A block party is therapeutic after tragedy

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My wife and I  always look forward to our St. Paul neighborhood’s block party on National Night Out in August — and never more so than this year after the heartbreaking shooting of St. Paulite Philando Castile during a police traffic stop.

Philando worked at the J.J. Hill Montessori school, which is less than a block from my house, and less than two blocks from the section of street where our block party is always staged.

Because of the shooting, our neighborhood is continually erupting in antipolice protests. As I write this, another demonstration is about to start at J.J. Hill. The governor’s mansion, a site of sometimes-violent protests, is just a few blocks away.

It has been a trying time, which made our party all the more important. It was therapeutic.

The closed-off street, as usual, became a giant living room with lots of cushy patio furniture for catching up with old friends and making new friends. The picture above shows my wife and me having the time of my lives.

The big party attraction this year was a gigantic water slide for the kids. It was a pain to erect, and a nightmare to tear down, fold up and heave into the back of car — but it was SO worth it as the grownups watched the children go out of their minds with fun.

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My friend Don, one of the block-party organizers, let his daughter transform him into a psychedelic caricature at the face-painting table. The smelly paint caused him discomfort, but that did not stop him from making exotic drinks and pressing them into my hand and those of other attendees.

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A few police officers also were in attendance. This is National Night Out standard operating procedure, but so much more important this year with increased tensions between citizens and cops.

My wife and I came away from the block party with a warm buzz  — not just because of the booze — and plans to see our neighbors again in short order.

We’re building community while never forgetting about you, Mr. Phil. Rest in peace.

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