New Neighbors, Same Voyeur

The neighbors, Sweetey, Petey, and Baby Dumdum, moved across town with promises to come back for a summer time cook-out. We watched them drive off with the final carload of clothes and boxes, feeling a sense of regret and acceptance that a reunion would never happen. Not knowing their last name, forwarding address or phone number made it clear that we were not the best neighbors.

Next time, we vowed to get it right.

Tears dried on our faces as we looked onto the empty house when a moving truck rumbled up the street, manned by the new neighbors.

Garry and Ginny had arrived.

Has one day ever been enough time to repaint, make repairs and clean the carpets between rental residents? I should think not, but to a slum landlord those are mere inconveniences easily overlooked, likely in the same way that she overlooked their background check and employment verification.

It was a fair exchange of a blind eye for a blind eye.

Garry stepped out of the truck with a cigarette dangling from his lip. His arms and legs were swirls of vivid colors and tattooed images. Stroking his beard with one hand and smoking with the other, he surveyed all that was his by way of rent and nodded. He saw that it was good.

Ginny hopped down from her side of the truck. Points of bright, red hair poked out from underneath of an army hat. She, too, smoked, and agreed that this was going to be eh…whatever.

They flicked their cigarette butts out onto the grass, and hand in hand, the couple walked into their new abode.

From that time, I’ve watched them halfheartedly through the window. The joy of neighbor watching left with Sweetey, Petey and Baby Dumdum. I’ve even listened to them as they like to keep the windows open when they fight their terrible, cruel fights. Neither one drives or walks which doesn’t help the constantly brewing tension between the two. They use cabs or they don’t leave.

However, visitors come at all hours throughout the day and night, parking for only a few minutes while the driver runs inside to complete some type of transaction. Then, the driver usually slinks back to his vehicle with his head down, looking from the side of his eye for witnesses.

Garry, Ginny and their many visitors have yet to learn of the Neighborhood Watch Society of One.


Voyeur Extraordinaire.

I guess as long as they have visitors, they will have money for rent, and will remain our neighbors until someone rats out the “business” and the police arrive for what will almost certainly be a shootout showdown. I suppose my interest in neighbor watching/voyeurism will be temporarily renewed with the sirens flashing and guns firing.

Another set of neighbors will move in after Garry and Ginny are either arrested or taken to the hospital or morgue.

There is always next time to get it right.

Still, I miss Sweetey, Petey, and Baby Dumdum.


Life is like stepping into a boat that is about to sail out to sea and sink.

-Shunryu Suzuki Roshi


the price of eggs


A quick Google search revealed that I was headed to decent house in a nice ‘hood.

Four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and an in-ground swimming pool.

I breathed a sigh of relief and assumed that bedbugs, wild dogs, armed men and drunken neighbors would not present as issues.

A woman met me at the door and a gust of cold air slipped past her slender figure.

Wispy strands of gray hair escaped from her long pony tail.

She pushed a strand back from her face with a weathered hand. Her nails were short and black with dirt, meant for function not fashion.

“Come in.”

Not a woman of many words, I thought, and followed her inside.

She ushered me through a dark, cluttered living room. She led me to a mostly cleared off table with a few letters and papers.

“Please sit.”

As I sat, I took a quick glance around the house.

Green, winding plants were crowded on stands in front of the living room window.

A large bag of chicken feed leaned against a recliner. The seat of the chair was filled with boxes, hangers, a lamp and shoes. Books, binders and craft supplies were stacked on the kitchen counter. An empty bucket and rope, gloves and three boxes of plastic wrap were piled by the sliding glass door.

“I am sorry for mess,” she spoke with a heavy accent.

“My kids move out and leave me with all this. I have no chair to sit in. What I do with all this?” she asked in exasperation and threw her hands up.

“I will get paperwork,” the woman said. She walked to a filing cabinet and started rifling through the contents. I took the opportunity to look for the swimming pool.

Stacks of wood and an old grill were haphazardly placed in the backyard, where the grass was even higher than in the front yard.  A little beyond that was the pool, as promised by Google, filled with a black sludgy water.  I later learned it was reserved for the ducks, not swimming. Silly me.

Suddenly, a reddish brown creature charged towards the sliding glass door in an exaggerated waddle.

I shrieked, forgetting the glass door between us.

The woman stopped looking through her files and giggled like a little girl.

“My chickens have to say hi.”

She laughed in delight at my shock.

“Very curious girls,” she said and craned her neck around the corner.

More chickens gathered outside of the sliding glass door, fussing and discussing the stranger.

“That reminds me, I have something for you.”

She made her way back towards the kitchen and came back with a half a dozen eggs.

“For you.”

