My Neurotic Neighborhood
By David Jensen
Copyright 2016 by David Jensen
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My wife made the comment that I should write about our normally moderately docile
neighborhood, and due to the fact that I am still stuck on a missing day in my next book, , I gave it some thought and this is what came to mind as far as short stories are concerned. (If I was to write about all of what has and is happening, it would turn out to be a tome!) Also due to a broken bone in my foot, I cannot do very much around the house. This short story is definitely non-fiction, and will give others residing in different countries an insider’s view of just how this culture and our neighbors act.
They are all around me, and everyday they seem to do something that is, at most times, unbelievable to say the least. Some I will converse with and others I will tend to and/or attempt to ignore. Those I will talk to upon meeting them on the street, , and still most times get into an argument. They have a quirky way of going through their life on a daily basis. Who are they? They are my neighbors, and why only talk about them when I can write about some of their psychotic, nymphomaniac, egoistic, paranoid, and sometimes downright autistic actions and beliefs.
To get a good impression of just how strange my neighborhood is here in Germany,, I’ll start off with the house to the right of mine. Before, the people who lived there were acceptable. Then the wife died of cancer, the man found a new lover to take her place, and they began to romp around in the bed sheets on a daily basis during the time he still was living in his house. Naturally I never witnessed these antique acts of banal affection, but we and everybody within shouting distance with a window open heard about it. Because the neighbor (# 2) who lives across the street from him was talking on the street one day, , and made the comment that; “The old man was screwing around with his new lover the whole morning, and right after they left, his son came with his girlfriend and they actually had sex in the same bed as the old man!” . When she was asked just how she knew about it, her reply was; “They didn’t even change the bed sheets before they jumped into the sack for a round of sex!” Asked again how she could possibly see into his bedroom, she replied; “I carry my laundry from the basement to the second floor empty apartment and stand at the window while doing the ironing. That way I can see what is going on in the neighborhood!”
(Now if you read that really carefully, you’ll see that one has to admit that she apparently walked next to Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ with her head full of straw instead of a brain, for she admits to carrying the laundry, in her advanced age, up two flights of stairs to play ‘Neighborhood Watch’ while ironing, ergo Nosey Neighbor[_)_]. And I immediately looked at the trajectory from her window to my bedroom window, and then at my tall bushes in the front yard, and commented; “That bush is not going to be felled this fall! It stays right where it is!”
Since that time the man has moved to live with his new wife and the place is rented out to a man who works for the city park system. Sort of an okay person, considering where he came from, (East Germany), but although he is a gardener for the city, he can’t seem to take care of the leaves in front of the house where he lives! (There is a thing here called ‘Kehrwoche’ and basically you have to sweep the sidewalk and street curb once a week to keep it clean.) Therefore, with the next windy day, the all of the leaves blow farther down the street to my house. He also has an old nostalgic motor roller which he brought with him from the old East Germany and although it’s cool to see antique vehicles still driving around, his is the loudest two-cycle motor I’ve ever heard. Especially before six in the morning!
(Although my house is close enough to the town’s center that we can get there by walking in ten minutes, the two intersecting streets which make up my immediate neighborhood is normally real quiet. Most times on warm sunny Sundays, one can sit on the patio and it is as quiet as being deep in the woods of Michigan. Maybe that is why everybody takes notice when something loud happens, because of the quietness. We only have two twins in the area, who are rarely outside, so we don’t even have the cheerful play of children on the street. Though that would be considered noise from some of those in the general vicinity, for me it’s the same as birds chirping in the morning sunshine, it’s something natural.)
The neighbors in house # 2 are the typical retired couple. They are gone somewhere most of the time, but when they are at home again, the lawnmower has to run for hours as he cuts his little patches of grass in the front and back of the house. Reason being is that he doesn’t see the need to shut the lawnmower off when he slowly walks to the back of the house to empty the grass catcher bag. He apparently gives a crap about the CO2 problem in our atmosphere because he has a gas lawnmower and he will run it as long as he pleases! With his attitude, one doesn’t even consider asking him if he could get an electric one!
