Monday, August 02, 2010

That neighbor

They're kind enough, my current neighbors. Back a couple years ago we had medical students renting the house next door. They were quiet and nerdy and smart and didn't open their windows, or shades for that matter. The year rolled by, med kids off to residency then returning early in the morning tired and dazed. They wouldn't come outside or socialize. They were here to rest their head and move on. And so they did. Gone in a day after the older Asian landlord decided to raise the rent. The med students, likely already six figures in debt, had to go.

Next up was another med student and her husband and their little girl. They made more noise than the zombie med students, but nothing abnormal. They dealt with the place, the bright blue carpet, the screwed up sprinkler system and the air conditioner that wouldn't or couldn't work. This is the 91030 so it's not slummy, but the Asian landlord who owned two other houses in the neighborhood barely made it out to our area from her perch in Manhattan Beach, but only to gather some rent or complain about property lines or make a fuss about small demands made by the people paying not just her mortgage, but most likely her Mercedes car payment, too.

The sweet young, struggling family made their way through the year and we became friends. Their daughter played with my 5-year-old son and the dad asked advice about lawn care and sprinklers and tree trimming. For a moment in those instances I was my dad only half the knowledge and a quarter of the skill, but I pressed on offering whatever advice I could albeit pretty basic at best.

Another 12 months rolled by and just as we were getting used to parkway conversations they moved on. The rent went up again and back came the now crazy Asian landlord lady barking about property lines and the height of the citrus trees and other trivial manners that I couldn't make sense of.

Now the new family shows up. A smart looking crew with two kids. He's Australian, she's Chinese and a neurologist at USC. His Australian accent is appealing and friendly and the kids are cute, quarky and boisterous. They have energy and at first it's fun. We'd exchange hellos and talk about the sprinkler problem. We escalated to problems in the world and the school system and cool places in the area to eat, shop, drink, and socialize. Soon we had a BBQ at their place, which was innocent enough until something clicked in my head: their kids are crazy. Not crazy in the sense that I wouldn't trust them with a steak knife, but in that they didn't have any sense of boundary.

This BBQ social event eliminated any boundaries from there on out. Soon a simple shuffle to my front porch found me five minutes later exchanging pleasantries with said Australian. He came out of nowhere with a "Hey mate." Innocent enough. Later on, a simple watering of my lawn recreated the same scene and the same hello. On it went. Then came their kids. Any sort of tip-toe to the grass by my son caused an echoing "Hi Luuuuuuuuuuuuukkkkkkkke" from their daughter 30 yards away on their front porch. It happened without fail for days and weeks on end. Ultimately Luke responded with a "[Sigh] Hi Name Here...[Sigh]" My socialite son was now having an issue with playing pretend on his own front lawn.

Things calmed down for a little while. Perhaps they got the message. Maybe they didn't have the "Neighbor-on-the-front-porch" sensor turned on. Maybe they just didn't like us anymore!

It returned. Luke's out front, neighbor girl comes over. Luke appeases her maybe because he can't stand it any more, or because he was surprised by her stealth ways or maybe he was interested in playing with her on the lawn after all. Nonetheless, this venture to the dark side created my biggest pet peeve imaginable... when kids decide to enter your home with asking. Our front door was open and while Luke came in to eat, in came the two wildcat kid neighbors. It happened once and while I was annoyed, I didn't think too much of it. Then it happened again, and again, and over and over. A couple times the little girl asked for a snack or water and my jaw dropped. Neurons were out of control in my head thinking, attempting to grasp the situation. One part of me admired her nerve, the other part made me despise her parents. "Where were they?" I wondered. "Why do they do this to me?" I wondered more. How do I send the message that this isn't cool without offending someone who could very well be my neighbor for years?

I was lost. Finally I just concluded that if I say nothing it may go away and they will get the signal, the picture, an idea that maybe Neighbor Tim is not down with kids just popping in the house, or on the porch.

For now it seems to have simmered down. It's unfortunate that they are "those neighbors" but then again I think that maybe they think I am "that neighbor" too. Time will tell. To this day we still chit-chat every once in a while and for the most part they are a quiet crew. Time will also tell if they hang around. My guess is the crazy Asian landlord will hike the rent and we will get another serving of the unknown.