That night, it was announced on the news that there was a possible outbreak of avian flu in urban backyard chickens.

“Wake up you idiots! Whatever made you think that money was so valuable?”
-Kurt Vonnegut

The Cat’s Meow


Tears squeezed out from one eye.

Big, round, wet drops slid down the woman’s left cheek.
She called out in anguish and rubbed the crying eye.

The other eye remained dry, unconcerned with the activities of its sister.

My heart squeezed tight. I was responsible for this lopsided show of emotion.
Her pain had grown too great; it sought escape through the easiest portal, the left eye.

Then I realized, she wasn’t crying. Something was in her eye.

Almost certainly, the irritant’s source sat next to the woman, lazily looking around the room with crusty eyes. The cat yawned and blinked. It was big and lumpy, like an old pillow with cheap stuffing.

She patted its misshapen little head, not minding the lumps of matted, greasy fur.

“Just like mama, you’re old and fat.”

She forgot to mention hairy.

The woman laughed and lost her breath. Instantly, her face grew grim. She waited for the oxygen flowing into her nostrils to saturate her blood again.

Just like the respiratory therapist told her, she huffed and puffed and damn near blew the house down.


Mail Call


The woman shuffled heavily in white socks from the worn chair to a polished table. She picked up a single envelope with a shredded top and pulled out the contents.

Shaking her head, “No, this isn’t it,” she declared and laid it back down.

She moved to the ceiling high bookcase that stood next to the television. It was sparsely decorated with knickknacks, pictures, tiny black dolls and a ragged Bible.

The woman reached up and pulled out a handful of opened mail that leaned up against the side of a shelf.
“Bills,” she said without looking up.

The bills were crisp white against yellow shelves. I didn’t notice them until the woman pulled out the stack. Then I noticed another stack of white against yellow on another shelf. Two more stacks were at the top of the book case, several inches thick.

The stacks of mail were everywhere. One was on the mantle wedged between two pictures; one was tucked under the table; and another one rested next to the woman’s purse on the floor.

Once I knew they were there, I sought them out. Stack after stack, I knew to look.

I couldn’t un-see the stacks.

It was like mushroom hunting; it’s more than knowing where to look, it’s knowing how to look.

Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it.




Thousands of small, red ants swarmed over a dish turning the white into a vibrating mass of red. Some left the main huddle to seek out more crumbs on their own, while others marched in lines over a newspaper from last week, onto a clear plastic box of dehydrated greenbeans, and around the edge of the table following an invisible path.

I was unsure where to put my paperwork with the table so very occupied. I considered smashing my binder down onto the table crushing the adventurous crew that dared to split from the main gang on the bowl and sweeping the bodies onto the dirty carpet. I could transport the bowl and its many passengers to the sink and rinse the entire thing with scalding hot water.

In a few strategic moves I could exterminate the entire colony.

Nah, I shook my head. Live and let live, I decided, especially when in a client’s home. I left my blood lust in the car with the windows cracked just a bit so it could properly breathe.

A woman sat across from me, watching me through sightless eyes with amusement.

The ants were no bother to her.

I completed the paperwork on my lap and did not mention her visitors.

There was no need.

“A pity beyond all telling is hid at the heart of love.” W.B. Yeats

Tha Crossroads


Much like Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, I find myself waiting at Tha Crossroads.

(Warning: as a gangster wannabe, this song title has been used slightly out of the context just for the sake of introducing it into my blogging world. My apologies to real gangsters who were hoping to read about gangster related issues. However, the issues of the meaning of life, loss, and sacrifice transcend labels/groups so I hope you will keep reading.)

I am pulled by my heart to be a creator, to live by my own hand, to be spontaneous and free, to write and read and enjoy the world while the sun is shining. At the same time, the lure of money and stability pulls me in the opposite direction. Food, water, and shelter are so darned alluring to a simple human like me.

I figure that I could still have these things if I followed the voices in my head, but the water might be from a river, the food might be foraged, and the shelter might not have four walls.

Whenever I pass a bridge, I consider the possibility of living underneath of it. It’s a habit that I started a long time ago when whispers of another kind of life tickled the part of my brain usually left unused. Some bridge dwellings are passable, while others are too slanted, dirty, or already populated by a fellow “freedom seeker”.

Of course, this scenario might seem rushed to go from job to no job and living under a bridge. Realistically, I would have some time between the two extremes. (Plus, I’m still searching for the perfect bridge.) The time would come, however, when I would have to find some way to make money to survive with at least a few creature comforts, like leather journals, prosciutto and fontanel cheese. If at that time, the perfect bridge shelter remained elusive and I had found no other way to collect a paycheck, I would have to rejoin the 9-5 working world (audible sigh).

