I am not a super-enthusiastic & involved neighbor. Never have been, really. I'm not the hale neighbor-well met type who stops to chat and always has a story to tell.
Which is not to say that I'm unfriendly or mean-- I'm not. I'm always good for the "hi there" wave while dragging in groceries and passing by on the way to my car. I prefer a nuclear relationship with my neighbors-- i.e. if there were a nuclear bomb on the way to Chicago, I'd be the first to share a basement with you and pull our canned goods together.
One of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, The Shelter, helped me put words to my default neighbor policy. Here's the wikipedia summary:
The local neighborhood of a typical suburban community is having a small dinner to honor the local Dr. Stockton at his house. Everybody is especially friendly and mention is made of his late night work on a fallout shelter that he has built in the basement. A scary radio announcement is made that unidentified objects have been detected heading for the United States. Everybody knows what it means: nuclear attack. The doctor locks himself and his family into the shelter. The neighborhood becomes hysterical and wants to occupy the shelter. All the friendliness disappears and is replaced with hate. The last scene shows the once-friendly neighbors breaking down the door to the shelter with a battering ram. Just then, the radio announces that the objects have been identified as harmless satellites. Rod Serling makes the final statement. “For civilization to survive, man must remain civilized.”
On Friday morning at about 2 AM, a 27-year-old man who lived across the alley from me was shot and killed in his apartment. I was sleeping, and never heard a thing. A fact that bothers me. While my neighbor was taking a last breath, I was aslumber in air conditioned glory.
As the Tribune story notes, the people in this apartment had lots of parties. Mellow parties, for the most part-- never any trouble. Just lots of porch-talking etc. I sometimes thought to myself, rustling in my kitchen for late night snacks with kitchen window open to their fun, that if I was a friendlier neighbor (and if I still drank), maybe I'd go on over there and introduce myself.
The circumstances of his death seem pretty sketchy at this point, but he's dead for sure. His family were there yesterday, slowly removing his stuff, hugging softly, patting shoulders. They were crushed. As I watched them in daylight out my kitchen, I played his death scene in my head, based on conflicting news accounts, and I knew nothing.