The Los Angeles area beach city where I grew up is no longer recognizable. Most of the original bungalows and small homes are gone, replaced by looming McMansions, some spreading over two or three formerly tiny lots. The corner drug store with the lunch counter and the old five and dime are long gone, replaced by expensive, blingy boutiques.
The transition is my current beach town 100 miles south is similar in the business district and slower in the residential neighborhoods. There is a 2-story limit on height and loud objections when new neighbors (such as Mitt Romney) want to overwhelm the neighborhood or block beach access. The residences here are an eclectic mixture of beach bungalows, remodeled homes, estates, and condos and apartments in styles ranging from stark and modern to Tudor and Mediterranean.
On my block, three cottages have been or are being torn down in the last year. One came down completely and is now a private school playground called Field of Dreams. One stands empty and boarded, devoid of its front porch where a family used to sit every day under a pergola of bougainvillea and morning glory. The third stands bare, stripped to its studs. At first I thought it was coming down too. A bulldozer ate up the lawn, but left trees standing like sentinels in the dirt. In back, workers stripped down a matching guest house, but then built it up again with fresh wood, a handsome roof and railings. Perhaps the same restoration is planned for the master home? It will live on beautifully for several more years, even decades.
A few doors down, my cottage-like duplex is in pretty good shape for being 64 years old. It stands alone between two large condos – one square and plain, one graceful and rounded, Spanish pink. In back of me is another large, 2-story building with two apartments, our carports and our laundry shed.
I’m still not used to being on the ground floor after living upstairs in a sunny space for eight years. However I had to move. My rent was raised astronomically and I lucked out in finding this affordable and convenient accommodation around the corner.
I’m trying to like it. It has a remodeled kitchen, new flooring and carpeting and a fireplace. But I’m fighting claustrophobia and missing my view out into the world so much. I haunt the streets and alleys (called lanes here) looking for another perch.
Until I find it, I will make the best of my current space. I will examine all the nooks and crannies holding my possessions and my life. What do I need and what can I let go?
I want my next perch to be smaller and simpler and to bring with me only what I truly need. I want to make peace with lost homes and dreams and hold onto those worth pursuing or renovating.