Gated Communities Keep the Psychos In
A heavily medicated Vietnam vet came to my door today telling me about how he had hacked a snake to pieces with a shovel. I had just finished dinner. And did I mention he was heavily medicated? I was half expecting him to break out into song while telling me about the unicorns in the magical land of the east. [If you don’t get the reference, watch the video. You’ll thank me later.]
However, since he is my next door neighbor and I’ve managed to live here for five months without ever actually engaging him in conversation, I decided to listen to his little rant. I also have the patience of a demigod. His random thought-process and speech patterns took a bit of getting used to, but basically he came over to tell me he found one of these in his yard:
Not sure if it was a rattler or not, he chopped it up and questioned the biology department at a local university about what type of snake it was. It turned out it was a harmless rat snake, and my neighbor felt a little guilty about killing it. I was worried about the negative effect this would have on his already war-torn psyche. But then an interesting thing happened: he sat down on our rocking chair.
Now I don’t know about story-telling culture where you live, but where I’m from, once someone sits down to talk A.) they’re going to stay for a while, B.) their story is pretty good or C.) they can’t keep from falling over. Luckily for me, this fell under all three. Remember, I have the patience of a demigod. Also, I just generally enjoy good stories. I’d sit in an insane asylum to hear a resident tell a good story. Actually, I have.
Anyway, Mr. Next Door was a valuable source of information. There is a lesbian couple down the street, a guy on the corner who would give his shirt to anybody, not to be confused with the guy on our other side who would expose himself to anyone [including my mother, yuck], and my mom had been very worried about the snake.
It’s funny, my mom spends so much time gardening and, though we live in the same house, she had never told me about this snake [although the creepy guy next door who pees into his car, I had known about, yuck]. It also turns out that my mom had told Mr. Next Door that I’m the girl who plays piano. So I told him my name, informed him that I’m a working adult and thanked him for killing the snake.
When he stood up to go, he got into a great discussion about the musical score for El Cid which I actually think I saw in Spanish class in high school. His discussion was a bit undermined by the fact that he kept falling over, not just because his medication affects his balance, but because he was wearing these hideous things:
That’s right. Shape up shoes, or rocker shoes or whatever the heck they’re being called. Now, Mr. Next Door has a sizable pot belly, but I really don’t think having him off-balance is really going to improve his health. I think this shoe thing doesn’t work at all, is screwing up people’s alignment and is taking advantage of the consumer.
I was on the verge of starting a rant about the research I’ve read about the shoes being useless and how he should just wear regular shoes so he wouldn’t fall over and get hurt, but I held my tongue. We’d been talking for nearly half an hour, and quite frankly, my hand was getting numb from holding the doorknob.
That’s right, I entertained that entire conversation while planted squarely in my doorway, peeking out. In the end, I would say it was thoroughly awkward, thoroughly weird, but also strangely pleasant. It’s good to know one’s neighbors, even the snake hackers.