Our Neighborhoods Are Icebergs/What Lies Below The Surface

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I know most people have seen the movie, the “Titanic” and it’s well documented fatal historical collision with an iceberg, it’s one of my personal favorites too…By definition from my Google sources: “An iceberg is a large piece of freshwater ice ice that has broken off a glacier or an ice shelf and is floating freely in open water.”….

But did you know that also, according to Google sources, about 7/8 of an iceberg is under water? That means that the looming mass we see protruding over the ocean surface, that we call an iceberg, barely hints at the massive hidden immensity or the true mass and complexity of the full iceberg….

That is my point about our neighborhoods…..They are exactly like icebergs in this respect, most people never see or get to experience the full immensity and complexity of our own neighborhoods….

I am retired now, but when i was a full fledged member of work world for 45 years, I never saw beneath the surface of my neighborhood at all….I would prepare for work and then rush out the door every morning, either to my car or a bus to start the morning commute to work, half asleep and bleary eyed from fatigue and never enough sleep, and once I got to work I was blissfully unaware of everything happening in the neighborhood during the daytime when I wasn’t there…

It was the same thing at night, I would come home, usually exhausted from working all day, and besides at night it was almost always dark, so I would either just park my car or get off the bus and head straight inside to the sanctuary of my apartment, and again, I would never notice the dynamics of the neighborhood at all…

The neighborhood to me was just the geographical area where my apartment was located, and inside of my apartment was my whole personal world, where I lived out the daily routines and relaxations, the domestic drama and sometimes trauma of my life apart from work world…

But now that I am retired, and I no longer have to spend 10 hours a day (counting commute time) away from my apartment, the neighborhood has suddenly come to life for me! It is like discovering the 7/8 of the iceberg that is hidden beneath the surface of the water!

I have come to an understanding of the dynamics and complexity of the entire neighborhood as almost an Ecosystem of it’s own, with it’s own synergy, it’s ebbs and flows, high and low tides, and pleasures and dangers of it’s own that I never ever had the time to notice when i was so busy toiling away day after day in work world…

For example, every morning now, after all the commuters have departed on their mad dash back into the swirling, whirling energy draining arena of work world that was such an integral part of my own life for the last 45 years, I take a 16 block walk around my neighborhood…..Admittedly this is mainly for the exercise benefits, but it also gives me an opportunity to check out my neighbors and all their houses and apartments, their habits and routines as well all throughout the day…

I don’t live in the suburbs, I live in a densely inhabited corner of San Francisco, just blocks away from the Pacific Ocean, on the very edge of the western world, and there is a street car/subway train that rumbles past my house several times an hour, so there is a constant hustle and bustle of people coming or going….

I now get to walk by the streetcar and bus stops and observe all the people on their way to this place or that, dressed appropriately or not, and imagine what is going on with their lives…I get to see which people take care of their houses, meticulously painting, landscaping or generally just making property improvements or doing routine maintenance….

I get to see which neighbor of mine that I would never have known before takes the trouble to plant a tree or a garden, bringing some green energy to this otherwise barren concrete jungle of an urban landscape….Some of them have beautiful flower gardens or tend their tiny lawns with care and dedication and love, not because they have to, but because they want to… It is an exhilarating and heart warming experience to see and sometimes interact and mingle with my neighbors…

I also see which people perennially have junked cars sitting in their driveways, their exterior premises neglected and ill cared for, trash piled up or rusted artifacts strewn about their property…These are the people who just don’t care anymore, or they have given up on life, or in some cases they may just be too old or infirm to properly care for their property….

My neighborhood is a mixed residential and commercial neighborhood, so there are corner liquor stores and there are restaurants and diners and a Walgreen’s not far away, plus a large nursery plant supplies store nearby, these are the two biggest stores in the neighborhood….I see people coming and going into these businesses all the time, there is a constant flow of traffic, and of course I sometimes frequent them myself…

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I also have noticed that long after the commuters have left in the morning, a seedier, lower class of homeless people and winos come out of nowhere and hang out on the corners every day, drinking furtively from brown paper bags and asking people for spare change and cigarets all during the day…

These same people, mostly beggars and street people, mysteriously disappear during the evening commute, but oftentimes reappear later at night, cursing and drinking and arguing loudly with each other on the corners over some imagined slight or disrespect, but I have noticed they seem to mainly confine themselves to harassing each other, so I just mainly ignore them…

Late at night around 12 midnight or later, the streets seem to mysteriously clear themselves out…It is strange but true, if I step outside for a cigaret, say, or just a breath of fresh air, I am usually the only person outside for blocks that i can see!…

Peace has descended on the busy, neighborhood for another night….I watch my sports on TV, cook my dinner every evening and go to bed late, and wake up the next morning and observe the same dynamics all over again, every day the same, except the weekends are a lot more frantic…

My neighborhood, your neighborhood, is like an iceberg, and if you are caught up in the inevitable mad dash, the constant to and from work commutes every day, living the commuter lifestyle, you will never see more than the 1/8th of the neighborhood that most people see…I know that I never did until I retired, and had the chance to observe the ebb and flow of the neighborhood on a daily basis with my own eyes…

I never had the opportunity to observe my neighborhood as the constantly changing, ever evolving dynamic and organic mix that it really is…I never realized just how much like an iceberg our neighborhoods really are, how so very much of our neighborhoods are hidden away, just beneath the surface, how very little of the true nature of the neighborhood I live in was revealed to me…

I appreciate now more than ever how the missing, invisible 7/8th of the neighborhood has now become visible to me, and how much i appreciate that….Just remember, neighborhoods are an organic entity, just like an iceberg, and like all organic entities, they have a life of their own, a delicate balance of energy, an ebb and a flow to them….

Our neighborhoods are not just a static collection of buildings, they are alive!

Just leave it like it is right now

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