I’m housesitting for my boss again in the neighborhood where I grew up and this time I brought my dog along, Mango, a sixteen-year-old toy poodle who for the past year has lived with me in a tiny apartment in Little Havana, has peed and pooped outside on pavement more than he has on grass, and who for this entire weekend has behaved like a different, younger, happier dog for the fact that he’s able to frolic in grass, to roll in it, to smell other dogs and cross the street and explore people’s lawns and to walk the length of an entire house in the middle of the night when he’s restless rather than just basically circle the coffee table in my apartment’s living room.
When I was growing up down here I felt a little stifled from time to time and thought a lot about what it would be like to live in a more bustly part of the city. That’s what I’m doing now, just a couple blocks from Brickell Avenue. Every morning I walk a mile to a chic little café where I write, or I cross the street to a loud, cheap, ambient and authentic-seeming Mexican restaurant where I get a big $6 veggie burrito—or I could go a block in the other direction to get cheap authentic Honduran food, and then there’s a Venezuelan restaurant two blocks west of that place, and a terrific Jewish deli just a few blocks east of that place.
I’m in a diverse and happening place where I keep busy and feel stimulated.
But then I come back here and stay in a family-centric four-bedroom house in a very quiet neighborhood, with an affordable little local bar on the corner called Hole in the Wall where everyone’s a regular, they know each other by name, gossip about the local teachers and tell literal big-fish stories about their most recent weekend on the water, they guess at high school sports, loan things to each other.
Everybody’s also white as sin, but that’s beside the point.
Today, hanging out with Mango on the lawn for a while, I sat in the grass with him and just looked around, listened, watched families coming and going and pulling up to the front doors of their houses to unload groceries and I heard the clack of a bat hitting baseballs and the pong of tennis balls on pavement and the sputtering of bicycle spokes and car doors closing from two blocks over and a little kid shouting “THAT’S NOT FAIR” and somebody else calling out to ask “WHAT KINDA PIZZA DO YOU WANT”—all of this broken up by long spells of silence, tranquility, so unlike the neighborhood in which I currently live, where cars are backfiring and alarms are going off and people are walking on the sidewalk with boomboxes perched on their shoulders, neighbors are sustaining conversations from their balconies on opposite sides of the complex, there’s an ice cream truck going by every few hours and the roar of cheap old cars that’ve for some reason been outfitted with tremendous engines.
I love them both and in equal measure want to escape to and escape from them.
Wondering how I’ll strike a balance, or if I’ll be able to. If this writing life’ll just condemn me to whatever’s affordable: either cheap urban areas in Miami or cheap suburban areas someplace up north where the locals gather in little bars to talk about fish.