Well I'm neither cheap nor easy but lately that's what I've been looking for in entertaining. And maybe "entertaining" is too fancy a word. Even "parties" doesn't quite fit. What I want to do is get together with family and friends without having to plan months in advance or spend lots of money. Does this concept exist anymore?
It did once.

Back in the 70s, three brothers—Roy, Bob and Davehad the idea to build Philadelphia-style Trinity townhouses on a tract of farmland in the middle of nowhere. Roboda was divided into neighborhoods, each with rows of townhouses arranged around mini-"parks" of puny shrubs and wooden benches; and each with an awful name meant to conjure up Colonial days. Thus our neighborhood, Village Rounde, with a deliberate 'e' on the end. The result could have been a suburban commuter development where residents drove home from work and snapped their doors shut behind them.

But the houses were small. The new owners were young and broke. The concept of a "play date" did not exist. In the summer us kids left home in the morning, stopped back for lunch (chocolate milk and fried bologna sandwiches on Wonder Bread with Gulden's mustard if we were lucky) and dinner (chicken, Crisco-fried in my mom's avocado green electric skillet if we were really lucky), and otherwise roamed the fields, splashed through the creeks and trudged through the mud and muck left behind by bulldozers carving out the next "Village." My sister and I—at 7 and 6—were the oldest kids and thus in charge (and very soon babysitting—for about $1 an hour).

Few of the moms worked. If our next-door neighbor Doreen (one of only two people I've ever known with my name) needed sugar for her coffee she simply walked right into our kitchen since no one locked their doors. I suspect what she really wanted was company. Like most of our neighbors, she had moved far away from her hometown. And so us Village Rounders became each other's family.

On muggy summer nights, after our dads got home from work and we'd all eaten dinner, the parents would gather in the Rounde, often with a keg of beer. Their laughter would echo into the darkness as us kids caught fireflies and played pretend.

Elaborate events and traditions would follow (thanks mostly to Ed K., a man who could blow most professional party planners out of the water) but I mostly remember these easy summer nights, that sense of belonging and affection and community. It's probably one reason I moved into the real version of Colonial Philadelphia—a Queen Village neighborhood of small, tree-lined streets and neighbors who know each other's names and have the keys to each other's homes. It's the reason some of my best times as an adult have essentially been that central gathering place transferred to a dock, surrounded by boat slips and a dozen diverse yet very close friends. It's why I've come to realize that when times are tough and your instinct is to just vegetate in front of the TV, really the best thing you can do is get out of the house or get other people in, so you can eat and drink and laugh with those you love.

"Use the good china for breakfast."