We’ve all had one in our life, lucky me I just happened to have had two. But maybe my one neighbor and BFF Lee, in the Berkshires, cancels out the others? She became my best buddy, my Vineyard vacationer, my muse; and we met at a ballet class of all things. After that, it gets murky.
I’m busy unpacking boxes at my new house in NJ, when a policeman walks up the steps to my front door. Let it be said, that up until that moment I never had a police person visit me at home. He was giving us a warning about our dog, who was “roaming free.” OK, so we moved from the MA woods to suburbia, maybe I didn’t know the rules. Then the young cop tells me he gets lots of complaints from “that neighbor.” Like he wants us to excuse him for this visit, like he really didn’t even want to be here, in my front hall with a 2 year old running around me.
Eventually the tables were turned. My daughter told me that that “mean man” had put a trap in his front yard, a bear trap in fact! I was outraged. He didn’t want kids or dogs wandering onto his property after their balls. Well you don’t mess with this mom’s kids, so I called the police. They went to visit him for a little sit down chat, and the trap was removed. But I remember, he had no boundaries, he would walk the block on our cul-de-sac as if he owned it. I wrote him off as a sicko. It never occurred to me that he might own a gun, not back then.
Fast forward to our little old town house. While we were renovating it in 2005, a neighbor would suddenly appear out of nowhere. He’d tell us what the contractor had done, which subs had shown up, and he made it known that he was touring the inside of the house on a regular basis. At first we thought how nice it was for this guy to keep tabs on things while we were away, he’d chat about his rental income and the prices of real estate. He even organized a petition to get permit parking on the street. Then my friend moved into our investment property.
The saga of the porch fan is best left to her, in her sweet South Carolina accent, but since she has moved on to sunny Cali I’ll try and do it justice. We thought that every Southern porch needs a fan to go with the mint juleps served on Kentucky Derby day. Now Karen is the sweetest, kindest middle-aged lady who would find it hard to say anything bad about anyone, but one day she called me up about our neighbor. He informed her she would need the approval of the board of architectural review to put in a fan since we are now living in a historic district. He was going to “report her.”
So the chairperson of that board had never heard of such a request, but she approved it on the phone and had me send the schematics of the fan, which I got off the internet, to her office for a one hundred dollar fee. OK, case closed. But no, Karen started doing some gardening work in the front yard, and you guessed it, the nosy neighbor started up again, and I asked her what did you say? She told me, “I just ignore him now.” And again, the thought that he might have a gun in his house had never occurred to me.
And then yesterday, we hear about three young Muslim Americans shot execution style in NC, Chapel Hill students just beginning their lives. And the police want us to think it’s not a hate crime. It was a dispute over a parking spot? In fact ,the murderer had menaced Deah Barakat and his wife and her sister only after his marriage and the girls moved into his Chapel Hill condo, so he could see their religion plainly since the women wore headscarves. The nightmare neighbor had been seen around the complex carrying a rifle openly, and was always complaining about parking and noise.
Deah and Yusor were barely six weeks married, a story of love, respect and support that warmed all our hearts. Razan, Yusor’s younger sister, was visiting her big sister and brother-in-law when they were killed. Police said their neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, came into their home and shot them. I cannot imagine the sweltering hatred and utter disregard for human life that must have plagued the killer’s heart and soul, but all must know and honor the kinds of people Deah, Yusor and Razan were to understand how terribly they will be missed. http://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/11/opinion/masmoudi-unc-shooting/index.html
So was it a hate crime, a parking spot, a mentally ill person with no boundaries…maybe, and probably all of the above. But it was the gun that allowed him to kill them, one at a time, execution-style. And I bet he got it legally too. My heart goes out to the families and the Muslim community in the Research Triangle.