The next house is # 3, and it was sold and the middle age couple who bought it, , totally renovated the house. Good neighbors and are constantly busy with the church, job and such. Nice people.
Moving on to house # 4 and it starts getting interesting again. An older couple used to live there and I was good friends with the older man, but his wife was intolerable. Lots of times I really felt sorry for him as his wife yelled for him, in a venomous voice, to get back upstairs. Even in his age, , he had the interest to learn about computers, and when we looked at some of the prospects with Laptops and such, he was like a teenager full of excitement. What the Laptops cost was irrelevant for him. And as we was going to set a date to go shopping for his Laptop, his wife screamed down the stairs; “What is taking you so long? Get back upstairs!” It really ‘popped his bubble’ dream of having the peace and quiet to first learn about computers with me and later on, to surf the internet. As he turned to me he had a terrible sadness in his eyes and said; “Let’s forget the whole thing because she won’t allow me even five minutes to myself down here!” Sorrowfully I learned that she was like that the whole time they were married, but with other people she acted like either some kind of royalty, or a helpless old lady, sometimes nearly blind, or lots of times she acted as if she was nearly deaf. She acted out her part like a professional stage actor depending on who she was talking to, and what goal she wanted to achieve. I myself fell for the blind/deaf acting for a while till I caught her reading small printing and hearing things I barely could hear myself. And when she was confronted with her superb acting qualities, she got mad enough to put her picture in the lexicon next to the word “Battle Axe”. To my sorrow, he passed away when he had a fatal heart attack while sitting on the toilet. But for him it was a blessing, and as he was a kind and gentle man, he must have went to a heaven, because his life with her was a hell on earth. Also to my sorrow is the fact that he passed away before I started to write/type my books. I would have liked to write sort of a biography of his life as a child and young man, for he used to tell me some absolutely hilarious stories about growing up during the Second World War. One story is unforgettable. He said; “I heard the soldiers coming through the woods, because they were searching all the houses for men who didn’t join voluntarily or young kids, and especially the Jews. So I climbed the tree and got on the roof. When the soldiers came out of the clearing, they saw me on the roof whistling like a bird. They all laughed at me and made jokes that I was daft in the head. They left and I escaped being inducted into the Hitler’s campaign with the boys who were too young to be sent to the battlefield.” I had to return to the story of Gerhard as I remembered another good one he told me one time while I was taking a break from mowing the lawn for him; “After the war was finished I had to drive for the Americans and deliver the green coffee beans to Stuttgart to be roasted, because in those days they didn’t have vacuum packaging yet and they were shipped while still green. On the way we always had the opportunity to stop somewhere and take coffee beans out of the bags for our friends. We always got into big trouble because we didn’t have the bags closed tight enough and during the trip they opened up and lost beans on the way. But they never came upon the idea that we maybe might be stealing the coffee! As I was always really good in mathematics and understood numbers so well, and because I was just too stupid to transport coffee without losing a lot, they put me into the bookkeeping department. And after the war I started working for the Bank.” He always seen the good and funny side of things and she was always whining and complaining. But if God serves out revenge, then she got hers, for she had a stroke and could no longer bitch and whine at the people at the old folk’s residence which since that time has become her new home. Now her son-in-law, whose only interest in life is to breath air and make money, is renting out the house and the new people have just moved in the last few weeks, so I have no judgment on how they are. The husband lets his car idle in the mornings till the windows are thawed but they have Christmas lights on the pine tree in front of the house and in the window of the young daughters bedroom. Finally some more competition in the neighborhood in the Christmas decoration category! (I can visualize the Russian lady in House # 7 shaking her head and saying; “Oh but that cost a lot of electricity!”) The people who own house # 7 have already started complaining about the ‘Newbie’s’, because their furniture trailer was parked on the street! But I will get to them later for they are truly an interesting sort of Homo Sapiens!
In house # 5 there lives a retired construction worker and his wife. I’ve maybe seen her total of ten times since moving here, but he is one of those types that would fit right in when one thinks of rural American neighbors. Always ready to help someone, loves to grill and smoke Trout in his smoker he handmade, and you won’t hear a bad word from him about anyone. He has his life, his wife, his grill and fish smoker, and is happy.
