17. September 2004 · Comments Off on Around the (Suburban) Avenues— The Final Stretch · Categories: Domestic, General

Creek Way runs along the crest of the low ridge at the top end of the development, the first half an easy level— I have hit my stride now. Some houses— they are larger than the garden cottages, most of them two story houses, now show faint yellow squares of light, leaking through blinds and curtains in the upstairs windows. Many of these houses have pools, and elaborate decks and play equipment in the back. Many of those with the most elaborate gardens and decks back on a narrow watercourse that runs all the way down through the heart of the neighborhood, ducking under the roads by way of a concrete culvert. There is nearly always a trickle of water in it, and the banks are supposed to be mown by the city. I think it would make a lovely shoe-string park, winding down the shallow slope, with a jogging and bicycle path along side, and places where you could sit and watch the jewel-winged dragonflies flit in and out. Heavy rains have brought down seedlings from gardens, which have planted themselves in places along the watercourse— reeds and ruellias and gladioli, mostly. Some of the householders have even extended their gardens and tree plantings beyond their fences, or just keep the grass mown of their own volition, but otherwise it grows as tall as it would have grown in the tall-grass prairie, or to the level of the privacy fences.

I think on what a lovely little park it would make, like the Lichtenthaler Allee, in Baden-Baden, a narrow little park on the bank of a river, where you would walk all though the city, and look across the river at the splendid gardens in the back of all the houses on the other side. William thinks I should get myself elected to the Neighborhood Association and campaign for exactly that, but at this point the Neighborhood Association is mostly interested in cell-phone patrolling in the wee hours and getting speed-bumps installed along my street and Creek Way. No one is particularly interested in the labor of building a park along city drainage. To be fair, they are not interested in pissing contests over paint colors, parking cars on the street, or exhuberantly over-ornamenting their gardens with pink flamingos, seasonal banners and statues of saints with lighted halos. Many of my neighbors are military, or retirees, and their toleration is large, even enduring my next-door neighbor who had her house painted pepto-bismol pink. We just shaded our dazzled eyes until it faded; she was nearly blind and shortly afterwards moved to be with her daughter in Chicago, and the next owners mercifully painted it beige. The only offense against the standards of suburbia is letting weeds grow as large as rose-bushes, and not fixing broken windows.

On the other side of the culvert, the hill begins to rise steeply, in a long looping curve, and keeping the same pace as I did on the flat is an effort. The sky is a little paler in the east, but it is still night among the trees along Creek Way, and a long way between streetlights. It would be darker still, but for so many houses leaving the porch and front lights on, a string of human-scale lights all along the even setbacks of the house fronts. A number of them are left on to illuminate the flags… American flags, mostly, some Texas state flags, the lone white star on a blue field above a red and white stripe. A couple of houses have a little blue starred banner, denoting military service hanging in a window, and many cars sport the small magnetic banners, yellow or tricolor; “We Support Our Troops”.

I pass the president of the Neighborhood Association’s house, just a little short of the top of the hill; his house, and the house across Creek Way seem to be in serious, toe-to-toe, mano-a-mano competition for garden decoration. Banners and windcatchers, colorful hanging pots and planters, ornaments, plaques, and statuary, topped off with seasonal lights and ornaments. Black cats and scarecrows and skeletons for Halloween, deer and Santas and sleighs for Christmas, and so on throughout the year. Even Labor Day gets some ornament; surely Martha Stewart has a lot to answer for, and to more than the criminal justice system.

Here at the top of the hill is another intersection. There is a limestone entrance gate, right by the Latter-Day Saints complex of classrooms and meeting halls. I turn right again, running downhill for the first time in 20 minutes, heading back down towards the oldest part of the neighborhood, where the houses were more “L” shaped, and set on wider lots. After four blocks, I turn right again, and run a zig-zagging course that takes me across the creek again, and brings me out on my own street and past my house, while the sky turns a clear pale turquoise. A few shreds and scraps of pink to pink and gold cloud contrast vividly, brighter the closer to the horizon they are. This is my second lap, another zig-zag course, another zig-zagging course, half in streets of tiny garden cottages, half in the larger, and older houses, which have been much improved and added onto, with ornamental gates, and sunrooms. This is where I often see the Little Friend of all the Cats, the white and grey rabbit, and the school-teacher who walks Goliath the giant Papillion, who is about the size of a border collie— enormous for the breed.

The sky is entirely light by the time I finish the second lap, and go uphill again on my street for the final lap. I pass children walking towards the school by now. Cars are pulling out of driveways, and my neighbor the roofer, and the pool landscaper two roads up are already rolling; they have work to do before it gets too hot. But I have been jogging for nearly an hour now, and my tee-shirt is nearly soaked— it’s hot enough for me, even before the sun is entirely up. Past my house, while next-door’s little dachshund barks at me with soprano enthusiasm. Birds yammer in chorus in the tallest trees, and out in the green belt, the great marble cross put up by the congregation of St. Helena catches the first sunlight. We are fenced around with churches, in this neighborhood— not just the Catholics at St. Helena, but the LDS, and the Episcopal church at the opposite corner, and the Lutherans a bare block away.

It seems sometimes there is something for everyone to dislike, in a suburb like this. Somewhere on the cultured coasts, scholars and the artistic set are painting it in sterile and stultifying shades. Somewhere in Europe, we are put down for vulgarity and religiosity, lack of real culture and 75 different cheeses, and having the temerity to own our own homes, and work for our own businesses. Mullahs everywhere in the Middle East must be gibbering incoherently about the women who own their own homes, and dare to go jogging alone of a morning, not to mention spoiling our little dogs and allowing great marble crosses to dominate the green belt. And the thing that chaps them the most, that galls them right down to what passes for a soul?

We don’t care. We don’t give a rats’ ass. IDGRA rules, and we have the nerve to be content.

And I’ll run again tomorrow.

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