I've written about my neighborhood before. My neighborhood is so central to me, shaping my perceptions and my feelings and my sense of community. It's where I live, work (home office), and walk everyday, and I'm deeply connected to most of my neighbors. As an example of how important my neighborhood is to me, I'll tell you that I have made it one of the settings for my new novel. I would not have expected that these two parallel rows of houses facing each other along a straight length of asphalt (or whatever they make streets out of) could become so intertwined with my identity, but there you have it.
My town is decidedly liberal in outlook. A joke my daughter heard in high school was that if someone wanted to vote Republican in this town, he had to go down a dark alley in a trench coat to do it. I suppose I feel a certain comfort in living among people who mainly share my worldview, though David Brooks in the NY Times today questions the benefit of living among too much agreement. Still, I've always lived in places like this, and I suspect I always will.
I have one neighbor who decidedly does not share this liberal worldview. He's lived in this neighborhood longer than I have, and I have to give him credit for being able to tolerate the liberal onslaught all these years and for having the courage to post the biggest McCain-Palin signs he could find (and Bush et al. before that) and come to the block parties and say whatever he wants. He even got together with my husband once, over drinks (this was after the Obama election), to tell him how worried he was about the country and hear what my husband had to say that might reassure him. He was honestly trying to understand.I ran into this neighbor the other day when I was out walking, and he must have felt like talking because we lingered for about 15-20 minutes, chewing over the end of summer (he loves to swim at the neighborhood pool, but it closed early this year because of budget cuts), the departure of one household of long-time neighbors and how much we're going to missing them, where he'd like to move if he could (he's tired of living here, he said), the conflicts he had with his father-in-law, what a loudmouth he is (he said this, several times; I didn't).
One thing about this neighbor. Hanging from his front porch is that ugly poster of Obama made up to look like the Joker from Batman. I hate that image. It's nightmarish. My neighbor has an absolute right to hang whatever he wants from his house (I guess), but this seems to cross a line. After we parted ways that day, I thought that I might have found a way to say something to him about it. E.g., "I would never tell you that you can't have that image on your home, but why do you? No one on this block--regardless of their views about Bush or anyone else--ever displayed anything so provocative and disturbing." I regret that I didn't. If he had the courage to listen to my husband, perhaps I could have listened to him.
But perhaps this is "simply" what a "loudmouth" feels he needs to do to make his views known. Not everyone is the type to skulk down an alley in a trench coat?