03-26-14 - Old People - My Neighborhood

My neighborhood is pretty strange. It's got all these different demographic factors and historical factors, and they haven't been all washed away and homogenized by any big revitalization (yet).

One of the weird things is how hilly it is. Not that the hills are so tall, but that there are so many micro-undulations. I've never seen anything like it before, even vs. San Francisco. It's like when the houses were built they just put zero effort into levelling anything. So you'll see one house that's just randomly 10 feet raised above its neighbors. Like the ground work for every plot was just done by the home owner back in the 1920's and some of them decided to grade to street level, and others were like "fuck it" and left their lot either higher or lower than the street.

(aside : it is fucking amazing to have your ground level 10 feet above the street. Amazing. It gives you a yard with so much privacy, and it reduces road noise immensely, you hardly hear cars going by; you feel totally protected and private from pedestrians going by. It's like having your own medieval fort, where there's just a narrow stair for the barbarians to get into your property, and you could easily boiling-oil them if necessary. It's one of the crazy good things about our house.)

Even the street levels vary a lot randomly up and down. There are places where it goes up to a hill, then back down, then back up again, within one or two short blocks that certainly would have just been levelled these days.

The result is that the whole neighborhood is covered in ridges and valleys. And a very distinct demographic variation has developed.

The ridges (particularly ones with views) are afluent, bigger, fixed up houses. The hollers are naturally dark and wet, not very desirable things in Seattle, and they look like they are from a hundred miles away and twenty years in the past. Many of the hollers have no sidewalk (the ridges have sidewalks). The hollers have chain link fences and nasty dogs and shitty little shack houses. Then the next street over is another ridge and it's back to fancy town. Really bizarre.

This neighborhood is the first place I've lived around old people. One of the major events in the history of the neighborhood was the Boeing Boom of the post-WW2 era. Lots of blue collar workers got good jobs and bought houses, and this is one of the neighborhoods where they settled and stayed. So something like 10% of the houses are owned by people who bought them in the 50's and have lived there ever since.

The really shocking thing about living with old people is to see how invisible they are. It's almost like they don't exist.

They have a car that sits in their driveway and never moves. It hasn't moved in years.

They almost never step outside their home. They have a child who comes once a week and takes their trash cans out to the curb for them.

Some days they don't even open their curtains. They putter around inside and are never even visible to the outside world.