A few weeks ago I was meeting a friend after work and since I knew I would have an hour to kill I thought I’d stop into WaxTrax, which is a few blocks away from her new apartment. I hadn’t been there in ages and ages (because who buys CDs anymore?). I think this was slightly before I finished my zine so I had it in the back of my head that maybe they still had a bin of zines I could poke thru while I was waiting.
Denver has been having these crazy rains this summer where the sky just opens up and floods down. One of these rains happened the minute that I stepped in the store, an intense barrage of water. I didn’t see any zines — well, there were like 2 or 3 on a magazine rack thing, along with a book called The Rest is Propaganda by Steve Ignorant of Crass.
Now, I had coincidentally just listened to Crass a few days previously and given that I was clearly going to be stuck in the store for a while due to the rain, I thought it would be polite to buy something. So I picked up the book, and I wandered around the store for a while, and I left with it and a copy of the How to Destroy Angels album (literally the first CD I have bought since around 2004 or 5).
The book is really great and it turns out that Steve Ignorant is a really good writer. Though I was once reallyreallyreally into anarchopunk music I really never knew the story behind Crass, and how they formed out of the Dial House in Essex outside of London. I have been really intrigued to read about the culture surrounding that place and time because it is just so different than my life is now (or ever was) and even though I still really love Crass I can now as an adult see how I was never, ever really a punk (cos, y’know, punk is dead). I mean for chrissakes I grew up in the Valley. Anyways there’s all this stuff about squats and other intentional communities, which I find really fascinating and I really want to do some more reading on this topic.
And honestly my life is so so so far removed from any of that that it’s not even funny. I live in a little suburban subdivision plopped down in an old coal mining and farming area. The closest thing to squatting here is the fact that my county has a high foreclosure rate and also a high meth rate and one might imagine that the two lead to occasional illegal abandoned house occupation. And the lack of community here is notable. We’re one of the younger families in the neighborhood, and most everyone is either retired or has kids. Lots of stay-at-home moms and SUVs. I don’t see a lot of evidence of people with left leaning politics and I do see a lot of evidence of people who go to church. On one side of me are neighbors that I have literally seen less than 10 times in the 3 years we’ve lived here. The other side used to be a guy who worked in IT and was out of the country 3 weeks out of every 4. Across the street is a family with teenagers who once watched Mr. Kitty when we were out of town but they don’t really talk to us. There is a family down the street that sells us girl scout cookies and we wave and are friendly when we walk by their house to the mailbox, but that’s about it in terms of purposeful connection with anyone in my immediate residential vicinity.
Why is that? I *do* like my home and I *do* like the area we live in and I really *am* a died-in-the-wool suburbanite with a fondness for rural farmland and no desire to ever live in an apartment or city, but at the same time I have situated my life so that it is very isolated from other people. I can generalize about how I probably wouldn’t like any of my neighbors (see above) but the reality is that I’m kind of anti-social and privileged to be able to live in my own single-family home and while I sometimes bemoan the lack of any kind of community in my life I know it’s completely my own fault.
The IT guy was relocated this spring and a family recently moved in next door. They are an extended Indian family (grandparents, parents, kid) and at first I was annoyed because they have a lot of cars and one was parked pretty closed to our driveway, which I am not used to. I know I was being a brat about it so I felt bad and promised myself that I would introduce myself. I kind of waved at the grandfather on my way to work once (he sits on the porch a lot). The grandmother plays out in the front yard every evening with the little girl (who is super cute) and they both said hi when I was walking in with groceries the other night.
Tonight I was taking out the compost and on my way back in the grandmother and little girl were waiting on the wall between our houses to say hi. She doesn’t speak much English but she seems really friendly and nice and eager to meet the neighbors. Of course! They have possibly been making themselves extremely visible in the front yard as a way to introduce themselves to the community.
Is there any hope that my suburbia could be a little less of an unintentional cluster of recluses and a little more of an intentional community? I mean, I have every intention of getting to know the new family but the reality is that I don’t have high hopes of suddenly having drop in art nights and band practices in people’s garages and collaborative gardens and stuff like that. We’re still going to be younger than the people around us by 10+ years. I’m still a bit of a recluse. I still have a bit of a chip on my shoulder with regards to fitting in with anyone. It feels like an unsolvable dilemma. Maybe in 10 years we will have our own version of the Dial House on Jasper Road and we will have some donkeys and some goats and a big garden and community dinners with heather & miles. But I think there is a personality problem I have to work on to get there.