Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Just for the record, the neighbors on my right are delightful people. We exchange information on tomato blight, the state of the world in general, and the fact that the street we live on has unfortunately become a thoroughfare. I watch their house when they’re away; my cat has adopted them, and vice versa. When they found out earlier this year that I had cancer, they brought over pastries. You can’t have better neighbors than that.

The neighbors on my left are spawns of hell from one of those former Soviet bloc countries that has four syllables without vowels and sounds like a sneeze. I don’t know how many of them live in their three bedroom house, but there are six used Japanese cars in various states of decay parked in their driveway and on the street. When they first moved in a decade or so ago, they cut down the two large cedars flanking their house, thereby giving me an unobstructed view of a wheezing AC unit and their trash and recycling bins.  Then they painted the house bile yellow with puke green trim, and began building a grape arbor that they never finished. The four-by-four posts that were supposed to anchor the trellis are now festooned with poison ivy vines, and the cement sacks left behind have disintegrated and formed large, grey puddles of stone on their lawn. The family, I have noticed, also collects road detritus, which is the only way to explain the array of empty plastic bottles and Mickey D wrappers festooning their front yard. Last year, an inflatable Santa on their front stoop ran out of air and collapsed on the lawn, a sight to frighten small children who might believe old Kris Kringle had been assassinated. The carcass remained in their yard until Easter.

Here’s what sealed the deal, though. About a month after they slithered into the neighborhood, the man of the house asked to borrow my truck, a gorgeous old Chevy Suburban that I had customized inside and out. When he returned the vehicle, there was a sizeable dent on the left rear fender. He denied having anything to do with it, claiming it was there before. It wasn’t. I let it go. Three weeks after, someone in the house took up the drums.

I’m a musician. I’ve played in bands since I was 16, and over the years I’ve been subject to my fair share of cacophony. My experiences have also led me to believe drummers are unusual people to begin with—anyone whose avocation is beating on the stretched skins of dead animals with sticks is bound to be a bit strange. In fact, I can say that, after having been musically involved with at least 20 drummers over the decades, I am convinced drummers are marginally dangerous people with deep anger issues. The one next door has never once managed to carry a four-four beat. What comes from the neighbors’ basement is an explosion of meaningless sounds resembling mines going off in a war-torn country. There’s a full set of cymbals, too, which he/she whacks with primitive abandon.

Twice I’ve been at their door to complain about the noise. I’ve written letters and threatened lawsuits. The neighbors lull me into a sense of complacency by ceasing to drum for a week or two, and then starting again with added fury.

We are at war.

I have no plans for an outright invasion, but I’m a big believer in guerrilla tactics, which include the possibility of using a blower to move leaves from my yard to theirs while they are worshipping their evil deity on Friday nights. That’s all I have come up with so far, and I welcome suggestions.  Stay tuned.



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