August 1 was National Night Out, a movement across the country for neighborhoods to throw small block parties. The idea behind it is that the more you know your neighbors, the better you can band together to keep the neighborhood safe.
This night was a mindblowing exercise in Let's see. I've seen this person getting out of their car a few times, and waved as I went by, but really haven't seen them very much. They must be new to the neighborhood. And then you ask them how long they've lived in the neighborhood and they say THIRTEEN YEARS.
And since you've lived there since 1995, you realize that you've been living, thinking, eating, sleeping, laughing next to this person for over a decade without even really recognizing them or learning their name.... and they live in the house that is kitty-corner to yours.
And this happened over and over again.
I grew up in a small town in Vermont where I not only knew everyone on my street and surrounding streets, but had basically been in every home many times and knew the floorplan. I guess it's different when you're a kid growing up on a block with many kids: when you're tired, you all troop into whoever's house and ask for kool-aid. There are kids on my block here in Oakland, and maybe (I hope) they too think of the neighborhood as their extended living room... but I kind of doubt it. I got the sense from Neighborhood Night Out that many of us were strangers to each other.
The police came by and gave us whistles and penlights... and best of all.... A's tickets! I didn't at first realize the import of the tickets. Since they were handed out to all of us, that means that when we all go to the game, we'll all sit together, yet another chance for neighbors to get to know each other. That game is tonight, and unfortunately I have a class to teach, but I passed the tickets to my friend Chris who USED to live in my duplex, so close enough!
The intent of the event was also to gather names and phone numbers to organize a neighborhood watch. I'm up for that. We are lucky in that our neighborhood is fairly safe. Crimes on surrounding streets have been car theft, but as far as I know, not on our street, and no break-ins or the like. My only experience of crime on this street has been that someone once stole swim goggles from my unlocked car. If you know of anyone in possession of black market swim goggles, email me.
And thanks to neighbors Sharon, Paula and Roger for organizing Neighborhood Night Out.