punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Howdy-ho, neighbor!

I wish I knew my neighbors better.

I live in a nice community, and when I say nice, I don't mean "wealthy," I mean nice in that it looks nice, and people are generally friendly. Many people who live here grew up here as kids, and when we go to garage sales, we hear all about them.

Our neighborhood was built in 1970. That seems young to me, but I guess to younger readers, I walked with dinosaurs, so 1970 might seem old. When the neighborhood was planned, potential buyers got one of 5 plans, and while some lots were pre-chosen as to which model went there, you could choose your favorite model of the 5 on an empty lot instead of choosing one already built. The models were generic, but represented standard home styles on the late 1960s. We have a colonial model, a New England model, a ranch model, and two more variations that kind of mixed different styles. I live in a modified colonial. About half the houses here are modified since they had been built, usually by adding a room or two, or modifying the garage to be a rec room. No one had a basement, and the ground below us is mostly slate, so we aren't allowed to have anything below ground (some zoning thing). A few people have above ground pools, but the yards are a bit smaller than most homes built in the time period, so a pool takes up most of your back yard.

Our neighborhood was built "in the middle of nowhere" at the time. In fact, behind us were two big green barns left over from the period where our area was a series of dairy farms. For years, people giving directions used to say, "Drive down Route 50 until you see two green barns, then turn onto the only road there." Those green barns were knocked down in the 1980s and turned into a mega shopping center, which became decrepit, then refurbished, then doubled in size to the sprawl it is today.

A lot of neighbors we have talked to said that they grew up here as kids, and moved back when they bought their first homes. Many of them have been the ones telling me about anecdotes of our neighborhood, and over the years, I have about a few of them.

The first I always hear about if the people who had the house before us. Most people regarded them as decent folk, because they were very Christian, and had three boys -- all adopted. The two older boys were the powerhouse team that did everyone's lawns and stuff, and when they moved away, they were missed. But from what I have seen of the family, there was a dark side. First, their choice of friends seemed rather ... well, I wouldn't let my kid around them. Slack-eyed kids who wore torn clothes and mumbled, ultra-skinny skanks, and seemingly half the cast from Grand Theft Auto. Apparently our house was the "hangout place" for these kids, which explains why, for two years, they kept sneaking around and drinking and leaving trash in the accessible areas not visible to the road. They would smoke, drink alcohol, and sometimes use our yard as a shortcut to the alley behind our house, which drove our dogs nuts. Even during school hours. Cutting back some bushes helped a lot, and the fact that Christine worked from home 3 days a week, and shooed the people away finally dwindled their numbers down to nothing. But neighbors seemed to like them, so what do I know?

To my left is a couple I thought I'd love to have as friends, but they are really aloof and standoffish. The former owner was renting it out, but the house was up for sale shortly after we moved in because he was tired of renting. The former owner was very nice, and told us a lot of what happened when the 10' addition was put on our house. Apparently, it was built too close to the property line on his side, but he and the former owner of my house came to an agreement, and the property lines were adjusted. He also loaned me his mower for a while. When he sold the house, the new couple moved in. They are SCA-like people, with bumper stickers saying "Woad Warrior," and their huge back yard (easily twice the size of mine) hosts several gatherings a year where people dress up in padded armor and practice medieval fighting skills. My type of people! But sadly, all they ever give us is a nod in greeting when given, and often they don't give greetings on their own. When I mentioned the fighting and my past with the SCA, the woman there quickly said, "We're NOT SCA..." and acted offended. When it rains, their front yard turns into a pond, and often, I have thought about putting rubber duckies in it as a joke, but I have this fear they'll get mad.

To my right is an older lady who I think lives with her two adult sons. She's also a bit antisocial. Apparently she's a bus driver, and twice we have met her sons, who seem nice, and they have helped us twice to move heavy objects, but then they never initiate contact on their own. The lady has 2 or 3 large dogs, one named Samantha, a kind of cowardly German Shepherd whom Ahfu is in love with. She has another dog, a mutt, and a third mutt we only see once in a while, so I think some of the dogs are visitors. They don't take the dogs out much, and when she does, and my dogs are out, my dogs go nuts (Ahfu, who just wants the social interaction, and Widget thinks he's some badass bouncer). This makes her visibly mad, and her dogs are scared of mine, even though her dogs are much, much larger.

