We moored on a stringline in The Isthmus' shallow waters, surrounded by fellow boaters, the sea and the shore. I expected several things from this trip: sunburn, dehydration, tasty grilled eats, QT with the man, hikes along the steep cliffs of Two Harbors, run-ins with native animals (fingers were crossed for buffalo), day drinking, ample time to read an entire book (almost finished with Naked by David Sedaris), relaxation and disconnection from the world. What I did not expect was a lesson in neighbors.
Friday afternoon encouraged a lazy victory over our sail paired with my recuperation from a violent tsunami of seasickness. Just as I was giddily settling into my read, a ship of presumed fools glided towards Hakuna Matata and snatched up the stringline to our left. Several middle-aged men - free from their mundane lives at home with their wives - shared playful jests and stories, guffaws exploding from their crowded deck. I studied the overwhelming display of manly bonding, my jaw dropping slightly when a bottle of 1800 Select Silver Tequila appropriately appeared among the camaraderie. These men are clearly excessive and cutting more than loose this weekend, I judged.
On a normal day I would've leapt from Hakuna, landed in the dinghy, paddled the few feet to their vessel and joined them as they took turns swigging from the bottle. But Friday was far from normal. I felt strangely anti-social, wishing we'd moored in our own private cove. This was probably due to the fact that I'd just endured three hours of Hell and wanted nothing more than to press rewind, gobble a few pills of Dramamine, and restart our crusade. This not being possible, I decided to just ignore the rowdy bunch until they made it impossible to do so. And they did this within a matter of minutes.
"Want some tequila?" one of the men asked. We politely declined. "How about some beer?" We turned them down again. After all, our cooler was packed full of icy Simpler Times Lager.
And then the revelation hit.
"We're sharing! You know, because that's what neighbors do. They share!" explained one of our new neighbors as he took a seat on the edge of the average-sized, blue and white fishing boat, wiping liquor from his chin.
Neighbors share. Neighbors. We have neighbors. How silly and reserved of me to regard these gentlemen as strangers. Leading a cynical life, in my opinion, will direct you into a seclusive, sad world of bitterness, darkening any light that once warmed your soul. Neighbors.
Sure, we have neighbors in Venice. Fourteen units comprise our courtyard-style building. Are any of these people my friends? No. Have I ever shared with any of them? Actually, yes. A recently departed couple lived next to us for a year and a half, and I offered them two of my prized Halloween cupcakes last year as well as a tupperware brimming with fresh CSA produce that we couldn't finish before Hudson's birthday trip this past July. I share with my neighbors, sure. But these connections were, unfortunately, few and far between. I admit, my cheeks reddening as I type, that I don't know the names of any of my neighbors. There's the Bimmer enthusiast, entertained by my 1985 325e, with whom I greet in passing about once a week. But his name I have failed to retain. And I think the new girl's name might be Lindsey. I hardly see or hear from anyone.
The fisherman stirred within me a longing for companionship, a self-inflicted accusation of selfishness and pointless privacy of which I planned to shake myself free at that very moment.
We're all human. We're brothers. We're sisters. We're friends. We're neighbors. Awkward moments need not occur between us. We make them awkward by telling ourselves, "That man is a stranger! Don't look him in the eye! Don't break your stride, or you'll be forced to talk to him! Oh, the horror!"
My advice to myself and to you is to embrace those in your life who are friendly and genuine. You can never squeeze your arms around too many friends, too many neighbors or too many bottles of premium tequila. That last bit is extremely false, but I'm just making sure you're reading.
Won't you be my neighbor?
|Rows of neighbors at Two Harbors, Catalina Island|