Working for myself from home is a wonderful thing. It is also hell on the body.
Living in the United States, I got out at least a few times a day to walk the dog. In all truthfulness, I actually walk a lot more living in Ukraine simply out of necessity. Want groceries? Toiletries? A coffee with friends? Better get walking!
However, not having a dog anymore means it is possible to go days at a time without ever leaving the apartment. When winter hits, I love to curl up in sweatpants and fuzzy socks and avoid going out at all.
But when it’s nice out, I crave the outdoors.
Even when I get out for a run — which is about three or four times a week — I still go out for a walk at least once and sometimes twice a day.
We live near a big, beautiful, lush park. Rumor has it it’s the size of Central Park, though I don’t know if that’s true. And I love to walk through the park, but I’m not the only one, which means it can be a bit busy at times with moms pushing prams, little kids running all over the place, and couples moseying down the middle of the sidewalk.
Lately, I’ve been heading in a different direction for my daily walk.
We live in a high-rise apartment building, but we live right next to a tangly, slightly untamed, and weirdly fascinating neighborhood. This is where I’ve been walking. Tangly because the streets’ directions are something out of the twilight zone — stopping mysteriously at staircases, never ending up where you think they will, defying logic even when you view them on Google Maps. Slightly untamed because there’s all sorts of greenery climbing up and over walls — grapes, pears, hops — and wild flower bushes overrunning the battered sidewalk.
And weirdly fascinating because this is a neighborhood that doesn’t discriminate. Massive multi-story mansions with swimming pools on the roofs, multi-car garages, turrets, and bridges/outside walkways spanning multiple wings sit side-by-side with literal shacks. This neighborhood has houses with security video cameras right next to half-finished buildings with second-floor doors leading nowhere and kitchens enclosed by tarps.
I have never seen such income differences played out on a city block like they do in the neighborhood outside my front door.
Walking here is a highlight of my day because I always see something I didn’t notice before.
A middle-aged man lives on a compound where he does “repair” work overrun by dozens of cats. Where he lives among the rubble on this compound remains unknown. I want to make a deal with him: I’ll pay to fix your shack into something livable if you’ll spay and neuter all those cats.
Speaking of which, this neighborhood has tons of cats, a lot of whom I believe actually belong to families. Most don’t look too beat up, and they’re quite comfortable with people coming near them. When C walks with me, one of our favorite games is guessing how many cats we’ll see on the day’s walk. Repair compound cats don’t count.
The neighborhood’s texture fascinates me: The manhole covers filled with flower petals. Rotting wood gates. Metal mailboxes. Crushed fruit that falls from the heavy tree branches. Sprigs of white flowers peeking out from sidewalk cracks. Decent sidewalk, crumbling sidewalk, no sidewalk.
One thing that always holds my attention are the doors. Every single home in the neighborhood — whether a miniature castle or crumbling lean-to — sits on a compound behind a high gate with a door. No exceptions.
And every single door has a personality. Some have fancy wire work. Others are simple slats of wood. A few have complex locking mechanisms. And a surprising number are shades of turquoise and blue.
Some days I listen to an audio book when I walk. Other days I just stroll away from the loud city roads.
But I always look around. I’ve walked here dozens of times before, but there’s always something new to discover.