Saturday, November 03, 2012
i used to sit on my porch at the farm. morning noon or night. in my pajamas with coffee, in my don't leave the house clothes with wine in the evenings. with no real neighbors it was peaceful and private. i could hear the birds and the wind and the gun club down the road. in the evenings i'd listen to the crickets and the frogs.
when we moved back east i never sat on the porch. the houses were too close together and the streets were too narrow. there were houses literally surrounding me on all sides. too many houses and too many neighbors. and neighbors on the east coast aren't 'friendly' per se but they sure are *there.* and boy do they want to know about the west coast and the family and what college you went to. and homeschooling? yeah. no. best not mention it or you'll hear about it. i didn't sit on the porch.
we chose this house for the porch. well, i did. that and it felt like home and it was really the only one available at the time and it took pets and it was the cheapest.
i sit on the porch.
i watch the people walk by.
the whole world walks by.
the locals and the tourists. they walk by and bike by and drive by.
the big tourist buses and the vacation vans and the marathons and the walkathons.
and when you live where there's a lot of tourists and traffic you aren't even noticed. just like i like it. i can sit right on my porch right there and not be seen. i'm part of the backdrop. i've come to learn that people on vacation are some of the least observant people in the world.
they look at what they think they are *supposed* to look at. they take pictures and videos instead of just seeing what is in front of them. they meander and shuffle. they walk into traffic and they dart out of nowhere. i think they think they can't get hurt because they are on vacation.
they rent bikes in the city and ride across the bridge. by the time they get here they look like they are having the time of their lives or they are as miserable as fuck. some people have no business renting a bike and riding in traffic. they create dangerous situations. they are oblivious. they ride on the sidewalk. you're not supposed to ride on the sidewalk. but they do because they are afraid to ride in the street. if you are afraid to ride in the street you shouldn't rent a bike in the city. lather rinse repeat. oh, and they should REALLY give a little talk on how to USE YOUR GEARS. it's like a cartoon watching people pedal so quickly around and around and around on the flat ground getting nowhere fast and exerting all energy in the process. ISN'T THIS FUN!
oh. and don't get caught by the old couple who walk down the street and will LOUDLY ADMONISH YOU for riding your bike on the sidewalk. the tourists who rented the bike in the city mostly look confused at this as they are mostly foreign and don't understand the old couple or what they are shouting at them. oh, there are signs that say don't ride your bike on the sidewalk. but, they aren't in every language. and people on vacation don't read signs.
i see whole families walk by. the dad in his vacation clothes he wouldn't normally wear. bright white shoes and his 'good' jeans. he looks pinched and done. the kids are bored and grumbly. the mother following behind clutching her purse with a grim determined smile. ISN'T THIS FUN!
people think they are supposed to be having more fun than they actually are when they're on vacation. when you're on vacation, you're still you. and your family is still your family. and everything costs so much in these little towns. the restaurants are fair to middling at best. ice cream is about the same price as a small pure bred dog if you go for the deluxe cone. and i can't imagine kids enjoy ticky tacky galleries and shops with ticky tacky things. and then there's that bike ride...
lovers walk by. they sit on the bench across the street. they make out in outrageous fashion. some really get into it and practically straddle each other as the others walk by. the drunker they are the more salacious it gets.
they fight on the bench. there are loud arguments and tears. shouting. or quiet crying. once i saw a man and woman park in front of my house. they argued their way out of the car. he called her a fucking bitch. she called him a pale, cheap imitation of his brother. they made their way down the street. you only get two hours to park. and sure enough, two hours later they were back. kissing and cuddling and flirting after a few expensive drinks and some dinner down the street. he opened her door. she flashed a little leg.
women walk by. in high heels and flats and tennis shoes. i have seen more ugly boots sitting on this porch than i care to think about. there are foreign couples and same sex couples and couples on their first date. or their last. there are young couples and old couples and i swear to god i just saw the other day two people meet right in front of my house for a hook up.
just because they don't notice me doesn't mean i'm not RIGHT THERE.
people walk down the street smoking cigarettes and smoking pot. eating ice cream. they are forever with their huge ice cream cones. they sit in their cars and drink wine while they watch the sunset.
the locals walk by. the kid down the street, he walks by. he's rough and red faced. works at one of the marinas. he drives a big huge old black '52 chevy truck. it's got the raider's logo painted on both doors and always has an odd assortment of stuff in the back. he's a roughneck. he shouts at the cyclists. isn't afraid to take them on when he's driving or walking. that's ballsy. because you don't fuck with the cyclists. they seem so benign until you piss one of them off. then it's good night irene. nice knowing you. (irene, incidentally, is from england and also lives on the street. she walks four pomeranians at once twice a day. they belong to her daughter. that's a story for another day.)
the kid got a girl recently. young and long haired. pretty in a way girls are pretty before they start fucking with their looks so they can be 'prettier.' she started sleeping over i noticed. then moved in. they held hands when they walked by. they got a puppy. the cutest little puppy in the world. they held hands and held the puppy. then they held hands and walked the puppy. recently, she's been walking the puppy several steps ahead. the kid stays behind, smoking a cigarette. looking bored or tired or relieved or pissed. i can't tell. some days it's all of the above. the past few days i haven't seen the girl. the kid walks the puppy alone. the puppy is growing bigger and is proving to be unremarkable looking at best.
the guy next door on the other side of me mostly keeps to himself. his wife seems pleasant and seems to do a LOT of shopping. most days he walks about a mile down the street to the north end of town for lunch at a restaurant that sammy hagar has some part of. he smokes a cigar every evening. and gives us plants from his yard. he or his wife are up before 6 am every morning. i see their light when i get up. they don't store their white wine properly. they have a grumpy dog.
