On neighborliness

This is kind of random, but over the years I’ve found myself wondering about the concept of neighborliness, and what it means to share a physical community with people.

As a young girl, 3 of my closest friends lived on my street. I could walk a few houses down to play with them, and often did. Our parents took turns babysitting. We invited each other to parties, whether at the neighborhood pool, the clubhouse, or in our own homes. It was a modest row of townhomes, but it felt like the Cleavers. Like the stuff we see on TV.

In middle school, my family moved to a neighborhood that looked more like suburbia, but none of the kids were quite my age. The boys down the street were cute, but too old to be interested in me. The girls nearby needed me as a babysitter, not a friend. My parents introduced themselves to everyone, but no one ever really became our family friends. We waved as we drove by, or said hello as we picked up the newspapers from our lawns, but we didn’t borrow cups of sugar or anything.

College dorms are their own special ecosystem, full of hormones and alcohol and gossip and stress. But they are also the most “neighborly” community I’ve ever lived in. (Especially the freshman dorms.) I could ask anyone for anything — a blowdryer, a snack, a tampon, a condom. I could knock on someone’s door at 2 in the morning if I had an emergency — and often even if I didn’t. I had privacy when I needed it, but I never felt isolated or alone. It was that place where everybody knew your name, and they were always glad you came.

Now I live in a condo complex, a small but diverse, new-ish development. There are lots of old people, a spattering of families, and then several “yuppie” couples like me and Andy. Because I walk Riley so much, we’re minor celebrities in the neighborhood, but honestly I wouldn’t call myself close to anyone here. Or at least not anymore.

The neighbors I thought I was close to — a young couple with a dog and a new baby — recently moved away. Without telling me. Not even a note on the door, or a casual mention that they were looking for a new place. One afternoon I passed by their patio — where we had chatted about football, jobs, TV shows, the dogs, the baby — and all their stuff was gone. A few days later, someone else’s stuff was moved in.

To say I’m sad would be melodramatic. But surprised, certainly. And a little disappointed. Part of me wonders, What’s the point? Why bother reaching out? Maybe modern technology means we don’t need neighborliness anymore. Our family and friends are just a drive, call, or click away.

But part of me clings to the ideal that “home” is about more than four walls and a roof. It’s a place you want to go back to at the end of each day. Obviously the people inside those walls should be ones you love — but shouldn’t the people right outside at least be ones you know? Possibly even like?

Don’t worry, I’m not scarred for life or jaded. (Yet.) In fact, for several weeks I’ll be helping a woman who just had hip surgery by taking her dog out twice a day. I don’t want to be her BFF or anything, but it’s nice to know that there’s someone in my neighborhood who feels comfortable asking for a favor. It’s nice that there’s someone in my neighborhood I feel comfortable doing a favor for. And I’m sure that if either one of us were to move away, we would tell the other.

That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Writerly Wednesday

• From “All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed.” by Silas Dent Zobal…

The title of the essay is a bit… yeah. But the essay itself is great, especially this part:

And here’s the thing: I write about it, over and over again. Every single time that I try, I fail. And finally, almost despite myself, I begin to incorporate the failure into the story. That is, failure becomes part of the mechanism. What else can I do? Maybe if I let my failures begin to dictate my story’s shape — then I can draw a circle around the thing that I have failed to say. Does that make sense to you? Fiction is not about what we can say, it’s about what we can’t. It circles around the subjects that can’t be spoken, and, at best, its form circumscribes the negative space where we imagine the unspeakable to sit. But even this spatial metaphor is a kind of lie that cannot be helped, because the unspeakable cannot sit in a place. There is no place to sit.

• From Scriptnotes, Ep. 36: Writer’s block and other romantic myths (Transcript) – weekly podcast by screenwriters John August (whose blog I read regularly) and Craig Mazin…

I’ve reminded myself before not to aim for perfection. Here’s another reason:

Perfectionism isn’t really perfectionism. You are not perfecting anything. Perfectionism is protectionism. You are protecting yourself, or you are attempting to protect yourself from any sling shot or arrow. Tough. They are coming anyway. They are coming in an unfair way. It’s not fair. Somebody may read it and hate it even though it’s great.

