It may be a silly place. There was definitely a lot of drinking, and I’d venture some singing and dancing before it was time to roast marshmallows for s’mores, but I was rather stunned at how darned USEFUL this year’s neighborhood picnic has proven to be.
It began with a little jolt. One of my neighborhood friends who was an organizer greeted me with, “I’ve been reading your blog.” *Gasp* I’m not sure what brain fart caused me to not consider that when I advertise on Facebook, my Facebook friends may READ it. I suppose it is that I ventured into Facebook earlyish with several online-only friends. Then I began accumulating high school and college friends who mostly live across the country, and a handful of my daughter’s friends (who I am only NOW realizing may also have read *dies* though I doubt it) and their mothers--but only cool moms, so I‘m okay there. But only more recently have I begun adding these more proximal people I see with some regularity. I guess I could have photos of me passed out with a mustache drawn on… though I’m not sure everyone looks at leading a Naked World Domination Tour as that much different. In my defense, my NWDT is because naked people are rarely mean to each other. Okay… and because it’s more comfortable and less material, and all that…
That said, they are a very cool batch of neighbors. I’m not likely to friend the grouchy people down the street who reported my neighbor for her ‘natural’ yard. So it’s all good.
The next surprise, a very cool one… I was standing by the keg (where else?) and peripherally a part of a conversation about the drama of getting the field mowed. You see, Rob Reiner had a crew who wanted to use OUR FIELD to make a movie this summer, but had requested we not mow until then so it looked natural (a little internal irony there, ne?) Well the field got mowed this week, so ‘the scoop’ was a topic of some gossip. Apparently Rob didn’t like our tree. There is a big old tree in the field, but he wanted a Sycamore. It’s his movie, I guess, though a little disappointing for those of us hoping to catch a glimpse of Aidan Quinn. But the picnic was only days away, and our field no longer needed to remain UNMOWED (picture your ankles after spending 6 hours in grass that is 8 inches deep). So there was a woman who kicked some butt and got things moving, and got it mowed and there I was talking to her.
She looked at my name tag, which is supposed to contain two facts about ourselves. Mine read “1) trying to publish a novel“, and “2) I’m a Harry Potter Geek”. She went on to rave about Harry Potter and we talked a long time about the things Jo Rowling does so well in her writing and then she asked about my book. Turns out this woman is the City Council Woman for our ward. Who knew? She was FABULOUS though. Smart about politics as well as literature. I will definitely vote to reelect.
Then a little while later I was talking to Scott, the only single homeowner younger than me in our neighborhood--Ann Arbor is pretty expensive and not many can do it alone. And Scott looks at my tag and says, ‘you know, I had a friend who just got a book published. Do you want me to connect you?” It took a lot of effort not to drool--not a random obliging online connection, but a published author with a common real life friend who I can ask for advice and help more specific than just a one line question without feeling like I‘m imposing.
Finally, Ann Arbor’s paper is going under. As an old journalism major, the death of newspapers is so sad to me (though not nearly as sad as it is to my husband the crossword junkie). But an online daily is starting up and they will deliver Thursday and Sunday, so there will be a hard copy twice a week. Well one of the founding section heads was there and she is totally open to suggestions for making this user friendly. I suggested a system of networking where local people can connect with other local people with some common interest and goal. There is a local writer’s group, but somehow my Tuesday nights are never free, and a local writer’s website, but it isn’t interactive, but if it was a cyber community where people could then decide to meet for coffee or something, or break into subgroups with like genres… now THAT would be useful! She was totally open to the idea.
So all in all, however silly Camelot can be, there can still be some FINE networking done over burgers and beer.