Photo from here.
Because I am crazy and suffer from bouts of civic mindedness and extreme optimism (tempered, thank god, by bouts of dark realism), I decided recently to start a neighborhood collective. I was inspired by a story I edited for the June issue of Sunset about a woman in Portland whose collective is all friendly and community-minded and whose members buy bulk veggies together and knit and walk and do all sorts of other super-earnest activities as a group.
Tomorrow is the first meeting. At our house. Only eight people are coming. Maybe 10. And to tell you the truth, the same thing that always happens in the aftermath of my attacks of vim and vigor is happening; I lose my mojo and start to realize that I am already a stressed-out, over-committed working mother of twins with a dog, a husband, and four chickens.
And then, today, right at the apex of my waning enthusiasm for hosting a civic meeting in my backyard, my weirdo neighbor (not invited), started giving us grief about the chickens. In fact, over the course of ten minutes he threatened to barbecue them, deep fry them, and skin them and gut them in "three minutes flat." He threatened to call Animal Control.
Now, this neighbor has always been someone to avoid—our own personal counter-culture Boo Radley. He's the guy who, during my wedding shower ten years ago, stood in his back yard a mere 20 feet from our hyper-feminine wedding frenzy loudly practicing his bull whip skills. I kid you not. He's also the neighbor who, during our Obama fundraiser last year, started hanging McCain t-shirts in his window and sticking Palin bumper stickers to the glass. This is a man with a bright pink goatee and a completely tattooed head. He smokes pot in his backyard and on occasion has made me look at his "art." He stopped me on the street once and, apropos of nothing, told me he likes to dress his photographic subjects in nothing but leather hoods.
In other words, he's strange and unappealing, but he's seemed harmless enough in an answer-your-door-in-nothing-but-a-pair-of-black-bikini-briefs (which he once did) kind of way.
Anyway, you can imagine just how neighborly his smarmy threats and his unfounded fear of "chicken lice" have left me. Answer: not very. In fact, if it weren't for the comparative unflappability of the Mister, I most likely would have engaged in a very unbecoming screaming match with my unsavory neighbor. Instead I rolled my eyes and huffed while the Mister tried unsuccessfully, but very gamely, to tempt him with fresh eggs.
Neighborhood collective? With this bunch of weirdos? When will I learn to just keep to myself and mistrust the rest of the oddballs out there?
Thanks. I needed to get that off my chest.