This morning I was awoken by a trumpet, or maybe a trombone, or a horn of some sort. It’s difficult for me to clearly ascertain the exact instrument as I untangle myself from bed sheets, wipe drool off of my cheek with the back of my hand and rub goobers out of my eyes as I begrudgingly return to consciousness. My morning self is not a pretty sight. We live across the street from a middle school and apparently the marching band has been gearing up for the rapidly approaching school season by practicing early in the mornings before it gets too hot.
While I am most certainly not a huge fan of mornings, I will declare right here, right now, that I am a huge fan of marching bands. I was never talented enough or driven enough to actually accomplish an instrument, much less ever be a member of a marching band. *sigh* Being awoken by the sounds of a marching band practicing across the street from my house makes me considerably less grumpy in the morning and makes me love my neighborhood just a little bit more than I already do.
I’m looking forward to school starting. I like being in the midst of action and there’s always action going on at schools. Besides the middle school across the street, there’s also the neighborhood elementary school less than a mile from my house, which means many children still walk to school every morning, which means there are plenty of crossing guards. I love crossing guards. In their little orange vests.
I also like that there’s a bus stop down the corner from my house. Weird, right? I don’t even use the bus. I actually CAN’T use the bus to get to work – I already checked the route schedule. And even though I have never used the Nashville Metro Bus service, I like that I have the option. A very convenient option at that. I have never lived anywhere in Nashville before where taking the bus was a viable transportation solution.
In addition to accessible mass transit, I now have the ability to WALK as a means of transportation and/or recreation. I step out my front door and there are sidewalks. Sidewalks that can take me on a leisurely stroll at dusk, after dinner when the streetlights start to flicker, and windows glow with the blue tinge of television sets. Where I can pass neighbors out walking too. Walking their dog or with their kids. Or I can wave and say “hey” to the neighbors not inclined to walking but inclined to sitting out on their porches digesting their evening meals.
These same magical sidewalks can take me for a short stroll down the street to any number of services and conveniences. Like a fantastic deli and grocery that makes the most delicious turkey/bacon/avocado sandwich you have ever eaten and sells perfectly ripe peaches. Or like the coffee shop that makes seriously robust French press lattes made from locally roasted beans, and then sells you their totally addictive Nutter Butter ice cream made daily on the premises. Or like the school of music that offers classes to all ages of nearly any musical persuasion, and then routinely holds free outdoor performances in the comfortable courtyard right next to the community garden.
Also in this same area (officially called Riverside Village) is a dance/fitness studio for all ages, a used furniture store, a sushi bar, a thrift shop, a beauty salon, a pizza parlor (serving amazingly delicious feta cheese sticks), a doggy daycare and grooming salon, an authentic (and when I say authentic, I mean authentic) southern meat n’ three restaurant, a gas station/convenience store, and a chocolate factory. You heard me. A chocolate factory. Where they make chocolate. From beans. All of this convenient neighborhood wonderment is accessible by stepping out my front door and taking the sidewalk along my two-lane residential street about a quarter of a mile.
And here’s the really awesome part. This rockin’ neighborhood scheme is not some kind of Disney-esque, New Urbanism bullshit. The streets are not winding. There are no cul-de-sacs. The houses are old, some are older than others, and the unique ones are mixed right in with the mundane ones, and all are in varying states of disrepair. Mailboxes are different sizes, often crooked and rusty, maybe with a broken flag or faded numbers. Some driveways are paved and some aren’t, and have Mercedes while others have shiny Vespas or lumbering Buicks or ancient duct-taped Volvos.
The folks who live in my neighborhood are as diverse as the physical stuff surrounding our neighborhood. Young families. Old families. Blended families. Multi-generational families. Vegan hippies and soccer moms. Singles and couples. Diverse ethnic, age, and socio-economic striates. Those who have lived there for many generations and those of us who are new to the ‘hood all mixed up together. And I’m sure my neighborhood isn’t perfect, but it seems to work. It feels genuine and just a little bit gritty. And I love it.