Wednesday, 15 September 2021


Have We Got Neighbours?

The nosy fellow across the street likes to sit on the front porch of the Crooked 9 and update Ann and me about what’s going on up and down our street. A few doors away, the home renovation of our local, convicted sex offender seems to have stalled; perhaps the pandemic has disrupted the global supply chain of dungeon fixtures. The neighbour to our immediate right hasn’t spoken to us for years – discounting a few obscenity-laden screams; we’re right up there with the sky, her adult daughter and her weird black dog cross-bred to bark anxiously. When her blinds are up we note that her Christmas tree is a 12-month, decorative fixture – and has been for a decade. She is of a peculiarly obese shape, her knees, her hips, her lungs and her heart have to work awfully hard while her mind is on vacation.

Ann and I have always kept things together.

The brand new, two-storey, curiously commercial-looking skinny home to the left of the Crooked 9 sold this week. All conditions are off and we expect new neighbours casting their shadows upon us by next weekend. Consequently, I’ve been dwelling on the nature of neighbours, Robert Frost and fences, all those posts and boards, gates and latches. I suppose new neighbours are akin to a choking hazard toy in a cereal box, a sealed pack of baseball cards or cancer: you can’t help wondering what you’re going to get.

I’ve come to terms with a biker bigwig moving into a fortified clubhouse. Incidental and opportunistic crime in the neighbourhood would plunge to zero. On the other hand, neither Ann nor I wish to be remembered as gang war euphemisms, civilian collateral damage.

Should we not be blessed with professional criminals who abide by a code of professional conduct, we’d settle for introverts or snobs – people likely to keep to themselves. Maybe our new neighbours might let their taste in music do their talking over the fence; Ann and I are more Warren Zevon and ZZ Top than Zamfir. There could be disputes, or not. We can only speculate about the value these strange folks place on the creative arts and its implied aesthetics, after all, they just slapped down a million plus on a home more suited to house a suite of medical offices as opposed to a family.

God forbid they’ll be garrulous. Life’s too short to gab at length about nothing. I hope they’re not passionate about weird stuff like Amway or Scientology. What if they prove to be extremists, right wing-nuts or trigger warning-happy leftists? A good neighbour is a burned-out cynic with a whit of wit.

Ann and I together keep our eyes on the street. We are front porch sentinels. Truth is, not a lot goes on and keeping watch might be a lonely job except for the fact we’re both mildly misanthropic. Cars enter garages, the segmented doors close; nobody uses their front doors. Nobody receives visitors or hosts Saturday night parties. The neighbourhood seems to exist in some sort of Stephen King prison dome, food and water rations driven in from the “outside.” Humanity’s rich pageant is hired help: housecleaners, lawn care and snow removal crews and dog walkers.

I don’t believe this strange and insular world Ann and I observe so acutely stems from pandemic life. I suggest its roots lie with the advent of digital television signals, the proliferation of the internet and their spawn, the iPhone. Real life selected an upgrade to version 2.0, departed our avenues and streets, bought the server farm. Of course, dwelling inside “the internet of things” costs money and nobody carries cash. When in 1987 the Royal Canadian Mint launched the loonie, I surmised our dollar would lose some of its value. I was not referencing global currency markets, I meant the average person’s perception of its worth, the denomination’s migration from billfold to change pocket. Money has become an abstraction since then. Binary code has evolved into fingertip prime numbers. Goods and services are delivered with the touch or swipe of a screen.

This weekend we’ll greet our new neighbours with a liberal sample of Ann’s baking. My hunch is that we won’t see much of them after this casually awkward attempt at introductions - and not just because winter’s coming on. Our neighbourhood has defaulted into digitized agoraphobia; remote work and home entertainment are investments that demand confinement. I suspect our new neighbours’ expansive and irksomely elevated rear deck may never be more than dead space, the way apartment and condo balconies are utilized mainly for exterior storage.

The convicted sex offender’s property abuts an immense black cube. Ann and I refer to its residents as “The Borg;” engagement is futile. There’s a woman who lives farther down our street, just as the asphalt begins to curve, who I ape with my not-too-bad impression of a smiling horse or perhaps a member of Britain’s royal family; sometimes Ann and I never need speak. All I know for sure about our new neighbours is that we will anoint them with a nickname, a descriptor or a mimicked signifier. Welcome to our street. We don’t judge, we just observe.              

meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of street gossip since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is out now. Visit to find your preferred format and retailer.

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