Sunday, June 12, 2005

Big City Life

I went to a barbeque with Will last night. It was hosted by some friends of his who recently bought a rowhouse in Petworth. This is a neighborhood in the throes of gentrification. Lovingly restored and colorfully painted homes stand right next to buildings with peeling paint and overgrown yards. Will's friends are in their mid- to late 20's and this is their first home. They are slowly rehabbing it from the inside out and it's already taking shape as a work of art.

The grill stood in the small patch of yard behind their house. An alley ran behind their row of houses and the backs of the row of houses on the next street. It was a muggy night and the old home has no air conditioning. We sat flopped into chairs with a large fan vainly fighting the sticky heat. The food and conversation were good and a cold glass of Pinot Grigio goes a long way toward fighting the summer heat.

Some time after it got dark, four or five of us had adjourned to the back steps and were idly chattering over the remnants of the charcoal in the grill. The flickering beams of flashlights came down the alleyway toward us, and moments later, two policemen came into view. We waved, thinking they were just on foot patrol, and expecting a friendly "Good Evening" in response. Instead, they stopped to ask us if we'd seen someone running down the alley. We apologetically told them no. This was met with doubtful expressions and a repeated query as to whether we were sure we hadn't seen anything. One of the women told them that we'd only just gotten outside a few moments before they walked up and that even the dog (an adorable and very friendly boxer) had not barked or shown any sign that she'd heard someone in the alley behind the house. The cops moved on. A few moments later, an unmarked car drove down the alley in the same direction, and a few minutes after that, a marked car with it's lights off. I wondered briefly if we shouldn't maybe go back inside, but the others, who all live in the neighborhood (or in the very house), didn't seem at all concerned, so I decided not to worry about it. I felt a little like the country mouse visiting Cousin in the city.


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