Dear ___: Neighbor Issue #2

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issue 2: neighbor

What is a neighborhood? Merriam-Webster defines it as: 1) a neighborly relationship 2) the quality or state of being neighbors further defined by a) one living or located near another or b) fellow man and/or 3) a place or region. The definition involves relationship, association, closeness, and location. It is community in proximity, not always chosen but inherently lived. The neighborhood is keenly important in the landscape of our current era. As digital communities have proliferated and in-real communities have waned, the neighborhood stands firmly planted as an in-proximity association that cannot easily be evaded. The neighborhood is a natural phenomenon – throughout human history and evolution we have lived in closeness within our larger communities. The neighborhood thus exists as one of the last frontiers of this natural state. This zine centers itself around the idea of the neighborhood as a phenomenon, a cultural and societal staple, and a wellspring. Through text and imagery, it examines how the neighborhood manifests in relationship to our modern lives.

S M Van de Kamp, Founder & Editor

cover art: My Vegan Gold On Sunset by J ennie Lawless 1

Linnea Stephan 2

Our usual routine

We’d been in love for a hundred years Just the two of us Doing our usual routine Archery at 11 Chicken nuggets at 12:30 Capture the flag at 7 When the camp started being built around us suddenly there were children! mess halls! counselors! It wasn’t quite as lonely this way Also not as beautiful The children grew fast Becoming unrecognizable in mere years Perhaps the same thing will happen to these buildings Crumbling away as the decades past Until one day once again it will be The two of us Doing our usual routine Archery at 11 Chicken nuggets at 12:30 Capture the flag at 7

Chris Gale


Metropolitan Standing near a small mountain of slick deflated trash bags, I am overwhelmed by the sweet-scented marriage of roses and falafel wafting from beyond the glowing threshold of your bodega at the corner of nostalgia and Havemeyer Street.

Patrick Ramsay


Jacob Allers-Hatlie 5

On our block That scene set in hazy gray Dressed the broad frame around Humming pulsating blueness A window to the world below The collectivity of us all Oh my peripheral edges glimpsed Objects draped and hanging soft On the stillness of our wooden stage Like luscious wet blooming Glanced by the rising rainforest moon

Sean Becker


266 Jefferson Street (Excerpt) “It’s like a goddamn jungle out there!” An old boyfriend used to say to me on weekend mornings, when we’d be woken up at dawn. He burrowed his head underneath my mountain of pillows, but I took comfort in those sunrises, the first ones I’d ever seen. 266 Jefferson Street was bought in 2006 by a pair of self-proclaimed “Bushwick Pioneers”; a middle-aged couple named Norm and Daryl-Ann, whom we call D.A. They are our landlords, and live on the first floor. D.A. has dyed dishwater blonde hair, a freckle below her left eye, and a plump mid-section. She wears high-waisted light wash jeans, half-moon eyeglasses with a chain attached, and un-ironic cat shirts. I cannot describe Norm, other than that he is balding. I’ve only ever seen him once. He came to change a lightbulb in autumn of 2012, and hasn’t been seen by any of us since. Our relationship with D.A. is best described by her frequent and extensive emails to us. The subject of one email was “SLAMMING DOORS(Thank you to whoever entered @ 12:35 pm)” It read: “Whoever came in at 12:10pm today — — you SLAMMED the 2nd floor apartment door. Are you aware of this? Whoever came in afterward at 12:35pm — — -you did not. Thank you for your consideration. Perhaps several of you don’t realize when you are, or aren’t, slamming the doors?? ~ SLAMMING is when a door closes by its own momentum, the speed goes unchecked and it stops moving only because it finally CRASHES into the door jamb. ~NOT SLAMMING is when you hold onto the door until it is closed so that you control its speed and its GRADUAL contact with the door jamb. PLEASE COMPLETELY STOP SLAMMING THE DOORS. At the risk of seeming condescending, we wish to familiarize you with one of the most important, common courtesies of apartment living and explain, ONE MORE TIME, a very simple life-altering concept that we ask you to embrace: If you guide doors until they are completely shut with your hand ALWAYS on the knob, the door will not be able to slam shut of its own momentum. — Confucius.”


