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LIFE & TIMES / WENDY MILLER

Finding Community on Bulletin Boards, Byways

March 31, 1994|WENDY MILLER | Wendy Miller is editor of Ventura County Life

As the global village gets smaller, our own little piece of it seems to get bigger. We leave our sprawling suburban tracts and merge with traffic on multiple ribbons of four-lane highways.

It's down the off-ramp to drop the children at school, then back up the on-ramp to join thousands of others lurching along to some other neighborhood where we will toil or shop.

So how do we achieve a sense of community when we spend so little time at home?

We join the PTA or the Neighborhood Watch, and our kids become Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or Little Leaguers. We throw block parties, attend garage sales and actually talk to our neighbors.

And we shop locally, and when we do, we check out the neighborhood bulletin board at the market, at the Laundromat or in front of the pet shop.

That's what free-lance writer Leo Smith did. He spent some time in Thousand Oaks, at one of the county's busier bulletin boards, to find out more about the people and services behind the 3-by-5 cards.

"You can tell a lot about members of a community through the ads they place on a bulletin board. Each neighborhood has its own personality and its own particular needs," said Smith.

"Of course, every place has its lost dogs and get-rich-quick ads. But in Ojai you are more likely to find ads of a spiritual and health-conscious nature. At the board I went to there was an emphasis on services for the two-career family--housecleaning, cooking, baby-sitting."

Some, but not all, of those who advertised in Thousand Oaks needed money, Smith said. Others were looking to start or change careers.

"Regardless of why they were advertising, all the people I talked with had really interesting life stories, which didn't surprise me," said Smith. "If you spend enough time with anyone, you'll find something that is interesting, touching, even poetic."

Which are just some of the qualities staff writer Leonard Reed will be looking for each week when he and his automobile go "On the Road." His new column, which premieres in today's section, will take Len and his readers around the county in pursuit of the odd, the funny, the poignant and the extraordinary.

If you spot him in his Volkswagen on some back road or at a busy intersection, don't just honk at him. Give a wave or tell him a story. That's why he's out there.

He isn't just another driver on that crowded highway.

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