Thursday, January 25, 2007

Great Excuses. No Expectations

I grew up down a dirt road. (see I Am A Pine Tree) We had no neighbors. The closest house was occupied by a wizened old dude who did nothing more, from what I could tell, but re-arrange Coca Cola bottles in his dirt yard and tree tops all day long. (Evil spirits could thus be trapped in the bottles instead of worming into his feeble psyche, for you city folk.)

My folks didn't much care for random people. Never have, never will. They're kinda weird, but we don't choose our parents, and other than being, to this day, the oddest people I know, the folks are pretty cool people (and parents). Least they've grown into their oddness by now.

Anyways... and getting to the point here, I have an isolationist tendency by association, not by nature that's fer sure, as I was so driven to socialize as a teen that I'd go for episodic sessions of cheap, arm-waving emotionalism with the hardcore Baptists down the road just for something to do. My adolescent religious fervor was mostly a by-product of the drilling boredom associated with being raised by off-the-grid hermits. I quickly tired of the Baptists, with their polyester clothes and ugly trailer homes, and sought nicer fibers and higher tastes, if not powers, instead within my two grandmothers' sensible purse-clutching Anglican ways.

I'm off track here, moreorless like Christopher Hitchens' open to this brief essay about how stupid people really are, and how moronic passivity allows crime to fester. Says Hitchens:

But to find that you have been passively watching a crime, or crimes, in slow motion, must make you feel stupid as well as cowardly. This might help explain the slightly plaintive and defensive tone adopted by some of the local Kirkwoodians, such as the lady I cited above who had moved there just to avoid this kind of unpleasantness. "A lot of us are down on our luck and living paycheck to paycheck," observed Harry C. Reichard IV, who occupied the apartment above (Michael) Devlin's. "When you're just trying to survive, you don't pay a lot of attention to people around you." This justifiable emphasis on one's own priorities extends apparently even to the avoidance of idle gossip—as in, "I see the guy downstairs has just had another teenager." If the cops hadn't come, looking for something else entirely, the whole bizarre Devlin menage might have kept on burgeoning, until it either achieved a ripe old age or was forced by pressure of sheer population growth to relocate to a nicer neighborhood where the locals would be even less curious and where such things were noticed even less.

In other words, should we be keeping a much more watchful eye on our neighbors? Hitchens seems to think so. As mentioned, I'm trained to ignore a great deal of what might be considered abhorrent behavior just by my isolationist upbringing, and I honestly don't know exactly what to do, to this day, with neighbors, other than try to avoid them, something often hard to do in a condo complex.

However, I had a couple of rather strange incidents happened recently in my 'hood that involved a neighboring family. The lady of the house was observed by another neighbor as she came to her back fence with a massive pot of some mystery stew and proceeded to pour the contents of the pot over her own fence and into our condos' back yards. The contents of the pot were entirely rotted, to the point where when a neighbor and I began cleaning-up the mess of our neighbor, which we immediately did to keep our dogs out of the rot and to control our little rat infestation, we were overcome with gagging.

A few nights later, someone in that same household began firing some kind of weaponry into the air amidst another one of their impromptu, firework-laden celebrations. It caused a big brew ha-ha on the neighborhood discussion e-board the next day, but I merely tuned-out the rapid fire and went to bed. I don't know if anyone ever called the cops on the trigger-happy family for firing guns within the city limits. I know I never did.

Given the circumstances surrounding the circumstance of the boys who were held "captive" in Michael Devlin's cruddy apartment, should I have been more diligent about alerting authorities about "odd" behavior near my own home? (Indeed, illegal behavior in the case of guns used inside city limits.) Far as I know, no children were harmed in either incident, from what little I cared to delve into the matter to find out.

Maybe next time it happens...


Harley Davidson said...

I recently moved to the South (Tallahassee) from the Northwest for jobs and graduate school and have to admit that I feel very much out of my element with the local population. I liked your post, it was witty, insightful, and a pleasure to read. Thanks.

tribalecho said...

Dear Gracey. Really. You should have called the police the first and especially the second time. You should have also told the police NOT to come to your door to discuss it. I lost two of the most charming cats I've ever known and I'm pretty positive it was because I called animal control about a poor dog on a three foot chain at the unoccupied house next door and the idiots left a big pink thing on my door knob to tell me they'd looked into it.

IOW, Report and Duck.

possum said...

Your neighbors sound like pure white trash. The only way to deal with them is the law. I won't read that son of a bitch Hitchens anymore because he was such a sycophant to Bush. He was relentless in attacking the people who had the sense to warn about the dangers of Bush's adventure. Not Christopher. He was as bad as Hannity.

Grayson said...

I tend to read Hitchens only when he's writing about morality and blowjobs, surely the two things he's most removed from.

griftdrift said...

I wasn't aware some of my relations had moved up here. And they're right next door to my good ol' friend Grayson!

Good thing you didn't call the cops. It might have turned into the O.K. Corral. It is Dekalb County ya know.