Just last week things finally came to a head with the neighbors. I’ve been learning a lot about living in an urban setting and the places where our family needs to give and take as we live so close to so many people. The noise? Ok, I can deal with that (most of the time). The loud ‘chatter’ as people pass by our home in the middle of the night? I can deal with that too. Shopping carts? Well….I’m still calling Safeway every time those bloody things end up on our street. But living next to some of the worst people on the block has been a huge learning curve. The question for me was always, “What do we have to accept and what do we NOT have to put up with?”
When we first moved in I learned that you can’t cower in fear when things get crazy, you must confront! When a violent fight broke out next door and the cops took one of them away our first week of moving in, I decided to talk with the neighbors the next day and ask if that was going to happen again. I was reassured, through many apologies, that it would not happen again (even though it did, but that’s another story). Talk through the fence to the people who live near or next to you and it will always create more relationship. It also let our neighbors know that I was now alert and paying attention, not just pretending it didn’t happen. I also learned every house member’s name and I used it when I saw them. It’s been six months since we moved in and not one of them knows my name. Ok, fair enough, they don’t have to call me Tracie. “Hey” or “Um” will do for now.
I have also learned that you need to keep talking through issues instead of letting anger fester, even though I have, at times, let it fester- they really stressed me out, man! If people are starting construction projects at 3am with the windows and doors to their home wide open, ask them not to do that (the next day, maybe). If they are dry humping in front of your kids even when you let them know there are children in the yard, do speak out! But I felt I had done everything I could to be a tolerant neighbor when I finally started to call in Jonny Law.
I’m not about getting all the loud people out of our neighborhood so the Bonjours can abide in peace. We all share space together and for the most part, I like my neighbors and I really like our neighborhood. It was about having a home next to people who were committed to living in a community and not tearing one down. They brought drugs, noise, lawn trash, parties, fights, they tore up my garden and woke us up countless times with their late night, porch “chatter”. So I started to respond, when I wasn’t reacting inside.
The last straw for the Tacoma Police was when our neighbor (the owner of the home) didn’t pay the power and water bill so both were shut off while he had split for a few weeks (MIA). The tenants had to move out, except for two rowdy stragglers who lived sans electricity and water fror almost two weeks. Finally the city found out that there were people living there without power or water and the next day the police boarded the house up. I guess the owner ran off with rent and electricity money that he’d been collecting and just didn’t pay things off. Oops!
So here we have this lovely and amazing house that now sits abandoned by the owner. It’s really a shame because he had put work into it when he bought it five years ago. Then he let life spiral out of control and when we moved in it’s like we had a ring side seat, sitting here watching it get desperately worse with him. Things are much quieter now but it’s eerie having a boarded up house next door. So here are a few lessons I’m learning about urban living:
1. Invest into your neighborhood! It’s yours now too! When I use to live in community housing there were often stains on the carpet and smudges on the walls that had literally been there for years because the place really belonged to no one. When you own something, you take care of it.
2. The little things matter. Pick up trash in the street, cut your lawn and take care of the area
3. GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS. Names, hellos when you see them and small talk until you get to know them better make a huge difference.
4. Make your place lovely in the ways you know how. I garden and I’ve taken back so much land at our house because I’m out there putting stuff in the ground. It looks lived in and loved.
5. Don’t put up with crime. Fear is huge when you see people breaking the law, especially in terms of violence, but we have to stay on top of things in our area and that’s one lesson I’m really learning lately. The police work for us and they want us to tell them when the “fit is hitting the shan”, so to speak.
6. Talk over the fence when your neighbors are acting crazy and talk to your other neighbors about a problem house, getting the rest of the neighbors involved.
7. I am finding that living in confidence is helping me enjoy the people here. Fear is normal when you move to a rough area but you have to keep believing in others rather than stereotyping and reacting in fear or mistrust. We all want the same things in life anyway, right?
Here’s to urban living! Salute!