13. September 2004 · Comments Off on Around the (Suburban) Avenues · Categories: General

I run in the mornings, before the sun has even done nothing more than lighten the sky over the roofs of the houses across the street, rolling out a little before 6:30, when most of the newspapers in the driveway have not been taken in, when the windows are mostly still dark… but not all. There are other runners about— over the next hour or so, you would get fairly trampled in the rush of them. That, and the owners of various dogs, taking them out for an air and a trot around the block before dogs are shut in the house, or the yard for the day, while their chosen human toils in the vineyards of various gainful employment. The leash laws are strictly observed around here, although cats (a superior species) are under no such onerous burden. Certain of them, usually suitably collared and tagged, are allowed unleashed freedom.

Being sensible creatures, most of them stick close to their home turf, so I know many of them by sight, they and the white and grey rabbit who also prowls a limited territory as the Little Friend of All the Cats, all of them knowing very well upon which side their personal bread is buttered. Bubba From Down The Road, who belongs to a 7th grader named Roger, has already been at my back door for his occasional ration of finest veterinarian-approved dry kibble. Roger has been to my house also, with catalogues of things— candies and cookies and cards and gifts— his school fund-raising project. I have ordered an apple-shaped timer, filling out the order form and writing out the check in advance, while my own cats sniffed him over, and decided they liked him. Roger is one of those boys at the most awkward stage of development, slightly hyper and socially inept, starving for approval, and naïve enough still to be reassured by the obvious approval of animals, and any adult who takes the trouble to treat him with courtesy and interest.

I start my run, turning left from my drive, with a long straight uphill stretch. The houses on the lower end of my street are the smallest, described as “garden cottages” of about 1,000 square feet and free-standing, but only a little larger than an apartment or condo would be, set on narrow lots with an unwindowed side on the property line. This leaves them with a front and back yard, and a narrow side yard; most of them have a tiny porch and front door along the side, or at the front. All of them are set back the same distance, all have a garage at the front, some of them have a second floor, and an assortment of interesting gables, bay windows, perhaps a vestigial front porch. A variety of designs saves the neighborhood from numbing conformity; although they are all carried out in brick and painted siding, and vaguely Palladian arched windows and bits of Victorian-ish stick painted trim, the builders worked with a varied palette of brick colors— grey and mushroom, light and dark reds, brown, beige, with paint colors to match. The oldest houses are planted around with mature trees and well-established gardens, but the newer ones are stark and unshaded, and look rather like the little box houses featured in model railway layouts, with various prefab doors and windows glued onto a plain square box of a house.

A few cars move on my road, which is one of the main traffic arteries in and out of the neighborhood, and being fairly straight for six or eight blocks is a temptation for speeders. I run on the asphalt roadway, which is easier on the joints than the concrete sidewalk, and keep a wary eye out when I have to skirt around cars parked on the street. There are a few porch lights on, at the top of the hill, at the intersection of the other main artery. When Blondie and I first moved here, and I bought my house, many of the lots at the top end were still empty, or under construction— in fact, the builders’ trailer and parking lot was at this corner. I turn right, carefully looking both ways before crossing. This intersection will be fairly heavily trafficked in another half hour; a short extension of the road I live on was run out to Stahl road, where the high school and the elementary school are. There will be kids on bicycles, and walking along the sidewalks, and nervous mothers and fathers ferrying the younger ones, or perhaps dropping them off on their way to their own work.

But now, the only foot traffic is that of the dedicated exercise fanatics like me, the only noise being the regular quiet beat of athletic shoes hitting the asphalt, and the barking of frustrated dogs as we pass by in the darkness…

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