Sunday, June 1, 2008

New Environs


The new neighborhood, into which we moved a couple weeks ago, has brought surprises. It's on the western slope of Tacoma, although T-Town is broken up geologically with deep gullies, so any slope, western or not, won't be a smooth one. In any event. the place is perched on a wee knoll close to the Narrows. We get to see all the weather come in from the Pacific, and a landscape-person we know claims that this part of T-Town has a micro-climate--wetter and warmer than the rest of Tacoma. The gardeners in the neighborhood--and in Tacoma, just about everyone is some kind of gardener--therefore experiment with plants of a semi-tropical nature, as well as growing the usual rhodies, azaleas, and evergreen shrubs/trees. A fellow blogger residing in Hawaii who knows something about Tacoma will find the reference to "semi-tropical" ridiculous, no doubt.

As with many American neighborhoods, this one is really neither working-class nor middle-class. Average income might put it into the latter class, but the range of occupations varies considerably. The neighborhood looks conventionally suburban--built in the 1960s, so "rambler" style houses more or less predominate, but it appears not to be a cookie-cutter tract. What you don't see are the Victorians and Craftsman houses that dominate the North End of T-Town--houses that are cheek-by-jowl and feature lots of stairs and small rooms.

The biggest surprise out here on the slope, at least for me, is the ethnic diversity. Yes, you have your basic Euro-Americans. My early working-hypothesis is that if there's an RV in the yard, the family is probably Anglo-American. I'd be happy to have the hypothesis disproved. I wonder if there are good RV ethnographies out there.

African Americans, Asian Americans (with considerable variety within this category), Hispanic Americans, and folks from the former Soviet Union dwell hereabouts as well. I know some of the latter come from Moldavia because I heard them say so. Others may come from Russia-proper or the Ukraine. I don't know. The older generation likes to walk around the neighborhood as if it were a village, and I guess in a way it is. The women wear scarves and woolen skirts. The men wear sport-coats and hats. That is, they remind me of some of the older folks from my hometown, which featured one Russian named Wanda, who'd get all dressed up and walk her two bull-dogs to "town" every day--"town" being a micro-village of 200 in the Sierra Nevada. It's not for me to say, really, but I think Wanda belonged in St. Petersburg, strolling the Nevsky Prospekt. But she married an American house-painter, and somehow they ended up in Sierra City. I still remember her long cashmere red coat.

There are two large hills between where we live and where we buy things, including groceries, so the aerobic opportunities are good, and when I'm out walking, the Moldavians are usually out, too. I wish I spoke their language. I sincerely enjoy how unamused, wary, but not unfriendly their visages appear. The older faces especially seem to report having experienced but survived much in life.

So far the western slope has been full of great surprises. I have informed our cat, a Russian blue, that Moldavians are hereabouts. So far, she has not registered a comment in response.
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