Re: Neighborly

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Or maybe it's just that I've finally come to see the value of it.

Well, let us in on the secret.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:00 AM
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Being a suburban dad, I would say that many (which is to say, my) neighborhood are not built for the kind of casual contact one found in "old school" neighborhoods back in the day. No porches or sidewalks. Kids don't play outside, especially in the front yard, which would draw adult closer to the other homes in the neighborhood. People now treat their houses as a refuge from real life, rather than as a gateway towards neighborly contact. People also don't make time for the kind of ad hoc conversations that make good neighbors.

Then again, it's probably me.


Posted by: Hugh | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:04 AM
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I say hello to mine in the street, but that's about it.

One of our sets of neighbours [a retired couple] we know a bit better. They've had us round for drinks a few times, introduced us to their [grown-up] kids, etc.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:05 AM
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We've known some of our neighbors in both places we've lived in the last 10 years- apartment building and 2-family house, both in the city. Didn't know any neighbors growing up in suburbia- in fact, they were often viewed as enemies, putting up ugly fences or doing loud construction.
Also, part of knowing our neighbors now is that we have a dog, so we're often out in the yard or walking around the block, and it's easy to meet other neighbors who also have dogs.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:09 AM
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Growing up, we probably knew almost everyone in the street [50 - 60 houses or so] and a significant percentage of the people from the surrounding streets.

It wasn't until I moved to the city in my twenties that I didn't know the bulk of my neighbours for quite a distance around. Given some of the people who were my neighbours, this wasn't necessarily a good thing.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:15 AM
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I know the people in the second-floor apartment of my row house, but not the third floor. I'm about to get to know them better, because I'm going to ask them to go in on internet together...

There's an old guy next door whom I know because he always knocks on people's doors when their cars are about to be towed on street cleaning day. He also sunbathes on the fire escape while listening to funny mixtapes (actual tapes!) and wears jeans shorts cut off in a pirate-like zigzag fashion.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:18 AM
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My one next door neighbor is a woman in her 80s whose (shut-in) husband died last year. I got to know her helping get her husband back up to his walker a couple of times after falls. I go over pretty regularly now to help her get boxes down from the closet, get stuff in from her trunk, help her hang curtains, etc. The neighbors on the other side I know well enough to chat with when we're out in the cul-de-sac, and we've helped each other saw up fallen trees and such, but we don't really socialize per se. I've met the rest of the street and a decent chunk of the folks on the other two streets that make up our little subdivision because the neighborhood has a cookout twice a year, but I couldn't reliably get their names right.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:22 AM
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Living in the home I grew up in, I know 7 of the 9 households on this street. I'm only friendly with one (old friends of my mom and sister). 5 I say hi to and no more. One just died. Even in slow-moving small town life, none of the houses are occupied by the old families I remember (the one who died was the last).

In small towns you know everyone but politely avoid most of them, and usually that's OK because they're politely avoiding you too. I could probably have 200-300 friends here, though, if I wanted to put time into it. That's what church ladies do. I'm regarded as standoffish, though that's not unusual around here.

Bourdieu says that it's characteristic of professionals not to associate much with their neighbors, but to affiliare with dispersed communities with no geographical definition. I think that the same factors tend to separate professionals from their kin.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:23 AM
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As I just said to Dsquared, the social capital around here is so thick that it could kill you.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:24 AM
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We know lots of our neighbors. Part of that is that it's that kind of neighborhood -- everyone with dogs knows each other because we walk our dogs in the same park, and through the dog walker we all use, everyone with kids around the same age met in the playgrounds, people know each other through the community gardens, and so forth -- and the other part is that Buck talks to everyone. He's never really internalized the NY 'don't talk to strangers' thing.

It's nice. The kids have enough friends in the building that they can go wandering off to each others' apartments without a lot of fanfare; walking to school in the morning I probably see four people to say hi to, and so on.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:27 AM
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When I was home over Christmas, I realized that my parents no longer know any of their neighbors. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that there aren't any kids on the street anymore so people aren't arranging playdates and asking neighbor kids to babysit. It's really unfortunate. Also, there aren't any more neighborhood cookouts or parties anymore. Very sad.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:27 AM
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I have no kids, no spouse, no pets. I have lived in a big apartment building for the last 7 years. I don't know anyone who lives here.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:29 AM
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When I was a kid, we knew all of our neighbors on Beacon Hill. When we moved to the suburbs, we weren't as connected.

