Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Smith Street Sense

January had been bright and sunny until the day I headed over to my old house. I sold my beloved property six years ago after almost 10 years of happiness in my little bungalow. But the time was right and my life here on the shores of our little lake with my wife is "an upgrade" as my brother put it. 

Still I hadn't set foot on the property since I sold it and it felt like an out-of-body experience as I drove down my old street. The homogenization of the old neighborhood continues, as the hipsters and young families strip the charm away for stucco and styrofoam. As I pull into my old driveway I notice that the cactus planted at the base of the giant live oak in front has grow up the trunk and out on one of its enormous horizontal limbs. The bromeliad I stuck in a crotch between two branches appears to be thriving. But other than that, almost every other plant in the front yard has been removed. The giant azaleas are gone. The Princess Palms are history. even the Mondo grass has disappeared. I guess as a rental property, you want as little maintenance as possible?

Using gift cards I received for Christmas, I couldn't wait to order some great books I spied at Barnes and Nobles. Buying them online allowed me to purchase used versions for about two thirds the price of new ones. But I neglected to review my shipping address and they went to my old house, two zip codes away.

Approaching the screened-in porch to accept my books from the young hipster renting my old place, I noticed rotten floor boards sticking out from under the door. Rot was always an issue with that little wooden house, it has very little overhang for the rain water to run off. I commented on the rot and the tenant noted he had been bugging the landlord, (whom I sold the house to thinking she would be living there happily... forever!) "Watch out it'll only get worse", I warn in vain. 

When I moved there, I was the youngest homeowner on the block. When I left I was surrounded by hipster couples and the cute little downtown was being torn down to make way for a high rise condo. I feel like I'm singing the familiar tune of doom and gloom for old Florida. I think perhaps my current consciousness is being influenced by the Bill Belleville book I'm reading.

But as I left College Park and drove by the urban lake that separates this 1920s neighborhood from downtown, there were dozens of wading birds feeding in one spot by the shore's edge. Wood Storks, Great Blue Herons, Egrets and Cormorants were gorging themselves and fighting for the best spots to catch more fish (I should always carry my camera with me.) I sat in my car and watched until traffic approached from behind. It's not all bad, I concluded as I drove away. And it sure felt good to be home afterwards.

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