Neighbors / Neighbors

Trees up and down our block were filled with toilet paper.

Garbage cans overturned in the street. grass bags gutted. mailboxes knocked off their hinges, lawn art destroyed.

An old woman wearing rhinestone rimmed glasses stood in her front yard weeping into her hands.

The remains of a bird house lay in shambles at her feet.

Someone had knocked it down?

She and her father had built it when she was just a little girl.

Now? it was gone. with it, a sweet memory of time spent together.

Lois Ahnya removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes.

We all knew who did it.

It was those Macgillycuddy Bastards.

I’d dealt with these two before.

Troublemakers. make no mistake about it.

Rocks, bottles, bricks, boards and bats were the instruments of their trade.

If you had a son or daughter the age of these boys? You spent the better part of your day dodging em.

Not an easy thing to do when you’re from a small village.

Timmy Macgillycuddy , younger of the two boys. Shifty eyes, mean, cunning. I wish I could say he was highly intelligent. but that would be a lie. he was trouble, a weasel. equally adept using his feet or fists to inflict damage . His preferred weapon of choice was anything he could get his grubby little paws on. Didn’t matter. rock, stick or garbage can lid. anything he could throw at your head.

Billy Macgillycuddy, the older brother. When he looked at you? It felt like he wanted to chew on your face. something was just not right about that boy.

First time I saw them. they were standing in the street in front of our house throwing rocks at a mailbox.

They had moved onto our block a few years before we did. people felt helpless. some gave up, moved out.

Surely it can’t be as bad as that?

You got a minute? My neighbor Monty Asked.

When they first moved into town, the boys were invited to a birthday party for one of the local kids. You know the Monahan’s? Their son Finn?

Well, At the party……One of the other children made the mistake of telling Timmy to…Stop chewing with your mouth open.

Timmy took it up to ninety. flipping the table over on top of the birthday boy. His older brother unaware of what was happening, having just come out of the bathroom, picked up a chair and threw it into the melay. both boys grabbed an armful of gifts. and fled out the front door.

Nobody knew what to do? call the parents? they’re just kids after all. kids being kids.

They’ll grow out of it. right? isn’t calling the parents a little excessive? You want to do it? go ahead. The Mother is a Nut. The Husband? a hardchaw not to be trifled with.

I asked if anyone ever saw them at parent teacher conferences?

Responses varied from. “Oh Thank God, No!” to “Holy Jaysus, I hope not?” to “No? Is She Here?! I said good morning to her once…..she told me to go shit in my hat.”

The entire neighborhood had their fill, it was looking like the next incident would push good people too far.

We all wanted these little hooligans gone.

We just didn’t know how to do it? the coppers weren’t being much help.

Garaging was rampant in the neighborhood. Items reported stolen included, tools, balls, bats and bikes.

Most of the handy work having been done after dark. no one saw a thing. people were installing security cameras, The town locksmith was working overtime. One of my neighbors suggested we dig a pit in his backyard and try and trap em.

Lois had reached her limit. enough was enough. from then on? anytime the boys made an appearance on the street. they got the hose. playtimes over now eh?

When the boys hit or kicked a ball onto her property. she’d burst out the front door, grab the ball, stare the boys down, and return with it to her home.

If they tried to enter the property from the rear? she’d sick her dog on em. German Shepard, Named Doug.

Something was gonna give. a few bets were made on the side. everyone had their money on the boys.

I wasn’t so sure.

Weeks passed. things quieted in the neighborhood.

Tuesday Night turned to Wednesday morning.

A favorite pastime of the boys was ghost riding bikes.

Our street has a slight grade to it, which makes it the perfect test track.

Ghost riding a bike is an art form. you have to know exactly when to dismount. when to release. and a general idea where you hope to have it go.

One judges a good ride on the length. the longer it travels un-piloted, the better the rush is.

Lois was backing her car out of the driveway.

The bike had been released. rolling on its own accord. Riderless.

On impact the back tire rotated over the front. striking the passenger door window shattering it.

Broken Glass flew every which-ways.

Lois catching most of it in the beehive.

Thankfully she was wearing her glasses.

