We are burying Dad today. At dawn, I walked around the neighbourhood for an hour. My favorite part of the walk is a view of the mountains that encircle east San Diego, seen from atop a hill near my high school. Despite living and coming here for 28ish years, I finally marvel at the steep and varied topography of my hometown, a constantly unfolding dusky landscape of gorges, mesas, hills, and peaks.
Dogs barked, unseen, from houses with terracotta rooftops and gardens of plumeria and bougainvillea. Phoebes and mockingbirds called. Creatures rattled and hissed in chaparral. But not one human inhabitant of this suburban paradise stirred from their air-conditioned den. Then I met an old woman, who lived in the apartment complex facing the high school, at the suburb's edge.
She greeted me as if I was an old friend, pointing out, in lieu of hello, the construction sites on the high school campus. Here are the foundations of a maths and science building. The new football ground will apparently have an elevator. Imagine that. I moved here in 1969, she said, Back then you could walk all over these hills, there were no houses at that time.
Grace was out on her usual 2-hour jaunt around the neighborhood, collecting what she called recycleables in a bag, dressed all in white and a floppy straw hat secured by a blue ribbon knotted under her chin. I am 86 years old. She beamed. When ya get old like me, ya gotta keep moving.
On a new route home, I spotted a free library, in a tiny shingled, red, glass-doored house nailed to a post beside a palm tree. The neighborhood has changed a lot, I thought, studying this invitation into other dreamworlds.
Then Janet Jackson's "Together Again" started playing on my IPod. I cried on the steps of my house. Indeed, the neighborhood is no longer the same.