Commentary: Beautiful days in the neighborhood

I’ve gushed about it before, and I have to gush about it again.

I’m pretty fortunate to live and work in this neighborhood. It constantly creates so many, many unique memories and great friendships. One of my favorite things that stands out is that, on most days, I see a lot of familiar faces at every turn and every corner. I can understand that to most people this wouldn’t sound like much or maybe it doesn’t sound so unique, but it really is incredibly special.

With my tenure at the BKBIA, the people and streets in our hamlet are so comfortable and familiar to me. I do cringe at the phrase “big fish in a small pond,” because I consider myself just Joe Blow from Bixby Knolls and an enthusiastic resident. The many moments of satisfaction I get sometimes come from the little things, like seeing so many familiar faces.

Last week, I took an early walk down the street and was happy with the honks and waves from neighbors and friends. It’s like my own version of Mayberry, or Willoughby (“Twilight Zone” reference), or even Hannibal, MO.

On a recent Saturday night, Alissa and I drove around and were delighted to see people out all through the district and inside of the businesses. I know that our local residents are seeking some night life, and we have noticed it’s picking up. We stopped into Phil Trani’s to see my brother’s band play, and it was jam packed. After Trani’s, we saw all seats filled at Steelcraft, the long line at Long Beach Creamery, and Trader Joe’s was still buzzing before closing time. Folks were strolling along Atlantic and enjoying a night at the Shakespeare Company, Cold Stone, sitting in the coffee shops and enjoying a beer and some ramen in Brewery Knolls…and it wasn’t even a First Friday!

On another morning, I took a walk and smiled again at all the familiar faces I saw out doing their business. I watched as the neighborhood buzzed around me:

There goes Rabbi Newman with his brisk pace heading off to the temple.

There goes Leann, manager of Coffee Bean, making sure everything’s in place for the morning rush.

There are the gals from About U Boutique sweeping in front of the store and putting out their displays.

There goes Norm from Edward Jones, heading home from the office to get the kids.

I could see Bjoern from Rasselbock on the phone placing his orders for the week.

There are the guys from Ambitious Ales brewing the next batch.

There goes Gary on his daily morning walk with his dog.

Here comes Richard and Cheryl headed to Ej’s with big smiles and a sarcastic remark from him. There goes Pastor Danny riding his bike to church.

I saw Councilman Austin having a coffee meeting with someone.

Later I spotted Dick the Bee Guy and Bruce the Bread Man.

John Royce picking up litter on his way to work.

Louie the Barber was at his station talking about the Dodgers with his customer.

I saw the Clarks riding their bikes to lunch. And the fact it wasn’t a BKBIA event was great.

Folks were getting cars washed and taking pets to the vet, coming and going doing their business.

These subtle things might be invisible to most people, but they are certainly obvious to me. These are the things that make a neighborhood a “neighborhood.”

Fairly recently, I had another special “day in the life of Bixby Knolls” that’s worth sharing. I left the house early to head to our BKBIA Business Breakfast we hold for our membership, but I first said hello to my neighbors across the alley as they were heading out for the day. I then had breakfast with 90 business owners and discussed the news around the district. After that, I worked all day on BKBIA business and programs before attending our Good Spirits Club meeting at the Willmore Wine Bar in the evening. After hanging out with more neighbors and business owners, I left a little early to go to Trader Joe’s to get Marley some groceries for her lunches. There I saw even more familiar faces inside, and I spent half an hour talking to folks from the neighborhood before beginning my shopping.

I finally headed home for the night and made it just in time to say goodnight to the same neighbors across the alley.

I like to imagine that this is what it all was like “back in the day” where my parents grew up, or in many Anytowns, USA, where there was a sense of friendliness and community. What an amazing neighborhood this is, and I feel sorry for those that live elsewhere and do not have the opportunity to share in this type of a true comfortable, connected community experience.

With the longevity of the Strollers, Literary Society, Kidical Mass, First Fridays, Good Spirits Club, Supper Club, Knights of the Round (Turn)Table, the faces are familiar and relationships have grown.

The backdrop for all of this is our business corridors. Business owners play host for locals to socialize, to mix and mingle, to be out among neighbors. We want the cash registers to ring. Every neighborhood should be as lucky to have a Lucky, or a Dutch, or a Louis the Barber, or a Bundt Man. Or how about a Servando Orozco? The greatest immigrant-turned-successful-businessman story around.

It does take cooperation, collaboration and work to make it all just so. I hope everyone realizes that the BKBIA counts on you all to support these businesses. It’s the American Dream duplicated over 900 times in Bixby Knolls.

This Saturday is Small Business Saturday. Will you please spend some money locally on services, dining or retail? What great timing it is for you to get out and buy something special for Mother’s Day, too.

You will contribute to our thriving neighborhood. Many of our business owners live right around the corner from you. And give each other a wave or friendly “hello” when you pass by. Slow down. Don’t just race down the streets and miss how good we have it here.

Hey, folks, these ARE the good old days.