Back in April, I listened to an episode of the Radiolab podcast that, anyone who knows me will tell you, fed my need for neighborhood voyeurism. The episode, The Living Room, is a first-person account of a one-sided relationship between a woman and her two young neighbors. It was touching and creepy, all at the same time. I have listened to it two times since that day in April. Go ahead, I’ll wait. I know you want to listen to the podcast. I don’t mind, the link is right there for you. Do what you need to, and then come back. I will then finish my post.
Presumably, you are now drying your tears and feeling a little guilty about being a part of Diane’s window-watching, but not guilty enough to not listen again. Diane (the storyteller) says that at one point she started using her “birding” binoculars. Funny thing- I have my own pair of “birding” binoculars. The only bird I ever spied with them was from someone’s middle finger.
When we go to the park or the beach, or even when we are sitting on our front porch, I like to pull out my birders and see what’s going on. I am fascinated by the mundane, or not so mundane, lives of the people around me. I get a lot of my story ideas from these viewing sessions. I’m not out-of-control, and I’m not perverted (at least not in this way). I have watched as one my neighbors plays outside with her kids, or someone else walks their dogs. Granted, up until two weeks ago, my at-home viewing was done from the front porch of a house in a pretty quiet neighborhood. Not a lot going on. But now, the game has now shifted…
We moved from our large house, in a quiet town in North Idaho ,to a mid-sized apartment in a city six times larger. And to top it all off, our apartments are arranged around a courtyard (like one of my favorite voyeur movies-Rear Window). Not only do I see the goings ons in the courtyard, but also on the balconies. It doesn’t hurt that no one closes their window shades either. It’s a mecca for bird watching. I really haven’t even needed my birders. Yesterday, however, I pulled them out to investigate some sounds I heard behind our apartment- took me a minute to focus and see it was a few stray cats going at it. When I panned up, there it was. The bird—from the finger of a tall, skinny white kid in a wife beater. I honestly don’t know if it was meant for me or not. It sure looked like it was, but I am awfully far away, and it would have been hard for him to see me clearly from that distance. Only time will tell if he caught me spying—I expect it will end with him closing his curtains. I didn’t want to watch him anyway.
*The above video has nothing to do with this post, but this guy was cool.
Moving from a small town to a larger city is enough of a change, but moving from a house into an apartment complex, is a whole different kind of change. I was sucked in by the idea of manicured lawns I didn’t have to mow, someone else signing for my packages, a pool and gym at my disposal, and inexpensive rent. I should have known better. Not that this place doesn’t work for me, it’s just going to take a little adjusting.
Top 10 things you worry about when living in an apartment again after 18 years:
10. Your dog’s separation anxiety is going to lead to a call from all your surrounding neighbors wondering why you are torturing your terrier.
9. The three flights of stairs (cheaper if you’re on the top floor) are going to either a) give you some amazing calf muscles, or b) leave you gasping for air every time you buy groceries.
8. You forget that you now have neighbors who can see into your windows, and you walk around naked just as the neighbors across the way are feeding their kids breakfast.
7. You will die one day and since you haven’t made any lasting impressions, no one will find you for weeks- either your dog eats you, or you don’t get your deposit back.
6. The walls may be thin enough to record the neighbor’s mating schedule, or they yours.
5. You’ll get a notice from management that the meditation flags you hung on your balcony are not on the list of acceptable exterior decorations (but if you want to put three blow-up rafts, a rusty coffee tin full of cigarette butts, and hang your g-strings to dry, that would be fine).
4. You’ll actually need to buy more than 3-day’s worth of food, and it won’t fit in your tiny refrigerator.
3. Your friends back home will discover that you gave up trying to buy only reusable furniture pieces and bought everything you now own from IKEA.
2. Your father-in-law will come to visit and walk right through your screen door and fall off the balcony. (True story- the walking through the screen part, not the off the balcony part.)
1.You’ll decide to finally take a bath and discover that the strange squeaky noises aren’t just the old pipes, but your bathtub slowly pulling free of it’s housing to end up in the downstair’s neighbors bathroom (with you white knuckled and naked).
I am being a bit hyperbolic. I actually like living in a place with an inner courtyard and friendly neighbors with dogs. I may even get out my birding binoculars and do some “aviary sightings”. This whole apartment thing is a little Rear Windowish—so far, without the death. I’m crossing my fingers that something weird happens.
My boss recently published an article on his research, and a lot of media outlets picked it up and reported on the findings. Yesterday, I fielded multiple calls from people requesting interviews with him and decided this was a good opportunity for an April Fools’ Day prank. With a name like Exploding Head Syndrome, someone was bound to make a joke, so why shouldn’t I be first? I created a fake blog/news post and printed it up for him. He thought I had legitimately found it on the Internet, and I had to fess up.
Here is the original story, where I pulled some quotes and misused them. Note the ridiculous picture they use to go along with the story.
My version is below:
I love April Fools’ Day, and while I have pulled off some great pranks, I don’t always think of them in time. It’s kind of like when someone says something rude and you don’t think of a good comeback until hours later—usually in the middle of the night, when no one really cares anymore. This year I get to do two pranks, thanks to some quick brainstorming with the amazing graduate students I work with.
Laena, one of the graduate students in my office, has a presentation to give to her dissertation committee tomorrow. I made a joke about doing her presentation in a musical format, and the idea snowballed from there. I have created a playbill, with an attached headshot and bio, for her to present to her committee when she goes to her meeting.
I thought it would be amazing if she gave them the playbills and walked to the front of the room, where, without a word, she would tilt her head up, point to some random corner and say, “Cue music.” She would then proceed with her planned PowerPoint. It went well in rehearsal. Okay, there was no rehearsal, but I see a lot of potential in her.
Laena has given me permission to share the playbill and bio with you here. I have redacted her last name though, lest you all are so enamored with her photograph (that looks like it was taken back in the 1950s) that you start inundating her with modeling opportunities. I’m not saying she wouldn’t like that, I’m saying she would like it too much, and she still has to write her dissertation.
As for the second prank, you will have to wait until tomorrow’s post.