Monday, June 07, 2004

Counting the Ways 

By request, as well as from a desire to document, here's the beginning and the end of the neighbor saga. It should be noted, first off, that our neighbors on the south and west are kind, decent folk. But the mean witch of the north is another matter.

The Introduction
My wife was first introduced to Angie before we owned the property. We'd just heard that our offer was accepted, so Jess decided to pop over and take a look at the yard. The curious neighbor to the north noticed this newcomer, and decided to stop over and introduce herself . . . and give Jessica a list of things to do . . . but not after telling my wife her life story, including how she and Mark "tried for kids for a number of years, but it just wasn't meant to be." It was not long after she told Jessica about all the neighbors around us whom she had called the city on for violations that she asked Jess to weed the backyard so the seeds wouldn't blow onto her yard, fix the gutter that was overrunning, trim the garden down, keep the grass up, and be watchful of the tenants. Jessica came home and said, "I think we got a nutjob to the north of us." Yeah. Either a nutjob or a woman in her forties who owns a double lot with way too much time on her hands.

The Second Meeting
Jessica is taking the dog out, when good old Angie pops through the brush that separates our properties.
"Oh! You have a dog!"
"Yes, this is Ranger. He's our dog."
"Oh. And this is where he goes?"
"Yes, he's very well-trained, and he goes in one spot. This is where we've decided to have his spot."
"Are you sure the scent won't carry over to our yard? Because I love my yard, and I like to have a lot of garden parties."
"We keep up on the yard and on Ranger's spot. I don't think it's going to be a problem."
"Well. I guess I'm OK with that."

The Third Meeting
Angie: "Oh, so you're doing some yard work finally?"
Me: "Yeah, we're trying to scale it down a bit. It's been real busy with the move and all."
"Yes, there's a lot to do with owning a house."
"Yeah. We're taking on a couple rooms inside now."
"Oh, that's great. Great. One thing you'll learn about owning a house is how much work is involved."
"And a lot of that work, Will, is pretty thankless. But it must be done anyway."

Several Miscellaneous Meetings
- Nearly each time Angie poked her head through to our yard, there was some mention of "Mark", her mysterious live-in boyfriend/husband who no one has seen. Since these early meetings, we think we've seen "Mark", but can never be sure. We're fairly sure we've heard him -- or whoever is pretending to be "Mark" -- speak, but for a while there, a debate raged as to whether there really was a "Mark".
- There were several more mentions of how our north-side gutters were overflowing, and that the water flow would damage some of her trees that grew between the properties. In fact, nearly every time Angie ran into Jessica, a request of some kind was issued.
- Mid-autumn, I got up on the ladder and cleared the gutters as best I could reach them. While I remained in agreement that the gutters were not working properly, it should be noted that the water falls from the gutters -- not directly onto the ground, but hits a secondary roof on our home, thus breaking up the flow and impact of the water.
- Her garden parties were hated throughout the neighborhood. Worst, though, was the saccharine cheeriness she put out on a daily basis. I will never forget waking up on a Sunday morning by, "WHAT A BEAUTIFUL DAY, MARK! WOOOOOOOOOW!"
- Angie dumbfounded my wife one day by asking her who we were going to hire to design our yard.

The First Break
As Jessica walked from our home to her car, Angie came rushing . . .
"Jessica! I need to speak with you about your yard!"
"Now is not a good time, Angie. How about we talk about it later this week?"
"It'll just take a minute! It'll just take a minute!"
"It's just a really bad time, Angie."
"It'll really only take a minute."
"I have to be going, Angie. Right now will not work for me."
"Please! Really, I just wanted to discuss-"
"I just found out ******** has cancer. Leave me the fuck alone."

The First Concession
Jessica's always liked weeping willow trees. So for our first anniversary, in addition to a nice dinner at a restaurant we couldn't afford, I bought her a weeping willow. It was to go in the corner of the back yard (by Ranger's 'dubiously approved' spot), but we had to have an old tree stump taken out first. So we waited the four or five days until the tree guy came to grind up the old stump. Of course, by that time, Angie had seen the tree and spoken with an arborist about its roots. As she told Jessica (do you notice a pattern that she only takes her concerns to my wife?):
". . . . And they have a very invasive root system that could knock out our retaining wall. And that would be very damaging to our property. And I would appreciate it if you got another tree."

A week-long fight ensued, in which Jessica argued for appeasing the Wicked Witch of the North by getting a new tree; I argued for the "Fuck that Bitch" approach, in which we would just plant the tree. Jessica won. We took the tree back and got some crappy little perma-berry tree. By the way, as we exchanged trees, the woman at the tree store told us that, yes, the willow would have knocked out her retaining wall . . . in about 25 years. I was too angry to speak, so Jess explained to Angie while we planted the new tree:

"This one has a very non-invasive root system, so that shouldn't be a problem."
***Will grumbling inaudibly to himself, not saying a word or looking at the witch.***
"And you did this because of what I said?" Angie gloats, her eyes wide.
"Well! I'm impressed, guys! That's great!"
***Will, nearly unable to control himself, walks to the garage and does push-ups.***

Winter Notes
- The day after our tenants had their annual Thanksgiving party, Angie approached Jessica, stating how "ridiculous" that party was for its noise. And that she would have called us to complain, except she didn't have our phone number, so we'd better give it to her for next time. Jessica gave her the number; she did not mention how Angie's garden parties could be heard a block away.
- Not a once did Angie or "Mark" shovel the alley.
- A new sign is posted outside Angie's front yard, asking people to pick up after their pets.
- Angie puts up the crappiest "holiday lights" display of all time. Basically, she takes a line of colored lights and tosses them into the bush next to our house . . . so it looks like we're the shitty Christmas-lighters. "Oh, Mark, aren't my lights BEAUTIFUL?!"

Spring Notes
- Angie is seen several times, dumping her yard waste against the side of our house.
- After our tenants return from a week-long vacation, Angie accosts them at the front door -- their bags still in their hands -- about the cigarette butts supposedly thrown on her property.
- A squirrel is spotted in a trap on Angie's property. Her property contains well over a dozen trees. There are multiple families of squirrels on her property alone, as well as a large forest of small animals two blocks away. Yet Angie is trapping squirrels.
- Jess and Will begin running out the front door to their cars to avoid speaking to the wicked witch.
- Angie and "Mark" are seen -- during a heavy rainstorm -- sitting in lawn chairs on their front porch, with the chairs oddly turned directly toward our house so that they can get a direct view of our gutters during the storm.

Crossing the Line
Angie: "Doing some gardening?"
Jessica: "Yes."
"Looks like you have a lot to do."
"Jessica, I wanted to talk to you about your retaining wall."
***Editor's note: this retaining wall lies on the south side of our property. At no point is this wall visible from Angie's property.***
"See, it seems to be sloping in. That'll have to be corrected."
"Well, I don't think it's that bad, and it's not really a priority right now. We're doing a lot on the interior of our home."
"Well, I think you should make it a priority."
"Then I'll tell you what. You get your lawyers to give our lawyers an offer. Then you can buy our house and make all the decisions yourself."

And that leads us up to May 31's post. Jessica no longer wants me to talk to the woman (even though I'm not the one who told her to leave me the fuck alone). So we look forward to the fence. I'd pay good money to see her and "Mark's" faces as it's being put up. See, I know it won't stop her entirely. This woman is so tactless that a fence could never truly stop her. But it's a big "Screw You". It's a tall, solid, physical "Screw You". And while it won't stop her, it'll force her to shout louder and try to catch us in the front yard. Guess we'll have to find something tall to plant in front of the front door . . .

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