My current neighborhood is largely transient and is mostly apartment buildings. There are a lot of loud college students. I live here, because it's cheap, but I wouldn't if I could afford it, and that may be why I'm not invested in knowing my neighbors. I generally try to socialize elsewhere.

The two fanciest neighborhoods in Boston, the Back Bay and Beacon Hill, both have strong neighborhood associations with socializing events. We don't have anything like that in Boston. The South End probably has one too. They've also got stairs in front of the houses that are good for sitting on in the summer.

As Jane Jacobs observed years ago, the North End is pretty vibrant, because it has a bunch of cafes and bakeries mixed in and the streets are walkable. It's also the safest neighborhood to walk around in at night, since all of the crime is organized.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:30 AM
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I got to know my left-side neighbor, Mr. Jefferson, pretty well when I was growing up. He was really nice. He would play all sorts of games with us, like Doctor, King Neptune, Naked Bobsled....


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:30 AM
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I live in an apartment, and I don't really know my neighbors, except from what can be gleaned through overhearing them. Neighbor downstairs watches soccer matches very loudly on the weekends. Neighbor next door practices his bass guitar. Neighbor in the next building has an annoying yappy dog.

I tend to agree with Hugh that I see my apartment as a refuge from other people. Also, being friendly with neighbors might encourage them to drop by unannounced, which is never a good thing.


Posted by: pasdquoi | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:32 AM
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My parents have a big flat backyard. This was not all that common in my hometown, so when I was a little kid, playing outside in the summer mostly happened in our backyard. (This suited my parents fine. We could play, they knew where we were.) I knew the names of all of the neighbors on our street. Some of them came to the wedding. One family holds the annual Christmas party/cookie exchange. The street just had a big sendoff for one of the older women who is moving into an assisted living facility.

Now I live in an apartment and while I know most of my neighbors by sight, I don't have their names and phone numbers and know how their kids are doing, and there aren't any cookie parties.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:33 AM
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A lot of it is whether you live in a place with at least one social-nucleus/busybody. Buck's smallish apartment building, when I met him, was very social with each other. It hadn't been until a few years before, when they'd had a couple of break-ins, and James, the guy who lived in the first floor front apartment decided that everyone would be safer and better off if they were all better acquainted and knew who belonged in the building. He started calling building meetings, and throwing parties, and so on, and by the time I met Buck James had whipped the building into a pleasant little loosely organized community. Nothing crazy, but everyone knew everyone's name, and socialized some.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:33 AM
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*with the other eleven kids in the neighborhood in the backyard, too.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:35 AM
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The South End probably has one too. They've also got stairs in front of the houses that are good for sitting on in the summer.

I love going to brunch in the South End, walking by all the little groups of gay men hanging out on the stoops with their bulldogs.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:36 AM
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We know most of our neighbors. We live in the city. Our street has a huge July 4th block party.

We have a big fenced-in side yard that is somewhat unusual for our area. However, the kids and I try to throw the football in the front yard instead of the side yard so we can see people.

My 12 yr old son goes over to our next door neighbors all the time to hang out. (They are 55ish with no kids.)


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:36 AM
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Also, being friendly with neighborsanybody might encourage them to drop by unannounced, which is never a good thing.