Bridie Donovan out watering her porch plants shrieked. she had witnessed the whole diabolical thing from across the street. barreling inside to call the police.

Billy and Timmy scattered.

Ducking between the Mulligan and Kelly’s straight home to establish an alibi.

At The Macgillycuddy residence.

The boys were questioned by our village finest. One Officer Fink. followed by a trip with their mother to the station to fill out some paperwork. their attorney apprised of the situation would meet them to assist.

Malicious mischief, destruction of property were the charges. all misdemeanors. sadly? not a felony to be to be found.

They claim to have only borrowed the bicycle. and were on their way to return it when it jumped up, took off and plowed into Lois car.

This wasn’t the boys first trip to court.

“No Boy is Bad If Given a Chance?”

Father Flanagan of Boys Town obviously had never met these two. Pah! What did he know about good boys? No boy is bad is it?

Well aware of who was in front of him. The judge sighed and shook his head.

A warning was not going to suffice this time.

1500-2500 to fix the damages estimates provided the court stated.

In Addition, Her attorney asked the court for compensatory damages to her bird house.

The judge, while being sympathetic to her testimony. was unable to indict the boys on the bird house destruction. there were no witnesses after all? unlike the ghost ride.

Seated nearby, Lois enjoyed the proceedings immensely. leaning forward cupping her hand over her mouth while she listened intently.

The judge heard the case as put forth by the attorney’s representing each party. after which he remanded the boys to juvenile detention for 30 days.

What started as a giggle turned into uncontrollable hysterics.

Rising from her seat. she exited the court room laughing all the way out.

The Macgillycuddy’s glared, watching her in silence.

A month? that’s it, is it? Well?

Better than a sharp stick in the eye.

All anyone knew or care, was they were gone. for now.

Everyday is a gift.

I’m excited to find out what’s next?

You never know what tomorrows going to bring.

Uncle John

Uncle John

Uncle John lived a couple of doors down from us at our neighbor Bobbi Carrs house.

Bobbi ran a rooming house. the only two people I ever knew to live with her were Alec, 75 years old. german national. a very quiet, round old guy who walked around with his hands behind his back like he was contemplating something? nothing sinister, mind you? plotting? perhaps. most likely, only reliving his life through memories long past.

The other gentlemen renting a room was Uncle John. Now…John wasn’t my real uncle. I just called him that. John was in his late 60’s, early 70’s I’d guess? he was 6 foot something. to me? he might as well have been a giant.

As a boy, I thought Uncle John was the coolest guy around. former US soldier who served in WWI. a retired widower. His wife had passed of an illness twenty years prior. he never re-married. moving around the country holding various jobs to makes ends meet.  settling in Oak Park Illinois just a couple a doors down from our home at 830 Wenonah Avenue in the late 50’s.

Oak Park Illinois is located just west of the city of Chicago. a stones throw on the Eisenhower Expressway or The Ike as locals call it.

I’m not sure how it was that Uncle John and I started taking walks together?

I’d see him from the window and wave. he’d smile, waving back. I was about 4 going on 5 then.

Perhaps Mom saw it as an opportunity to watch her daytime soap operas without some ungrateful little sneak underfoot. I used to beg her to let me go with him.

Uncle John was shy and polite to everyone in the neighborhood.

I was grateful for his company. we got along. He listened to me blather about this and that. I had questions man. lots of questions.

If he had the answer. He was patient and kind and would explain things to me. If he didn’t? He’d let out a deep sigh. look at me and shrug.

I wanted to be just like him.

What I enjoyed most about our walks together was ignoring my normal boundaries. those set by my folks.

“No farther than the corner.” they’d say, “Stay on this side of the alley.”

Uncle John didn’t operate on that frequency. he wasn’t gonna be content just walking back and forth on our block.

I knew it. so did Mom I imagine?

Uncle John was a smoker, While on our walks together he always took the opportunity to light up a butt.

Sometimes we’d walk to Al’s Grill on Madison Avenue. Where he’d get a cup of coffee, I’d have a glass of water.

