Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
- Community Blog
Uh...... Porch Studies
A recent conversation evolved into pondering the words uh, uh-uh and uh-huh. We hypothesized and consulted the dictionary. Uh, the sound the voice makes while the brain is busy transforming ideas into words, is also is an acronym for University Heights.
Uh holds many simple urban pleasures. It's very pedestrian and bicycle friendly, with a huge variety of life forms, activities and appealing qualities. There's all types of gardens; some thriving and content, carefully tended by humans. Others, having survived years of neglect, drought and apathetic tenants, serve as an excellent reference for abuse-tolerant plants. There's the multitude of textures in xeriscaping and a huge array of decorative tikis, trolls and insects. There's esoteric dead-end, canyon streets with intimate neighborhood auras. Endearing architecture of original homes, my favorites being quaint Spanish interior courtyards and Craftsman style bungalows with big front porches.
I love the whole idea of a big front porch. This somewhat private, personal space that is open to the street. A sheltered place to hang out where one can simply watch, or interact with the outside world as desired. A big front porch can transport me back in time to a more rural locale. I am reminded of my grandmother; of a friendlier, more relaxed era where everyone sat on their porch and greeted passers by.
Here in San Diego, as in most cities, it's rare for people to interact with strangers on the street. Uh has a great small neighborhood vibe, where people are not afraid to say hello, to cross the barrier between the familiar and the unknown. Many will dare to have an encounter with a stranger, perhaps inducing a smile and a reciprocal greeting. But there lies the risk of being ignored, shunned by the quickly turned head pretending not to notice or being preoccupied.
Having grown up in San Diego I've lived with anonymity and the encapsulating barrier of personal space. But I've more recently resided in small Rocky mountain towns and have learned to treasure brief, pleasant interactions with passing strangers. I feel comfortable in rural areas where people always exchange eye contact, greetings, and passing drivers instinctively raise at least an index finger in the friendly “farmer wave.”
From my porch in UH I study the social variety, the pedestrian parade, the array of canine personalities and entertaining parking games. The daily shuffling of cars to grab a favorite parking space or keep rarely driven vehicles from getting ticketed; residents coveting the public spaces in front of their own abode. The consistent flow of recyclers cruising the alleys; the homeless, the scavengers of useful household or construction goods, the daily can collectors; one with his findings tied to a baby stroller.
There's big Dave and his toy poodle on their daily shuffles around the block, the old bulldog and his matching owner, the tiny boxer puppy, the ominous looking Rotttweiler and the long haired Chihuahua sporting doggie fashions. There's the curious, quiet fellow I call Red Berry Man whose daily routine involves sweeping a constant crop of berries from the giant pepper trees in the parking strip. His 100 yr old bungalow lies in complete disrepair, but the alley and sidewalk are immaculate.
While I remain unemployed, I know I'll be entertained by my porch studies. Uh. Uh-huh.