Friday, April 20, 2007


We were invited last evening to dinner by the executive director/founder of a local charity organization and her boyfriend, who is co-director. They work with at-risk youth in the area and teach them art and documentary filmmaking skills, and built the small sculpture garden/park across from our house. R. is an excellent painter whose canvases cover the walls of their immense home. M. is from Philly and went to U Penn and Wharton Law, and his collection of African art rivals that of the BMA. They're both driven professionals, very focused and committed people, but are relaxed and engaging hosts.

I didn't get the complete tour, but their house is magnificent, and is about 1.5 times the size of our own. It was recently restored by L., another neighbor further up the street. I've seen L. several times in front of his rowhome, seated on a beautifully carved wooden bench in the shape of an elephant, reading the WSJ and the Times. L. and his wife R. (an advertising exec from Nottingham, England) were also at dinner, as were other long-term and new residents. Everyone we've met is big on hugging; I've made the mistake several times now of profering a hand for shaking upon introduction, only to be frowned at and pulled in for a close squeeze and backslap. We met a delightful couple who were excited that The Wire had just filmed in their house; upon meeting them I'd immediately been reminded of Kima and Cheryl from the show. A. and her partner had just purchased a limited edition classic Vespa and were eagerly anticipating its arrival from Europe. We felt immediately welcome and comfortable.

Friendly, successful, fun people. I'm trying to put together the complex threads of neighborhood relations: who likes whom, who dislikes whom, who is excluded and included in which cliques, etc. It's a hobby of mine. I know our next-door neighbor E. is widely known and is widely disliked for a variety of reasons, but is at the same time accepted as an affable neighborhood looney. I saw him this morning when I left for work at 6am. His bulldog Bodhi snarled and burbled happily when I came out, waddling over to be stroked--E. was talking to the rising sun, murmering something about the glorious day. He's gone from calling me "Bubba," which is his generic name for white guys, to "my brutha." E. is organizing a block party to welcome us to the neighborhood in May. At dinner last night we were again referred to as "pioneers" for daring to move in south of Whitelock Ave. The people on the 24th block of Madison regard the 25th and 23rd blocks as "There be dragons here" territory. R. and M. live about 50 meters north of us, but Whitelock remains a frontier of sorts I suppose.

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