Look, said my buddy Alner, flashing a couple of pasteboards. Penguins tickets. How about an evening of good, bruising hockey?
I didn't have to be asked twice.
You know, he said as we headed for his car, we really have it good today. We've got the arena, the Kirby Center, Movies 14, the Yankees, the Philharmonic. And I just bought a 50-inch TV. Wow! I really feel sorry for the people of years and years ago. How could they ever have enjoyed life?
I sighed. Alner, I can't deny that we have lots of fun things to do here in Wyoming Valley of 2012. But times past weren't exactly a wasteland.
He sprinted for the car.
You're not going to drag me back to some barbaric era 50 or 75 years ago, he said, reaching for the door handle.
But he was too late. Within a fraction of a second, my power of metaphysical travel had carried us to – oh – about 1952.
We're going to miss the start of the game, he moaned as we walked down the street in my old neighborhood.
Relax, I said. I have another power – that of continuous simultaneity. The game in 2012 won't start until we get back there. It's kind of like freeze-frame on your TV.
Hey, what the… he shouted as a ball whizzed by our heads. What are those kids doing in the street?
They're playing baseball, I replied. Their parents don't have to drag them away from a glowing computer screen full of murderous aliens. They're out having some good, healthy fun, and learning teamwork, all on their own.
Looks like everybody's out and about, Alner said, nodding toward a couple of families headed down the block.
They're on the way to the neighborhood movie house, I said. For about a dollar you can treat your whole family to an evening of entertainment. You'll notice they're walking. The air's a lot cleaner because of all the cars that are not on the road.
Interesting, nodded Alner. You just get up and walk to where you want to go.
Alner, you kill me, I laughed. Yes, in this ‘barbaric' time nearly every neighborhood has a shopping area where you'll find a theater and stores of all kinds where you will run into people you know.
Suddenly happy shouts pierced the early evening air.
A man and woman were welcoming another couple, with children, at their front door.
Are the king and queen of England paying a state visit? Alner sneered.
I was growing exasperated.
No, Alner, I said. There once was a time when families visited back and forth in the evening. Everybody had guests one or two nights a week. They'd have coffee, maybe play some bridge or canasta, perhaps listen to ‘Duffy's Tavern' or ‘Truth or Consequences' on the radio. Couples from blocks around were friends, and so were their kids. Alner, have you ever been in a neighbor's house?
I rest my case.
OK, sorry for popping off, he said. I'm just not used to all this…this…
I finished his sentence. It's called neighborliness, and I fear it's a lost art.
But I decided, I'd done all I could for one day. So instantly we were in our seats at the arena, watching the Penguins swoop down the ice.
Suddenly Alner waved at a couple heading up to their seats.
Hi, neighbors, he called, and they waved back, smiling.
Alner, I said. Maybe there's hope for you yet.
Tom Mooney is a Times Leader columnist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.