Well, boys and belles, I am going to have to disabuse a stereotype today. Sometimes us Southerners aren't really all that neighborly.
Take a moment to compose yourselves. I understand. It's quite a shock.
I know when I close my eyes and think of a Southern neighborhood, warm and fuzzy black and white images come to mind of kids riding bikes, dogs barking playfully and neighbors smiling and greeting each other as they work in the yard or go out and get the paper. Folks don't have to lock their doors and the neighbors look out for each other. Ms. Edith even shares her world famous peach cobbler when the first good batch of peaches comes out in the summer. Just turn on the Andy Griffith Show some and you'll see what I mean.
The funny thing is that it's kind of hard to attain and retain such an idyllic image when you place it up against another little Southern tidbit that is, quite frankly, much more accurate: Southerners are some peculiar people. Peculiar people often don't make the best neighbors.
When Scott and I got married, we rented a house in a nice, but no frills, neighborhood. There was a family with teenage children living in the house right next to us. Normally, I wouldn't have a problem with teenagers, but the parents worked at night and you know that is a dangerous equation. The kids' absolute favorite thing to do was to sit in the carport in the middle of the night and smoke pot. Of course, the carport was the closest point to our house and the kids would run and hide their stash up under our bushes when a car would come by.
As fun as the little pot smokers were, when we moved to Smithfield, that's when thing got...super quirky. Before we moved, I already had a little itty bitty clue as to what we might face. At the time, our dear friends had been living up in Smithfield for about three years. When Scot and I went to visit them, that is how we met Nekkid Wayne.
Nekkid Wayne lived directly left of our friend's house, but luckily the lots were large and there was a good distance between the houses. The distance was a good thing because I never once saw Nekkid Wayne with a shirt on. Wayne was a middle aged fella with a mullet and the beginnings of a seriously impressive beer belly. Rain, sleet, snow or hail, Nekkid Wayne would stroll around his garden in nothing but a pair of umbros. He was a real gardening enthusiast.
So, we moved to "downtown" Smithfield and, like most historic districts, the houses were rather uncomfortably close together. We sort of shared a driveway with Jim, the confirmed bachelor who lived next door to us. Of course, when I say "share" I mean that he stole our gravel and pretty much took up the majority of the driveway with a bright yellow half dismantled boat called the Banana Boat. I would lie in my bed at night and dream up ways to get that horrible thing out of the driveway. I wasn't above sneaking out into the night and torching the thing, but I preferred the less strenuous method of paying someone to steal it.
Scott and I weren't thrilled with our neighbor, but I was stressed and focused on surviving law school and Scott had a daily two hour commute and we just didn't have the time to waste on the situation...until December of 1999. Second year fall exams are notoriously rough and the evidence professor was giving a study lecture. As usual when I am completely freaked out and in a hurry (a condition that seems to occur far too frequently) I left the house and locked my keys inside.
I was screwed. Scott worked way to far away to help me out and--of course--we had no hideout key. The house we lived in was very, very old and--as a result of settling--one of the front windows at the porch didn't close well enough to lock it properly. Yep, the funky window was my ticket. All I had to do was get the storm screen off and I could get right back inside. I scurried around, getting a screwdriver and a ladder and whatever else I needed and--believe me--it took more than one trip to the back shed to get everything. It was during one of those trips that I noticed Jim.
Jim was standing at his kitchen window and he had apparently been watching my little Vaudeville act from its inception. Why didn't he do what every Southern gentleman properly raised by his mama should do at the first signs of female distress? Truth be told, I didn't particularly want him to help because he was buck nekkid. Not a stitch on. Just standing there in his birthday suit and drinking his coffee. Good times.
So the Councils got to have their own special Smithfield neighbor: Nekkid Jim. It wasn't too long after "the unveiling" when Nekkid Jim had the Banana Boat towed off. There was much rejoicing throughout the land, but--alas--our joy was short lived. We woke up one morning and saw a brand new boat in the driveway. The boat was very nice and I would have been ok except for the fact that the boat's name was printed in large letters which were quite visible from both our kitchen and our dining room. Those letters read "M*ff Diver." (Feel free to insert the "u' yourself, but I simply can't do it.)
I will never forget Scott Council standing in our kitchen pointing and yelling, "WHAT THE HELL? I CAN'T EVEN HAVE MY MAMA OVER HERE FOR LUNCH! (Feel free to employ colorful cuss words liberally throughout that statement.) "IS THE MAN ON CRACK???"
So, when the dust from our screeching car tires settled in Smithfield as we headed home to Wilmington, I can only hope that some of our stolen gravel hit that tacky-assed boat.
I do have to say that we've been lucky with neighbors since we left nekkid Jim, but the attorney handling my closing for our current house still managed to nearly give me a heart attack. He called and told me that he had finished doing the title search for the property and there was a problem: "Ash, I didn't realize this before it was too late, but you have lawyers living on either side of you. If there isn't a zoning ordinance prohibiting three lawyers in a row in a neighborhood, well...there should be."
Amen to that.