Friday, April 4, 2008

Passing Lives

In the great big city, or the burbs nearby at least, you get ideas and impressions of people you never actually see just by driving by their houses. You speculate on who people are based on how they do (or don't do) their lawn, holiday decorations, and so on.

For years we passed a little house on the corner of Lurline and Saticoy, both small streets, though Saticoy has over the years become a lot heavier trafficked. (There are really no streets any more that are unbroken over any distance that haven't become wall-to-wall cars at some point during the day.) Though a modest house (as most are around here, with the glaring exception of a few McMansions put up during the height of the craze), it was very well cared for, with a white picket fence, and a white lattice work archway over the gate, always adorned with roses.

You know that the owners of the house were the original buyers, a young post-war couple who had settled in the land of milk & honey & aerospace during the '50s. And when the house went up for sale, you knew that there was no chance the next owner was going to love it like the original owner had over four decades, and that the those roses would go away (they did) and maybe even the lattice work would be deemed too hard to keep up (it wasn't).

On the other hand, there's a fellow we affectionately refer to as The Machine. This fellow puts up decorations for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas--short-break--Valentine's Day, Saint Patrick's Day and Easter--then things slow down a bit until Memorial Day and Independence Day are upon us. Then the guy takes a breather for a few months until October starts the cycle up again.

And not just a few decorations. His lawn, his windows, his roof--all plastered with seasonal trappings. His neighbor gives him a run for his money around Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, but there's no contest otherwise.

Except last year, he missed the 4th. There were a lot of cars and somber looking folk milling about.

It was natural to assume that he had died. Right?

Halloween rolled around and nothing.

But then...bam! Pumpkins, ghosts, inflatable Frankenstein monsters...

So was there some other serious occasion that deflected him? Or maybe not serious; people can look pretty grim around weddings and baby showers, too. Maybe he did die and someone is carrying on the tradition.

These are things you don't know when you're driving by someone's life at 35 mph.


  1. You can never tell what's going on behind the curtain unless you talk to your neighbors. There are long gardens in front of the brownstones in Carroll Gardens and everyone sort of competes to plant the best front garden on the block. I had a long time rivalry with this guy down the block as we each tried to out do each other. But I had a secret weapon. Every night on my way home at around 4 in the morning, I would stop in front of his house and pee on his flowers. He could never understand why his garden wasn't growing that summer. I declared victory and stopped the competition. (Of course I was drinking a lot in those days, hee hee).

  2. Heh.

    But I do talk to my neighbors. It's just that I pass (as do you) thousands of people daily. You can't stop and talk to 'em all, even if you wanted to.

  3. It's funny, but because I have lived in Carroll Gardens all my life and that I do taxes in a lot of the business (especially the bars and restaruants) I know both the old timers and a lot of the new people. I can't walk down the street without having to say hello or chat with about fifty people. And now I was elected treasurer of the local merchants association, I now know every store owner from Atlantic Avenue to Hamilton Avenue. That's about 40 city blocks. Holy crap, I know entirely too many people.

  4. You know, as long as they don't all have dirt on you, it should be okay....

  5. Whadda ya kidding me. Everybody's got dirt on me. It's the dirt that I got on them that keeps my head above water.


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