I used to live in a three-story brownstone in the Western Addition district of San Francisco.
Back in “the day”, as the saying goes, our brownstone was separated from our neighbors by two thin walls that would vibrate whenever the 5 MacAllister MUNI bus would rumble down the block or when the corner bar would start playing the Blues too loud. All the other homes on the block were flush against each other, with nothing but iron railing, cracked steps and sidewalk weeds as our front lawns.
I now live in the American suburb, complete with a front and back yard. We have two air condition units for our home, a nice sized fireplace that requires no logs and four large screen TV sets for two people. Our yard has an avocado tree that is of great interest to our neighbor, who uses binoculars to check our yield. Every so often, I am asked by my husband and our gardener for my opinion on new trees. So far, I’ve asked for two Cherry Blossom trees, along with pomelo and Japanese tangerine trees.
Our other neighbors do not speak to us. I once made the mistake of speaking in Japanese to my gardener, and now my new neighbor believes that I do not speak English. The guy across the street waves at me before running into the house. He is gay, but the neighbors keep setting him up with women. And why wouldn’t they? When I had two gay men come to my house one year, I ended up with Bible videos in the mailbox.
I dislike this suburban life.
I have no children, which is comparable to having no toilet to suburban people. There is something inherently wrong with us to our neighbors, because we hole ourselves up in a home meant for four people, several dogs and a sprawling swimming pool. Maybe they pray for my womb, and feel sorry for my ovaries whenever I drive past their house.
I am also the only Asian in my neighborhood. No lie. I grew up in Asian central back in San Francisco. Now the only Asian grocer closest to me carries all their frozen goods with freezer burns. It is run by a Korean man who bootlegs Asian videos and keeps fifteen-year-old kim chee in the refrigerator sections.
I can see all the stars at night, though. I’ve stayed up late to watch meteor showers from my balcony. That is always a nice touch.
Image: Corner liquor store on Fillmore. Western Addition.
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