|new button yo!|
Imagine that for a moment. Think about how strange it would be to walk around your neighborhood and every time you saw someone you went up to them and had a 20 minutes conversation.
By contrast, we lived for 2.6 years in the sunny little beach town of Oceanside and when we left we didn’t know the name of a single person on our whole street. The woman who lived across the street from us for all those years came out as we were about to disembark and told us she was sorry to see us go because we were “quiet neighbors.”
The majority of interactions with our Oceanside neighbors involved a pack of teenage boys, lead by our 38ish year old, dread-locked neighbor, skateboarding off a plywood ramp at 4am on a Tuesday. There was also, picking up McDonald’s wrappers, beer cans, cigarette cartons and various other pieces of trash that were hurled over the white picket fence into our front yard by youths, housewives and marines alike as they walked from their cars to the apartments next door. Not to mention a woman across the street who let herself into the backyard next door to steal fruit from the trees while the residents were at work, the drunken lunatic who used a metal stop sign pole as a battering ram in an attempt to smash his way into his apartment after apparently being locked out by his roommate/lover or the people who would report our cars abandoned when they were parked for more than 8 hours outside our own house, the screaming abusive mother, the body builder marine who punched his girlfriend in the middle of the street at 9:15pm as I stood in the front yard watching, or the neighbors who would from time to time tug on our garage door, just to see if it was unlocked that night to afford an opportunity for easy larson.
I say all this not with the intention of bashing Oceanside, but to note that it was actually one of the safest and most pleasant places I have lived during my 18 years as a California resident (Before Oside I lived by Echo Park and South Central). There are better neighborhoods and better neighbors in Cali to be sure, but things have changed in America recently, and not for the best. The fact that this was normal life to me for so long is staggering now that I’m outside looking back.
There is a tragic loss that happens in the city when people live so close together. They push each other apart. We share so much space in the city that we become obsessed with walls and barricades. Finding any tiny little island of privacy becomes a consuming thought when you can't go more than 30 seconds without hearing the aural byproduct of someone’s rage/lust/entertainment/playtime/life. Humanity collapses in around us and so we retreat inside ourselves, trying to block out the miserable unwavering pressure of humanity around us. When things are quiet, when life is slow, when peace abounds, people seem to look outward, to reach for one another, to build community, in order to share and enjoy life together more fully. (They are also bored) These relationships, these tiny bonds allow people to treat each other better, with more respect and care. People don’t try to harm their neighbor, they live with more harmony, they act more decent, because word spreads fast. And a community of bonded individuals is the best social guidance mechanism on earth. We don’t need more laws and penalties for road rage, parking violations, and petty theft, we just need to get some community back.