As we launch this Proud Places endeavor on the eve of what is typically BBQ mecca, I find myself conflicted. I take my BBQ very seriously, and it has always been my primary conduit to getting to know my neighbors and to keeping my family’s community relationships strong. There’s nothing quite like being the house that throws the best BBQ party; free food and booze is almost always a net positive investment. This year, though, things are just a wee bit different.
My house, like all of our houses, has been on fierce lockdown. Memorial Day weekend usually involves a rotating group of relative strangers wandering around my front yard, interior, and back yard. At any given time, you might have had 30 people navigating the narrow-ish hallway between the front and back doors. There is no social distancing at a good BBQ. Everyone is grabbing buffet-style food, sharing condiment bottles, and touching every flat surface in my house. My partner is superhuman, but even she can’t keep up with the mess AND add sanitizing every item as soon as it’s been used once to the list.
I refuse to cancel though.
Don’t worry, I’m not letting anyone into my house. I’m not risking my or anyone else’s life. I’m just going to turn into a neighborhood takeout and delivery joint for the day. I’ve got my mask and my gloves; I’ve procured a decent amount of now-absurdly priced meat stuffs; and I figure everyone can provide their own booze (sorry, neighbors). We’ll do up some proper sides and my partner will grill up some vegetarian options, too. My neighbors might not be able to bring their families over to party, but we can bring the BBQ to them, and we can do it safely.
There might never be as important a moment to build or strengthen your community than right now. Something as simple as a home-cooked meal being delivered to our door reminds us that we’re not alone in this. A heaping family-sized serving of delicious baked beans can do a whole hell of a lot for morale, even if being stuck in the house with your family afterward might get a little smelly.
My thing is BBQ, but whatever your thing is, I encourage you to put it to good use in your neighborhood this weekend. If you cook, like I do, then cook; if you sew, sew up a few masks with fun fabrics for your young and young-at-heart neighbors; if you love doing landscaping, offer to tend to your less-green thumbed neighbors’ flower beds. You get the point.
It might be the most fucked up summer kickoff of the last 100 years, but we can still make it awesome with a little ingenuity. Here’s to you and yours! Grab a cold one, fire up the grill, and remember to be thankful that we’re still here.
P.S. – if we’re neighbors, the pickup “window” will be open between 3p and 7p.