An elegant figure of casual grace, Mr. Sharkey took a daily measured stroll on the tree-lined streets in our neighborhood. A pause, a casual glance at the watch on his fob, a personal nod and a few kind words were exchanged with passersby. Sharkey, an unpretentious man, was as lean as the sidewalk and a fellow traveller on our ribbon of social highway.
My wife and I loved to walk our neighborhood. It was mostly for exercise, but we always enjoyed seeing what others had done with their most valued possession. We lived in a modest 90-year-old traditional double on a street in a mature setting where most residents took great pride in their handiwork. Porches were popular as were swings that were usually featured on side galleries or tucked tight in the narrow front of a shotgun double. That’s where the eldest usually held court on a wide range of topics. The audience’s age varied greatly and, in consideration of delicate ears, one might overhear the conversation seamlessly change to a French patois in a moment of polite profanity.
When my wife and I moved to the Northshore on a post-Katrina wave, we had to adapt to a new landscape. Gone were the small lots with homes of random design that crowded narrow streets. Stoops, proper front porches and sidewalks gave way to new home construction with generous setbacks and covenants that mandate the look of a subdivision. For us, the personal touches that define an owner’s esthetic, moved from the front to the back yard. Azalea, gardenia, iris, liriope, sasanqua, once curbside features, are typical backyard landscaping. It is an accessible and a mighty calming view.
Everything is neat and orderly. And while there is much to be said for the uniformity of HOAs and covenants, there is no allowance made for the individuality of a simple walk around the neighborhood on a sidewalk with your leashed dog. For better and for worse, there are concessions for change that I will make. Hopefully, I’ll live long enough to one day be that dignified, dapper gent with a bentwood cane…although, I’ll reserve the right to stand in the street and shake it in contempt at the cars, bicycles, baby strollers and golf carts overflowing with laughing children.
I miss my sidewalks.
I’d love to share my recipe for Lime, Tequila and Garlic Grilled Shrimp with you!