I heard Lawrence Lessig speak at a Web 2.0 conference some years back, and he made a point that resonated with me: if you’ve got a family with alcoholic, abusive, unemployed parent, it’s not really going to help to try to address the abuse or the unemployment alone: as long the alcoholism is there, all the other problems will remain. And the same goes for the corruption that political donations have on our electoral system: until you solve the way money influences our legislature and executive branch, all the other issues we’re wrestling with, healthcare, the economy, civil rights, will remain.
On a very local level, I feel the same way about our relationship with our neighbors: crime, zoning conflict, noise complaints, dog’s on or off-leash in the park: these are all things people are concerned about, but they’re symptoms, in some ways, of our disconnection from our neighbors.
Which is why I’m such a fan of National Night Out. On Aug 7th, all over the country, streets will be blocked off, card tables set up, lawn chairs pulled, casseroles baked, jello jelled and neighbors will gather for an evening of simple connection. You and your block can participate, too! Talk to your neighbors and decide how you’d like to do it: is it a potluck? Games for kids? Or just sit on the curb and talk to each other? Whatever works.
What, you don’t know your neighbors well enough to organize it? OK, that’s the point. You should. Or, to be a bit less preachy, maybe you’d enjoy it if you took the risk and got to know them better.
You can register your block on the Seattle SPD’s Night Out web site, but honestly, that’s not going to buy you much. The important thing is to talk to your neighbors and agree to enjoy it together.
In years past, we’ve visited half a dozen to a dozen separate Night Out parties, Baby Z towed behind in bicycle trailer, and every one has its own delicious character: the pie-eating contests of Corliss, the lawn chair circle on Densmore, the live band up near Keystone, and the simple kids games and pleasant banter of 2nd Ave NE. Oh, and the food. From last year:
When you’re travelling to so many block parties in one night, you need to be careful about what you eat and drink. Nonetheless, special mention goes to the Massaged Kale Salad over on 43rd, the homemade blueberry ice cream up on 46th and Corliss, the homeade strawberry ice cream further down south, the sushi and bratwurst on 1st Ave. The best way to have a buffet meal: spread it out across a neighborhood. You titrate your eating and drinking.
So, are you in? Or are you waiting for your neighbors to make the first move? Make it happen! Ring the doorbells. Poke people on Facebooks. And save me a glass of wine and some of that massage kale salad.