about it.
As I was walking past the baseball diamond where some kids were getting geared up for a practice, I get a little pep in my step when I hear “Forgot About Dré” coming from their boom box… “Nowadays everybody wanna talk, like they got something to say, but nothing comes out; when they move their lips, just a bunch of gibberish; the motherfuckers act like the forgot about Dré.”
As I got to the other side of the park, another zig in lieu of zag and I walked down a street I have probably never walked down. When I got to the end of a block, I ran across another older neighbor, this time a woman, sitting on her porch hanging out with her large foster dog, Jackson. We remarked about what a lovely day it was and I mentioned how I hoped my dogs wouldn’t go bezerk barking at her dog through the chain link fence. It was pretty quiet, but then Jackson decided to take a whiz in our general direction. His stream had fortitude and I actually had to jump back, pulling my dogs away so they didn’t get peed on. Better to be pissed off than pissed on. I never got her name; we moved along.
We crossed a main thoroughfare in the hood at the first available safe marked crosswalk and headed to the fancy section of the neighborhood. Houses are generally still modest, but every so often, there’s a big, turn-of-the-century house that looks like a 4000 sf dollhouse. One of them had a big truck in the driveway blowing insulation. Likely someone got a deal on a major fixer and was starting to put some money into it. Good to see some movement in a positive direction.
On the other side of the street, I notice a women doing some yard work with a rake and some clippers. Her back was to me, so I wasn’t going to bother her; a few steps further and I glanced at the front door and there were the most beautiful painted Mexican-style sun and moon clay art pieces mounted on the porch overhang. I liked them so much I turned around to ask the woman if she lived there and she said yes. I told her I LOVED the sun and moon above her door and she said that they actually came with the house. The woman who used to live there, from whom she bought the place 6 years ago had moved to Mexico after selling. The new owner liked them and so she never took them down.
Definitely on my way back home now and the pups are still going strong. The older one isn’t old, but she is pretty lazy so by that time, she was not pulling the leash any longer. The little one, though, she could do a 10 mile hike with no issues, so she was still plowing ahead, end of the leash, just waiting to see what exciting things might be around the next corner.
As I pass another house on the larger side, a younger guy is moving swiftly from the door, through several boxes and loose stacks of debris, old wood trim, etc. I assume he was doing some construction at the place, so I asked about it. He replied that the folks who lived there were remodeling the kitchen and that he was just dropping off a Door Dash order from across the metro area, more than 20 miles away. I asked whether he was normally asked to drive so far and he said not generally. He had been out of work for the last 3 months and had filled his time making deliveries and collecting free stuff from bags, boxes and piles he finds while driving around. Once he brings it home and sorts through it, he puts up ads on his Facebook groups and Nextdoor, selling books, clothing and furniture for a little bit here and there, that is whatever his family couldn’t use. He said between those two things, he was able to make rent and food for his wife and kids and has been much happier and less stressed than when he was employed, working at a warehouse where he made good money, but was micromanaged to hell and yelled at by his boss on the regular. Then he jumped back into his car and zipped off to his next stop, or to troll the neighborhood for more free stuff.
My walk lasted a solid 1:45, and the weather held the whole time. The dogs were both zonked out all evening.