Al’s was a great place, typical fifties diner. long counter. several booths. if you sat at the counter you could see the cook. this big guy moving around in the kitchen. I’d watch him shoving the food through a small window to the waitress. wondering how he fit through that tiny window? did he live in there? was there another way in?

One particular afternoon as Uncle John enjoyed his coffee and cigarette, I was spinning myself around on the counter stool, content for the moment, trying to make a revolution without using my hands.

A Large Cadillac pulled up out front. A man in a black suit stepped out and headed inside.

He ordered 3 cups of coffee at the counter from the waitress. placing five dollars on it. She brought him his change. followed by his coffee to go.

I didn’t see the man from behind when I spun kicking the cups of coffee onto him and all over the floor.

He started waving his arms around. Shouting. mostly at me.

Uncle John got between the man in the suit and me.

“It was an accident. He’s just a boy. Look? I’d like to buy you the cups of joe to replace what you spilled.”

“What I spilled!?!”

My Friend held out his hands palms up. “Please the boy.”

The man glared at me.

I wish he hadn’t.

He leaned in to whisper something to Uncle John.

Who then looked at me and said, “we’re leaving.”

The man immediately stepped in front of us. Putting his hand on Uncle John’s chest.

I never saw Uncle John move so fast. he hit the man with something he’d pulled from his pocket. knocking him to the floor unconscious.

It was a blackjack he carried for protection.

The cook came out from the kitchen

“Do you know who that is? he works for Momo. you better get outta here quick. C’mon let’s go!”

Uncle John grabbed my hand and the cook led us out the back door into the alley.

“Run.” was all the cook said. “Run.”

We did. couple of blocks away we stopped. I looked at Uncle John who was breathing hard.

He kept asking me if I was OK?

“Who’s Momo?” was what I wanted to know?

“Robert, time to go home.”

He might as well have been Walt Disney for all I knew or cared.

Alec was sitting on the front porch of Bobbi Carrs house as we hurried up the street.

John said something to Alec. who got up and went inside.

We knocked on the door of our house. My Father answered. Mom came to the door behind him.

John asked if he could come inside a minute, first looking over his shoulder and up the street as we entered.

He spoke with my parents in the front room a few minutes.

I went in the next room to turn on the TV. Hoping to squeeze in a couple of cartoons or some Three Stooges. Maybe Garfield Goose was on?

I knew I was in trouble. Though? I had no idea of the severity.

I thought I’d probably get a spanking? maybe no tv? very likely have to go to my room? dollars to doughnuts going outside to play was out.

I heard Uncle John leaving and went out to say goodbye. I told him I was sorry. he knelt down, looked me in the eyes telling me it wasn’t my fault. Then he mussed up my hair said goodbye and left.

Alec met him on the sidewalk in front of our house carrying what looked like….is that a gun?

Closing the door behind him, I thought, here it comes. Dad’s gonna yell. Mom’s gonna send me to my room. only they didn’t?

Mom came over knelt down and hugged me.

Then Dad walked over putting his hand on the top of my head for a second. before he picked me up.

Something was wrong.

We all went to bed early that night.

I slept in bed between Mom and Dad.

They sent my Brother and Sister to sleep over that night at their friends.

When they got home the next morning. my brother would explain that the man I kicked coffee on was a bad man. he might come looking for us, try to hurt Uncle John and me.

In the weeks that followed, word went out. someone was looking for an old guy with a little kid.

Questions were being asked.

It wasn’t good at home. everybody was acting weird. mood was wrong.

I had to stay inside for a while. if I did get to go out? my parents, brother or sister went with me.

Mom and Dad were constantly looking out the front door or back windows of our house, scanning the street and alley. certainly no one went out after dark. my brother and sister were driven and dropped off everywhere.

it was a Friday Night, the light in the alley behind our house went out. it never went out. ever.

Dad wasn’t home, Mom grabbed my sister, brother and I, we headed for the basement.

Someone was in our house. we could hear them upstairs.

Mom immediately called the police from the phone we had downstairs.

We all huddled in the corner quietly. listening in the darkness. terrified.

The police arrived, entered and searched our entire house. they could find no sign of forced entry. no signs anyone had been there but us.