We’ll skip the houses # 6 and # 7 for the time being, because they are the highlights of the neighborhood and without the inhabitants of those two houses, the whole area would be as dull and uninteresting as Chernobyl, as one will learn reading farther on.
The old man who lived in house # 8 was a widow and also retired, though he at first didn’t look that old when I moved here. He lived his life and when he rarely talked to the other neighbors it was a short conversation. (The neighboring houses # 6, # 7, and # 8 are visible from my big living room window, so it is not as if I am nosey like the neighbor lady in house # 2. But when I am in my living room and something moves outside, I tend to look! There have been quite a few robberies in the past years here, and I keep an eye out for things that are out of place, like I did while I was living in Savannah Georgia.) From what I seen of him, his daily highlights were checking his mailbox, trimming his driveway hedges on a daily basis with a scissors, going out walking, and the visit from his sister once a week when she cleaned house for him. He passed away and the house was sold to a veterinarian. Since then she has totally ripped the insides of the house out and is in the process of completely renovating it. If I am lucky, she will open a veterinarian office in the first floor, which would make it easier on my cats than packing them in their transport cages and stressing them out by driving all the way into the next town to get their shots and so forth. It is also a deterrent against the people in houses # 7 and # 9. This I will explain later on and it will be apparent just how much people can hate cats! (It’s sort of funny though that the inhabitants of those two houses don’t complain that the cats in our neighborhood do a great job of keeping the rodent population down to a minimum!)
Now we come to house # 9. Houses # 9 and # 10 are a double house made from the original house which was ‘back in the good ole days’ the normal farmhouse size. The wife of the older couple in # 9 is the sister of the husband in # 10.
Now the lady in house # 9 comes out once in a while to take a stroll with her walker, she has one leg shorter than the other and naturally even with orthopedic shoes; she still has to walk slowly. Her husband on the other hand, is healthy even in his old age. He is the type of person you laugh at when you see somebody on their hands and knees, and is trimming the grass with a scissors. He will meticulously lay out tape strips on the grass, so that he can precisely, square yard for square yard, pull out weeds. We over here call that kind of lawn ‘English Grass’. I’ve no idea where that saying came from, but it would fit that only Queen Elizabeth in England has such a perfect lawn, but like the Queens gardener, he has the time as a retiree to pull out all the weeds, seedling for seedling! Strange thing though, our lawns look the same when it snows in the winter! So isn’t it any wonder that he literally goes ‘Nuclear’ when my Tomcat walks over his prized lawn and the ensuing argument with me while I was mowing the lawn by house # 4? I knew straight off what kind of attitude he had that day, because he greeted me as “Mr. Jensen!” I turned the lawnmower off, and waited for him to start bitching. Now Gerhard in House #4 was laid back, calm and relaxed, chilled out, and well, basically a cool dude! And this guy is since his retirement (or even before that) exactly the opposite. “Your black cat took a shit on my lawn!” He said, and was so pissed off that he actually was shaking! (Or he needed to get his alcohol level back to its normal level of almost drunk?) In his hand he had a small plastic bag and he held it up for me to see as proof that ‘My Cat’ shat on his perfect English lawn. I try to show respect to everybody, regardless how ignorant or stupid they act, but I had to laugh in his face. “Cats dig a hole and then cover the hole when they are finished.” I said. “And anyways, that is from a Marten and not a cat.” This must have made him unsure of his complaint, so he deviated just a little and said; “You teach your cat not to walk over my lawn!” (I’ve heard the saying ‘blinded by science’ and at that moment I was ‘baffled by stupidity’.) I asked him; “It’s a cat and not a dog, so how do you think I should teach a cat not to walk on your ‘English Grass’?” Now he was red mad and answered; “I don’t care! But if I catch him walking on my grass again then!” “Then what?” I asked. He showed how you wring a cat’s neck with your bare hands, and that was when I started to loose control. “Don’t you even dare thinking about touching or hurting Tommy!” Needless to say, the argument ended with me telling him to ask his son what happens when I post his house and address in Facebook as someone who just loves to kill cats. So even if the new veterinarian lady doesn’t open an office at her house, alone the fact that she, in her competence as an animal doctor, is a safety shield for all the cats that may by chance disturb his ‘Gold Medal Grass’!
