"They were sort of tongue-in-cheek," Chen says, "but at the same time they had sort of a quasi-official feel to them." Some people who got the letters thought the neighborhood association had sent them, Chen says, so she wrote an open letter in the Church Hill newsletter to set the record straight.
Anonymous letter-writing is not the best way to communicate with your neighbors, she wrote, and suggested that offering a helping hand might be more effective than penning a nasty note. Chen was rewarded with a letter filled with personal attacks as well as the observation, she says, "that my house has no curb appeal."
Neighbors rallied to Chen's defense. East Broad Street resident Jim Beckner, who also received one of the letters, wrote a piece for the newsletter declaring that he would, in retaliation, place in his front yard that proud emblem of tackiness a pink flamingo.
The idea caught on. Church Hill is now peppered with pink, from the clusters of birds standing in front yards to the bright display in neighborhood coffee shop Captain Buzzy's Beanery. "We got 'em all as gifts," says co-owner Mary Ann Bullard, gesturing to the flamingo lights and figures in the window. "Isn't it a riot?"
The flamingo, she says, has become "the unofficial mascot of Church Hill." The message: "Lighten up! Lighten up!" Bullard says. Church Hill isn't supposed to look like Williamsburg, she says.
No one knows the identity of the "Concerned Citizens." And the flamingos may have thwarted the self-styled yard police. "As far as I know," Chen says, "mine was the last letter." Melissa Scott Sinclair
Letters to the editor may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org