As I made my turn 'round the bend, I mean, 'round the block and further down the street, a Mexican construction worker and his Brazilian wife water the assortment of flowers, shrubbery and trees they have planted around the house and in their front yard. On weekends they take an assortment of these plants to the flea market. Because one of the neighbors was unhappy and kept complaining to the Code Enforcement office, they recently decided to put up a six foot tall wood fence all around their house, which now seats like a moated castle on the block.
A bit further down the road and already on the other block, I hear behind me the pitter-patter of canine paws together with the steps of his blonde master who is holding on to, but is being pulled by said canine. I step away from the sidewalk so as to give the rushing canine free and clear passage way, but then I realize that the canine, who has recognized me from the times he and his master walk past my yard, is pulling his master wanting to wag his tail, greet and say hello to me, as he is glad, perhaps, to do so out and away from the presence of my own KOKO, my own dog who jealously guards our yard and barks other dogs and those he considers intruders away from our yard and away from our house.
The house on the corner, just where the street becomes a, "T", is flying an American flag at half staff, joining in the National Day of Mourning for Gerald Ford as declared by George Walker Bush. Interestingly, the family who owns the home is a mixed American family. The head of the family, or head of the household, is an American who is married to a woman of Latin descent. A composition of three or four nuclear families, related to one another by blood or marriage, share this household, much like the days of old when several generations of one family lived in one household.
At one of the other corners comprising the eight blocks of my walk this morning, they are beginning to tear down one of the badly damaged houses from one of the hurricanes of a year and a half ago. The workers all are speaking a foreign language which I cannot quite make out, although I know it is not Brazilian and it is not Spanish. The Hindu neighbor on the North side of the house comes out to watch the laborers, hoping, perhaps that none of the debris from the house being demolished falls on his car. He says, "good morning", and as he sees me walking by with my cane; he adds, "Watch yourself. Don't trip over any of the broken sidewalk there." I smile, thank him for his concern and reassure him that I am okay as I go on, on my way.
As I walk past Clarissa's house-the house which she sold to move away to another State following our year of several hurricane hits, I see that a new family has finally moved in. They have put in fresh, new, green grass and planted several palm trees around the yard. They are from Haiti, it seems, for they are speaking Creole. They have opted to remove the fence from Virginia's front yard. The fence which kept Gus, her Beagle mix, inside the property, and not out galavanting as he may have been wont to do. They keep to themselves as I walk by.
Two houses up there is Nate, the young, all night bar, owner. Coming in for a few hours' rest before he goes back out to manage the bar and keep an eye out on things out there. His mother, a snowbird from one of the northern states, is sure to be coming down soon.
Neighbors across the street have already left for work after three days of almost non-stop partying and beer drinking. Glad, they say, to get back into the routine of things.
Except that the routine of things around this neighborhood is no longer much of what it used to be.
From an all American, retired, middle-class neighborhood we went to a, struggling class, all ethnic groups welcome, neighborhood, where people work day jobs, or blue collar union jobs, or trade jobs, where salaries remain stagnant while our elected government officials give themselves huge pay raises and enjoy incredible health benefits on their health insurance policies. This is now a neighborhood where single moms live with their children, struggling to make it from day to day and where TITLE VIII (or is it TITLE IX) pays for their rent which the neighborhood's slum lord makes sure is pretty hefty.
This is America today. It is so in my neighborhood at least. It is an amalgam of ethnic groups where the whiff of various ethnic meals cooking at mealtime can hit you and lift you as you walk by the houses on one block or another. It is a neighborhood where the smell of bacon, eggs and biscuits, is no longer the predominant smell on Sunday mornings but where it blends with that of croquets, or empanadas, of refried beans. It is a blended neighborhood hoping in an America which seems to have forgotten its promise, closed its arms to them.
It is a neighborhood where few enjoy some degree of health insurance, while others do without; hoping in a prayer that they won't need the medical attention that anyone of us might need at any given time.
It is a neighborhood where men, women, children, and yes ... pets, too, are calling America, "Home", even when Lou Dobbs, Newt Gingrich, the Republican Party and many good hearted Americans have made of them the latest boogie men under their mattresses.
This is a neighborhood in the New America where many of the neighbors are no longer are welcomed aboard.
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