I don't think I will ever feel at home in a place where garlic cooked in butter in the kitchen doesn't waft all the way into the bedroom closets. I like to know somebody's cooking in my kitchen, I like to hear it when they walk through the front door. I like to pick up a thought in my bedroom and have it still on the tip of my nose when I make it to my computer, haphazard on the couch.
Chronicling my life has always ended in failure. Writing events for the sake of them does not appeal to me, yet... I struggle against the thought that everything which merits penning has a point.
I feel terribly guilty when the point of regular writing is regular chronicling. Strawberries stain white carpet, but I got the red wine out.
Zoning in Houston is strange, when it exists. The Fourth Ward, or Freedmen's District, appears to be an island of boarded up shotgun houses and old pecan trees, feral cats, deep grass, and shopping carts discarded even by Houston's baggiest of bag ladies. It sits amidst swanky apartment buildings, a boutique creperie, a frozen yogurt place which sells the stuff to you by the pound (toppings can be heavy), and, of course, my work. The sidewalks here are of interlocking brick. If I arrive early enough, a man with a leafblower is still blowing the leaves, grass clippings, and parking receipts from where we, the People In Suits, are likely to see it. Remember that collection of poems by Shel Silverstein called, "Where the Sidewalk Ends,"? Well.
So on the way to work every morning, I pass the same long, thin man with his long, thin cat, coming out of his condemned shotgun house to fill a water bucket from a pump in his condemned yard. Then, he will very carefully wash his face, sling on his backpack, pick up his bike, and after he leaves the condemned chain link gate in the condemned chain link fence, he always hooks the most discreet of locks around the top and bottom of his chain link door, his cat stretched out on the cracked sidewalk. On the next corner, Jackson Browne or the Weepies or James Taylor or NPR pour from my windows and wake up the Man Beneath the Pecan Tree, and then I park while he rolls over on his pallet in the sweaty shade, hitting the snooze button on the cars driving past him to their jobs in front of computers in offices. He might be taking a shower in a public fountain later, but he sleeps beneath a pecan tree. If there were choice, there would be poetry in that somewhere as well.
If I park on the left side of the street, my car will be shaded from the morning light by a big fancy apartment building, which appeals to that bit of me that wants to sit in my car with only my music playing to finish the song, and then perhaps have a moment all mine in the shade. But if I stay too long in that shady spot, the stench from the sewage drains -- only on one side of the street, mind you -- will waft into my car through the recirculating air of the A/C. It's some concoction of rotting meatballs, old cottage cheese, and titanic concentrations of body odor. But, there's a clean white sidewalk across the grass from my car. So the first morning I parked on this street,side of the street, not knowing yet about the sewers.
There's still dew on the grass when I get to work, so that morning I got my sassy yellow heels soaked crossing the rough chopped swamp grass on my way to the sidewalk.
And then after a few steps it wasn't a sidewalk any longer, it was a shallow pit of oozy goozy possibly bubbling muck, right where the sidewalk was supposed to be, right where the sidewalk had been a moment before, right where, across the street in Midtown, there's a guy with a leafblower blowing the fancy brick sidewalks clean. Here, the sidewalk ends.
The next morning, I parked on the right side of the street. There, I could see I would be shaded in the late afternoon by a large live oak tree which guards the junk shop when it isn't being deciduous. (The fact that deciduous may modify 'junk shop' and may modify 'live oak tree' was unintentional but I like it, so I'm leaving it.) But, there's no sidewalk at all on this side. I thought, "Good," and walked over to the tree. Running around it, in the tall, waving grass of the Fourth Ward, cut a little path which reminded me of the woods back home in Virginia. There were tall flowering weeds and the wind was rippling about. Happy, I started walking.
Up close, the tiny path is just the right size for one foot to fall in front of the other in shade all the way to where the sidewalk starts (or, from the other direction, where the sidewalk ends). Up close, the path is teeming with used condoms and scraps of paper and broken glass, with what are probably rat droppings and a smell not as bad as the sewage, but close.
Every morning, I have to choose between walking along it or in the street and looking at it -- from a few feet off it's poetry. Up close, it is, I suppose, a different kind of poetry. And every morning, where the sidewalk starts, the leafblower stops his street cleaning and tips his hat at me as I pass. It is as if he isn't supposed to get the pretty lady's feet dirty, only... she just parked where she just parked.
I'd rather park away from the smells and think the path through the tall grass is pretty, but I draw the line at the need to erase the falling leaves and parking receipts from the sidewalk. Why can't we throw away our trash and enjoy the leaves? Good things are usually a little dirty up close. Chickens are delicious, but they have cartilage and fat. People are great, but they smell. Hiking is fun, but it makes you sweat. And so on.
Walking to work in the morning, I just wish more people picked up the trash in the path and cared a little less about suppressing natural things like falling leaves and grass clippings. The first is an unnecessary evil, the second are pleasant remnants of life with green things.
Anyway, I've taken to walking in the path. I pick up and throw away the stuff that won't give me herpes or cut me. I hope somebody else does, too, but honestly, it's kind of okay if they don't. The path is getting prettier.
I just hope they don't start leafblowing it.