Tuesday

I want to get my weather whining over right away, because I really have no reason to whine given what others are facing both across my state as well as to the south. It is too hot, too humid, and smoke is blanketing this area like a winter quilt. My eyes hurt, my nose itches, and I’m coughing. Plus I break out into a sweat if I walk from the kitchen to my living room. I don’t like it.

Okay, I’m done with that part.

Do you remember some of my brief mentions of Sam, the neighbor in Apt. 2? The crusty old curmudgeon. The guy who has had some sort of monopoly over the laundry room electric meter for ages. The guy who cared for his mother for years after her stroke until she died. The man who has taken over 4 months to move out of here and back to his own apartment.

Sam is out, but Sam left with a bang. Literally. Sam and his friend Eve left (we assumed) for good on Saturday. I won’t lie, Apt. 1 tenant Nancy and I had a little happy dance outside when we believed him to be gone. She has her reasons, and my reasons developed quickly as I learned just after moving in that curmudgeon or not, Sam is a controlling abuser. His control and his verbal and emotional abuse were always directed toward Eve. I don’t have to go into detail regarding the things I heard in the last month. You are all intelligent enough to figure it out. There is a backstory there, concerning Eve, but I have no idea how or why she came into the picture, nor do I know anything about her or her life. While I fear for this woman, and grieve for her in her choice to stay around this man, I also selfishly rejoiced on Saturday that he had moved on.

Then Sunday night happened.

Their car drove in and they began to haul the remaining crap from the apartment. The landlord had come over early that day. I assumed, after seeing what was left, that he had contacted Sam and told him to get the crap out, but no, Sam still had his keys and still had intentions to linger and take his time removing the leftover junk.

Eve was set to work, hauling and dumping and removing while Sam, in his typical manner, sat back, or wandered around checking for what I can only assume to be things he deems to be out of place or not meeting his demands. About 1 hour into this return visit the loud, hateful words began toward Eve. I was just beginning to text the landlord, when I heard the laundry room door open. Sam was checking (as he always had) to see if laundry had been done in the 24 hours that he had been absent. Apt. 1 Nancy, who finally felt as if she was free to use our own laundry room and not the local coin-op facility had done laundry Saturday night, after they left. She never does laundry here…ever.

Sam immediately assumed that it was me. I know because he stood outside my open kitchen window and loudly announced, “You did laundry again and DIDN’T PAY!” He moved on to call the landlord and scream the same thing to him, again outside my window. As my fingers hovered over 911 on my phone the laundry room door slammed shut and there were bellows for Eve to “come now!” The apartment door was slammed so hard I expected to see glass on the sidewalk. The car roared off around the corner and we haven’t seen Sam since.

The landlord has been back, changing locks just in case, and apologizing more than is necessary. He has a major job ahead to get that apartment ready for someone new. Sam has been threatened with police action should he appear here again. I have been told to call 911 immediately if I see him. Nancy feels bad because the use of her own laundry room led to some of this chaos. I’ve tried to assure her that Sam could and would be able to create chaos regardless of the laundry situation. I cannot begin to imagine what life will be like for Eve should she continue to stay with Sam, and I believe she will.

Apartment life in what I believed to be a small, quaint, community…

 

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Alleyways…Part 2

If you’re wondering what the heck this post is all about, go to this post first.

Well, I hate to say it, but I think this second part has been a disappointment in some ways. Now don’t get me wrong in any way. I really had no desire, as I wandered through various alleyways, to find myself in the middle of some crime, or stumble upon a body. I already clearly knew that I wasn’t going to encounter that locked off barrier sort of feeling that comes along the alleyways at my oldest daughters residence, but I suppose I had hoped for something– different maybe, something unique perhaps.

What I found was what I suppose most would describe as a common alleyway. Nothing grand, nothing treacherous, nothing really unexpected.

What did surprise though, was that what I thought to be a rather extensive amount of alleyways in this little community really isn’t. I ventured off in mid afternoon and after only about 2-3 blocks from my apartment, I ran out of alleyways. Ultimately, because I was walking and had the time to observe what was happening, I realized that the discontinuation of the alleys also marked a change in housing style.

