Maple Street

This is my street. Down the other end of the block, admittedly, and from the other side… and perhaps more than a few years before I arrived. But my street, nonetheless. Or, I think of it as mine.

I’ve lived here, more off than on, since my parents moved onto the block in 1970 while I was in college, more than a decade after (according to some) the neighborhood lost its soul, when Ebbets Field and the Dodgers disappeared. The stadium was close enough, I’ve been told, that the cheers from home runs could be heard from back windows.

Summers, during college, I was here. And for a time in 1975, before moving across Brooklyn to Carroll Gardens. I returned in 1978, while my father was on sabbatical, taking care of the house. In 1992, after my father died, I bought a house across from my mother and down the block a bit. No, not one of those pictured. I had no austere wall by the sidewalk, and mine was a slightly smaller house (one of the few brownstones on a block almost completely limestone).

Now, I’m back again, and in the house that was my parents’.

The other day, while walking Dusty, I met someone who bought one of the pictured houses a decade or so ago. He welcomed me to the neighborhood. Slightly sneaky, I said thanks, but that I’d first lived here nearly forty years ago. We chatted for a bit. His is a house retaining more original detail than most of ours, and we discussed that a bit.

The neighborhood has become somewhat upscale recently, lots of young people moving in to places that have tripled in price over the past ten years. Most of those moving in are quite nice, but I am concerned by some of the attitudes I see. One of the attractions to this area is that it has had a stable ratio of races for half a century, just about half black and half white. That is beginning to change, as blacks are priced out, and to change the nature of the block itself. Certainly, it is changing the way people feel about each other.

Another time I was walking Dusty recently, a very young man (twenties, I would guess) with a trendy mien hailed me.

“Hi, guy. My toddler sometimes grabs the ivy there are puts the leaves in his mouth. I just turn around for a second, and he’s doing it. So, please, don’t let your dog urinate there.”

I shrugged, said, “OK,” and turned back the way I’d been heading.

Guy Toddler, as I have since dubbed him, has quite a different idea of urban life than I do. I suspect he grew up in a suburban house well separated from the neighbors and expects to be king of all he sees. He once yelled at the man who lives behind him, I’ve since found, because the barking of his little dog disturbed same toddler.

Certainly, he has little concept of what happens to leaves growing close to the ground on a city street, not if he really believes that dog pee is the worst thing coating them when his toddler puts them in his mouth. Drunks piss there too. And people spit on the leaves. And… and…. Well, whatever you can imagine, it has been there.

A woman who moved away was back visiting recently, relaxing on the small porch above one of those walls by the street with a couple of friends when I passed by. We chatted for a moment. When she made a mention of the changing nature of the people in the neighborhood, the sense of entitlement of many of the newcomers, I smiled and told her I’d begun to wonder if they would continue to allow me to even walk down the street.

She and her friends just laughed. That knowing laugh.

Maybe the block isn’t mine any longer. Or hers or her friends’, either.