Teri Orr: The calendar says it is so | ParkRecord.com

Teri Orr: The calendar says it is so

Teri Orr, Park Record columnist

And suddenly, it’s summer. The rain has abated. The gardens are lush with flowers and blooming bushes. And the impromptu, spontaneous happenings are, well, happening.

It began on Monday when a business meeting I had switched from an indoor office setting, to the patio of a restaurant in the later afternoon. There were flowers and iced teas and conversations that ranged from the business at hand to the state of The City to which blooming planter would be the recipient of the water in glasses that we did not drink. The business we needed to accomplish was quickly handled and the rest of the time, catching up, turned the early afternoon to early evening.

The next night, the annual changing of the guard of our Rotary Club took place at, imagine this, Rotary Park, with a picnic and the ceremonial goofy hat and staff passing on from one president to another. Families and solos and couples came to share in the celebration and there were spaces for quiet conversations with old, or as we of a certain age like to say now, "longtime" friends.

The next night was the call to go to the movie we had agreed in advance was low-brow and dumb and perhaps just what our fully meaningful lives needed to unplug. We grabbed oysters at the best deal in town on a Wednesday night, the "buck a shuck" oysters at Blind Dog, and then we raced around the corner to watch a film that really was like an elongated version of the popular television show it was based on. What made "Entourage" so much fun was admitting it was a guilty pleasure filled with familiar characters and silliness.

By Thursday I was hunkered down, on my hidden tiny deck, computer out and starting to catch up on emails that had escaped me all day long. Then my phone made a noise letting me know I had a message and I read it. It invited me to a secret gathering. Right then.

OK, maybe not secret, but certainly not public. And I didn’t have to change from my very casual, after-work clothes or drive anywhere. There was a gathering in the circle. Rare, sacred really, time that appears to be nothing more than neighbors sitting in a tiny grassy island in the middle of our cul-de-sac and sharing food and stories.

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And so we did.

The ages ranged from a young girl in junior high to, well, me. There were three generations there and because it is summer and some part-time neighbors were in town, it had folks from Columbia and Vegas and three full-time, longtime families. There was food but just light stuff like cheese and bread and brownies and tomato salad. We talked of the ‘hood and those missing from the circle this time. One is filming a movie in New York, another a pilot for a series in L.A. We speculated, as neighbors do, about the two vacant houses and who might move in. And then two young girls (college age) told about a massive "break-up" scene that occurred with their friends, in my fenceless yard, in my wicker chairs, when I was out one night this week.

It was a confession of sorts they were nervous to tell me in that sweet, young way. And I laughed and said I had a confession of my own. These young women are citizens of the world, conscious about what they eat, and the causes they believe in, passionately. It was hard to out myself and my un-environmentally respectful behavior but I suspected they had witnessed it and I needed to fess up, in public. As the night falls, this sharing, in the semi-dark seems safer. I said recently I had come home from work and after a few hours realized, after I searched the house, I did not have me phone charger with me. So, I said, I took my phone into the car, cracked the door of the garage and started the ignition. And then I… and before I could finish the most incriminating part of the story, my 20-something eco-conscience friend says to me, "you charged your phone." As I start to hang my head she is laughing and slapping me with high five…. "welcome to the club!"

Then my tallest neighbor, and father of three small children under the age of 11, says in a monotone of shared confession, "well, I… had a spotted owl sandwich for lunch." The laughter might have woken his children had they not been so worn out from the day in the sun at the city pool. Then there were stories of books and movies read and watched. A ghost story that involved former residents of a house ’round the block and at some point I couldn’t help but see two giant stars, which yes, were actually two planets that had emerged close together and were lighting up the sky.

We tried to guess name planets and stars and the spotted owl sandwich guy took out his phone and said, "there’s an app for that." And it was Venus and Jupiter and then he said "a bunch of stars with really long, weird, unpronounceable names." And we were happy enough to crane our necks backwards and watch them pop out against the darkness. And then, one by one, we started to bid our adieus. There was no talk of "let’s do this again tomorrow!" like teenagers might urge. There was the quiet knowledge this had happened, spontaneously, and might again. Any calm, clear night, maybe even some Sunday, this summer, in the Park…

Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.