On the eve of Hurricane Sandy she wrote: “HELLO ALL, THE STORM IS IMPORTANT TO PREPARE FOR. PLEASE TAKE ALL NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS. YOU HAVE AT LEAST UNTIL 7PM THIS EVENING TO BUY SUPPLIES. AFTER THAT, PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION MAY BE SHUT DOWN. PLEASE GO OUT IMMEDIATELY AND GET ALL NECESSARY SUPPLIES. (DO NOT RELY ON US TO PROVIDE ANY NECESSARY ITEMS . . .)” These emails, despite their intended severity, were the object of unending amusement. “Thea — that’s slamming. Not not slamming,” Amelia would say sternly when I opened the refrigerator to pour us another glass of Sauvignon Blanc. “Do not rely on us to provide any necessary items!” Annie said when I asked her for a tampon. We surmised that since D.A. was childless, and her husband mysteriously absent, that we were her surrogate daughters. She was a watchful, nosy mother, who gave us no love or support. Each year she threatened to kick us out of the apartment, but each year in May, she would email to say, “we’ve decided to allow you to renew your lease….” and we stayed.

Thea Sass-Ainsworth



Want to Have a BBQ, April 2023 Sam Wilds

Bask, April 2022 Sam Wilds


Nintendo 3DS Photography Meat Stevens 11

Feeding Strays Old decrepit lady feeding strays on the block stained robe, slippers, dusty tube socks Clunking an early model VW all jalopied up and orange waking up the neighborhood before dawn knees cracking like a rusty door hinge

Meat Stevens


Jacob Allers-Hatlie


To the End of the Tandava

When I was scouted by 90's SkyMall model-turned-mogul Rosario Fete at Mindy Caper's 12th birthday party, I thought it was a joke. I was never fawned over. I wasn't cute then, and I'm not classically handsome now. But you see, in the world of infinity pool modeling, it's all about the stems, and from the hamstrings down, I was the fucking Loacoön. The spoils were what you'd expect. I grew up rich, lionized—so much sex I grew bored of sex until I had enough sex to like it again. All those years, I lived outside any penance of time. But as quick as you could say soft-wall vinyl-liner, it all stopped. I remember it so vividly. It was to be my first editorial piece in Condé Nast. On a Nevada day as offensively arid as most others, I made my descent into the shallow end of the Aria grotto, holding my patented pose, the Crooked Crane. After a round of snaps and flashes, I aimed my gaze downward and noticed the purple spider crack etching down my thigh. A lightning bolt of mortality. You'd have thought the photographer swallowed a hornet when he caught it in the monitor lens of his Nikon D750… My first varicose vein. Just like that, no callbacks, no agency, no more trips to the Amalfi Coast--no more backstage passes to the Muse concert. I COULDN'T EVEN GET A THREE-DAY WEEKEND COMPED AT THE GAYLORD FUCKING PALMS.


