Postcard #22- What Makes a Good Neighborhood?

Posted on July 11, 2011. Filed under: Postcards | Tags: , , , , |

Last month I was invited to a graduation party at an “exclusive neighborhood” and I learned that exclusive really means that there’s a gate you have to go through to get into the neighborhood. Actually there were two gates- one for the residents and another for visitors. The residents flashed a special sign to the man in the guard cottage and were waved through. Visitors were required to go through another gate where they were checked to see if they were on some sort of list and not just there to steal the residents’ gold-plated bathroom fixtures. Did I mention there was a man with a clipboard?

 When it was my turn I pulled up and told the man that I was there for a graduation party and no, I didn’t remember the people’s last name of the house I was going to. I should have paid more attention to the invitation. Did I have the invitation? I knew it had to be somewhere because I used it to Map Quest the directions, but where? Geez. He told me I could pull over and look for it, so I did. The gate swung up and I was able drive in- you think trumpets would sound or something. Before I was forced to tear through my suspicious looking Subaru for the invitation, the people who invited me to the party pulled up behind me and vouched for my character and no, I wasn’t going to steal lawn ornaments or big screen televisions. The party was nice and everyone was gracious and all that good stuff, but it made me really wonder what was great about this neighborhood that they had to put a gate around it- who were they keeping out or trying to keep in?

 Sure the view was nice; I could see Reno, Sparks and if I squinted hard enough I could even see Lockwood. The houses had the same square footage as the local Home Depot, but they were all the same. My friend Brennan says that when you have that much money, you can afford to live in a place where you have things your way (sort of like Burger King for houses, I think). Maybe the residents didn’t get the memo or maybe Brennan is wrong: clearly they paid for a house that is the same as everyone else’s. Maybe there’s comfort in conformity but it seems to me that it’s a waste of money.  I also realized this gated community wasn’t near anything important or even fun. No quick midnight Slurpee runs for these folks.

 On the plus side, all of the lawns were neatly manicured (no jungles of overgrown grass here) with lawn ornaments placed tastefully and sparingly as not to overwhelm the eye.  Some of the turrets were impressive; I almost expected to see Rapunzel throwing down her hair, but that might be against the rules.

 Since that June evening, I have realized this: Adding a gate or throwing a fence around a bunch of expensive houses doesn’t make it a superior or even remarkable neighborhood. I believe a good neighborhood is organic and it takes time for all the parts to combine and simmer into something interesting and appealing. Call me a snob, but I believe my neighborhood is exactly that: a big delicious casserole of stone columns, funky houses, and confusing one-way streets.

The Old Southwest has it all: from the mansions on California Avenue to the 400 hundred square foot house I lived in for ten years, there’s something for everyone. Because it’s such an old neighborhood (over 100 years old), the trees are huge and they form a canopy over the streets where the sunlight filters through them (so damn charming). Ivy grows thick on the trees and my dogs love to snort their way through the foliage leaving their calling card on each leaf. The Historic Reno Preservation Societyhttp://historicreno.org/  gives tours through the neighborhood highlighting the different styles of homes and the history. This neighborhood is funky and different- just like the people who live here and that’s why I love it so much. Sure there’s a guillotine in someone’s front yard and its there all year around and I still haven’t figured that out, but that’s okay. I almost forgot: in my neighborhood, there’s also a 7-11 nearby so a midnight Slurpee run is always possible and no going through a gate to get there.

More about the Old Southwest:

http://renotahoe.about.com/od/neighborhoodprofiles/p/oldswreno.htm 

 http://activerain.com/blogsview/1571067/old-southwest-reno-is-it-northern-nevada-s-coolest-neighborhood

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