My Hood

I live in Cohoes, NY. I moved here 9 1/2 months ago, in November. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to stay: no wood floors, no tub, and smoke wafted up often enough from the downstairs apartment to indelibly imprint itself on my clothing. I actually told my landlords I was going to leave a month after I arrived. But then, I chickened out. So I begged them to stay a week and a half later. I tried to concentrate on the positive – never a parking problem; even when there was a snow emergency, the cops would come around in their cruisers and announce from their loudspeakers that all cars had to be moved to a certain side of the street. The laundromat was cozy – the name alone was cute – Cohoes Clean Clothes. One time the owner was there repairing a machine. I went up to him: “Are you the owner?” “Yes,” he kinda hesitated. “I really like your place!” A smile lit up his face: “Why, thanks a lot!” Don’t think he saw that one coming! I met some people in that laundromat, the first one, early one. Her name was Mary, and she coulda been the Mother Mary, because she made me feel less lonely as well as helpful. I never did see her again, so maybe she was my personal saint! Another woman told me how in the summer there are lots of problems: fleas, skunks, and loudness on the street. My urge to relocate was reaffirmed. But as the weather got nicer, I felt a bit lighter. One day, I found a flier tucked into my  door latch. It was about a poetry reading launching a book Love Cohoes. There were some links to youtube, and since it’s my favorite Internet site ever, I took a peek, and saw some delightful, witty, and empowering slam style poems come to life by the author, Elizabeth Gordon. Suddenly, Cohoes seemed much more appealing, especially because she walked down the back alley right by my apartment in one of the videos! I went to the reading at the local library and met Elizabeth. Turned out she used to live in the same apartment as I did! What a small world! And indeed, Cohoes is not very big.

A new neighbor moved in next door. Lynn is super friendly to everyone and likes spending a lot of time outdoors. She started sprucing up the backyard. I finally hung my hammock and spent time relaxing and enjoying the outside. Yes, sometimes it has been loud, but I’ve enjoyed most of the sounds – the clanging of horseshoes as they hit their mark, radios cheerfully blaring tunes, fires crackling. Oh and the smell of those fires! Awesome!

Yes, I’ve had a couple of bummer moments: multi-generational cussing matches, skunks stinking up the hallway, and two hairs in an ice cream cone I got from a local business. But tonight, as I was heading back through the hood after a long walk and spied not one, but two skunks, and that lead to a conversation with some neighbors I hadn’t known as they got out of their car – “Hey! Did you see that skunk?” “No and I’m glad I didn’t! Could have gotten sprayed!” Meet Kim and Romeo. “Rommmeo!” I exclaimed, when I heard his name. “Yes,” Kim confirmed, “yes, he is!” We wished each other a lovely Wednesday evening and went our separate ways.

Ah! What a pleasant evening! I’m enjoying being here! I love seeing wildlife. And love animal symbolism. I scramble to the internet to google the meaning of skunks. Skunks have a lot of meanings, my favorite being confidence – indeed, they can walk around confident that if someone bothers them, they have a powerful weapon, which most folks (like Romeo) will respect and even fear. But the bit that interested me the most was this: “Skunks are silent animals and through their silent, they teach us not to brag–it will push people away rather than attract. People will notice you without any help.” This apparently answers my question of feeling invisible – perhaps I actually have more power than I ever imagined!

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