Tuesday, October 12, 2010

and like a good neighbor

Look, just because my house happens to be next to your house doesn't automatically make you my friend.

After two years of marriage, my wife and I moved from a rented apartment in northeast Philadelphia to a three-story, six bedroom twin home (it's tall and narrow, before you get too impressed) just outside the city limits. A fire wall separated us from our connected neighbors. Occasionally, we heard muffled voices through the walls and once in a while there would be an odd "cooking" aroma, but I'm sure they had similar complaints about us after our son was born within our first year.

The neighbor we saw most often was just across our side-by-side driveways. She was a single mother of two boys. My family's relationship with her family was a friendly "hello" if we passed each other on the driveway. Sometimes I would have to remind her boys not to ride their bikes across my lawn. They apologized. Once, she sternly requested that I not mow my grass at 8 AM on Sunday morning. I apologized.

And then she moved.

A couple, slightly older than my wife and I, with a small child moved in to the vacant home. He was a spaced-out hippie holdover. Harmless but clueless. Their boy was a quiet and unusual child who rarely spoke and took to instant idolization of my son (much to his dismay). She was... was... a... um... total whack-job. She was very, very vocal about how her old neighborhood was wonderful and how this neighborhood was unfriendly. Could it possibly be you, I wondered. I had an immediate dislike for her.

Soon, they got a dog. A big hound that soulfully howled twenty-four hours a day. The loud howling was coupled with her loud yelling trying to quiet the animal. In the early morning hours, she would stand on her driveway (which is directly under our bedroom window) and scream at her son's protests over going to school.

The couple divorced. He moved out and things got worse. She got another dog. A small thing with a high-pitched "yip" that created cacophony when blended with the other mutt's wailing. She clamors about on her driveway at 5 AM, sorting her glass recyclables and loudly singing an off-key medley of show tunes for her own amusement. Then, she erected a basketball backboard at the top of her driveway, so her ridiculously uncoordinated son could rebound a basketball off our car every time he missed a shot (which was quite often). Then, she took in a boarder who, we later discovered, was a recovering drug addict that had fallen off the wagon. Two weeks ago, he broke into my car and stole my ashtray filled with pennies (about forty cents), then disappeared.* I am constantly picking her blown-over trash cans off my driveway, along with the trash remnants that accompany them. I regularly find empty bottles and food containers (from brands I do not use) in my yard. She installed motion-activated spotlights on the side of her house that are aimed at my house. She extended her driveway over the property line and spilled mud and debris onto my driveway during the concrete-mixing stage of the construction.

This morning, I was awakened by the sound of her crying and screaming loudly on her driveway. In my darkened bedroom, and without the aid of my glasses, I squinted at my alarm clock. It was 6 AM. "What the fuck is she doing now?" my wife whispered in the dark.

We've been asking that question for years.


* It cost me $75.00 to replace the ashtray, and I don't even smoke!

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