There Goes the Neighborhood

It’s Friday morning, and I’m heading out for my walk. I’ve walked every morning since I’ve been back from San Francisco, five days in a row and counting. Not my normal modus operandi. I don’t exercise. I used to do yoga, but in the past ten years, since the twins were born, I never got back into a regular exercise routine. Breastfeeding kept me thin for the first two years. Before the twins, I had my other son, so it’s been awhile since I’ve done any formal exercise. Let’s be honest running after three children (twins included) is no walk in the park (no pun intended).

I’m usually an all-or-nothing person and walking has always seemed like a waste of time; that is until I overheard these women in a San Francisco Starbucks talking about losing 30 pounds by walking an hour a day. I thought about what those women said as I was hiking up Powell—the nosebleed street—for the second time that day, carrying Starbucks for my three girlfriends.

The three girlfriends I get together with once a year for one weekend of catching up. We’ve known each other since middle school. Two of us are still married; the other two got out. I guess that fits the 50 percentile. So, here I am, back at home, in Los Angeles, hitting the streets of my neighborhood, Skrillex blasting in my ears.

I usually sit in front of the computer all day and sometimes all night. I work too much. Once I sit down, I don’t get up, unless I have to eat, pick up kids at school or shower, and even then I usually prefer to take baths versus standing in the shower. I sit most of the time, even though I know it’s bad for my brain. I sit while I work. I sit and watch movies. I sit and write. I sit in the car. I sit.

I’m not fat, by the way, or at least that’s what my girlfriends say. “You’re not fat! You look great!” But, I’ve never trusted honesty among friends or their ability to gauge fat, so I smile and say thanks as if I was fishing for a compliment, except I wasn’t.

I am fat by my standards, and, as my husband alludes to—by suggesting I skip this or that snack— by his as well. I’m nowhere near Terminator taut and yes, that’s the only shape I want to have. I’m hard on myself, but that’s how I roll. I’ve always expected more. Always. Not just in myself but in everyone. Friends. Family. Loved ones. Employees. Drivers. Drivers. Shit. Don’t let me go down that path. Let’s just say my Audi keeps me sane.

As I walk down my streets, I feel like the shark tattooed on my ankle, pursuing the next bend in the road, back and forth with each step on the cracked, uneven pavement. On a mission. My neighborhood has no sidewalks. I like that. It feels like the country, except it isn’t. Walking is good. I need to move. Get around people. Walk faster. The houses are all different, most built in the 50s. Some redone. The only thing similar from plot to plot are the large lot sizes, all half an acre or more. Most are gated, but it seems everyone in this neighborhood likes to be seen. One big fishbowl. Not me.

The white, nondescript Mercedes parked in the circular driveway has a big dent in the passenger door. I wonder if he was drinking and driving, like my dad? Or maybe it’s a she? Maybe she was texting and driving? I’m of the arrogant mindset that if someone has a dent like that in their car, they are a bad driver, whether it’s their fault or not. Either way, I’ve never been in an accident, so I can be arrogant for now, or maybe I should just be grateful? I’ve had a few close calls, but I’ve managed to avoid them. I drive defensively, even when I’m flying by cars. Defensive driving. Same as life. Offense is good, I do that as well, but sometimes defense is a must.

The Great Dane-Pit mix has already started barking, racing back and forth along the 5 foot barely-there fencing. The long driveway holds a white Hummer and a black FJ Cruiser, survivalists? The dog stops barking when I look at him and just stares. I guess I’m a little intense. They should paint their house, and clean up the yard, so it looks as shiny and new as their cars, but that’s how Los Angeles rolls. Cars are number one. I love my car, too, but I’m a homebody, so I like my surroundings to look like something. It’s my design aesthetic, I guess. It’s how I was raised, with pride.

I’m not polly perfect or anything. Sometimes my yard looks messed up, but usually, I keep my shit hidden if you know what I mean.

The white house on the corner has been for sale for months, but who would want it? One huge lot with the house smack dab in the middle, surrounded by a white iron jail for all to observe. I’m American, I like my front and back yard separate, and I don’t want anyone looking at me while I’m in my yard. I prefer seclusion, you know? A big gate at the front with tall Ficus trees stuffed as tight as commuters in an NYC subway is how I like it. No room to slide through without getting nailed by something, someone. Standing tall, erect, arms to sides, face toward the sky, just enough space to breathe.

It helps me breathe when I walk. My head isn’t tingling anymore, so getting my blood flowing must be a good thing. Blood flow. My husband and I have been married 17 years. That’s one year longer than the longest run my mom lasted in any of her marriages (I’ll spare you the number. Let’s just say she gave Elizabeth Taylor a run for her money. My mother is a romantic idealist.) Her second husband, the one she had two kids with, she lasted sixteen with him. I think the marriage to my dad lasted fourteen. The length of her marriages shortened with each husband, not always her fault, sometimes just circumstance.

I think happiness becomes a priority somewhere in your 40s, or at least it has for me. My patience is waning. I thought it would increase, but I don’t put up with much anymore.

I’m an energetic person. Healthy. I outlast most people, wake up early, go to bed late. I have too many things I want to accomplish. I have a legacy to create. Don’t I? I’m ravenous to learn. To live. To explore. Life is an exploration after all. And now my time has come to explore the neighborhood.

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