Posted on August 4th, 2022

The last few years have been quite a journey for me, leaving New York to moving to Texas, realizing I deserve better and finally landing in Florida. Then because of one piece of missing soffit, a whole can of worms was opened at my rental house in Cape Coral. My lawyer said, you need to find a place to live before we start any issues. First day out, I land a completely renovated house all I have to do is a whole lot of landscaping. But, it wasn't the house that reassured me I was in the right place, it was actually the neighbors. I knew I was home because of the neighbors that surround my new property. I have never witnessed before such kindness and friendliness. It helped that whoever lived here before turned this corner house into a disaster zone. My new mail carrier shakes her head at the transformation. She told me, she hated it when she had to walk up to the front door to leave packages because there was so much debris in the yard.

To me, a lone female homeowner has extra problems to deal with compared to a married couple that just moved in. I have had my share of horrible neighbors. As much as I loved raising my children on City Island, I use to tell my colleagues at school, living there was like the salt water version of Deliverance. I was gossiped about severely and it started on the first day I moved in, because I just happened to live across the street from the local Town Crier. I use to call her the "Blah, Blah Woman". No matter what time of day, I would see her fat ass leaning into someone's car and then they would gossip for hours. When I finally took a stand against the negativity that my children and I endured for over a decade, her husband chased me down the sidewalk in his jeep, driving on the wrong side of the street, shaking a cigar held finger at me and yelling he better not ever hear his family's name out of my mouth. I've been called a whore, a bitch and a bad neighbor because I asked my neighbors to pick up after their dog. I was also interviewed by Child Protective Services because I yelled at my kids to do their homework. I lost a natural wall of trees in my backyard because my neighbor in the back decided to put up a tin can pool too close to my property. Mind you, if you threw a rock from his front lawn, it would hit the local beach. I spent thousands to have those poor trees removed. The NYC governing agency stated all they could do was put a note in the owner's file. He received no fines for being too close to my property line and I lost thousands and three beautiful trees. When I decided to plant bamboo since it grows fast, I didn't line the garden with rubber. I was happy when my bamboo invaded his yard. I came home and found my adjacent neighbor had left several stalks of bamboo on my front porch. I was shocked someone would just do that instead of having a conversation. My response was, my house is higher than yours, I chucked the stalks out a side window and they landed on his roof. Speaking of stalks, I was stalked every time I wanted to work in my garden. I actually paid a fence guy extra to install a 6 foot fence the same day, so when the stalker came home all he had to look at was a pretty white fence, free of charge.

Once I sold my house on City Island, I moved to Port Chester to a newly renovated two family house. I hate renting. I took the upstairs apartment. A Fat family moved in downstairs. Pizza delivery men constantly ringing the top bell at all hours, none of them could seem to figure out that the bottom floor is the bottom bell. Doors slamming every time they came and went shook the whole house. It got so bad, I finally complained. Their response, they started to use the garage door to come inside, so now I heard the garage door opening and closing starting at 4:30 am. I tried head phones, ear plugs, nothing worked. One afternoon after several glasses of wine, I decided to give the Fat Man a taste of his own torment. I kept opening and closing the garage door while he stood outside talking on his phone. I actually played music and got the garage door to add to the rhythm. I thought it was quite creative. Mr. Fat got so angry he actually cut the power and locked my car inside the garage. Luckily, my daughter's car was parked outside so I took her car to work. My grand finale to the Fats was a solo sound bath of incredible loud, hot, kinky sex one night. Any fantasy I have ever thought about was spoken very loudly that night. My one woman show was so believable that my daughter asked me in the morning, who was over last night? Mrs. Fat never looked at me again.

Then the Fats left, and a Peruvian witch moved in. Presumably legally blind, she obviously did not like my daughter's pretty face which she clearly saw. I think her husband got caught looking too long and another neighbor war was started unnecessarily. In Winter, I would shovel the drive and the witch's husband would watch me from the window. Add to that a ridiculous little poodle that sat in the front window and whenever we would come home, he would sound the call. Not a bark, but a scream. No matter what we did, this little motherfucker would start some serious racket. I would tiptoe, take my shoes off, nothing worked. They'd leave the dog in the front window instead of putting it in someone's room at night. My daughter was a Life Guard and would leave early for work. Me, I read Tarot late into the night. We were both working, not out at the club. We were accused of all kinds of noise at night. The witch blew up my landlord's phone daily till she got her way. 

So I finally got smart and moved to Dobbs Ferry, probably the nicest neighborhood I have ever lived in. No door slamming or bamboo left on my stoop. My landlord was Chinese and spoke very little English, so it was a match made in heaven. He left me alone. But, left alone also included nothing was ever fixed, but I bonded with the family under me and the husband always helped if I needed something. But, the funniest was the Asian family next door, whose husband knocked on my door and asked me to remove my windchimes from the yard because they were disturbing his wife's sleep. The wife that stayed home all day and if she ran errands she blatantly would park her Audi dead center so no one else could use the driveway that could easily hold four cars. In Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese art of placement, you're supposed to put a wind chime up to keep negative neighbors away, my windchime did not do its job. The husband came knocking and me and my Feng Shui expert had a good laugh about an Asian neighbor asking me to take down my wind chimes. I wish I had his problems.

