Whew. I’ve finished the most difficult part of the Camelot project. It took just over 3 weeks for me to hand-deliver my newsletter about trying to meet all my neighbors and draw portraits of them as gifts. I usually left the house at 4:30pm on weekdays, with a few weekends in there to try to squeeze in more homes. I’m still processing the experience, and the results and consequences of this effort to be neighborly are still unfolding.
Below is a picture of me in my Camelot-canvassing get-up. In case you’re wondering, yes, I do realize I look like a bit of a putz. My pants were high-waters on this day, which happens to be the last day of the mission. Also, I chose to tuck my shirt in on this last day, for reasons that escape me now, especially looking at the underwhelming visual effect of the ensemble. Listen, I try to look decent, but the fact is that my only real physical assets are that I’m still thin and haven’t started balding yet; other than that, I’m an awkward dude with bad hair and a second-hand wardrobe. I embrace this, even as I try not to look at too many photos of myself.
I look like an upstart preacher who has neither congregation nor decent wardrobe, or an office temp circa 1975. I am anti-superstition, but I would like to share that I wore the same shirt for the duration of the door-knocking and I didn’t wash it till I was done. I’m not sure why. Maybe it gave me confidence to have a little secret to keep–that I adhere to 19th-century hygiene standards–as I approached strangers, feeling vulnerable. Let me assure you that the dirty bohemian lifestyle is not all affect–some of us are just like this.
Here’s a breakdown of the data I collected so that I could look at evidence for how the experience went rather than rely on my faulty recollection.
- 226–homes I visited (excluding my own)
- 222–homes that appeared to be occupied
- 82–neighbors I spoke to
- 61–neighbors about whom I wrote the word “nice”
- 8–neighbors who were obviously home but didn’t answer
- 5–neighbors I spoke to through unopened doors
- 5–neighbors with “no soliciting” signs
- 5–neighbors with “no soliciting” signs who were not mean to me for knocking
- 1–neighbor who told me it wasn’t a good time at all
- 1–neighbor who warned me not to get too close because he was contagious
- 1–stern English-speaker who refused the newsletter
- 1–nice non-English-speaker who refused the newsletter
- 1–couple who invited me into their home
- 1–neighbor who Jehovah’s-Witnessed me on her own doorstep
- 1–neighbor who later invited us over for a huge Vietnamese-Catholic house warming party, in which we were the only white people and we got to listen to a 15-minute call-and-response chant-song of the Stations of the Cross and Hail Marys as a blessing of the new home, which sounded absolutely unlike anything I’d ever heard
Plus, there’s the neighborhood party that occurs in about 24 hours that would not have happened had this project not happened. So, as jittery as I am about putting this thing on tomorrow in spite of my lack of experience with such events and my lack of organizational skills, I am happy that at least a few people will be gathering, bouncing, eating, and chatting in front of our house.
So, the door-to-dooring is over for now. I know a few more of my neighbors. By tomorrow evening, the neighborhood will be a little more acquainted with itself. I hope that more people will come forward to have their portraits drawn. And, we’ll see how things continue to develop here in Camelot.