The alleyways were a feature of the core of this community. By that, I mean the original core neighborhoods within a very specific distance from Main Street. I live on the south side of Main, and the original, historic homes, mostly Craftsman style, only encompass about 2-3 blocks off Main. It was clear very quickly that the neighborhoods further out held homes that were clearly built in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Ramblers, some brick, some conventional siding, most with bigger lots, and none with any alleyways in sight.

I began to realize that the majority of connecting roads, all labeled avenues by the way, opened to this south side of Main. The north side of Main Street is one long connected set of storefronts. Only a very few roads go north from main, at least until you reach the much newer part of town. There is one exception, and that is the land that now holds the high school and athletic fields. Perhaps this space, years ago also held onto the custom of alleyways. I suppose, if I want to really delve into this towns infrastructure, then I’m going to have to do some research on what was situated on the land that now holds this school complex.

It is pretty clear though that this community was created around a central street of commerce and for unknown reasons at this point, grew southward originally. I suspect, knowing what I do about this general area, that anything farther south, the area that now holds all the ramblers, was likely farm land, and perhaps that is what the northern side of Main was utilized for as well, although that side is much farther from the river. The alleyways were an integral part of the early development, but by the time the farmland was being developed, alleyways had likely become a thing of the past.

Anyway, I promised pictures, and I did take a few, but as it turned out each alleyway I traveled was much like the previous or the next. They tend to follow that pattern of gravel laden access for the garbage service. I did run into one rather unique sight, but unfortunately that involved a human person and I really didn’t think they would appreciate my blatantly snapping a picture. Try to imagine a wooden deck, very large, that had been built onto the back of one of those Craftsmen homes. It looked rickety at best, but sitting up on it, and it was probably 20 feet off the ground, was a lady who was lounging and reading. Not too odd, until you notice the very large gargoyle statue perched next to her. We exchanged hello’s and I moved on, but that has to be a story of interest.

So, a few things I saw as I wandered:

The typical look of the alleyways I encountered. About 1/2 and 1/2 as far as fenced off versus open to back yards. There were a lot of stand alone garages as well, many desperately in need of repair-

Then a few slightly more interesting ways to keep one’s privacy intact: a mammoth laurel hedge, and just a small part of what I estimate to be roughly 20 feet of very natural bamboo “fencing”-

A small peak into someone’s garden, and no- this picture does nothing to show you the detail. I was pretty impressed with their agricultural skills. I wasn’t willing to risk getting caught, but they had some pretty impressive carrots growing close to the fence just to the left of this picture…

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A few random flowers-

And finally, way up there-perched on the wire, a pair of mourning doves. I hear these doves calling every morning, “Coo-ooo…coo, Coo-oo…coo” Every time that I tried to get closer to get a better picture, off they would fly farther down the alley.

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I realized after all this that my apartment site was once the site of a home. the very old, original driveway entrance is still visible along the front avenue. Everyone living on either side of this building, including our tenants, all put their trash out along what once would have been an alleyway, but what now adjoins a public parking lot and the back of the municipal building.

I wonder what my alleyway was like, years ago. I’m going to imagine that it was the grandest one in the entire town.

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.

 

Wanting…and tasting

Are you familiar with that idiom that goes something like “I wanted it so bad I could taste it…”

I oddly remember my mother used to say that sometimes. Right now, it happens to be a great way to describe this divorce process. The wanting to be finished is palpable. Freedom is so close that I can taste the sweetness on my tongue.

Yet we wait. We start down all those new pathways that one must take when they end a part of their existence, yet still have to start living all over again… but we just can’t quite reach the finish line.

There are things to be done, of course. Lots and lots of paperwork, and changes: removing names and connected identities, all sorts of movement from we to me. Some of that can be done now, during the waiting time. A lot of those things are forced to wait as well, and then be accomplished in a flurry of post-final-decree-I-am-single-and-ready-to-get-on-with-my-life-madness.