I spent months Postmating Popeyes and binge-crying to Steel Magnolias. (If I was the King of Calves, I always saw Julia Roberts as my Queen of Limbs.) As you'd expect, I blew up like a lounge raft at the MGM Grand—but whether it was a miracle or fate's twisted reminder, my bloating galvanized only above the waist. My hamstring-to-shin ratio remained divine, and what little hair I grew remained blonde and permissive. Sometimes I'd try on my old swimsuits to sulk in nostalgia, and though I could still balance on one arched foot for minutes at a time, my disproportioned gains made me look like a dried-up SpongeBob Squarepants. My hope was all but gone when I heard what would come to be a familiar knock on my door… With the spoils of online shopping and Wordle, I was convinced neighborly traditions were all but bygone whimsy. But then came Greg and Taylor. "Greetings, 469 St. Lucia! We're your new neighbors and here to extend an official invite to our first pool party!" "Oh, thanks, but I couldn't dream of it. I'm absolutely swamped with work." Behind me a trail of tears in the form of Twix wrappers and Lay's potato chip crumbs. An hour later, I stared at a deck full of strangers. My neighbors. All gathered around a deliciously blue swimming pool. I stared it down like an old adversary. I heard people introducing themselves, offering hot dogs and hard seltzer, but I paid no attention. I had a score to settle. I disrobed and moved towards the steps. I placed my left foot at the water's edge, arching the toes, then dipping delicately. "Let the water do the work," I heard in Rosario's voice. I rose to the point of my right foot, letting the sun reflect against the curves of my soleus. In my mind, I could hear the rapid-fire snapping of a Canon DSLR. I was poised for the finishing touches of my Tandava when I felt a hand on my thigh.


Sitting at pool's edge, She squinted at my legs, scrunching her nose—tracing my varicose vein with her middle finger. Never looking at my face, she spoke, "SLS Foxtail Infinity & Thermae series… 2015 to 2019." ~~~ Colleen and I reminisced for hours. Me of the Las Vegas hi-jinx that ensued at the SLS catalog shoots. She of the lavish resorts she was paid to visit during her reign as chief editor of Chlorine Dream (only the most lauded high-end pool & spa publication in the greater Southwest.) Now just two neighbors on normal street, witnessing the first of many afternoon's defeat. The last at the party, we watched the wind ripple the surface of the midsize saltwater pool. I never even got in.

Christopher Hess


Jacob Allers-Hatlie


Overheard and maybe misheard at my local coffee shop i’m not buying shit i feel really bad probably won’t do it again i ordered Michael something really special from me and you a protector a crow which he loves you want water? want water? no? i guess, are you trying to grow your online following, or? don’t know how to elevate that in terms of audio take it to the next level i actually watched your video about that “spaces not faces” if the job is done right no one will ever know

Jennie Lawless


In the Neighborhood “Each moment is not as fragile and fleeting as I once thought. Each moment is hard and lasting and so holds much that I must mourn for. And so what a bitter thing to say to me: that life is the intrusion, that to embrace a thing as beauty is the intrusion, that to believe a thing true and therefore undeniable, that is the intrusion; and yes, false are all appearances.” - Jamaica Kincaid, At the Bottom of the River False Appearances: Los Angeles You didn’t want to believe in beauty, although you ached for it. Walked certain streets to find it, through frightening alleyways where you imagined someone would pop out in front of you, spook you, reveal you to yourself. You never knew how a city could be a mirror until you moved to LA. When you’re sad you’re sad, taunted by the lupine that delighted you only four days ago. And when you’re happy, god when you’re happy, the very air confirms it. You forget about the smog. And where are you now? Down the block from the hotel where Janis Joplin overdosed, died in a prison of her own making. The one near The Magic Castle. The one they renamed, where you picture a garden. You think of her as you walk through the Hollywood hills, buoyed by a false spring. There is no neighborhood to speak of but there is the docent who kneels on the floor at the gallery Hauser + Wirth, stooping low to the ground to show you something. You are downtown. You drove here to see a series of new paintings by the artist Lorna Simpson. Blue paintings, ink on gessoed fiberglass. Still, you cannot describe that particular shade of blue. Right before he kneels, he tells you he sees blood red, not blue. You wonder if he’s messing with you. He has the demeanor of a wise elder, impatient with your naivety. You look and look but can


