In the neighborhood
For most of my adult life I’ve been a town-dweller without a sense of genuine neighborhood. Subcultures have provided a sense of community, but there just aren’t that many overt Hawkwind fans to be encountered in Chico, and people who own more than one Philip K. Dick novel are equally scarce or just as closeted. Bicycle-wise, I’m more a lone wolf commuter than a weekend pack rider.
I’ve established literary guilds and poetry groups, been an offstage theater person and even hung a one-man art show. Oh yeah, and also played in dozens of bands, from pure country-western to experimental rock. All of these activities were worthy endeavors and healthy ways of promoting public discourse and interaction, but none were the equivalent of grilling up some burgers with the next-door neighbor and shootin’ the breeze about this year’s butternut squash crop.
Anyway, it’s nice to spend some time in actual, physical neighborhoods—communities of genuine friends living in close proximity, who might remove a couple of boards in the fence separating their yards so they can more easily get back and forth to visit. And no, I’m not talking about adolescent gang members but about 30-something homeowners, respectable, productive members of society who share a common appreciation of friendship, live music, barbecued food and good conversation.
I guess what I’m really talking about here is that it is possible and even desirable for people who live close to each other to get to know each other. It beats the hell out of feeling alienated, and potluck dinners are a communal activity that even the staunchest anti-communist can appreciate.
Keep those cards and letters coming in
I’d like to thank those who have sent written responses to the column thus far. Even if you disagree with every word I write, it’s good to reaffirm that this public commentary is a basis for dialectic exchange. Talking to yourself just isn’t that fun or productive, but a civil exchange of ideas can often lead to conflict resolution. I figure if a person’s urge to communicate is strong enough to motivate the rather laborious activity of creating a written document, that person is deep-down optimistic enough to think that what he or she has to say is worth passing along. If you’re brave, honest, appreciative or angry enough to tell me what you think, I can’t guarantee a public response, but all input will be reflected one way or another.
1. Maxine Hong Kingston, The Fifth Book of Peace
2. Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone, Out of the Flames
3. Idries Shah, The Sufis
4. Lester Bangs, Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader