Saturday, March 1, 2014

Secrets of the World I've Seen

            There are a million nooks and crannies in the world.  There are caves and alleyways, cubbies and caverns, causeways and cairns.  People see the same sights every day, and become inured to them.  But some of us pay attention, some of the time.  And we learn things about where we live and what’s around.


            The first place I ever lived that wasn’t away at school was a tiny apartment in a huge concrete complex.  The rent was too high, and nothing that I needed was in walking distance.  There was also plenty of crime.  I literally walked through a drug deal on my way home one August night.  (It turned out better than you’d think.  Oddly enough, being 6’3” and the only white person for a six block radius has occasional advantages.)


            But there were trees there.  And as a man who lived within fifteen yards of the ocean his whole life, it was an amazing change.  The wind, filtered through a half a dozen trees a story or two below your bedroom window, brings peace and freedom with it.  There were weeks I hated living in that place, and many things went wrong in my life while I was there, but I can still hear that somnolent sound in my dreams some nights.


            When I moved to a suburb overrun with students, I lost that peace and quiet, but gained access to anything I’d ever been curious about.  There were more coffee shops and ethnic restaurants in a ten minute walk from my door than made any sense.  There was a used fantasy bookstore down the street that was so crowded with wares I could barely walk down the aisles.  And there were about a billion places to get a beer.  It was tough to feel tired or old in a place like that.  No matter how awful my work schedule was or how empty my wallet, there was cheap youthful fun close by.  The energy of the neighborhood made up for the periodic rashes of street vomit every fall.  I still go to a few of those restaurants, and lament a few that closed before they got traction.


            Last year, I lived in a small converted office building.  There were twelve units on three floors, and the renovation was as cheap as my rent.  There was no individual unit heat.  The baseboards and walls were ugly and uneven.  And the kitchen was maybe three feet square.  It was cramped.  My unit faced the back of the house, so I had no view of the street.


            What I did have was a back door that opened onto a tiny deck.  It was a portal to the street behind mine, which was dull and uninteresting the first eight months I lived there.  Then, the house behind mine decided to redo their rear façade and add a large deck.  They did it themselves.  And the father/tot team took their time.  The house had no rear siding for months.  But every so often, I’d poke my head out and either watch them work, or see what had changed.  It was a surreptitious show and I had the only unofficial ticket.  It was a slow moving miracle, and I was just a little sad when the work was over.


            It’s a big crazy world out there readers.  Keep your eyes open.  You might just spy something special.

  • This post was inspired by my move to a new apartment in advance of my wedding in May.  I'm going to bang around the new place alone until after the big day.  It's not fun.  But it has helped me reflect on how I've had it elsewhere.
  • As always, I welcome comments here, on my twitter @TheSagest, my tumblr or directly at  I'm here to share my thoughts and my writing.  Drop me a line if you'd like.

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