Monday, May 14, 2007

Making Nice With the Neighbors

A couple houses down from where I live is this two-flat owned by a genial Italian man. He spent last summer rehabbing the home, and every spring he plants new blooms in the front planters, covering them when a frost sets in, watering them, nurturing them. He dotes on his grand-daughter, taught her how to ride a bike last summer. It's straight out of Rockwell.

His son, however, is a little bit of a hothead. I found out the hard way Saturday night.

It was an early night, and I was out walking Emmy just before midnight . She's sniffing around as the son and his wife are returning from a night out. He may have been drunk, may not have. It doesn't matter. What did matter is that he saw Emmy sniffing around and asked if I had a bag handy to pick up any mess she might leave. I allowed that I did, told him not to worry, and left it at that.

Or so I thought. we walked past the house toward the park, and he's still at the top of the steps. He asked again, "Do you have a bag?" I replied again that I did. He asked to see it.

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"Let's see your bag," he said.

Alright, now he pressed a button. I'm not some careless prick who just lets his dog shit wherever she wants. I understand the realities and responsibilities involved with owning a pet. So, seeing as how he wasn't going to drop it, I reached for my pocket, puled out the bag, and made sure he got a clear view.

"Satisfied?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said.

Now it was my turn to not let the issue drop. I said, "Good. Now go fuck yourself." And I walked off.

It was a dick move on my part, I'll freely admit. But I never expected him to shove his wife out of the way and chase after me screaming, "Come back here, you punk! Come back and say that again!" Emmy, sensing that I might be in trouble, turned and growled at him, stopping the son in his tracks. I called Emmy over to me and we crossed the street. The son, still needing to vent off some steam, picked up a traffic cone from another neighbor's lawn and hurled it at me. I looked at him like he was insane, reached for my cell, and readied to dial 911. The son started screaming, "Go ahead. I'll wait on the stoop."

Finally, I pocketed my phone and finally continued to the park. The son got in one last parting shot, saying "I see you come past my house again, I'll bash you in the head with a fucking bat!" So, after Emmy finished her business, I walked past the house again. I figured if I was going to get my ass kicked, I'd make the one kicking it work.

Yesterday morning, Emmy and I went for the morning walk, and the old man was out watering his plants. He motioned over to me. "Do you have a problem with my son?" He asked. I told him that I didn't, that what it was was an unfortunate choice of words that escalated a situation that should have been contained, and that I was sorry that he found himself in the uncomfortable position of acting as a mediator between my smartassed mouth and his hothead son.

"My daughter-in-law told me you said a bad thing to my son," he said. I didn't deny it, although I stopped short of actually telling him what I said. The old man then continued, "I tell my son you seem like a nice man, that you are quiet and respectful," in stark contrast to what happened the night before.

You can't expect to get along with all your neighbors. I remember a few years back when I had a neighbor who was another hothead, and a thug to boot; a short, stocky Mexican with heavy tattoos who loved calling everyone but black folks "nigger." His girlfriend owns a pet grooming boutique, and if her dogs were any indication of her handiwork, I'm glad Emmy only needs the occasional bath.

He got it into his head that I was a peeping tom, and the weekend they were moving out he got raging high and threatened to shoot my "fat ass." That night he made it rough, blasting B96 and WGCI at full blast. They were fully moved out by Sunday afternoon, but he kept coming back during the week to just let me know that he knew where to find me.

If I see the hothead soon, I'm going to make it a point to see if we can let bygones be bygones. It's nice to get along with the neighbors.

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