And speaking of John August, I recently saw him in a documentary on Netflix. And speaking of Netflix, I watch a lot of it while I do chores. And because I don’t have enough of an internet presence already, I decided to start a Tumblr about what movies/TV shows I’ve watched and what I think about them. If you enjoy the way I can “analyze” pop culture (like that time I read way more into SATC, Cashmere Mafia, Lipstick Jungle, and Big Shots than anyone probably intended) then feel free to check it out: Me and My Netflix. If not, no worries! It’s a 100% for-fun, dance-like-no-one’s-watching project.

(Man, I have got too many opinions and not enough places to store them.)

Hipster Hills

This past weekend, we celebrated Andy’s birthday by finally doing something we’ve been talking about for years: renting a pet-friendly cabin and taking Riley on vacation with us.

This was our “Honeybee Hideaway,” complete with (fake) well and (real) hot tub.

hocking-fakestagram-01 hocking-fakestagram-02
hocking-fakestagram-03 hocking-fakestagram-04

We spent several hours hiking in Hocking Hills, which was shaded and lovely.

hocking-fakestagram-08 hocking-fakestagram-09
hocking-fakestagram-13 hocking-fakestagram-14

We also got to do a little shopping — mostly crafts and antiques — as well as some nature-watching.

hocking-fakestagram-18 hocking-fakestagram-21
hocking-fakestagram-23 hocking-fakestagram-24

Truth be told, we had fun, but it wasn’t exactly a relaxing weekend. See, Riley is a high-energy, anxious pup to begin with, and then you put him in a car. Add in several hours of winding, bumpy country roads, and you have the perfect recipe for a panting, whiny mess. For his sanity (and ours) we probably will not be repeating this experiment, but it was worth doing once.

Note: The hipster look of these photos was brought to you by this set of Photoshop actions that mimic Instagram. A very neat find that I had way too much fun playing with last night…

What I’ve been up to

The other day, Sonje pointed out that I haven’t talked much about my manuscript or what I’m doing with it these days. The answer: Editing.

Unfortunately, I am the tortoise to her hare. While I have been plodding through the swamp of my first draft, trying to firm up the ground so that readers will have someplace to stand rather than sink, Sonje has proofed 3 out of her 4 Detective Series novels and published them on Amazon. CHASING, ECHOES, and LANDSLIDE are all available for Kindle, with the final book to follow soon. I had the privilege of beta-reading these awhile ago, and let me tell you that they were a blast! If you like snark, sex, and mystery, then Oz is definitely the lesbian private eye for you.

Other than editing, the truth is that I haven’t been up to much. My life is fairly boring — and I mean that in a good way. (God I hope I’m not jinxing this…) My days have a rhythm, a stability that I appreciate. I meet with the We Heart YA girls every week, and Facetime with Erin, and call my folks, and watch sports with Andy, and email my friends, and eat, and read, and go for walks, and sleep. This is essentially what I want the rest of my life to look like — except with someone paying me for my writing, lol. Hopefully I can make that happen sooner rather than later.

Sure, I have stresses and concerns. We all do. And occasionally mine gang up on me and manage to get me down. Thankfully I have a good support network to help me push back up to my feet. I’m never too low for too long.

So anyway, if you don’t hear much about my writing, that’s why. It’s just not interesting to blog about. “I spent a day revising Chapter 6, with a net loss of 97 words. Then I spent another day revising Chapter 7, with a net gain of 14 words. Then I had to go back to Chapter 4, because I forgot to take out…” Blah blah blah you get the point.

There’s a reason you don’t see reality shows about writers. Our daily lives are often dull. We save all the drama and excitement for the page.