Welcome to my neighborhood: A highly selective guided tour of the place where I live

December 7, 2012

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 7, 2012

Author’s note: I edited this entry slightly on Dec. 11, 2012, to correct the spelling of kabab (not kabob, as I originally had it) in a restaurant name. I’ll link to follow-up posts to this item once they’re online. Thanks for reading! MEM 


In the fall of 2011, I moved out of a very nice but bug-ridden old two-bedroom house in a lovely neighborhood. My new home, which was a much smaller and somewhat more affordable two-bedroom house, was just a mile away. Naturally, the neighborhood was…not quite as nice.

Not that there’s anything wrong with my neighbors, I hasten to add. The only ones I have spoken to live to one side of my house and across the street, and they’re fine. There are some other folks nearby whom I’ll wave at, but to whom I’ve really not spoken. Everyone seems pleasant. It’s basically a lower-middle class or working-class area.

A few families seem to be on their way up. Many are basically holding in place, including some older folks and people whom I see often enough that they may be on disability or else unemployed. A few might be on their way down. Some of the houses look lovely; rather more of them have a certain air of neglect and subtly advancing chaos that are at the least less elegant. There is a house near mine that appears to be vacant but has not been boarded up or vandalized.

The foot traffic that passes my house is much more diverse than the folks I used to see in my old home. There are definitely some sketchy people about. But I’ve never felt particularly nervous in my neighborhood. 

The new house is definitely not as attractive as my old place, and not just because the neighborhood isn’t as polished or picture-perfect as where I used to live. As noted, this place is much smaller; in fact, the storage space is microscopic compared to what I used to have.

But there are advantages to my new house besides its being cheaper to rent. It’s drafty, but it has a relatively new electrical HVAC system (also called forced-air, I believe). That makes it cheaper to heat than my former residence, which used gas and thus required regular payments to one extra utility company. And the smaller size of this house, of course, also helps make it cheaper to heat and cool.

At my old place, I had two nightmarish experiences seeing — and in one case feeling — roaches where I slept. (Forget about all the ones I saw elsewhere in the house.) I’ve seen some roaches in my new place, but the situation is about a hundred times better than the various pest issues in my last home. That’s a huge relief.

And for all that this neighborhood lacks the gentility of my previous spot, it’s actually kind of convenient for some things. I can drive downtown a little faster. (Trade-offs, trade-offs: Driving out of town takes a little longer, natch.) And my new location makes it much easier for me to take care of certain errands on foot or bicycle. I can do my banking and make pharmacy visits without hopping into my car.

There are also two restaurants nearby. One is an excellent pizzeria. The other is Kabab and Curry House.


As long as I’m unfairly judging places by their appearances, let’s judge Kabab and Curry House by its. One neighborhood resident called it a wretched hole. I remember avoiding it for a while after I first moved in last year because it looked so sketchy.

The city where I live, I should note, has something I’ve never encountered before, although I suspect it is not unique. There are many different overlapping neighborhood and city-wide “listservs” here, some of which typically field a dozen or more messages each day.

Months ago — I’m not sure when — an e-mail message popped up on one of the lists praising Kabab and Curry House. At some point after that (long after the message of praise was originally sent, I believe), I put two and two together and a light went off over my head. Oh, I said to myself. The Kabab and Curry House that I’ve read about is actually that place there.

And so I eventually stopped by for some food.

That visit, and the ones that followed, unexpectedly led to some serious repercussions. I’ll write about what happened in a future my next post.

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