Thursday, September 09, 2010

Garden Bounty

When we stepped outside this morning to water the garden, there was a slight chill to the air. Not cold by any means, but not hot like it has been for months, the heat and the humidity present regardless of what the clock read. I realized that fall is on its way, and there won't be many more weeks of watering the garden left. Many of our tomato plants have already begun to shrivel. We're in a losing battle with squash bugs. The overly prolific cucumber plants have only a little left to give. The okra is no longer impossible to keep up with. Our garden--Jeff's garden to be honest--has a few more meals to give us, but then it will be done. I will miss its bounty.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A Beautiful Day for a Neighbor

For the four years that Jeff and I lived together in D.C., we lived in a condo building that had eleven units. It wasn't big, but somehow it wasn't small either. Though I recognized the cars in our lot--a green Escort sticks out in my mind--I couldn't have put driver with car. There were only a few people in my building that I could recognize with certainty. I didn't know any of them. In the four years we lived in our unit, we never knew the people with whom we shared a wall. On the day we moved out, as we loaded up the moving truck with our couch and TV, sheets and towels, they introduced themselves to us. I don't know if they thought we were moving in or they were doing that D.C. thing--the thing you do on the Metro when you see someone you know but you avoid making eye contact with them until you're about to get off and then, as you walk toward the door, you stop next to them, say hi, and then exit.

Though there are things about D.C. that I miss, I don't miss that. I don't miss the distance people kept, the preference for not making eye contact and not saying hello, the bubbled existence. When I'm asked how I like living in Durham compared to how I liked living in D.C., this is the difference that most readily pops into my head. Here I have neighbors who are not just people who live next door. Here I have neighbors that I say wave to and stop to say hello to, neighbors whose houses I've had dinner at, neighbors who I've gone to ball games with or walked to Ninth Street with for ice cream.

So this past weekend, in celebration of neighbors and in hopes of meeting more, Jeff and I hosted a block party. About half of the residents on our twenty house block came. They brought homemade pickles and store bought cake, homemade hummus and store bought chicken salad. We set up tables and chairs, lit citronella candles (oh, the mosquitoes here), and grilled hamburgers. Neighbors we knew came, and neighbors we hadn't yet met came. We ranged in age from twenty-five to senior citizen. We were born and raised in this area, and we were from as far away as Honduras. We had moved in last month, and we had lived on this street when the first houses were built here. I met a neighbor who runs a popular local blog, the man to go to when I want to know what they're doing with that empty building downtown or when the new restaurant I heard about it going to open. I met a neighbor with nine-year-old quadruplets (!!!). I met a neighbor who promised to alert me to any and all Greek festivals and to bring me some of any Greek pastries she might make.

We came from different backgrounds and had different interests, but we were united by where we live. Each of us shared a love of older houses and all the character they have, a preference for urban living over suburbia, a desire to live in close proximity to restaurants and bars, the farmers market and Durham Bulls. Our neighbors arrived at 5:30, mixing and mingling over the course of the evening. As it got later, people drifted off, but at 10:30, a group of us were still sitting there, chatting, snacking, finishing off a bottle of wine and a growler of beer.

There's lots of things I've come to like about Durham. I enjoy Durham Bulls baseball games, Saturday mornings at the Farmer's Market, picnics at Duke Gardens. I like the city's diversity and the way it prides itself on being a little bit funky. I like all the local restaurants and the many food trucks. I like the DLC and the library's culture series and finding good talks to go to at Duke. But most of all, I like the people that call Durham home, and I like that I have a really good set of them to call my neighbors.