Our neighborhood is near Central Austin which is filled with various little communities. The biggest and probably the nicest is Hyde Park where there are really nice little cottages, bungalows and Arts and Crafts homes... the kind that came in a kit you could order. Sounds somewhat like it would be ugly but to my mind they are the nicest houses. My landlady lives in one of the Victorian homes in that neighborhood.
Our little area is not so posh but we really like it, mainly because it's a great old house despite the fact that it needs a lot done to it. We also like our neighbors who more than make up for any problems. Our next door neighbor is probably the nicest person I have ever met. Her name is Kay and her house is so cute. She really takes care of it. We keep tabs on her mainly because she lives alone and until recently had no computer or phone at home. She doesn't own a car and gets around walking and riding her bike. Yet she's pretty intrepid. She retired last year and this summer she rode her bike from Vermont to Canada by herself. She went to India for a friends wedding then joined a church group who explored parts of India. She went on a cruise that stopped at little islands for their guests to bike all over. I find her amazing.
Down the street lives Eddie, the neighborhood watch (all by himself) Eddie is at least 60-65 and was born in the same house he lives in. He no longer owns it but the three guys who bought his house ran out of money and can't build their new houses on the lot so they are letting him live there until they get more money. Eddie knows everything about the neighborhood and keeps tabs on the comings and goings. He has no qualms at yelling at fast cars or big trucks and knows the policeman who patrols our area so can get him to pay more attention to our block. He delivers flowers for a wholesaler and sometimes if they throw slightly old flowers he gets them and gives them to Kay or me. He has all our phone numbers and uses them to let us know if something important breaks in our part of the block.
Fran is our other neighbor who lives at the corner. He's pretty quiet but has lived here for quite awhile. He's a caterer and a chef at one of the local restaurants. When we first moved into the house, Fran had a dog named Maisie who was the friendliest old dog in the world. She went from house to house looking for her friends (or cats- she hated cats.) When she died, Eddie called to tell about it and how Fran was really upset. Maisie was the only dog I knew who would get a pre-breakfast car ride and a walk, have breakfast then go for an after breakfast walk. She had a special ledge in the van so she could lay and look out without strain.
We know some about other neighbors. Like the girl who used to live across the street who called the fire department when our house caught on fire. The man behind us who got in trouble with the Health Department for having a nest of cotton rats in his compost. He told us he and his wife love to watch the squirrels and birds in our back yard who use the fallen tree for social gatherings. And yesterday the other man in the yard next to him kindly offered to come help cut some branches with his chain saw when he saw me hand sawing.
It takes so little to be a neighbor. Just say hi or smile and wave. Remark on the morning or the rain. Try to be friendly. Our next door neighbors on the non-Kay side have managed to not pick this up so our little cluster of neighbors really don't like them nor do we, mainly because they throw outdoor parties until 3 in the morning on a week night outside our bedroom window.
I often think about the old black and white movies where people know their neighbors and help out when someone is in trouble. I saw that this week after Hurricane Sandy plowed through the Eastern Seaboard. Some of the ones that stick in my mind are the people who would rig up generators for people to charge their phones and laptops. People sharing heat to cook and people who just tried to help in as many different ways as they can. I have been lucky in not being involved with a huge disaster but I know Gene and I would be there trying to help - trying to be a good neighbor. One of my friends joined the Occupy Sandy movement and I was able to contribute through their link with Amazon.
Robert Frost once wrote a poem where he stated something like "good fences make good neighbors.." This morning I realised I like the opposite much better. "Good neighbors make good fences."