The Peace of Stoop Sitting

When I moved to NY in 1975 (oh, it seems so long ago), air conditioning was not as common as it is today, nor as effective. It was not infrequent that cities had brown outs in hot steamy weather because AC used so much electricity.

People had elaborate systems for opening and closing their windows and blinds to minimize the effect of the heat and sun.

Luxury high rises had AC… but brownstones and, um, less luxurious high rises, did not. So when the evening came, and the sun was safely in New Jersey, behind the West-side Buildings and Jersey skyscrapers, when dinner was over and the dishes washed, people came out and breathed slightly cooler air together. You took your chair down to the stoop.

The groups swelled and narrow by turn as people went up to put the children to bed and came back down.

And all the while people talked about the day, their families, the state of the nation, and of course, the weather. You knew your neighbors. You made Peace. Apartment houses were extended families, you wanted things to be smooth as possible between you. Walls were thin. You knew a lot about each other’s lives anyway. Better to keep things quiet. and everyone worked hard anyway.

So you made Peace. Many of the things that used to throw us into conversation and community are gone. We have to create those opportunities. The world does better when we do.

Peace of the Summer to you, my friends. May you seek it, may you find it, may you create it!

Porches for Peace

Front Porches. When did they drop off the face of the Earth? The sociologists tell us that we’ve replaced them with back yard decks. When they went, there went the neighborhood. Now we drive into our garages (whose doors are raised and lowered without our leaving the car) and never see our neighbors. People can live next door to people for years and never meet them.

Until the advent of the garage door clicker — and maybe central air, however, we all sat outside on warm evenings and visited. We did kitchen prep as we discussed the day. We ate our dessert and saw what the neighbors were eating.  You knew your neighbors then. And that was a wonderful thing. I think Porches did a lot to hold the neighborhood together.

The flowers were just the bonus… they gilded the lily… but they did it so well.

Let us recall the Peace of the Porch. Let us relive the Peace of the Front Stoop.