Across the street is the home of our neighborhood's version of Eddie Haskell. It's apparently one of those ultra-clean, ultra-strict families who don't believe in curtains and who have very little decor in the house. There used to be four people living there, but the daughter, who seemed close to adult, often had HUGE fights with the mother. A few times, there were fights around the car as the daughter was leaving, and the mother would stand behind the car to prevent her from going out. The daughter always won by driving on the lawn around her mother. Their son, who's probably 16 now, is at the very least a compulsive liar and charlatan. He seems very abused, and the former owner of my house told me that he had "been trying to work with him" because apparently the home life there is a disaster. "Eddie" missed the former owner, and he tried to bond with me, but his oily personality, combined with several incidents where he threw tomatoes at cars in the alley, beat my dogs with sticks, and keeps harassing my son in the MOST manipulating manner ... keep me away from him. I feel bad, because I was also abused as a kid, but this boy is beyond my capabilities to help.

Then the rest of the neighborhood is kind of a blur of stay-at-home moms, elderly retirees, and a few islands of interesting characters.

One house belongs to a cop, but apparently he's a real jerk and is abusive towards his wife. They decorate a LOT for Halloween and Christmas, and for Halloween, they usually do a PG-rated Crime scene with a real cop car and everything.

Down the road a bit is the Tan family, a Vietnamese family where the husband and wife do nails for a living. When we moved in, Mr. Tan said, "Oh my God! I live just a few houses down from you!" They recently had a baby, but since they live with a lot of other relatives, they never need a sitter. Rats. I wish the Tans would be our friends, but they work very long hours, and so we only see them when Christine has her nails done. Mr. Tan is our major source for neighborhood gossip.

Another family is the spooky religious clone family. This is a house where an uber-Christian family raises their five children, home schools them, and doesn't really allow their kids to play with others (although lately, I do see her eldest daughter play with other kids). She keeps her brood close. What's really scary is the husband and wife look very much alike, and their kids look like identical clones of each other, spaced a few years apart. "Gracie here is what my eldest, Sarah, looked like when she was 7, and Hope here looks just like Gracie and Sarah when they were 4." The only difference is the girls have really long hair, and they boys have short curly hair. All of them have glasses, too. When the spring and fall "mass-yard sale" occurs, she's always selling off the kids used toys and games. Apparently, the mother/teacher has all of the kids at college-level learning sessions, even though the eldest is maybe 12-13. She has a lot of old textbooks, educational games, and religious stuff. She's a chatty advocate of home-schooling, mostly because she doesn't think public schools teach enough about God and his Holy Flock.

At the end of our road is a house where teens used to hang out constantly and cause problems. Their neighbor has 8 or 9 kids, all of them unsupervised, and the cop neighbor has often threatened to put some of them in jail. The house belonged to a very wealthy housing contractor, and it is the most modified house on the block. The teens don't hang out there much anymore (most are now college age), and the house is up for sale.

A few blocks away is a house that is also heavily modified. We know because we looked at the house before we found the one we're living in now. Basically, they owner added over at third more living space by simply adding a whole new back to the house, and thus, all but removing any yard they had back there. Sadly, he had no sense of design or decor, because they new section was a very different style, and to make matters worse, after he built the house, he ran out of money, and was forced to sell it. Unfinished. He had like 6 kids (which is why he needed the addition), but half of them were foster kids. The floor plan was insane, with S-shaped hallways, uneven floors, and rooms that you had to go in another room to get to (railcar-style bedrooms).

Many neighbors marvel at our house. Apparently adding 10 feet to one end was the talk of the town for a while. Everyone asks about it. Kids who have visited are amazed how huge CR's bedroom is (it's like 10 x 25, originally it was 10 x 15). Sometimes, we have had neighbors who own the same model, think they are in a funhouse. "Where's your laundry room? Oh, accessible from the garage? Wait, the former garage goes here. It's now laundry. So this door must lead to the outside ... no, it's a whole 'nother room! With its own kitchen! Oh my! Does this house ever end?"

Still, most of the time, everyone keeps to themselves. I hear this is normal now, but growing up, I always knew who my neighbors were, even though I was that "tragic Larson boy" whom people sort of avoided. My father was very antisocial, and people always complained and gossiped about that. Nowadays he wouldn't even be noticed.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000464.html
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