When Jim Taylor moved to the Washington area 40 years ago, he recalls, "I thought about living in Beltsville, and I thought about living in Washington, but I picked Northern Virginia because it seemed the most neighborly."
"Well, a place where a West Virginia hillbilly like me felt at home. You know, there were people here like me -- and not too many people that weren't like me."
Now retired from his machinist's job, Jim Taylor still has the Northern Virginia habit, if not the house he owned for 20 years in Falls Church but sold when his wife pass away. Since 1960, he has lived in Willston, a 30-year-old garden apartment development near the Seven Corners Shopping Center. And Taylor has noticed big changes on the neighborliness front.
"Here at Willston, we've got eight Vietnamese in a one-bedroom apartment sleeping on hammocks. I got black people across the hall, Indians downstairs and Spanish people right above us -- from Ecuador, I think.
"We say something about the weather, maybe like that, but not much else. It doesn't feel the same as it used to. There's so many different kinds of people that it almost feels like a city."
That is precisely the conclusion that this reporter has reached about neighborhood life in Northern Virginia after a year of reporting for the Virginia Weekly series, "In The Neighborhoods."
No longer do Arlington and Fairfax counties and the City of Alexandria live up to their billing as homogeneous back-waters separated by the Potomac River from the power and Glory of Washington -- if indeed they ever did.
Rather, neighborhoods in Northern Virginia -- and particularly those inside the Beltway -- are beginning to face the kinds of transportation, education, racial and crime problems that once were limited almost exclusively to urban areas.
In an Annandale townhouse subdivision, for example, two burglaries were reported last December. When citizens asked Fairfax County police for extra attention, the response was: "Gee, we'll try."
The reason: "This is a big country, and there's a lot of crime, just like there's a lot of crime in a lot of places in the city," said a county police spokeswoman. "We can't be everywhere at once."
Nor are Northern Virginia's governments the practitioners of fiscal "can-do" as much as they once were.
For example, black teen-agers in Fairfax's rural Lincoln-Lewis-Vannoy neighborhood were disappointed to learn that a mostly white neighborhood on the other side of the county -- Huntington -- had out-lobbied them for funds needed to build a new recreation center.
But the teen-agers' leader, recreation aide Sonny Metcalfe, wasn't surprised. "This is big city politics in the country," he said.
For arousing sheer emotion in Northern Virginia neighborhoods, however, there is nothing to compare with parking hassles or threats to the resale value of homes.
One September day, Charles Bailey, a Metrobus driver, took me on a guided tour of the parking lot of his high-rise on Arlington's Glebe Road.
"See, this one doesn't belong here," he said, slapping an Oldsmobile's fender. "And neither does this one (a Volkswagen). Or this one (a Volvo). f
"It's like this everywhere out here. It wouldn't surprise me if illegal parking leads to violence one day. I feel like it myself a lot of times."
Everlyn Halloran felt very much like it when she found a summons upon her NEIGHBORS, from page 1 return home in Franconia from a two-month trip abroad.
Two neighbors -- whose anonymity had been preserved by county law -- had complained that her lawn had grown taller than the legal limit of three inches.
"They were worried that their precious property values might be hurt," said Halloran. "Why didn't they worry about the people living in slum apartments a mile from here?"
Other urban tales have begun to collect around Northern Virginia's once-nonurban neighborhoods.
For instance, a church near the Ballston Metro station began charging $4 a day for commuters to park in its lot. When some parishioners complained the move was greedy, the assistant pastor replied: "I learned in big city parishes all over the country that God helps those who help themselves."
Then, there was the city councilman in Manassas Park who suggested that top city officials be required to live within the city limits. His reasoning: "If the District of Columbia government can do it, why can't we?"
In any case, Northern Virginia still has much of the kind of neighborliness Jim Taylor remembers.
When residents of Old Town Alexandria got upset this summer about drunken behavior by young people in their neighborhood, Seymour Young, president of the citizens' association, went door to door and took notes.
"And you know what? Not a soul refused to open his door or help us."
At the same time, officials of Northern Virginia's two highest-grossing charities -- the American Cancer Society and the Heart Fund -- were worried about signing up enough volunteers for their 1980 fund drives.
Both charities ended up with more volunteers -- and dollars -- than in any previous year.
Moreover, the 1980 census found Northern Virginia the biggest gainer of population in the Washington area.
"It's still a good place to live," said Jim Taylor, "even if it's not as good as it used to be. But what place is?"