I knew better. we could hear them walking around, our floors creaked. there was no mistaking the sound. Ask my sister. we all heard it.

Eventually things seemed to calm down.

Mom and Dad acted like Mom and Dad again.

I didn’t complain, a rarity in our household at the time.

A few years later after my brother graduated high school, and went off to college. my parents sold our house in Oak Park, moving us to a suburb north of the city of Chicago. I was 8 years old.

When I got to be my brothers age, I became aware of the facts. the man I kicked coffee on worked for a man who lived on our street.

That man was Sam Giancana. The Boss of the Chicago Mob. the man in the black suit who Uncle John belted worked for one of the most powerful mobsters in America. certainly in Chicago.

Giancana lived quietly in Oak Park.

My Brother Tom explained that Dad spoke with one of his guys. telling him what had happened. that it was an accident. the guy listened. then, made a call while dad stood there waiting. after the call? he told him, no one would bother me or our family.

No such assurance was made for Uncle John.

So? Unbeknownst to anyone, Dad gave Uncle John some money, he disappeared the next day.

I never got to take a walk with my friend ever again.

Every year on my birthday I would get a post card from him. usually from some place with palm trees and a swimming pool.

When I was 14 or 15 the post cards stopped?

Mom and Dad sat me down.

Uncle John died peacefully in California in 1975. he was 81 years of age.

No one ever came looking to harm my family. and they never found our friend.

Uncle John had protected me. Dad recognized that.

For all the negatives others attached to my father over the years. this time he got it right. This man had done right with his son. And it was his job to do the same for him. In a time when things like loyalty and honor meant something.

Funny how things work out? nothing ever happened.

You worry. you wait, the bad you think is coming, doesn’t.

On June 19, 1975, 67 year old Sam Giancana was shot in the head and neck at 1147 S. Wenonah Avenue in Oak Park Illinois.

His killer was never found.

To this day.

Several times a year I take a ride to Oak Park and drive down our old street. I’ll Park. look at our old house, think of my childhood. Remembering those innocent days of my youth.

Then I drive down Madison Avenue. Al’s Grill is still there. Though, I stay in the car. I’m always afraid to look inside. maybe that old gunsel is in there? waiting for me?

I don’t take foolish chances anymore.

I just want another day. you know? another memory.

Sadly for me, Everybody is gone now. Uncle John, Dad, Mom, My Brother. Bobbi Carr, Alec. They’re all gone.

I miss my friend. I wish so very much we could take a walk and talk about that day so long ago.

I’ve got questions man, lots of questions.

You can’t ever go back. Nobody’s there anymore. You can only go forward.

We All Just Move On. We Have No Choice.

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Moving into a new neighborhood, one never can be exactly sure who your neighbors are going to be.

You can do advance scout work.

You can go to the street on which you hope to live and park your car at night.

Roll down the windows, listen for barking dogs or screaming children or loud disturbances that might seem out of the ordinary.

But in the end? you roll the proverbial dice, and take your chance.

It’s a bigger gamble for those who own in this regard. if you rent and get stuck next to an intolerable situation. you can break the lease, or wait a year and move when the lease runs its course. either way you can get out of dodge sooner than later. at a lot less of a cost.

When you buy? it’s a little more of a bite in the rear. you end up in most cases losing money on the deal. depending on the market of course. maybe you luck out, and the housing in your neighborhood goes up. maybe not? you’ll most likely be asked why you are selling? everyone asks that question. and no one wants to say it’s because of the kook down the street.

Maybe everyone has a Boo Radley on their block. Maybe you are the Boo Radley on your block and you just don’t know it?

Sometimes even with the best game plan possible, you might miss something. Boo Radley’s can be quiet. only showing themselves on those rare instances.

Maybe? at first you won’t see them.

Perhaps? you will hear stories. your neighbors who have lived on the street on which you have moved will start to speak of them. there won’t be any eerie music accompaniment when you get your first sighting. the Boo Radley on my street is a woman. everyone seems to have a Boo Radley story that they like to tell. neighbors on all sides of her house. people who live one street over have a story.

I had been warned, to watch out. never under any circumstance turn my back on Boo. even for a second.

