Due to the pandemic, our class reunion was cancelled.
In all the exchanges on Facebook, I reconnected with an old friend who just so happened to live close by. We spent an evening talking on the phone, planning to hang out once things got back to normal. I took notes while we talked. He was, after all, the class cut-up, a master storyteller, and funny as all get out.
He and his wife lived in an upper crust area of the city. It was a quiet suburb, a good place to raise a family, and inhabited mostly by people a good 20-30 years older than my friend.
“We were the youngest folks in the neighborhood,” he said.
After living there awhile, he and his wife started giving their neighbors nicknames according to their personalities.
There was the car guy who only wanted to talk about cars. His life seemed to revolve about what type of car he had and he was interested in what everyone else drove. His main goal in life seemed to keep both his cars immaculate. My friends said more than once, the neighbor had hollered to tell him a storm was coming with possible hail.
“Better get that old car of yours in the garage,” he’d say.
It was funny to my friend when his neighbor began talking to him a little more than usual; right after he purchased a brand new car.
“I guess he deemed me worthy of existence after I got a nicer car.”
Then there was the dog walker. This was the lady who brought her dog out into the yard any time there was something to eavesdrop on or watch. When there was something especially good going on down the street, she’d take the dog on a walk. It didn’t matter she’d already walked the dog a few minutes before. The dog was merely a tool used to gain information. And as far as information went, she knew everyone’s business.
There was a couple that my friend and his wife called “the horticulturists.” They were practically insane about keeping their yard perfect. He once saw them out in the yard with gloves, a small paint brush, a tweezer-like tool and a cup of weed killer. They had plastic spread on the healthy grass and were carefully holding up a weed with the tweezers, painting the weed killer on it.
My friend couldn’t help himself and said “Doing surgery on your yard?”
The neighbors, almost annoyed by his question, stated that they didn’t want to dig up the weed or pull it because it would hurt the rest of the yard.
These were the same neighbors who had most of the trees in their yard cut down because they were too messy. They raked almost every evening during the fall, simply to keep the neighbors’ leaves out of their yard. The only conversations they had with their neighbors were about yards and such.
My friend remarked that, even after 10 years living next to them, the horticulturists didn’t even know what he or his wife did for a living – nor did they know the names of their children. The only conversations he had with these neighbors involved yard care topics, how he could make his yard better and what he might be doing wrong in his yard.
These neighbors had given him a tree-trimmer tool, extra grass seed and various other things to aid him in hopes he would keep his yard nicer.
“They were very nice, but I knew their generosity was a veiled suggestion that I keep my yard nicer.”
When these neighbors stopped speaking to him one day, he wondered why. His wife, known for colorful language, said she didn’t really give a hoot.
“Who needs people who only care about the shallow things in our lives? They are going to have to realize we work all day and have young kids. If they don’t like the way we do things, they can kiss my blessed assurance.”
And she didn’t say “blessed assurance.”
Low and behold, he ran into the dog walker one day. My friend and his wife were washing their cars on the driveway and she stopped over. After a while, the wife mentioned the horticulture couple wasn’t speaking to them anymore.
“Oh yes,” said the dog walker. “They are upset with you because you don’t rake your yard enough and because you put in a bird bath in your side yard. They don’t like the way it looks.”
“At that point, I took my wife’s viewpoint. I didn’t need anyone that petty or immature in my life, so I agreed they could kiss my blessed assurance.”
Oh well, I don’t even have to say it this time.
The most fun and interesting neighbor lived at the end of the cul-de-sac and she sounded like someone who you’d want to be around. Apparently, this lady was around 80 but looks way younger. She wore a lot of costume jewelry, had a different color of hair every time they saw her, and had two little toy poodles. She lived in a yard adjacent to their backyard and often invited my friends over to her gazebo for a beer at night.
She called everyone “kid” and “honey” and cussed a blue streak whenever she felt like it.
“I’ve lived in this damn place for almost 52 years,” she said, “and I know just about everybody on the block. I could tell you a headful about all of them, but I won’t. Unless you ask me,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
My friend and his wife told her about all the folks they’d run into in the neighborhood, and she had short and sweet commentary about each one of them.
The dog walker was too damn nosy and needed to get a boyfriend (and that’s not exactly what she said).
The car guy used to be so poor he and his wife didn’t have a pot to… well you know.
As for the horticulture couple? She said they were too uptight and needed to drink more beer.
“All they care about is that yard. It’s a wonder she doesn’t vacuum the grass!”
After we talked for a while and compared notes about living in small communities with strict ideas and rules about properties, cars, and the like, I told my old buddy he should write all this down and make it into a sitcom. It would be a great comedy.
“That’d be OK. But you and I would be the only ones who’d watch, and I don’t think Brad Pitt would have the time to be on a sitcom. After all, he’s the only guy who could play me on the screen.”
Always a cut-up.