Neighborhoods

I’m sitting on my yoga mat on my bedroom floor, centering myself prior to practicing yoga. Lakuna’s “St. Paul’s Piano” is playing in the background, my window is open with a nice summer breeze coming through. Slowly I become aware of chimes and bells that are not actually in the song… its my doorbell. Someone is at the door. My Dad peeks out, claims it must be ‘one of those people.’ I assume he means a Johvah’s Witness. I point out that the windows are open, and there’s music playing, they know we’re here. He reluctantly opens the door. Its our neighbor’s son. Our neighbor has passed away. I feel a bit badly, not because I knew him very well, but because I don’t really know my neighbors. I may have spoken to this man three times in the over 20 years that my parents have lived in this house. Its not one of those type of neighborhoods where you see the guy next door watering his lawn and say ‘hello.’ I don’t know some of the neighbor’s names. I’ve also never seen any of them watering their lawn. Its certainly not an idealistic neighborhood. It looks like it from the surface, I suppose. However, you won’t see a paperboy or papergirl riding on their bike down the tree lined streets. You may get the occasional person walking down the street or riding their bikes. Most times your lucky if you see anyone other than my parents outside of their house, you may hear music blaring from either the apartments next door, my house, or the people who live across the street from me. I think that is the only reason the people across the street go outside is to light fireworks, smoke pot on their front lawn and/or blast really bad rap and hip-hop music. I like some rap and hip hop, this isn’t the quality kind, its crap; crap that allegedly needs to be played at high decibels to enjoy.

As a kid, I would watch sitcoms, and I’d see the characters interacting with their neighbors and/or roommates; like in Lavern and Shirley, Cosby Show, Kate and Alley, Punk Brewster, the Golden Girls.. I bet the Golden Girls knew their neighbors’ first names! There was a sense of community. I always wanted that. You would see on sitcoms (or movies) where when there’s a new person in the neighorhood people would show up on the newbies’ doorstep and actually introduce themselves – they may bring baked goods or wine. I can’t ever see that happening in this neighborhood. I’ve never felt a sense of community in my own hometown of Coventry, Rhode Island. Its disconnected. Maybe its my parents who are disconnected, therefore making me slightly disconnected. Maybe its because I’m an only child and there wasn’t many young people in the neighborhood. I used to hang out with the girl who lived across the street from me (the fireworks, pot-smoking, loud music ones – those are her siblings). We didn’t get along so much, there wasn’t many other kids in the neighborhood so if I wanted to play with anyone, I usually went to a friend’s house. No one ever wanted to come to my house. Its sucks. Its on a main road, people drive like lunatics. I’ve lost track of how many times someone has driven off the road and hit a neighbor’s house or a tree… what parent would let their kid come here?! I’m kind of a people person so there were some seriously long ass, lonely summers. Sometimes I would go up to Western Coventry where my Mémé lived, my uncle, Brian, is three and a half years older, they also had kids to hang with in their neighborhood. Most of the kids our age were boys, but it was better to learn to play football, climb trees, and build forts in the woods than to be at my own place where I could only play in the fenced in backyard by myself. I’m certain that my love of reading, music and my wild imagination, are results of my being a very lonely, only child.

I once went to what I thought would be the greatest place to live. It was in the middle of Providence. I was meeting this curator at a coffee shop, unfortunately the coffee shop was closed for the week and my car died right there in front of the coffee shop. The curator came to me, she lived nearby and we walked to her house. Along the way I met like every person who lived on her street, they knew each other by name! I felt like I had walked into another world. This is what people do and not just out in some small town in Iowa, but Providence, Rhode Island. I remember thinking, I’d like to live somewhere like that. When I was a teenager I used to fantasize about what it’d be like when I ‘grew up,’ I’d live in a townhouse or apartment in the city. There would be roommates, friends, neighbors and we’d have dinner parties and there would always be people – I’d never be lonely ever again! I do realize I couldn’t possibly paint or write if people were surrounding me day and night. Though, I wouldn’t mind the company on many occasions, like when I’m not working. I suppose I’ll be getting new neighbors, the now deceased neighbor lived alone and he was ill for many years hence the reason I hardly ever saw him. Unfortunately, he was one of the few friendly people in the neighborhood. I’m sure his family is going to sell the house. If I’m lucky the newbies will actually be as hospitable as he was.

At UMASS Dartmouth I had this ceramics professor named, Karen, who once told me that New Englanders have a tendency to be ‘cold.’ She was from Seattle. I couldn’t argue with her though I did kind of take offense. Thankfully for her, she had chosen New Bedford, MA. and not my neighborhood. New Bedford is a nice place for artists, there is a sense of community there. I always like going to Gallery X because I finally feel like I belong to something, you feel welcome. I could move, my family and chosen family are all over the country and world. If money were not an option, I’d pack my bags right this second. Maybe someone would welcome me for once, I’m always the welcome wagon to people who are not from around here. I find them or they find me. I’ve been told I’d really ‘fit in’ in California, I think I’d ‘fit in’ anywhere but here… people think I’m either midwestern or from New York. I guess they are trying to tell me I don’t act (or talk) like I’m from Rhode Island because some of these people were RI natives. I promise when I move out my parents’ house, I’ll bake my neighbors’ cookies and throw dinner parties for everyone… I’ll be the welcoming wagon even if I’m the newbie in the neighborhood.

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