I should give you a visual description. this may be why some of the neighborhood is a little uncomfortable around her. I’m guessing about 45 years old? whisper thin, pale complexion, her eyes are the thing that concern me. She never seems to blink. in any staring contest? Boo would destroy the competition. when she walks? she never moves her arms. that thousand yard stare has freaked out more than a couple of the kids in the neighborhood. no kid will walk on the sidewalk in front of her house anymore. you’ll see them ride their bikes or approach her house on foot. Right before they reach her property? they veer into the street. no one ever walks on the sidewalk in front of her house. except for me. seems a wee bit unusual doesn’t it?

What are they afraid of?

There have been stories of her standing in the windows of her house for hours on end just looking out the front window, never moving, just looking out of the window. when cars drive by, her eyes follow them, when people walk by, her eyes follow them.

The house she lives in is a brick ranch. no grass in the front yard. just some dirt and several large old trees. a late-model car is parked in her driveway. home security sign prominently displayed out front. and a “no trespassing” sign on her door. I see a light on in the front window from time to time after dark. but for the most part at night? it looks like no one is home. the mailbox next to her front door is crammed full. I’ve watched our postman deliver her mail, hustling up to the door doing the quick step, he doesn’t linger on her property. I’m guessing it’s not his favorite stop?

I know of no laws for people being odd or creepy.

Does she have some quirk’s? some think so.

She’s a little of the anti-social variety. I listened to my neighbors warnings upon moving in. “Watch out she’s a handful.” “She hates kids.” “Be careful about offering to help her shovel her driveway during heavy snow falls.” “Stay off her property.” “Don’t park your car in front of her house.” “Do not try to chat her up.”

OK? So I should just let her do her own thing? Doesn’t sound too bad to me? Some people just want to be left alone.

You never know what traumas they may have had or continue to have in their life? Maybe they are dealing with an illness or suffer from social anxiety and need medication to level things off.

I can handle that. I’ve been told by friends at times, I’m no summer breeze myself.

Her name isn’t really Boo, I call her that in the small chance…that billion to one shot, she stumbles onto this story. I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night and see her standing there looking in our windows with blood dripping from her teeth. clutching a squirrel with no head in her left hand and a holding a list of names with my name crossed out in her right!

My wife passed her house the day before the Fourth of July last year. one month after we moved in. Boo was outside watering her dirt. my bride smiled, waved and said, “Happy Fourth of July.” she turned towards my wife and muttered “F*#& the Fourth of July.” I wasn’t there. I didn’t see it or hear it. I do believe my wife’s account. she’s just not the type to make up stories like this. Perhaps Boo had a bad experience with fireworks on the fourth? maybe this is part of that social phobia thing she may have?

When my wife see’s her now? she’s polite, she will say hello, but that’s it.

Boo Hysteria was running rampant around our neighborhood. and I kept missing it.

The village in which I live, celebrated a founders day recently. This was to honor the very first residents who settled here many moons ago and were the first to call it their home. many of these founders have street’s in town named after them. there was the usual small town celebration. pancake breakfast in the park. historical lectures and tour. an old fire truck was brought in to give rides to the local kids. the route of the fire truck went right down our street. the kids on board were between the ages of 5 -10. and kids being kids? when happy?  like to yell and scream a lot. apparently this did not please Boo Radley. by the 3rd or 4th trip? as the fire truck rounded the corner once more?

Boo appeared in her doorway. she came out of her house, walked down to the curb. most of the other neighbors were out in front of their homes waving at the screaming kids enjoying their ride. And the kids waved back. Boo did not wave. She extended both her arms and middle fingers. she didn’t shout at them, not a word passed from her lips. I don’t think the kids on board knew what hit them? the residents out watching her sure did. but then? no one had the gumption to say anything to her. once the fire truck passed. she slowly turned around and went back into her house. closing the door. as calm as someone is when they go out to pick up their morning newspaper.

No one believed me when I shared the story at work. I’ve had more than one of my neighbors tell me that they witnessed it firsthand.

Still? I wasn’t so sure…..at first.