That's better.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:37 AM
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Plus, it is hard to not know who we are, with a sometime screaming 15 year old girl who isnt afraid of getting naked in public.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:38 AM
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A friend of mine from Louisville talks fondly of the annual chili dinner in his childhood neighborhood. Everyone in the neighborhood makes a pot of chili, brings it to the event, and mixes it into a giant master chili pot. He swears this isn't gross.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:39 AM
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We used to look after our downstairs neighbour's cat for her, too. So we chat to her a fair bit [although I wouldn't say we actually like her much, there's a fair bit of mutual, although mild, disapproval].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:39 AM
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I know/knew an old lady in Wolvercote who had a large-ish and lovely garden in the back of her house, but she preferred to sit in the front of her cottage so that she could say hello to the neighbors.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:40 AM
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re: 25

In Oxford? Or is there a Wolvercote elsewhere?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:41 AM
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Yup, in Oxford.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:41 AM
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That's why I said garden rather than yard, since I know that yard means something (what exactly, I don't know) not terribly polite in English English.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:42 AM
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Though there could be. We have a New York, a New Jersey, a New Hampshire, and even a New London. Not our fault you were early adopters.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:42 AM
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Yup, Oxford Mississippi. You know that lady?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:45 AM
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I know/knew an old lady in Wolvercote who had a large-ish and lovely garden in the back of her house, but she preferred to sit in the front of her cottage so that she could say hello to the neighbors.

I think we have discussed this before, but garages really hinder socializing with your neighbors. We always park in our garage so we have to make an effort to go out front to see the neighbors.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:46 AM
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My home town is called New Florence. No record of any Italian settlers ever, though.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:48 AM
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31: The entire design of modern suburbs works this way, really. Closed garages, large frontage, no sidewalks, no retail buildings fenced off back yards, etc.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:50 AM
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[The North End] is also the safest neighborhood to walk around in at night, since all of the crime is organized.

Fleur used to live in the North End, and she has some great stories in this regard. But I'll leave that to her.

We know all of our neighbors and socialize with them regularly. Most of that is a credit to Fleur, who keeps up the relationships. There are several families with children in roughly the same age bracket, and they all play together, but the neighborliness goes beyond that. We have neighborhood block parties, everyone invites all the neighbors when they are having a big gathering, we go out with our neighbors, everyone looks in after the old people, etc. It's close to the town center, so people actually walk places and encounter one another. It's a great neighborhood.

You might think that this is just one of the benefits of living in a posh suburb, but the reality is that much or even most of our town is not like our neighborhood. We live at the cusp of the most working class part of town (evil gentrifiers, we), and a lot of the families nearby have been in their houses for generations.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:50 AM
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no sidewalks

That's legal?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:51 AM
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33:

True. We are in the City though.

We also make up for the lack of visibility by having large windows in the front of the house and a glass door. I suspect that the neighbors have learned to avoid looking at our house so as to minimize the possibility of seeing me in "what lies beneath."


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:53 AM
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35: Yes, in any low-density suburban area there's unlikely to be any sidewalks.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:53 AM
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Ah, ttaM, I should have specialized to `The typical north american modern suburb'. Yes, they have few sidewalks. Why would you need sidewalks when there is nowhere to walk too, by design. It's a car culture.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:54 AM
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I know a few neighbors - last night while taking out the trash I chatted a bit with a neighbor who was doing the same. I'm not a super-social type, but I've decided that I ought to work to be at least as well-regarded in my neighborhood as Jeffrey Dahmer was in his.

Jeffrey Dahmer's neighbors, for example, told reporters: "He was shy, a little withdrawn. But not real bizarre," and that, "he never bothered anyone."


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:55 AM
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re: 38

Some of the 'new towns' in the UK are quite car orientated, too. They still have pavements or footpaths, though.

The idea that there'd be none at all strikes me as ... crazy.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:57 AM
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There has been a push for more bike paths in suburbia.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:58 AM
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39: Oh yeah, you reminded me that there is *one guy* in our neighborhood that has no contact with anyone else. We always joke that one day we will be the neighbors on the evening news saying "He was a quiet type. Kept to himself, mostly. I can't believe he had 30 corpses in his basement."


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 7:59 AM
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39. Indeed. A murder is not a proper murder withoout a press quote from some neighbour saying, "He kept himself to himself".


