Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Los Chicos de Mi Barrio
I haven’t talked too much about my neighborhood, but I am in love with where I live. Aside from having a cool apartment owned by an amazing artist, I live in a neighborhood mixed with posh apartments, young families, singles, you name it. I love the diversity when I walk down the street… there are teenagers in their rumpled school uniforms shouting at the end of a busy day, backpack lazily slug over one shoulder. The tiny girls with their hair cascading down their backs, giggling groups of gawky, long-limbed budding teenagers, rambunctious boys yelling as they run down the broken sidewalks on a fall afternoon. Old ladies with canes, hunched over their packages and moving glacially across the street as the impatient cars wait for the light to change. Young mommies pushing strollers while lugging their groceries and talking on the phone in rapid fire Spanish, probably to their housekeepers And hunky boys in gym shorts flashing their over-muscled soccer legs, my favorite.
Another part of my neighborhood is the little shops that just become part of your life when you live somewhere. There’s a lovely verduria on the next block that I frequent. When you walk in most afternoons, beautiful melodies reminiscent of Frank Sinatra but in Italian or Spanish greet you. The owner, a shriveled and charming man with sparkling blue eyes is always there, handing out compliments as fresh as his beautiful spinach. Last week he told he how much he loved my accent in Spanish, this week he complimented my hat.
There’s also Raul, who greets everyone by name as he sells them sodas and cigarettes at the corner shop. He must work 17-hour days, but he always has a smile and a greeting for you. Last night, when I went to pay, I offered him monedas and said, when I have them, I give them. He smiled and when he gave me my change, he included a little chocolate treat with his customary smile.
It's just a reminder how attitudes about work here are different. In a country where unemployment has climbed over 20 percent, people are often grateful for work regardless of what the work actually is. While things are changing in the US because of the ever shrinking economy, when's the last time the guy at 7-11 smiled at you?