So recently a friend of mine, who introduced me to DC, wrote an article on one of her neighbors. My friend is living overseas and is enjoying learning the new customs of her new home. She is intrigued by one of her neighbors, but is grappling with very serious issues of accidental granny panty exposure. The article was so funny, I was laughing out loud. Sadly I have not returned my friends latest email I hope she forgives me. Any which way, I was so inspired by her story I began to think about my neighbors.
I live in Richmond, Virginia. It is not a city known for its liberal citizens, but I have chosen a neighborhood that is one of the more liberal areas of the city. My house is a small two story that has a great back yard. Lot of sun, a good shed, and it is fenced. The yard is flanked by the back yards of my neighbors, this is a semi social area, as we talk to each other, and ignore each other at the same time. My neighbor to the immediate left of me is James. Him and his dog Abby are good neighbors. But the neighbor that I really began to think about after reading my friends article, was a man that lives two doors down from me. He is a black man in his late 60’s or 70’s. He is always working on his house painting, doing yard work, painting some more. He really likes to paint.
Just now, I was working in my garden and two yards down; he came out of his house with a big smile on his face. He was going to the store for more paint. Now that I have decided to write this article, I engage with him more, so I stood up and waved hello and talked of the weather. One beautiful thing about paying attention to your neighbors is that you get to know them. Funny thing how that happens. I noticed that he had “put his hair on” as he wears an obviously fake wig when he leaves the house. I feel honored that I am able to see him without his hair on. Another great thing about urban neighbors, you tend to get to know them on a different level. A level close to family, but as distant as strangers. The wig he wears is like a very shinny kind of cap. All the hair of the wig is perfectly strait, and it is all cut at the same length, right above his ears. It is parted in the center and leaves a crisp line down his scalp. The fact that his pride commands him to wear this when he leaves the house intriques me.
Being a black man in his late 60’s, the man is from a completely different culture than myself. I think he has lived in that house for decades. He might have lived in this neighborhood before it was cut in half by the highway. He might have seen the streetcar system Richmond used to have, and I am sure at one point he was told to sit in the back of the bus. I don’t know what he used to do for a living, or who supports him now, if he was ever married, nor if he has kids. But I do know he is retired, and his house is impeccable.
In his shed he has a motorcycle. I have never seen him ride it, but he works on it when the paint is drying. When he is not doing any of that, he goes into his basement. I have heard from my other neighbor that he has a huge collection of records down there. No Ipod, no CD’s, no tapes, no 8-track. He has a large collection of vinyl. Mostly jazz from what I was told, and on all of the walls, he has very impeccably framed, photos of beautiful women—not porn I was assured, just beautiful women. Women that he thinks are beautiful. I would love to see this room.
The best part of my neighbor as a character is his name. When he told me his name, I thought there was something interesting there, but I didn’t pinpoint it until later. He is hard of hearing so he yells, and when he told me his name he was yelling. So what is his name you ask … his name is McDonald. I assume it is his last name, but that is what he goes by. So yes, I live two doors down from Old McDonald. He might not have a farm, but that doesn’t matter.