Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The streets where you live.

I'd like to take a moment, a break away from the significant journey that is redefining -- or perhaps, defining -- ourselves to talk about why I like my neighborhood.

I live in Mt. Pleasant in Washington (our nation's capital, that is). The neighborhood is predominately black, but the presence on streetcorners, grocery stores and at the laundromat is of the Latino community (which is the second largest community in the neighborhood). There is three supermarkets within a two-block area, in addition to a cafe called Dos Gringos and about six restaurants that serve Mexican/Salvadoran food. Mixed in is a few Chinese food joints, a hardware store, several "Latino clothing" stores, an antique store, an honest-to-G-d bakery and several small convenience stores. Mt. Pleasant (the street, that is) spans but five blocks, yet is jam-packed with all of those things and so much more.

No matter how hot or cold, there are the regulars at the 7-11 -- Latino men who drink cup after cup of coffee while chatting about things that I can't understand. There's the man who sells huge carpets with giant tigers on them and big beach towels with characters like Spongebob and Superman. There's the man with the crutch who talks to himself as he wanders through Mt. Pleasant, down Park Road and into the park. There are people crowding the streets at all hours of the day, it seems, chatting or lugging groceries or huge bags of rice. There is life, laughing and children rolling about on their tiny feet with dogs and cheap toys bought at the wholesale store on the corner. The Latino men sometimes call me "chica" or "senorita" and more often than not, I hear that I'm pretty while making it from the busstop to Lamont, what I consider "safe" territory late at night when I leave work.

There are a few typical drivers who handle the 42 bus. My favorite, a black man who must be in his 30s, makes sure to bid goodnight to everyone who gets off the bus -- at every stop, without fail. His enthusiasm is contagious. The UPS men rarely change, and the mailman crawls through railings from rowhouse to rowhouse so as to not have to run up and down the stairs at every residence. Tonight there were two UPS men taking on the early rush of holiday deliveries. The larger fellow went one way and the smaller fellow banged on a door of a lit house, eventually yelling "UPS" to those inside who didn't seem open to answering. One of the men had a box of Hickory Farms, which really took me back. We used to get packages from Hickory Farms en mass around this time of year from my grandparents -- cheeses, meats, spreads and little chocolates. Tis the season, I suppose.

Lamont Street -- like most streets in the neighborhood -- is filled with row houses, old and new. You can tell which ones have been carefully looked after and which have been filled with interns and college kids or folks with no time or energy to keep track of a century-old home. The thing I love most about this neighborhood, though, is that when people want to get rid of things -- TVs, chairs, tables, children's golf sets, old soccer shoes, even stuffed animals -- they put them out on the lawn near the sidewalk typically with a sign, "PLEASE GIVE A GOOD HOME" or "TAKE! PLEASE!" or "Free stuff." The alleys become spotted with goods to grab, though I haven't gotten around to taking anything. There's always something, including a really nice UHF/VHF television up the block in the alley. That, my friends, is recycling in practice.

So take a moment to appreciate your neighborhood. It's quirks. The people, the culture, the sounds and smells. Mmk?

Class dismissed.