I didn’t really grow up with alleys . There were only one or two in my neighborhood .
Now I live in Arcadia and Arcadia has alleys . When I walk I tend to use the alleys because they are quieter than the streets , more interesting in some ways , more conducive to reflective thought perhaps . Alleys are the raw city scene , the back of the closet , the under-the-rug sweepings of daily life . Walking alleys I can hold the bottom-of-the-pocket clumped lint of life and wonder how it got there . I can look into back yards , peer over unadorned crumbling fences .
And what do I see ? Some of you by now are wondering am I some kind of a nut . By walking alleys I am climbing the abandoned ladder up against the mansion’s back wall . I can look into the bedroom , not the spotless entry hall , and see how people really live . Is it neat in there even though not a place on display or is it a junk pile when the front of the place is pristine ?Is it voyeurism , though , some weird tawdry behavior on my part ? Think what you will , but I say no . It’s just a neighborhood exploration , a peek behind the curtain , a look into the eyes of an aging suburb . Is it an attempt at expose ? No . I like the backyards better , the weedy walks , the forgotten ladders , the sudden farm wagon sitting alone behind the chain link , the random signs posted , the half-tended plantings , the meters and the refuse bins and the occasional heaps of rubbish. It’s all character , isn’t it , the often uncollected data of the everyday , part of the city ensemble , it’s demur corium .
But you say : It’s just an alley ! Sure it’s just an alley . It’s a place intended for the trash trucks to come to haul away their loads , away from where the people are . It’s a place to put a car so the street view of a house won’t be overpowered with garage .
It’s a good place to walk , too , in a safe neighborhood , when you’re tired of the pedestrian sidewalks .