The retired couple in house # 10 are simultaneously friends and good neighbors. When one of us is gone away on a weekend or longer, the other one looks after the house, (by me the most important is the care of my two cats), and waters the garden when necessary. He is the only one in the area who I can call on if I needed any help.
Let us return to House # 7, and fasten your seat belts for a veritable joy ride by visiting this funny farm!
The beings residing in house # 7 are totally weird. And the parents have very strange hobbies. First off, she is a Russian which was ordered through a catalog, sort of like a catalog for ordering baking utensils but instead with pictures, (probably Photo Shopped) and profiles. You order one and they come to Germany to marry and get out of Russia. Naturally they have to bring any and all family members here right after the ink is dry on the marriage certificate. These are the Russians which, as we would say, ‘Didn’t have a “German” Shepard dog to qualify for living here’. Anyways, we’ve never seen any children visit their children while they were growing up. (Strange!) The husband is constantly working around the house, or he is constantly gone fishing, which is apparently his only means of escaping her, if only for a short time! He grew up in this town and his side of the family also still resides here. But, one rarely sees his sister visiting him, although it takes less than five minutes to walk from door to door. The only person who visits them at least halfway regularly is his nephew, and that is only because they go fishing together all the time. Okay, not that you think that I spend all day looking out my living room window to see what the neighbors are up to, but we neighbors meet each other by chance in the neutral zone, the street. And one time it was mentioned that nobody visits the people in house # 7 and everybody seemed to agree that they have never seen visitors there. Looking constantly out the window and keeping track of which one is doing what with whom and when, well that job is already taken by lady in house # 2, who only gets a silver medal. The gold medal winner is the Russian lady in house # 7. Sometimes she is really gutsy and has her window open, leaning out and scanning the whole area from left to right. I seen this great piece of artwork and am now glad that I have the picture, for it is befitting of her.
Believe me when I state that she don’t miss a thing! Here are a few superb examples of her cognitive scanning and observations.
The first example:
Two houses away from her, (a mere stones throw) lived an old lady for which I mowed the lawn, looked after the garden, shoveled snow in the winter, and so forth. In front of the house is a peach tree, and it is year for year a picture book example of how a healthy peach tree will produce quality/quantity fruit. So, a group of Russians went walking by house # 7 and the Russian lady was leaning out of her window doing her normal neighborhood observation. She didn’t greet them as they walked by because her thinking is, (at least that is what she told me one time), that Russian is a language you don’t need to learn or speak, with the exception of her speaking to her mother, who also lives in the area and after many years of residing in Germany is too lazy to learn German. (Sorry, back to the story)_] Anyways, the group of Russians stopped by the peach tree and as it is easily accessible from the sidewalk, they leaned over the fence and decided to help themselves to handfuls of peaches. [_(That’s communism for you! They have the impression that everything belongs to everybody, or rather, ‘What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is also mine!) Later on the whole story came out and all the other neighbors wonder why she didn’t yell at them in their mother language that stealing is against the law here in Germany. When they had first bought their house, she had said that she had a Doctorate degree in Chemistry, but that was in Russia and it wasn’t accepted here. That is why she works in a store for minimum wage. I told her in her face that it is most definitely accepted here, because chemistry is international. Also that she should go to BASF Chemicals here in town and offer herself for half the normal wages a chemist would receive. At least she would earn a sum x Pi more than minimum wage! No, she can’t do that. She had said, so in my eyes she is a lying commie.
The second example:
My wife came home very late at night (almost midnight) and way up the street there was an ambulance parked with only his Blue lights on. She looked up the street for a second and wondered who needed the ambulance, when suddenly; a voice called out that “they’re taking him out in a box!” Now one has to realize that at that time some years ago, the people in the neighborhood were older. So normally there wouldn’t be a living soul awake at that late hour, and it is spooky when the street lights are already off (the city needs to save money) and she didn’t know from where the voice came from. Alas, the Russian was leaning out the window with the lights off so nobody can see her during her ‘Observation’! Needless to say, at that hour of the night, I personally would be too lazy to open the shutters, then open the window, and lean out on the window sill to observe till the very end what is happening at a neighbor’s house!