I’ve always liked to think everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. People are just too quick to judge others. just because someone behaves in a manner that is? Well? is a little odd to some. everyone is capable of a bad day. right?

Haven’t you ever done something you wish you hadn’t? that you later regretted? we all have a few skeletons in our closets. don’t we? C’mon now? tell the truth.

The more I heard the tales. The more I thought, Wow? it’s like the villagers in “Frankenstein” with their torches! wanting to storm the castle. wanting to destroy what they were afraid of, odds are, at least one or two in that crowd had to be thinking, “I don’t know? Hans? are we sure we want to burn down this guys house? I don’t even know him?”

I remember the day that my mind changed. The day Boo turned on me.

I was walking home from work. as I passed her house, Boo had come outside to take her garbage to the curb for pickup.

I’d had a difficult day at the office and wasn’t thinking clearly. my mind wandering on the days events as I passed her.

I said it by accident. I swear! it was, an accident.

I said, “Hey Boo.” I kept walking and heard behind me. “What the F*#% did you call me?”

I stopped, turned to face her, scrambling to recover. in my panic I couldn’t remember her real name? shit shit shit, What the hell is her name?

I broke into a Jackie Gleason “Hamana Hamana Hamana.” she snapped. charging at me, growling. was on me before I had time to react. I fell backwards. she pounced, Screaming. “I KNOOOOOO OOOOOH YOOOOO ARRR!”

You’re never supposed to hit a lady, right? of course not! Never under any circumstances. it wasn’t like she was trying to stab me in the leg with a pair of broken rusty scissors. So I just pushed her off. ran to our house. made it to the door. key in hand.

I don’t know if she chased after me? I got inside, slamming the door behind. looking out the peephole. nothing.

Then, I went around the house making sure all the doors and windows were locked up tight.

That night? I slept with one eye open.

I haven’t told anyone what happened that fall evening. Until now.

These Days? I try not to make eye contact with her. I walk in the street like the kids on the block. hoping she’s willing to let bygones be bygones.

Perhaps? I should have been a little more careful. I didn’t mean to call her Boo?

It just slipped out.

Everyone has a Boo Radley on their block.

Maybe you’re the Boo Radley on your block and you just don’t know it?

Maybe I’m the Boo Radley?

You never know who your neighbors are going to be.

We all roll the dice.

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What is your kid going as for Halloween this year?

How about you? What did you go as when you were a kid?

Kids Halloween costumes today?

Are you kidding me?

It seems like there is no thought put into it anymore. every little girl is a princess and every little boy a ninja.

After a kid turns 12 years old? they’re on the verge of hanging up the trick or treating for good. the costume selection process goes right out the window. when it should go into overdrive.

Let’s go kid?!

You’re a little older now, got a few more life experiences. put some forethought into that costume, some imagination, Will ya?

Your career as a trick or treater is almost over.

Very soon, You will be going into forced retirement.

No self-respecting kid goes trick or treating once they hit high school. you’d get teased by your friends. Not to mention the houses you attempt to get candy from? will shun you.

“Can I see some Identification Kid? What’s that? Left it at home huh? Sorry, I’m going to have to deny you candy from my domicile. We believe you to be too old for this sort of thing anymore. Shouldn’t you be chasing the skirts around school instead of engaging in this sort of behavior? You have passed through the looking-glass Alice. There is just no more free candy for you. I’m afraid? it’s over. Don’t you let me catch you coming around here anymore ya hear me!”

You’ll spot those on the cusp trick or treaters. every year a couple show up at your door.

Notice the changes in their body language? it appears their hearts just aren’t as into it as they use to be?

“What happened to you kid? You use to be so full of life? Now look at you?”

Last year I had two young men I think were about 12 or 13 show up at the door. the first kid had a Michigan State stadium blanket over his head so you couldn’t see his face. one hand extended from underneath it and in a high pitch girly voice I hear, “tricks or treats.” followed by what seemed like 7 minutes of giggling.

A blanket? C’mon buddy? that’s the best you got? his friend standing next to him is in a complete full blue body stocking. all he did was grunt.

