I have the privilege of starting work on Charlies house. I did a little work already, tearing down drop ceilings and starting to empty leftover furniture and random things left in the house. I was anxious to start the project but cautions, because I wanted to make sure I captured the story of Charlie and not treat the project like just another renovation. I want to make sure the project balances a couple of different things. First I want to make sure the type of person Charlie was gets communicated effectively. I’m probably going to mention this over and over again, but Charlie was the kind of guy that would trim his grass with a set of hand clippers when a few strands got missed with the lawnmower. His yard was always the best one on the block. He had fruit trees in his back yard and the way his fence was set up there was just a few spots you could see in. I never read the Secret Garden, but it reminded me of what I thought that would be like. The alley space behind his garage was always shoveled and salted even though it might have been the only one in the whole alley.
I’m also trying to balance capturing the condition his house was in even though he was in his mid-eighties when he moved to the assisted living facility. Sure, things are dated and need some work, but overall it is in immaculate condition. The biggest dynamic I want to talk about though is how different the end result financially would have been for Charlie if his house was only 15 blocks in a different direction. I think there is a lot I can learn from that dynamic and a lot we all can learn about the effects of segregation and how something like white flight is still impacting black residents of Milwaukee decades later.
I’m still trying to figure out what exactly to do (short videos or a bunch of pictures or some type of time lapse thing), but I’m looking forward to telling the story of my experiences knowing Charlie and showing off his house.