Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

Just bein’ neighborly

In April of 2012, I bought a house on a street that has a strong sense of community.  Neighbors wave as they drive down the street, stop for a chat when they walk by, and help each other out.  But this sense of community can go dormant due to work, families and the general demands of life.  When it does, you just have to wake it up.

My next door neighbor, T, thought a street-wide happy hour might do the trick. I agreed and volunteered to host it, using a very liberal definition of “host.”  I envisioned a Field Of Dreams kind of happy hour where, if I built it, they would come.

In this case, what I built was a pair of plastic lawn flamingos.  And the building process consisted of taking the birds out of the box Amazon sent them in and inserting long metal sticks into their undersides.  Little did I know the unassuming duo would turn out to be the world’s greatest starter kit.

Lewis and Clark, a pair of pioneering birds, before the first street-wide happy hour got underway.

At 4:30 yesterday afternoon, I sank Lewis and Clark into my front yard, hung some paper lanterns in the trees, and set out light munchies and an all-ages beverage assortment.  (I borrowed a table from T, along with pretty much every outdoor chair she owns.)  The neighbors started trickling in at 5:00.

By 5:30, the trickle had achieved stream status, the table and cooler were packed with contributions, and happy hour was in full swing.  The adults chatted and nibbled while the kids made driveway art with chalk.

Over the course of the evening, I met all kinds of people from parts of the street that stretch beyond the two-house radius I tend to roam.  I now know my neighbors include ladies who’ve lived on the street for decades, a professional musician, some amateur musicians,a couple of triathletes, and more than a few beer and wine enthusiasts. (That last one didn’t exactly come as a surprise to me, if I’m being honest.)

At around 7, and in accordance with the law of nature dictating that the weak ones go first, some people succumbed to things like their children’s empty stomachs and imminent bedtimes. And that’s right about when a wave of reinforcements arrived, Normandy-style. And this batch was hearty.

Sometime around 9, the conversation in my little group of neighbors turned to how much we like not just our street, but also the village down the road.  It has managed to hang on to its quirkiness even as the tentacles of sterile development that have enveloped so much of north Arlington reach ever closer.

The village is home to a hardware store, an ice cream shop, a library, several non-chain restaurants, and a dive bar called the Forest Inn.  As people talked about the village establishments they frequent, I noticed that no one mentioned the dive bar.

Many people claim to have an internal compass. When they say that, they’re usually referring to some instinct that responds to magnetic forces at earth’s core and tells them without fail where due north is.  I have an internal compass, too.  But it doesn’t feel the pull of the earth so much as the pull of the nearest dive bar.  Thanks to this unerring instinct, the Forest Inn was one of the first places I went to when I moved to the neighborhood.

And the Forest Inn is a true force to be reckoned with.  In fact, after my first visit, I dubbed it the “Forest Gump” because the only sensible reaction on entering is to turn around and run without stopping.  (Dive bar aficionados will recognize this for the high praise that it is.)

As my neighbors extolled the virtues of places like the pizzeria and the beer garden, I said, “Those places are great, but I’m kind of partial to the Forest Inn, though I’ve only been there a few times.”

The room went silent (or as silent as room can go when it’s your front yard).  The whole crowd turned and looked at me in astonishment.

“You’ve been there?” they said, in unison and in a tone that made it sound like I’d seen Sasquatch (which of course I have. He’s got the corner booth at the Forest Gump.).

They begged me to tell them tales of the Forest Gump. I obliged.  When I finished, they looked at me with newfound respect. Or possibly fear.

One intrepid neighbor said, “Will you take us there?”

The question alone tells you what a success our first street-wide gathering was.  That, and these photos of the day-after artwork and flamingos.  I can hardly wait for the next round, and our field trip.

Lewis and Clark: After.

 

 

I need to find out who did this, if for no other reason than good host succession planning.

Comments

  1. Miz Yank, coincidentally, I went to the Forest Gump on August 28, 2013. My date and I were greeted by a man at the corner of the bar, who, if he had teeth, they were not in the front, but were hidden somewhere in the back. He warmly said, “how are ya’ll tonight?” We were waited on by the bartender/waitress, who seemed to have stepped right out of a Tom Waits song, a genuine, hard working, “crumbling beauty,” who called me “honey” through the vibrato of smoking ravaged vocal chords. I ordered the “chopped with steak” meal although we were advised that they did not actually use steak to chop things, that it was a typo but they’d already had the menus laminated so… The food was delicious, the liquor pours generous and I couldn’t have had better company as the Nats game played on two tiny TVs. Take your Marcel’s and Vadalias…Life is like a box of chocolates, and sometimes, you just want the simple square ones, no pomp, no pretense, no hidden cherries, just exactly what you’d expect. Chopped with steak.

    • TNT! I’ve missed you in this space, and at my favorite dive bar, too, apparently. And you’ve posted yet another astute, hilarious comment that makes me marvel at the fact that you’re single. Far too few men appreciate a good chopped with steak dinner these days. Though it makes me just a little bit jealous, it also warms my heart to know you enjoyed the Gump with worthy company, as opposed to one of those dates that puts you to sleep. I know you know the kind. Next time call me!

  2. Miz Yank, as always, you flatter me, thank you. Perhaps you should talk to my exes, who, although friendly with me, would marvel that I was ever in a relationship. It’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose. It was just a quick trip to a city near you, a job interview for a position in my usual state….solid. And, while I may not have written in response to your blogs, you should know that I’m always reading…always watching…always lurking in the shadows, keeping an eye on you and your always poignant writings and hilarious shenanigans.

  3. This is making me wax nostalgic about OUR Forest Gump date, stumbling over our order as the above-mentioned lady bartender looked at us with…well…what WAS that look, anyway?

Trackbacks

  1. […] Those birds, which I named Lewis and Clark, set exactly the right tone and became the mascots for happy hours that I hosted in my front yard as a way to get to know the neighbors. Because J and I have drifted […]

  2. […] shoveled me out from Snowzilla when I sprained my wrist last year – and enjoy the occasional front lawn happy hour. I see at least one of my neighbors pretty much every day, sometimes for only a moment as I drive […]

  3. […] either. But both of us were at the Women’s March in DC, forming a foursome with my friends Tricia and […]

Speak Your Mind

*