The following is an excerpt from Pearl Gaines’ State of the Neighborhood Address, given Sunday at The Crandalls’ barbecue. For a complete transcript, write in care of this newspaper.

My fellow Garden Districtites: We stand on the brink of questionable times. To one side lies prosperity, joy, and the hope that certain dog owners who shall remain nameless will start picking up the “business” their dogs leave behind when they go on walks. To the other side lies corruption, ruin, and the total collapse of the Garden District neighborhood. How do we decide the correct path to take? We must look within ourselves.

This answer is easier to find than most would think. If everyone just stood up straight and said, “Yes!” then this neighborhood would improve tenfold. If we all pulled together and put our trash out the night before it was supposed to be picked up, we could achieve new heights. If the citizenry would keep their shades closed while making love or going to the bathroom, our neighborhood would stand taller than ever. If the Hendersons would only repaint that awful peeling garage door and keep their music down, well then...

This is not to say that we have not made great strides. Lawns improved a dramatic 15 percent in the neighborhoodal 1995-96 year. All sources point toward the fact that people mowed their lawns on a more regular basis, and that we didn’t suffer from the dry spell like we did in ’94. If we keep our eyes to the future and remember to water, mulch and rake regularly, we can continue this upswing and carry good lawns into the 21st century.

But before we rejoice in this great triumph, consider those faults which still remain within our gentle burg. In February, Louise Maverly of 1401 Oak Terrace left town for four days to tend to her sick mother. While she was out, her husband Bernard had a woman there overnight. While nothing can be confirmed, from this it can be inferred that Bernard Maverly is a no-good cheat. And if this is the case, I urge each of you to have a long talk with Bernard Maverly.

Commerce boomed to record highs, in part thanks to the all-neighborhood rummage sale held in the summer. People from all over town flooded our streets looking for that special bargain, and most people found it. I, myself, was able to purchase two beautiful Avon perfume bottles shaped like pirates’ muskets for only 50 cents from the McDowells. They, in turn, walked away with a beautiful painting my aunt Betty gave me for a mere $2, marked down from $5. It’s that little give-and-take that makes a neighborhood run smoothly. If only the Carters down the street would take heed to this by not undercutting my prices at the next sale, we could continue to live in harmony.

That said, I must say there is a dark side to the neighborhood that is growing like a cancer. That cancer is grass clippings and moldy leaf piles. I know the difficulty of disposing of them properly. I know that it is easy to say, “I’ll bag them tomorrow,” especially after a hard day of mowing and raking. Well, that tomorrow never seems to come in time to prevent a pile of organic mass from reeking with rot and attracting flies. We can easily avoid this by bagging our organic materials in a timely and organized fashion.

We were all saddened when Mr. Davis died suddenly at 73. His house stood vacant for three months, and the neighborhood waited nervously to see who would replace the beloved community member and father of four. Thankfully, we were pleased to welcome the Washington family to our neighborhood last month. With the addition of Thomas, Sandra, and their two lovely children, Jamal and Kenya, the percentage of minority residents rose a whopping 400%! That’s just great. This is just the kind of diversity that we need in our neighborhood. Word up, my brothers and sisters, as I understand you are fond of saying.

In conclusion, my friends and neighbors, we stand poised on the brink of greatness. Ours could become a shining beacon that calls out to all, “Live here! Enjoy our beautiful lawns! Relish in the vast amount of on-street parking available! Take part in our friendly annual gardening competitions!” But this will happen only if we all make the hard sacrifices that I have outlined here. Otherwise, we could fall into disarray and darkness. I urge you all: Look deep into your hearts and backyards to discover what you can do to make ours a better, cleaner place. I thank you.