I’m not sure if they were kidding? or high as a kite? They stood there extending their hands to a row of bushes on the side of our house. I wanted to throw a bucket of water on the both of them. it’s a miracle that they even made it to our front door.

“Stop That Giggling!”

I should of handed each of them a roll of reflective tape. just in case they happened to accidentally walk into traffic later that night.

I decided that this was the parents responsibility. not mine. Tonight? I’m just the candy giver.

I really do like seeing kids enjoy themselves on Halloween.

Some of them seemed really excited to get the candy.

When it comes to their costume? not as much excitement. some are shy, I forget that.

It’s about the kids enjoyment on Halloween. Right?

One costume I do enjoy every year is the “Hot Mommy.” who is dressed in a cute costume escorting their little boy or girl on their rounds.

Talk about upstaging your kid? Mom?!?

Some of these Mom’s either have no idea what they’re doing?…….or…….quite possibly? they know exactly what they’re doing.

You be the judge.

You’ll see the mom in a kitty outfit, a cheerleaders uniform, or dressed like little red riding hood.

Ladies….Ladies…what in the wide wide world of sports is going on here?

Last Year one mom showed up in a french maid outfit with her kid. as I looked past her, I could see the husband standing out on our front sidewalk giving me the stink eye. holding the leash of the biggest Great Dane I’d ever seen.

I waved to him, he didn’t wave back. So, I gave him a double thumb’s up.

Look Daddy-O? I didn’t dress your wife up like this? if you didn’t want her out getting ogled by the men folk in the neighborhood. then get her out of those fish net stockings and that short skirt and for goodness sakes? put some pants on her!

What am I, a monk? I don’t answer the door dressed like Tarzan with my Johnson hanging out. Do I? No….I do not. The Mrs. simply wouldn’t approve.

Yet, Every Halloween? The Hot Mommies show up at our doorstep. I wonder what would of happened if I gave candy to the Mom’s instead? just ignored the kid?

That Dad with the Great Dane would of sick the dog on me for sure.

Every Halloween Kids are told to do what they are told not to do every other day of the year.

First, they have the go ahead to talk to strangers.

“Wait? What? talk to that weird guy who’s house you want me to stay away from? Mom? Dad? did I do something to make you mad?”

Second, after telling me to never ever take candy from strangers.

“It’s OK? Really? but you told me to never ever do that?”

Lastly, they are also encouraged to dress up in something that the parents might not normally approve of.

How many other days of the year do kids get free rein? as a kid you’ve just got to take advantage of that.

It’s make-believe, you can dress up and pretend you are anyone on Halloween. you can blame the bad behavior on the costume, probably get away with it in most cases. but these kids today don’t seem to care. why is that?

It’s not only about the candy. you’ll see that when get to my age.

The Dead Tree

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I didn’t know you needed a permit to cut down a tree?

We should have been more observant. buyers beware. we didn’t know? if we had? we might have tried to work the tree removal into the cost of our house. sometimes, you overlook the little stuff.

On the day we moved in, I stepped out into our backyard to soak up our new purchase. this was both my wife and my first home.

I looked to my left and saw a woman about 60 to 65 years old watering her flowers. she smiled at me. It wasn’t difficult to offer up a warm smile in return. I extended my hand over our common fence and said, “Hi! I’m Robert your new neighbor.”

She took my hand, shook it and said in one breath. “Hi! I’m Linda….Did you know your tree is dead and is going to fall on my roof? you really should think about taking it down.” I turned and looked up at the tree, then back to her. “I……?” she went on with a concerned tone, “I think it’s got the Emerald Ash Borer? The Village Forrester can confirm that for you. You should get a quote about having it removed.”

I continued to smile, nodding at her. “I will be sure to do that, umm? thanks. well?” clapping my hands together. “It’s very nice to meet you, I better go see how the movers are doing?” I turned around walked back into the house.

My wife was unpacking a box in the kitchen. “I can’t wait to meet our new neighbors.” she said smiling at me. I looked at her and thought yeah? well? at least one of them can’t wait to meet you.

One week after we moved in I got to work, first I would need to do some prep work. I got the Village Forrester out to confirm in fact that the tree was dead. during his visit, he never said a word to me about getting a village permit to remove the tree.

