I’m Not Creepy, Am I?

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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.

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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.

Ch ch ch changes

*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.

Faking It Until I Make It

Sometimes I feel like an impostor. I hear myself talking to someone on the phone at work and I sound authoritative and knowledgable and then I hang up and I think, ‘They actually bought that?’
Not that I don’t think I know a little about a lot of things, but it seems strange to me that someone would seek me out as a person who has good information to hand out.
These people have obviously not seen me in my natural habitat, where I start a sentence and lose my words so my kids have to interpret what I want from my hand signals. Sometimes they even get it right.
I suppose what I really mean is I want people seek me out for information, just not the kind I give at my day job. I don’t dislike my day job—I am grateful I have a job to go to every day and that they treat me well and pay me regularly—it’s just not what I want to spend the rest of my days doing.

Someone I know just decided to follow her heart. It was a brave decision. It looks crazy to some, but it’s brave. She is more than 20 years older than me and it took her this long to get up the nerve. I hope it doesn’t take me two more decades to make my decision.

The Best Squash I’ve Every Eaten

I met a woman this weekend, who under normal circumstances, I might not have looked twice at, let alone stopped to talk with her. She had a deep, reddish tan not unlike some of the women of my mother’s generation who didn’t know about skin cancer until it was too late to make up for the hours spent under harsh UV rays. She stood with a bit of a hunch in her back. Her shoulders were rounded, but not in a tense way.

I noticed her hands first. I want to say it was because my eyes were down while I was busy looking for something, but the truth is I try to avoid eye contact when I don’t want to converse with someone. Dirt stained her knuckles, and the undersides of her nails were caked black with soil. Her fingers didn’t straighten—I’m sure it was the result of arthritis. As she handed me my bag full of zucchini and summer squash, I looked up to pay. She smiled and a million tiny cracks appeared at the corner of her light blue eyes.

I told her how beautiful her produce was. This was not a lie. The colors were vibrant, the smells wonderful, and the prices just right. She said, “This is all I do. I sleep for a bit, tend to the plants, eat and tend some more. This is what I love.”

“Then you have a wonderful life.” I said this thinking about how I would love to spend all my waking hours doing what I love.

She looked at me for a moment, then nodded her head and said, “You’re right, it is wonderful.”

I thought about her again last night as I ate her life’s bounty. It tasted like happiness.

It Sucks That Someone You Loved Died

After the recent death of a coworker, I was tasked with buying cards for the family. It caused so much anxiety. Each “sympathy” card I picked up was depressing or schmaltzy. They all said crap about how your loved one is in a better place, or please accept our condolences, or our deepest sympathies. Ugh. I tried to think of how I would feel getting cards like that- it would just make me more sad. I finally settled on some not-too-bad cards, but I think it’s time I started my own line of It Sucks That Someone You Loved Died cards.

Here are a few to start out with:

Front of card: Death Sucks
Inside of card: I’d love to throat-punch him for you.

Front of card: I know this is a very sad time for you.
Inside of card: Here’s a kitten.

Front of card: My Condoleezza’s for your grape loss.
Inside of card: Don’t ever write a sympathy card after a root canal.

Front of card: (Completely blank)
Inside of card: There are no words.