…life on the synaptic firing range

Location: Los Angeles, United States

Bent but unbroken Southern California native seeks understanding, companionship, and resonance along and off the beaten path. Teresa plays well with others and makes every effort to perform to her potential. Usually. *processed in a facility that processes nuts and nut products

Friday, May 05, 2006

rhodas, meet your mary

We met a neighbor!

It was Wednesday night, “garb night”—which is short for “Ugh, we have to gather all our little trash receptacles and empty them into the big trash receptacles, then lug it all out to the curb for pickup tomorrow morning.” It’s really not such a trial, but we whine about it anyway because it robs us of valuable TV-viewing time, which is in short supply on Wednesday night, what with The Amazing Race, America’s Next Top Model, Top Chef, and Lost all vying for our attention. Before anyone starts tsking, I know that my television taste is pedestrian, but I learn things from reality television, valuable things. Just this week I learned, courtesy of Jade on America’s Next Top Model, that elephants are descended from dinosaurs. I also learned, courtesy of Top Chef, what the hell truffles are. Actually, Top Chef didn’t teach me anything, but because the delicacy was the subject of a culinary showdown I finally asked my partner, six short years after truffles first entered my consciousness at a friend’s cocktail party—what is that in the cheese?—where they come from. She was kind enough to look it up on something called the Internet and tell me that they’re “round, warty fungi” that grow underground adjacent to the roots of specific trees. Yum!

So we were wheeling our color-coded city trashcans out to the curb when a woman called out to me from across the street. I’m in the habit of pretending I don’t hear such things since in general nothing good comes of being yelled at by strangers, but she seemed in some distress, and we had only moments before ignored some loud violent noises, so I acknowledged her and she scurried over.

“Did you hear those noises?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “They were pretty loud.”

“Did it sound like gunfire to you?” she asked, petting her pregnant tummy.

“No,” my partner said. “Just some guy having a temper tantrum.”

“Yeah,” I said. “He was shouting and hitting something, but not someone. It sounded like he was whaling on his car…or maybe his girlfriend’s car.”

She introduced herself and told us she lived across the street and that she was home alone. And that she was pregnant, which we had gathered. We introduced ourselves and remarked that we liked her house, after which she told us how she and her husband came to choose red as its exterior color, then she made a joke about neighbors maybe thinking she was either running an elementary school or a whorehouse.

“I work from home,” she said. “I saw the boys who tagged your fence and I ran after them, but then I thought, I’m pregnant. I shouldn’t be doing this.

“Oh, thanks,” my partner said. “The fence gets tagged a lot. But the city paints it, so don’t worry too much about it.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Don’t put yourself at risk on our fence’s account.”

“I know,” she said. “But it just makes me so mad.”

I wanted to tell her to attack with vigor if someone tagged our garage door again, to weaponize her pregnant belly if need be, but instead I said, “It’s nice to know you’re home and looking out for us. Feel free to knock on our door whenever you need some company.”

Just like that, after over three years in our house, we made a neighbor friend. Over the tops of our trashcans, no less. I’m glad we didn’t have stinky trash, like the time we threw away a dead possum that had been left—in a box, with a dirty diaper—in our front yard. (The dirty diaper wasn’t on the dead possum, which would have been extra extraordinary.) In the absence of stinky trash, and presumably anything else that would have struck her as offensive—suggesting that lesbians in their pseudo-jammies are inoffensive enough—she offered that she and her husband should have us over, and we countered that we should have them over, and while nothing was hammered out on the spot, I think we all meant it.

To be fair, we have met a couple of other neighbors. We’re not shut-ins, for chrissake. There was a woman who introduced herself as Linda Rose, and reintroduced herself to me every time she saw me as if we had never met, who dropped by shortly after we moved in to tell us she was the neighborhood watch captain and that her husband was an electrician should we ever need work of that nature—like, for instance, if we wanted to install lights in our front yard so that more people like herself might drop by. At one point she noticed some trash in our yard and mused that in Mexico there are no trashcans, the implication being, if I understand her correctly, that recent immigrants are to blame for any instances of littering. (Or maybe it was simply an unfortunately timed non sequitur.) Then she regaled us with the news that our overachieving oleander around the side of the house is a favored tryst site for gay hustlers turning tricks. If Linda Rose was right, the boys are either not playing safe or they’re the tidiest hustlers ever: While the oleander sees its fair share of garbage, I’ve never seen a shred of telltale condom detritus lying about.