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 8:00 AM
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When we lived in France, everyone warned us that we would never get to know our neighbors, that Parisians are utterly uptight and contemptuous of Americans, etc. In fact, we had lovely neighbors in our building with whom we regularly socialized and are still in occasional contact.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 8:03 AM
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I was getting a car alarm installed at a store in Burlington, MA, and decided to walk across the street to the mall to kill time until the car was ready. Not possible- you're not supposed to walk anywhere, apparently, there were no sidewalks or crosswalks and you had to risk your life crossing a 4-lane road, sliding down a hill, and hiking across the mall parking lot.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 8:04 AM
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ttaM, it's time to get out your button again, regarding sidewalks. The dominant political/development ideology where my parents live (which is one of the super-fast-growing areas of the last 20 years) seems to be to get as many barriers as possible out of the way of developers, so that there will be more development, thus a bigger tax base, thus lower taxes. "Barriers" includes things like pesky requirements for sidewalks, or sewer connections. The fact that these new developments then requires services that cost tax dollars is always carefully elided.

Growing up, we were friendly with the other two units in the triple-decker we lived in, to the point that I frequently got cookies from the old woman on the first floor, and asked her inappropriate questions in that wonderful childlike way. Later, we lived in a rural area where "neighbors" meant "lived within half a mile", and 3 out of the 4 were family, so we knew them.

Currently, I know the person on the third floor of my house (I'm in the first), and have met the second-floor people a couple of times, but they keep changing. I don't really know the rest of the area, which is a shame, because it's a nice place - we just seem to be in the renter's ghetto corner of it.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 8:07 AM
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Burlington's kind of pathological that way. I once found myself on that road while bicycling, which was terrifying.
You can sort-of walk to the mall from the office parks in the other direction, on sidewalks, but once you get *to* the mall there's no reasonable footpath to actually get in.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 8:10 AM
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Cumbernauld and Milton Keynes are both new towns that follow the planning idea that footpaths and roads are separated. So, while there are footpaths connecting everywhere, they aren't 'sidewalks' [they don't follow the route of the roads].

I'd like to meet the person who came up with that, so I could repeatedly run him over.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 8:19 AM
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ttaM, it is crazy. It's also the prevailing design. It's really a study in the damage possible from shortsighted decisions with long term consequences.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 8:19 AM
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Since I live at the crossroads of a one traffic light village, aroudn the corner from the vonlunteer fire house, both churches and three doors from the convenience store, and spend my weekends cruising on foot and bicycle with a very gregarious four-year-old, I've met almost all the neighbors who venture outdoors. There's a 12-unit public housing apartment directly next door, and the rest of the neighborhood is single family homes, some of them mansions, or duplexes. Happily my son doesn't yet perceive the class differences, although I think the kids his age from the apartment are more aware of it.

My wife and I lived here twelve years before our son was born and in that time made very few acquaintances.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 8:20 AM
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re: 49

If find it hard to comprehend. It's obviously insane. It's so obvious that a 4 year old could spot it. I can't believe that it wasn't obvious to the planners -- incentives for developers or no.

That is, I find the reasoning process that would lead to that sort f shortsighted decision somewhat bizarre.*

* I can think of similar ones here, too. The footpaths separate from roads one, for example.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 8:23 AM
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The town next to mine had sidewalks and all the children walked to school. Ours didn't have sidewalks, and many kids were bused to school. We walked on the side of the road or in the neighbors' lawns. It was low traffic enough that it really wasn't a problem.

Fences in front yards weren't permitted.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 8:25 AM
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My sister-in-law is one of the most social people alive. She knows everyone on her street quite well; several of the families have little kids who play together, but she would know them all regardless.

The kids are constantly in and out of each other's yards and houses, and when the weather's good, the parents have Friday happy hours in one of the front yards.

She knows many dozens of others in the neighborhood, from nodding acquaintances on up. She can give an impressive family history on most of them and on many others she knows only secondhand. She's not a busybody, but just endlessly interested in other people (and has an impressive memory).

People drop by all the time to pick up/drop off kids, borrow/return something, or just because they were passing by. Her front door is always unlocked during the day.

