For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sun-shiney Day

What a gorgeous day we're having today! It's 20C outside, with a high of 21C. There isn't a cloud in the sky and our view of the valley is gorgeous. Mind you, our view of the valley is gorgeous on crappy weather days, too. :-D I can live with that.

Yesterday was the first really nice day we've had in a while. Co-incidentally, it was also spring clean up day for our co-op. They used to do a clean up once a year, but are now doing it twice, in spring and fall. I think that's a good decision, considering the area we're in.

An old friend once described her home and her neighbourhood in the North End of Winnipeg as an "island in the Lysol zone." In some ways, that's a good description of where we are now. It's an old, rather shabby area that is slowly being transformed. Our own complex is just one of these islands. Being at the end of the row of townhouses, as well as the street, we had one house beside us. It was recently torn down. I'd thought the place was occupied, but it's been empty for many years. Between lights on timers and people using the space as overflow parking, the illusion of occupancy was kept as a way to discourage unauthorized use of the house. Talking to my new neighbours, however, it was rather notorious as a place for druggies to crash and shoot up. There was a universal joy among my neighbours as almost everyone came out to watch the demolition. I was told they'd been waiting 18 years for this! We had a great view off our balcony. It was a truly challenging demolition, as they had to keep the pieces from falling down the valley wall and onto the street below us. It wouldn't be good for half a 4 story home to slide down on top of a car at the stop sign below.

Now that the spot the house was in is empty, however, it's being used more often (or more openly?) as a short cut by the various transients living in the valley.

At the opposite end of the street are a couple more problem homes. They've actually been taken over by the government, I'm told, though the government isn't keeping the property up any more than the previous owners, from the looks of it. These are occupied, and I recently saw a "For Rent" sign on one of the windows. Another pair of houses so run down, the only way to fix the situation would be to tear them down and start over.

There are several other pockets like this, but they are slowly being improved. The houses, however, are mostly being replaced by condos and apartment buildings. One of them is even a gated complex, with the condos built in a circle, broken only by the gate, around a central courtyard. The courtyard is parking space only. It brings images to my mind of pioneer wagons, gathered in a circle to protect those in the middle. Except instead of people being protected in the middle, it's cars. *L* Like us, the complex overlooks the valley. Unlike us, they don't drop almost straight down. Instead, there's a series of sloped walkways, a little park with a lookout point, and several sets of stairs taking pedestrians down to the housing area below.

With spring clean up, every able bodied person is expected to volunteer at least a little time. Even the non-able bodied help as much as they can. We go a bit beyond our own property lines, cleaning up a few areas adjoining ours that are empty. We've also made a deal with the city to keep a fence line clear - they paid for the fence, we upkeep things on both sides of it. The fence runs along the edge of a lane, keeping transients out and cars from going over the edge. :-/

The co-op provided garbage bags and heavy duty gloves, as well as snacks and drinks, for the volunteers. There were a few grabbers available, too. Youngest and I were glad to have one of those!

Dh and Eldest were assigned to an area with a warning that someone unauthorized was hanging out in a stairwell of the high rise. Dh, being a burly, intimidating sort of person, talked to our "guest" waiting by a locked door for someone to come out, so he could get in. There was no aggressive confrontation, but it did take my husband saying he was calling the police and walking away with his cell phone for the person to finally leave.

He and Eldest found a smashed windshield that took quite a while to clean up. They never did get all the glass - the soil itself would have had to be removed, and they'd already dug up about an inch or more of topsoil with a thatching rake to get what they managed. At the end of the day, Eldest told me she was surprised she didn't find a body, what with all the partially buried garbage bags she was finding.

Youngest and I came a bit later, so we weren't assigned an area, but asked to go wherever we thought help was needed. We went into the drop below the townhouse balconies. There's actually several garden plots in there, available to members who wish to plant. We didn't apply for one this year. Hopefully, we will be set up enough to apply next year. We found a few things that had obviously blown off people's balconies or the patios beneath them. Others, not so much. I dug up the remains of a coffee table. Another group found a dining table in another area. There was another member besides the one in the unit we have now that had to be evicted - a hoarder who's unit was so badly infested with vermin and other damage as a result, it still isn't ready for someone new. Apparently, in moving out, they threw stuff off the balcony, including that table.

Youngest and I, meanwhile, came upon a camp of sorts. An open area under the trees that showed signs of quite a bit of use. Along with the usual cigarette butts, we found socks, gloves, a cooking grill, a pot, a broken crucifix, and several hypodermic needles. There were some larger items, too - from the looks of it, they were items from the demolished house that managed to escape and roll down into the trees.

Technically, this camp wasn't on co-op property, but no one's quite sure who the land belongs to - either the city, or the owner of the house that got torn down. There is a path through it, however, that is used by co-op members to get to the back of the townhouses, were we can access our back doors and balcony fire escapes. So keeping it clean is in our interests, too.

Now that clean up is done, the co-op is looking for volunteers to take over the flower beds. It seems that the hoarder that they had to evict (after 18 months of trying to help her) was also a botanist who simply took over these community plantings on her own. She'd apparently done a great job of it, but now that she's gone, someone else needs to step in.

I find that really funny, somehow.

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