This has been week 1 of 2 that I’ll be without a car. And so, a walk in the neighborhood took a completely different meaning: it was no longer for leisure, but out of necessity. I told myself: this is a good opportunity to see the community, use local services like the library and public parks and shop at local stores.

But when I looked for a grocery store, all I could find were stale vegetables and white bread on the shelves; When I wanted a bakery or coffee shop, there was none to be seen – unless you call Dunkin’ Donuts as such; and the public library was closed – summer hours threatening to be effective year around, because of State budget cuts. I saw a neighborhood forgetting what it was like to be a thriving community and starting to acknowledge it was barely making it.

According to a 2001 Sensus, there are about 4,081 people, 1,747 households, and 1,070 families residing in Lawrence Township with me. Well, they might live here, but they are not shopping locally. The concept of “local” is going 20 miles north to the next strip mall. SUV required. The habit of walking around the neighborhood disappeared. And with it, came entire stretches of town with no sidewalks in sight.

When I lost count of how many store fronts were boarded up, I realized the radio announcements of a weak economy had materialized right down the block. Months of vacancy had now become years, and any attempts to keep the empty real state presentable were as abandoned as any expectation of an economic recovery. My inconvenience is easy to deal with for two weeks, what’s hard to face is that, what’s gone is probably not coming back to this neighborhood any time soon.