Feature Story

There goes the neighborhood

I have to admit that trepidation set in last year when I realized we were going to be moving to North Carolina this past Spring.

The south. I really knew nothing about it except the stories and folklore that made their way westward. Naturally, I expected overalls, porch swings with old guys whittling sticks, 7 teeth in any given head, humidity, bugs, gun racks and a small wheat stalk dangling from one's lips like a cigarette.

Of course, it's really not like that. At least around these parts it ain't.

But it's comical in a way that the people here have the same stereotypical impressions of people from the West coast. We're all surfers, tree huggers, blonde, tan, stoned, fruity, laid back, "Dude" is our state greeting and all 36 million of us are in the movie industry. They sum us all up in one word.


Well, before I left my nest of 42 years, I got out of the shower one day and saw that "weird" person. I'm decked out in tattoos, rings, an earring and tie dyed shoes (no, I didn't wear those in the shower). I remember thinking I'm going to stand out like a Cabernet stain on a newly pressed white shirt. I'm a liberal going to a red state and it's probably best if I just keep my mouth shut and observe southern living like I'm trying to learn how to speak Japanese.

I want to fit in. At the same time, though, I want to be myself. Judge me how you like but at least get to know me. Even dogs do a butt-sniff check before they begin to fight. I don't need things to go THAT far but give me a chance. You can sniff something above my waist if you'd like but don't write me off as weird just because I'm not from around these parts.

Shortly after moving in and getting everything I brought unpacked, I now had the time to explore the lay of the land and begin working on some of the landscaping at my house. I met both of my neighbors in a very brief encounter. One is retired, early 70's and the other is about 50 and is a professional landscaper.

Great. Sucks to be him because I'm sure he thinks he's living next to landscaping that belongs in front of the Munster's house.

The lawn was the sore thumb of my property. The people who lived here prior to us didn't believe in lawns or something because it was all dead, weeds were growing like weeds, and there were about 12 fire-ant hills scattered across the area. So it was time to go to work.

First and foremost, I do NOT have a green thumb. I can sit on it pretty well but it's useless when it comes to gardening and lawn care. First thing I did was head to Lowe's to get some Roundup and killed the whole lawn/weed yard. I mowed all the weeds as low as I could, raked them up then tried to replant the whole area. I had fertilizer, grass seed, spreaders, gloves, hoses and a whole arsenal of items to begin growing a nice, lush lawn. After letting the Roundup dilute and lose it's potency I spread my seed.


A month later I have a lawn with some of the biggest weeds I've ever seen in my life. Not one blade of grass. I went to the garage to make sure I bought lawn seed and not weed seed. I couldn't figure out what I did wrong. So I just let it grow for awhile thinking grass will show up at some point.

Well, in the mean time, with all this time on my hands, I've been spending quite a bit of it taking photos. I decided I needed to spend more time outside despite the heat and take some pictures to put in my portfolio.

I have a bug picture that was a FREAKY encounter but the others were planned out. I lizard hunt everyday so I can take a picture of their rat-like physique. Then I promised a picture of the forest and finally a picture of some fire flies.

Two nights ago I decided to set up my tripod out on the back patio, mess with my camera settings and capture the fire flies so I could post them on FB. As soon as dusk arrives, the flies come out. I went out to the patio, aimed the camera in several locations and started snapping pictures. I had to continually futz with the settings but I kept on trying.

I hear a noise out of my left ear. I turn slowly that direction and notice it's my 70-ish year old neighbor watching me. Now I feel really stupid and can't imagine what he must be thinking. It's semi-dark outside and I'm taking pictures.


I swiftly grab the tri-pod and camera and run into the house like I'm being chased by a pissed off Cyclops. I don't want to be embarrassed any longer than I have to so I cancel the rest of the photo shoot. It wasn't turning out anyway but it might have if I kept trying and wasn't shamed back into my house.

Last night I tried again. But this time I decided to use my video camera since it's hard to snap a picture with a normal camera at the very moment the bugs ass lights on fire.

Once again, tripod is up, camera is pointed to the woods and I hit the record button. I enjoy my coffee while the camera is rolling. About 15 minutes into the shoot it happens again.

Out of the corner of my eye I notice my neighbor has his watering wand out, taking care of some plants on his back patio. Was he paying attention to the plants? Nope. He was staring at me again. I decide to focus back on him since the camera is rolling and I really don't have to do anything.

Well, he was doing that stare thing where he's actually looking through me. It was kind of like when I was in school. I'd be listening to the droning of my teacher, bored out of my skull and my mind and eyes would start to glaze over as I stare off into middle distance. Eventually, unaware of where my stare had landed, it was always some cute girl across the room and my eyes were locked on to her boobies. I would daydream about other things, all the while staring right at her supple sweater. Four to five minutes later I snap out of it and I notice the girl looking at me. She caught the booby stare and is now burning "Perv" onto my forehead with her mind so when she passes me in the hall she knows to keep the girls pointed in the other direction.

But I digress.

I check the camera then look back over at my neighbor. He still has this glazed look directed at me but his watering wand is suddenly missing it's target. It's now watering the side of his house as if he's not paying attention. If his house is adobe, he's just creating a big puddle of mud.

Naturally I wonder what's going through his mind. What does he think I'm taking pictures of? Do I see a mountain lion? Sasquatch? Nude people? This is the second night I'm out with a camera so he's at least thinking I'm definitely a weirdo.

Screw it. I hit pause on the camera and go back inside. Since it's finally under 95 degrees and my front lawn is shaded, I decided to go out front, out of view from my neighbor and spray it again.

As I'm starting to cover the area I hear a voice behind me on the sidewalk.

"What are you putting down"?

I turn to see an even older lady apparently out on a walk.

"Napalm", I say.

No sense of humor in the south, I see. She either didn't find it funny, didn't know what Napalm was, or was making a mental note to clear out her basement.

"Actually it's Roundup", I confess.

HUGE mistake and rule number one just broken. Never engage in chit chat with an elderly person when you're busy. The yammering started and it just didn't stop. I kept spraying the weeds while half listening to her ramble on about people on the street, their lawns, the people who lived here before us, grocery shopping and everything else her little hamster brain was pumping out.

I just wanted to take that sprayer and use it as mace.

A few minutes later, I politely excuse myself and return inside. So the firefly experiment and the nuking of my lawn will have to wait.

After the two elderly people make their gossip rounds down the court I'll be known as the recluse California weirdo who only comes out at night.

That has vampire written all over it.

Add to grocery list: fake vampire teeth.

I'm sure it won't be long before a group of neighbors make their way toward my house with stakes and torches. Not only am I harmless but I'm helpless as well. I have one BB gun that might hurt like I snapped them with a rubber band.

When they arrive and call me out of my house, I guess there's really only one thing I can say.

Would you guys mind just burning my lawn?

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—The JPG team

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