It’s Saturday afternoon and you have just finished mowing the lawn. You wave to your neighbor across the street. She comes over, with a dish you left at her house last night.
You make plans to grill out tonight at your house and you return the two eggs you borrowed from her the night before. Another neighbor brings over a basket of vegetables from his garden and requests you bring “that chocolate cake” to the party next weekend. Later, when you pack up the baby and the dog to walk to the park, the neighbors down the block wave as you pass. One offers you bottled water, “it’s hot out there,” he says “there’s always water in the fridge in the garage, help yourself.”
This scene isn’t the opening to some stereotypical tongue-in-cheek portrayal of American Idealized Suburbia, it’s my life. My life in Hampton Roads. My life in the Simonsdale neighborhood in Portsmouth.
Yep, Portsmouth. P-town. That one. I see you making that face. I’ve seen that face on a lot of people when I tell them where I live. That’s okay. I’m happy to live in my little best-kept-secret, and honestly, I feel a little conflicted about letting you all in on it. What makes Simonsdale so great? Well, aside from my ridiculously awesome neighbors, let me count the ways.
I’m a transplant from the north east. I’m well versed in New York and Old Forge style pizza and my expectations are high. Alaina’s (formally East Side) is the only thing that comes close to the type of pie I’d get in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania. When I want pizza, I want it to be Alaina’s or I don’t want it. The pizza is my favorite, but I’ve had a variety of their offerings and I’ve never been even slightly disappointed. If you go, and you should, I recommend getting the largest pie with onion and a Greek salad. Be forewarned the salads could easily be a meal. I can demolish the whole salad and a fourth of a large pizza, but I have the appetite of a teenage boy.
2) The Chesapeake Square Mall
(Chesapeake Square Mall: Mike Kalasnik: flickr)
Our poor, poor mall. It’s coughing and sputtering a bit. I’m the first to admit it can’t compete with the likes of Lynnhaven or McArthur, but there are some key selling points to having an underwhelming shopping center at your fingertips. First, sale rack heaven. Second, the flagship stores often get overlooked. I found Lily for Target merchandise in my size weeks after it launched at the Chesapeake Square location. I didn’t buy it because I’m not 80, or basic, but it was there. The mall also has a brand new movie theater, which isn’t driving as much business back to the mall as it should, but is doing well on its own.
3) Portsmouth City Park
Oh P-town City Park, you are a jewel. Not only has the park always been well-kept and well-patrolled (seriously, I see the cops driving through the park all the time) it’s really been continually improved over the years. City Park boasts pavilions, pet clean up stations, a golf course, two playgrounds, a new mini skate park, the Pokey Smokey II train, and free children’s movies every Sunday this summer. The park also had a very well-used boat ramp, but it’s currently closed for much needed repairs.
Of course there are more great points to living in Simonsdale (the prime location to the Midtown tunnel, 264 and 664 would be another) but these would be my top three. I love my neighborhood; it’s been a dream to live in a place with so much going for it and so little traffic (I spent the last week driving to Virginia Beach and back and, no thank you. You can keep it.) The only downside for my family is that we’re going to outgrow our small 1940’s home. Simonsdale is thick with older homes, complete with crown molding and lots of character, but not a lot of room to grow. Soon we’ll be looking to move out of our idyllic little neighborhood and into somewhere bigger with a little more land, but I don’t think we’ll ever find someplace that will cradle us with as much kindness as Simonsdale.