Enjoying the Simple Things


There's nothing like living in the city. Throw in public transportation lines, a corner store, YMCA and a library, and you have a recipe for excitement. From my house, I can literally take 50 steps and be strategically positioned to attend a community meeting, check out a book, jump on a train or buy a beer. But nothing beats sitting on my front steps as the mid-afternoon sun makes its journey west warming the block and my soul. It's during these moments that I have my I-wish-I-could-retire thoughts because I could spend hours each day posted on the steps of my crackhead-painted dwelling (they did a really good job considering they were crackheads and, of course, it was only $5), and watching life, in many forms, go by.

Like a Soul Train line, folks pass up and down the space between the row of houses and row of cars on Revere Avenue with measured enthusiasm and intention. You can even find eager drivers circling the block looking for an opportunity to insert themselves in this cozy little stretch of block that is Revere Ave.

On a simple day, I sit with my dad and stepmom, and watch the girls run up and down the street. I retrieve and return various play items, sketch out a hopscotch on the sidewalk and have a three-generation conversation all while serving as Vice Ambassador to the United Homes of Revere Avenue (my dad is the ambassador because he's retired and loves to talk to anyone who will listen). As the day persists, I get the chance to meet and reacquaint myself with a cast of characters I chose to highlight below. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

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Meet Byron (not his real name) - If you can't get to the store and need socks, steak, DVDs, lightbulbs or over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, don't worry, Byron is you're man. Always in an unmarked duffle bag, Byron inconspicuously moves from customer to customer supplying each demand with whatever they desire or don't. Sometimes Byron doesn't have anything anyone needs or wants. What he does have are below bargain basement prices that force passersby to end up with unintended purchases simply because they got a good deal.

Meet the Middle Schoolers from That Local Charter Academy - I don't remember having license to use the language that many youth use today. Damn and hell were bad enough, but if you inserted an ass in the conversation, you were really exercising your adult muscles. Nowadays, it's not uncommon to hear those words on the radio so elevating one's grown ass-ism requires a new scaled-up vulgarity. Along with being within earshot of adolescent potty mouths, you may be required to break up the occasional fight between teenaged girls in the middle of the street that stops traffic because drivers think they're in the front row of an MMA match.

Meet My Former Students - If do anything long enough, you get old(er). If you're an educator, you have the extra benefit of running into your former students all grown up. Sitting on my front steps, looking about the same as I did in the late 1990s, I occasionally make contact with a bright-eyed, big-smiled passerby that's just as excited to see me as I am them. These people would be my former students who lead me on journeys back in time when my love for my students fueled my work and life.

Meet Lupita (not her real name) - As previously mentioned, my dad is the Ambassador of our block. He strikes up a conversation with or provides a salutation for everyone who walks by. Occasionally, Lupita will come with bags of goodies she secured from the local food pantry which she strategically places in front of my dad. Lupita always gestures him to take what he likes as they each communicate in a language the other doesn't understand. Lupita either shares her bounty with my dad because she has a huge heart, believes my dad is a nice person or thinks he is someone in need of help. I guess it's a combination of all three.

Meet White People In Bayview - When construction began on the light rail line that runs through the neighborhood back in the early 2000s, we (Black people in Bayview) knew times were a changin'. With the completion of the line and new residential housing production, home prices have soared and so have sightings of white people in Bayview. In previous years, Bayview/Hunter's Point was synonymous with drugs, crime and danger. Finding white people driving in the neighborhood, let alone, walking their dogs after dark was unheard of. According to the Bay Area Census, African Americans are leaving (being pushed out of) the city at alarming rates. There are some perks, however, that come with members of the dominant culture moving into your area. It only takes the city's public works department about 36 hours to pick up the trash that folks illegally dump on the corners, and we have a Starbucks!

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Meet My Mom - My mom and I have a lot in common with food and the girls being at the top of the list. Since her job at the library is within the 50 step radius, she visits often. It's nice to have a mom who works at the library if you like books, magazines and information. It's even better to just have a mom especially one who is an even better grandma.

Meet My Nephew - Keshon is my nephew who got super handsome almost over night. My family thinks my girls will be the last babies for a while, but I don't know. Handsome teenage boys, their slightly more mature female counterparts, raging hormones and access to your mom's empty house because she's at work all day is a recipe for a new human being! I hope someone is having The Talk with him a few times a year.

Meet Jennifer (not her real name) - Jennifer is the neighbor who gets a pass from everyone for everything for reasons that will become obvious in a few seconds. She once said to my dad, "When you see Lincoln tell him to get his ass off that chair because I got something to tell him!" Yes, Jennifer.

As you can see, scenes from my block can be better than prime time. I'm glad I had and took the chance to see it for myself. It's the simple things like sitting on your front steps that bring us so much joy. Be grateful. 

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