My neighborhood

I woke up early on Election Day. The sky was overcast and there was a chill in the air, but when I went out to the car to drive to the polls two streets away, I decided to walk instead.

As I came down my driveway to the street, my neighbors (L & S) who live directly across the street, came out and got into their car. I walked down the street and thought about how walking helps you feel more connected to a place. I got a close up view of the zombies trying to get into a neighbor’s windows (their Halloween decorations), and a nice surprise at the next house (which I had been unable to see driving past): a skeleton coming up out of the ground. These people are fun and creative.

There wasn’t much trash on the sidewalk, unlike other places I’ve lived. On the three streets I walked in a big U, I saw: an empty packet of Marlboro Black cigarettes, a cigarette butt, and just a couple other items. Not at all like my neighborhood in Japan, where litter was quite common.

When I arrived at the polling place, located in the lobby of a small Senior apartment complex, I met my neighbor L coming out the door. A minute or so later, her husband S came in and stood behind me. He told me that they were taking turns because they had their two dogs in the car and were taking them over to his father’s house after voting. I mentioned that my dad also lives nearby, which is where I grew up. Seems we both have elderly dads nearby that need checking on.

When I finished voting and got outside, it had started to rain. I was just thinking that I could ask L&S for a ride, when my next door neighbor R walked up! I asked him if he could give me a ride home because of the rain and he agreed. Great! I wouldn’t have to get soaked! And I wouldn’t need to delay S from visiting his dad.

While I waited for R to vote, I sat on a bench under the awning out front, and chatted with two poll workers who had come outside for a smoke break. When they went back in, I chatted with the paramedic who was there to promote Proposition P (more tax money to hire paramedics). After a bit, R came out and he went to get his car and drove under the overhang so I could stay dry. He dropped me off in front of my house a couple minutes later, and even came out in his yard after he parked to make sure I had made it inside safely.

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My next door neighbor on the other side is just as nice. V and his wife N just moved in over the Summer. They had a lot of renovating and cleaning up to do, because the elderly widow who had lived there before couldn’t keep things maintained after her husband had died. And she smoked, so the house stank from years of cigarettes. Sadly, she got behind with the mortgage and it was foreclosed.

I had seen people stopping by to view the house, but it’s a small bungalow like mine, with a similar layout – and no finished basement and extra bath like mine. People had been coming to cut the grass every week, so at first I didn’t realize that V had bought the house! But after he came a few days in a row and was doing a lot more than just mowing, I went over and introduced myself.

Since he and N were pulling weeds and trimming overgrown bushes, I asked him to top off the saplings next to his garage when he got a chance, as they were touching the powerlines that come to my house. He came over to see the small forest that had sprung up between his garage and the fence (and hidden from his view by the garage). He said, ‘There’s no time like the present!’ and went to get a saw and a big pair of clippers and while he chopped and cut, N and I filled up two yard waste bins, and made a huge pile of branches!

When he finished, he then offered to trim the trees on my side of the fence as well!

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It’s really nice living in a friendly neighborhood. Some of my previous neighborhoods have not been. In southern Florida, it seems as if most people live in warrens of condos and apartments, with many people merely coming home and keeping to themselves.

When I first arrived in Florida, it was October. This circumstance led to my new neighbors categorizing me as another ‘snowbird’ – someone who comes south during the cold northern Winters, and leaves in the Spring. As it turned out, I did leave in the Spring – to move closer to my mom. But I’ve kept in touch with C, who was my next door neighbor.

That neighborhood was very walkable, with a permanent produce stand at the end of the road, Jhon’s. I asked the Asian proprietor about the name, thinking that it was a transliteration of his name. He laughed and told me that he had wanted to name it John’s Produce to make it seem more American, but he wasn’t very good with our alphabet at the time he painted the sign and got the letters mixed up. It’s been that way ever since, many years later.

The other neat thing about living in that neighborhood was watching the masts of sailboats go by on the Intracoastal Waterway, which was only two streets away.

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