Monday, November 28, 2016

Things You See While Walking The Dog

It's been a month since we adopted Wimmer. Wimmer is a medium-to-large sized dog, about 65 pounds, and as such requires a fair amount of exercise a day, which coincides with my need to start to exercise more. So we've been doing a fair amount of walking every day, or almost every day (we didn't go far on the day we got 15 inches of snow). And though I have lived in this house for almost nine and a half years now (doesn't seem possible, but Sabrina was between second and third grade when we came here), I never really paid much attention to, or knew much about, the neighborhood we live in until now.
What I did know was that my immediate block was mostly older people. To a degree, that is still true, but our neighborhood has actually been undergoing a bit of a demographic shift. A few of the older people are gone now; the nice old guy across the street went to Florida, the not-so-nice old lady next door departed this mortal coil a few years ago, and a couple of others have moved on. The block was formerly lily-white; there are now at least three African-American families on the block, and the guy in the rental house two doors down has an African-American friend that is there for at least part of every day. And for all you Trump voters out there, there has been no appreciable change in the atmosphere or ambiance of the neighborhood, except for the better. It's nice to hear kids playing outside; it's nice to see people willing to take care of their own lawns and properties rather than hiring out landscapers and putting tons of insecticide on their grass.
But other things have been genuinely new to me. One is that while I knew there were still pockets of affluence on the West Side, closer to the river, I never really paid much attention to some of the properties on the far end of my street and on neighboring streets until now. And man, there are some really large, nice-looking stately Wayne Manor-types of places within a ten-minute walk. The next street over, in particular, seriously looks like upper-middle-class nirvana; there are three story homes with very large yards, columns in front of the houses, circular driveways, and other somewhat ostentatious touches. It makes me wonder what the hell kind of jobs there are in this area that can allow someone to afford those kind of houses.
The second realization is that there are some people that really don't take care of their property. I realize that in some cases, it's because the person/people living there are elderly and probably can't put much effort into upkeep, but in some cases, it's just sloppy, slobby indifference. I'm aware that some people around my house think I should cut my grass more often, but 1) that's the only thing you can say about my property, and 2) it's a choice; I don't use insecticide, and I'm not killing my lawn in a dry summer by cutting it to a half-inch every week. There's a couple of houses further down my block with completely yellow, close-cut lawns; they look like yellow rugs, to be honest. But I'm not really talking about what lawns look like. I'm talking about things like dog shit all over the lawn, leaves that have never been raked all autumn, toys and other possessions strewn about, straight-up garbage on the lawn or curb, unraked things like crabapples all over the place. I realize that sometimes stuff happens and things get away from you, but there are some places that clearly have been neglected for years, too.
I have noticed, too, that are far more rental units, whether they be apartment buildings or two-family houses, than I thought there were in the blocks around here. Especially going toward Main Street, I would say somewhere between 40 and 50% of the housing is rentals, which I never would have guessed.
You notice it more on my street because of the steepness of the hill grade, but alternate side of the street parking regulations are nearly universally ignored. Hey, BPD--you could take care half of your ticket quotas for the month simply with parking citations on my street and the neighboring one.
There are a lot of side streets and dead-ends and cul-de-sacs, too. It makes me wonder what this area looked like when the neighborhood was being populated in the first half of the twentieth century. My street has a dead-end street off it a block away. Helen Street has four or five of them. There's one off Grand Boulevard that intrigues me to no end; I have no idea of why the building Family and Children's is in once held, but it was important enough at one time to block a through street. There's the curious configuration of the blocks around Thomas Jefferson school and St. Thomas, too. I'm half tempted to kill an hour in the upstairs room at the library and ask the local historian what the story is with all that mess.
And in general, there are a lot of cars around here. Few buildings seem to have one or no cars attached to them. Most houses have garages with cars in them, and the streets, as mentioned, are full of cars, too. Sabrina is not the only teen around here that drives herself to high school, and much of the rental housing is college students and twenty-somethings in the work force, and a fair number of them drive to work.
There are a number of people here that need to get off their dead ass when it snows and shovel their sidewalks. Most of what fell Monday has melted already, but there were several houses on this block that never moved an inch of snow. When you walk on the sidewalk with a dog, you notice this stuff--and it pisses you off. Especially since, unlike in the more blighted areas of the city, people walk on the sidewalks around here instead of in the street.
And there are dogs and cats everywhere. I have noticed that there have to be two dozen dogs living in a three-block radius (and not one of them a pit bull). I've seen at least ten different cats outside, and a few more in windows. And the "wild" life is interesting, too. There are a large number of starlings and crows in the skies, and a squirrel population density that has to be approaching that of human beings. And one of the things that appeals a great deal to me about living in urban areas--no freaking deer.
And lastly, I have grown to appreciate, even more than I did before, how nice it is to live in a city when the area of the city you live in isn't falling apart or blighted. I would rather not, obviously, but I could survive where I live without a car. The bus stops a few places around here, but even more than that, I have a grocery store five blocks away, a pharmacy, an outpost of Lourdes, a liquor store, a couple of strip malls, a number of places to eat, a few mom-and-pop places, a check-cashing place, and a bank or two. There's nothing particularly obnoxious around here, and it's low-crime still; you hardly ever see cops in this area except when they are stopping home on their lunch hour.

No comments: