I was listening to part of the Diane Rehm Show on WAMU with her guest David Brooks and his new book On Paradise Drive : How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense. He mentioned how it used to be that people wanted to live near golf courses because that was the status symbol, but when speaking with builders he found that now people want Starbucks and Kinkos and trails, they want community.
They want to go to certain centers and see their neighbors and friends, like you’d probably find in oh, I don’t know, the city? The last kind of place where I just ran into people I knew was Gainesville, FL in the student ghetto. Maybe Northampton, MA, the five college area. Well college towns were the one industry was the school and you lived your life around it. I never just ran into people in Hyattsville, rarely Arlington (you’d think I would but no), but yes, more so in College Park, well because of the University of Maryland. Do I run into people I know in DC. Well not so much DC but Shaw and sometimes it’s surrounding other ‘hoods. You go to the same damned meetings and you see the same damned people, some you don’t even know, but you see them. Sometimes I’d see Ms. Betsy at the Whole Foods, or Sylvia biking down the street. Lawyer boy (bad-with-names ok?)on his moped is a semi-common sight. I went to the local ECUSA church and saw a woman I normally see at the community meetings. Walking around and frequenting the local businesses you run into your neighbors. I’ll probably bump into Chris at the G & G Market (the one without the 40s), I saw him just the other day with milk and smokes, obviously from the market.
Yet the community doesn’t come on a silver platter nor is it guaranteed. For one you have to interact with your neighbors. Saying a cursory “hi” helps. There are people in the neighborhood who keep to themselves, and will not recognize that the lady in aisle 5 lives 7 doors down. They don’t say “hello” when they do see their neighbors and lead more solitary lives. That’s their right, and their loss. There is SUV guy who lives about 4 doors down from me. I have tried waving hi, saying hello, but he acts as if I didn’t. He rushes from the house door to the car door. Fine. There is another neighbor who is also a little less interactive. Part of it relates to the fact he is rarely home, visiting Africa, or working odd hours. Since I am out in the front yard and we had a vacant house problem between us we talked. When there was a small fire in one of the rowhouses and everyone near it was flushed out of their homes, I was talking with him pointing out the different neighbors. He reacted saying he had lived there over a decade and didn’t know these people, I’m here about a year and can point people out. Okay, less so now, my newer neighbor has a better grasp of who-is-who (being nosy helps).
It might be the community aspect that makes the crappy part of living in Shaw tolerable. Well that plus knowing my house tripled in value since moving here. Once I get past the teens lounging on milk crates on the corner I hit my block, with pleasant yards and a range of pleasant neighbors. When illegal dumpers dump I can find a sympathetic ear in my neighbors. We grouse together about the teens, the sketchy looking guys, the trash, yes, is the crap brings us together.