She is, in other words, the person I fancy I would like to be, except that I'm a misanthrope.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 8:40 AM
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We know a couple of our neighbors to wave at and we've introduced ourselves to them but we don't really socialize. The neighbor on one side has been recovering from a massive stroke for the whole time we've been here and he's very friendly but has some trouble with speech so I don't try to push a lot of socializing on him. The neighbor on the other side we never, ever see. We thought his house was unoccupied for the first couple of years we lived here and we only see him every few weeks now that we see him at all. In the time we've lived here the house across the street has been occupied by three different couples, all of whom we get on well with but other than a wave or a hello in the street we don't hang out.

The biggest social event of our neighborhood is Halloween. This year on Halloween we met tons and tons of people from our neighborhood for the first time.

That said, our neighborhood has a very active listserv so I do exchange a lot of email with them.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 8:41 AM
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51: It's not actually bizzare, it's just a question of whose goals are being served. In the place I described, for example, the superficial goal was to be able to say "lower taxes!" to the voting public with a nearly-straight face, while raking in kickbacks and favors from developers.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 8:42 AM
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As for growing up, I was in a highly rural area but nearly everyone was our relative so we knew everyone, and I mean everyone, including the two families that were related to one another but not to us.

Largely we knew them for having an active shooting feud.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 8:45 AM
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I now know the residents of the two other apartments in my building. (Well, I have two of the three names down, and I know the third guy well enough that I would know his name if I were better with names.) But I don't socialize with them much or anything, we mostly just say hi or exchange small talk, and I don't know the people in the houses on either side. I've lived there for about two years. My parents know about half of the dozen or so families on their street, which is kind of a half-suburban neighborhood in design. They only moved there about seven years ago now.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 8:57 AM
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Neighbors? I barely even know the housemates.

We do have a fairly active neighborhood association that meets over city politics, throws pancake breakfasts in the boulevard divider, ets. I don't know any of them, but they can be hard to miss.

I found the dog phenomenon to be very true though when a former couple of housemates got a pug. Folks wouldn't know me when I walked him, but they sure knew [I don't know why I'm protecting a dog's anonymity, but one can't be too careful].


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 9:02 AM
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I'm in a weird position because everyone older than about 40 knew my mom, my dad, one of my brothers and sisters, or even me, but very few younger than 40, and people who know me mostly know me from 40+ years ago. I'm like the Faulkner character who mysteriously returned from Away.

My mother was a low-pressure church lady and had a coterie of visitors and admirers. She did make a point of not letting other people monopolize her time.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 9:05 AM
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Several million pugs have been kidnapped and sacrificed in Satanic rituals. People laugh about dog-stalkers -- until it's their own dog that's on the milk carton.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 9:08 AM
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I talk to the other people in my rowhouse, and I'm on nodding "hello" basis with many of the people in the adjacent rowhouses, but I did just move in here about three months ago. (And I'm perhaps the lilywhitest thing on this block.)

Still, no matter how I try to meet the neighbors and get involved and whatnot, I'm NEVER going to be rooted into a community like my parents are. My mother's been in that neighborhood for almost SIxTY years now. She grew up with, went to church with, babysat, hired babysitters from every household in a four-block radius---or at the very minimum, she's toured the house when it was for sale. And in their own quietly "isn't it funny how some people choose to live?" way, my parents are terrible busybodies; sitting down for a nice long gossip session with them is really something.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 9:17 AM
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I credit tobacco for a lot of the socializing that's gone on in my past. I lived in one apartment complex in texas where there were 8 apartments in a building. The important social part was that I lived on the upper floor and all the doors opened off a wooden deck. We set up a plastic table and chairs out there to sit and smoke, and within a couple months I was hanging out with my neighbors, not just to smoke, but like, going out on the weekends together. It was fun. I've never known any of my neighbors since.

Also, I met a bunch of friends in law school standing around outside smoking. It's an odd world.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 9:18 AM
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53: Another thing about Sir Kraab's sister-in-law is that she's not shy at all about introducing herself to people and actually talking to them about herself and about themselves in a friendly and unassuming way.

