One afternoon after I first moved in and I was helping my friend Ilene pack some of my moving boxes into her car for her impending move, I met one of my neighbors, who looked to be walking a black-and-white spotted dog.
On further inspection, however, Ilene whispered to me, "It's a pig!"
And it was. Lois, who was standing there with her pig on a leash, reading a book while her pig grazed on a small patch of grass out front, introduced us to her young female pet, whose name is Potsticker (that'll keep a potbellied pig in place!).
Lois informed me she also has birds and chinchillas at home -- all of whom love riding on Potsticker's back. (A true piggyback ride, that.)
Then the other day as I was arriving home from work, I saw a couple walking by with two dogs, one of which was the biggest dog I've ever seen in my life: a brownish black Newfoundland. He was so affectionate when I squatted down to pet him and his tiny companion that he nearly knocked me over.
But the crowning character of the neighborhood is Lazslow, a 79-year-old Hungarian immigrant whose parents and siblings, he says, were killed by the Nazis in WWII. He has been in the country for 50 years, living the past 32 of them in a rent-controlled apartment up the block. He looks like a thinner Santa Claus and he walks slowly and deliberately with his cane, which often is resting over his shoulder with a grocery bag tied to the end, hobo-style.
Lazslow is largely responsible for the bushes and trees planted around here. In particular, he is the caretaker of an eclectic little memorial park set into the hillside below the Veterans Hospital across the street.
When I first moved in early this year, the fountain was there, along with -- I think -- two of the cherubs. Off to the side is a plastic igloo inside which a neighborhood lady leaves food for the feral cats. (One morning when I drove by, a big fat racoon was gnoshing on the grub and shot me an insolent look as I passed.)
The sign is new. Under the header "Courage and Faith," it says that the monument is dedicated to all who have risked their lives so that we can live freely. (I'll have to copy down the exact text next time I go by.)
So. These are the people in my neighborhood, the people that I meet each day!