Monday, September 8, 2014

The Path We Choose

Too long off the blog. Wow I haven't posted anything since May. I've actually had a few ideas rumbling around in my head but I've been so busy this summer writing for work, I haven't felt like writing for fun. So this idea is one of my rumblings inspired by my neighbor Cynthia.

When summer got into full swing, I started taking our dog Daisy for a walk first thing in the morning. Typically it was still cool outside so we could walk for about 35-40 minutes without succumbing. The path I chose goes through our neighborhood and around to Brooklawn Avenue, which is a large street that cuts through both Fairfield and Bridgeport. It's actually quite picturesque in sections, mainly the section that doesn't go through Bridgeport.

Bridgeport for those who don't know, is one of the largest metropolitan areas in Connecticut and also one of the poorest, if not the poorest. I just googled it to look for stats and found a great article that says the area surrounding Bridgeport is "home to the biggest income divide of any metropolitan area in the U.S." 

When I walk the path I chose, I'll know immediately when I've hit Bridgeport. Trash everywhere. You have to sidestep it and make sure the dog doesn't eat something that was wrapped in tinfoil and discarded. It's so bad I am planning a clean-up party on the corner down the street. And I'm seriously thinking what should I wear for this in case I find something contagious, shall we say. But I keep taking that path with the garbage and the odd characters I meet along the way.

One day my neighbor Cynthia suggested we take a walk. Instead of walking through Bridgeport, we took her path through the Brooklawn Country Club area. It's a far cry nicer than my path. There are beautiful homes with manicured lawns. The homes have grand entrances and gates that say, "Don't you dare think of driving your crappy VW through here." And I started thinking about why I would choose my path, when Cynthia's looked so much better. 

Then my friend Leslie came for a visit. She lives in East Hampton full time, which sounds super swanky but she's not that kind of gal. I mean it's swanky, but Leslie is very down-to-earth.We agreed to meet for lunch and I would choose the place. Since Leslie and I had both grown up in Westport (me part time), and we'd been to some places in Fairfield, I thought why not try some out of the way little place in Bridgeport?

My son came along too. First stop was Bloodroot. Bloodroot is an organic, vegan, possibly lesbian, definitely feminist little joint overlooking Burr Creek in the Black Rock area of Bridgeport. They offer weaving classes if that sort of sets the tone for you. Sadly Bloodroot was closed, so we couldn't experience it. Although Leslie said she was definitely coming back. 

We ended up at Harborview Market, another Black Rock gem. Harborview has fantastic chocolate croissants. They are so fantastic, I can't go there anymore.  Or at least I can't go there and have those croissants. We had some salad and sammies and sat outside. Even Will liked it and he's 16. I think he liked it better than Bloodroot. I think he was a bit frightened by Bloodroot.

During our conversation, Leslie mentioned she liked these places that she'd never tried before, and I only knew about now because of our proximity to Bridgeport. Then she said something to Will about "your mom always lives on the edge." Or the fringe, something like that. And she was right. But it had never occurred to me.

I went to college in New Orleans which is, I would say, where you can certainly live an alternative lifestyle. In DC I lived in Southeast on Capitol Hill. At the time, it was the murder capital of the US. In Raleigh, I lived in Five Points, a cool yet edgy section near downtown. And now I live in what I've termed Fairport - Fairfield on the Bridgeport line. All of my former neighborhoods have since become gentrified and their property values have shot through the roof. If only I'd stuck to my edgy instincts and purchased or held on to one of those properties.

Maybe my instincts are right about Fairport. It has been a long haul I can tell you that, completely gutting and renovating our circa 1925 house. We are currently in the midst of a mini crime spree. But as the cop told us when he came to take a report on stolen goods from our car....last week it was Southport. And before that Burr Street in Greenfield Hills. Neither of those neighborhoods can in any way be described as edgy. See crime happens everywhere. So why not live on the edge?

Maybe if we stay here in Fairport the tide will turn. I can tell you that I am one of the biggest supporters of Bridgeport catching a break. I like the feeling of urban in suburbia. I love our neighbors, those who've lived here forever and the new ones moving in. Maybe because we're on the edge together, we're nicer to each other and we look out for each other. But the speeders and the robbers and the litterers can make it tough sometimes. 

The picture above is the Perry Arch from Seaside Park in Bridgeport. It's a grand archway that was designed by architect Henry Bacon, who also designed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. On any given Sunday at Seaside Park, you'll see lots of picnics and beachgoers. You'll also see guys waxing their cars with their pitbulls sitting faithfully nearby. It's the perfect sort of contradiction that goes on in Bridgeport. Here on the edge.

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