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Sailing on smooth sidewalk that stretches forever

July 26, 2007

I live in the right Bay - the one where the sidewalk never ends.

Friends of mine, former longtime Bay Viewites, moved from our sacred territory almost a year ago. I won't fault them. I love their new house.

Their deck and porch swing would not have been possible in their Bay View backyard. The leather sectional sofa - bigger than my entire living room - would not have looked good crammed into their South Side Cape Cod.

They are missed, but trips to their new home are not painful. When Paula, Dorothea, Carmela and I visit, I say we're "going to the country" even though they are a stone's throw from a shopping mall and a number of gas stations.

It's a nice life my friends have created. Calm, pleasant, easy living is the rule in their lives. They have it good, until, of course, they want to do something as simple as walk to the store and get a carton of milk.

My friends have gone to the other Bay. Bayside that is. And in Bayside, a crosstown stroll is a practice in traffic-dodging and twisted-ankle-avoidance thanks to roadside ditches.

Lack of concrete puzzles

I had been to my friends' Bayside home several times prior to realizing there is no sidewalk in front of their house. It may seem like a "so what?" concern to most folks, but to me, the swaths of grass standing in for good, honest concrete walkways are a direct contradiction to my ideal of good living.

I've gently needled my Bayside pals, saying Bay View is a sweeter place, indicated by the name alone. The word "view" conjures up images of unspoiled vistas and perfect sunsets, while "side" suggests burdensome waste. The term "side" makes me think zebra mussels clinging to a shore and the fatty parts of pigs and cows. Have you ever eaten side meat? Unpleasant, my friends, unpleasant.

But names aside there remains this glaring pedestrian obstruction that makes me certain my address is the one for every red-blooded urban paradise lover.

I'll admit it; I'm a sidewalk guy from way back when. To me, sidewalks are a function of normal daily life. They take you to great places and help you escape unsettling territories. I've had to force myself to consider why I'm a sidewalk fiend when thinking about how my friends are able to function day to day in their Bayside cul de sac.

A loss for ants, kids alike

Do kids in Bayside ever know the joy of being treated for a knee scraped on a sidewalk? Have those Bayside kids ever had a dozen bandages and a Popsicle cure their mortal wounds?

In a community without sidewalks, ant hills, like the one I've had growing between the seams in the slabs of concrete outside my home, do not exist. This means passers-by on warm summer days, like the two young lovers paused in front of my house holding hands and looking at the busy worker ants, are a banished breed.

In Bayside, the sweet gesture of shoveling a neighbor's sidewalk on a snowy day is unknown. I guess teens with a shovel and strong backs in Bayside are out of luck when it comes to earning a few bucks, too.

In Bayside, you can't do what you do in Bay View. You can't walk down the sidewalk to get to school. You can't walk down a concrete runway to get to the library. There is no walkway leading to anything good, such as the ice cream shop, in Bayside.

What of the parades?

Bayside residents may yammer on and on about those big yards. Those expansive, wooded properties dotted with beautiful landscaping might be considered selling points. The peace, quiet and serenity of a little suburban enclave might hold a great allure for some. Not me. Give me some noise and a place for people to set their feet, and I'll show you a place I want to live.

The final nail in the coffin in regard to this non-sidewalk snafu came when my friends were telling me about their recent Fourth of July parade. When they told me it consisted of a couple of cars, lacked a marching band, and was devoid of candy-throwing clowns, I knew the reason was the utter disregard for good, hard concrete. Good parades need gawkers. And good gawkers need hot sidewalks to make them hoot and holler.

Resting on manicured lawns to watch marchers? What were the village fathers of Bayside thinking?

It makes me sad when there is some worthwhile paving company out there ready to fix this Bayside omission in the flash of a fresh concrete pour.

Basking in the pavement

My friends once claimed they would never leave Bay View. They remind me of this when I defend my decision to stay firmly rooted in my sidewalk-lined urban paradise.

They have found their own definition of happy living in Bayside. They claim their life is better, and they are pleased every night when they hit the sack.

Me? I'm happy where I am, and it's because the only thing I look forward to hitting is the pavement.

Jonathan West lives in Bay View and he's proud of it. He writes about the neighborhood and the people who live here. Contact him via e-mail at jonathanwest@tds.net.

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