Then on to Texas where I was the middle of an Oreo. When my kids were small and we lived in the Bronx, we were the only Caucasians on the local track team. We were welcomed with open arms. I had more offers to visit Jamaica than any other place in the world. For some reason in Texas, I sensed some hostility because I owned a house in a neighborhood where minorities were losing ground. I would clean the curb of brush and debris so the grass would grow. The next day, there would be more brush placed there. Then a car tire, broken TV set and a few other items were added. City Hall said this was not allowed and items were only to be set out a week before annual pick up days. Not in my neighborhood, it was clear they were refusing any kind of positive change from the new kid on the block. They dumped items all year long right in front of their house and mine. I decided right then and there it was time to go. I was not going to file a complaint about something that the neighbors had obviously been doing for years. They would know it was me and everyone has a gun in Texas. I sold my house in three days and drove out of that state at record speed. Lesson learned, I deserve better.

So now I'm a homeowner in Florida. It happened faster than I expected, but I did land in a great place. The Universe always has my back whether I realize it or not. When I went to clean and bless my house I left the front door open. The cross breeze in this new house rivals the breeze I had on City Island. Anyway, a neighbor two doors down popped his head in and nearly scared me half to death. I use my garage which is considered unusual here. He saw the front door was open and no car in the driveway. He thought I had left the door open by accident. It was a funny scene where we both scared each other. I was glad someone was looking out for me and I told him so. I live alone, so I am happy that my neighbors are watching the house. Then when I left for the day, Mr. Charles across the street came out to say hello. He thought I was the cleaning woman. Mr. Charles is a funny old man who likes to garden. I had 25 hibiscus plants in the front yard that looked hodge podge with no path to the front door. The Bronx, Let's Make a Deal came out of me and I told him if he wanted the plants all he had to do was come and dig them up. He was thrilled and I had my front garden cleared free of charge. Behind my house I have an interesting dog named, Patron. He looks part Pitbull and Dalmatian. This dog does not bark or howl, he bellows, but it is such a welcoming bellow and he seems to always know when I arrive home. We are becoming friends. His owner is a lone female homeowner like me. Miss Cindy and her son offered to help clear my yard. I looked at them as if they had three heads. Who offers to help clean up a yard? In Florida heat, mind you. But, because the house was so neglected I think everyone is happy it has a new owner. We bonded over children, yards and retirement. I woke up the following Monday to a dead battery in my truck. Cindy came over and took me to AutoZone to get a replacement. Then she picked up her ninety year old father who was a mechanic and the man changed my battery. Plus she brought me prosecco and a cannoli as a welcome present.

I'm putting up a new shed and fence. Everyone on the block is happy about that. So as I cleared the front yard, my neighbor two door's down came up and asked what was I going to do with the old shed. Turns out his grandfather lives next door to me. Grandpa is a pack rat. His kids were trying to clean out his garage for him, it was filled to the brim. So they approached me and asked about the old shed. I told them they could have it. They actually tied a rope around it and attached it to their truck and pulled the whole shed over into his yard. The other day, I found grandpa sitting in his rocking chair outside, but he turned his chair to face the shed. It actually looks a lot better than it did in my yard. I don't know why, maybe it's the gift of giving that makes everything look better.

As I prepare for a much needed fence that I've been waiting months for, I was told that tree stumps had to be removed in my yard. Mr. Charles across the street referred me to TreeMan. I'm trying to learn the Florida way. I already can tell I have a serious bunch of characters on this block, I'll fit right in. So I call TreeMan. He says he'll stop by Friday. I wait. No Show. Welcome to Florida work ethic. I see Mr. Charles, I tell him what's up with this TreeMan, I waited all afternoon. He laughs and tells me, TreeMan will show when he shows. I'm not thrilled with this idea. I'm use to making appointments and writing them down on my calendar. The very next morning, I'm in my office with my front door open without the screen door which was still on order. I hear, "Hello?". There is a burly man standing in the doorway. He says, he's TreeMan. We walk the property and come to an agreement. I also tell him that Grandpa next door is not too happy because he has been waiting a year for TreeMan to take down a large Oak tree that is in between both our houses. TreeMan is happy I'm the new owner because he said he will take away my old fence and then he can easily remove the Oak tree. He will kill two jobs in one shot. Mind you, I was ecstatic to find out that TreeMan did not live next door to me. When I first viewed my house, his truck was parked next door on Grandpa's property for weeks! Grandpa told me he just parks the truck there, but the tree is still standing. Like I already said before, I'm dealing with some serious characters down here in Florida.

So this week, TreeMan decided to show up, rouse me out of bed early one morning without any notice and start work on my property. What I didn't know or expect was cutting that Oak tree in between both properties was like having a block party and I was the host. All my neighbors came out to watch. Chairs were pulled into the yard, beer cans opened and videos taken. TreeMan who everyone calls JD, his mother named him after James Dean, was like a rock star up in his cherry picker. The whole block turned out to watch this man fell this tree. I must admit, as I watched from my window, it really was quite a performance. People came and took the logs for outdoor fire pits and the whole neighborhood went home happy after the show. Now that all the yard work is done, the block is quiet. I sit in my lanai and look at my property that is starting to take shape. I've given away plants, a shed and negotiated a year long wait for an Oak tree to be removed. I have neighbors that are looking out for me and honestly, I'm looking out for them too. Down in our little blue collar section of Fort Myers, wedged between MacGregor mansions and the country club, there's a quiet little culdesac where just like in the old days, neighbors look out for each other. I've finally found home.

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