Sunday, January 4, 2015

the vacant lot / a walk with josie

Across the street from the neighborhood where Josie and Elliott and I live is a vacant lot that I would guess to be the size of a city block or two. It sticks out into the harbor like a nail-bitten thumb on an otherwise manicured hand. The layout of the harbor and all its marinas and boat slips and keys and parks and resorts and homes and shopping malls and this one vacant lot can get confusing, so I thought I might draw a picture. Instead, I took one.

Not that it helps.

For the first month or so Josie and I skirted around this lot on those afternoon walks when we didn’t go to the beach but to the marina just north of the lot instead, following the sidewalk that runs alongside the lot and then the boat slips and tackle shops. I enjoyed looking at the boats and at the far end of the walk where you run smack-dab into a restaurant there is a bench to sit on for a bit, relax, take in the sights. Also on this walk I could collect mutt mitts—the brown plastic bags the city provides for picking up your dog’s insert-your-favorite-word-for-it-here. (I have an aversion to certain words people use for this stuff, and you may too.)

Then one day we just veered off into the vacant lot. There is no fence around the lot and no “No Trespassing” sign, and I don’t remember why on this particular day we decided to give it a try, perhaps it was just time, but since then we’ve barely looked back. I unclip Josie’s leash and he goes his way and I go mine yet we remain fairly close together.

At first, the vacant lot was just a dry, brown field looking much like a pitted and scarred construction-site-to-be, but after that first rain in November the lot quickly became a stubby green field, still with big, brown, bald patches, but also now with greenery and small yellow flowers.

Yellow flowers in the vacant lot.

Now after even more rain the lot is a downright shaggy green field with puddles and ponds. (Ponds may be an exaggeration.)

Gulls hanging out at a puddle-pond in the middle of a remaining
big, brown, bald spot. The shaggy green part is off to our left.

Around the perimeter of the lot is a dusty two-track for vehicles (which we rarely see) and traversing the field there are other various tracks and paths, kind of vague and going nowhere.

Reminds me of a Talking Heads song.

The real road that Josie and I cross to get to the lot is on the lot’s east side; there is another road on the south side (it serves the marina where the yachts seem to hang out). There is water is on the west and north with rocks, boulders really, leading down to the water (see first picture), and every once in a while there is a fisherman or woman or two on these rocks. Sometimes their bicycles are propped up against a bush. 

And there are logs to sit on and a handy backrest if you need it.

When you get to the far side of the lot, the west side, you are just a stone’s skip across the water from the main harbor (I only call it “the main harbor” because the ice cream and other shops are over there, plus some really big boats). Through this watery passage boats of every type come and go. There are little paddle boats that people rent and big, battleship grey fishing boats with dangling spotlights big enough for Godzilla’s close-up but from what I hear are for catching squid. Sometimes there are slightly larger paddle boats covered with an awning and they always make me think of that song from “Oklahoma!” about the surrey with the fringe on top.

There are the tourist boats that go out to the Channel Islands and smaller sail boats going, well, I don’t know where. And there are small fishing boats, pleasure boats, and people standing on boards with sails, sailing along, and there are kayaks and yachts and once in a while a canoe. It may sound like a lot of coming and going and sometimes it is, like on New Year’s Day, but most other times it’s just one or two boats and there’s something about the movement—the seemingly idle movement that is anything but—that makes it all very nice to watch.

Sitting on a log, watching boats. The big, main harbor
(where the ice cream is) is off to our left and across the water.

Not that Josie pays much attention.

A lot of dogs come to this vacant lot.

The evidence is all around.

You see, there are no metal containers on posts offering free, brown plastic mutt mitts in the vacant lot. But there are big holes to explore.

Josie exploring a big hole.

Josie and I walk and we pass people and say “hi” or we pass no one. Sometimes someone may be heading our way but then they detour and go another way. This may have to do with a dog or dogs or not; some dogs are leashed, some are not. Even though there are what seem to be suggested paths, there is no place in this field where one cannot go, no direction one cannot take. And the field is somehow larger than it seems. We once walked the whole perimeter including past the boat slips on the north side (which is how we got the impression of yachts), and by the time we were back on the street that goes past our neighborhood, well, I felt like we had certainly had a walk.

A flotilla of yachts at the hitchin' post.

From this vacant lot fireworks went up a few weeks ago. Someone owns it, of course, and probably has plans for it. A yellow flyer bearing a date back in August tacked to a post near where Josie and I enter the lot says something about a meeting and a proposal and more boat slips and this and that, but that is all I know of that. What I was thinking New Year’s Day as Josie and I ambled over to the far side of the lot on the two-track and then cut back toward home right through the middle was that it would be nice, if one lived here, to always be able to walk here and unhook your dog’s leash (if your dog is of that sort) and just ramble along. Also, I thought there seemed to be plenty of room for a baseball field or two, just basic ones laid out with a pitcher’s mound enclosed by a diamond and a back stop. Nice for pick-up games or even an old fogy league. And somewhere along the way maybe one could pause in their ramble, buy an ice cream cone or a hot dog, pick up a newspaper or a root beer float (or a mutt mitt), and maybe there could even be a set of risers for one to sit on in order to watch the old fogies play ball.

On New Year's Day two Canada geese hung out at the lot
near centerfield. That's our neighborhood behind them.

Or, one could just leave the lot as is.

Coming and going.


  1. You've been awfully quiet lately . . . hope everything is okay? Miss your posts! ~ P

    1. Everything okay. Just flu, fatigue, now ... ? Not sure. Thanks for asking.

  2. What "Anonymous" said was what I've been thinking. We miss hearing that you are okay in the West. A milder winter so far in the Yoop, but I think quite a lot of snow in the Keweenaw. The Noque ski race this weekend, with added skijoring and snowbiking, so a lot of folks in town who love snow!