The phone rang. It was the wife.
"Hey, come on outside. We're having a party with the neighbors!"
"What? I'm still working. And I need to shower. And we have shopping to do tonight!"
"I'll go shopping tomorrow. Stop working. It's a neighborhood party!"
And so it was to be.
Before moving to San Francisco about 12 years ago, I had lived in suburban neighborhoods all my life (not counting college). They really defined what my idea of what a neighborhood should be. There were always rows of houses, each with a manicured lawn, and probably a strip mall less than a mile away.
When I finally moved to The Big City, I figured that was the end of my neighborhoody existence. Now, I'd be an anonymous city dweller, living amongst faceless San Francisco hipsters, business folk, and wackos.
What I've found is that I'm now a member of a more tightly knit community than ever before. When I stroll down to my neighborhood's small retail district (a couple of blocks of stores and restaurants), I find businesses that are staffed by their owners. Many of these merchants know me by name and I could probably ask for "the usual" in a few of them and get what I want. Or maybe I'd get some weird sex act. Either way, since they own the businesses, they're well motivated to be friendly and customer-oriented.
Meanwhile, since the housing lots are so small here, the sheer proximity of my neighbors means that I see plenty of them on a regular basis. Everytime I step outside my door, I take a quick look up and down the street to see if there's anyone to say "hi" to, and often there is. Additionally, I actually like quite a few of my neighbors, so that's a bonus.
What I've ended up with is the most satisfying sense of community that I've ever had, and it was entirely unexpected from living in a biggish city. I expected to be an anonymous cog, and instead I feel more like Norm walking into Cheers.
So, when a neighborhood party broke out, late on a Thursday afternoon, it wasn't wholly surprising, and it was totally worth blowing off some shopping. Those of my friends and relatives who were expecting birthday gifts, however, will have to wait a few more days. I am, apparently, a better neighbor than friend or son-in-law.