Alleyways- Part 1

I now live in a community where alleyways are quite prevalent. By the way, I think the term alleyway sounds a bit more quaint than plain old alley, so I’m choosing to add the “way” in this post.

The community I grew up in, and eventually settled in during most of my adult life, wasn’t prolific when it came to alleyways. You could find a few places in the downtown area, the more historical area, where an alleyway might pop up. I was a kid then and found no pleasure in what a person might discover in these backdoor places. The only thing an alleyway did for me back then was to provide a shortcut on my way home from school.

Alison, the youngest daughter, now lives in a historic neighborhood that is full of alleyways. Like the ones I remember from my youth, hers are gravel lined, very rutted and overgrown with weeds. I think they serve her neighbors as nothing more than a place to put garbage cans, or entice wandering animals looking for a free handout. Also, unfortunately, when you Google alleyway for her specific location what pops up are any number of news stories that highlight crime and death and bodies found.

Cara, the oldest daughter, lives in a planned community. This one has traditional homes with drive-up front garages and full backyards. It also has the modern version of the alleyway. I think of this version as the cram-as-many-homes-as-you-can-into-the-smallest-available-space type of community. Their alleyways are really more of one long, U-shaped interconnected driveway that leads to each homes rear garage. When you Google her community, they don’t show these blocks in the gallery of photos. I was sitting on her patio the other day, looking out at her fence.

Yes, I have time to ponder these sorts of things on occasion…

Every home on her “block” is surrounded in the back by a fence. It lines both sides of the home, starting with the front edge, runs all the way around to each side of the driveway and on one side actually comes up and borders the backyard. The alleyway is literally a paved asphalt ribbon that leads starkly to each home, running just inches from each fence.

Why am I sharing these details you might wonder. Or why should you care…

You really don’t have to care I suppose, but it struck me that one of the major ideas behind these planned communities is to create a sense of, well- community. It seems rather ironic that planners then go ahead, cram houses together with just a few feet between each other, and then surround them with these tall, privacy fences that do nothing to encourage community at all. They form a barrier. They lock the inhabitants into their own world and, to me anyway, signal quite clearly that other folks probably shouldn’t come across the line.

The fronts of these homes all have porches of some sort, and the general idea is to gather there, or as many do routinely, in the streets- at least from what I’ve noticed. I come away from this neighborhood sometimes with a sense that it’s okay to be visible on the surface, but encouraging real life interaction means breaking through some heavy and formidable walls that surround each home.

So, the point of this post, as I seem to have ventured off into some sociological impressions, is that I want to learn more about the alleyways that now make up my new community. Most of the homes around me have front porches. I see people on them in the evenings as I walk. I see quite a bit of open yard space, but I wonder what is behind the facade.

Do these new alleyways fit the model of dark, crime ridden, clandestine places?

Are they simply pathways for the local garbage haulers and tomcats? Byways to others detritus and secrets and leftovers…

Can I learn anything from these alleyways, about the people living in front of them, or will I find fences and barriers that allow for the world to see only what these people want.

In part 2, I want to share with you some of what I find in pictures… Stay tuned.

 

How does your garden grow…

One of the things that sold me on this apartment was the fact that the landlords allow each tenant to plant whatever they want in the little beds under their two front windows. I miss my plants from the old house, quite a bit actually. I sure couldn’t get out and dig like I used to but I still loved to putter around in the beds, trim and weed, learn what worked and what was a flop, or what would take off wildly all on it’s own without even being asked.

The soil in my new beds was lacking considerably in everything except for overuse. Just a few days ago someone brought in some new topsoil, which was wonderful. I added some compost to that and will continue to amend these beds as my garden grows and changes.

Here’s a picture of what the beds looked like last Wednesday.

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Here’s how mine have changed in the last few days.

I’m taking these pictures with my phone and the sun obviously is not helping, and I am rather sadly lacking in skills when it comes to adjusting photo related things, so I have called on Google to help with some better pictures. I know that first photo looks sad. Those are heuchera, one of my favorites, as are the three bright green plants in the second picture.

Check this website.  Heuchera, or Coral Bells, are really all about the foliage, although the tiny flowers that grow from very thin stalks are quite nice. There are so many varieties. I got one of the lime ones listed on the website, and the three lonely ones are a variety that isn’t even listed there.

Any way, I don’t intend to leave those 3 all alone forever. I’ve ordered some dwarf English Lavender called Wee One, and also an amazingly brilliant perennial called Blanket Flower to go along side and behind the heuchera. They come in early October.

Behind those bright lime green heuchera are some Heliotrope and, my most exciting find, miniature Hosta’s!! They stay small, only getting to be about 12″ all around. The variety I got is called Blue Mouse Ears. Hosta’s are one of my favorite plants and I’ve had good luck with them, but the common type would take over the entire bed so I was thrilled to find these.

This project has been so much fun. Fingers crossed that they all make it through the winter and our rainy spring to come next year.

Surprise!

It was mid-afternoon and I was roaming through websites on the computer, looking for odds and ends like decor ideas and plants for my front flower beds.

The morning had been wonderful. My handy son-in-law, with my oldest daughter and the grand girls in tow, had come over to install my new window screens. Somewhere, in the process of just being around as living space for over 50 years, the screens had either disappeared from my front and bedroom windows, or perhaps they never existed in the first place. SIL picked right up on my desire to have open windows without bugs invading the indoors and went to work making screens for me. I am most pleased.

