I’ve always enjoyed my neighborhood, with its bungalo houses and sidewalks giving it more a village feel than a city on the edge of Washington, D.C. A major crossroads for many public bus routes is just a few blocks away, handy for my commute to work in neighboring Silver Spring. And I’ve been fortunate in a neighbor across the street who has gotten me involved in a great parish and its English-language teaching opportunities.
My eyes have opened even more widely to the special neighborhood I live in since the tragic murder-suicide next door a few months ago.
The neighborhood email listserve can be annoying with too many gripes about the power company and differences of opinions on city policies. But it has been helpful as well, with news of open houses, sightings of copperhead snakes on the nearby bike path and the rationale of a couple who took in a man just released from prison for sex abuse offenses (and the many replies to that, ranging from supportive to squeamish).
The first weekend of May each year, some neighborhood artists open their homes to showcase their most recent works. This year that was topped off by a neighborhood barbecue at which I met many more neighbors. Then a few weeks later, another family invited the neighbors to a big dance party in their backyard, complete with a DJ (playing too many disco/techno tunes for my liking) and dance floor that will soon become the base for a deck. As usual, Ted and I met quite interesting people at these parties — including a guy who works at the World Bank (and we had a good discussion about whether its policies are helpful or hurtful to struggling nations) and a woman recently hired in the statistics division of the National Institutes of Health. Ted is always sure to get into discussions about climate change, which can make interesting conversation, depending on others’ viewpoints.
My landlord, meanwhile, is developing his farmette or “God’s little 18% of an acre,” as he also calls it. The plants were so dense along the dirt path from the driveway to my back apartment, that I ended up with some blossoms decorating my bicycle after wheeling it through one day. And he had enough surplus produce a couple of weekends ago that he set up a stand on the driveway and sold quite a few quarts of strawberries, heads of cabbage and small bags of herbs to the cars that had to slow down at the speed bump just even with the house.
Brian reminds me that I can help myself to any of the harvest in the garden, and the past summers he’s brought me large bowlfuls of tomatoes or sweet potatoes. This year, they’ll just supplement the Community Supported Agriculture farm that I joined. While the farm is in Pennsylvania, the pickup is just a few blocks away, where the farming couple live in a house that has been renovated with straw-bale construction and walls made of mud from their backyard.
Downtown Takoma Park, which is more like downtown Scotia, NY, than Silver Spring with its towering office and apartment buildings, is just a 5-minute bus ride or 15-minute bike ride away. While the video store and homemade ice cream store haves closed, a gelato shop has opened and a seafood restaurant is under construction. The scene is rounded out by poetry signs occasionally posted on the sidewalks and the temporary “seatable art” in front of many storefronts. My favorites are the giant tricycle and the chairs made out of plumbing.
I just stumbled upon my apartment when desperately looking for a place to live when preparing to move to the DC area. But I’ve learned that Takoma Park is a very desireable community, and I am continually discovering reasons why.