Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Because Some Wackos are the People in My Neighborhood

Thirteen years. It's a long time to dislike where you live. To never quite feel like a part of the community. To not be able to join in the conversation because so few people speak either one of your two (okay, one-and-a-half) spoken languages. To share a driveway with a psychotic man who has never so much as uttered "hello" the entire 13 years. And whose discarded cigarette butts flickered across my drive and lawn greet me each morning. Thirteen years is long enough to get out of this hell hole!

A Brief History Lesson on Shantytown

The neighborhood is old but not charming-old, run down and depressing. A few years back we had an Asian beetle infestation and the city came and cut down almost every tree on our block, leaving it even more barren and desolate-looking, the houses shabbier. I took to calling this place "Shantytown". I mean, people use old rusted garage doors as fences in their backyards - not the kind of place you'd be proud to invite your friends over to visit. It's just a couple of notches up from the slums, if you ask me.

I'm not trying to mock poverty or anything. The people here are not poor - in fact, I know some of them are actually quite well off. They're just, shall we say, very frugal. Many are retired and just don't see the point in spending good money on things like fences or patio furniture when they can recycle old doors and hang out in their garages to peer at passerby.

And peer they certainly do. It still baffles my mind that 13 years later I can't drive (or certainly walk) down my street without several pairs of eyes blatantly staring me down as I drive past. It is seriously to the point where I fear the bolder ones will jump into the passenger seat, they get that close to the car. It's unnerving, I tell you!

So, how did I end up here? 

After enjoying a number of years as a single urban girl in the big city, I met a guy at the trendy downtown loft office where we both worked. We fell in love, and after a whirlwind 9-month courtship got engaged during happy hour in a New Orleans bar. True story. Anywho, I moved from my tiny basement apartment in Toronto to a sprawling semi-detached home just north of the city. Although secretly horrified by the neighborhood's left-in-the-70's appearance, I convinced myself it would be okay. We were still in the 416 area code. I wasn't an official suburbanite. On a good day I could be in the city in like, 15 minutes.

Little did I know how quickly my soul would start to wither away!

Yes, the house needed some TLC. I tried to ignore the parquet floors, stuccoed ceilings and hideous fixtures all installed in 1972. We couldn't fix everything all at once. Over the years, we chipped away and actually did a decent job renovating the place.  But with every new thing we fixed, we stuck out like sore thumbs in our largely senior-citizen-populated neighborhood. Why are you painting your garage a different color than the house next door? Why don't you leave the railing white, like everyone else has? they'd ask us. Tony would answer patiently in his mother tongue while I tried to control my inner rage. Really? Was it any of their business?

To deal with my dislike of some of the neighbors, I started giving them nicknames. For instance, the biggest neighborhood gossip is known as "The Crazy Sweeper". She sweeps her driveway several times a day with such vigor that no leaves, grass or specs of dirt stand a chance. She's equally as fastidious in the winter. No snow shall sully her drive, even if she has to spend all day battling it out with her shovel. The craziest thing is - neither she nor her husband drives anymore.

The phenomenon seems to be spreading (or sweeping the neighborhood, if you will!). "Crazier Sweeper", just a few doors down from the original Sweeper, has also taken to obsessively cleaning her driveway and the surrounding sidewalk. It's slightly more impressive, as she sweeps while chain-smoking and screaming "Paul John!" at her kid every 30 seconds. Her secondary nickname is "Insane Mullet Lady", for self-explanatory reasons.

Jack, or as I call him, "Jackass" lives across the street and is in the construction business. How do I know this, never having had a conversation with him? Well, my first clue was when he used this massive cherry picker machine to put up his Christmas lights. It's quite the production. It's not like it's such a huge house that he needs this contraption. Everyone else manages just fine with a ladder. But Jack likes to put on a show and even lets his kids go up in the machine. One time it scared the crap out of me, because they were like 10 feet away from my living room, looking right inside my balcony window.

 And then there are the fireworks!

For some reason the residents of Shantytown like to shoot off fireworks every couple of weeks or so, and not just on holidays. I'm not just talking a couple of kids with sparklers. No, there's a full-blown Magical World of  Disney type show going on on a regular basis (obviously without all the nice palaces and such). I've never figured out what the occasions are - they always vary and seem pretty random.  At first it was pretty cool - I could just open up my balcony curtains, pop some popcorn and enjoy the show, but after a while the novelty wore off and it doesn't help that they tend to start this spectacles late at night when we're trying to sleep.

Picture this over a much more ghetto type neighborhood!

There are many other reasons why I'm happy to be leaving this place, including a recent visit to a house down the street from the SWAT team, as if that's not reason enough. But, deep down inside there are also things and people I'll miss. Like Chicken Man, the neighbor who left us a funny surprise in our backyard a few years back. And also? I'll be a little sad to leave the first place my little boy called home. The place where we brought him after leaving the hospital when he was born. Where he learned to smile and laugh, took his first steps, and learned his first words. But on the other hand, he's already cussing in Italian, so now's probably a good time to leave...

Ciaran's first day home


The Empress said...

A very good time to leave. You've got a little one now.

ENJOY your new digs!!! I'm excited for you.

Anonymous said...

Its hard to leave the house where you brough your baby home! We left ours when the neighbor starting using an old hearse as his everyday driver!

Mom of the Perpetually Grounded said...

It is hard to leave the first house. Ours is nearby and I always look down the street when we pass it to catch a glimpse. I understand about neighbors though. My favorites are the ones who complain about everyones dogs barking but their kids set off bleach bombs in an empty lot when they are not at home.
I wish you joy in your new home: )

My Momma Drama said...

Oh, I'm glad your moving away! I hope the new home you bought is your dream home - or at least the next step to your dream home and certainly a step up from where you moved.

I think I would be terrified if a SWAT team entered into a house in my neighborhood...

Cheers to happy packing!!

Cheryl said...

We are SO LUCKY to have great neighbors. Seriously. Everyone on the street is nice and friendly and all that.

Anyway, I totally know what you mean about it being the place your brought your baby home. I mean, I actually gave birth to two of my kids in this house!

Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) said...

I'm surprised you lasted so long in that place. You're right - it probably is time to leave if your kid is swearing in Italian.

Heligirl said...

Oh I just had to laugh at the random fireworks story. We call our neighborhood "Little Baghdad" because any random night some looser redneck is out shooting off M80s for no apparent reason. And New Years and 4th of July are the WORST. It's like they robbed every local Indian Reservation (only places down here where you get the illegal fireworks) and the "war" goes on until sunrise. The dogs are about to commit harycary by the time they finish. Then they'll continue the next night for good measure. Hell, sometimes they don't even bother to wait for dark. I'm afraid to go out those two nights lest I arrive home to a smoldering hole because no one was there to put out the fire they started on my roof. I so feel for you. Lucky girl to move. :)

Natalie said...

Love the fireworks story! It would be hard from me to move away from here since we brought all of the kids home to this house. I know whatcha mean. Enjoy the new pad!!

KLZ said...

Congrats on the move! Although, I myself would like to learn some Italian swearwords. But I can always google those, huh?

Tracy said...

Hey, that neighborhood sounds familiar! Mine's not too bad....just a few of the neighbors are so totally whacked, we appear normal! I bet you would know them if I said who they were!!! Glad you found a new home! Hope your neighbors are better behaved and there are more kids for your son to play with :O)

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