When I was in college, I lived in an apartment building sandwiched between used car lots in Salem, Oregon with my friend Kelda. Our upstairs neighbor, Layle, used to climb down from his deck to our deck, wearing armor made out of traffic signs and reflectors. He was one of those guys that liked to show off his ability to climb and parkour around. I don’t think he ever came to our apartment via the stairs down to our front door.
And he loved Renaissance Faires. Which I am not judging here; I myself have attended and enjoyed Renaissance festivals. My outfits were not usually as good as other faire-goers. (Below is yours truly, circa 2007).
Can I just note that no matter how horrific my outfit is here, how straight-faced I’m trying to be, or the fact that I asked to pose with this stranger in the first place, I think the real comedy is how I am holding my hand. Like a claw. Like a Golum-claw.
Anyway, Layle would climb down the poles connecting our decks and knock on our sliding glass door. We’d let him in and we’d all just hang out and eat Jojos and drink Miller High Life. I think that Kelda and I were both feeling like we were living some kind of alternative artiste lifestyle, using our apartment as more of an art studio than a living space, so Layle’s unscheduled visits and eccentric outfits seemed to fit in. (Note that Kelda is still an artist. All of those college apartment art projects paid off! Seriously she is incredible).
One of my favorite neighbors in recent memory was Andres, with whom Aaron and I shared a duplex in downtown Carrboro, North Carolina. He was a Brazilian inventor and totally fascinating. He’d also on occasion fix things for us without asking, like the time he replaced a missing hubcap on my car. He came to our “soft clothes” party and did not disappoint us with his outfit.
We have some pretty incredible current neighbors in Oxford. Although our own house is surrounded by houses occupied by students, there are a bunch of non-students at the end of our street, Vine Street. The non-students kind of band together a bit. We even have our own Facebook group page, “Fruit of the Vine.”
A while back I made a birthday cake for one of my neighbors. But I’ve been looking for opportunities to make and give cakes to other neighbors.
One thing I love about Vine Street is that we have some incredible kids in the neighborhood. Eli, for example, has some serious star power. When I found out that Eli LOVES David Bowie, I knew I had to make him a David Bowie cake. I mean, I had already made two other David Bowie cakes – see here and here.
So I made a homemade funfetti cake with David Bowie in vanilla buttercream. And since Eli, like David Bowie, has a penchant for style, I wanted this David Bowie cake to include one of his really snazzy outfits (unlike my other DB cakes that were portraits).
Eli loved it!!! It was a pure delight to make it for him, especially because he seemed so thrilled to receive it.
And after I made Eli a cake, I ended up begging some other neighbors to let me make them a cake for their twins’ first birthday this last weekend too.
I had been longing to make this Ina Garten cake that my mom has raved about for years.
Our neighbors, Lori and Chuck, who are about four houses down from us, had twins about a month and a half before we had Ansel. So with all of my kvetching and OH-MY-GAWD-BABIES-ARE-HARD moments throughout the last year, I only had to look at them to realize that, yes, one baby is hard, but two babies? Well, it’s just crazy Navy-SEAL-boot-camp-level hard.
Needless to say, they deserved a really nice cake. A nice, dense, chocolatey, Ina Garten cake.
And I wanted it to be pretty too. Especially since this would be Ansel’s debut at a peer social event.
The cake was DELICIOUS. Recipe here.
And Ansel was clearly the life of the party.
Okay, maybe he was more of a wallflower. But either way, he had fun.
I do wonder what Layle is up to these days and if I would see him again if I visited our old stomping grounds in Salem. I imagine that he is precariously climbing around on some castle-structure at an Oregon Renaissance festival, or maybe he is working on his next sign-inspired costume. Or maybe he’s eating cake with his next door neighbor. If not cake, Jojos, at least.