Saturday, April 26, 2014

Suburban Wildlife: A Very Short Primer

My wife saw a deer amble down the middle of the road on the evening of the day we moved into our townhouse. She told me all about it after I returned from the apartment with one last carload of our stuff. We both thought that was neat, being close to nature ‘n all. I even made an uninspired crack about how we had traded one form of wildlife for another. (Audience groans, comedian apologizes.)

Our former apartment building is in the west end of our city’s inner core. While tame compared to its equivalent in larger cities, our neighborhood was a little scuffed and worn for this government town. It wasn’t unusual to see derelicts of all sorts whenever we stepped out the door. And every now and then, one of them would get loose inside our building. It was that, as well as our shrinking living space, that made us decide to move out to the suburbs, to a neighborhood just one subdivision over from the one where I grew up, to raise The Most Beautiful Baby Boy You’ve Ever Seen.

Out here on the greenbelt’s outer rim you’d be hard pressed to find the homeless. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

But then I think back to my teen years, hanging out at a coffee shop that used to be not too far from here, where one day a rather down-in-the-heels man, a real live hobo, walked in and asked he could use the restroom. The store manager answered this query not with yes or no but with a firm request for him to leave the premises.

“C’mon,” he said, “I really gotta use the bathroom.”

With that the manager picked up the phone and called the police, and the hobo stomped outside and plunked himself down on the sidewalk just outside the coffee shop window. Soon enough, not one but two squad cars were on the scene, and a heated discussion ensued. The hobo waved his hands about, and the cops were holding theirs up in a gesture that seemed to say “Alright, buddy. Just settle down.”

This went on for some time as the hobo’s emotions escalated. From my somewhat close proximity from within the shop, I could see tears in his eyes – of rage? of sadness? of some cumulative weight bearing down, years in the making? We’ll never know, as he was cuffed and put into the back of one of the squad cars. 

Don’t mess with suburbia.

Just up the main thoroughfare from our new house, a large swath of greenbelt has been razed, and a large sign heralds the impending arrival of yet another neighborhood, Coming Soon! 

I hate to see this constant encroaching on nature, but here I am endorsing it by choosing to live here. Whenever I drive down the road, I feel like I’ve clicked on an unseen I ACCEPT button just underneath Coming Soon! 

At a time like this I should be thinking about (and relishing) my family’s new home, and anyway isn’t it swell to be seeing a real live deer walking past our door? Instead, my thoughts are on homelessness and the vagrants of the world, human or otherwise.

Journal entry, July 2012