The inhabitants in house # 7 also have a common sport which they all (with the exception of the daughter who in her teen years seems to think that she is some kind of Diva) participate in on a daily basis. It’s called ‘Parking Space Reservation’, and although the street is public parking, they claim the two spots in front of their house as their own personal possession. To what extremes they will go to just to make sure nobody parks in ‘Their’ parking spots would make a great reality TV Show. When one car leaves, the other one will literally run out of the house and move the second car forwards, or backwards, to purposely block both spaces. Some days, the person staying home will run outside quite often and they will push the car by hand back and forth. . When it is garbage day, they will literally push the garbage can back and forth between the two spots all day long, and they keep pushing it around the street even when it has already been emptied! Instead of shoving it to it’s proper spot for the next two weeks. With all that PSR sport, and especially on garbage day, they at least don’t need to go to the Sport and Fitness Studio to work out.
The Russian stays true to her born nationality because everything in her life revolves around money; how to make more, how to save even more and to preach to the neighbors about how expensive it must be to have all of those Christmas lights on! “My, oh my, I cannot imagine how much electricity that cost to have all that Christmas decoration running for the next couple of weeks!” Note: She doesn’t pay my electric bill so it really is of no concern to her how much and for what I utilize my electricity. On the other hand, (and this proves how much of a hypocrite she truly is), they have their special plants, fish, turtles and such in the basement all winter long (from early fall to late spring) and the whole time there are Day Glow lamps on. (My, oh my, I can’t imagine what that must cost!) Only a few days after they moved here, the whole neighborhood knew that she had to have the shots for contraception instead of taking the pill! I learned from a co-worker that they had rented an apartment to him and his Russian, and already when they lived there, they got into trouble because of her ‘Motor-Mouth’. But she only takes the Silver Medal in the Motor-Mouth category, for I have another ‘almost neighbor’ (and everybody thinks the same as I do!) who takes the Gold Medal. I’ll get to her at the end of the story.
Now we shall return to house # 6 and although I don’t believe in voodoo or jinx and such, this structure has something about it that comes into the category of ‘bad vibes’! At the time I moved here and bought my house, there lived a married couple who were teachers and had one child. They moved away and a new family moved in and they had children, although they were already in their teens, so still no children laughing in the streets whilst playing. Since then, the first couple pretty much kept to themselves. No wonder, when I found out after they got divorced, that he was a notorious woman beater. He was a seamstress and she gave dancing courses in the evenings, and one would have thought that everything was kosher! But alcohol and fist are a very bad combination and thankfully she left and got her and the children in safety. He still works in his sewing store in the middle of town across from the fountain, he is still happy with his job as a seamstress although I believe that he barely gets by, and most importantly, he is now clean and like all alcoholics, fighting it on a daily basis. But what about his ex-family? Well, as the saying goes; “A day late and a dollar short”! Then the next family moves in and once again in the figurative soap opera “My Neighborhood”, everything seems all peachy-cream to the outside world. They have a daughter and the twins were on the way. (This is good because I wonder if anybody has children anymore and sometimes it is so quiet here that I feel that I’m in a retiree community!) The time goes by, the twins were born, and it all seemed normal, except for the fact that as a photographer he traveled around a lot, ergo, she was left alone a lot! (Unless one is present all the time, no one can say what starts the downward spiral of a marriage breaking apart. Most times after divorces are finalized, neither party can say for sure where the spiral starting line was!) He fell into the bowels of the hell of alcoholism and in heated arguments, also starts to beat on his wife. Again, thankfully they split and the children are in safety. How they split up would have made a great show on television, for when she threw him out he threatened her. His words were; “What happened in Paris will be nothing compared to what I’m going to do!” Naturally the police had to be called to the scene because it was a reference to the terrorist bombing in Paris, and the police here take that kind of shit pretty seriously! But is he to take all of the blame for a bad relationship? As it turns out, and I learn more every day that, as usual in that house, it took two to dance! She cares little about her children, for to her they are like other people have dogs. If she has no desire or like most times, feels that they are in the way of her personal life, she practically ignores them. Sort of like if you would send your dog to his basket.
