Our apartment on 117th Street has a front porch, complete with an oversize hammock.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most since moving in is sitting in this hammock, listening to the sounds of the neighborhood.
There are many birds singing in the surprisingly tall trees. There are also many ambulance sirens - more than I’ve heard any other place I’ve lived, and especially striking since we’re not within earshot of the hospitals in University Circle.
And often, there is music.
Tonight, as I sit in the hammock finishing up some work, Etta James’ At Last is blasting from a car stereo across the street.
I’m not surprised to see the source is Reggie, who’s standing in his driveway with his adult daughter Shayna. She lives in a separate apartment in the same house. Yesterday, Reggie told me they’d lived together until he decided he needed more privacy. When a unit in the house opened up, he kicked her out and told her to start paying her own rent.
Both of them are singing along with James’ wail. “At laaaaaaast,” Shayna sings, in a clear alto. “My love has come along...”
I wave at Reggie, who grins and waves back.
“Hey!” he says, then teases: “You forgot to water the garden today. What’s that all about?”
Shoot. He’s right: I’d offered to help keep the vegetables watered yesterday, then didn’t follow up. I make a vow to myself to be more vigilant. I don’t want to be a visitor making promises - even simple ones - I don’t keep. Too much community planning of the past has done that.
As the car stereo switches over to Betty Wright’s Clean-Up Woman, Reggie reminds me about a hot dog giveaway he’s helped organize for the following day. He’s doing it in conjunction with his part-time employer, CJ’s Angus food cart.
He and CJ are planning to give away 260 hot dogs to any and all takers -- “to give back to the community,” he says.
I tell him I’ll be there. He can’t resist another jibe.
“Just one hot dog per person though, got it? Don’t go trying to take two.”