, Corbin, KY

February 21, 2013

Be thankful for good neighbors

The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — I feel I’m pretty lucky.

For the most part, in the neighborhood where I live, people seem to keep to themselves.

Oh, there’s an occasional squealing of tires from one guy who works on classic cars.

And across the horse field behind the house, there’s a couple guys who like to get drunk and shoot off guns. Only once they aimed toward the house — we were outside one afternoon and they started firing away.

After a few shots, we were hearing leaves being ripped from the trees.

But that was only once, so again, I say I feel pretty lucky when it comes to neighbors.

But when I was living in various apartments across the southeast and out west, I was often blessed with neighbors who likely should have been committed. At the very least.

When I lived in Albuquerque, N.M., I stayed in an apartment building with three units — I lived in the middle one. That meant my living room wall was the bedroom wall for the apartment in front of me, and my bedroom wall was the living room wall for the apartment behind me.

The landlord was a bitter widower who had two sons who rarely worked and often landed themselves in jail.

After living there more than a year, the landlord decided to move his sons into the apartment behind me.

These guys were in their 40s, and I think only one had a job — at least, one of them left every day.

Things were tolerable for about a month or so.

And then it happened.

Just after 2 a.m., I was jolted awake by a huge bang — pictures tumbled from the walls and one shattered across the floor.

Confused, I fumbled around for a light switch — and then the vulgarities started.

And then I heard the familiar sound of someone getting his face punched — followed by another crash into my bedroom, their living room, wall.

It was a fight — it was loud — and it sounded pretty violent.

“If you two don’t shut up I’m calling the cops,” I bellowed.

My ears hummed for a few seconds while the silence ensued. But only for a few seconds — the sound of glass being broken against the wall obliterated the moment of quiet.

And then I heard what I thought was a switchblade. That was it. I called the cops and demanded this be ended.

About 20 minutes later, I saw the blue lights reflecting off the furniture. I met them outside, and clearly the brothers never noticed the officers arriving.

I quickly told officers the situation, then they advised I return to my apartment, which I did.

Minutes later one of them got hauled to jail. After the police left and everything settled down, I got a shouted apology from the brother who was allowed to remain in the apartment.

What could I say to that?

Another time I was living in an apartment in South Carolina. It was my first actual apartment, and it was in an old home which had been remodeled into four units.

The unit below mine was empty, but the other two were occupied by single women. The woman across from me had lived there for more than a decade and shunned everybody.

The woman below her, however, was just the opposite. At all hours of the day and night, more often at night, a steady parade of men would come and go from her place.

I was pretty naive, so I had assumed she had a lot of friends.

One day she and I met at the mailboxes, and we started talking. She invited me over for coffee, an offer I rarely refuse even now.

I went into her apartment and was instantly horrified. The coffee table was littered with various empty fast food containers. Piles of dirty clothes lined the pathways that afforded a clear walk through the room.

I was sure there was a cockroach or 10 just out of my sight — maybe even a rat or two.

Trying to be polite, I eased down on a relatively clear spot on her couch. I took the coffee, bracing my stomach for whatever illness I was getting ready to infect myself with.

We continued our conversation, and it eventually came around to what we did for work. At the time I worked two jobs — I was in advertising sales and waited tables.

She told me she was a hooker.

And added how valuable her time was to her.

Then followed it up with “The first visit’s free, Sugar.”

I thought I was going to explode with horror and disgust.

Chucking politeness, I got up and left. And we never exchanged another word.

Of course, nothing will ever top the actual war waged between me and another neighbor in that apartment in Albuquerque.

We were allowed dogs in the complex, as long as they were cleaned up after. At the time I had Buddy, a miniature Doberman pinscher.

All the neighbors in that complex had a dog or two, and everybody generally kept their dogs’ messes cleaned up.

Except for a woman and her roommate, who had two mid-sized dogs — they never, ever picked up the mess.

I complained to the landlord. No reaction. So I spoke with the woman myself.

And that drew a reaction.

The day after our discussion, I opened up my front door. There on my welcome mat was a dog mess.

I promptly relocated the mess to her welcome mat.

The response was a bush loaded with fresh piles of that kind of mess next to my front door. The smell alone was revolting and sent my stomach into the churning mode.

I had taken enough. It was disgusting, and needed to be ended. I took a water hose and spent the next few hours cleaning out that spot.

So I waited a few days to let things cool down, and of course, to let her dogs’ mess collect in the yard.

Three days later I gathered that mess in a bag, and climbed to the roof over her apartment. It is very common for “swamp coolers” to be used instead of air conditioning because of the dry air, and those coolers were on the roof.

I emptied the contents of that bag into her swamp cooler, which fed directly into her house.

Then I contacted the landlord, explaining that the smell was really permeating the apartment buildings.

Two days after I did that, I noticed an eviction notice on her door.

So if you’re blessed with good neighbors, be thankful.

If this sounds like somebody next door to you — well, all I can say is goooood luck.

John L. Ross is a reporter for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at