only see blue, somewhere in between lapis and azure. Look, look, he says, kneeling. You follow him, reminded of altar rails and the feeling of your knees pressed against the rest. The feeling right before prayer. Now look at that, he says, and suddenly you see it, a smear of maroon. He found it, he tells you, because he dropped a quarter and noticed it when he looked up. In the movie of your mind time slows with the quarter, the atoms rearranging themselves in the air. He laughs, looking at you, delighted. You’re a sucker for beauty, even after all this time. Even though you supposedly know better than to trust in what lies at the surface; you know the danger that lurks behind allure. You walk in the neighborhood and can’t help but be touched by the breadth of it. When you’re not looking, this city stuns you. Just when you want to give up, pack your bags, run away. “How many other errors lie like broken plates or flowers on the floor of my mind?” Elaine Scarry asks herself in On Beauty and Being Just, relaying the sense of loss she feels at not recognizing the beauty of the palm tree upon first sight. What is it about the palm tree that surprises her? You struggle to appreciate them. You are stubborn. They don’t belong here. They imported them. There it is, evidence of the lie baked into the beautiful vision. A fact that depresses you if you think about it for too long. Is anything real? Chloe-Cooper Jones in Easy Beauty: “I’d wished for beauty to be a single, pure feeling ringing through me clearly, undeniably, creating truth, shining a beam so strong that it illuminated the entirety of my life. But what had come instead was a dense and drifting pile that carried with it a challenge: Could I see the salient thing?” Strawberry Fields Forever: Atlanta Brick by brick, this is how they build an American Dream. Name the street after strawberries. Paint the house yellow. Hope the yellow brings sunshine and prosperity. Your mother plants a rose bush. The first poem you ever think to write about her occurs in the driveway of that house, in that 20

neighborhood named after strawberries. Your mother, the most beautiful woman in the neighborhood. Your mother, an enigma to you. You know better than most how a house keeps records, not only of lost possessions but of emotional states. Memories stacked on top of memories. Maybe the bad luck comes because your parents remove the American flag as soon as you move in. Your strongest memory is the flood of crows that flocked the yard. This is before your mother has the trees cut down and your father refuses to speak to her for weeks, the shorn limbs a hundred thorns in his side. It was like something out of Hitchcock’s The Birds, when they came. Tempestuous, bearing nothing but bad news. Omens. Not just a flock but a flood of them, looking at first like poppy seeds against the gray, flat sky. Growing larger and larger until they covered every branch, every limb, every surface. The first time you fall in love with turrets is in the neighborhood of Buckhead. Storybook houses peeking behind trees, with stained glass windows and window seats, booths to nest in. Windows you aren’t afraid to look through. It’s evening and you’re making your way back home. You’re leaving the city for the suburbs. Your father drives on Peachtree, one of those classic winding, hilly roads, past train tracks and driveways that seem to stretch forever. This becomes your platonic ideal of driving: flanked by green on all sides. A shade of green that looks made up. The trees have no right to look this alive; you know the history, how much blood lurks beneath the soil. You stare and you stare. Your alternate life lies here, in Buckhead. In this life your father still owns the navy Mercedes-Benz and has not yet abandoned The Dream. You will always think: Mercedes, father. Father, Mercedes. The 1991 420SEL, with that creamy leather, the gray luxury. When your father leaves for another country the car sits idle in the garage, flanked by dusty bicycles and storage boxes. But that is later, and for now you enjoy the feeling of sliding through anonymous streets, lulled by the sound of your father’s voice. Drive slow, 21

you tell your father. I want to see the American Dream. Your Mind In the neighborhood of your mind the ghosts come back, stacked up on top of one another like chairs. They reveal themselves to you one by one, those monsters and demons and ghouls you let topple you. Run you down. Your mind is a case you cannot break out of. In your dreams and nightmares they taunt you. In every one, they tell you that they no longer love you, they never loved you, it was all a lie. You too become a ghost, a shadow on a wall. You are afraid to revisit history. But they’re breathless here, these people who hurt you. Who you hurt. They shimmer in front of you, their skins more delicate than you imagined. Paper thin. Wafer thin. You look them in the eye. You shout. You stomp. You are a child again, five years old, eight years old, ten years old. Watching yourself bleed out from between your legs for the first time, stunned by the stubborn fact of the rest of your life. This will be the rest of your life: your body, your blood. Life stained on your hands. Life goes on without you. Not only goes on but invades—crawls, thickens, unfurls, moves. While you’ve been hiding, disappearing, getting all ghost-like. Utopia In the neighborhood of the future you will have been braver. You will have looked at the sky and remembered your neighbor. You will have made an offering. You will have bitten off the marrow. You will have turned around the corner to find your lover, greedy and waiting. It’s not the sunset or the palm or the jacaranda. It’s something beyond the combination of those signs that call out to you from the freeway, the window, the street. But there it is: beauty’s pulse.

