My quiet neighborhood

January 30, 2011

Andrew Hicks

As I mentioned many, many blog posts ago, Tiffany and I rent a four-bedroom house with a decent-sized backyard and an old driveway whose tectonic plates are constantly shifting. When we first moved here in 2007, when it was just me, my wife and 14-year-old Josh, we lived in the double duplex next door. It’s two garages, four units and two garages. Us moving next door two years ago has been the complex’s only change in residence since we moved here.

In our old unit are a single mom and adolescent daughter. Next door, my friend and smoke break buddy I’ve written about here and there with the four small kids. In the third unit, a long-bearded old man living solo with no apparent friends or family. Even door-to-door salesmen have the sixth sense to avoid knocking on that door. The guy in the third unit is usually only spotted way after dark, when he occasionally wanders out to his front patio and takes a leak all over the concrete. The fourth unit is also occupied by a single old man, but this guy has kids and grandkids that stop by once a season or so. I did notice his Christmas tree stayed up well into January, but otherwise I’ve got nothing bad to say about the dude.

The house next door to us on the opposite side is vacant. It’s tiny and dilapidated, and it looks like it hasn’t been lived in for at least a decade. Still, during the nice-weather months, whoever owns it shows up promptly every Saturday morning to cut the grass and edge the yard. He cuts it with a diagonal crisscross pattern and everything, and it always irks me that the abandoned crack house next door continually has a nicer lawn than mine. Although, I will add, it doesn’t irk me enough to do any extra work on my yard.

Across the street is a two-story U-shape of rentals. During the nice-weather months, these neighbors can be spotted in lawn chairs, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes from shortly after dawn until the middle of the night. They quit their jobs so they could party more, which — from the standpoint of this former hardcore partier — is a truly ballsy move that speaks major dedication to the craft of alcoholism.

Next to this U-shape of apartments is a small-town bank whose employees offer the most consistently rude customer service I’ve ever experienced. Not to mention, when we opened an account, I got a box of 500 checks that said my name was Andrew S. Hicks. My middle name is Justin. Fail.

A couple houses down from the old four-unit lives a 90-year-old woman whose daughter and son-in-law come to walk the dog and take care of basic maintenance. This couple were regulars of mine at the last serving/bartending gig I had. They’d make a three-hour occasion out of dinner, each generally downing a handful of Old Fashioneds before ordering entrees.*

Down the block in the other direction is the day care where Tiffany worked when we first moved here. Her coworkers at the day care were a bunch of women and a single guy named Mr. Dick who had been working there for decades. Stepson Josh and I used to get big, immature laughs out of the idea of generations’ worth of parents leaving their small children in the care of Mr. Dick.

The junior high and high school are close enough that I can hear their intercom announcements from my bed. I’m way more attuned to school-announcement gossip than I rightfully should be. For instance, I know little Tommy Johnson got called to the principal’s office three times in the same week earlier this month. And, seriously, it was the week of MLK Day* AND there was a snow day. Tommy Johnson needs to clean up his act.

Just beyond our backyard is an assisted-living complex that houses mostly elderly people. The most visible resident, though, is a middle-aged fella who looks like a larger, longer-haired version of Vincent D’Onofrio in Men in Black. He walks his dog past our house probably six times a day when the weather’s nice, and whenever the dog stops to sniff or pee on something, Fat Vince looks around with his crazy eyes. I don’t like to draw the blinds, but sometimes I can’t help it.

I picture Fat Vince as living alone and probably speaking most of his words to that dog. He’s probably on the Internet a lot, too. He might read blogs. He might like comedy. He might recognize that I’m writing about him now. He might have thought this was a great blog until about a paragraph and a half ago. I might be in trouble the next time he takes Fido for a walk.

*Before I quit drinking, I used to fantasize that I’d be walking Sarah by their elderly mom’s house in the stroller, and they’d be there, having some kind of afternoon whiskey party. In this fantasy, I get toasted in the daytime and entertain a bunch of older folk. I can’t possibly be considered a deadbeat dad either, because in the fantasy, the actual Teletubbies are there to keep Sarah occupied while dad drifts away.

**Whether it’s whole, 2%, chocolate or soy, there’s no wrong way to celebrate MLK Day.

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