Good Fun Makes Good Neighbors

I had to stop and think for a minute to remember this blog’s URL–it’s been that long since I posted anything in here.  On this, the day after my 52nd birthday, I’ve decided to break silence and post in here, and I’ve jotted down subjects for entries that I hope to post in the (very) near future.

There was a momentous, albeit low-key event toward the end of March.  My landlord sent me the 2014-2015 lease as a .pdf document at work, and I wasted no time in picking up a pen, signing the lease, and faxing it back to him.  So, the second year of residence here on E. Blake Ave. is underway, and I hope to stay planted here indefinitely.  (I had said the same thing when I moved to E. Maynard Ave. in 2011, naïvely thinking that a landlord would never let his property be foreclosed upon.  My current landlord seems to be much more conscientious than the one on Maynard Ave., however.)

The paradox here is that I like my quarters on Blake Ave., despite their being smaller, than my place on E. Maynard.  Friends from the San Francisco Bay Area, and from New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston cannot comprehend the fact that I pay $700 for a townhouse.  But there’s a trade-off here.  I like my place here better, but I like my Maynard Ave. neighbors better.  That is why I’m glad I only moved about two blocks away, and am still considered part of the Maynard Ave. milieu.

Indeed, except for the family on the other side of my duplex, I have zero contact with my neighbors, not even the friendly wave or the “Hi, how are ya!”  This is definitely not the “People shouting, ‘Howdy, neighbor!'” celebrated in the theme to South Park.  When Susie and I moved to Maynard Ave., the people there reached out to us, inviting us to a backyard movie, where we enjoyed the company much more than El Mariachi (1992).  The only time I see my across-the-street neighbors, two young women of college age, are when they are smoking cigarettes while sitting on their front porch glider.  By the same token, I am sure that they know me primarily as the guy who leaves the house around 7:30 every weekday morning and comes home around 5:30 p.m.

During a Blockwatch meeting in the fall of 2013, the Maynard Ave. group came up with an idea to celebrate neighborhood unity, and to bring people out to socialize and enjoy.  We would have a parade, around the time of April Fools’ Day, to celebrate the coming of spring and marking the time when it would be pleasant to be outdoors.  The first parade was a rousing success, and we decided to make it an annual event, not just a one-time occurrence.  It would also be a revival of the ancient Roman holiday of Hilaria, a tradition that disappeared with the advent of Christianity, probably because it reeked too much of pleasure.  (On Facebook, the complete title of the event was “2015 SoHud Fools Parade and Festival of Hilaria.”)

The second SoHud Fools’ Parade took place on April 11, a Saturday.  I didn’t participate in the planning as much as I should have, although I spent several Sunday afternoons in conclave with the planners.  (My biggest contribution was hanging flyers on the doors of people whose houses were on the parade route.)  The rest of the planning dealt with fundraising, logistics of the parade route, arranging the police escort, lining up bands for the fundraiser, etc.

Since my parents are dead, and I am on speaking terms with very few of my blood relatives, when Betsy met the denizens of SoHud (a portmanteau of the phrase “south of Hudson,” analogous to SoHo and NoHo in Manhattan, which respective mean south of Houston St. and north of Houston St.), it was the equivalent of meeting the insane in-laws.  Betsy met them the first time at a fundraiser at Ace of Cups, a nightclub on High St. that is in a space that had once been a Huntington Bank.  She liked everyone immediately, and bought a SoHud Fools’ Parade T-shirt to support the cause.  Betsy didn’t get to talk to everyone much, since it was impossible to shout over the live music and the crowd.

On the parade day itself, Betsy and I had the honor of leading the parade and carrying the banner.  The only disadvantage to this is that we saw little of the actual parade, with all the costumes, impromptu musicians, tall bikes, children, and jugglers.  My line of vision was limited to the rear fender of the police escort.  I had to rely on pictures that appeared later in the weekend on Facebook.

Betsy and I carry the banner to lead the second annual SoHud Fools' Parade.

Betsy and I carry the banner to lead the second annual SoHud Fools’ Parade.

The parade didn’t begin until 3 p.m., but the Dude Locker, a former warehouse at the end of E. Tompkins St., was the center of activity for most of the afternoon.  People got into costume, there was face-painting, and we worked out the sticky details of the actual parade with the police officers who would escort it.

Betsy was a little overwhelmed at first, wondering about what a Dude Locker was.  It’s a facility for touring bands, with a print shop, rehearsal and performance space, and storage and repair facilities for band equipment and instruments.

The actual Festival of Hilaria was at Café Bourbon Street (or Café Bobo, as people in the neighborhood call it), and it even included a free photo booth, courtesy of Aperture Photography.  (Betsy and I posed for a strip of three pictures.  They are copyrighted, so I can’t cut and paste them here.  I taped my copy onto a page in my diary.  The Fools’ Parade album is available here.)  Plenty of music, games for the kids, and drinking.  Even after nearly 17 years as a teetotaler, I am a little uncomfortable being around a place where the beer flows so copiously, so Betsy and I left before too long.

Robert Frost said that “good fences make good neighbors.”  There is truth in that, but it went to extremes when we lived in Weinland Park, where the fences had to become battlements to keep the muggings and thefts at bay.  Susie marveled at having “neighbors I don’t hate” when we moved to SoHud.  And Frost’s line about fences reminded me of when I was six and my parents and I had moved to 7th St. in Marietta.  There were two boys my age, brothers, who lived on Mulberry St. (immortalized by Dr. Seuss, no doubt).  Our back yards abutted each other, but there was a white, wide-boarded fence that divided the two properties.  One of the brothers and I decided to alter that situation.  I yanked at the board, as he kept butting it with the front wheel of his tricycle.  Our persistence and cooperation paid off, because soon I hauled the board out and waved it in the air, like a gladiator triumphantly brandishing his opponent’s head.  (My mother came out of the house all panicked and frantic, not because we had damaged the fence, but because she was certain we would get tetanus from the rusty nails in the board.  She was never happier than when she was working herself into hysteria over what might happen.)  So we still had a fence, but there was a way through it.

It seems that it’s necessary for me to apologize for neglecting this blog.  A friend once wrote to me that “I’ve been too busy living life to have time to write about it.”  Earlier tonight, I was re-reading the 1974 typewritten diary of Robert Lowry, the Cincinnati novelist I befriended when he lived in a flophouse and drank his Social Security checks until his death in 1994.  In an entry dated May 3-4-5, he wrote, “When a lot happens there seems to be less to write than when little happens.”

I can plead that, but since I have a notebook page full of potential subjects, it’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” (as the title of a song by the Blind Boys of Alabama says) if I don’t make it to the keyboard to share them with my far-flung readership.