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Being the Bachelor Next Door

CDKitchen Cooking Columnist Josh Gunn
About the author: Josh Gunn
Bachelor chef; southern cooking; mixologist; university professor. Josh's recipes will delight (and sometimes terrify) you.
Either owing to the poverty-rich college life or living on a single income, many bachelors live in apartments or condominiums. The advantages and disadvantages of this are well known, and most of the latter concern the dreaded "shared wall." Now, if you like to throw the occasional party and play music loudly like me, it would behoove you to be on good relations with those on the other side of your shared wall. And heck, even if you live in a stand-alone home, it's still a good idea to make nice with the neighbors.

I'm fairly friendly with all but one of my neighbors (the "but one" is a proverbial, aged pain in the buttocks, but that's another column about mold abatement and shared plumbing). When I leave or return home, it's nice to be waved at and occasionally discuss how we're all "doing."

A few weeks ago a friend was over for brunch, and she observed me interacting with my neighbors as I picked up the Sunday paper. She remarked that she thought my neighborly friendliness was unusual, and asked how I got to be on such good terms with folks. "Well, I systematically had each of the over for dinner," I said.

"You have to have done more than that," she replied. "You should write a column about how to establish good neighborly relations."

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So, here's the column. Below is a list of seven tips for being the nicest bachelor on your block:

Wave, you moron! Remember, your neighbors are human beings. When you pass them in your car, while jogging, or otherwise while being outside, wave hello, perhaps even say "hi!" There's nothing more unpleasant than a neighborhood of cold strangers.

Have your neighbors over for dinner. Whenever I move to a new place, I try to meet the neighbors and invite them over for some grub, usually two couples at a time. There's plenty of crowd-pleasing recipes on this website to try. If you're afraid to cook for everyone, host a potluck in your apartment instead.

Get your neighbors' phone number and give them leftovers. One thing I learned about my neighbors over the years is that everyone appreciates free, good food. And because I'm a live-alone guy, when I make something special, I usually have more than I can eat (or am willing to eat over the course of a week). I frequently phone my neighbors to ask if they would like some of the gumbo I made that evening, soup, and so on. Rarely do they say "no thanks." You might lose a lot of storage-wear this way, though, so be sure only to give away your food in those inexpensive throw-away containers (or if you're not averse to recycling, washed plastic sour cream containers).

Don't forget holiday greetings! If you can afford it, you might think to give the neighbors closest to you a holiday greeting over the busy season (December-January). Little notes like this go a long way in the Goodwill Department.

Give the neighbor you trust a spare key. Once you've established yourself and have gotten to know your neighbors a bit, you might want to give the ones you trust a spare key in the event of an emergency. Three of my neighbors have copies of my home keys. This establishes a baseline of trust that really will benefit you one day (Hint: go with the older, more established neighbor, not the 18 year old undergrad who might be tempted to steal your video games).

Give a gift basket or trinket to a new neighbor. I was raised in the South, and one tradition that I was taught was that if a new neighbor moves in, you should leave them a little gift on their doorstep and a "welcome to the neighborhood" note card. I'm afraid this is a dying tradition, but it is really nice to get a surprise after moving in!

And last but not least, always, always, always, invite the neighbors to your party. Most places have noise ordinances that go into effect at nightfall or later (here in Austin, it's 11:00 p.m.), which means if the fuzz are called about a party you are throwing, the cops will come and poop on your party.

The first rule of throwing parties is that you should not throw a lot of them. I throw two big parties a year, that's it. Most neighbors will put up with a little noisy-ness if it is not frequent. Second, you should always encourage your neighbors to come to the party. Invite them. Or better yet, invite them to a "neighbors only" pre-party.

I've never had the cops called on me for my parties, and I think this is because I've always invited my neighbors over with formal invitations. In the invitation, I usually say something like this: "Are we too noisy? Before you call the cops, why don't you just come on over and make some noise with us! But if that's not an option, give me a call at the number below and we'll tone it down." You'll be surprised how including your neighbors in the fun makes everyone happier!
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