Monday, May 26, 2008

A Quiet Walk in The Old Northside

It was very quiet when I woke this morning, that's unusual in the city. There were no clanging dumpster lids, no cars charging toward the center of town, people off to work as though they can't wait to get there, when in reality they didn't leave in time because they most likely didn't want to go at all. Today is Memorial Day and many of the city's workers have the day off, hence the quiet. In fact, it appears that even the drug dealers and prostitutes that parade past my building in constant motion seem to have the morning off. They are not yelling at passing cars simply because there are so few of them.

For me, a morning person, it seemed like the perfect time to take advantage of the quiet for a stroll through the neighborhood just to the east of me. If I walk just a block over the neighborhood changes from one that looks a bit blighted to one that is beautifully cared for and is filled with interesting sights to drink in. So, at half past seven this morning I put my shoes on and took a walk through the Old Northside. It's an area that gives me a taste of another world, so unlike the one that I live it.

Here's why I like to move a block over: across the street from my apartment is another apartment building, it is waiting for rehab, all of it's former tenants have had to find other places to live, some of them moved into my building and have been very quiet neighbors, though some are not quick to speak to you in the parking lot or at the mailbox, I try to remind myself that I'm a country boy and you wave at every car that goes by and you speak to each person that you meet. I suppose they have their reasons for shutting out the world. I can look across the street and see a small lawn area that used to be Derek's Garden, (check the archives here and you can read about his garden,) I have a feeling that if Derek were to come back to his former home he would be sickened by the sight of his garden. The grass is tall enough now that only a few inches of the tops of the park benches are visible. His hedge of Rose of Sharon is haphazard and the weeds have taken over his flower beds to the point that there really aren't flower beds anymore, they have been choked by the grass gone to seed. And yet, one block over to the east things improve and two blocks over it becomes another world, a world of beauty and charm.

On Park Avenue I met a woman who was out doing what I was doing, drinking in the quiet and the beauty of the new day. I greeted her with a good morning, nearly whispered as if we were somewhere sacred, actually I suppose we were, there is enough stained glass in the neighborhood that one could nearly call it church, but instead I would rather think of it as God's cathedral. She whispered the reply and I felt that she was feeling the same way, surrounded by the holy. There were only a few people visible around and they were walking as though they were walking through a museum, foot steps not to be heard for fear of interrupting another's view of Van Gogh's field of poppies or iris. In fact on this quiet street the gardens are running over with iris and the kinds that win awards at flower shows. I was especially taken in by one whose massive blooms were the color of a school bus. Another was the shade of peach that reminded me of bridesmaids dresses, complete with a ruffled edge. Another was the bearer of a breathtaking complimentary color scheme, pale yellow over light lavender. A hedge of mock orange bore one last bloom, the rest of the petals on the grass and sidewalk looking like the last of the snows.

The old houses on Park and Alabama truly look as though they don't belong in my neighborhood. They are classic examples of, well, classic styles of architecture and each has a tad bit of lawn and flower beds that continue to break forth in glorious bloom. But the most beautiful thing of all in this morning walk was the quiet, even the man overhead running the vacuum on what would now be called his exterior living room, (you know, a balcony with some nice furniture on it?) looks embarrassed that he has broken the quiet. He nods a greeting though and I appreciate that.

Since I work in a flower shop I might appreciate the flowers more than others, I don't know that for sure, but maybe I do. When I walk through neighborhoods such as this one and I see such sophisticated blossoms I want to pull up a chair and see what they know, they look as though they could carry on lofty conversations about the architecture, the well educated children of the area or the current state of affairs that the hellebores is having with the coral belles, speaking of them as though they were spatting neighbors. Yet, they only speak with their glory saying nothing bad about anyone around them. Maybe it's because they know the weeds are three blocks over bending to the ground in the strong winds. And quiet doesn't have the same respect on my street as it does on theirs.


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