Saturday, January 19, 2013

Street smart. Street love.


I've spent an unusual amount of time thinking about streets over the last couple of days. Today is the National Day of Service, and I’d signed up to do some manual labor at my local Veterans Home. When I showed up, it turned out that they'd changed the date of their event, so I grabbed my phone and searched for the next closest service activity. I wound up doing street clean-up with the Little Saigon Foundation, and was really impressed by this group, who organize monthly neighborhood revitalization activities and are working to create a deeper sense of community among San Diego's Vietnamese residents and business owners. For hours, I picked up trash on the sidewalks and streets of this neat neighborhood, and so spent a lot of time looking at and thinking about the asphalt and concrete beneath my feet. Glad I was paying attention, because look what I found!







YES!








Little Saigon is a pedestrian-dense area, and in addition to all of the families out doing their weekend marketing and errands, I enjoyed saying my hellos to the business owners and residents who stepped outside to thank us for what we were doing as we came by. The streets that we travel every day to get to our homes and places of work matter. When they’re full of cracks and potholes, they not only screw up our cars’ alignments, they screw up our community esteem. When we let our sidewalks become uneven and cracked, we’re not only risking a nasty face plant, we’re sending ourselves a message that traveling by foot isn’t important. And when garbage and cigarette butts are strewn about, it gets into our collective head. Do you ever feel as good about yourself when you need a shower and you’re hanging around in your tattered sweatpants as you do when you’re cleaned up and wearing your best-fitting pair of jeans?

Just yesterday, on my morning run, I stumbled upon a stretch of road that had just been repaved. Always fun, right? I love that soft spring of new asphalt. It looked beautiful and totally changed the appearance of that bit of the neighborhood. In that moment, I realized how infrequently I run on trails or in the park, even though I live just a few blocks away from both. I spend several hours every week in Balboa Park and the canyon trails with my dog, but when it comes to running, I want to be on the city streets. Having to stop at streetlights doesn’t bother me a bit when there’s so much to look at, and so many people to try and figure out. I’m really so lucky to have such beautiful, interesting, and (mostly) clean streets to run on every day.

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