Or, perhaps more appropriately, who lives on your messed up, dysfunctional block?
I really thought things would get better on my block after Mini-Van Carnie Con Carne Carnival moved away, seemingly in the middle of the night. They lived in the house directly across from us but in two years we had been unable to determine exactly who lived there, such were the comings and goings. Sometimes there were four children, sometimes eight. Adults and kids in mini-vans pulled up and loaded or unloaded at all hours of the day. The absolute low point came two summers ago, when some carnie friends who had been to visit before showed up in their white school bus, which proceeded to die on our block. So the carnies moved in! Hooray and fun for all!
But then all of them moved out almost overnight, under cover of darkness and shame (we’re sure they were kicked out of their city housing by a city that was tired of them treating their house like a clown car). The city came and fumigated the house.
Things got fairly quiet. A new family moved in across the street, headed by a man I’ll call Gator. The other troubled house down the block was vacated, after its last tenant got high and drove his car into the house, wrecking the foundation. Word has it that this house is no longer city owned. It got fixed up and now belongs to a guy who seems to actually live there, with his cute dog. It’s such a relief… when we first moved into our house a woman who was certainly involved in the meth trade lived there and would rip up and down our block in her Suburban as if drag racing a ghost car. Then she was taken away in handcuffs one afternoon while an older couple (we presumed her parents) watched, along with her child.
But now it’s August and shit’s gettin’ crazy again. There’s something about late summer that brings out the worst in people (the carnies showed up just about this time two years ago). Over at Gator’s house, the domestics have been becoming more and more frequent. Just this morning I got up to sit on the porch with tea and was greeted with them screaming at each other, along with a lot of door slamming.
If it were the beginning of a movie, the first scene would open this way:
EXT. HOUSE – EARLY MORNING
A tan, box-of-a-house sits quietly as the sun rises over it. As sun rays gently reach across the roof, there is a CRASH and then a CASCADE of angry voices, climbing ever higher. A door SLAMS. The song, “You Always Hurt The One You Love,” plays in the background.
You always hurt the one you love
The one you shouldn’t hurt at all
You always take the sweetest rose
And crush it till the petals fall
You always brea-eak the kindest hear-eart
With a hasty word you can’t recall, so
If I broke your heart la-ast night
It’s because I love you most of all
And it’s become clear to me, over the past few weeks, that Gator is dealing. I assume it’s pot. Gator is not what you would call a “major operator,” but there are a lot of folks pulling up in the evenings and I see things change hands. Then some chitchat is exchanged, there are some looks up and down the block, back slapping and then people get back in their cars and leave. It’s funny how buying drugs from someone apparently makes you best of friends for a couple of minutes.
A few weeks ago I watched a pixie sprite of a woman wait in the car right outside our house while her boyfriend disappeared inside. She kept herself busy by dancing in her seat to the driving beat of some electronic music, then texting endlessly and then switching radio stations until finally settling on Carly Simon, which seemed highly out of character. Then boyfriend came out with Gator, some words were exchanged and pixie sprite and boyfriend left, not to be seen again since.
But Gator’s got trouble on his hands because Larry, Curly and Moe, his next-door neighbors, are onto him and Curly really likes to call the cops (shouting matches between Curly and Gator are not all that uncommon). Last night, in an unrelated incident, a drunk driver hit a parked car one block down from us and then tried to keep driving. I wasn’t home at the time but Keith was. The driver careened down our block and then passed a police car sitting at the intersection by our house. So… uh… yeah. The driver was busted. Cops descended on our neighborhood and neighbors piled out of houses.
While observing the scene, Curly came up to Keith and our neighbor across the street, whom I’ll call Marty.
“I think the cops are just about to do something (to Gator),” he said. “I was just down there talking to those cops and they’re about to rotate back on to community enforcement. And there have been five calls on them for domestics. I’m pretty sure Gator is dealing. I smell pot all the time and I know pot smoke because I’m allergic to it.”
Just to give you a better idea of Curly… he’s a gay, retired U.S. Marshall who lives with Larry, a mild-mannered, red-headed guy who could be a beefier version of Ritchie Cunningham and Moe, a dramatic, cross-dressing man who has a penchant for wearingÂ Zubaz when not in his Saturday night female finery.
Marty was standing in his yard during this exchange, shirtless, holding a beer and swaying. In short, trashito.
“Why did I buy in this neighborhood? My girlfriend talked me into buying this house,” he said. “She said it was the perfect place and a good neighborhood.”
Yeah, Marty, we’re all beginning to wonder. Especially as the Sunday Shoutin’ Match reaches hour four.