Fair Oaks, California is a sleepy little community on the eastern edge of unincorporated Sacramento County. It borders the American River, the Nimbus Dam and it’s reservoir - Lake Natoma. Its better-known neighbor, the city of Folsom, is just to the east and upstream. Folsom is much like Fair Oaks except bigger in every way. A bigger dam (Folsom Dam), a bigger reservoir (Folsom Lake), both banks of the American River, a larger population and geographically it is larger both physically and politically, as Folsom is an incorporated city. Nonetheless, the two municipalities are quite similar and share a common heritage.
Folsom has attained recognition not only from its very real and appealing physical qualities, but also from its landmark, Folsom Prison, made famous from the movie “Walk the Line.” Fair Oaks holds no such infamy. Although both Folsom and New Folsom prisons are a very short distance, the crime rates in Fair Oaks, Folsom and the surrounding areas are not exceptionally high. Indeed, when paroled, the former inmates are taken far from here.
Fair Oaks is about as economically diverse as an upper middle class community can be. Within it are pockets of very upper middle class homes. I have lived in such a neighborhood for exactly one year to the day. It is, by all accounts, a very safe neighborhood, especially in light of the fact that it is not a “gated” community. There is a homeowner’s association, but no amenities and very low fees. Fees that, as far as I can tell do nothing but pay to administer the collection and management of those fees – but that’s a rant for another day. The point is that my neighbors are not used to crime in their backyard.
Until recently. Last week there were two home invasion robberies in this area. They were the real deal – not just bored kids throwing eggs. The bandits were armed, physical, bold and dangerous. Although the victims were not severely hurt, the potential was there and it was real. Both amusing and sad, the ramifications are already apparent. My neighbors are acting kind of funny. They are getting more neighborly.
Yesterday, while writing in my office (just adjacent to my front door), someone came up to my front door and slipped something into the handle. Then he left - no bell, no knock, no cordiality – and I was obviously home. I opened the door as he was on his way down my driveway off to the next house. It was then that he explained the nature of the flyer and if I had heard the news about the crimes. He thinks it would be a good idea to get a phone list of the neighbors in the immediate area and maybe watch out for each other. He lives very close and across the street, the last two digits of his address are 36 – mine are 43. It was the first time I have ever seen this man in my life!
When I opened my front door this morning to get my newspaper, a woman was jogging past the front of my home. This is a common sight around here. This time, however, there was an obvious and ominous difference. In addition to her water bottle, she carried with her - tucked under her left arm with her hand clasped around the end – a Louisville Slugger. That’s right, a baseball bat. I don’t think she was on her way to play baseball! In and of itself, maybe just an anomaly, but it triggered other heretofore disconnected observances that are now starting to make sense.
There are notices posted on every pole in the neighborhood. Warnings, descriptions, what to do, who to call – these were not put up by law enforcement but by residents. There is a genuine fear that this could happen again and it has ignited a call to action – it has forced the kind of neighbors that are used to keeping to themselves to talk to each other. What a concept! Although the motivation may by purely selfish, this kind of safety net can only be accomplished through cooperation. To meet a self centered ends – individual protection – a community means must be employed. They have to talk to each other.
And I am smiling to myself. You see, they already had my cooperation and didn’t even know it. I have been watching out for them since I moved in – even that next-door so and so that I can’t stand – even her. I am home more than most; I write from an office that has two very large windows facing the street; I am observant bordering on nosey. Those punks that committed these crimes would be begging for the police if they fell into my sphere of influence – and all my neighbors (except one) haven’t a clue.
The irony is this: Until these crimes were committed, I was the one they were worried about. A longhaired, tattooed, motorcycle riding non-conformist was the bane of their existence. I don’t look like them and I knew it coming in. I’m ok with that; I am certainly not hurting for friends. I think, however, that I may have personalized the ambivalence. It would appear that none of my neighbors know each other. Could it be that in the quest for the good life, while striving for ever increasing levels of safety and comfort that they have left those very elements secured by the community behind? Perhaps they are only now realizing that they can’t do it alone.
P.S. According to the Blogger Dashboard, this is my 100th post! I don't usually see the Dashboard unless I am editing, and not even always then, but as I passed through that screen earlier it confirmed that this milestone has indeed passed. It caught me off-guard... I have nothing prepared save this: Thank you all for taking time out of your life to read my work. I will post more on what all this means once I figure it out - probably in tomorrow's post**. Until then, have a wonderful day,
It's now tomorrow, abeit not by very much. Enough, however, to know that the above mentioned 100th post reflection piece will not be written today. I did post a new installment on This Is Fiction, so if fiction is your bag, well it's not mine, but I'm trying...