Changing the World One Party at a Time


Artist’s depiction of Jennie’s monthly neighborhood party. Extra points for finding our new dog in the painting.

Once a month, our neighbor Jennie Cook (our guest on episode 50 of the Root Simple Podcast) hosts a cocktail party for neighbors. She started the party ball rolling by sticking handwritten invites in mailboxes up the block. Usually, around twenty people show up.

I’ve come to believe that the most revolutionary acts in our lives are those that reduce separation and loneliness. The philosopher Hannah Arendt called totalitarianism, “organized loneliness.”(1) As Arendt implies, this loneliness is by design. Facebook, Google, Nextdoor, Apple et al. make money when we’re sniping at each other on our phones and keyboards, not when we have a cocktail glass in our hands.

This weekend, in South Pasadena, I’m giving a presentation on the subjects we cover in our blog and books. The organizer wants me, in particular, to address the legalities of keeping chickens. But even if chickens are legal where you live, neighbors can start a ruckus in the henhouse about them and about a whole host of other contentious issues such as parking, trees and landscape maintenance. But if we already know each other socially, these sorts of fights are less likely to start.

But I think it would be a mistake to throw neighborhood parities with utilitarian goals. The party is an end in itself. One shouldn’t put a price on fun, joy or a well mixed libation.

I could go on, but I’m going to cut this post short so that I can start the process of getting our house in to shape so we can host a few of these neighborhood parties in the future. And I want to close with a plug for Jennie Cook. She has a cookbook, Who Wants Seconds, full of recipes that will make everyone at your party happy. And if you live in Los Angeles and need a caterer for any event large or small, I can’t say enough good things about Jennie Cook’s Catering.

Now, go forth and throw a party for your neighbors!



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  1. For about a year, I cooked dinner for a friend who mowed my yard AND I paid him. Yes, he was only a friend. We paid board games afterwards. Then, a friend heard and asked to join. Eventually, I became tired of cooking for them and made it just a board game night.

    Then, I started having company once a month–potluck. I cooked a meat and put out bag of salad and vegetables to go into the salad. That way, if not one showed up or brought all the same thing, we had the basics. Oh, I made unsweetened tea with different artificial sweeteners available.

    My one rule, you can bring as many people as you like if everyone has something in hand to share.

    For eight months one year the weather was so incredible that we ate outdoors where I have picnic table, swings, and put the food on 15 foot table. I served no alcohol, but people could bring their own. I used real plates, cloth tablecloths and cloth napkins, silverware, and put flowers on the tables. Plastic glasses were the only concession to disposable.

    These were not neighbors except for once the drunk guy next door came prowling! Altogether, this was two years of friends and good food. One guy who did not cook brought a bag of tomatoes from his garden. One night two guys pitched in on cheesecakes.

    We often sat in the yard until midnight. Then, my little red wagon carried everything to the house. The dishwasher was always empty before people even arrived, so life was easy.

    Let’s just say, I am all for once a month entertaining.

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