I live west of downtown St. Petersburg surrounded by 1920s bungalows filled with young families and all sorts of couples- gay, straight, young, old, arty, corporate, etc. There are the occasional single occupants living in a divided home or boutique apartment building. I live in a half with hot pink interior walls and white crown molding. Some homes are cared for and others rundown. But all of them are visited by the myriad of stray cats that come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. The cats own Kenwood. One looks exactly like my recently deceased kitty, Oliver, except it’s a female with shorter hair, striped tail and gray-colored pads. Whenever I see her resting on a lone tree stump, I give her a nice chin rub and acknowledge her as “the Ollie look-alike” with a wistful flutter of remembrance for my baby boy.
Bright green lawns, big wooden porches, and brick roads lined with oversized jacaranda trees, that produce the most beautiful purple flowers twice a year, provide the scenery of my daily walks. I used to run the two-mile loop around my spirited neighborhood, keeping my head down, or otherwise engaged with the music pumping into my ears. A kickball injury (long story) ended my budding marathon aspirations and I’ve been walking the loop ever since. Although, I no longer distract myself with music, instead preferring the beat of heart and sound of my sneakers on the concrete with a bottle of water in hand. All that matters is the present moment with each and every step. Nothing else is allowed on my solo hikes – just the sunshine coloring my bare extremities and cast my shadow on the passing grassy yards. I have the horrible farmer’s tan to prove it!
Kenwood is not all lush foliage and adorable furry critters. Nearly a year ago, my next-door neighbors were shot, killed, and burned during a random home invasion robbery. Luckily, hungry flames were contained by several local firefighters and only singed the large oak tree that lives between our respective domiciles. I had just returned from a trip to the Pacific Northwest and took the raging fire, a mere ten feet from my doorstep, as a sign to get the hell out of Florida for good. It was that fateful day that I decided to look for an out-of-state graduate program. It was that horrible day that reminded me that it could all end with one random act of violence. I survived and lived to tell the story. Perhaps one day I will give a more detailed account of that day. Not today. Maybe in another year – maybe then it will be O.K. A new house is currently under construction like the old one never existed at all.
My neighborhood is not entirely murderous. It’s weird but not all bad. For instance, there is both a Gus Fring and Hank Schrader doppelganger roaming around Kenwood, presumably enjoying early retirement from the Breaking Bad universe. If that wasn’t strange enough, there is a house on a corner lot that feels at least ten degrees cooler than the rest of the block for no real reason. My mind wildly imagines a coven of witches that can control the weather in an invisible bubble surrounding the small home. This notion is merely egged-on by the fact that the front garden contains a kitchen sink, bordered by mismatched half-buried ceramic plates, and various items dangling from low-hanging branches. Perhaps, the house just gives me the chills. The British owners of The Queens Head live on my hiking route and once mistook me for an elderly woman named Julia. I rarely see Julia and am convinced she is the Ghost of Christmas Future in her velour tracksuit and beige easy striders. Could this be my future if I stay in Historic Kenwood? Walking the loop for the next 30 years and tragically out of fashion? Again, another sign to remove myself from the ‘Burg in the form of a modern day A Christmas Carol.
There seems to be no end of the eccentric kookiness that thrives on the street where I live. Suppose that is just fine by me as my last few weeks near. In the meantime, there is always Passion Pit!