I've decided its just me. I thought maybe I was a freaky neighbor magnet - but that's just asking too much. It must be me. I'm the weird one and they're all perfectly normal. Its the only thing that makes sense. Me and neighbors - we go way back.

When I was a kid Donald and Mary lived to the right of us (right being if you were in the house looking out.) They were a nice enough couple. Mary, perpetually tan, was 10 years older than Donald. They smoked pot with wild abdandon and liked to parade around naked. This shouldn't have been an issue with the stockade wood fence between our yards by the time nudity became the rage over there, but we had a tree fort. Or I should say my brother had a tree fort. My mom used to think he was just a young boy that liked being up a tree - it wasn't until Mary asked, rather uncomfortably I might add, if Mom could keep the kid out of the tree a bit more often that it became apparent WHY he liked being up a tree. Sure, the tree was great, but he liked to watch her sunbathe in the nude, clean in the nude, swim in the pool in the nude, well you get the idea. When questioned about this years later, my brother merely grins and says "Hey, I was 12." Yeah, right. As if he'd have stayed out of the tree if he was 17. ;)

Donald and Mary moved, selling the house to Janine and Richard. He was an uptight, white-collar, rod up his spine Wall St kind of guy. She was big hair, late 80s Jersey girl through and through. They were the oddest couple I'd ever seen. Janine was loud. Nice, sure, but loud. I remember falling asleep on a summer's night - my window up to allow some lame excuse of a breeze puff in to my hot, non air-conditioned room - hearing that cackle of hers. They had two children eventually, Christopher and Erica. Both were understandably perfect. In terms of odd neighbors these four were actually the most normal.

When I married and moved into the former bachelor pad apartment I found myself with bizarre neighbors once again. The girl in the apartment across the street was another nudist. She'd walk around her room - a window facing ours - buck naked, blinds wide open, lights turned on. We called her naked girl. The man downstairs (aptly nicknamed Man downstairs because never did know his real name) liked to watch the Spice Channel. Think porn on cable. I remember sitting on my couch at night, our own TV momentarily silent as one show turned to another, and hearing the moaning. He'd sit down there with his lights off, curtains drawn tight, and moaning TV pumped up loud. Man downstairs also had a weird dog. The poor thing would flip out if you walked to close to it. Apparently it was abused in a previous life - sad certainly, but bizarre when paired with this bizarre single man who'd yell back at it "Oh Ferdie! You're such a chicken!" Ferdie, by the way, was also terrified of our then puppy. That little 8 lbs of Husky was enough to send the full grown dog into a tizzy. Man Downstairs also liked to go to the apartment complex pool in a Speedo. Mind you, I've yet to see a man that actually truly looks good in a speedo, but Man Downstairs had no business trying.

Also in the apartment complex we had a couple that would scream and shout at each other almost nightly. There walls seemed to butt up against ours. One day the super can with an eviction notice, but the screamers were already gone. Below them was a young couple with a baby. They were always afraid to have the super come do work on their place because they had built a full, real, functional wall across their dining room making the place a 2 bedroom apartment instead of a 1 bedroom as they were paying for.

So we thought we might luck out and leave the bizarre behind at "Mansions at Middlebrook" when we bought our house. The first week or so the place seemed normal enough. No screamers, no pumping loud Spice Channel or middle-aged, pasty-white, bald men in spandex tight bathing suits. Normal. Sure, right.

Steve and Edie live to our left. Their three adult kids and granddaughter live there too. Its quite a full house. Steve is a real chatty fellow. He means well. One day he called us and said "Hi! My name is Steve. . ." then pitched DH on a pyramid scheme. Ahh, no thanks we said. Steve didn't talk to us for a while after that. It did, however, explain the line of cars that seemed to show up at his place regularly and leave after a short stay. We used to try to guess if he was part of a cult or drug ring. Guess it was just pyramid schemes. Steve and Edie used to have a German Shepard named MacKenzie. Mac didn't like her backyard. She used to dig her way out under the wood fence and roam the street. I used to think it was odd that the old folks that owned our house previously had erected a chain link fence barrier down either side of our front yard. The first time that dog sat on her front yard and barked her head off at me for being on mine I was thankful for said barrier.

