The good news: It turns out that my house is really hard to break into.
The bad news: Last night, I was lucky enough to be heading out for a girls’ night out with a group of the incredibly fun women who live in my neighborhood: Burgers at the Abbey, then IN THE HEIGHTS at the Hippodrome. I was excited. So excited that when they knocked on my door, I threw it open, bounded out — and realized that I had just locked my keys inside, something I have not done in eight years of living in this house.
After making several attempts to get into my house — the only thing I didn’t try was going over the roofs or up the fire escape because I knew my office window was locked — I gave up and called a locksmith, then waited at another neighbor’s house while the other women continued to dinner in the neighborhood. A very nice man arrived within 45 minutes, took off the lock and re-keyed it and I was able to make the second portion of the evening. So the title of this piece is a bit of a misnomer: No cheeseburger for me, although my neighbors were thoughtful enough to get me a brownie to go. And I’m really happy I saw IN THEN HEIGHTS because it might help me with a secret project down the road. (Not a novel, not my project, but something I’ve been asked to consider contributing to, and it could happen.)
Everyone knows the Robert Frost line about good fences. But I live in a neighborhood of rowhouses, where we live side-by-side. The only fences we have are behind our houses, surrounding the tiny “yards,” which usually contain no more than garbage bins and air conditioning compressors. During the recent one-two blizzard punch, I was away. I arrived home to find out that my neighbors had shoveled out my walk and steps. They also had rescued a valuable package that UPS had left behind the locked gate on the alley, grabbing it right before the second snowstorm, which might have destroyed the contents.
Now, some people might not know this, but THE REAL HOUSEWIVES franchise on Bravo originally started with some vague semi-sociological ambitions about depicting life in gated communities. No, seriously. And I won’t lie, there are moments — this morning, for example, when I opened my door to grab the paper and saw a young man relieving himself in the vacant lot across the street before getting into a very nice car with his friends and heading out in the morning — when there’s a little too much of what Flaubert called dans le vrai. (An aside: Every Sunday morning, a wave of homeless men walk down my street after eating a free breakfast at a neighborhood church. They are pleasant and courteous and would NEVER do something like this, yet the frat boy element in our neighborhood does it all the time.) (Sorry to use frat boy as stereotype/slur.)
But I don’t know. Don’t fences — and gates — make it easier to be a good neighbor? And I’d happily pay $338 to be reminded that I live in an actual community, where people look out for one another.
The Heights have nothing on my ‘hood.
Memories of your life as a neighbor, please. Preferably happy ones, but crankiness is always acceptable, too.