Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Midsummer Night's Tale

I recently wrote the following after taking a late night walk through a neighborhood adjacent to where BR and I live here in Austin. Mueller was Austin's municipal airport until 1999, and the neighborhoods to the south and east are commonly considered less than safe.

Realizing that I had been lamenting the lack of pedestrian exits from Mueller without ever having used one, I set off from my home on foot at 1am on a Friday morning to see just what was so scary outside our friendly confines.

I took Tom Miller to Berkman. As the housing grew more sparse, I focused my attention to the greenway. I noticed many paths beaten into the open space, but no one path that seemed more used than the others. I think that this time of year, one person walking across the greenway will leave a trail that won't spring back until the rains return. Anyway, I marveled at the paths like one would marvel at cloud formations.

Continuing right on Berkman, I came across a sign at the intersection with Manor. It announced in very small and faded letters something about a major construction project on 51st Street, with an associated storm water discharge. The rest, my 40+ year old eyes could not make out.

As I crossed Manor, I was first struck by the dramatic change in lighting. The vast majority of street lamps were not illuminated, and my intended route down Pershing was completely dark. I decided to cut across the triangular lawn in front of the Red Cross office and travel down to better lit E.M. Franklin. And just as I reached the first working street light, it turned off.

Hmm. That's not very welcoming.

It also wasn't the only street light that turned off during my walk. The surrounding neighborhoods appear to be on automated timers to save energy late at night. Their street lights also direct light down, and not out. But I digress.

The second thing I noticed was the complete lack of sidewalks in the surrounding neighborhoods, along with vegetation that grows right up to the curb.

Undaunted, I continued down E.M. Franklin to MLK. Along the way, I heard some voices in conversation, but I couldn't see the people through their privacy fence of vegetation. As I reached MLK, I noticed a construction project right on the corner with a LEEDS sign out front. I couldn't really get a good look at it, and will need to go back during the day.

Turning right on MLK, I was relieved to be back on sidewalk. I could see the lights of the 24 hour fast food restaurants at Airport tempting me, but decided to turn back down Greenwood instead. Mainly because of the house on the corner with all the amazing stuff in their back yard.

Greenwood appears to be a prime example of urban renewal. Next to charming older housing stock, there is beautiful new construction. I laughed as I passed a home with sport lawn chairs out front. You know, the kind with cup holders. One in particular still held a can of Busch.

Another house had a wooden bench swing in the front lawn. I wondered how many cool Texas evenings that family spent on their swing. I also wanted to leave my card with a note begging for an invitation the next time they were out.

As I crossed Pershing, I noticed the homes seemed to be getting more and more "secure". Where window bars were the norm, now chain link property fences were commonplace. The most "secure" property was occupied by the City of Austin Public Works. They had a poorly maintained six foot chain link fence, with a spiral ribbon of razor wire dancing along the top. I don't know about you, but I would consider any property in Mueller with razor wire to be offensive. I wonder why the city doesn't see things the same way.

As I approached Manor, I noticed that the razor wire along the fence changed into less obvious barbed wire, in what can only be taken as a public relations concession. People traveling down Manor are more likely to notice a spiral ribbon of razor wire than a thin strand of barbed wire.

Heading back into Mueller, I first noticed the silhouette of the spider against the all-night Mueller street lamps. Standing guard.

As I continued home, I realized how little the Mueller lighting added to my sense of security. I couldn't see into the dark corners that the street lights don't reach like I could just to the south. And by choosing to stay in the light, I felt more like an easy target.

I arrived home safe and sound. One square block down. Many more to go.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, you are up late!!!Please be careful while you are exploring. I was hooked with your story and I thought you were going to go down a path and see some people doing "who knows what!?"Keep writing, I love your stories.