Tuesday, July 17, 2007

House warmings and the welcome wagon...

I just took a walk in my new neighbourhood - or, at least, my soon-to-be-new neighbourhood. It seems like a friendly place. All the neighbours, even though they don't know me at all, stop to say hello. They talk over the fence to me while they take a break from mowing the lawn, they stop in their dog-walking to have a brief chat. I don't tell them I'm moving in soon. Is this the kind of area to which I am moving? The kind where I will get a bunch of guys coming over with tools whenever I fix a fence? Where the guys will come over and grab my beer from my fridge while I'm working in the garage, and tell me to measure twice and cut once? Where the womenfolk will bake brownies and bring them over, and my girlfriend will cut their hair and talk about Bon Jovi? I don't know that I want that.

Until now, I have rarely known my neighbours. Not out of any kind of contempt for suburbia on my part, but rather because of a contempt of me on theirs. The first time I moved away from home, I was 17 or 18, and I moved in with my buddies Sang and Kent. I had been hanging out at their place, right by Mooney's Bay beach, for a few weeks, and it seemed like a good idea. The day I moved in, I slept with the next door neighbour, a woman who was considerably older than myself. Sang and Kent nicknamed her Mrs. Robinson, and I had my first Dustin Hoffman-esque experience. (My second was when I had these giant coke-bottle glasses and got marooned on an island with Steve McQueen.)

A week after I moved in, the Welcome Wagon lady showed up, with a very nice wicker basket filled with baked goods from the neighbours and coupons from various local establishments. A very nice lady. As Sang recalled recently, when she arrived, between Sang, Kent and myself we were carrying seven beers and wearing one shirt combined. If memory serves me correctly, only Sang would have been wearing a shirt in that house, ever. The lady is taken aback, but she pulls herself together to go on with her Wlecome Wagon speech. She begins..."Your neighbour, Mrs. Robinson, saw you guys moving in, and Mrs. Robinson called me - great lady, by the way, Mrs. Robinson..." now she was REALLY taken aback, when all three of us could no longer contain ourselves, and fell to the floor laughing. I never did figure out where she lived. In fact, by the time I had moved out of that house, two years and four roommates later, I had still met only one neighbour. And her name was NOT in fact Mrs. Robinson.

The next place I lived was downtown, in an apartment building on Laurier. I never met any of the nwighbours there, ever. I was only there a few months, but in that time we had some seriously crazy parties. Loud, boisterous, and insane. My buddy Mark lived a few floors above me, and his was the smoking room at parties, and mine was the beer room. We had a great time, and the walls must have been awfully thick, because we would go all night and never once had a noise complaint. Not once! Eventually, I moved on to a different place. As I left, I met my neighbours for the first time. And boy, did I ever feel like a schmuck! Every single neighbour I had - both sides, most of the floor, and the apartments above and below - was a paraplegic. Apparently, James and I had happened into the one apartment on the floor that was not reserved for the physically disabled. I am a giant jerk.

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