why I love where I live and work
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why I love where I live and work


I recently moved back to my Brandon Street home, and the following is my accounting of my gratitude in being back in the 'hood after a three-year 'sentence' in the suburbs.

I work for a Columbia City glass artist, and last week I was down in the studio attending to the details of the most recent batch of glass — shaving off stray paint with a blade, taking a diamond sander to the inevitable nicks and chips that show up along the path to the finished product. The studio is a converted garage which opens to a sidewalk, and as it's still warm, the door was ajar. I was respiratored-up, tied-into my protective apron, when two men walked by and poked their heads into the door, curious about what went on inside.

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I invited them in (they appeared harmless enough!) and showed them a few of the pieces I was working with, briefly explained the process. One of them said he'd lived in the neighborhood thirty years, and remembered the transformation of the space from garage to studio. Of course, I couldn't (and didn't) claim ownership, and extolled the talents of Melinda (who was upstairs in the house aka The Factory, cutting designs).

There is no lack of amusement at what people notice, and these guys oohed-and-ahhhed over the compressor. Men! Machinery! (Stereotypes!) The vessels of colored glass rods — remnants of Melinda's flame-working days— also caught their eye.

These were lovely men — bright & inquisitive — and in a less-than-ten-minute interval we managed to chat about not only the glass at hand but politics, urban gentrification and the shared joys of living in this eclectic community. Would I have experienced anything even remotely resembling this in my recent suburban stint? Hell no! This is not the landscape of lives fortressed behind modern facades, not the environment of garage door openers and conspicuous consumption.

Here on these urban streets exist the details of lives lived among the breathing, among hearts conscious of the fragility of existence. Where, in the house next door, a ninety-something woman gardens in a wig and pearls, chickens cluck in the yard across the intersection, and a mechanic working on another neighbor's circa 1970-something Datsun (Toyota?) curses with great color and passion. A sun-bleached Tibetan prayer flag flutters, strung across a driveway. Troupes of school children chatter by.

Two blocks to the west I can dine on Mexican, Thai, Caribbean, sushi, pub-grub, Sicilian-Soulfood and Subway sandwiches. I can imbibe ale, stout, hard cider, sake, gin, Bailey's and a glass of decent Sauvignon Blanc. In abundance are lattes, cappucinos, Americanos, drip(s!).

A block further and I'm in a Carnegie library. A mile to the east and I'm home.

It's gritty, sometimes noisy, busy, embellished with parking-strip vegetable gardens, rowboats parked in front yards and the occasional teepee.

Yet in the brief conversation yesterday with two strangers I was reminded of just how lucky I am to have landed — albeit by a kind of default — back into a place I can genuinely call Home.

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