the 6 million dollar neighbors down the street (i call them that because they were trying to sell their house for 6 million dollars) don't care for us. we have boys the exact same age. right down the street. in a neighborhood with NO OTHER KIDS. but i guess the prayer flags and buddha and all around hippie vibe puts them off. it's just as well, both their dogs are assholes.
there are gypsies further down the street in that direction. they have won the lottery twice. they park in the no parking zone in front of their house because they want to park there and don't care about the tickets. i don't know how many live there. they are dark and swarthy and secretive. they grow beautiful roses and recently held a garage sale. two weekends in a row. i try to get a good look into their garage when i pass by. there's a mint condition yellow 60s corvette in there.
there's an indian beer company executive somewhere on the street. in one of the big houses where people aren't seen coming or going. where people certainly are NOT sitting on their porch. our house is not like those houses. our windows are drafty and the heating system sucks. the appliances are crap and there is the cheapest carpet known to man in all the bedrooms. my house is funky and often smells like skunk. it's a house with dubious and wild history. people are awed by it. we have a security system. it's a very strange place with no parking or storage or closets or a yard and i love it.
my neighbor two houses away has a huge truck and ALWAYS gets a parking spot near her house. i can't get a space to save my life. often i have parked better than a ten minute walk away. and as i near the house, hauling groceries or library books or whatnot, there will be several recently opened up spaces to choose from. my parking karma is spotty at best.
but, i have learned to parallel park LIKE A BOSS. sometimes it takes a 67 point turn to get in the space BUT I GET IN IT. you can tell a LOT about a person by how they parallel park. i watch people parallel park every single day. with vacation brain. a lot in rental cars unfamiliar to them. i should set up a booth and charge 5 cents for my advice and observations about people's lives based on their parallel parking alone. i would make a fortune. if you don't have a parking pass you only get two hours. there's a LOT of parking going on every single day right in front of me.
speaking of parking, i noticed the woman of a certain age with the expensive new white BMW doesn't come around anymore. she was visiting the man down the street on the other side of me. he would walk her to her car in the morning, kiss her passionately, and collect his temporary parking pass. the other day i saw another women with him. another blond. she had the pass and the kiss. her BMW was black.
mostly though i see the tourists. they stop, nearly every single one of them, and point to the house on the hillside behind me. it looks like it's going to fall any minute. literally. it's not, the city has inspected it and says it's sound. it just looks like it's going to fall. it's also the reason my house smells like skunk. it's vacant and i think the skunks are squatting in there. a whole lotta skunks.
the guy next door is a billionaire and owns a string of restaurants in hawaii. he's rarely ever around. apparently he owns the house that looks like it's about to fall down. and plans to renovate it. the only access is from the road behind it, at the top of the hill. there's a funicular down to to the house.
every single person stops. and when i'm sitting on the porch they are.literally.right.there. they stare. they point. they take photos and videos. loudly pointing and proclaiming in the direction of the house behind me. in disbelief and certainty of the imminent, sliding demise of the house behind me. loudly showcasing their extensive knowledge in structural arts. or loudly worrying about the state of structural affairs. in every single language you can imagine i've heard the same thing. they are ALL STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS.
usually it's the man or men in the group who know the most. 'oh. that's coming down for sure. i mean, any minute now.' 'oh, you're right dave. i know because i had a buddy once who...blah blah blah blah blah.' occasionally, when i'm not on the porch i'll be at my desk. i'll look out the window and watch this show. run for your lives, i'll say in the direction of the people beyond the window. hurry, i'll say.
and for the most part they declare that anyone living in my house must be an idiot at best for living under that house.
and every once in awhile i will be spotted. because, you know, i'm RIGHT THERE. they will ask, doesn't that make you nervous? that house falling down on you? and i look them straight in the eye and i say, i pray every single night before bed. they get it or they don't. but they all shuffle along.
i want to shout TURN AROUND. take pictures of THAT. quit taking pictures of an ugly ass house.
OH MY GOD I KID YOU NOT AS I SIT HERE WRITING THIS THE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES WITH THE CUTEST LITTLE KID IN A SUIT JUST APPEARED. he has a stack of Watchtowers. which is particularly awesome because rumor has it jimi hendrix spent some time in this house back in the day. all along the watchtower indeed. the universe IS AWESOME.
about once a day you get the cyclist and the motorist show. not to be confused with the tourists who rent the bikes in the city, the cyclist is a whole different animal. so you have the occasional motorist who has no fucking clue how to drive next to or near cyclists. who does something stupid and gets the wrath from one or more of the cyclists. rule number one of driving here: don't piss off the cyclists. they will take you down. they will follow your vehicle and make your life for the next few minutes a living hell. i have seen them surround a vehicle. they have the quickest, saltiest tongues you can imagine. you wouldn't think people in spandex could be so menacing, but it gets ugly. people don't know how to drive. they are on vacation. they are unfamiliar. it's generally an honest mistake, but it won't go by unnoticed. because it's dangerous for the cyclists. and, yes, the cyclists can be dicks, too. it's defensive, i get it. but it's a little out of hand sometimes. on both sides. i have seen things get physical. you've got spandex and testosterone and tons of steel. it's a recipe for disaster. the police have had to be called on more than one occasion.
i sit here and watch it all.
people are walking home and walking along and walking to and walking from.
the world walks by.
and i get a front row seat.
isn't that something.