The twin girls are now seven years old and although supposedly twins, the first born is totally different from the second one. Only DNA testing would confirm if they are identical or fraternal twins, but the first born has some slight deficits. With the correct and intensive help, she would grow into a normal person. (But then, where is the borderline definition between normal and disabled?) The twins now come to my wife after school to do their homework, (sometimes two or three days worth of homework just to catch up with the class), because the mother has a cosmetic studio in the house and doesn’t, or won’t plan her appointments for the betterment of the children. Since they started doing their homework at our house with my wife, where it is calm, quiet and consequent, , they have improved in leaps and bounds! The mother sees the improvement, but will never change her way of life for the sake of the children. The grandparents see us as a godsend, but we see only the twins and how to help them. In the meantime, we have fallen for the twins and it is great to have little ones again in the house, until we have our own grandchildren of course. It’s fantastic when they ask all the questions children will ask, and we definitely take the time to try to answer each and every one of them. But at the same time, we always emphasize that even we as adults don’t have all the answers, and that we also make mistakes, just like children do! So even if it only last a couple of years, we will have given them impressions to take with them, and hopefully not forget it all!
We have two houses which are in the direction of my backyard, and they also deserve some simple annotations. In the first house there lives the Gold Medal Motor-Mouth. She will talk about everything and anyone. She is the true ‘Gossip-Lady’ of the neighborhood. Regardless of where she is: in a store, in the rehabilitation sports group, or in her backyard, her mouth runs as constant as the flow of a river. And she is exactly the type of person who you definitely cannot trust to keep a secret, because she is not in full possession of her mental capabilities as far as I am concerned.
Example: While at her house last year, (her husband is a great guy and I pity him to the utmost!), her mouth was gaining speed and was just about to go into Warp-Drive, when she rattled about how they had problems paying back a loan that they had at the bank! That is definitely not the sort of thing you talk about with neighbors that you barely know and therefore I grant her an IQ rating of 50! When they are outside in their yard, and even if they are talking amongst themselves, she wags her tongue at such a high level that everyone in the area hears her. And sometimes it is hilarious to listen to her telling the daughters dog to ‘Go to Grandpa!’ as if it is their grandchild that is running around on four legs and shitting all over the place. The Sun and Moon, and everything that family does, revolve around that dog because they really do treat it as if it is their grandchild. When the woman or her daughter go to the doctor to get a prescription for indigestion, they, (and they have told a lot of people about how they are cheating the health system), aren’t getting it prescribed for themselves but rather, for the dog because it’s cheaper than what the Veterinarian would sell them! (Now that is what I call real honesty!) It is so great when in the summer they take off for a few weeks in their motor homes, because we neighbors finally get a break from hearing all the latest daily gossip.
One more house and then the neighborhood ‘funny farm’ is complete.
Directly adjacent to my backyard/garden there now lives a couple with a small child. He is from Austria and as a father goes, he seems to be doing a great job. With almost everything he does out in the garden, he integrates his son and lets him help. He even bought his son child size hearing protectors (Mickey Mouse style) and safety glasses for him when they are mowing the tall grass between the rows of Raspberries! I find that just so cool! And he is very consequent with the rules that he is teaching his son. Bravo!! It’s what his wife does that I still am learning to tolerate, because the problem is mine and not exactly what she does.
I gave her the Indian nickname of ‘Laughing Horse’, because when she laughs it’s like fingernails on the blackboard for me. Her father, who owned or still owns the house, now he has done some really stupid stuff! For example: He was cutting firewood with a table saw and shoved his hand into the blade. When the ambulance drivers arrived, they told him to lie down on the stretcher and not walk around. He told them he still had to look for his fingers! He was lucky that between the ambulance drivers and him they found them all, and I’m glad that one of my cats didn’t bring me a finger to show me what great hunters they are!
Isn’t my neighborhood simply exciting?
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