So not only does she know everyone in and around her neighborhood, she seems to also know everyone who works at or spends any time in every store/restaurant/etc that she frequents. And not just know their names, but know about their families, their work, how long they've been in Austin, etslutera, etslutera, etslutera. It really is pretty damn amazing.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 9:31 AM
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We know our next-door neighbors reasonably well. In the four years we've lived here, they've had us over twice, and we've had them over twice. He helped us build a fence, which was pretty damned neighborly.

Everyone else on our street I know by sight if not by name. We're just not that friendly. I think if we ever have kids we might try to make friends with some adorable families on the next street over.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 9:50 AM
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My mom would interrogate new people who moved into the neighborhood. She meant no harm, but it took one guy aback at first.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 9:54 AM
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Kids and unscheduled time are social lubricants; years when I'd run from meeting to meeting I didn't know whether or not people had moved out. We're friendly with our elderly neighbors, despite her being the one who kept sidewalks out of our end of the street years ago.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 10:03 AM
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I credit tobacco the anti-secondhand smoke nazis for a lot of the socializing that's gone on in my past.

You're welcome.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 10:06 AM
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I've only spoken to a couple of my neighbors; one of them borrowed a corkscrew from me once, which I thought was an interestingly (and unusually) neighborly thing to do. When I was growing up we knew most of the people on our block, and my mom still does (different people now, mostly).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 10:10 AM
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I think I've almost always liked my neighbors. I've never become super close friends with any of them, to the point of "let's go out and do stuff together." But I can think of at least 4-5 neighbors who I have really enjoyed talking to over the fence or across the street, and a couple who I've enjoyed hanging out with over a beer in the evenings.

Lucky, I guess.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 10:12 AM
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64.1: good neighbors make good fences. Sorry, had to.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 10:12 AM
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We thought his house was unoccupied for the first couple of years we lived here and we only see him every few weeks now that we see him at all.

You should find out if his middle name is Wayne. If so, run away.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 10:25 AM
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Ours is a pretty awesome neighborhood. We know most of our neighbors well enough to chat in the street, borrow tools, swap plants and that kind of thing. There are several we hang out with regularly, and we and our next-door and across-the-street neighbors all have keys to each other's houses.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 10:33 AM
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We thought his house was unoccupied for the first couple of years we lived here and we only see him every few weeks now that we see him at all.

Grow house, yo.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 10:42 AM
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I usually invite upstairs & downstairs to any of the bigger parties I throw, and usually some do actually come, so I often get to know them that way. (whether or not that is a good thing, well).

The habit of always saying 'hello' on the stairwell or by the mailboxes goes a surprisingly long way in establishing a little solidarity.

The best way for me to get to know neighbors is to have smokers, who don't smoke indoors. We have a rotating population of visiting professors from Shanghai in the apartment next to mine, and I really miss the one before now, who was sweet but henpecked (I could sometimes hear his wife or daughter yelling through the walls), and would go out for a cigarette to get peace of mind. He's the only neighbor with whom I had a neighborly pact (taking in each other's packages, etc) in this building. I miss.

I guess it's time to make the effort with another neighbor now. I find usually other people won't initiate, but once you do the initiating for them they are usually really happy about it.

(like Blume, I also have shared wireless routers with neighbors in several different apartments)


Posted by: mrmf | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 10:47 AM
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I also have shared wireless routers with neighbors in several different apartments

Sure, but you don't have to even meet them to do that.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 10:51 AM
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71, 73: What if his name is Wayne and it's a grow house?

One of the most amusing neighborhood interactions I've had was when a very friendly but very thin cat started coming around without tags. I sent an email message to the neighborhood list describing her and asking if she were anyone's, noting that if I didn't hear a claim of ownership I'd be glad to take her to the vet to have her scanned for a microchip or a tattoo or something. I got back four distinct claims of ownership. Happily, she also got a set of tags shortly after.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 11:14 AM
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I got back four distinct claims of ownership

Did you take the Solomonic route of suggesting that the cat be divided into quarters?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 11:33 AM
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Don't be silly, Knecht, she was far too thin to serve four. I made them fight amongst themselves, safe in the knowledge that with enough starchy vegetables in the stew she could be stretched to feed two.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 11:43 AM
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We know all the neighbors with young kids in a 2 block radius, and we hang out a reasonable amount. We have a fair amount in common, with almost half of us teaching or working at one of the universities around.

