Sunday, August 17, 2008

Next-Door Neighbors

Spotted on MetaFilter: Smith Magazine ("Everyone has a story") "takes a bunch of renowned artists and writers from the world of Indie Comics and asks them to tell stories about memorable Next-Door Neighbor experiences.

Well, you know me--I just happen to have a couple of my own.

(1) Throughout the 'Eighties I worked for the University of Virginia and lived in a crappy little 10-unit apartment building* populated mostly by students:

One day I came home to find the cutest, blondest, perkiest, petite-est, friendliest little 1st year female student you could possibly imagine lugging boxes into the apartment next to mine, and so I'm thinking, "Wowsers and yowzers! Let the twitterpation begin!" Unfortunately, it turned out she wasn't the one who was going to be living there; she was merely helping her boyfriend of long standing move in, after which she was heading back to the Independent Duchy of Northern Virginia** to do...whatever.

The Boyfriend seemed nice enough at first, maybe a little fratboyesque, but it wasn't long before his place became Drunken Party Central--booze, dudes, babes, and bad music all weekend, most every weekend, which would have been fine if there'd been any soundproofing between his unit and mine, but there wasn't and I spent many a Saturday night being relentlessly pounded by whatever godawful MTV-derived '80s music was climbing the charts at the time*** and being amazed at how quickly and seamlessly he shifted allegiance to (spectacularly slutty-looking and rather, uh, vocal, if you know what I mean... and I think you do) Girlfriend 2.0.

A couple of months passed and then early one evening I heard a soft, almost plaintive, knock at my door. I opened it and, lo and behold, who should be standing there but Girlfriend 1.0 with an elaborately decorated birthday cake:

"Have you seen (The Boyfriend)? It's his birthday and I wanted to surprise him!"


Since she didn't know the town and had no place else to go I invited her inside to wait... and wait we did. Three hours. Three loooong hours punctuated with foot-tapping, clock-checking, and uncomfortable silences. Eventually, The Boyfriend did return and she dashed out to meet him... only to return thirty minutes later, a tad crestfallen, to say thanks and goodbye.

She drove away and I wound up with the birthday cake.

(2) A year or so after I moved to Richmond I acquired a Golden Retriever named Casey and some new neighbors, a gay couple, whose primary source of entertainment seemed to be arguing LOUDLY with one another, arguments often accompanied by the sound of breaking plates and hurled cutlery. They also had this hideous-looking little dog named Gizmo who soon became Casey's best friend.

As the neighbors' fights became more frequent and increasingly vituperative, Gizmo took to hanging out in my apartment****, lounging on my threadbare sofa with Casey and, eventually, the three of us sleeping together in the bedroom.

Since the neighbors weren't feeding him and he rarely went home, I finally got Gizmo his own food and water bowls figuring well, now I have two dogs (and wondered if I could sue for puppy support)... until I came home from work one evening and found Gizmo missing--the neighbors had broken up and Gizmo's owner had moved out.

I was sad, but Casey was devastated. For the next two months he wandered the apartment and the back yard on a regular basis looking for his buddy; he'd hang out for what seemed like hours at the neighbors' back door then come home, lie down beside Gizmo's food bowl, and... wait.

We never saw Gizmo again.

*110 Carrollton Terrace, Apt. 6. The building itself was atop a hill and my apartment, which you can barely see at the farthest end of this photo, was thirty feet above some active railroad tracks. Noisiest place I've ever lived and that includes Boston and New Orleans.

**Virginians do not consider Northern Virginia to be an actual part of the Commonwealth; this is probably because people from Northern Virginia believe the geography beneath them is also...beneath them. They insist that the land due south of Prince William Co. is Deliverance country, full of banjo music, hookworms, inbreeding, and sodomy.

***Thereby interfering with my ongoing and intensive study of the deconstructionist thematics in Beany and Cecil.

****An easy task since I kept the back door open at all times. Dogs are great, but they're always on the wrong side of the door.


Capcom said...

Poor Casey. :-(

Boy, I could write some whopppers about my Poughkeepsie neighbors for that magazine.

G. W. Ferguson said...

Poor Casey, indeed. We eventually got some new neighbors who had a black Lab named Othello who became a suitable Gizmo replacement (it was hilarious to watch Othello, who outweighed Casey by many, many pounds and could easily have wrestled him to the ground, act submissive just to have a playmate) until they moved and we went through the same grieving process all over again.

And you should do a write-up about your neighbors even if it's only a blog post! I'd read it!

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Hey, GW. Capcom watches the tv show LOST, and if you do as well, we need to talk. I feel bad about that dog, but then you had to go and bring up Beany & Cecil...

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Hey, GW. Capcom watches the tv show LOST, and if you do as well, we need to talk. I feel bad about that dog, but then you had to go and bring up Beany & Cecil...

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Hey, GW. Capcom watches the tv show LOST, and if you do as well, we need to talk. I feel bad about that dog, but then you had to go and bring up Beany & Cecil...

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Great, now its posting three times! Comcast is out of control!!!

Capcom said...

Well maybe I should, Lord knows I've got many.

In one apartment complex I lived in, they failed to tell you when you signed the lease, that your high priced rent came with the benefit of the overflow-inmates from the County crazy house, living in the upstairs apartments for free. If I didn't have a scanner to listen in on this one crack-ho's phone calls, I don't know how I would have survived. I really had to stay one step ahead of her shenanigans! Lots of horror stories there.

In another place, I rented the upstairs duplex from a big Jordanian family that owned practically the entire street and did all kinds of lawbreaking things, such as doing the electrical wiring on the house themselves so they could escape getting inspected for code violations. When the dining room chandelier blew up like July 4th fireworks, I moved out! Those were scary times too.

Wayne, your one good finger must be getting stronger! :o)

Cathy VanPatten said...

Oh gosh... we have a neighbor story going on right now. Our building is really close to the one next door, and our sole bedroom window looks out on the gangway of the building next door. The access part of the gangway is covered, so we can't actually SEE what goes on, but when tenants over there have "issues," we can hear it. There have been some amusing fighting couples there over the years (although their timing was almost always inappropriately late in the evening/early in the morning).

But this summer it's different. This summer the offender is some crazy older dame who (we HOPE!) goes out on her back steps to chat on her cellphone.

She's loud, she's obnoxious, her sides of conversations are inane and punctuated with laughs like the blasts of Gabriel's horn.

We've tried calling the landlord, but we don't know who the person is. We've tried yelling out the window... and it's too hot to close the window...Oy.

Our only hope is that she moves out soon or kicks the bucket posthaste.

Cathy VanPatten said...

Or maybe...

You know, Jeff has a field recorder. I wonder if we recorded her and then played it back at her...

Capcom said...

That, IMO, is a great idea! If it's not illegal, resulting with her suing you. I think that it's OK to record or photo someone in a public place though.