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Wednesday, 09 February
Fences

When I was a tot--third grade--we lived in an Oregon town called (you're not going to believe this) Shady Cove. Yes, it does sound like a show on FOX about the supernatural, but we did. We lived next to Victor.

Victor was a great old duffer; he did stonework, and had constructed a lovely terraced garden on the hillside opposite his house. He also had a really great hand-built stone fountain that he made for his front lawn. When he built out a back porch for his place, he ran into a stately old pine tree that impeded his progress. Unwilling, I suppose, to get rid of the tree, he built the damn porch around it. As a little kid, I was always taken by the neat hole in the floorboards and roof of the porch, and of the mere fact that a TREE WAS IN HIS PORCH!

Victor was always kind to me, and had weird paint cans full of little geegaws and trinkets that he would let me rummage through; I could always take what I liked. (I know this sounds kind of creepy and pederasty, and you're probably wondering when Victor was going to get around to removing my pants, but you'll just have to take my word for it that Victor was just a really nice old man.)

One morning on her way to work, my mom spied Victor; he was crumpled over one of his garden terraces. He had croaked. It's good (in some small way) that my mom discovered him; as an RN, she wasn't going to get the heebies about discovering a corpse, anyway. And he was found by a friend.

After his death, the house sat vacant for a little while, and then was bought by an awful family with an awful dog who liked to chase me every day, and filled me with daily terror, and eventually ended up viciously biting my best friend's leg.

And so it began that I would experience Bad Neighbors.

DORM

Everyone has a bad dorm neighbor experience. Mine is actually pretty boring. He was your average burnout, the kind of guy you wondered how he even got out of bed in the morning, and you generally wished he hadn't, especially when he'd say things like (I remember this exact quote), "This is the best love song ever made." He was referring to "I Melt With You." He displayed no hint of irony as he said it.

The only thing he seemed to be good for was selling Ecstasy, which I tried a couple times, and quickly became frustrated with it, since a drug that heightens arousal is kind of a pain in the ass when nobody wants to have sex with you. I realized Ecstasy really wasn't for me when I found myself telling a girl, "I really like your haircut. You should get that haircut every day."

I obviously went home alone that night, and, thanks to the drug, failed to sleep, so I was treated to burnout (1) having sex while (2) burning incense and (3) loudly playing Enya.

He probably makes six figures with Union Carbide or something.

OUT OF THE DORM, OUT OF HER MIND

When I moved off-campus, I got an apartment with a pal from Boston. We were barely tolerated by the management; they seemed to get upset when we had loud, drunken parties where my friend D. would run out to my balcony and squeeze an entire tube of toothpaste out onto the cars parked below.

But we were positively adored by the neighbor across the hall, who was screamingly fucking crazy. My first inkling of this was when she knocked on our door--wearing, I kid you not, an actual housecoat--and presented me with some leftovers. "You kids can't afford much! Take some food; I have plenty!" And hey, I'm not too proud to eat leftovers. But what she was presenting was simply her evening's dinner plate with pushed-around, half-eaten food, covered in Saran Wrap. Lovely! I'm a hobo!

Crazy Lady reached her apex one unfortunate day when my friend D. was over, and she knocked on the door. I answered it, and she lunged inside, waving a crummy little Pink Panther doll. "Can you fix it?" she implored. We stared at her, and she raved for a little while longer about uncertain things. She waved the horrid little thing at us again, while D. and I wondered how to get her the fuck out of our space. D. finally got decisive, and snatched the doll from her grasp. "We'll take care of it!" he said, and relief flooded her face. We uneasily showed her our teeth as she backed out the door, tearfully thanking us for agreeing to mend her bloody Pink Panther doll.

D. got steely after that. "We've got to get the fuck out of here," he said. He marched into the kitchen and opened the freezer and threw the doll inside. D. was also very stoned, so I suppose the freezer made as much sense as anything. We composed a note for my roommate: "Please ignore the Pink Panther in the freezer."

DOWNSTAIRS

For a time here in Seattle, I lived on my own after the utter whoops-that-broke-horribly disaster of my first marriage. Part of that time was spent in a second-floor studio apartment sandwiched between a techno enthusiast (upstairs) and a raving lunatic (downstairs). We obviously all didn't move in at the same time, but when the three rivers all came to a confluence . . . well, I got phone calls.

The techno guy upstairs I could frankly live with. I really don't give a damn, and I can sleep through anything. The problem came when First Floor Loony moved in, because she was extraordinarily sensitive to noise. So then these things happened:

The third floor techno guy would be blaring some Propellerheads song. The first floor loony would go outside to hit my buzzer--which connected to my phone--to complain.

"Who is this?!"

"Uh . . . my name is Skot. Who the hell is this?"

"I am Debbie! I'm on the first floor, right beneath you! Can you please turn down your techno music?!"

"I'm not playing techno music!"

"I don't care what you call it! Turn it down!"

This is where I had to close my eyes for a moment.

"Debbie . . . I'm not playing any music. It's the guy above me. Call him."

"Oh!" There was a pause. "I'm sorry. You sound like a nice young man."

I thought that was the end of it, but it wasn't. Every time third floor techno guy would play his music loud, Debbie would call me, but now, she knew me.

*phone rings*

"Hello?"

"Skot! Hi! This is Debbie! I live right below you!" (No shit?) "Can you please turn your music down?"

"Debbie. I'm not playing any music. I'm watching Ape Follies."

She called me every fucking time the guy above me played his loud damn music.

I avoid my neighbors now, of course. I remember a time when I didn't have to.

I sure miss Victor.


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Comments

The best way to avoid your neighbours is to act crazy. You only have to do it once.

Unless you decide it is fun.

Comment number: 005500   Posted by: David Tiley on February 9, 2005 02:21 AM from IP: 150.101.158.30

More stories should end with "Please ignore the Pink Panther in the freezer."

Comment number: 005501   Posted by: Cyrano on February 9, 2005 06:30 AM from IP: 134.163.253.128

I've got me some redneck alkies upstairs who blare country music and stand out on the front porch drinkin beer and shouting at everyone who pulls into the parking lot - during the day - and then switch it over to the easy listening station at night. Which they also blare, for some reason. Kinda defeats the purpose.

I let em slide, though.. they compliment my boobs all the time. *thumb's up*

Comment number: 005502   Posted by: Melissa on February 9, 2005 06:56 AM from IP: 24.28.2.219

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