Linda Rose moved about a year ago, presumably to a neighborhood populated entirely by people who grew up knowing what trashcans are and how to use them.

There’s also this Swedish woman. While we haven’t properly met, she certainly knows who I am. She thinks I'm gunning for her and her dog. I was backing out of the garage one morning when she strode across our driveway like she owned it. (That’s something we’ve had to accept in our hearts, that since we live on a corner lot, lazy Americans—including immigrants from lands with and without trashcans—will cut across our property to save the three extra steps it would take to navigate its perimeter.) I hit my brakes as she scooped up her little yippy dog, glaring at me and muttering something in her native tongue. Another time I backed out and stopped in the driveway to mess with a CD or something. Then, admittedly without looking, I hit the remote to close the garage door. I glanced up just in time to see her rear away from the garage. She had been rounding the corner via the sex oleander and apparently felt in danger of being crushed by the descending door. I rolled down my window to say I was sorry, that I hadn’t seen her, to which she replied, “Every time!” OK, (a) twice does not qualify as “every time,” (b) when a car is idling in a driveway, the closing of a garage door is imminent, and (c) if you’re cutting across my property such that you’re walking within crushing distance of my garage door, you’re so on my property in such an uninvited and annoying way.

There’s also a high school kid and her mom who walk a little white dog so often that my partner and I suspect the dog has psychic power over them. The girl is really nice and always says hello. Her mom doesn’t speak English but often smiles at us. Meanwhile the dog looks at us in a knowing way, warning us with his eyes not to meddle in his business lest he teach our dog his supersecret mind-control tricks.

Those being the neighbors we know, you can understand our delight at meeting a friendly woman who paints her house red and chases taggers—while pregnant! And she owns this amazing company that sells hand-stitched greeting cards made by women in her native Armenia.

Pretty cool, huh? Makes me want to have a great big gay wedding so that I can order up a custom batch. And register for gifts.

In the meantime, it’s just nice to know there’s someone we can wave to when we catch each other outside, maybe even trot across the street to visit with. We could borrow a cup of sugar from her should the need arise, watch each other’s houses for suspicious activity, or just chitchat over the garbage. Do they have trashcans in Armenia?


Blogger sporksforall said...

I liked her to. I also really like the fish card. Can we have the fish cards for our fake big gay wedding? Can we? Please!

3:16 PM  
Blogger treecup said...

Neighbors are a good thing. The ones on the left brought us lemon bars when we moved in and chitchat with us while we do yard work and the ones on the right bring us avacadoes and crocheted j-boo a beautiful baby blanket.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous jkt said...

i don't know any of my neighbors. the woman on the left (who shares the other 1/2 of our row house) is an old woman, and always gives me hard, suspicious looks when we happen to pass. she looks at me like i'm gonna try and steal her morning paper or something. or car-jack her. (we Do live in this kind of neighborhood!). i do not, however, normally pine after oldsmobile cutlass sierras, or whatever the hell grannymobile she drives. it is always washed. the only other neighbor i "know" i ripped up a piece of her personal mail b/c it was delivered to me accidentally (we both share the same first name). so when i realized my mistake (and i Was horrified), i gathered up the little pieces and clothespinned them to her mailbox. i was too cowardly to leave a note.
i loved the weblink. i'd order some of the cards, but there are no price listings. a sign that they're out of my price range!

6:13 PM  
Blogger treecup said...

jkt, your neighbor should give *me* dirty looks: I *do* pine after oldsmobiles. Probably my favorite car I've ever had was a massive oldsmobile -- I don't even remember the model but it was like that line from the B-52's song: "Hop in my Chrysler it's as big as a whale and we're about to set sail! I got me a car, it seats about 20 so hurry up and bring your jukebox money!" I do remember that it had a v-8 and drove like it was floating on butter. Not very green, but a lovely car!

9:11 AM  
Blogger bryduck said...

Once we lived in a place where the neighbors consistently left their front door open. It was directly across the vast 5 foot span separating our kitchen window (you gotta love LA--it's like living in the most expensive slum ever!) from their place. We saw them many times across this span and tried to engage them in friendly conversation often. To no effect, I might add, which caused us to reflect that they were assholes. To prove our moral superiority, we decided that we would take advantage of their "openness" and lack of civility by lobbing a rotting lettuce head through their doorway.
Operation? Success!
They soon closed their door.

12:45 PM  

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