On the Street Where We Live

Our house is a very very very fine house, but as soon as you step out the door, it’s a whole ‘nother world. What follows is an accounting of some of the crazy shit that goes on in our neighborhood, and especially our tiny little one-way horseshoe-shaped street called LC Court (initials-only to protect the innocent, of whom there are few):

1. Why, just today (and continuing as I write), a car has been parked right outside our apartment with the driver’s side door ajar and a man sleeping (resting? on the nod?) in the passenger seat. The seat is reclined, and I’ve checked a few times to make sure that he’s alive, confirmed by his occasional change of position.

2. Aggro Boy. On random evenings and days, our next door neighbor loudly and violently spews forth vitriol and all manner of cursing at the TV or radio. T. has surmised he has a gambling problem because this usually occurs in the evenings when a big game is going on. He got a new housemate about a year ago, a woman in her late-40’s or early 50’s with a blonde Hopey* haircut who seems nice and reasonable and non-aggro (and is cool enough to ride her bike everywhere), and since she moved in the outbursts have subsided quite a bit, but on Scrabble nights she must go out because we hear bickering and a river of insults you wouldn’t believe. When I first moved in there were a couple of times that I almost called the cops in fear for my life, but then I got used to it.

3. Active prostitution. It seems, as of late, that our street has become a nice place to meet and service a john. The Ladies of the Evening congregate on the corners of the Busy Avenue that is at the end of our little street, and they bring their clients to the nooks and crannies of our driveways to do their business. Sometimes they just do it in the road, and I know this because one must take care to step over used condoms and latex gloves as one unlocks the door to one’s car. T. was accosted one evening while walking home from parking the car on the Busy Avenue by one particularly aggressive ho. You’ll be happy to know, as I was, that that’s just not his style.

4. Crazy-ass driving. One night at about 4 in the morning as we slumbered peacefully in our beds, we were awakened by the unmistakable sound of a car crashing in close proximity to our apartment. All the little Who’s of LC Court came streaming out of their apartments and houses, and what we found was this: an overturned pickup truck , which must’ve been careening down the street at such a velocity that there was no where to go but up – and then down again. Several cars in its path had their sides and rear-ends bashed in. The driver was nowhere to be found. Our first concern was for the driver’s well-being, but it slowly dawned on us that he must have fled the scene.

The paramedics arrived and began asking around as to where the driver was. One man vehemently denied knowing what had happened, but as he opened his mouth to speak, the paramedic stepped back as if he had just opened the door to a hot oven. It was clear that this guy was so drunk that that fumes preceded him, and the paramedic was heard to exclaim “borracho” to the guy, who was feebly trying to make the excuse that it was his friend’s truck, and that he hadn’t been driving it. We were one of the lucky ones whose car was miraculously missed by the careening borracho-mobile, but I feel sorry for those who weren’t so lucky.

5. Crazy-ass neighbors. There’s this one lady who lives in a funky house a few addresses down from us. She has all manner of junk and potted succulents on her cluttered front porch; among the junk and overgrown weeds, there was a mattress balanced on its end and leaned against the columns for about six months. She has a homemade sign tacked up on the front horizontal beam of the porch roof stating that all activity in and around her front yard will be videotaped. God knows how much I wanted that rotting mattress.

Her favorite pastime is making sure that people don’t park blocking her driveway, or anywhere near it. She has extended the red zone for the fire hydrant in front of her house to about double the length that it legally needs to be, so that the entire parking area is off-limits, and she will call parking enforcement on anybody who even parks near the red zone or her driveway. There is probably not one person on this street who has not been ticketed by this shrew of a woman, and I fantasize about the day her house catches on fire and we call the parking enforcement instead of the fire department.

6. (N)KOTB. The kids on the block – and when I say kids, I mean guys in their late teens or early 20’s – play football in the middle of the street, usually in the late afternoon-early evening. You can hear their happy hoots and hollers, their high-top sneakers stomping as they run down the asphalt, and the sound of a football bouncing off the hoods of parked cars. Why, even we have a football-shaped dent in the front driver-side panel of our otherwise un-dinged automobile, and we have a good idea where it came from.

Now, the Husband leans more toward the fist-shaking and yelling “goddamn kids!”, but I have to admit that I have conflicted feelings about this. I mean, on the one hand, yes, it’s annoying that we have this damage to our car, and it seems like they have little regard for where the football flies and what it hits, but on the other hand, these guys are obviously not in a gang, they’re not tagging, or shooting or raping or pillaging, and they’re not being shot at either. They’re just doing their thing, which would be better done in a wide open space like a park, but then the nearest park to us has enough gang activity and shootings that it’s overall a better thing that they’re playing on our street, so I keep my fist-shaking to myself on this one.

7. That pesky poo. What’s that smell? Is that dog shit? Did I just step in it? One of our neighbors used to send his dogs out to do their business unsupervised, and they would invariably choose our front area to drop a load, until the day that I got fed up and shoveled the offending dog-logs onto his front steps. Except, I got the wrong house. So his neighbor came out yelling that he was innocent and and I felt like a total jerk. So then I had to go back and un-shovel the shit and throw it away, and then go to the correct door and tell the guy that he needs to take responsibility for his dogs. That, miraculously, cleared up the problem for a good long time, but of course it doesn’t account for the other neighborhood dogs and roving packs of strays. But you do what you can.

8. Cat Factory. I’m convinced that our neighborhood has been populated from the offspring of the cats owned by one neighbor in particular, who told me one day as I crouched to pet the cats congregated in his driveway that he was sad because, apparently, someone stole the kittens that had just been born a few weeks ago, and now he was going to have to wait until the mother cat had her next litter.

