Most nights when things have settled down my girlfriend and I go for walks. It’s nice to get out and away from things after a hectic day. It’s also interesting to see your neighborhood in slow motion. Most of the time when I pass these streets it’s in a vehicle trying to get from point A to point B as soon as humanly possible.
Strolling down the street you get to see the changes. My girlfriend grew up in this city so about every third house she’ll say, “So and so lived there.” And give me a story about them. Then we’ll pass what was a big old single family home that is now a ten-unit apartment building. Just last night she said,
“That used to be their front yard where all the neighborhood kids would play.” As she pointed to a parking lot.
We take different routes all the time. Sometimes we’ll even drive to other parts of the city and start from there. Just keeping it different and checking out other parts of the city. How the architecture changes just a few blocks away. Off to the edge of town where large farms used to be is starting to slowly change. As older folks die off their kids sell blocks of land to developers. What used to be a working farm is now a twelve estate development named after the farm.
Then there’s a section of almost identical looking homes. Then stuck in the middle of this one thin, funky, barn looking house. Then a house that looks like a bunch of shipping containers when you drive past is actually a marvel of engineering and use of space. Sometimes you can go for blocks with everything looking like cookie cutter molds. Then out of this numbing sameness, a house festooned with flags and banners and wind chimes and colored lights pops up. At that moment you think,
“There’s the person in the neighborhood everyone hates.”
The reality is they’re the most interesting person on the block. Someone holding on to what they remember their neighborhood used to be. With kids playing from yard to yard; parents hanging out together not really paying attention to the mischief that’s going on; when adults knew each others names and the names of their parents.
Sure, it wasn’t like that in every city or on every block. But when you see renovations suffocating the personality of not only that house but all houses around it, you know this neighborhood was like that. One by one new people moved in and began to dictate the personality and path of the neighborhood. It’s why, when you’re walking past and see a house with a yard full of gnomes, your personal taste not withstanding, you have to be happy that they’re hanging in.
Another thing I notice is what people are watching on TV. I know that sounds a little creepy but it’s not as if I’m walking up to their window and sitting on their bushes. But as you walk past it’s almost impossible not to see the flickering screen. If you combine that with the size of some of these TV’s it’s impossible to miss it.
We’re walking up to one house and my girlfriend starts to tell me about the family that lived there and the member who still does. It’s your normal family tale with intrigue, recriminations and jail time. Even in a white bread city battles occur in every home. When I moved here years ago from the inner city I was awed by these houses. I’d stand there not believing that one family lived in a house that size. That had to be a mistake. But it was the truth.
As I began to meet the people in those houses and enter those houses I saw the same things that I’d seen in the city. Just with a better veneer. You can put a two week vacation on a facial contusion but it doesn’t change the fact that it still occurred.
“I think the son a couple of years older than me is living there now. The other sons and daughters got married and moved away. His parents live in Florida. They come back here during the summer.” I’m told as we pass the living room. I glance left into the unblocked window. I can clearly see a man’s head in front of the TV.
It takes a second to register what he’s watching. With most people it’s easy. I’d say 25% is sports, baseball mainly in the summer. The rest is news, shows, movies and video games in differing percentages depending on the neighborhood. But I actually had to look for a few seconds before the images came to view. “I wonder if his parents are home yet?” My girlfriend asks.
“I don’t think so. Not unless they’re also fans of transvestite porn.”
It’s always interesting to learn new things about your neighbors while strolling through on a nice, warm evening.