Out, but not About

Yesterday I cleaned fallen limbs from the front yard. Last weekend’s windstorm broke dead sections from the treetops; they exploded on impact. It took quite a while to gather all the finger-length pieces (the perfect size for jamming the mower’s belt).

Eight people passed by during that time, including a family on a motley assortment of bikes and foot-operated scooters. Continue reading

The Hottest Spot to Hang Out

…is La Casa de Tontería (aka my home aka The House of Nonsense). Specifically, the road in front of my house.

I blame one of my frequent readers (but NEVER commenter) who asked me why I don’t write more about the Middle School Mafia. Not that he wants me to have trouble, but…

He jinxed me. Continue reading

Blight-ful neighbor…

…. versus spiteful neighbor.

I’ll take the former over the latter, but it’s difficult to put up with extra work. As of today, I have sprayed weed killer, trimmed overhanging branches, cleaned a section of gutter, and cut the sod to drain water away from his foundation.

I have written about how blight control forced the neighbor to clear out the dozen or more trash bags he had lined up along his house. Unfortunately, blight control laws don’t stop indoor squalor nor overgrown gardens (just the lawn proper).


Street-view of the front of the house, about two years ago. The window is full now and plants overgrew the porch.

The cute little house is full of trash. The lawn is still mowed by the same disbelieving landscaper, but the garden is overgrown with weeds, wild grape vines, and young trees. A maple sapling was allowed to sprout in the seam between the driveway and the house’s foundation.

The Middle School Mafia, who seem to sense when potential victims might be a tad ragey (to use a local term), pulled a subtle prank to test the waters. This past autumn, someone tossed a Nerf football onto the lawn, where it formed a lump under the snow and an annoyance to the other next-door neighbor when spring gusts rolled it across the property line. In the spring, a damaged kick-scooter was leaned against his mailbox, where it remained until another neighbor picked it up for scrap metal after a couple months.

Satisfied by inaction, the Middle School Mafia steer clear of it. Why waste eggs on someone who doesn’t clean it up? Why ring the doorbell on their way home before curfew if, like a tree falling in the forest, no one cares if it makes a sound?*

The neighbor lives elsewhere now, most likely driven out by his own squalor. He retrieves things from time to time, like the boat and trailer sitting in the driveway. On the bright side, whatever vermin infested his house** will find no fresh pickings.

But it is maddening when the taxable value of La Casa de Tontería increases. I asked the folks in the township office: How will the nearby neighbors sell their houses if it comes with the view of a derelict?

*My Old Man began teaching my elder brother and I philosophy with the classic question. As a result, we have a plethora of snide remarks about it.

**The other neighbors are convinced the uptick in cats was due to critter infestations.

Black Kitty The Neighbor-Cat

For almost three years, a black cat has been frequenting the neighbor’s property. At first I believed it belonged to him, but then I realized it and a battle-scarred tabby hunted vermin attracted by his squalor.

This spring, Black Kitty decided my back garden is the best place to spend mornings. It particularly likes the deck and the space between rhubarb and birdbath.


Black Kitty surveys the garden a little after five in the morning.

Kitty-spotting has become something of a morning ritual.  Its reaction is predictable and funny. The click of a door unlocking will perk its ears and set its eyes to “alert mode,” but it invariably never takes the shortest escape route.

It could easily hop the fence or slink into the shrubbery. Instead, it exits via the driveway.  This has meant passing by me, eyes wide with alarm, and looking back to see if I am chasing it.


Shed sentinel disappointed in the state of the lawn.

Black Kitty even stopped under the overgrown trees near my car and stared silently as I passed within inches of it. No, I have not attempted to touch the silly thing, just talked and meowed at it.  I don’t want a pet when a feline neighbor will do.

Of Hoarders and Drug Dealers

La Casa de Tontería will celebrate its 20th birthday this summer (I’m the third or fourth owner). It’s located in a working class neighborhood with little traffic and a plethora of kids. Usually the worst things about life here are the air pollution created by burning yard waste and the petty crimes committed by the Middle School Mafia.

But recent months don’t bode well. Continue reading

The Triumph of Trash Day

I came home Friday after a long day at The Young Human Factory and saw something beautiful – an empty garbage can on my neighbor’s lawn. Oh, happy day! All but one garbage bag and various loose debris have been cleared.

I haven’t blogged about him because, frankly, it’s a depressing situation. The family next door let their house let the bank foreclose. The bank removed the wood stove and put on a new roof, then sold it fast and cheap. ( So fast that when my parents called the bank, it was already a done deal.)

For the past two years, the “new” neighbor has been letting it fall apart. Continue reading