I knocked on the door of my very first 923 Oak feeling a flurry of mixed emotions: excitement, nervousness and anticipation for this inaugural interview that would help to define the next few months of my journey. I was also hopeful that I wouldn’t have a need for mace, which I didn’t have with me anyway.
Mike answered the door with a quiet smile. I handed him burlap-wrapped fall flowers — my small offering of gratitude to these generous souls opening up their home (and themselves) to a total stranger.
Pete walked into the room, unfurnished but for a streetlight in one corner, and introduced himself. These two could not have been kinder or more open to me and this abstract idea of a project.
The home was built in the 20’s, when Calvin Coolidge was president, Babe Ruth was a Yankee and Bessie Smith was singing the blues. Like most 90-something year-olds, it was showing its age. Mike & Pete view this as a “life project,” fixing it up room by room.
Here’s a current project. Not too long ago, Pete was out working in the garden. His neighbor who lives directly behind the house was also outside working on his truck. Something went awry and the truck came crashing through Mike & Pete’s fence. Pete just looked up and waved. This is the new fence, designed by another neighbor, a landscape architect. He wanted a “fun” project, so Mike & Pete are giving him carte blanche on their backyard.
The neighborhood sounds like a community, with everyone enjoying their backyards, playing music, gathering around fire pits, talking over fences. Both neighbors on either side of Mike & Pete sound similar: artistic, independent thinking, left-leaning.
They both have a shared love of learning, exploring and understanding other perspectives. This bookshelf spans an entire wall in their front room and made me immediately feel at home: curated bookshelves are like catnip to me. The flowers I gave them are on the mantle at the left of the photo. We talked for almost two hours, sitting around a table in the middle of this room.
They gave me a tour of the house, including the basement, exactly where one might expect to get chopped to bits. Happily this was not the case. In fact, they asked me if I wanted to get a drink or a bite to eat at the tavern on the corner. I was so touched by the invitation, but had plans to see old friends who I hadn’t seen in a long time. Hopefully I can get a raincheck.
Mike & Pete each has an interesting story of how they have come to be who they are now. Stay tuned to find out Pete’s most treasured possession and one of Mike’s earliest childhood memories.