I’m told that tonight is National Night Out, that one evening each year when neighborhoods come together to eat macaroni salad and barbecue in the middle of the street. We don’t have much in the way of neighborhood unity where we live, because we’re surrounded mostly by apartments and other condominiums. We’re all tightly packed inside our buildings and we don’t socialize on weekends as we mow our lawns or trim the hedges. Most people near us don’t even have a balcony to stand on, so getting the party started on National Night Out is practically impossible.
My sister, who lives a mere nine blocks away, is participating in her neighborhood block party. She’s bringing a cous cous salad. Last year they drug out their new barbecue to share some hot grilled meats with some of the other people who walked out their front door to find that one guy drunk with no shirt on, eating a hot dog on their porch. Maybe you think I’m exaggerating about him, but we lived on that same street two years ago and he owned the house next door to us. That motherfucker is crazy, and I’m pretty sure at some point he’s going to murder someone. I saw him this weekend, walking around Magnolia Village with nothing on but some yellow boxer shorts. Not even a pair of flip flops. He was on his way to Starbucks.
If we attempted some sort of National Night Out on our street, there would be chaos for many reasons. First, it’s a one lane road with cars parked on either side of the street, so blocking any of it off to have a party is probably going to make someone so mad that they gun their car right on through our picnic tables. Nothing says National Night Out better than a trip to Harborview for a sucking chest wound. Second, I dislike many of my neighbors. The loud, whooping guy next door would invite all his drunk friends and they’d embarrass themselves and the rest of us by crying about their girlfriends who just left them. The people above us would complain about everything, very loudly because whenever I see them they are complaining about everything, very loudly. That old guy on the fourth floor would get mad that we were making too much noise while he ate dinner. Then someone would bring a gun and start shooting it up in the air, like we’re in a Mel Brooks western comedy. That someone would be me, drunk on Mojitos, and I would have to apologize to the police and admit that I got carried away.
Meanwhile, nine blocks away at my sisters Night Out, they’d be talking about how good her cous cous salad is and how they’re really glad they have such nice neighbors. Except that one crazy guy passed out naked on his lawn who, everyone is sure of it now, will one day murder someone.
The National Night Out website suggests several events and activities, of which only one is to share a bucket of KFC with that lady in hair rollers and a pink nightie. Your neighborhood could have flashlight walks. You walk up and down the streets with flashlights. Sometimes you put them up to your face and tell a scary story. Other times you creep up to the window of that house on the corner, the one with that old curmudgeon who never wants anything to do with anyone other than his asshole dog who shits on your lawn, and you shine that flashlight through his bedroom window to wake him up and then run, really really fast, because he sleeps with a shotgun. You can have a neighborhood contest, like who can scream the loudest when your little dog is being attacked by a rabid raccoon. Or which neighbor is crazy enough to drive her jeep through the garage door because she has PMS. You think these stories are exaggerations or falsities, but they all happened nine blocks away from my house where, tonight, they’ll be eating my sister’s cous cous. More likely, however, than her block hosting a contest or walking with flashlights or maybe even more of a possibility than having some sort of youth program where they stage an intervention for that one kid, they’ll enjoy a visit from the local police and sheriff’s departments. Only this visit won’t be for promotion of police-community partnerships, it will be to arrest that guy in the white house who is so drunk that he rammed his BMW into the neighbors car and then called 911 to report a hit and run.