I don’t wait well. As I just said to someone yesterday, Patience is not a virtue that I claim. I am being forced to wait. I love the state that I live in, or at least I do in all respects except for divorce. In an uncontested divorce with no minor children, whereby every single aspect of married life has been looked over, divided, listed and assigned…whereby every financial detail has been agreed upon…all without lawyers because both parties wanted the divorce equally…my gorgeous-for-it’s-natural-beauty, liberal leaning  state still enforces a 90 day waiting period before a divorce can be finalized.

I have filed forms that were nothing more than 10 pages of ‘check the appropriate box’ responses all referencing our agreement. They sit, signed and stamped, in a file in my county clerks office. I have completed the remaining forms- again, 20 odd pages of checked boxes referencing that very same agreement…waiting for me to stand in front of a judge, assure him that ‘yes, we both want to end this marriage,’ and then watch him place his name on a paper printed from my computer, releasing my spouse and myself.

Do I feel as if we are wasting 90 precious days of freedom? Clearly the answer is yes. I want my own name on my own accounts. I want to find my own new home and not be encumbered by the fact that no one will believe that I will have an income post-divorce because they have no evidence, only my word that ‘the divorce will be final in mid-July.’

I want to change all the we things and make them me things. I want my identity back, fully and completely. Even though I was a fully functional, independent adult before marriage, maintained personal accounts throughout marriage, have an amazing credit score, continued to work during most of the marriage, and can still be considered mentally competent to pay my bills on time and correctly, I am now fully confronted by my social standing as married female.

And I don’t like. But…I will not go off on a feminist inspired tirade, claiming sexism and oppression and marginalization and patriarchy, even though I really, deeply, and sincerely want to.

I will simply reiterate that a 90 day wait period, in this type of divorce, is ridiculous! I would like my judicial system to come to terms with the fact that some of it’s citizens can very easily think for themselves, come to mutual agreement, and move on with living. Autonomy doesn’t have to be a bad word. It does not have to be a word that strikes fear into the hearts of men who begin to imagine chaos and civil uprising and desperate females crying at their courtroom doors, begging and pleading and claiming that ‘it was all a misunderstanding…I never really meant to leave him…let me go back…I promise that I’ll behave…’

Having no choice, no option, no ability to move on, only to sit and imagine that far off day when pen on paper provides freedom, well that sucks.

90 days of waiting sucks, pure and simple.

 

On Responsibility…

I’ve been pondering on that word a lot lately- responsibility and the taking of it, the lack of it, the inability to accept it, the fear of it…

What allows some people to easily step up, claim their place and do their just duty in the realm of responsibility while others do everything that they can to avoid it.

I know that it’s easy to imagine the worst, to invent in your mind all of the bad and wrong and horrid outcomes that might come from taking responsibility. I’m guilty of doing that very thing. But what about claiming and owning and feeling empowered by the knowing that you did step up, speak out, say “Yep, it was me, or I’m the one and I take responsibility for it…”

All those old sociology texts packed away in a cardboard box in my closet would probably tell me that we learn responsibility from our surroundings; from watching the people we are closest to as they step up, do the right thing, and take responsibility. I can’t argue with that. I believe that. We learn by example. We as humans are heavily influenced by our social groups and environment.

I also have a social psych book buried in that box somewhere as well. I remember being fascinated by that class. It was the perfect marriage between the social and the personal, the environment and the inherent aspects of the self that may, or may not influence us to be who we are. I loved learning how the two disciplines can work side by side. I always believed (still do) that sociology and psychology are not mutually exclusive. We are complex beings, and believing that there is only one way to define our behaviors seems rather elitist and ill-conceived to me.

In my world right now, with this focus on responsibility muddling up my thoughts, I’m even more convinced of the complexity between the inside and the outside.

Taking action…

Leading the way. So proud to be a Washingtonian right now.

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Washington 1st state to sue Trump over immigration order.