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The Urban Coyote之 Block Parties A How To Guide

(2010-04-08 13:18:48)


分类: 翻译

Block Parties: A “How To” Guide

(September 1989)

As I strolled through the neighborhood returning from a Sunday evening run, I was thinking about how burned out I was from a long workweek. And how much of a pleasure it would be to get home and fix dinner and relax with the paper, which I had not yet read, and perhaps watch 60 minutes, and then maybe make a few fund-raising phone calls for a non-profit organization. I was savoring the gift of peace and quiet conferred on me by the absence of Mrs. Coyote and all the Little Coyotes, who were visiting family out of town.

A block from the house, I spied a neighborhood friend sitting on the screened porch of her house reading a book. I hadn’t talked to her for several months. She didn’t see me. Should I say hello, or pass on by to my peaceful dinner, paper, news and fund-raising?

“Hello Ann,” I called. “Hello,” she smiled, and we talked for a minute through the screen. She invited me in. should I accept or rush home for the last half of 60 Minutes?

I went in. As I cooled down on her porch with a glass of ice water, we spend a half-hour discussing each other’s families and the grand political/social/ethical/ecological issues of the day. I finally got up, a bit stiff, and thanked her for the water. She thanked me for stopping in. Then I walked home.

What did that stop cost me? A lot. Time is money, money is time. I missed 60 minutes plus several phone calls.

What did I gain? Not much, as I am sure Ann will agree. We did not solve the ethical/social/political/ecological crises of the day, nor did we even agree whether we should pursue them idealistically or pragmatically. The information we exchanged about our children will not change their lives or ours.

And yet I’m glad I stopped. And that she invited me in. and that we talked.

This kind of gain id not measured in half-hour segments of hard-hitting news and information. Nor is it measured in growth along the career path. It doesn’t enhance our children’s enhance our children’s chances of attending the college of their choice, nor feed the cat, water the grass, call the plumber, wipe the counter, sweep the driveway, fix the car or paint the porch.

We just “caught up,” playing our parts in the slow procession called neighborhood.

A more formal element in the process of neighborhood is the block party, and the two are linked.

Our welcome to this particular neighborhood was cemented by an invitation to a block party on Humboldt Avenue one block from us the year we moved in. That was fifteen years ago, and we still eagerly attend that gathering.

In the beginning, the Humboldt Avenue invitations were handwritten and distributed door by little Kelen and White kids. Now the invitations are laser-printed and distributed by big Kelen and White kids. But the rules are the same. Bring your own food and drink. Grills provided (as long as enough people lend their grills). What a wonderfully simple formula for catching up with old neighbors and meeting new ones while drinking and grilling on the side. Now no one need be strangers in their neighborhood.

For the last decade or so, I have advocated a party on our block since we have benefited so much from the next block’s efforts.

Thanks to Humboldt avenue, I have also learned the few other required procedures:

1)    Call the city clerk. Ask for an application for a “Block Event” permit at least two weeks before the desired date. Send in fifteen dollars, plus the signature of seventy-five percent of the households facing the affected street. On the morning of the event, the Public Works Dept. will deliver barricade used to block automobile access to the street. They’ll pick them up the following day.

2)    Distribute leaflets along the blocks of your choice, giving street name of event, location, time, fee(if any), food type to bring, a rain date.

3)    Prepare a communal dish.

4)    Attend.

Number four often is the hardest part. All of us have higher priorities than neighborliness gnawing at our time, such work and school and vacations to escape from work and school.

All true. So you may have to miss it. But if you do, attend every year you can.

Because the “low priority” benefits of block parties accrue as deep deposits in the community bank. These deposits pay invaluable interest in the form of a sense of belonging and a sense of place.

I am convinced that these payments have lifetime value; therefore, I advise everyone I know to a new neighborhood—a block party If the area consists of private houses, otherwise an apartment “floor party” or “condo party.” My mother started one of these in her retirement condominium in Florida, and it has become a much-anticipated annual event, the only occasion in her building where residents take the time to get to know each other.

This year our block finally threw its party. I pontificated on the subject for years, bur Mrs. Coyote finally organized it.

Was our block party a success?

Well, the scheduled day was the only one in two weeks that threatened a torrential downpour. This was consistent with Mrs. C’s expectations. She should be hired as a rainmaker. Every outdoor event she plans brings ferocious storms. However, it actually only sprinkled that day.

Did anyone show up? Yes, a good crowd, at least half of them new to us from the immediate two-block area.

Did we eat well? Of course. The loaves and fished story is acted out at every block party.

Did we have a good time? Like all parties, this one passed too quickly, and I was able to talk at length to only a few of the new neighbors. One turned out to be an old acquaintance who had been living only a block away for over a year and I didn’t know it.

Will we do it again? Of course. How obvious. A block party? It’s so simple. Next year we will “catch up” again.

Thank you, Kelen and Whites, for the gift of inclusion fifteen years ago. Thank you, Mrs. Coyote, for finally getting it started on our block.

Now who is going to do it on yours? So that when you walk through your neighborhood, tired, burned out, alone, the opportunity for real human contact will be there in every house you pass. So you too can call, “Hello, Ann,” through a screen. You too can receive a smile of recognition in return.


































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