The sky is spitting rain from a big grey cloud as I drive. My father is directing me from the passenger seat. He complains about how they have changed the streets as we weave though one-ways. This neighborhood is old. The oak trees beside the modest houses are huge and thick. They tower over the houses, some of which are in need of paint. I like this neighborhood.
My father is telling me that he used to shoot straight through this neighborhood. Now, the street that he took has been designated as a one-way, heading the wrong direction. We fold out of the nice, old neighborhood and merge onto a busy street, also littered with potholes. Each time I drive over a bump, my father winces and apologizes to the car.
I am a small, dark-haired and dark-skinned. I am intently focused on driving and being kind to my father today, so I imagine my brow may be knitted and my mouth slightly pursed. My father is a portly gentleman with long, wavy, white hair and a thick set neck and shoulders. He is a kind man, but has been a rebel for a long time and tends to couch his conversation as such. I am not sure what he rebelled against. However, this city where I was born, does give off an ominous shadow, like an aura, made of asphalt. The chaotic layout of ill-maintained roads emits a strange resonance. This is why I left when I turned eighteen.
At last, we turn on Overhill, the street where I was born. The houses are small, and have been poorly painted with bright colors. We drive slowly past cars on blocks, windows emitting loud music, chain-linked fences containing muscular mean-looking dogs. It does not look like a nice neighborhood.
My father says he thinks I was born in number 1904 or 1906. I locate the house number on two in pale yellow and pink. Several people are gathered in the front yard. They do not smile or wave as they stare at or ignore my rental car. I drive past.
At the end of the block is my great grandfather’s log cabin. I guess he build this cabin from logs covered with plaster. It is grey with the odd shape of a building that has had several additions over a number of years. Three chimneys jut randomly from the roof. Multi-colored wires run down the outside of the house, carrying electricity into different, oddly sized windows. No cars are in the driveway. No shadow of furniture is in the windows.
“You want to go knock?” Dad asks.
I do not. By this time, we have stopped the car and gotten out.
“There’s the house I grew up in,” Dad says, pointing at the house next door. A slightly newer, but equally large house stands on a full lot. It has an oak tree shaped chimney and oak tree trunk gat posts. The concrete oaks were made by a builder who did similar work for a park down town.
The sun breaks briefly through the clouds. From the street, Ryan offers to take a photograph of us. I stand by my father in front of the strange grey cabin and smile.
As we drive to the restaurant, my father tells me about his life here.
“This was a doctor’s house. He put in all those oak trees. We used to go hunt there.”
“What did you hunt Dad?”
“Did you eat them?:
“No, we just hunted them. I guess everyone moved out. They didn’t like the way the neighborhood was going.”
This neighborhood is the stereotype of a “gang” neighborhood. That’s what my mother might say, anyway. Many people we pass are standing by souped up or beaten down cars with Hispanic names on them. Burly, uncut guard dogs pace the yards. The yards are sometimes clean and sometimes strewn with trash.
“I don’t like coming down here.” Says my Dad.
“Its kind of sad?