I had been living in the concrete jungle for the past 17 years. how was I suppose to know you needed such a thing?

Someone told me, I could save a few bucks cutting down the tree myself. seeing as how we had just plopped down a decent chunk of coin on a down payment on our house. I figured, I got this. how hard is it to cut down a tree? I see them do it all the time on that Discovery channel show “American Loggers.”

Our backyard is more wide than it is deep. so taking this tree down which was at least 40 feet tall. I figured? that with a circumference of about a foot and a half to maybe 2 feet? I needed to take it out piece by piece.

I didn’t want it to fall on our house. my wife pleaded with me to hire a professional, I did get some quotes. the local companies wanted around 3 to 5 grand to remove it. the cheapest quote I got was for about half of that, and we’d have to wait about 2 months before they could fit us into their schedule. I didn’t want to pay the 3 to 5 grand, or wait for 2 month’s to get it removed.

A lot can happen in that time.

You can find a lot of do-it yourself information on the internet these days. after doing my research I was completely confident I could handle this job. so I got to measuring my backyard and plot the path of the tree coming down. very important piece of information for any of you attempting this type of job.

We live in an older part of town in our village so the lot sizes are tight. we have our privacy as there are lots of mature trees on our property. I found that I could rent a chainsaw by the hour, day or week. I would also need to rent tree climbing spurs. as it would be necessary to prune the upper branches first before cutting the trunk. the trick is to stay off the branches as they can be rotted out on a dead tree. some of them were on ours. carrying a saw with you up into the tree is a delicate act in and of itself. one must be extremely careful.

Do I sound like I know what I’m doing? I do? Really?

Turns out I got some of it exactly right. problem is in taking down a tree of this size you need to get all of it right. the smallest miscalculation is not good. once a tree starts to fall? there is no way to stop it. no way at all. No do overs.

How was I suppose to know that the tree wouldn’t fall the way I had planned? The speed and velocity of the tree coming down on her roof was incredible. I truly underestimated the strength of its impact. it happened so fast. CRACK! BOOM! Lucky for me. Linda wasn’t home. Her cat was however. But he’s not talking. No one has seen Mr. Scruffles since. I’m pretty confident he escaped. as they didn’t find any squashed cat remains in the house when they went in to survey the damage.

Linda as you can imagine wasn’t too pleased when she got home and saw what I’d done to her home. it was exactly as she said. the tree fell on her roof.

“I’m pretty sure the tree was there first?” I told her.

“You may not have built the house? but you did decide to purchase it from the prior owner and live there knowing full well that there were trees in the vicinity? and you were the one who left your cat home alone unattended.”

She pulled out her cell phone, “You are in a lot of trouble buddy.”

“Linda? if you remember? I was only doing what you asked me to, cut down the tree before it….”she finished my sentence. …..”falls on my house? YOU IDIOT! Look At What You’ve Done!”

About the time she was taking me to task, she realized her cat was inside. that’s when she stopped yelling.

“my cat.”

Immediately I tried to diffuse the horror of what may have happened by reassuring her.

“I’m sure its fine?….I couldn’t hear any meowing inside after the impact.”

“If it was in peril it would make a noise, right?”

Then I offered to buy her a new cat if Mr. Scruffles isn’t found? she started to dial.

In a half hour, I had gotten three calls, one from her attorney. one from her insurance company. and one from the village. then the police stopped by. I still think she over-reacted a little. after all? she got what she wanted, took the tree down? Didn’t I?

Honestly I didn’t know you needed a permit to cut down a tree.

We got all of the insurance settlements expedited, all of our other legal issues? were thankfully handled out of court.

I’ve told the village that I was still more than willing to pay for the permit to remove the tree.

It’s been little over a year and a half now since the mishap. Linda’s house has been fixed, looks pretty good. new roof, new bedroom wall, new fence, so? all is well. except for the I told you so’s from my wife, and the cold looks I still get from my next door neighbor.

Maybe one day Linda will forgive me? I’m not such a bad guy? given the chance, I can be really neighborly.

I’m just trying to fit in here. It’s not as easy as you’d think.