Thursday, January 24, 2008

Nutty Neighbours

Today is a beautiful winter's day outside, crisp and cold and sunny and bright, with a few inches of clean, white, fluffy snow. And what is my across-the-street-neighbour doing outside on this lovely day? Why, he's shovelling the street, that's what. Because he is kind of odd, and has a bit of a fixation on the street in front of his house. Now, we've lived across the street from Mr. and Mrs. Greek for about 11 years now, and we've gotten along with them just fine; we wave, we say hello occasionally and we visit their three-times a year garage sale. A fine neighbourly relationship. (By the way, we nicknamed them Mr. and Mrs. Greek because their name is about 18 syllables long, is made up entirely of vowels and p's and s's, and it is also to distinguish them from Mr. and Mrs. Other Greek, who live two doors up.) And if the worst thing Mr. Greek does is shovel the street clear of snow, then I am more than happy to have him live close by.

We have won the neighbour lottery many, many times, having plenty of affable, quiet, pleasant, friendly people live near us, and I am aware that this is not the case for lots of people. We have been very lucky. And as well as having nice neighbours, we have also had our share of nutty neighbours, which are often the same people. I have no problem with that; as well as waving and smiling, some of them have offered up enormous amounts of entertainment as well. Good value for the money, if you ask me.

When the Mister and I first got married, we lived in a miniature house in a quiet, old neighborhood which had some of the bat-shit craziest neighbours you ever did see. First of all, there was "The Perfect Lawns", a retired couple who lived two doors down. They got the nickname "The Perfect Lawns" because the weekend we moved in they removed their entire lawn from the front yard and replaced it with new sod, and maintained that lawn meticulously for the duration of our stay. They were the type of people who had those covers for the elements on the stove and used coasters underneath drinks every single time, and never, ever paid a bill so much as a day late in their lives. The Mister and I were convinced that they were drug-dealers. They had a steady stream of traffic up to their back door, day and night, with none of the visitors staying more than 10 or 15 minutes. The variety or both people and vehicles that came to visit was impressive, with 18-year old slackers and 45-year olds in BMWs in abundance. This went on, to our amusement, for a couple of years until I saw a friend going in there and since I was pretty sure she was not a crystal meth addict, I asked her. Turns out the grandparently couple ran a resume writing service and not a crack house.

Then there was Ed. Ed was an odd guy, who lived across the street with his wife, and put up the most lurid, Vegas-style sound and light show on his porch every Canada Day, complete with a portable stereo blasting out "I's the Bye" at top volume. Ed was around 55 years old, and had been known to wander down the stree wearing a bathing suit and one of those enormous sombreros with the little bobbles hanging off it that people buy when they go to Mexico and then wonder what the hell they were thinking. We often would see Ed around town directing traffic, whether it needed directing or not. (He did have an uncanny knack of being somewhere when the traffic lights went out, though.) Ed was a peach.

Our favorite neighbour was Pat, who got that name because it took us ages to figure out if it was a man or woman. She (we did get a good gander close up, once.) cut her lawn with one of those manual push mowers and she did it ever day. That grass could not have been more than an inch high. We once saw her actually shaking the tree on the front lawn in an attempt to dislodge some leaves so that she could rake them up. She and Mr. Pat (who we only discovered after we had been living there for months) had an incredibly convoluted scheme for getting their car in the garage in the winter, that included her getting out, shovelling very carefully every single flake of snow off the driveway, unlocking the enormous gate leading to the garage and carefully closing and relocking it. (We think there was a "Son of Pat" wandering around too, but we never did solve that one. ) They drove around for about 4 months once with the front corner of their car encased in duct tape. God only knows what that was all about. In all the years we lived there we never saw a single light on in the place, except for one basement window. We also never once got any sort of hello, wave or acknowledgement when we went by. We were very afraid to examine the contents of their freezer, let me tell you.

In our present house, we have been very lucky. We've had four sets of neighbours in the house next door, all of whom have been wonderful. The neighbours on the other side of us are seriously old, but nevertheless keep their yard and their house in enviable condition. We get along with them very well, despite the fact that I am sure we drive them to drink with the state our our property. The old woman next door and the Mister are cohorts in a determined, bloodthirsty fight to the death with the rabbits which decimate the vegetable gardens, and that common bond has kept them friendly for years.
Behind us we have people which I have never set eyes on in eleven years. They have a dog which they let out at 7:00 every morning to bark it's fool head off for 15 minutes. They also have some horrible trees which hemmorage white fluff in late June which make it impossible to hang out laundry for a couple of weeks. I'd be inclined to tell them off, but I couldn't pick them out of a line up.

The Crazy Lady across the street is no end of entertainment. A couple of weeks after we moved in we were witness to what we think was the defining fight of the end of her marriage....she was shouting insults and threats and pitching his belongings out the front door onto the lawn. (He picked up a few things got in the car and left with about as much dignity as one can do under the circumstances, I think.) She was profiled in a national magazine a couple of years ago on a big article on personal debt....turns out she's up to her armpits in it. We don't talk to her much, since the day she threatened to take our cat to the Humane Society if she found him on her property again. (She loves birds and scatters feed on the ground to attract them. Cats come from miles around to partake; it's like a kitty buffet over there.) Once, when her son was learning how to drive, he came up the driveway too fast and went smack through the garage door. I could hear them yelling from inside their house.

Down the street a ways there was a couple that moved into a house and we only ever saw them coming or going at night. We figured they either worked night shifts OR they were vampires. They have since moved away, and our garlic and silver stake bill has dropped enormously.

In the winter, we don't see our neighbours much, except when they are shovelling the street. Thank God spring is coming....I'm getting a little bored.

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