It’s been 10 months since I came to the River to live and to work. When I came here, the entire property smelled like crack and cockroaches. This morning I stepped out the side door of the office and it seems that The Smell, is entirely gone. Fall is here, and the scent of maple leaves and oak moss float across the parking lot. Trailing that, is the warm scent of Indian curry, embracing chili powder and jalapenos, and freshly baked noon bread. Someone is making cinnamon buns too, this morning!
Maybe if I hang around outside apartment 45, and look slightly sad, Najat will give me some noon bread. She’ll probably throw in a cupful of fresh dates, just sent to her from her mother in Morroco because she can’t stand to see anyone sad. I will never forget the day she came across a homeless man in the park, and came home to her husband and told him in very loud Arabic, “Get out there, you lazy ungrateful so and so, and give that man some FOOD!” So much for Muslim women being weak.
And then, if I’m lucky, Ariceli will give me some enchiladas. She’s making them for her little “back of the truck” lunch business. After her husband left, she decided that God had dealt her a kindness hand, and so now she sells her scrumptious tacos, enchiladas and churros out of the truck that he left behind.
And if that fails, I can always go around the corner to Danny’s place and get some home-made tiramisu. Danny is in vocational re-hab and I think he’s really going to make it as a chef! Yesterday, he threw a party over at Boyd (our small annex) and he brought out every kind of fattening, cholesterol inducing, heart attack you can imagine. If it’s bad for you, he’s making it and it’s in some exotic shape or artistic form. (Can you imagine making a “lace” fan out of white chocolate???? What????)
We still have our problems at this community, but I can say that we have definitly turned the corner. In spite of all these successes though, I feel a real sense of sadness and loss, because I have had to let go of innocence (whatever might have remained of it), a basic trust in the “goodness” of people, and a lifelong naive outlook that has always been something of a trademark.
But I have also learned this very valuable lesson: If you keep your flour, cornmeal, and other “dry goods” in the freezer, you probably won’t have a problem with cockroaches.