Monday, June 30, 2008

News from my Previous Neighborhoods

Lori wrote in recently and suggested that I live in a strange neighborhood. I think that I live in a normal neighborhood. Yesterday, for instance, Krista and I went on a walk and saw some people launching fireworks into the sky, while nearby a high schooler wearing only a towel and another high schooler wearing only a bikini stopped playing basketball together to go on a drive somewhere with a bunch of other people. Just like in your neighborhood.

I thought I should back up my thesis that "all neighborhoods are created equal" by sharing about some of my previous neighborhoods:

1) The "Alicante" house in California. My favorite character would be Steve, the neighbor who had been shot in the head during an armed robbery at a liquor store. His mind never worked quite right after that, and he would come over to our house for rambling speeches about the types of ants in his yard or to ask us to change the lightbulbs. One strange thing about Steve was that he had an unerring ability to pick out movies I liked. I mean, I went to every movie he ever suggested and they were always excellent. It was strange and amazing. At the same time, he got permanently banned from the local Safeway for saying weird things to the workers there.

2) Our first apartment in California. Notable moments in our apartment neighborhood would include:

a) Neoma, the woman who worked in the office, calling to ask, "Is your stool running?" Took a while to translate that one.
b) The handyman coming to fix our gas fireplace, turning it on and, when the flames came to life declaring, "Instant sex." That was a favorite phrase of mine for some time to come.
c) Krista waking in the night to hear someone breaking into our truck, followed by me coming to the window and shouting (in my best scary southerner accent) "YOU BETTER RUN BECAUSE I AM COMING AFTER YOU!" The kid was so scared he dropped his very nice flashlight, which I think is still around here somewhere.

3) Our apartment in Seattle was just above a veterinarian who specialized in optometry. "The Animal Eye Clinic" it was called. Little one-eyed dogs made their way in and out of our building all day. Across the street lived the mysterious "Junk For Drugs" people, so named because I would stand on our futon and watch the strange, late night dealings in which they would take junk from people and the people would leave happy. And of course my good friends "THE DEATH SQUAD"... a gang of pre-pubescent anarchists who would throw garbage cans in the street and yell ANARCHYYYYYYY!

4) Our apartment in Asia had more interesting tales than can be boiled down into one paragraph, but let me just say that I sometimes popped popcorn before standing in front of the windows and just watching the passers-by. I will briefly mention "Tex"... the American ex-pat who claimed to have grown up in a Hispanic section of LA but mispronounced the word "flan" and, as near as we could tell, was on the run from the law. He used to wander around our courtyard drunk and yell at his wife (or his pet dog, when he got one of those later). I also loved the game, "Guess What Business Will Go In Here." That's when a shop closes and a new one comes in a week or so later. I never got it right, and was startled when one day they completely razed an entire city block across the street from us. Supposedly this would one day become a subway, but for the rest of our time there it was a field of weeds.

Which brings me to the conclusion that every neighborhood is strange and wonderful and filled with people of infinite variety and comical delights. Unless -- and I cannot deny that this may be the case -- I am a "magnet for the weird."

Now I have to go look out the front window and see what is going on out there. Maybe I'll pop some popcorn first.


  1. Again, I can't help but think you're making this stuff up! But I will pause to consider your proposed theory about being a weird magnet. That has a ring of plausibility...

  2. It's possible, it's possible. Sort of like those kids who always end up in Narnia.

  3. I think it's sometimes just a matter of observing what's going on around you. The more time you spend looking out your window, the more weirdness you see. My favorite character is the guy in our old condo in Singapore who swims in the pool so slowly, and with such poor form, that the first time we saw him we thought he was a paraplegic. We'd stand and just watch him swim - it was fascinating. One of our friends saw him and said, "My lifeguard training would tell me that man is in distress and I should save him, but he's been going like that for an hour."

    Actually, now that I think of it, even better is my parent's neighbor, who likes to run while mowing his lawn. You can only see the front part of his lawn from their front window. It's a great game to watch him burst into view, slow down for the turn, then take off again.

    Life is so much more fun with weird neighbors.