Alien Invasion

     I have lived in my neighborhood in Pasadena for something like 15 years, in an apartment that is surrounded by trees and looks down onto the street.
     In the early evening, the place seems like a multi-layered hive of life. Through the Maple trees and out over the roof of the washroom, a square of light shines out from high in the wall of an apartment on the next street over.
     The dark silhouette of a woman moves back and forth across the square of light.
     In the other direction, across my street, another couple apartments two and three stories up shine soft squares of light out of their buildings. Down below, the street lamps are made with old globes designed the better part of a century ago.
     They cast a glow, between big magnolia trees that also line the street and are at least as old.
     Flower beds and bushes are mixed in among the old apartments up and down the street. People jog or walk their dogs along the sidewalk. And more and more they walk their young children.
     You would not see the changes in a short time span because they have been so gradual, but over time, the neighborhood, on Madison Street just north of California Boulevard, has changed a great deal.
     When I started out here, families for the most part did not live in apartments. The neighborhood was made up of single, professional, white folks. Almost entirely.
     A few old people lived in a couple of the big buildings where you had to get buzzed in.
     The street was packed with cars at night. And almost completely empty during the day, when everybody went to work.
     But then young Asian people started moving in, especially women from Taiwan. Then I saw Asian couples taking up apartments in my building, which was originally built as a two-story motel.
     And now many of the apartments have kids. They come with both single mothers, white, Hispanic and Asian, but also with the full complement of parents and visiting grandmothers.
     The population of the former motel remains an eclectic mix, with all races represented. Next door are a couple Caltech students with broad Southern accents.
     But the biggest group is the Asians.
     At first, the appearance of Asian faces was a novelty. But no longer. They have become a basic weave in the neighborhood’s tapestry.
     At first, the concept of raising children in an apartment seemed really weird to me, confining, impossibly limiting for the rambunctious energy of kids. But no longer.
     At first, it all seemed a bit strange, the faces of a culture that I did not know and that seemed insular, a family structure that seemed out of place in a warren of apartments.
     But that view has mellowed and changed. The Asians are unfailingly polite and friendly, if a bit distant, not unlike me. The kids give a lot of life and energy to the apartment and the street.
      Just as the nation as a whole is changing its face, as a result of immigration, and changing the political landscape in the process, so my neighborhood has changed its colors.
     I got used to it first and now I like it. The neighborhood would seem one dimensional and a little boring if it was what it used to be, just white, single professionals.
     Now it seems like a little slice of the big city has come onto my quiet street and the world’s ambassadors, the advance troops of other civilizations, have moved into my community.
     So, now that I have gotten used to all the new folks, there is yet another group moving in.
     Indian people!
     I don’t know how they heard over there on the Indian subcontinent about my neighborhood. But there they are walking in their colorful saris and sandals up and down my street.
     They too have been unfailingly polite and friendly, if a bit distant. Like me.

%d bloggers like this: