Saturday, February 18, 2006

A Little Different

You can see it in their eyes when friends and family from the suburbs in San Miguel or in our inner-city neighborhood in Houston. It is a bit of a look of fear, a look full of questions about why would we want to live in a place like this...a place where things aren't all neat and regulated. I like to think somewhere in that look is also a look of wonder for being such an adventurer.

I first heard about "The Look" from my friend Guy more than 10 years ago. He and Debbie were inner-loop people, living in a neighborhood that had become somewhat out-of-fashion as people fled the city for larger more modern houses in the suburbs. Ned and I wanted to move IN from the 25-mile-OUT suburb we had lived in while raising our family so I was talking about different areas where we had been looking for lots or houses. Guy said if we did buy in those areas, I should be prepared to get....The Look. He said he got the look when family and friends were visiting and the alarm and sirens from a nearby Fire Station were heard or when standing in the front yard as friends arrived and a homeless person walked by pushing their grocery cart filled with all their possessions. Or when suburban friends were leaving their house at night and inquired about safety as they glanced up and down the street. He told me that not everyone could deal some of the messy details and ambiguity of inner city living. Then he told me some of the positives of it. He said you just have to be a little different to live in the inner city.

I guess the positives outweighed the negatives because we kept looking until we finally bought a lot in a old inner-city neighborhood. We were excited. Our friends Jan and Milton were excited for us and wanted to see where we were going to build our house. As we drove around the neighborhood, past the mostly boarded-up dilapidated "Wagon Wheel" house where we heard some people from a circus or carney show had lived or maybe still lived....I saw the look. I understood what Guy was talking about. I saw the look again and again after we moved in and old friends came to visit.

Bill, a friend and real estate developer from our suburban neighborhood, wanted to see what we were doing in town and he wanted to take a look at all the real estate development happening in the inner-city so one day I took him around town. While we chatted, I said, "Bill, I know you think we are a little bit crazy to leave our golf course community where everything is neat and tidy and move into this neighborhood." Bill talked with a slow drawl. He was a little older southern gentleman and he said, "Honey (with his slow drawl), I don't think you are crazy. I just think you are a little different."

A little different. That is how I felt last night. Friends from Houston were in town and came for a drink before we went out to eat. They liked our house. They asked a lot of questions about living in San Miguel. But we saw "The Look" and we knew they thought we were "A Little Different."

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