An excellent email list is more than just a way to talk to your neighbors. It’s entertainment. And in D.C., such electronic message boards are often chronicles of minute spats that get blown fantastically out of proportion. The discourse of the Cleveland Park list symbolizes—in daily digest form—the growing pains of a city that’s not quite ready to shake its slow, southern roots and become a big-time urban metropolis. Between the extensive back-and-forth on matters of planning and development, the list also descends into more plebeian topics: Members will post items they’re willing to part with or want; the requests range from baby clothes to sports tickets to advice on home improvement.
Perhaps most importantly, the Cleveland Park email list is open to the public. Though you have to request membership and be approved by the moderators, anyone can join, without providing a reason as to why they’d like to be on the receiving end of dozens of emails about activated car alarms and stop sign placement (à la McLean Gardens’ email list) or giving an address (as required by Chevy Chase’s). This encourages a kind of voyeurism that feels less creepy than actually watching your neighbor’s comings and goings. That is, for those of us who don’t live in Cleveland Park but subscribe to the list anyway, a welcome reminder that our own neighborhoods are less uptight.