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Looking for the Good

By Larry Gross · August 12th, 2009 · Living Out Loud
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So far this year, I haven’t visited any of the New England states. I love it there — being around those small mountains of trees that are close to the ocean.

When I’m away from New England too long, I find ways to remind myself that someday maybe I’ll get to live there. For example, my party lights arrived in the mail yesterday — little lighthouses that I now have hanging up in my bedroom area in my studio apartment in Westwood.

They look good in my space, because where I’m living is in a very New England-like place — a quiet, Cape Cod-ish type building with heavy weather-type shingles and a steeply sloped roof.

Inside, I have wood paneling on two of my walls (the real stuff, not particle board), rustic colored ceiling trim and bright overhead lighting. The ceiling is a bit low, but the bright colored walls give it height. It’s very cool.

Sometimes when I closed my eyes, I can see lighthouses by the ocean. Sometimes I think I can hear the ocean roar. Of course, I really can’t at all. From Westwood I can’t even see or hear the Ohio River.

While putting up the party lights, I remembered a comment a friend said to me shortly after I moved to Westwood.

“You must be dodging bullets there,” he said, referring, I suppose, to the reputation of Westwood being a bad neighborhood.

I found his comment insulting, but I made light of it, not wanting to be defensive about his offensive remark. I went looking for the good.

“Not bullets so much,” I replied, “but I do dodge a lot of squirrels.”

Along with those squirrels, we have rabbits and the occasional deer, and I’ve even seen a hawk or two when standing outside drinking my morning coffee.

Watching geese fly overhead to a nearby lake is almost a daily occurrence.

This is the second time I’ve lived in Westwood. The first time was back in the early 1990s, back in my married days. Now, I’m no longer married but I’m again in Westwood and for the second time find myself being put in the position of having to defend where I live — not only to the guy making the bullet comment, but to others.

Maybe I should make it clear to those looking down on Westwood that I don’t live in the “bad” section, which I suppose is considered around McHenry or Harrison avenues. If there are other “bad” areas, I’m not aware of them.

Perhaps I’m living a charmed life, but I’ve never had a bad experience while passing through these areas that are considered dangerous. I’ve done some of my grocery shopping at the “bad” Kroger on McHenry. I’ve never had any issues there whatsoever. Everyone is nice and friendly.

I suppose meanness is everywhere — even in my beloved New England. In various places where I’ve lived or in states where I’ve visited, I try not to focus on the bad in people. Instead, I’m looking for the good.

Yes, there’s some crime and violence in Westwood, just like in Clifton’s Gaslight District, Mount Lookout, Hyde Park and other fancier parts of Cincinnati. The only difference I see from those neighborhoods and where I currently live is perhaps there’s more diversity in Westwood. I consider this a good thing.

On most mornings, I go for a walk and get to visit with Mike, which is always a treat. He’s a big old friendly dog — a mutt really — who lives with Wanda and Al, a retired couple that lives a street over from me.

Wanda and Al are black. I always make a fuss over Mike while talking to them.

One morning, Al brought me out a cup of coffee and invited me to sit with him and Wanda (and Mike) on their front porch and visit for a while. It was really a good time getting to know them. They made it clear to me and me to them that we wanted to be good neighbors to each other.

Last fall, a new family moved into the neighborhood. I think they’re Jamaican. The two teenage girls are polite and courteous. I haven’t met the father yet, but the mother is always friendly as I pass by. She’s usually working in her flower garden, and it’s beautiful.

In the early spring, neighbor Kathy and husband David had a new little boy to go along with 2-year-old Jason. They’re a wonderful, liberal family. Like me, they celebrate the diversity here in Westwood. They look for the good.

In our neighborhood, in my neighborhood, you have blacks and whites and browns and everything else in-between living in peace and harmony.

In my neighborhood, you have college professors, bankers, laborers, retired people and even a guy who writes for an alternative newspaper supporting their community.

In my neighborhood, you have sidewalks — shortcut sidewalks — that make it easy for us to get to bus stops. We can leave our cars at home.

Where I live we have conservatives and liberals putting aside their differences and getting along. We’re neighbors. We want it to work.

So until I move up to New England, I’ll look for the good. I’ll enjoy my neighbors, watch those geese fly overhead, enjoy the squirrels playing in the front lawn and I’ll turn on those lighthouse party lights at night.

Yes, I love New England, but for now Westwood suits me just fine.

 
 
 
 

 

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