Anyway, as I was searching out ideas I heard a car door close outside, then a blonde head came into view in the corner of my dining room window. The next thing I knew, coming down the sidewalk towards my door was a face that I haven’t seen in about 2 years.

“Oh my god, Christine,” I shouted as I bolted toward the screen door. We hugged each other, and after a short (because you can cover my entire apartment in less than 1 minute) tour, I spent a few hours chatting with this wonderful lady. I worked with her at the Oral Surgery office and have only seen her sporadically since then.

She has followed my blog over the years, and we’ve been doing the “well we really need to get together” dance but then being awful about actually “getting together.”

I love that she took it upon herself to come exploring for my new home. She hasn’t changed a bit and I feel like our conversation picked up about where we left off the last time we were together. This had to be the best surprise I’ve had in a long time.

And Christine, when you read this just know that you made my day!

 

It Never Fails

I scheduled a service appointment for my car for early this morning. Actually it’s still early, and I’m writing this from the dealership waiting area.

I have a bit of my extra special bonus monies left after the sale and division of profits from my house. Those monies were earmarked for helping me to get settled into my new home, and for this maintenance check. Be aware, it’s not like anyone else ever took care of the maintenance on my car… ever. Previously I lived with a “if it’s not broken then ignore it” sort of person. Not really my style at all, and so I always did the preventive scheduled stuff and the dealing with crap stuff, and just in general everything that needed to be done stuff, with every car I drove.

Anyway, I hopped in the car, pulled out of my parking space, drove about 3 blocks and on came the tire pressure warning light. Serendipity I believe, given where I was headed.

Yep, a very low rear passenger side tire was evident when I pulled into the service area, and of course the cost of that repair can now be added to an already overpriced maintenance appointment. It’s clear that today’s checks and evaluations and work will likely drain what was left of my extra funds.

Could have been worse, right. I was almost on the freeway when the light came on. Fortunately I was able to pull a quick u-turn in the middle of the on ramp  turn safely and in a completely legal manner and take a different route to the dealership. I had no intention of sitting on the freeway with a flat tire.

And that decision allowed me to get here with air to spare in my tire.

One Week

At this time last Saturday I was sitting at my dining table eating take-out pizza with Alison, surrounded by empty boxes, and some not-so-empty boxes.

Tonight I sat at my dining table with a russet potato that I baked, topped with butter, sour cream, and broccoli. I’m no longer surrounded by boxes, although I do have a strategic pile of Styrofoam waiting to make it’s way to my garbage can. I also have cardboard, but it’s hidden away in a bedroom corner. I filled the bin so full with all my 1st round boxes that the 2nd round of shipment boxes will have to be tossed gradually.

I’m waiting on two chairs: one for the desk and one that will become another seating option. After those arrive then I think I’m done, at least with the bigger items. Decor and pictures will come in time I think.

So how about some observations from my first week-

-The trains are constant, both freight and commuter. I noticed them a lot (because I’m literally 4 blocks from the station and rail line) the first few days. Now they aren’t so obvious. What is obvious though is the massive amount of people who commute from this station. Residential streets are crammed full of cars during the week. You have no sense of what this town is really like until the weekend comes.

-People are old here. I know no other way of expressing this fact than to be blunt. This place is one large retirement community with vintage charm to match the white hair, stooped bodies, and hesitatingly slow gaits of what I have to believe must be half of the population. I feel young in comparison.

-I miss dinner conversation. Now that’s ironic, since I barely ever spoke to my ex-husband, and definitely didn’t sit with him for dinner since…2012 or even longer. I’m very content typically, with being by myself, but there’s something to be said to having another human to speak with while you eat. I’m trying not to just take a plate and park in front of the computer. Music helps, but now that I actually like where I’m at and my life has taken a positive turn, it would be nice to share that with someone face to face.

-I made coffee in my own coffee pot today, for the first time since I moved in. It tasted amazing.

-I like my landlords, even though they forgot about me last Saturday and were almost an hour late meeting me here to give me the key. They have been overly helpful with a few issues that sprang up, and when I asked about my taking responsibility for putting screens on two windows that don’t have them they readily agreed, although that might have something to do with the fact that they don’t have to be the ones to accomplish the task. John, aka: Mr Landlord, even asked me to check to see if a local shopping center had any hula hoops today. I was shopping, he texted about something, I told him to go ahead with his plan and mentioned where I was. Up popped a request for hula hoops. They didn’t have any, but you better believe I’m pretty curious about his need for that item. I suspect it has something to do with upcoming vacation…

-I took a walk after dinner. It’s been over 90 degrees for days now, and with a bit cooler weather today I wanted to get out into the neighborhood. I would so buy a house here, although I imagine now is not the time, but I can dream. People walk here, people sit on their front porches here, people clear out of downtown early…very early. I turned at one point in my walk to come back home by way of Main Street. Only three cars passed me and I was literally the only living person on either side of the street for as far as I could see.

-I’m happy. Not like jump for joy, life is all roses and champagne and fireworks happy, but happy, and content. I live in an old building. I have a shower that you could scald yourself with if you’re not careful about how far you turn the handle. I have a kitchen sink that is the complete opposite of the shower. Oh, there’s hot water, but it takes forever to get hot, and then there’s no force or water pressure at all. So I adapt. I have an outlet in the bathroom that keeps turning itself off no matter what I plug into it. The fix is a work in progress, so I adapt. I have little counter space in my kitchen, but I’m only cooking for one so it’s not a big deal. I have my freedom, and my sanity and my self-worth. I won’t trade those for anything ever again.