Edit: I started this article back in March, during my last days living on Roosevelt Row. I’ve worked on it and re-written sections several times, and was never really sure that I was “done”, but I realized that I now have a follow-up perspective to share, and maybe the end of the post was never meant to be the end of the story in any truly conclusive way.
This week I am moving from my apartment in the Roosevelt to a sweet mid-century house in North Park Central. The reasons for the move are very clear and the new place is great, but I still have a sense of regret over moving out of the neighborhood I’ve lived in and enjoyed for the last 5 years.
While the new house is only ~2 miles away, and provides a solution to a number of problems, it still represents a departure from many of the habits and advantages I’ve enjoyed in this small slice of Phoenix.
As a self-professed amateur urbanist, I’ve loved spending lazy days walking around the urban core and discovering new shops, pocket parks, and understated architectural features that only exist in a place that’s had decades to evolve organically. Maybe this is why I love traveling now more than ever before; the opportunity to see the same things that draw me to the old bricks of the Security Building transposed over entire neighborhoods in older cities.
Aside from the built environment, the draw to my old neighborhood was the increase in propinquity.
In social psychology, propinquity (from Latin propinquitas, “nearness”) is one of the main factors leading to interpersonal attraction. It refers to the physical or psychological proximity between people.
Without the lengthy commutes, and isolation that yards and block walls create, you find yourself with a lot more time and energy to get out and be apart of your community.
True story: my first guest writing opportunity came about as an affect of multiple instances of propinquity. Working/writing at my favorite coffee-shop instead of my apartment, I ran into Taz from Blooming Rock, who’d been recording an interview nearby. Prior to that day we’d been casual acquaintances and I’d admired both Taz’s writing and her work. By the end of that cup of coffee, I had begun what would turn into an on-going contribution that helped me not only learn to write better but shifted my thinking about my hometown.
(How I first made Taz’s acquaintance is a story of meeting one great and interesting person after another, all working towards our own ideas of what this place should be. One chance encounter piled upon another resulted in a widening social circle and greater familiarity with not only the issues that mattered in my neighborhood, but also the people who were interested in making a difference.)
To be direct, I don’t begrudge anyone the desire to stay in one’s home and recuperate from the day. We’ve all had that tendency, and of course our daily overdose of solar energy here makes it very easy to stay inside and await the next day’s trials. I get it, the act of departing from a single-family home requires more psychological desire than when you’re just running downstairs from your apartment. Transit, parking, securing multiple points of entry, it’s hardly the get-up-and-go lifestyle.
The tragic part is when we’ve constructed our own private Xanadu and no longer wish to venture out at all, thereby removing ourselves from the best parts of living in our city. Why do we live here if we don’t want to participate and experience the place where we are?
(At this point I could list some reasons I would expect people might give in response to the previous question, and pair them with my rebuttal, but I started doing that and thought it was pretty rant-y, so let’s just fast-forward that bit. Besides, if you’re reading this, I’m pretty sure that I’m preaching to the choir.)
So the personal conundrum I face is wondering how to keep that inspirational sense of community and serendipity alive while moving into a less dense neighborhood. Sure, I can keep coming to the same coffee shops, parks, and various third places I’ve loved since moving to CenPho nearly a decade ago; now it’s just a planned journey instead of a short walk from my apartment.