Steve and Edie have a new dog - I have no idea what its name is, everyone just calls it puppy. Yes, everyone. Puppy, you see, gets out of the yard too. Steve knows this. Steve doesn't care. Their wooden fence blew over during one of our bad storms this winter. They had tried merely propping it up for a while against our chain link. I liked to tip it back into their yard for fun when no one was home. :) The fence is now 3/4 removed. They talk about getting a new chain link that will run up against ours. In the meantime there exists this 6 inch or so gap between what's left of his wood fence and our fence. Puppy gets put in the backyard and runs for freedom. She's small enough to squeeze by the lame excuse for a bush that sprouted between the two fences once upon a time and spends oodles of time roaming the block. She always seems to return to her backyard, as did Mac before her. But one of these days, Puppy is going to meet car and its not going to be pretty. I spend much of our outside time trying to coax puppy back into her own yard. I use my child as bait - "Come here puppy! Come see L!" L, you see, loves puppy. He thinks its funny that the dog likes to lick his fingers through the chain link. He also thinks its hysterical to see the puppy run in wild circles everytime Tasha (our dog) barks and howls. Today Puppy came to play with us on our front yard. If I didn't find one dog to be enough of a pain in my ass lately I might just adopt Puppy - she's here enough.

On the other side lived Ray, Ray's wife (no I have no idea what her name is) and their four obnoxious stalker children. When we moved in they were newborn through 5. Now they are 11 through almost 6. Ray and his wife were the most normal neighbors I had ever had at first. They borrowed cups of milk. They chatted over the front lawn fence with us. Their stalker kids turned their bikes around on our driveway but we didn't care. Better to be nice to young hoodlums so they won't egg your house later. :)

Then one day I heard screeching followed by a slammed door and mad Ray storming from the house. A week or so late there was more screeching followed by a police car stopping in front of our house. Talk about heart in throat. I couldn't imagine they'd send police out because we had ripped the tags off the mattress or something. And they hadn't. No the police went next door to the 'normal' house and spoke to both Ray and wife o' Ray. Several more weeks went by and Ray was no longer seen around these parts. Days after his disappearance "New Ray" showed up. A younger, buffer version of the guy we had once thought normal.

Since then "New Ray" has left and "New Ray 2" (called New Ray for short, although recently I've learned his name is Steve) moved in. Yes, moved in. Ray shows up sometimes to pick up the four stalkers for the weekend. Some weekends he, the Ex-Mrs. Ray and New Ray stand around by Ray's beat up "amazed it really runs" car and shoot the breeze. Laughing at little jokes and seeming like old friends. Other times the police make a visit and speak to each - she in house, he in car - separately. I've heard all about how Ray can't give her another penny because after she bleeds him dry for this house and all that crap he's left with maybe a $100 a month to live on. No, Ray didn't tell me this himself, he sort of shouted it for the whole block to hear - or maybe it was just her. Not sure.

Now, Ex-Mrs. Ray doesn't reserve her screeching for Ray. No. Ex-Mrs Ray shares it with her children and therefore with all of us. There are days she screams at them to stay outside "I SAID STAY OUTSIDE DAMN IT! DO NOT COME IN UNTIL I SAY!" There are other days she yells at them stuff like "SHUT UP ALREADY! JUST SHUT UP! I SAID STOP! DAMN IT! STOP!" Yes, you read that right - there are days they must stay outside. I recall one cool day when the youngest was maybe 3 she made her stay outside - sans jacket - for hours. Not out back, no out front...Sitting on the front stoop. Is it a wonder they are little stalkers? Even prior to L's arrival, the littlest stalker - we'll call her C since she's a minor, would come over and chat everytime I was out front. Now having a little buddy with me makes me all the more attractive apparently. Sadly L seems to adore C. So every time we go outside, and she's there, he calls out her name and waves. Of course, every time we go out front she is ALWAYS there unless she's at school or Ray's. Its like radar or something. She must sense our front door open because she comes running right away. Top speed - ZOOM! She's chased us down the block before if we were walking down the street when she spotted us. Its like bees to honey. Its annoying. I'd like to go in my front yard without C hanging around all the time.

Happily, C says they are moving. They are the aforementioned neighbors with the house for sale but not a for sale sign. I can only hope the next set of new folks fails to follow history. I'd like normal people living near me. People without run away dogs or domestic dispute phone calls. I'd like people that like to walk around in clothes and not cackle and snort louder than the buzz of crickets on a warm summers eve. I want a lot, I know. But, hey, haven't I paid my dues?

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