Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Not Politics and Not the News

This is a story, not an editorial, not a political riff and certainly not a pundit rambling.  There will be no mention of Covid-19 nor an opinion on any Current event.   

I suppose this could be a Tik Tok video. Tik Tok videos seem to fall into only a few limited categories: People caught on camera behaving very badly.  People on camera talking about people behaving badly. Women on camera trying to convince viewers they behave badly.  AND people telling stories....usually badly.  All video presented in episodic  click bait to get you to follow them.   There seems to be a belief among social media addicts that entrance through the Pearly Gates of Heaven will be determined by how many “followers”  And “likes” you have.  

When we moved into this house there was a vacant lot catty corner to us. Directly across the street was a three bedroom mid-century ranch style house set back from the street.  The garage was in the back and the driveway was secured with an  electric gate made of wrought iron bars matching the rest of the fence across the front of the house.  To me it had the appearance of a cage.  An old couple had lived there since the house was built. Mostly staying to themselves I would see the wife leave in her cute red BMW often but never saw her in the front yard.  The old man would walk out to the driveway gate, hold the bars and stare out for a while. He had the look of a lifer in San Quinten wondering what the real world was doing.  He would soon shuffle back to the house, only to repeat this process several times a day.  I would wave when I was outside and saw him, he would wave back... sort of.  

One day after I thought he had made the connection that I was the new neighbor across the street I saw him holding on to his bars, so I crossed the street to actually meet him. He smiled and was friendly but it was obvious after a few seconds of conversation, he was either in a latter stage of Alzheimer’s or simple age related dementia.  From then on I would alway wave and say hi when I saw him at the gate, but he would just look at me with a vacant smile wondering who I was.  

Eventually his son Tim, who lived in the guest house behind, told me that his father had to be institutionalized.  Tim’s advice to me was.... “Just don’t get old”.  I saw Maxine in her red BMW often after that,  but never saw the old man again nor did I ever know his name.  After a time we didn’t see Maxine out and about.  Tim and his wife/girlfriend became caretakers to Maxine who was bed ridden.  Never saw her again either. Tim lived there for five more years or so.  I would take the time to chat when our paths crossed.  One day he rang the bell on my gate to tell me he had sold the house and was moving.  By this time the vacant lot had become a “maxed out property line” two story MacMansion with 5 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms.  It was the style of house that was slowly taking over the single story ranch house neighborhood.  

Soon there was work going on at Tim’s house across the street.  I assumed It was being upgraded for sale.  I was wrong. It was being salvaged in preparation for demolition.  Rising out of the noise and dust came a MacMansion half again as big as the new one on the vacant lot next door.  The new house boasted a plan for 6 bedrooms, 7 and half bathrooms, new pool/pool house, wine cellar, media room, gym and screening theater.  As the house was finishing up on the inside the outside was being landscaped and hard scraped with what seemed like an unlimited budget. I watched as they brought in 300 or so ficus trees and planted them around the property line.  In front of the new Wall/fence there were three different beds of beautiful shrubs and plants.  Against the white of the wall they looked quite stunning.  I was pleased to see that my front view was going to improve greatly when the noise and the dust settled.  

There came a time when I heard a different noise coming from the construction site across the street.  I came out to see a 60 foot crane lifting a 30 foot olive tree into a deep pit the other side of the 8 foot wall.  I thought the pit  was going to be a coy pond or fountain, but it was the hole for the tree.  I watched and wondered “what can’t you do with a lot of money?”  Do you want an old thirty foot grown Olive tree in your yard without planting a small one and letting it grow?  Well, this is how it’s done:  you just have to buy an  huge very expensive tree  and hire a huge truck and a gigantic crane to lift it over a huge wall.  I counted a dozen workers like ants swarming the yard.  A sod truck pulled up and soon the ground around the new tree was green with grass.  The tree looked like it had been there for the 20 years it would take to grow that tall.  

Eventually the house sold for 3.7 million.  I saw a Tesla come and go for a month or so before there was any actual activity at the house.  A family moved in but mainly stayed to themselves.  I became accustomed to Harry the Wonder dog taking his first pee in the  beautiful flower bed of the new neighborhood mansion early on our morning walks. I rescued Harry three years ago and we walk every day. This pee spot had become ritualized by now.  It was one of those mornings recently that Harry the Wonder Dog and I saw 5 trucks and a gang of Gardner’s pull up to the house.  Once again there was an ant hill of activity.  I couldn’t really tell what they were about to do, but during my random checks from my driveway,  I saw they were digging up the front yard flower beds.  They are digging up these expensive plants and throwing them in a cargo dumpster.  They placed black tar paper on the freshly dug up ground and begin to cut and fit artificial grass in the empty space.  I think maybe they will be putting pots with different plants on the glorified AstroTurf , but that is not the case. Gone are the beautiful plants and in their place plastic grass.  

Each time I come out to my drive way gate to look at the work, a man with a bandana handkerchief covering his face nods my way in a friendly gesture.  It seemed like they were winding down so I went back into the house.  Not long after that I hear the distinctive sounds of a chain saw.  I come again out to the gate, nod at the bandana, and see a guy with a chain saw high in the beautiful Olive tree.  I love trees and take special care of the ones on my property.  For this reason I know that it is not the right time of year to prune Olive trees, and to me that beautiful tree was not in need of a trim.  I went back inside.

After the time when a normal tree trimming should be completed, I still here the annoying motor sound of the chain saw.  Here I go back out to take a look.  To my horror they are cutting down the Olive tree. It is terrible to watch. Since there is no place to actually drop the whole tree, they are taking it down one section at a time.  I go back into the house because I can not bare to see that beautiful tree be killed.  There came a time when I realized the chain saw had been silent for some time. It was all quiet.  I didn’t want to see what next door looked like with out that grand Olive, and actually couldn’t see across the street from my window because my big  Tipituana  tree blocks the view.  So I walked out side to take a look.  

The yard across the street was no longer in a cooling shade. It was bright, sun shining on things that didn’t used to reflect back.  The scrubs out front were gone and the tree that stood watch was gone.  There was nothing but the Astro turf and blank white walls.  I thought of the money and man hours it took to get that grand tree placed in that perfect spot, and  now it was being hauled off in chunks.  What a waste.  I was thinking about how the neighborhood where my boys grew up was changing.  No less than a dozen of the houses that were here when I bought  have been leveled, over built and now tower over the single story homes that remain.  I was thinking about time, how it had passed so quickly once.  But now with the pandemic it seems like time has ground to a halt.    

I guess I was really thinking about age as my mind wondered.  As if he had suddenly just appeared, there was the man in the bandana waving to me.  With the muffled voice of a cloth covered mouth he said something like “How are you doing neighbor”.  It took me a moment to realize that the guy I thought was just one of the workers was the new home owner. In the time it took me to process it  all, my new neighbor is on hold waiting for me to respond.  The neighbor is an Asian man probably the age I was when I bought my house or maybe younger.  He is standing there in a frozen wave wondering about me.   Before I say hi back I think I know what he is thinking.  All day long he has seen me shuffle out to my drive way gate, grab the bars of  the wrought iron gate with my hands and peer out with a blank stare, and go back inside, only to return and do the same thing over and over.  It was an awkward pause, but I finally waved and yelled back, “What ever you do... don’t get old.”  

I didn’t.  I wanted to, but I didn’t.   I should’ve but I didn’t.  Maybe some day I will get to tell him this story.

As you were,