Thursday, November 01, 2012

Being A Good Neighbor

by Dick Mac

After dropping-off my wife and daughter to trick or treat in a non-religious (heathen) neighborhood, I drove around to look at the state of Superstorm Sandy's devastation in my general area.  (What the fuck is a superstorm?  I thought a hurricane was a superstorm!  Why isn't it just called Hurricane Sandy?)

I live in Midwood Brooklyn, near the Bensonhurst border.  The area is predominantly Jewish (orthodox), with a smattering of Italians and Latinos, and a lot of Koreans.  Then there is the occasional Catholic Leftist, like me.  OK, maybe there is only one of me.  It's pretty conservative.

I was looking at fallen trees and the corresponding damage, and stopped to talk to a few people who were cleaning up.  I am a people-person, as we used to say in the 1980s.  I like talking to neighbors and people in the community.  I like to know my neighbors.  Problem is that they generally do not want to know me!

One guy was older and was struggling to move big logs into a stack.  I parked and offered to give him a hand.  He had used a chainsaw to cut the trunk into pieces, but they were still a bit big.  He had extra gloves.

He explained that he had intended to take it down last Summer, but never got around to it.  We laughed about the mess and now he wouldn't have to pay to have it removed.  He would have done it himself, he explained.  It keeps him young.  DAMN!  He wasn't THAT much older than me!

A younger guy came out of the neighboring house and worked with us.  He had an Obama pin, an Occupy pin, and a marriage equality pin on his denim jacket, none of which I'd noticed until he got warm and took it off.  I wondered if the older guy had seen them, and hoped he hadn't.  It's not a big Obama neighborhood.

We got the job finished in about ten minutes and the guy offered us beers.  I passed, the other guy accepted.  I walked to my car and got a bottle of water. As the kid put on his jacket the older guy saw the Obama pin.

"God bless ya' kid," he said.  "Wearing that pin in this neighborhood."

Then it came out that the older guy was a lifelong Republican but had voted for Obama in 2008 and was planning to vote for him again in 2012.  I was careful to be reserved and measured in my response, but explained I voted Democrat in the Presidential race.  "You young guys are all Democrats!"

We all laughed.

It was better than being carded at the liquor store!  I mean, the guy wasn't ten years older than me.  No way was he 64!  We chatted about his tree and the weather, and I made my excuses.

A few blocks later, in a more affluent area, I drove past more houses with trees laying across the sidewalk and into the street.  I realized those must be the homes of elderly people who have no way to handle the problem.  There are a lot of retirees in this area, and snowbird season hasn't yet begun.

Then I saw it was true:  an elderly man was getting out of a car in front of his house, a big tree blocking his driveway.  He stood there looking at it in disgust.

I pulled over, got out and talked to him.  I figured I could help him move it far enough to get his car safely into the driveway.  We laughed about the perfect landing and he said he was lucky it hadn't hit his house or car (which he'd left on the street).  The car was very cool:  a dark blue vintage Lincoln - very nice, and the house was modest and well-kept.  There was a Romney sign in the window of his sun room.  

I asked if he wanted some help moving the tree:  did he have a chainsaw, or a big rope we could use to drag it.  He was not as fit as the previous guy.  He crinkled his face and shrugged his shoulders.  He told me about his son who lost everything in Jersey.  He was driving to Jersey tonight, so he didn't think moving the fallen tree would be worth all the trouble.  He offered me a drink.  I begged-off, saying I was driving and had to pick-up my family in a little while.

"If Obama hadn't destroyed America, city workers would have already removed this mess.  Nothing works anymore."  I got a bit nervous because I really didn't want to have this conversation, I just wanted to help.

"I'm happy to help move it," I said.

"Nah!  It's the city's job!  Let them move it."

I asked where his son lived.  I didn't recognize the town.

He asked if I'd seen Christie with Obama on television.  I said I had (even though I had only seen internet pictures).  He shook his head:  "Damned politicians will do anything to get re-elected."

I nodded.

"I used to like Christie," he explained.

I wanted to run away:  "He seems to be doing a good job for Jersey."  I was prepared to lie to escape this conversation.

"He was," the guy explained.  "Now he's chumming around with Obama."

Oddly, I felt like I was supposed to defend Chris Christie, whom I loathe.

"What can you do?"  I asked and shrugged my shoulders.  Damn, why did I ask a question!

"Vote for Romney," he explained to little old, naive me, who is wearing a CBGB hoodie (hood up).

I was frozen in my tracks and just nodded.  I was at a loss for words:  not a state in which I often find myself.  "Sure I can't help move this tree?" I asked again.  "I really don't mind."

He had worked himself-up to a rage.  I am familiar with this state - I do it to myself regularly.

"No!"  He said adamantly!  "Let's see how long it takes the city to move it."

I had no intention of following-up with him about it, and cringed inside when I heard myself ask:  "Have you called 311?"

"I don't believe in 311.  The government shouldn't be providing those kinds of services," he explained.  "We can't afford that shit."

"You can tell them there's a tree to be removed.  It might get it handled faster," I tried to reason.  What am I doing?

"If those idiots don't know there are trees down, my call to 311 isn't going to help them."

"Good point," I demurred.

"Sure you don't want a drink?"

"Nah!  I should get going.  Good luck with your son tonight."

"What?" he asked.  "Oh, yeah.  Right.  Thanks.  And thanks for the offer to help.  There aren't many guys like us left anymore."

I smiled and nodded, put my hand to my head like a salute or a tip of the cap, and waved as I got in my car.

So . . . the guy who hates the government and is voting for Romney is angry that the government hasn't fixed his problem.  The guy who's voting for Obama is clearing his tree out of the street.

This is the exact opposite of what conservatives say is happening.  Conservatives say that liberals are sucking the nation dry with entitlements, and that good Americans are self-sufficient (they built all this themselves).  And I think they really believe this.  They really believe they are completely self-sufficient, that they built their own past, present and future, and that it's liberals who are destroying their perfect world.


1 comment:

Wendy Piersall said...

I find your neighbor's reaction strange in regards to waiting for the government to clear trees off of his property. I live in the area of Chicago that was extremely hard hit in the July derecho storm and it knocked out our power for 4 days. Our neighborhood is overly-abundant with old trees that should have been taken down years ago. Our streets looked like a war zone. EVERY single person cleared out their own trees and brush.

Are we really that weird here, thinking we have to clean up our own property after a storm? :)