Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sidewalks, alleys and porches

Kim and I moved to Lexington's historic Park Place neighborhood about 15 years ago and it's a decision we've never regretted.

It's not as if we moved in from another state (well, I did, but that was more than 40 years ago). We moved from across town, maybe less than two miles as the crow flies, from a house and a neighborhood that we lived in for 21 years.

There were two subtle features about the Park Place neighborhood that our old neighborhood did not have: sidewalks and alleys.

I am not a sociologist by profession, but I can say I am a sociologist by life experience (thus, are we all), and while sidewalks and alleys might not sound like much on the surface, I think they are precisely the fabric you need to knit a strong neighborhood together.

It didn't hurt that when we moved in that we already knew many of the people who were about to be our neighbors. What the sidewalks and alleys did was bring us closer together. I mean, look at the purpose of a sidewalk – its very existence is an invitation to take you from one place to another. People jog on them; they walk their dogs on them; they do chalk folk art on them; many times, people meet serendipitously on them and simply communicate (Aha! See?).

Porch crawl brings friends, neighborhood together...
 Alleys are the same way. Alleys are the back roads of a city. They tend to be less traveled, but they can reveal beautiful yards and gardens you might not otherwise see, if you accept their option.

I bring all this up because Saturday our neighborhood hosted its First Ever Park Place Progressive Porch Crawl (upper case, proper name, impressive alliteration). This was the brainchild of one of our neighbors, Kristi Thornhill, whose idea incorporated another key social element of our 100-year-old neighborhood: front porches (Think about it: front porches are where sidewalks end – or begin. Porches are the sanctuaries that sidewalks take you to).

Everyone was having a good time. (Photo by Scott Hoffmann)
 Anyway, since this was the first ever, it was experimental. Six families combined to host gatherings on three porches in a two-block area. Each porch was responsible for a theme (sort of) with each porch providing beverages and finger food for a 40-minute stint (or so) before moving on to the next host porch. That's where the sidewalks and alleys came into play.

There were about 30 people who showed up to commune, play cornhole, tell stories and strengthen friendships. None of us, apparently, ever met a party we didn't like. The first porch opened at 5 p.m.,with the last porch shutting down fairly deep into the evening.

In the beginning, when Kristi first broached her idea almost two years ago, I wasn't sure how the logistics would work out. It sounded like it could get complicated. But I'd forgotten about the sidewalks and alleys. Everything went smoothly. I don't know if there's any tweaks to be made for future crawls, but this one gave us a good start.

We have no plans to move from this neighborhood.

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