As I walked to and from my flat and as I walked with Quin, I met various people who lived in the neighbourhood. I often stopped to pet dogs and chat with their owners. Occasionally I got into longer conversations.
On one of my walks I took photos of some art around a car port. Another day I had been sitting in the little park (actually it was originally the terminus of the trolley years ago) on Douglas St and noticed a house, a real house. It was surrounded by apartment buildings and townhouses. I decided to walk down that street and happened to see the man who had the art. I commented on it and we got into quite a conversation. The man’s name was John. He was 78, a retired graphic designer who at least at one point had worked for the city. His art was very much found art and some pieces had names. For example, one piece was made of beam ends that he had piled together and painted in different colours and called his Mondrian. He had a crape myrtle tree trunk and root placed upside down, which was an attractive piece on its own. Since I liked his pieces, he took me into his yard– and I discovered that he lived in that one house.
The house had been built in the 1920s by a doctor. At the time, the trolley ended right there. John and his wife bought the house 40 years ago on the day they got married. It was very sweet how he talked about her with great love and affection, even after all these years. He showed me a piece that he had made for her from metal pieces– a big round metal piece, some old metal floats, a hook from an oxen yoke, among others. There had been a ball hanging above it meant to be an eye, but it had been broken when the trees above it had been trimmed.
I loved that he had made these pieces from random things. One was a tall cement structure that had a dead tree inside it. When the tree died, he mailed laths to it and covered it with stucco. On the top he had some railroad spikes holding up a big chunk of turquoise glass. He told me that the factory that made glass would pop out the last bits of glass at the end of the day and then sell them by the pound. He could see a St. Bernard in it but I couldn’t, truthfully. He made an outside mobile with CDs on it and various pieces from tree trunks. It was all pretty amazing.
He said that he was retired and needed something to do. I showed him a photo of one of my most recent tapestry pieces and I appreciated hearing him acknowledge the work of it and he complimented me on its looks. We had a mutual appreciation society going!
He asked me what I thought of Texas and I told him there were too many guns. Thankfully he agreed with me. This was a very nice neighbour.
Another day I met an older woman walking her dog. I commented that I did not see many cocker spaniels around and then we kept talking. She was a very fashionable looking 75 and her dog was about six. The dog, Milly, had gone blind and her eyes had had to be taken out. She had prosthetics put in to fill the holes, so to speak. The dog was very nice and so was the woman. I met her son as I was walking by her place one day. She lived about a block from my daughter. Her son was carrying Milly and I commented that I knew that dog. The son said his mom had told me she had met someone on the street. I actually ran into her in the supermarket one day too. I remembered the dog’s name, but not hers.
Two neighbours I did not meet– I had an altercation with them. I was almost back from a walk with Quin in his stroller. There was a complex there where there was about a car’s length from the sidewalk up to the garage. When we came along, the small SUV looked like it was heading out into the busy street. As I got closer I saw that there was no one in it– it had been parked there. It happened that a guy was on the balcony wrapping up Christmas lights. I asked if it was his car. Immediate belligerence– yah, so what? You need to park it so it doesn’t cover the sidewalk. This is my property and get off it. By then the cussedness in me was coming out. I pointed out that I was on city property and because of his car I had to push the baby stroller into the street to get around it. By then his wife had poked her head out and told me to get off their property. I called them fucking assholes and threatened to call the police. No respect, not for me and especially not for the child. And truthfully I was reluctant to get more into it because this was Texas and I was afraid they had guns. Isn’t that a nice way to have neighbours?
On that note, one day I met a pig. I was walking with Quin and saw a dog in the back of a car and was checking to see if ther owner had left it there alone. There was a young woman inside the car who leaned over and said, ‘Yes, it is a pig.’. I asked if I could see it, thinking it would be cool for Quin, who was actually quite unimpressed. The car had an out of state license plate, so I asked if she was visiting. No, she was moving to Dallas. She told me she had had to report she had a pig with her every time she passed a state line. Then I asked what she did and was a little surprised at the answer– she was a dominatrix! She had gotten into it a few years earlier and liked it, especially since she made good money. I had never met a pet pig or a dominatrix before.
I used to see a neighbour from the building on the other side of the new one next door to me who had two beagles, one of which could hardly walk. His hind legs would give out. The poor thing was pretty old. I sometimes saw him still in his robe cussing at them as he walked them. The last time I saw him the one dog seemed to be walking OK, which was good to see.
And of course there were the new friends I met where I lived. I moved into a community. It was not an intentional community– if anything it was quite random. My daughter and her husband had walked by this building one day and noticed people congregating in the courtyard. They noted that it was unusual, as people tend to possibly nod to the familiar strangers that are their neighbours, but mostly to keep to themselves. The next day there was an ad on craigslist for an apartment in the same complex and the rest is history.
It was interesting to get to know my new neighbours as time went on. I probably came across as a slightly strange ‘tokin’ grandma, as one of them asked me one day. I am sure I came across as an oldie and a know-it-all (the know-it-all part is not new). However, they all accepted me and seemed glad to see me when I arrived in the courtyard.
My across the hall neighbours were an endearing couple of a young chef and a young Mexican-American woman. He kept trying to feed me and indeed his food was very good. She was drop-dead gorgeous, a dancer. She was not a singer, though one day she was enthusiastically though not tunefully singing along with the music in her flat. I was very glad that they were my neighbours.
Then there was the lesbian couple across the courtyard. One had a loud delighted kind of laugh and had a very good heart. I learned that she had been in prison, for selling drugs, which she now does not do. She could be fierce and opinionated at times, but I liked her a lot. Her partner at one time said she wanted to take care of her and as the dyke of the house she was working hard to do that. I wanted to ask her what she thought of trannies but I did not dare ask.
The thin young woman who lived downstairs from me was like a wraith, wafting about the courtyard on her way to take her ancient pug to pee. She was part Turkish, which almost made me tear up when I first met her. Turns out her mother was Turkish. She had a Turkish auntie somewhere near Dallas and asked if I would go with her sometime to visit her. That would have been fun, but it never happened. I pet sat for her one weekend and fed her strange bunny and her cat. The bunny was so fluffy that you could hardly tell one end from the other. The bunny’s cage was full of brown bunny turds and had obviously not been cleaned for a long time. I would have changed it but I could not find anything to replace the turdy scraps. The cat was a Hemingway cat– it came from the place in the Florida Keys where Hemingway once lived and which now is surrounded by descendants of his cats.
Most of the neighbours had cats or dogs, including one young woman who brought home a huge great dane. He had a mellow personality and got along pretty well with the other dogs, several of which were pugs. The cats would also come out to the courtyard and from time to time I would see one in the back off my flat, sometimes carrying a rat.
The couple who used to live in my flat had moved into a two bedroom in the upper corner of the complex. Some of us were hanging out next door and I saw him looking in here, so I offered a tour so he could see what I had done to the place. In a way, the places were fairly public. The ones on the first floor had living room windows right on the courtyard or walkway and we could usually see in at least a little bit. Since the apartments were all the same configuration, it was variations on a theme.
Years ago at Glendon College, there was an art exhibit which consisted of one foot square boxes they had been given to various artists, who then decorated or did with them what they wished. It was kind of interesting and the concept has stayed with me since. We all live in squared off space, physical, mental, emotional. But we also make of our boxes what we will, even if we think it is not us doing it.
Although my stay in Dallas was fairly short, I would say that I met many more of my daughter’s neighbours than she ever will, since I was on the streets more, and I was certainly grateful for the neighbours in my apartment complex.
And here are some other photos of the neighbourhood I lived in.