Friday, July 16, 2010

In A Neighborly Way, Part 1

This week and for the next three weeks, I'd like to present a little of the world around me. No names are mentioned to protect the innocent (or the guilty, as it were) and I offer these posts up to maybe give you some ideas for your own stories and to show you where I grab some ideas for some of my characters. These posts are meant not to demean anyone, but just to show some of the humor you can find around you every day. If you happen to know some of these people or-egad-are one of the characters here...well, I hope you can get a smile out of it. Besides, I wonder what my neighbors have thought about ME...

I've lived in some interesting places during my almost 44 years. (Egads! Am I really 44 this October?) Every place I can remember had memorable and interesting neighbors. In East Moline, I lived next door to a sweet woman with a garden on one side and an irascible couple on the other. My best friend lived down the street and two houses down lived a Down's Syndrome girl. Behind us on the next block lived a great family who owned a pool and-I swear-lived in a little pink house.

In Danville, we had nobody to our right but a nice couple and their children to our left, a couple of teachers across the street and other pretty good folks up and down our quarter mile stretch of road.
In Kewanee, I knew no neighbors except the one who complained about the noise I made running up and down the metal steps.

When I moved to Oskaloosa about twenty years ago, I found an apartment complex up near the William Penn College (since upgraded to University, ooh-la-la). The efficiency apartment had one living room just over six feet long that included a kitchen, a narrow hallway and bedroom just over six feet long. The bathroom was one where you could do three or four things simultaneously it was so small. There was a covered balcony running the length of the second floor which was nice to sit on during storms. The building was situated sideways to the street, so I didn't get much of a view except the backyard of the house across the driveway. The railroad yard was my backyard and the racetrack was barely half a mile away, so you know that 'quiet' was not a situation I was associated with.

But what made the place interesting were the neighbors. I don't recall how many units there were and I didn't know anybody personally except the landlord who was a cop. In fact, at one time, four officers lived in the building; we were the safest place in town.

The tenants to my right when I first moved in were a young couple. The walls between the apartments transferred sound fairly well and every couple of weeks (in my opinion), the man and woman went stir crazy and argued. She'd yell and his voice would get low and mean. I'm not sure, but once or twice he might have pushed her, but usually, he stormed out with a SLAM of the front door. She'd then open the door, stand there for a few minutes, then SLAM it again. That was the extent of their arguments. Sometime over the course of the next few days, they would...uh...make up. I was an audio witness to every glorious moment.

They moved out and a single woman moved in who had left her significant other (I never did find out if he was her spouse or boyfriend). Anyway, the funny thing about him was that he'd call her often. I'd hear her on the phone repeatedly saying things such as, “No, don't come over; I don't want to talk to you.” “No, I don't want to see you and don't call again; I don't want to talk.” I kept thinking, Well, hang up, already. I was working night shift at the time and on one of my nights off during the summer, I was sitting outside at about four in the morning and he calls her. Similar type of conversations as always, then about twenty minutes later, he actually shows up and acting very pathetic, knocks and knocks on her door trying to persuade her to let him in. “Please, let's just talk. Well, if I call, will you talk to me?” After about ten minutes of this, I turned the porch light off on him and went indoors. As I understand, she finally went back to him.

As I said, I didn't know too much about a lot of the other tenants and except for a few things here and there, there wasn't really much excitement.

The next door neighbors were a different story. A rental house with a sloping backyard...sloping right into the house. Whenever heavy rains would fall, there'd be small creek heading right toward the house. One family moved in with kids who proceeded to litter the backyard with toys. They also owned a mutt that barked and barked and barked, literally for hours. I remember one night the damn thing wouldn't shut up and it took ten minutes of knocking on the door to wake up the owners. Yeah, I was a little upset.

One summer afternoon, I'm cleaning the house (yes, mom, I do clean every now and then). The door and window were open. Suddenly, I hear a little plink sound. I couldn't figure what had happened until the next plink and I discovered a BB lying in front of the television. The little rugrats from across the way had shot from their backyard, through my doorway. Hindsight is 20/ oh the things I wished I'd said or done. One day, though, I'm sitting there and realizing that quiet had descended in my little world, I looked out the window and the backyard is clean – they'd moved! Thank heaven.

In 2002, the college decided to purchase the building for student housing. Everyone had to leave. I wasn't sure where to go. I looked into a few places, way out of my price range (and for that matter, any reasonable person's range), but I was lucky (ahem, well, maybe not), to find a place fairly quickly. It's my current abode...and oh, the stories I could tell.

But I'll save them for next time.

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