Another important consideration to leaving the corporate jungle is who would feed my cats/husband if I lived under a bridge? They would eat pizza every night, all lined up on the couch, watching out the window waiting for me to get tired of “roughing it” as a bridge troll and return home.

While I was mulling over the guardianship and pizza problem of the cats/husband, I found an ad for a llama farm where they were looking for someone to teach sustainable llama farming. At last, a job that really resonated. I could learn a sustainable way to live and support the gang (cats and Mister). The farm owners were even willing to pay $100.00 a month for the training opportunity. Sure, I would have to shovel llama shit, feed and groom the creatures, care for the garden and the list goes on and on of the required activities, but the experience would be priceless.

Unfortunately, the llama farm was too far away, and so like my bridge dream, I had to let it go.

If only there was a way to be creative and free, untethered to the corporate world, and still able to make enough money to support my habits of used books, red wine and writing. Then, I would be able to move forward from these crossroads and in the words of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, I could stop “asking the good Lord why? And sigh, it’s I he told me we live to die.”

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tha Crossroads, Bone Thugs N Harmony, official video:

How to Make a Difficult Decision: 30 Ideas to Help You Choose

The Hostage Situation


As we drove, I hit my head against the window, over and over. My brother had a white rat that used to do the same thing, trying to escape from its cage. Sometimes it worked and the lid fell off, leaving the rat to its own devices. It hid out in the laundry basket or my underwear drawer; neither are great places to be surprised by a rat.

Much like the rat, I wished to escape.

I fought the overwhelming feeling that I made a big mistake. It was the kind of realization that turned my stomach and brought a little bile into my throat. Somehow, I voluntarily entered into a hostage situation, expected to last through the weekend. I wasn’t sure I had the strength or endurance to withstand the challenge.

A whiny voice droned from the backseat, stopping only long enough to breath. It was Stinkbug, our hostage taker, extolling her great knowledge of the animal and reptile world that included facts and fiction. “Um…’scuse me. Do you know how to tell if a snake is poisonous? I do…”

She made demands, unreasonable and cruel demands such as, “Look at what I did.” When I turned around, I discovered that she had shredded up a box of tissues and scattered them over the backseat.

“Isn’t it pretty?” she asked.

She demanded other things like, “Hold this.”

I put my hand out, only to receive a handful of dirty Floam that she had picked from the soles of her sneakers.

When I threw it out the window, she screamed. “That’s littering!”

She also provided helpful observations of the passing world like, “It’s dark” and “it smells” and “we’re not in the city, yet.”

After passing two grueling hours in this way, one might think that the child would be tired or sleeping. Instead, she drew energy from the air like an aerophyte. She only needed chocolate milk, constant attention and cartoons to thrive. Recently, she had two of the three requirements and was going strong.

Did she go to sleep when we arrived home, several hours past her bedtime? No, she had compiled a mental list of things that she needed to accomplish before she would even consider sleep.

For a five year old, this was quite impressive.

She needed to turn on all of the lights, find each of the cats for a conversation, get a glass of water, watch a show, check for chocolate milk in the fridge, line up the nine dolls that she snuck into her overnight bag, read a book and tuck us into bed so she could creep through the house unsupervised.

It was a losing battle of the wills, especially since sleep was not necessary for Stinkbug.

Eventually, she fell asleep with her eyes wide open, reflecting the light and truth about her real nature.

The next day, she appeared in front of my face at 5:30AM, arriving as noiselessly as a lion creeping up on its prey.

She poked my face and whispered, “Hey, want to watch cartoons?”

Surprising no one, my answer was, “No, but maybe your uncle wants to watch cartoons.”

Hours later, when normal people are awake, we took her out for donuts and chocolate milk, and then to the zoo, like any other clueless childless couple watching their niece might do.

Penguins, boring. Giraffes, boring. Cheetas, boring. Seals, boring.

Ants crawling through the sand at the bottom of a cage, amazing enough to sit down to watch and refuse to leave.

For lunch, we went to a nearby restaurant where we can never return in the future.

Poor Stinkbug rehydrated on chocolate milk, as expected for a fairy child, and then projectile vomited it with the few bites of mac-n-cheese across the restaurant floor.  Great puddles of chocolate milk and noodle fragments came together to create a brown river, leading directly from our table to the bathroom.  It was lined with angry servers and experienced parents, asking, “Where is her mother?”

And that was it, it was time for Stinkbug to go home.

Let us build up more of a tolerance to a lack of sleep, constant chattering and questions, impulsive behavior, and bodily fluids before we do this again.

That should be in about five more years when our sights are set on the Children’s Museum.