Elodie Saint-Louis 22

Meet Me Around the Lemon Tree, July 2023 Sam Wilds


Every Morning someone rose before the sun, someone filled the water tanks, someone built the walkway, someone trimmed the bobinsana tree, and gutted whatever fell under the floorboard. I could place the someone here, the one whose name you know, the one who, after they departed, their absence appeared — and in the absence, you knew they had been the one lifting you, like the rising of bread.

Hilary Scheppers


Eight Bunches Of Dill I am at the grocery store the day after war was declared in Ukraine. I am gutted by the fact that I am here, buying marmalade and toilet paper, while my cousin Maks is sleeping in a subway station. I meander through the store, numb, as I daydream about the long conversations I used to have with the man behind the fish counter. We are now both too scared to chit-chat, so I pluck a frozen bag of shrimp from the freezer and get on with it. As I run my fingers across the rough sheath of a grapefruit, I notice the woman beside me is wearing gloves. I stuff my hands into my pockets, now too ashamed to check the avocado’s ripeness, and hastily toss the mesh bag into my cart. There is a boy stocking mushrooms who has dirt-stained fingertips. I smile at him and he steps aside, giving me a wide berth to select my cremini. I want so badly to tell him about the soup I’ll make with these, but instead, I hurry to pack a brown paper bag and continue down the next aisle. I’d been coming to this store since I was very young. As I pause near the bread aisle, I think back to the way my mother would linger around the deli counter, flirting in German with the butcher who handed me a seemingly never-ending supply of sausage on toothpicks. I remember the way my mother would pick up each loaf of bread on the counter, bring it to her nose and inhale before she finally selected the perfect one. I reminisce of the three-piece folk band near the entrance and how Mom would always stop to listen and bob her head. After I was done twirling, Mom always gave me a few coins to drop in their guitar case. Everything is different now, of course. Live music is banned and there are signs everywhere instructing me not to touch things. Our faces are hidden behind masks now, so I try my absolute best to smile (with my eyes) at a little girl in the cereal aisle. She is sitting in 25

the shopping cart the way I used to and as I look at her, I remember the cool steel of the cart—the way it made a highway of red lines across my legs. The little girl is crooning loudly and when she catches my eyes, she abruptly stops singing. I cannot bear being an interruption to her joy, so I make a snap decision to pull my mask down and stick my tongue out at her. She erupts in laughter and her mother doesn’t notice. When I finally make my way to the check-out line, I observe the woman in front of me. I’m judging her, I know. But she is so grumpy and so sour, it is as if I can smell her complaints before they leave her mouth. And they do. She wants to know why the store doesn’t bag her groceries for her anymore. Why there are only four cashiers working on a Friday afternoon. While she unloads her items onto the belt, she lurches her spite at the cashier. The cashier, a stout woman with a sharp grey bob and dim eyes, has a faded nametag that reads Beatrice and has ten stars haphazardly placed around her name. Her shirt is sky blue and has a smiling sun on the front, but you could see Beatrice’s apathy from the moon. She is unmoved by The Sourpuss, even after she passively-aggressively shakes open a bag and goads, “Eighty dollars later and this is all I get?” While The Sourpuss bitterly bags her groceries and continues to mumble, I begin to unload my produce onto the belt. I look at Beatrice and ask a little too cheerfully, “How is your day going?” At first, I think I see her perk up. But no. Beatrice has one star for every year she has worked here at the grocery store, but after hearing thousands of customers complaining about everything under the moon, Beatrice is indifferent to my buoyancy. I keep trying. I compliment Beatrice on her shirt and she looks up for a moment. I half expect her to thank me but instead, she is aloof. She looks at the cashier behind me as if to say, They make us wear this shirt. 26

