Friday, October 14, 2005

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.


Leesa said...

I grew up in Dallas. So, I was always a faceless anonymous neighbor.
Now I live in a town of 700. It's been an adjustment to know who all your neighbors are. The local store owner and patrons, the postal workers, the sheriff, the coroner...I know them all. They all know me. There's not many secrets. I'm not sure how much I like it yet, but it's growing on me. One thing nice about it though is it's a very helpful giving community. They will give you the shirt of their back if you need it. Sorry for such a long comment:)

Mike said...

Hi Leesa, no need to apologize for long comments. Bytes are free.

Your small-town experience is kind of what I'd expect of a small town. It's the fact that I'm getting a somewhat similar experience here in SF that surprises me.

I'm glad to hear that it's growing on you. If it grows too much, I recommend Tinactin.

Will said...

Just saw A History of Violence because one of the people I went with already saw Serenity (although he was willing to see it again). It's as if they made a movie out of your post, minus the violence.

Will said...

Maybe I should elaborate... The town and it's inhabitants depicted in the movie seemed to fit your description. People in the town seemed very much invested in each other and the community.

Mike said...

Will, I guess I forgot to mention the part about there really NOT being a lot of violence or murder on my street.

Will said...

Sorry, I should've said with added violence.

Mike said...

Ah, yes, of course. That's my neighborhood then.