Saturday, October 5, 2013

In Search of Suburban Solitude

 ...Or When Neighborhood Pariahs Meet

Solitude is a rare commodity at my house. With a socially active teenager son eager for the day he breaks free of meddlesome parents and leaves for college, a middle school age daughter who feels she is actually as old as her brother, and a wife who quite frankly likes to keep me busy leaves me little time to break free to sort through my thoughts. For a while I use to make regular weekend trips down to the coast to enjoy the beach. Especially nice was early Sunday mornings where, depending on location and time of the year, I would walk a near deserted shore communing with the ocean and the breeze recharging whatever mental energies it takes to prevent me from ripping the throats out of the various idiots and morons I deal with on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, those trips became fewer and far between as the demands of the kids, my job, and home ownership became more complicated. This will sound hopelessly pitiful but I actually dream of the day when I can on a whim load up the car and haul ass to beach like I did when the kids were much younger. No matter what I do, that happy and carefree era seems to drift further into an always nebulous future. As I wait for that day, this still leaves me the problem of somehow keeping my mental health while marooned in a soulless suburban setting.

For most suburbia would seem an easy place to live a serene, happy, and enjoyable life. I have found though that if you look a little deeper into the deceptively peaceful facade you will find a putrid underbelly. The worst are the paranoid trolls forever looking out for possible neighborhood transgressions, then there are anal retentive lawn serfs who freak the minute a single leaf touches their pristine lawns, and finally there are the types who constantly want to talk about current events and gossip. Since my politics differs, often wildly, from the local norm that in itself isolates me from my wonderful neighbors. (Yes folks, that's sarcasm.) Add to the mix that I refuse to become a slave to my lawn, I have become quite popular with lawn serfs. (More sarcasm) The icing, complete with a nice cherry on the top, on my suburban cake is that I have been graced with a truly paranoid neighbor across the street from me who I have had several nasty encounters with. Things got so bad for a while I could not walk into my backyard without the blinds of his second floor window opening and him occasionally looking out to see what I was doing. (Absolutely no exaggeration, but I will spare everyone the more in-depth record of our mutual issues.)

While tensions have eased, in fact we actually wave hello to each other about once a year, our relationship was so bad I still feel an almost instinctual uneasy feeling when I go into my backyard. Whatever the case the end result of all these elements I have, proudly, become the pariah of the neighborhood. Now you might be wondering how airing all my suburban laundry relates to my need for solitude and I am glad you asked!

Several weeks ago my wife bought one of those cheap plastic Adirondack lawn chairs and placed it underneath one of the trees in the backyard. From the location she chose during the worst of my suburban cold war both my troll neighbor and I could have glared at each other much the same way I did with an East German soldier back in 1987 when I was an active duty soldier on REFORGER in beautiful Deutschland.

Now I did notice once when I went outside to get my wife from her spot underneath that tree that the layout of my backyard created a little and immensely private cove in a far corner. The proverbial light bulb appeared over my head and I promptly move her chair over to that spot. For me it was an immediate paradise of solitude. From that spot most of my backyard stretched out before me with my line of cedars trees and part of the house providing privacy from the adjoining backyard and my troll-like neighbor across the street. Completing my new Fortress of Solitude was the fence behind me which blocked any possible views along with sudden and impromptu conversations.

From my new spot of happy solitude underneath a different tree from my wife likes I was able to watch the birds flutter to her hanging feeders enjoying a closeness to nature I have rarely experienced. One of the feeders was designed for hummingbirds and I sat amazed watching those little marvels of evolution hovered and flew backyards in an effort to sip red liquid from the container. The other feeder holding seeds was frequented by a particular cardinal who actually seemed unafraid of me. It landed once momentarily on the arm of the plastic chair I was sitting. This occurrence was so sudden and expected that I unfortunately jumped scaring my feathered friend. Needless to say the little guy never repeated that activity.

As the weeks went by I unfortunately began describing that secluded spot as my Garden of Eden. It was a poor choice of words because it became an unintended foreshadowing of an event this morning.

I woke up this morning and as my usual Saturday habit I let Sparky the Dog out into the backyard so he could run around. Both the pre-sunrise, early morning twilight and cool and crisp feel of the morning air appealed to me and the thought occurred in my dusty and corrupted head that it would be great to make a cup of coffee and go sit in my spot.

A few minutes later I am doing just that and the pleasant feeling was everything I hoped it would be. Sitting as still as possible I could feel the peace and quiet flowing through me stabilizing my often shaky mental health. In hindsight I was probably sitting too still sense there came a moment I noticed this black shape slithering on the ground to my right. Now with my previous encounter with the overly friendly cardinal everything was over in about a second.

For the snake, a Black Racer, and me time did one of those near stops stretching things out. My coffee cup disappeared with me attempting to go from a sitting to flying position about the same time the snake noticed me. In that brief instant our eyes meet and we both looked into each others souls.

“Son of a bitch!” I screamed out, absolutely not like a little girl and that is the story I am sticking with. At the same time my near psychic contact with the snake allowed me to understand what he was feeling.

“What the flying F%ck!” It obviously screamed out in sudden reptilian fear.

