Saturday, July 2, 2016

Once Upon a Time in an Alley

Funny how a quick glimpse of something will take you on a tangent.

Driving down the street the other day, I noticed granite gravel-covered alley moving between blocks of houses. I miss alleys. I grew up in a small California town where residential streets, and commercial ones, for that matter, were traversed by one-lane paved alley ways… where most garages and carports lived. Where trash cans waited for pick up day – none of this bringing your trash out to the front curb… garbage trucks navigated the narrow lanes behind your house to do their work.

These alleys were not well-maintained – deep divots and mounds made them uneven for driving – the entire alley was a speed bump… and in the winter they were fabulous for driving your bike through rain puddles and creating wakes in your path. On really hot, Central Valley days you could literally smell the melting asphalt, and make dents in it with your feet.

Alleys were short-cuts to downtown, and great places to stop and talk with friends… unless your neighbors had an unleashed dog in their back yard. I climbed a fence one day, winding up in a stranger’s back yard because a momma dog did not want us passing by her pups. That was scary. I literally did not know I could move that fast.

Now and then, I will see a television show or a cartoon where something is happening in the alley. Usually it is about people “up to no good,” but I think alleys have been given a bad rap. In small town America, alleys offered a chance to step out of the mainstream and slow down a bit; a place to meet, or take a shortcut, or just get out of the traffic.

Alleys make me nostalgic for simpler times, gentler worlds, and fewer big decisions. I definitely do not want granite chips in my alley, like I saw the other day – old asphalt is far quieter and more inviting.  Like I said, funny how a quick glimpse of something will take you on a tangent, through time and space and it’s all inside your mind.

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