Sunday, February 21, 2016

Living on the Dodgy Side

Among the joys of living on the dodgy side of Meeting street are the neighbors. Walking the pups several times a day I get to see many of them up close and personal. The population of neighborhood includes older students, younger professionals, and older hard working Charlestonians who are on the brink of being evicted from homes where they have resided for most of their lives thanks to the tide of gentrification that has now reached this far north. There are three small historical black churches within two blocks of place as well as the traditional corner store or three. Just down the street are several nice city blocks size grassy parks shaded by old oaks, criss-cossed with paths, and sprinkled with benches.

And, yes, my Mama would not be pleased with my address. 29403 would not be good enough for her. She would be disappointed that I did not aspire to 29401. So be it. My street is speckled with a mixture of 19th and early 20th century homes. Some are now tenements and in poor shape, some are currently being redone, and others are in pristine condition. I live in an old iron works factory that dates back to 1880 that has had several lives. Eclectic is a good description of the neighborhood, there is no homogenizing here.
I moved in on the 2nd of January and was surprised to find that all the black folks who passed greeted me with a "Happy New Year" (even from their bicycles). This continued for a week or two, followed in February by "Happy Valentines!" Everyone speaks as you pass on the streets. If someone sees you need assistance with a door or what you are carrying, even if they are across the street, it is not unusual for them to cross the street and offer to help.

This morning I was out at 5:30 walking the pups as dawn was breaking. I came to a corner where an older black man stood there holding (what I assume was) his lunch in a plastic grocery bag. As usual he greeted me before I could say anything with a smile, "Good mawnin' " I replied that it was a beautiful morning.

"S'posed to be 70 degrees today."

"And last week we were freezing," I said with a laugh.

"Yes, mam, but that's the lawd gawd's will."

I agreed and the pups and I moved on.

As I watched the morning glow on the old buildings and heard the sounds of the city come to life, I thought, sure, I don't live south of Broad, but this is Charleston, the heart of the real city, not what is pretty and preserved and posted on the tour guides. This is the real world.

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