If you pay attention, you can pick up on the patterns of everyday life in the community in the rest of the center too, way more than you'd think glancing at the artifice of fast food drive thrus and chain stores. We used to get the weirdest looks at the market when we brought our own bags, but over my four years here I've observed subtle shifts in my neighbors' behavior that makes it if not the norm, a little less hippy crazy. I know which of the night shift checkers will most quickly tackle my grocery pile and remember the SKU for rainbow chard without checking the book. I've observed just enough about the Orthodox family that owns the soft serve place and the Boston Italians who run Upper Crust Pizza to have a concocted some speculative theories about their family dynamics. I early-voted for Obama in a trailer in the parking lot in the middle of the local art fair. When I first got engaged, I got schooled in ring care by the husband and wife team who have long run the local jewelry store. We walked in on a whim, suddenly not intimidated to just browse because of the piece of actual jewelry I was now wearing, and the wife chastised me for touching my diamond too much and gave me some great tips on how to keep it clean. On Friday nights teenagers idle the hours away perched on each others bumpers in the parking lot, blasting music, maybe skateboarding, mostly just hanging out.
I’m not as good as Andrea but I do walk to Trails Center a fair amount instead of driving and I notice that others in the neighborhood do too, though not nearly as many people as you'd like to see, especially given the amount of time and money that's been put into the masterplan’s sidewalks, bike lanes, shade trees, and the eponymous Trails following the flood washes that cut through pleasingly named housing complexes and for the most part all lead here. When I first moved in I chuckled that my closest retail center was on Village Center Circle right off of Town Center Drive. Jane Jacobs it is not, but I now find myself feeling the same affection for the goings on in that strip mall as I do about my (and Jane’s) old stretch of Hudson Street. Well, almost. Don't get me wrong - there are a lot of things about my neighborhood that clearly don't work well and thwart the vague sense of community you do get at the Center and I'll tell you about those too. But I'm writing at Starbucks right now, and perfectly content.