I won't post this until Tuesday (after I've had a chance to make sure it's logical and not banal and mostly spelled right) but I am writing it Sunday from the mild but happy haze of the smack-middle of a boozy three-day July 4 weekend which has already seen a 4:00 a.m. night, a cookout with the neighbors and a night sleeping under the stars with Scout. Ahead is an afternoon on Steve and Cindy Crescenzo's boat, and another all-day building cookout tomorrow amid the indescribable gunpowder ruckus of Independence day in our Mexican-themed neighborhood.
My head is a truly happy place right now, where what matters matters less than what doesn't matter. In fact, I have no idea what matters at this point. But here's what doesn't matter:
The moral significance of my mostly happy friendship with my neighbors.
Usually, I worry there's something slack and sad and even wasteful about friendships built on no more rigorous principles than shared space. It's just not … strategic, somehow. However:
If you're not with the one you love, Honey, love the one you're with.
But once you truly do begin to love the one you're with (Honey), then what?
Slowly, reluctantly, defensively and still nervously over the last six years I have come to (inconsistently) regard neighbors H., D., and E. as important people in my life. Newer neighbors M. and T., and erratic neighbor B. are also people whom I care about, whom I agonize about, whom I make sure I see not too little and not too much, whom I kick myself for getting too longwinded with, whom I plan adventures with and whom I think about now, when I think about myself and my life.
I'm terrified by neighbors, because I build boundaries so carefully and consciously. Neighbors make you do it on the fly. Wanna come over for porch beers? Wanna have a joint Super Bowl party? Headed down to Costco in 20 min; wanna come along?
I prefer relationships with much more space and time to plan. I think Thursday will work; let me check with Cristie.
I prefer relationships built on mutual interest or proven over decades: We're writers, we're golfers, we're liberals, we're brother and sister.
But since we've been neighbors, we have developed some common interests—most of us have motorcycles—and created a mostly makeshift institution whose rules none of us would violate: Partly because we like each other, and partly because we wouldn't want to do anything to fuck things up here.
The whole thing feels kind of gentle and noble to me.
It also feels like the kind of patriotism I can get behind: People suddenly stuck together by accident, careful not to tread on any toes. Conscious of the the circumstantial nature of their association and governed by the uncertainty of their bond. And usually enjoying, always tolerating and occasionally really adoring one another.
Pride shouldn't come into it (we are just fellow travelers) arrogance shouldn't come into it (we are not "the best neighbors in the world") self-consiousness shouldn't come into it (this ought to be the last time I write about it).
Not usually one to make philosophical pronouncements, H. stood beside the grill last night and said that when he was in the Air Force, he moved every few months, and loved the changing vistas. Back then, he always imagined he'd live his whole life that way.
But he moved to Chicago, and then hasn't moved in more than 10 years.
"I don't know. I'm just here. And I'm happy."
The last sentence seemed to come as a revelation to him, and he shrugged after he said it, as if to say: What do you know about that?
Not much, pal. Not much.
Except to say that it is a very happy July 4th weekend.