My neighborhood is a stitch!
Since moving from suburban Richardson to downtown Dallas in January 1999, I've learned a lot about communities and people by just living where I live.
Don't get me wrong. Richardson is a good place to live. It is my hometown. I grew up there. And, I must say, it has changed a lot since I left six years ago. But that is a story for another day here.
The suburban community I left was pretty much cookie cutter in nature. At least our part of town was. It was unlike the Richardson where I grew up.
That Richardson (1953-1968) reminded me of the Mayberry of Andy Griffith and Barney Fife fame.
Everyone knew everyone. I could ride my bike from one end of town to the other, and did frequently. My parents didn't seem to worry about me much at all. It was a different day back then.
Strange as it may sound, my current neighborhood in Old East Dallas near the heart of the city reminds me in many respects of that earlier Richardson. No cookie cutter housing or people or circumstances here!
The street where I live today is amazingly interesting.
At one end of my block is an old brownstone apartment complex, vintage 1940. At the other end you find very small bungalows built most likely after World War II. Alongside them are run down apartments owned by some slum lord who doesn't care enough about any of us.
In between you'll find a couple or three old homes, circa 1910-20, that have been divided up into apartments--at least one was once a boarding house. There are a couple of rent houses. The rest of us own our homes.
My house dates from 1922. Translation: there is something to fix or think about fixing all of the time! The old, two-story, frame house is actually fun to live in, even though the toilet leaks occasionally, as the house rocks and rolls on its foundation! We've been able to make a number of needed improvements--our eager contribution to neighborhood renewal!
Our neighbors all around are fascinating.
The couple next door has lived in their house for almost twenty years. On the other side sits an old house that contains three apartments where young people live and come and go. Across the street live a biology professor from SMU and his wife who manages properties in the area--we actually purchased our home from them. Beside them reside another couple. The man is a professor who teaches history at the University of Texas at Dallas. His area of focus is the Viet Nam era.
Our neighbors are white and black and brown. In the area most are poor. Others fairly well off. The rest of us are somewhere in the middle.
I see and talk to homeless people almost daily. Sometimes I surprise them rummaging through my trash cans.
People actually walk in my neighborhood, and not for exercise. People walk to get to places! Kids play up and down the street. Families and neighbors talk on big, old front porches.
Dogs seem to run wild! Cats are everywhere, along with an occasional raccoon and opossum right in the heart of the city.
Sometimes folks around my house worry about crime. Very few of us are afraid.
We do hear gun shots at night on a regular basis. Alcohol and guns apparently go together. And there are a few drunks, drug addicts and troublemakers afoot in the community.
We all stick together. We all know each other. There are regular block parties where everyone is welcome. We communicate.
In many respects I feel at times as if I am living in the late 1950s or early 1960s here.
Surprisingly, it is a bit like Mayberry, but with an edge! A very nice edge.