Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Change of Scenery

In the beginning of June we moved to a new house. New to us, that is. It's much larger than our old home, and it has a pool which is something I've wanted since childhood, and adore having. I do miss my old neighborhood though. I miss the people, the chatty neighbors, living in the metro area as opposed to the suburbs.

For years we lived in a rather blue collar area, small brick bungalows from the turn of the last century. Lots of pickup trucks parked overnight on the street. We knew all our neighbors, and they knew us. On Saturdays and Sundays the area was alive with everyone doing their gardening, frequently calling out to each other, exchanging greetings and the news of the week.

Here, during the day, in our tony suburb on a golf course we rarely see the neighbors. If you drive through the area during the day you see the same pickup trucks, they belong to the landscapers that tend the lawns. The battered economy cars tend to belong to the cleaning services. Everyone we've met here has offered to give us the names of their service providers. It's like living in a strange, new world where the societal dance is slightly different.

But I clean my own house, and my husband likes to mow his own lawn. We don't golf either, we just liked the house, and wanted the pool. The house if from the We Proudly Present a Huge Garage! school of architecture but so are all the houses around us. In fact, there are only four house colors approved by the HOA in the area, it's otherwise unobtrusive but the HOA here seems to be a big fan of beige.

We also soon discovered that we had inherited the house of the neighborhood jerks. We'd suspected that, after all, we met them. There was something odd, and brittle about them. They had a veneer of niceness but it didn't quite ring true. Turns out that the gut rarely lies. As I met my new neighbors, bringing names of services, and offering up book clubs, they all said the same thing, "Have you moved in yet?" and when we answered that we had, "You're so quiet!"

Well, not particularly, but you couldn't describe us as a noisy household either. There are only three of us in a rather large house, but my son has had friends over to use the pool. My husband and I have had the odd cannonball contest also. I suppose we are quiet in that instead of yelling for one another, we have a habit of finding the person we need to speak to, and conducting the conversation at the appropriate volume level. It's a strange thing but we are all anti-shouting.

The old owners were noisy. They had dogs that barked constantly. The wife was well known for more or less yodeling nonstop into her cell phone while out of doors. They weren't horrible people, not by a long shot, they were just thoughtless and rowdy. The husband of the family put me in something of a spot when he told me our next door neighbors had a son in the Merchant Marine. The fellow was ex-Navy, I figured he'd know. Unfortunately when I met the neighbors and brightly said, "Oh, and your son is in the Merchant Marine!" he winced. His son works aboard a cruise ship, studying to eventually be a captain. It was clear he did not appreciate the Merchant Marine tag. When I apologized, because it was clear that I needed to, I said I must have misunderstood what the former owner had told me. My neighbor glanced away for a second and dryly said, "I doubt you misunderstood."

Things like that started to add up and we realized that the former people were not well liked, and the neighbors were all vastly relieved that we are quiet, a family of readers, and thankfully (from their standpoint) not prone to throwing pool parties, which I guess used to be a weekly event here. We contracted in a couple of services to do that things the former owners quite simply did not do, although obligated to by the closing contract. One such thing was having the air conditioner condenser cleaned. To call that thing filthy would be kind.

On a mercilessly hot day the AC tech arrived. A huge man, he looked like he could twirl a Volvo above his head, but nice, soft-spoken and cheerful. I offered him something to drink, it was so uncomfortably warm outside. He turned me down, but thanked me, and as a result we ended up chatting throughout his visit.

As it happens, the neighbors with the son most decidedly not in the Merchant Marine, had landscapers in. A work crew toiling endlessly in the brutal Colorado sun.

"That's a hard job." The AC tech mused, towering above me by nearly a foot. "I couldn't do that job."

I ended up telling him all about our movers. Men who did a horribly strenuous job, lugging things like my elliptical machine up a flight of stairs without complaint. Truly back breaking work, and seemingly endless. When they left here, they were off to do another job that very same day. The lead mover was covered in gang tatts. You can't live in a metro area for long without recognizing gang tattoos, but he also had the tear drop tattoos, two of them. That usually indicates a prison tattoo. Yet there he was, clearly trying to turn his life around, and working tirelessly.

"That's so cool!" The AC tech said, "I wish the guy luck, you know?" I did, and I was so relieved to have had that conversation. I hadn't mentioned it to anyone here, not after a friend of mine said, "Oh my God, and he knows where you live??" That hadn't been my point in bringing it up. That man had been polite, well-spoken, and was clearly working very hard indeed. I was, and am, simply fascinated with the fact that he was working harder than almost anyone I have ever known.

The AC Tech also told me the best way to manage the air conditioning in the house. In Colorado it is quite hot during the day, but we essentially live in a high desert. At night the temperatures plummet, and opening all the windows at night, then closing up again during the day maintains a cool house. I already knew that, but I appreciated the advice. I thought it was sweet that he kept things like the public service bill in mind, and was helpful.

It was that night that I awoke to a strange sound, clearly audible thanks to the open windows on the second floor. A man, drunk as a Laird was having a truly loud fight with his wife, who was screeching back in her own drunken turn. It went on for close to half an hour, and my husband and I sat up, giggling, unable to not listen. Something about the grill, nothing vicious, just loud and rather funny. Mostly it was nonsensical but there was nothing inherently unkind in it.

"Oh the neighborhood will be buzzing tomorrow." My husband said sleepily.

"I don't know, seems more like they'll wait until they move and just imply things like mad."

It was the next day when the landscapers were back that I ran into my next door neighbor. I looked at the crew and without thinking said, "God, that really is a hard job."

"I know. I couldn't do it. " He replied. "By the way, if you need any tools while you're moving in? I've got them all, let me know if you need anything."

His wife joined us and we chatted for a while. Eventually she laughed and said, "Did you hear Romeo and Juliet last night?" I confirmed that I had. "Don't worry, that doesn't happen often. Luckily, they're happy drunks, but Friday night is party night for them." I nodded and said, "I could swear that I've met her. I think she asked me if I'd like to join her book club." When I laughed, I doubt they understood why, but joined in with good nature.

The scenery has definitely changed, but I suspect the people are essentially the same.

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