Everyone wears this shirt. I feel myself souring now and just when I’m about to give up, Beatrice offers a question that feels like an invitation to keep trying: “May I ask what you plan on doing with eight bunches of dill?” In her ten years, Beatrice has never seen anyone buy so much dill at once. I tell her, “I’m making a big pot of borscht for all my Ukrainian and Russian friends.” Before I finish my sentence, tears are crowding the corners of her eyes. Her sudden surge of emotion shocks her, I can tell. If we weren’t separated by plexiglass and at least six layers of cotton across our faces, I would hug her. That time is long gone though, and I don’t know if it will be back. So. I let her weep. I do not move and I do not break her teary gaze until Beatrice clears her throat and starts swiping the bag of avocados. She informs me that she will be price matching everything. I never price match anything, can’t be bothered, but I thank her. The next time I catch her gaze, she points to the blue and yellow earrings she is wearing, representing the Ukrainian flag. I tell her that her shirt also matches the flag and she cracks a smile that is so mighty, I can see it through her mask. The tears are pooling and soaking the corners of her mask and she doesn’t care. I move to the other end of the belt to bag my groceries. The Sourpuss is long gone but there is another impatient woman behind me who starts tapping her toe. As I bag my groceries, I listen as Beatrice asks her new shopper how her day is going. The Toe Tapper keeps her eyes down, glued to her phone, and grunts. Beatrice keeps trying. She asks The Toe Tapper about the weather outside; asks if she has any big plans for the weekend. When I am done loading the bags into my cart, I wave goodbye to Beatrice. Twenty minutes later, I’m unpacking my groceries into my fridge. I decide to freeze the fish. I leave the rock-hard avocados out to ripen. I start washing the dill and peeling the beets. I’m still thinking of that little girl from the cereal aisle and the way she 27

cackled. I’m still thinking of Beatrice and the way she softened. While the borscht simmers on the back of the stove, I turn on the radio and listen to the news for a few moments. I make the decision to switch it to the jazz station and sway my hips as I begin chopping the dill. I’ve already arranged to deliver the soup to several friends tomorrow. I’ll drop it off in mason jars with handwritten cards that read, Thinking of you and Praying for your parents. I’d love to have them all over for a dinner party but everything is different now. I wonder quietly to myself if I showed up at the store tomorrow with a jar of borscht for Beatrice if she would still be crying. I wonder to myself how long Beatrice will try for.

Yoda Olinyk


Linnea Stephan 29

Los Feliz All the world’s camera boys and you were the stage. Being unreasonable has led us to the good things in life. Balayage of canyon, chemtrail, encampment. Forgiveness these days: someone crosses the street with a shopping cart and offers me a peace sign. When you have to stop at every red light, notice the salesman with the fruit stand. Forgiveness: walking with you under a loquat tree on Rowena when the air is pink and sweet. They don’t get it, they don’t have to. Me and you and our shared obsession with light. The sky’s getting darker later and it always feels like May.

Jessica Abughattas


Inevitable Heat hot on the street, no one leaves until dusk three men walk by wearing the same white tee they didn’t even mean to match strike latch but in blue-evening they catch each other like a collective thought all attached to need for reprieve we grasp at water and remember we are a desert together we talk about the weather whoever says its trivial is wrong!!! “i didn’t mean to shout” i whisper to the corner store clerk after he mentions i’m welcome to hangout in their walk-in refrigerator with its spacious interior it’s just so cool to be caught with one another in this bright light heat lamp maze a neighbor walks by, “hey say i think i might be going insane.” “yeah, me too this heat is frying brains.”

S M Van de Kamp


Jacob Allers-Hatlie


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