Tuesday, May 20, 2014


I am lucky to live in a neighborhood where there is a sense of closes neighborliness. As editor of the neighborhood newsletter, I maybe get more sense of that closeness than others. During my moment of insanity when I was considering moving, neighbors said, aghast, "You can't leave Berkeley!" Maybe they're right--I can't. This is the second time I've lived in this neighborhood, and now I live across the street from Lily B. Clayton, the elementary school that roots the neighborhood and around which many of our activities revolve. It's a neighborhood of old trees that arch over the streets, carefully maintained gardens and lawns, and a mixture of stately two-story homes and early 20th-century bungalows. Where occasional old houses have been torn down and replaced, the new houses look slightly uncomfortable.
Another neighborhood landmark is the Old Neighborhood Grill. I've made frequent use of it in the Kelly O'Connell Mysteries. Kelly and her family eat at the Grill a lot; her sidekick Keisha and her boyfriend, Jose, have breakfast there every morning, and when the question of where to lunch comes up, the answer us often the Grill. Kelly is partial to the meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans--because I am!
A neighborhood tradition I particularly like is Tuesday night dinner with the neighbors--even if it's usually only a handful. It was started by neighbors on one street, but they generously let me and another resident join them. The Barrs, the Harrrals, Lyn Willis, and Mary Dulle are regulars. Lately my friends, Subie and Phil Green, just moved back to the neighborhood, have joined us every week.  Talk ranges over a wide variety of topics--current events, movies and plays, politics, grandchildren, you name it. Sometimes there are few people; other times, lost. One night it was just Jacob and me, and he kept asking, "Where are the neighbors?"
A couple of times I took Jacob with me, hoping they wouldn't mind a child. Instead, they enjoyed him, and he kept them entertained with wild stories. One night when he wasn't there I asked if they really didn't mind, and someone said, "He's the most interesting conversationalist at the table." He loves going and now wants to go every week, particularly if Subie, Phil, and Santiago (Phil's seeing-eye dog) will be there. Tonight, because the Harrals and Barrs are Baylor fans, he proudly donned his Baylor shirt. And, as always, he had grilled cheese, fries, and Sprite.
But there was a rather different crowd--the Baylor people weren't there, but there were eleven of us, and conversation flew all over the table. I was lucky enough to sit in the middle, so I got the conversations at either end of the table, and we all got to chatting and stayed lot longer than usual.
A good city neighborhood has all the good of the proverbial small town and all the advantages of city living. I love it.

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