If L.A. and Orange counties had a child, he or she would look like Long Beach. If the neighborhoods of Long Beach had a child, it might look like Aivlis Street–a little serpentine interior street near El Dorado Park on the East Side. It's an honest street, full of teachers, cops, and middle-class families in respectable professions. I attended the 54th annual Aivlis Street block party on Saturday.
Aivlis Street in Long Beach, California is where I grew up. The tiny houses on Aivlis were built in the early 50s. There are still original homeowners living in those houses. My parents bought their house in 1975, the year I was born, and still live there. There are at least 6 or 8 families that have lived there 30 years or more– which is saying something on a street with only 20 houses total. Only a couple of families have arrived in the last 10 years or so. Honestly, it seems like no one moves away from Aivlis.
If you're Aivlis alumni, you are welcome to come back for the block party. The block party agenda hasn't changed in the 34 years I've been alive. The street is barricaded off, so everyone walks, bikes, or rides up and down the street during the day. It all begins with coffee and donuts for the grown-ups early. After that, it's a flurry of old-school fun. Water fights, bike races, a talent show, swimming in the neighbors' pools etc. All the kids who grew up on Aivlis come back with their kids…and do the same thing the street has been doing for decades. Grown men and women still call the patriarchs and matriarchs of the street, "Mrs. Wildman," "Mr. Parker," etc. No video games, no texting, nothing this century…other than the massive inflatable waterslide.
It's rare to find that kind of continuity in America today. We move, change schools, and often change churches too frequently. In doing so, we miss some of the most beautiful things about neighborliness. Some neighborhoods put the "hood" in neighborhood." Others put the "neighbor" in neighborhood. Aivlis is different than the streets around it because they resolved to be good neighbors. I shouldn't over-romanticize life on Aivlis. It's had it's problems too. But, those problems get worked through, and the neighborhood goes on. The block party is Aivlis' time capsule. It's opened once a year on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend–and it's just good fun.
I don't live on Aivlis any more. After two years, I know about half of the neighbors on my street–some very well. We have some newbies that just moved in across the street a month ago. So, it's time to get to know them, don't you think?
Let's get to know our neighbors. Really know them. It opens avenues for God to work. It makes every neighborhood better.
Happy Labor Day.