Saturday, August 10, 2013


The suburbs seethe with a barely-comprehesible oddity. Lynchian, in some ways, the buried threats and strangeness of people in their nested rows of comfort.

 This afternoon my wife was disturbed from a semi-nap to find that pellets of mud were being hurled against the side of our house. Who would hurl pellets of mud at another person's house, you ask? Answer: the children who live next door.

The mother of said children, watching the pellets hurled, told her children...wait for it...."that is NOT imaginative play."


What the hell kind of a rebuke is that??? "Imaginative play?"

Lookit, hippie, the problem with your children is NOT that they don't know how to play with imagination. It's that they're churlish and disrespectful brats. (I shudder to imagine what my mother would have said if she's caught me throwing mud at my neighbor's house. Suffice it to say that it would have been quite a bit stronger than "ANCIANT, that is NOT imaginative play.")

As it happened, I was half lit when I got the news about the urchins and their mud missiles, so I went to the neighbors and voiced some strong objections. (It's oddly liberating, to yell at other people about their children.) The woman who I dealt with (NOT the mother, btw, but some kind of visiting parent) expressed great regrets and sympathy.  But still. I mean, come on! Is this the Haight? Is this Cuba, in the 50s? Do we not have rules? Do we not have PROPRIETY???

This makes me think of Jane Austen. And my erstwhile teachings. "Propriety" seems, at first blush, a relatively banal and uninteresting notion. What's 'proper' or 'expected' or 'polite' can seem, to the revolutionary, so tediously bourgeois. But the genius of Austen was to see the link between seemingly trivial proprieties and larger (dare I say 'tectonic?') moral agencies.

To put it another way: the husband/man/patriarch of the house next door, is a big soccer fan. I, a moderate soccer fan, occasionally engage him about important matches. Several years ago I attempted to commiserate with him (an Italian, and thus, bien sur, a fan of team Italia) about a difficult Italian loss in the Euro Cup. In the midst of such loss, an umpire (black) had made a slightly debatable call. Male neighbor's response: "to have a whole match RUINED by this _monkey from the is disgusting."

And I thought: THAT is what you think is disgusting?? (This reminds of the great Nick Kroll skit about Europeans--the fake ad for a hostel. It has a whole bit about how Europeans express great horror at racism while themselves expressing views about minorities that would get you fired/arrested in, say, rural Mississippi.)

Point is, Lynch had it right. Suburbs, they have some odd and freaky events in play.

Also, I think these neighbors are deeply invested in the marijuana grow business. But that's a story for another time.


Cartooniste said...

Dude. Don't even get me started, about neighbors. Mine sneaked over and girdled a 60 year old oak on our property in order to improve his lake view. If I hadn't found it, it would have died slowly and posed a serious hazard to passers-by on the street below us. And now it will cost me several thousand dollars to remove safely. Do I indulge in complex revenge fantasies whenever I see him? Yes. Yes, I do.

Dezmond said...

We've been lucky to have good neighbors. One guy is unnaturally obsessed with his yard, but he is a nice guy. The people on the other side went to India a couple of years ago to visit relatives, and while they were gone my wife noticed a flood of water gushing from under their front door. We broke in and stopped the huge leak. He had tried to install a water filter himself, and, well, did not do a good job. We had to oversee the clean-up, taking instructions from them on the phone from India. Nice family, though.

To your other point, though. I struggle with how I want to parent and discipline. My oldest daughter is in a basketball class, and there is this little boy (we'll call him Johnny) who is a terror. He runs all over the court, knocks down everything in his path, will not listen to the coach at all. And his hippie mother and father just sit meekly on the sidelines, saying "now Johnny, please listen coach." "Oh Johnny" smiling and shaking their heads. I want to grab Johnny and shove him up against the wall, like a tough cop in the movies interrogating a suspect, and explain to him how basketball class will be from now on. Can't do that, of course, but I can daydream.

JMW said...

I don't know whether to be heartened or dispirited by the idea of neighbor problems in the 'burbs. On the one hand, it's nice to know that living cheek-to-jowl with hundreds of people on one block is not the only way to be driven mad by other people. But if it happens EVERYWHERE, then how can I daydream about possibly getting away from it all one day? Ugh, life. Or rather, ugh; neighbors.

ANCIANT said...

Well, actually, there is an addendum to the story of the neighbors that I haven't yet posted. But it's heartening.

I'll put it up soon.

Johannes said...

Not to be outdone, my next-door neighbor robbed a bank last month. Seriously.

I live in a decent, but not posh, loft building and I saw him in the hall occasionally. His eyes always had that heavy-lidded look that seems to make people look like they’re only half there; that only half the lights are on, like part of the house has been closed down for the winter. He asked me over to hang out a couple of times, but I managed to be busy, always. He also told me once that he had just returned from Florence Italy and was thinking about moving to Europe because “What’s the point of being here.” Indeed.

Anyway, he always had the look of being stoned in one form or another that I’ve come to recognize from work. This suspicion was confirmed later. He turns out to be an educated guy with a trust fund, which he appears to have spent on motorcycles, cars, and ultimately drugs. Overspent may be the better word as I was told in a call y my landlord that if I hear any noise in the place next door to call the sheriff, as my neighbor was wanted for bank robbery.

Apparently he called a bomb threat to a hospital nearby, which had to be evacuated resulting in a parking lot childbirth and lifelong cocktail party story. He then robbed a small bank in a nearby small town, and made his getaway on ATV in the woods behind the bank. This is Alabama after all. His automotive getaway proved to be his downfall in that he used his own truck with vanity plate (4PLAY), which was easily identified by alert sharp-eyed Tennessee lawmen who apprehended him and his crack head GF (she seemed to have even fewer lights on). And justice was served. I now have louder, more annoying, but, as yet law-abiding neighbors.