Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Neighbors-Over-the-FenceThe other day on Facebook/Twitter I posted/tweeted about my retired neighbor’s music selection while he works in his garage. The post/tweet went like this:

Love it when my retired neighbor blasts tunes while working in the garage.  It’s like a Sounds of the 70’s infomercial.

In case you’re among the unfortunate to not have seen a Sounds of the 70’s infomercial on late night TV, here’s your chance to rectify that:

Anyway, here are some other cool things about my neighbor for no reason in particular.

I assume he’s retired, since he always seems to be around during weekday mornings and afternoons.  Then again so am I.  I don’t know that I’ve ever told him what I do for a living, so he might assume I’m just some sort of unemployable deadbeat who just happens to like keeping his lawn in better shape then your average, run-of-the-mill, unemployable deadbeat.  But I’m projecting now.  I’m sure he doesn’t think that.

He’s probably about 64 years old.  Slender frame, about six-foot two.  Great hair, like Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October, only not quite as thick and luxorious.  His hair and his perfectly manicured beard are a distinguished salt-and-pepper coloration.  In truth, he is possibly the svelter, anglo version of this very intriguing fellow.  A row of straight white teeth is visible with his broad grins.  He’s generous with chuckles and has a voice that’s hoarse, but not sickly or gruff.  I’ve lived next him for nearly one year and have yet to see him without his trademark aviator sunglasses on.  Though, that may not be as cool as it first appears as I think they may actually be Transistions perscription glasses.  Still, if you gotta where glasses, you could do worse.  You could succomb to BluBlockers.  His attire is casual, but not sloppy.  Always blue jeans and a button-up shirt in a solid color.  Almost always longsleeved, always untucked.

I don’t know what he did for a living, but I’m sure it had nothing to do with sitting in an office.  I imagine something hands-on.  A cabinetmaker maybe, or perhaps a construction foreman.  If he did work indoors, he was creating in some way.  An architect or an engineer of some sort.  Whatever he did, he worked hard and was reasonably successful.  He strikes me as the type who is up at 6 AM, eats little, only what is needed, and works at his tasks until completed.  Only when the jobs are done for the day will he sit back in his recliner, crack open a cold-one, and relax in front of the tube.

My neighbor has four modes of transportation.  There’s his lifted blue pickup, a GMC, probably late 70’s or early 80’s model.  This is his everyday conveyance.  Then there is the baby blue VW Beetle, probably early 70’s.  His wife drives this mostly.  In the garage, always under a car cover, and rarely seen, is his 1965 Ford Mustang.  Also blue.  I’ve seen him drive it maybe three times.  Clearly, its his baby.  The Mustang and Beetle are in pristine condition, and while the pickup has some wear, after all it is his everyday vehicle and the one he uses to pull his trailer full of firewood, its still in great shape.  He does his own vehicle maintenance, changing oil, checking filters, and doing all the things not enough men do or know how to do anymore.

His fourth means of transport is the real star, though, and the one that makes him the coolest cat on the block.  It’s a motorized skateboard.  Not some wimpy, do-it-your-selfer cobbled together with an old Huff board, bungee cords, and a lawn mower engine (though if he were to construct his own, no doubt it would be the cats pajamas), this thing can really move.  The throttle control is a handheld device attached to the motor by a cable, the wheels sport oversize tires for a smooth ride, and there are two rails fastened to the deck to secure your feet.  Imagine, if you dare, the retiree on your block sidewalk surfing down the road, backpack slung over his shoulder, aviators at full tint, cool breeze blowing through his near-perfect head of hair, on his self-propelled, four-wheeled awesomeness.  Beats a Hoveround.

My neighbor can often be seen riding his board a couple blocks down the road to the residential care home, where he serves as the driver of their white shuttle bus.  Not only does he take the residents in the bus to various classes, workshops, and outings, but he often brings it back home to give it a thorough washing and maintenance check.  All volunteer.

Getting back to the firewood, yeah, he cuts his own firewood.  By the trailerload.  Granted, he uses a gas, rather then sweat powered splitter, but boy does he split.  He already is collecting for the winter after next.  Smart.

If he has any neighborly flaws at all, his front yard could use a little more attention.  It’s not a mess by any means, mind you.  But the bark which forms the path from the sidewalk, through the decorative rock, to the front step could use replenishing.  Its winnowed away over the years, exposing the weed-blocking visqueen underneath.  Visqueen is not a good look for front yard landscaping.  I’m sure he’ll rectify this once he’s chopped up enough wood for three winters hence.  In fact, he’s probably making his own woodchips.

As neighbors go, there can be few better.  His easy blend of genial over-the-fence neighborly conversation, no nonesense vehicle maintenance, blue-collar work ethic, and volunteerism make him a credit to the block he has been a part of lo, these 40 years.  Maybe someday I’ll meet his wife.

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