This was my second Sunday waking up in the new apartment, but it was the first when I didn’t have to get up and finish moving stuff out of the old apartment. I wanted a bit of a lie-in, but I was awake at five in the morning. I did what any normal person would do: I got up and put a second coat of paint on the kitchen cabinets and went back to bed.

I ate breakfast (thank you new air fryer that I bought yesterday), and was out the door by nine o’clock. We were supposed to get a huge ice storm yesterday that was going to leave everything coated with three quarters of an inch of ice and bring down power lines and leave people without electricity for days, but it didn’t happen. I haven’t read the news or turned on the television yet, so I don’t know how well the rest of the country fared. I doubt they were as fortunate as we are.

Instead, we had a light coating of snow over an even lighter coating of ice. As far as winter storms go, I’ll take it.

After breakfast, I headed out for a walk. Even though I’ve been physically active, what with moving and all, I’ve also been eating like a teenage boy again, and I’ve packed on a few pounds. I managed to get across Centre Street, the four-lane road that separates my new apartment complex from the rest of town, when I suddenly started worrying that I hadn’t locked my front door. I knew that I had, but anxiety is a thing, so I trudged back to my apartment to find that indeed, I had locked the front door. I let myself in because I needed a pee and to blow my nose, and locked the door on my way out, thinking “oh, well, it’s just extra steps.” And it is.

At my old apartment, I would often get up on Sundays and go for a long walk to the Starbucks in the D&W grocery store two blocks away. I’m not excited about Starbucks in general, but when they’re there, I’ll take a small caramel macchiato. This walk involved walking past a Walgreens, the local fire station, the local police station, an adult entertainment store (albeit a somewhat upscale one), a strip mall, two auto parts stores, a used car lot (one of those national ones that will finance anybody), and eventually passing taking a trail through a city park which is an official wetlands. It was, to say the least, a very entertaining way to spend a Sunday morning, and would take care of approximately 8,000 of my daily 10,000 steps. The D&W grocery store opened maybe a dozen years ago, and it was a grand thing, based on the Craftsman designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. I would walk there, buy a coffee, walk back—I would usually have the coffee drunk by the time I was back in the swamp—er, wetlands—so I could toss the cup in any of the handy waste cans our city put out there. Alas, the D&W closed a year or so ago, and my Sunday walks for coffee came to an end.

There is a coffee shop right in front of my new apartment complex, but I can hardly bring myself to just walk there for a coffee. Without the long walk, it doesn’t seem like I’ve earned it. So I decided to walk to the Harding’s grocery on the other side of Centre Street, because there is a coffee shop there. I could just cross Centre, and then turn west and keep walking—it would be the most direct route. But I wanted more than just a coffee. I wanted time to think, and a walk on a Sunday morning in winter where there isn’t much traffic out and there’s no wind so the chance of frost bite is much reduced (still, it’s 25°F/-4°C out, so bundle up). I decided to take the long route to the grocery store.

The long route involves walking past:

  • some nice commercial buildings with brick exteriors and nicely maintained parking lots
  • a private drive that leads to some mini-mansions on a private golf course
  • a private golf course (you can see the mini-mansions from the third hole)
  • beautiful condos lining a small pond
  • sidewalks with landscaped benches just perfect for taking a break from your walk (although not in winter)
  • a walk alongside a beautiful and heavily wooded boulevard:

Everywhere along this route there are reminders that this is a fairly wealthy part of town. After all, this is the neighborhood where the school district considered converting the local middle school to a community education center and the neighborhood rebelled—they made it absolutely clear that they in no way wanted poor people and high school dropouts showing up after hours to try to better their lives. The nimbyism is strong with this place.

It’s true that I’ve walked this route before, only I came from a long way away. I was at best a tourist in this neighborhood; at worst, an interloper. Now I live here, or at least nearby enough to call this my neighborhood. 

All the while I’m walking and thinking about this, I keep thinking that people like me don’t live like this. It’s true that this new apartment is a little dated (the cabinets could use some work), but this is still the nicest apartment I’ve ever lived in, and by far it’s still nicer than most of the houses I’ve ever lived in. At least the door knobs don’t come off in your hand and you can’t hear the vermin scurrying inside the walls as you lay awake at night, trying and failing to fall asleep. But such is the state that we live in that people who grow up poor and spend most of their lives working their butts off and still being poor don’t deserve this life, no matter how hard they work.

After all, this is a neighborhood where even nature arranges itself into art for those who have eyes to see:

Sadly, most of the people who live here will just drive by this and miss it. And those that do walk are so busy conversing on their phones, that they will still miss it. Everybody here can see, but they don’t actually bother to look.

Perhaps nature is too random for them, too uncontrollable. Perhaps they prefer a more uniform look:

Anyway, the thought of living here puts this song in my head:

Even though my upbringing always makes me think of this song:

The Hardest Job 

Forget brain surgeon, or coal miner, or teacher. Yes, those are tough jobs. But the toughest job is an artist. An artist must do many things all at once. They must look, and notice, and see patterns (and lack of patterns) and relationships. They must tie things together that seem separate, and they must untie things that don’t belong together any more. They have to evaluate, they have to synthesize, they have to create, and then they must show other people what they have noticed, all the while knowing that they are powerless to make other people do anything with this newfound way of seeing, this newfound way of knowing.

The one thing an artist must not do is entertain. Art for the sake of entertainment is the death of art. If it amuses the artist, that it is enough.

All of this made sense while I was walking, at any rate.

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