Finding Ways To Work Together
It’s Easter Sunday, and the neighborhood is beautiful. The sun is sharp and the air is losing its crispness. New flowers bloom and the tiny, fuzzy buds of last week are turning into waxy leaves. The people you meet on the street are dressed in Spring colors and almost universally smiling, waving hello as we pass with our giant black greyhound. It’s peaceful and happy and once more I’m in love with my neighbors.
That’s not always the case. In particular, not so much my neighbor’s guests. Any given Thursday, Friday, Saturday and increasingly Sunday, our neighborhood is treated like a sewer by visitors.
Those of us who live here know the importance of good behavior. You don’t want to argue with a neighbor you will undoubtedly run into on the street. We certainly don’t always agree – on a lot of stuff – but generally speaking we respect each other and have good feelings for our community.
That includes businesses. Decades before Barack Obama visited Ben’s, it was one of the only places open on U, and we would wave each morning to Ben or Kamal, before the Metro was open. We respected them, and they respected us. There’s never been a Ben’s patron to leave more drunk than when they came in.
The same, sadly, can’t be said for a growing number of our new neighbors these days. Specifically the 100+ establishments with liquor licenses that have popped open in the last few years. We understand that their business is to host patrons and make a profit, and that’s cool. But along the way we’ve seemed to lose the good neighbor policy.
Contrary to some of our frequent critics, we not only enjoy the urban life but share it with our friends. We host gatherings large (and we do mean large) to small, and always hope our guests enjoy their time in our house. But part of our neighborly responsibility is that we never send guests out onto our streets loud, drunk and potentially dangerous.
If you’re leaving a party here, you are not allowed to bellow in the streets. You aren’t allowed to piss on neighbors yards or defecate in the alleys. You’re not allowed to steal things under cover of dark, or barf in the street or toss your garbage into the gutter. In short, you’re not allowed to be a bad guest.
That’s basically what we would like to see with our commercial (read bar) neighbors: a sense of community. Who’s responsible for sending thousands (literally, the numbers are coming soon) of inebriates into the streets every night? The people who served them. Who’s responsible for in part tolerating behavior that wouldn’t pass freshman amateur hour? Ask those who profited off the booze they drank.
Some critics – and almost universally those who don’t live right here – whine that we don’t get the urban life. “Go move to the suburbs, old man!” is typical of their “dialogue.” Just speaking for these two old men, we’ll put up the urban we’ve seen in our lives to anything you got – that most likely means you – and we’re still committed to our neighborhood.
We would like our neighbors – our commercial neighbors specifically – to show the same respect. There’s a huge opportunity here for good-spirited establishments to help keep the hood decent. Remind patrons to keep quiet on the streets. Post signs in the restrooms. Print messages on the tab, or, like great neighbor Kami of “The Saloon,” right on the walls and menus. And these are just the start: clever people can no doubt think up clever ways to reach people.
The point is: we all want a decent neighborhood. Notably those of us who make this our neighborhood. So it’s time everyone started living up to their responsibilities.