9. Untalented neighbor. On occasional afternoons, nights, and sometimes even mornings, a cacophony of singing comes bellowing forth from the apartment building on the corner southwest from us. This guy, (and, I imagine, his stoner friends) like to play and sing along to whatever classic-rock top-40 hit they’ve slapped on the turntable. He’s always just a little off-key (okay, more than just a little) and out of time, and the sound is surprisingly loud and clear – so clear that I feel as though I’m sitting in his living room with him, a thought which makes me want to take a shower. To his credit, he’s introduced himself to me and he’s a nice guy, and one day he was playing X-Ray Spex, which ratcheted him up a notch in my book.

10. Yappy dogs. Why do people get dogs if they’re going to leave them alone all day? In the yard? Tied up? Why?

11. And, last but not least, Parking like an Asshole. Why must you take up two parking spaces, neighbor? What is your f#$*ing problem, that you can’t be considerate and pull up all the way? Are we not in the same boat? Do we not all drive around and around, searching in vain for a parking spot on the good side?

I could go on, but then none of you would ever visit us. The invitation’s open – come on down! It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood – won’t you be mine?

*Love & Rockets graphic novel reference

9 responses to “On the Street Where We Live”

  1. ScottyGee says:

    So happy to see that you’re still writing for TGW, JMan.

    I can totally relate to your dissatisfaction. My last place in San Francisco was located in the middle of a giant human toilet, which was filled with all that one might imagine. It was also the main hooker-pickup street in SF, which meant a literal traffic jam that lasted till about 4AM on the weekends.

    As I was younger and more drawn towards danger and criminal activity in those days, I have to admit that I found it quite thrilling to watch and sometimes chat with the young hustlers who hung out on or near my stoop.

    The problem, however, with being surrounded by so much human misery day in and out was that I started to really think that it was quite likely that I would wind up like one of the homeless junkies — I’m not casting judgement here. I understand the tragedy of it all.

    Anyway, once I moved away and into to the nicest and safest neighborhood in which I’ve ever lived, my outlook changed so much for the better. There were other factors contributing to my positive attitude, of course, but I decided to go to college and try my hand at teaching. But what I really learned from both living in and out of the toilet is how much one’s environment influences one’s understanding of his or her potential outcomes in life.

    Now that I teach American Government to some of the more scrubbed students in the world, I do my best to convey that crime is not committed by EVIL people, but people who were likely not presented with many other options. It seems like such a simple lesson, but one that’s lost on so many…

    Anyway, thanks for the brain juice. You rock!

  2. swells says:

    Ah yes, Scott’s place in San Francisco and the treasures left outside . . . I have a searing memory of stepping in it outside his place, right next to my car. To. The. ANKLE. And not left by a dog either.

    That doesn’t even make me angry, though, just painfully sad for the person who had to stoop to that (literally). The other stuff, though, has the potential to make me really angry at the inconsideration of others, which can lead down a pretty dark path. In combating this, I so appreciate the understanding of humanity the way Scotty poses it. I wonder: Is it better to become inured to the things listed above, hardened to it, like J-man not worrying about the neighbor yelling anymore, to maintain personal sanity? Is it better to live more peacefully because you’re sheltered from it and it’s not in your daily view anymore? That definitely makes for a more serene and less frustrated individual existence, which can only help world peace, but it also makes for less interaction with and confrontation of–and potentially less compassion for?–these aspects of humanity, which are real and legit too. Thoughts?

  3. Tim says:

    Despite all of these negative things, I still do find it a pleasant street on which to live. It’s likely the most integrated block I’ve ever inhabited — Latino, black, white, Asian, gay, straight, old, young, etc.

    Yes, it’s equal-opportunity bad parking.

  4. jeremy says:

    Wow. I’ve been to your place many times, and I never knew! I’m kinda disappointed that I’ve never witnessed any of this intrigue… This is an awesome post–I love a good grouse, especially right before Thanksgiving, when you’re supposed to be all thankful and shit…

  5. ScottyGee says:

    4: I always get that part backwards; I usually shit then I’m thankful.

  6. Tim says:

    Jen didn’t even mention one of our more colorful characters — Alonso the movie director and William S. Burroughs lookalike. He drives an extremely beat-up car and would be crown prince of bad parking if there were such a position. I’ve never spoken with him extensively, but he has invited Jen over several times to watch some of his movies. She’s politely demurred and dropped references about her husband to no real avail. He’s mostly harmless, though I’ve heard him say some vaguely racist things. I’ve also overheard him loudly engage other neighbors on the street, including a kind of heartbreaking moment when he tried to talk to someone whom he must have believed to be a friend but who wouldn’t speak to him. “Okay, I won’t bother you no more!” he called out loudly down the street. Wow.

  7. J-Man says:

    SG & Swells: I know I come off as curmudgeonly in this post, and while it’s true that I have become somewhat inured to all this, I am also quite aware that a lot of what I perceive as selfishness comes from true poverty and not knowing where the next paycheck/meal/etc. will be coming from. While we’re obviously not rich, as SG points out we do have much more opportunity than, say, our next-door neighbors who came from Central America, probably fleeing poverty and civil war. But regardless of the reason, It does wear me down to be caught up in this struggle, and I fantasize about getting out, and then I feel even more aware of the fact that I realistically could leave at any time, while many of my neighbors could not.

    To be fair, I’m not always dissatisfied – I love our apartment, and there are several neighbors that are really nice that we say hi to all the time and whose houses I would hose down if they did catch on fire.

    p.s. Swells: really? Up to your ankle? eeewwwww…..

  8. J-Man says:

    Oh – and Jeremy, thanks for the props – I’m glad you appreciate a good grouse now and then.

  9. FPS says:

    I love “to protect the innocent, of whom there are few.” My neighborhood has some of these issues, too…