Dewey grass Lately I’ve taken to conquering the blergh of a day by conquering the neighborhood. It helps living next to a woman who is unemployed and entertaining with her tales of terrible ex-boyfriends and rehab drama.

It’s like living next to Day of Our Lives. Anytime I need a break from the computer and the keyboard, I just leash up the puppy and walk ’round the corner. Alisha (not her real name) will inevitably be out smoking, watching YouTube videos on an iPad and open to conversation.

We’re both tired of talking to dogs. We’ll swap stories of bad boyfriends past, she’ll update me on her current state of recovery, I’ll tell her about the stories I’m working on.

If Alisha is out, most likely in another rehab trying to get clean again, I venture over to the next yard. The dog, Bella loves Archer. They would play all day if her old bones could handle it. Instead they chase after each other for about five minutes until her growls kick in while Paul and I politely chatter about the neighborhood.

That’s a thing now, “my neighborhood.” I feel a little weird about it. After 18 months, I went to a neighborhood meeting. I’ve been getting flyers for them every month. Turns out, I am not the only person who lives here. I met some lovely women and some bizarre men. Only 10 or so people where there. They talked a lot about trees and traffic. I asked about shops, a library and a grocery.

The Marmalade Library is a real thing that’s going to happen in the ‘hood. It’s slated to open in fall 2014. And for reasons, I do not understand the community does not like the design or the name of the library. I think they’re forgetting how awesome having any library at all is. Plus there will finally be something in that huge empty lot I like to call “The Hill Hole.” Marmalade is a much better name, mmm…kay?

One old woman told awesome stories about kicking out slum lords and gangsters in the 80s. I had no idea this dirty district was actually worse back then. There was some nice symmetery at the end of the meeting when she reminded us (with particular looks at myself and the other under 30 woman present) that we could always call the police with concerns about party houses, creepers and drug dens.

Clearly everyone present was concerned about the neighborhood and hoping to make Capitol Hill a better place to live.

But other than the Parks and Rec feeling, I’m not sure I gained much by attending. Mostly there was a nice sense of polite community. I told the room I was mostly curious because I’ve lived here for so long, but have only met most of my neighbors since owning a dog.

That part of dog ownership is very true. People love to talk to puppies and their owners. One woman (another neighbor) even said, “You know how puppies bring people out.” The next second she was stroking Archer’s ears much to his chagrin. It seems like owning a dog has brought me into the neighborhood more so than living here every did.

Sadly I also lost a neighbor to a move. Ann (not her real name) is super sweet. She went out of her way several times to help me while I lived here. On snowy days, I’m pretty sure it was just us shoveling all the steps and sidewalks in front of our building. She was tremendously helpful with dog rules and offered up tips, treats and tricks to raising a better dog after adopting her akita two years ago. I will miss her friendly wisdom.

A new neighbor has already moved into Ann’s old place. She seems just as sweet. We’ve only chatted briefly a few times. She has fabulous hair and a lovely puppy. She seems excited to be here. And hopefully she’ll forgive all of Archer’s barking. She’s also a bit closer to my age which is nice. It won’t feel so much like I’m the only non-baby maker around.

I am now a part of a neighborhood–one that is struggling for identity, has tremendous potential and will one day be a new kind of pace. That’s one of the best parts of staying. Watching change happen and joining a community.

By the way, April 27 is neighbor day. I’m guessing that’s one Saturday not to be missed on my block.

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