This weekend we had a block party on my street. The wife—an absolutely incredible woman with no limitations (I know … I know, she’s my wife. But it’s really true) organized it. I’d say roughly 80 people showed up, and it was insanely, insanely fun. Big blowup slide. The ice cream man. Two blow-up pools. A shockingly fun sprinkler game. Whiffle ball in the street. Bubbles. A bbq, manned by my bbq-gifted father in law. Heapings of food and drinks—juice, beer, soda. The local police department closed off the road.
I know I’m a liberal hippy-dippy, and sometimes I sound like some Woodstock refugee, but as I looked around, music blaring from a nearby radio, what I loved most was the merging of colors and religions and backgrounds, and what it says of America: 2011.
Back when I was growing up, in a nice small town called Mahopac, N.Y., everything was white. There was white Italian and white Irish, white Catholic and white Anglican, white nice and white mean. But, were one to look around, all he’d see was white. This is no exaggeration. I had one Asian friend, Scotty Choy, and one African-American friend, Jon Powell. That was it.
And while I loved the innocence of my youth, the games of night tag and the ring of the ice cream truck and the nearby community pool, I look back and acknowledge a profound lack of richness of culture.
Yesterday’s BBQ included whites, Asians, African-Americans, orthodox Jews and devout Christians and agnostics (like me) and on and on and on and on. It was a marvelous thing; an experience and exposure I desperately want for my children. Best of all, I don’t think people gave it much thought. Maybe no thought. We were all simple neighbors hanging out; bonded by a hot summer day and the tightness of community. I’m not sure whether people can be 100 percent color blind and culture blind and religion blind, but my kids are awfully close.
When I was, oh, 12ish, an African-American family bought a house a few streets over. The nearby residents actually started a petition to keep them out. A petition. My parents were appalled, and I remember my dad saying, “Sadly, it’s the world we know.”
No, I’m happy to say. It isn’t.