Saturday, October 6, 2007

Master of Suburban Warfare, Protector of God Given Rights!

Recently a co-worker forwarded me a letter that another co-worker had placed in the mailboxes of his neighbors. Apparently they had received complaints about their dog and his constant barking. Please see letter below:

Neighbors are an interesting thing, especially in suburbia. This thing reads like an FAQ off a corporate website. A twelve step program for reorientation of your dog. I especially like the creative use of the baby monitor with service level agreements! “target within 5 minutes” This is exactly why I live in the city – I don’t know my neighbors, I don’t want to know my neighbors and if they piss me off I’ll call the cops. It seems a lot has changed in suburbia land since I was a kid. I vividly remember the disputes in the ‘hood, there were plenty.

“So and so leaves their trashcans at the curb too long”
“So and so’s yard looks awful, look at the weeds in those flowerbeds!”
“This one doesn’t trim their hedges, it’s starting to look like the Adams Family”
“That one came over to my house with a plastic fetus and asked me if I had accepted Jesus Christ as my savior”

There was carnage in the wake of neighborhood disputes. People didn’t speak for 30 years over ugly shutters or blocking someone’s view of the street by parking a car in front of their home. None of this wackado politically correct flier in the mailbox crap. We had an air rifle for a reason damn it!

Ah the good old days.

My childhood neighbors were “saved” and as a result, everyone else should be as well. The wife had a curious fear of lung cancer. She was highly agitated that my father had an equally powerful desire to incinerate things. Perhaps he was reducing the household waste sent to the landfill or simply a functioning pyromaniac. Either way, he liked to burn stuff and she was convinced she was going to get lung cancer from his burning.

Makes no sense, but that’s suburbia for you.

As I've said before, I don't remember anything. Life before 12 is a montage of little snippets that don’t add up to much of anything. This pisses my mother off tremendously as she feels her efforts to expose my sister and me to every museum on the East Coast before the age of 10 was completely wasted. I do however remember everything that involved an explosion or required emergency services. Hence my memory of the street fire incident.

Early one summer evening when I was a child we were having cake at my parent’s house for my grandmother’s birthday. That day my father had forced my sister and me to do what we hated most – pick up sticks. We had big ‘ole trees, therefore we had big ‘ole sticks on the lawn. Picking up sticks involved walking around the lawn (significant bitching and moaning was almost required), finding the sticks and then stuffing them in the storm drain. (More on that later) Hours of torture in my childhood simply to avoid damage to his riding mower. He also liked to burn paper, boxes or whatever else he might have lying around that was flammable. On this particular day he had replaced an old wooden garage door with a new super fancy electric one. This gave him lots of wood to burn.

It was fairly typical of my father to burn in the street’s storm drain. He would stand out there and watch smoke pour out the grates on both sides of the street while the inferno raged below. Neighborhood kids would come out to play with The Big Man and his fire. Eventually things would wind down and he could walk away and check back periodically. The entire neighborhood was accustomed to the burning rituals. Everyone except our next door neighbor. On the particular evening in question she was stewing in her house while my father was creating a blazing inferno in the street. After an hour or so he had retired to the house and was about to put a fork full of cake in his mouth when the first siren started.

Mass hysteria ensued. A fire truck, medic vehicle, police officer and a park ranger came barreling down our little cul-de-sac of a street. It seems someone had reported a fire and they were here to put it out. The commotion turned our front lawn into a neighborhood party. My old man talked himself out of a fine by promising to clean out the storm drain the following day. As it turns out burning was allowed in our township but it had to be in a closed container. The next day he returned home with a huge hulking tin can looking monstrosity which he rolled up the back hill to the top of the property line. My sister and I weren’t sure what to make of this thing but we were quite certain it would involve manual labor on our part.

He started burning again, but only when the wind was blowing in the direction of the crazy neighbor’s house. It was far too practical for him and less exciting for the neighborhood kids, but the slow and painful torture of the crazy woman was a labor of love.

And that, boys and girls, is what I call a neighborhood dispute.

Let this be a lesson to all you kids in suburbia land - some of us were raised by the master of suburban warfare and we don’t write no stinking letters!

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