Saturday, March 31, 2012

How to get to . . .

It's not uncommon to liken one's neighborhood to towns of pop culture gone by. How many talk of growing up in Maybury or fearing they may one day move to Stepford?

I shared a revelation recently with John: Our neighborhood is Sesame Street. All quaintness aside, I remember that show being my first encounter with urban living -- people of varied cultural backgrounds, working as police officers or teachers, chatting with each other on front stoops as they keep watch over their blocks. Litter comes grumpily alive and giant oddballs share their simple wisdoms.

And I realized that sometimes I watch my neighborhood as if it's a television show. I hope I don't put it under glass, but there's a palpable thrill in taking up a fixed perch somewhere and watching what unfolds over the span of half an hour.

Yesterday I wasn't so much stationary as slow-moving, leisurely riding my bike home from work after an uncharacteristically good day, looking ahead to getting home to celebrate John's birthday but also wanting to take my time and enjoy the last grip of chill before warm air settles in for good.

There's a low-slung brick building on my route that houses two separate businesses: A brand new pie shop that's had its grand opening delayed by red tape, and a longstanding dry cleaning & alterations shop, with plants so huge and viney I imagine they're holding up the ceiling.

First scene: Two quick seconds of the pie shop -- A 3-speed bicycle in front whose basket, at last, holds a red "Open" sign and people gather in lines for a slice of Shaker lemon or banana cream.

Second scene: Two equally quick seconds of a mid-life Asian man, tailoring a pair of dress pants in the front window of the dry cleaner, surrounded by the hulking arms of decades-old philodendron.

I've been replaying this scene in my mind since yesterday. Possibly more than any other 5-second increment before, it tells the story of our neighborhood. Old vs. new, conventional vs. cutting-edge, utilitarian vs. decadent, cluttered vs. minimalist cool. But these worlds, while distinct, are also largely indebted to each other (a pie shop borrowing from homespun traditions, a dry cleaner benefitting from added foot traffic), and they manage to co-exist peaceably.

That tiny scene was so expertly spliced together that you couldn't even see the seam anymore. This is the kind of neighborhood I prefer to call home, where my own internal contradictions are written across the built environment, appearing not as juxtapositions at all, but as stories at their midpoints with many chapters yet to be read.

1 comment:

Rosemary said...

Shaker lemon...mmmm. Have you tried it yet?