Once I picked myself off the ground---maybe four feet away from my chair--- and collected my thoughts I realized the snake was non-poisonous and as terrified of me as I was of it. The latter was easy to figure out because dude had up and disappeared. Figuring discretion was the better part of valor in this case I found my coffee cup---an incredible eight or nine feet away---and went inside to watch Ted Talks on Netflix.

This story is not yet over. About an hour ago I was laying on the couch in full professional slacker mode watching a movie when someone began pounding on my front door. It was two of my neighbors that I happen to be on decent terms with, one was an elderly lady holding a garden hoe and the other was a retired cop carrying a machete. Both looked upset and for a couple of seconds I wondered what I could have done this time that would prompt then to come over and dismember me.

After exchanging greetings they explained that they had both seen a large black snake and were trying to run it down. As it can be guessed I have no real love for snakes, it's a mammalian thing, I blame on my rodent ancestors that had to deal with obnoxious dinosaurs millions of years ago. But I've got to admit I felt a certain kinship to my leg and armless buddy, its hard being the neighborhood pariah no matter what species you happen to be. Maybe he and I can have coffee one morning and form a support group.

My spot, even after the snake encounter.


Pixel Peeper said...

LOL at your snake encounter!

I hope your neigbors - as well-meaning as they may be - don't catch the black racer. They eat spiders and roaches and other critters you don't want inside your house.

Of course, you don't want the snake inside your house, either...

And I agree...there's nothing better for mental health than a walk along a beach while listening to waves.

Except for chocolate.

Joan Perry; Sidewalk Curator said...

That is sad to read...that you have one tiny space in your yard that feels private. Bummer. Makes me glad I don't live in a subdivision of any kind. One neighbor is letting her house fall apart and the other is putting out tacky statues but no one messes with me.

lime said...

i'm laughing here. i kind of dig snakes as long as they are non-venomous. that said, and unexpected encounter is still a pulse-quickener.

Marja said...

Oh I love my own company and quiet space as well. My daughter lives now in another city and my son lives in his room and my hubby in the garden so plenty of quiet. Here the people have such high fences between the houses that you hardly seem them.
and oh my god snakes I am so glad we don't have them here. I had one in my life a close encounter I hope the last. I hope they get him

Rose L said...

LOL I know that startled feeling. One spring I went into my backyard and as I strolled I looked down and sensed movement around me in the grass. I suddenly realized that there were about 30 snakes wriggling all around me. I have never moved so fast in my life, on tip toe, practically walking on top of the blades of grass!! They were only baby garter snakes but still....

Sarge said...

Return Of The Forces to Germany or Reforger 87. My neighbor in Oklahoma brought me back a beer mug - Iron Cross on it from that.
We at Hahn AB in the late sixties and early seventies did Crested Cap - the AF part of Reforger...

No, unless that serpant is venomous, let it be.

You want to slay a snake - find yer ass a tea bagger repealican...


Beach Bum said...

Pixel: I agree about the snake. It's mostly harmless and I already have a long issue with how human in general do their best to run down wild life.

Joan: I simply do not have the frame of mind to live in a subdivision. I abhor group think and plus I have noticed in this area where I live a strong tendency for xenophobia.

Lime: Yeah, I usually wait a few days between posts but I had to write about this one.

Marja: My situation with the troll neighbor is rather bizarre. I can't describe how strange it was to see him at his second floor window staring at me as i cut my backyard. I wish I could add another thirty feet to the height of my fence even now.

Sarge: LOL!!! I already like the snake far better than Tea Baggers.

The Bug said...

Oh that was a hilarious tale well told :) The most scary thing we've seen in our back yard is a skunk.

We live in a small town, but our neighborhood is very suburbia-like. It has homes from the 1950s with a few original homeowners & a lot of renters. We're such fabulous & normal people that they were all thrilled to see us move in. We do have neighbors who we're pretty sure sell drugs, but I think it's just pot.

Akelamalu said...

What a shame there is only that small place in your garden where you feel you can relax, a man's garden should be like his home - his castle!

I would just die if I saw a snake in my garden, thankfully snakes are not prevalent here.

Life As I Know It Now said...

It's nice to have a spot to chill out and appreciate nature. Even though the snake scared you, you still appreciated where he/she belonged in the scheme of things, which believe me, is more evolved than most humans in this country!!! And yes, you scared the snake probably more than he/she scared you.

Beach Bum said...

The Bug: Got a an indirect whiff of a skunk once, it was very bad. Couple that with a lot of rabies infect animals in South Carolina and seeing a skunk in the early morning would have really sent me running.

Beach Bum said...

Akelamalu: Such is the nature of my suburban purgatory.

Life As I Know It: Like I said, the snake and I are both pariahs and we unfortunate creatures must stick together.

Slick said...

The boss's garter snake moved on after her "den" filled up with water, and as crazy as it sounds, I kinda miss her.
My mother swung a hoe at a black racer, missed the thing, and I remember it chasing her back inside the house.
Some of my neighbors have showed up on my doorstep for Dead Snake Identification, which usually involves a dead snake in a bucket. When my husband said he'd take any non-poisonous snakes that were still alive, he was determined to be "white boy crazy" and we seldom see our neighbors now.

You have a nice little spot there, Suthern! Can't blame a snake for checkin' it out and wantin' to hang!

John Gray said...

I would have that chair on stilts