There's not a few times when I've been doing some job in the driveway and handed out beers to guys who showed up with their kids until there was 5 or 6 of us standing around drinking beer and watching paint dry (literally!). I just missed a guys night out that sounds like it was a lot of fun. I've done a bit of biking with guys in my neighborhood, also. My wife organized a weekly byo barbeque, and we swap making dinner for multiple families a couple nights a week.

But there is an earlier generation of families with kids mostly in college. They never said boo to us when we moved in and we have never even exchanged pleasantries, which I find odd. But I'm midwestern that way.


Posted by: spaz | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 11:47 AM
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We live in a weird little neighborhood in San Francisco that's mostly young professionals starting families who've moved in over the past five or ten years mixed with working class families who've owned homes there forever. (I call it "the land of dogs, dykes, and diapers.")

We know our neighbors to wave and howdy to, but we don't really socialize with them.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 12:04 PM
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My mom would interrogate new people who moved into the neighborhood

Alas, this is a great deal of what I got in this neighborhood at first, it being white, 95% homeowners, probably 60% retired and the remainder 40-somethings with teenagers. Mostly conservative.

My roommate and I are, in contrast, childless, hippie-ish renters.

Conversation with them consists chiefly of house and landscape upkeep, and once a year or so someone decides to discuss with us the state of our hedges and such.

I have had some fruitful gardening discussions with them, but damn they're pushy with the herbicides and insecticides, not comprehending the word "organic."


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 12:23 PM
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We know some of our neighbors to say hi, and we chat with the next-door neighbors fairly regularly. (We see their cat a lot more than we see them -- he got booted from the house when he started getting bitey with the kids and has taken up semi-permanent residence in our yard.) People do walk around our part of El Suburb quite a bit, especially since there's a market right down the street. No block parties or anything like that, though that may start changing as the first generation to own houses here move out and more families with little kids start moving in.


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 12:39 PM
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The neighbors on one side of me are a rather odd middle-aged couple with a pair of lawn jockeys at either side of their driveway and who, shortly after we moved in, shared with UNG the charming tale of how the husband shot the dogs for crapping in the wrong place or some similar canine offense.

The neighbors on the other side are a sweet old pair of snowbirds.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 12:53 PM
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Ho ho ho, Magpie. If you want to get in on the oldskool El Suburb gossip, you've got to get in with my folks. If you see a grumpy-looking man in his sixties rummaging around in the free books bin in the recycling center, that could be him!


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 1:14 PM
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We've been here 59 years now, and some guy who just moved in called the police on us because a contractor left his trailer parked in front for a month before he started working on our house. He didn't say a word to us directly, but left a message with another new guy across the street whom we barely know.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 2:26 PM
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I live in an apartment complex that comprises two duplexes and two four-apartment two-level buildings. The duplexes face a small courtyard that one of the neighbors has put a lot of landscaping work into, with no help from the landlord. It's a nice micro-neighborhood -- people take care of each other's animals, and there's a table and a small stove that people sit around. Other Angelenos are pretty surprised by the arrangement; it's rare.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01-22-08 5:34 PM
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In my family it's my father who has the ability to strike up conversations with any random stranger and know their lifestory in two minutes. Myself, I don't mind not knowning my neighbours all that much, though we're sort of friendly with a couple of them (looked after the upstairs neighbour's fish, next door but one's cat etc.) This is helped by our gardens all bordering each other.

The neighbourhood as a whole is somewhat anonymous, with a sprinkling of older, not very social echt Amsterdammers (a most obnoxious race), lots of Turkish and Moroccan families and a few artsy and yuppie types on starter houses.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 1:06 AM
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62: I credit tobacco for a lot of the socializing that's gone on in my past.

I agree completely, and even somewhat cynically. It's a good way to join a group of people, or even just strike up a conversation. Somehow, I always "forget my lighter" when I don't know many people at a party and I see a group of smokers off to the side.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-23-08 7:40 AM
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