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The neighborhood association meeting was held in the recreation room of a local Lutheran church. I had had a couple of cocktails before arriving, so I was less anxious than I might be otherwise, walking in to a room full of strangers. It was a cold and rainy evening so Cassie and I were wet and harried as we rushed in the door. Our contribution to the potluck was tabouli. We were greeted by a bald disinterested man who snacked on a styrofoam plate of small, indeterminate types of potluck-type casserole based foods. The beef, tomato sauce and macaroni mixture left a thin red film on the plate as he scooped up the last bits with a plastic fork. Maybe it was the alcohol and the exhaustion from the day, but both Cassie and I stood awkwardly at the entrance, waiting for some undetermined thing to happen. "Be sure to sign in," bald greasy plate guy finally said to us. I wondered if the macaroni and beef mixture came with cheese on it, absentmindedly signing my name and Cassie's. After some discussion about whether we had in fact actually paid our dues, we were finally cleared to enter the food area. Where is the beef-a-roni?

A frail looking man who looked very much the role of white urban professional/gentrifier stared somewhat uncomfortably at me. He really seemed afraid to look me in the eye, which made me uncomfortable. He was clearly the guy in charge, but the role didn't seem to make him happy. I introduced myself, extending a hand. That seemed to frighten him. How much more of this strange communication environment would I have to endure before I got to the beef-a-roni? Clearly, it was going to be a popular dish.

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