Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Suburban Greenbelts and Graffiti

Tammy and I worked our butts off for most of the Labor Day weekend, but we did take an hour long hike in the greenbelt at the end of our street on Saturday. We live in a nice, mostly upper middle class suburban neighborhood in Southwest Austin.

The houses are basically neat and well kept. It's a very quiet place to live. There's an Alamo Drafthouse and NXNW craft brewery less than a mile away. We have an indie steampunk style restaurant within biking distance. We can put on fake beards and man buns and peddle down there for pretentious and slightly average food.

The HEB is merchandised for engineers, soccer moms, and doctors. The streets are wide, free of potholes, and lined with wide bike lanes. Circle C Park is to the south. Dick Nichols Park is to the east, and our little greenbelt is to the West. We can bike to the Circle C park, and walk to our greenbelt, follow the many secluded winding paths, and end up at Dick Nichols Park. There, we can swim in a nice pool, run or bike along the path that is dotted with workout stations, play sand volleyball, play tennis, shoot some baskets, or watch kids play soccer or baseball.  All sounds really utopic doesn't it?

A quiet walk in the woods

It's easy to get lost in quiet green spaces in the better neighborhoods in Austin. They're not of the stunning visual scale of the Barton Creek Greenbelt, but they're much quieter, and they do the job when someone like me thinks she can't take one more minute of city or suburban life.

Tammy recognized my near urban breakdown on Saturday, and she marched me down the street and into the greenbelt for a quiet walk. It did the trick. I usually stay on the well groomed cinder path when I'm down there, but this time, we cut off into the woods, towards the dry creek, and followed the volunteer arteries that zigzag their way towards Dick Nichols Park.

After an hour of walking through sprinkles, bird songs, and fragrant wild plants, we ended up under a bridge on Beckett Road, right at the park.  The city has even added handrails under the bridge. We decided they were for idiots who get caught in a flash flood while hiking the green belt. Either that, or it's a secret place to teach your kid to roller skate.

The ugly truth about the suburbs

I think most people know that suburbs are full of liars. People who keep perfect front yards, drive luxury cars and respectable family style SUVs, have adorable dogs, and blank-eyed and frowning teenagers. To drive around this part of town, suggests that by living here, all will be well, no matter what.

People don't teach their kids to roller skate under that bridge. No one gets washed away in a flash flood, but I would definitely say there are some children who are floating away from the hard earned facade their parents have created.

As Tammy and I entered under the bridge, we saw graffiti. Not gang tagging graffiti, but teenage girl stole her mom's purple spray paint and wrote profane and revealing phrases in neat cursive writing graffiti.

"F--- School." "(fill in the blank) me daddy." And so forth.  


So, let me tell you. There are people in my neighborhood that don't mow their backyards. From now on, every time I feel exhausted and strung out from not only mowing and edging my backyard, but cooking fresh meals nightly, teaching sixteenth notes during the 30 minutes of clarinet practice, using my free time to take a kid to the movies, listening to Tammy direct, interrogate, instruct, question, and expect respect from that same kid, I will think about the graffiti under the Beckett Road bridge. Tammy will keep spying on teenage text messages. I'll keep getting up and going to church; even though I'm not religious. And we'll both do everything we can to make sure the exterior of our house reflects the interior.

A well kept backyard requires more than lawn machinery. Now. I'm off to bed. There are home cooked meals, middle school conversations, homework help, and jobs to go to, and the week will feel long, but the yard will look as good as possible.

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