(short, not sweet, always a photo)
Walking in Austin
First: it's possible again! Seventy-five extremely cool degrees and breezy when I left the house this morning at 11:00 a.m. It's been a while: try as I do, it's impossible to enjoy a walk when it's 105 out.
Today I walked in a different direction from my usual treks and to a new neighborhood. I often pass this street designated as green when I'm driving because it's off Oltorf St., which is not a particularly enjoyable street to walk on, at least not in my neighborhood. It intersects with South Congress where there is an old strip mall on one corner, an HEB on the other, and the drive-thru entrance to a bank and a big Catholic church and school across from the HEB. Police often appear to mediate fender benders, and paramedics tend to injured pedestrians and bicycle riders weekly.
But I'd been curious about this street (Forest, I think, in the Dawson neighborhood) and what it means to qualify as a Green Neighborhood in Austin. I'd glanced down it a number of times as I drove past, attracted not just by the sign but also by the large trees and the shade they cast (see above ref to temperatures).
Like many neighborhoods in Austin there are sidewalks on only one side of the street. (In my sister's Crestview neighborhood some of the streets have no sidewalks and streets even wider than this one. In his book The Geography of Nowhere The Rise and Decline of America's Manmade Landscapes, James Kunstler writes that back in the 1950s when suburbs were being designed "the width of residential streets was tied closely to the idea of a probable nuclear war with the Russians. And in the aftermath of a war, it was believed, wide streets would make it easier to clean up the mess with heavy equipment" pp. 112-114). Austin, despite its Walk Score, is not a particularly walkable city. (When I moved here from the Bay Area, I chose this neighborhood because I can, in fact, walk to most everything I need to do and to much of what I want to do.)
In addition to being Green, this street is almost frightfully clean, something I notice because I am in the habit of picking up trash, and there is typically a lot of it on the streets of Austin.
I did come across a full bottle of root beer. It hadn't been opened, so I suspect it was accidentally dropped and not tossed. (Is it still litter?) After picking it up, I attempted to deposit it in a recycling bin at the end of someone's driveway and was chastised for it, so I carried it out of the Green neighborhood and into the parking lot of the HEB where there are plenty of trash cans but no recycling bins. While I did not have a conversation about the ownership of bins with the person in the Green Community, I talk trash frequently with my homeless neighbors (oxymoron?) many of whom sleep in the darker recesses of the strip mall and enjoy the shade of the bus stops along South Congress. I walk a lot, weather permitting, and also frequently ride the bus, so I've gotten to know a number of them. I once had a rather lengthy conversation about whether a single glove was trash or a lost item and was persuaded to leave it on top of the trash can in case someone came back for it. These conversations made me pause as I prepared to toss the unopened bottle of root beer. Was it, after all, trash? Maybe someone would want it? So, as with the glove, I placed it on the flat top of the trash can, leaving it to someone else to decide whether it was food or garbage.
And then I walked home.
Memoir Notes: 2
Ghost jewelry. What you can’t see here, because I’ve made it that way, are the colors. Turquoise. Coral. Silver. Her colors. And also red. Earth tones I think of her that way. And black, too, in her last years, like a lot of women aging, she turned to solids. No color. One of the last gifts I gave her was a bright orange vest. Faux fur. To keep her warm. To brighten her up (did she want to be faux warmed and brightened?) She was always so cold, constantly losing weight, not eating so she wouldn’t have to think about adjusting her insulin. When I cleaned out her house, I took the vest home with me. I never wore it. When I moved, I gave it away. I gave a lot of things away. My sisters and I shared her jewelry. I don’t wear it (okay, I wear a bracelet, but it was mine before it was hers—another story). I look at it. Polish it. Scan it. Filter it. Fade it. Crop. Edit. Manipulate it. Until I start writing.