Biff America: A neighborhood beef (column)
February 17, 2018
Will lifts heavy things and sneaks me meat.
Often, as I sit down to a healthy meal of Brussels sprout cakes and beetroot salad, I can smell him cooking ribs all the way from across the street. After the dishes are done, I wait hopefully for footsteps on my front porch when I'll open the door and find a few ribs wrapped in aluminum foil on our doorstep.
"What was that noise?" asks my mate as I return inside with the beef hidden under my shirt.
"Must be those damn neighborhood kids," I lie.
"Love your neighbors, as yourself." Not too sure about that. I'm guessing my neighbors would find that kind of creepy and pretty sure my wife would kill me (though she might welcome the distraction).
But that said it does take a village to meet my needs; and my village seems willing.
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Dave is about as big and strong as Will but he also is a skilled contractor. So rather than waste him helping me move rocks, furniture, 20-foot ladders, etc., I reserve him for my technical home repair questions and asking him for scrap lumber from his job sites. He once saved me from disaster from the misuse of a toilet plunger. I was trying to use the wrong end.
My backdoor neighbor, Holly, re-gifted me a "squatty-potty" which was given to her from one of her creepy relatives for Christmas. (If you don't know what a squatty-potty is, Google it.) I can't recommend it enough, but I suggest the first time you use it that you wear eye protection and a helmet.
I'm pretty sure Geoff knows I've been poaching his HBO-Go feed. I figured he doesn't mind since he told his wife the password while I was within earshot.
Alie makes this amazing fruit pizza. If she brings over three pieces, my mate and I fight over who gets the third. Lately she has only been delivering two pieces — or so I thought. Seems that if I am at home when it is delivered, there is a hat trick of treats, but when Ellie receives the delivery when I'm not home, there are only two pieces.
Jennifer has a Costco card. Seldom does she shop there without texting me to ask if I want a bottle of Kirkland Canadian whisky or a boxcar of toilet paper.
Most of these neighbors of ours have children. Ellie and I have loved being able to watch them grow up without ever having to feed them, or drive them to hockey practice.
"Good fences make for good neighbors." I suppose that old saying might be true if those nearby are raising cattle, but in the yuppie hood I call home, there are no fences yet many good neighbors.
Lest those reading this think that the relationships are all one-sided, I am not without contributions to the hood. I am captain — and only member — of the neighborhood watch patrol, and parents often use me as an example to their progeny of the ramifications of not attending college.
But like many resort communities across the nation, often families move on, move up or cash out, and the block can change. Many of the homes in my hood have gone VRBO and short-term rentals, and that has changed, somewhat, the complexion of the quarter. Short-term renters are more likely to drive faster, live louder and are less likely to share meat. They forget that what for them is a cool place to visit, for others is a home where children play and parents have to get up early for work. Not meaning to cast shade on our visitors, but not one renter has ever offered me a squatty-potty or whisky.
On the plus side, short-term rental homes are often empty during some parts of the year and many forbid dogs. (For some reason, many canines find my yard as natural as a laxative.)
But all that said, my hood has fared well keeping cool folks and families that lift, lend a hand, share food and sneak me meat products.
For that I'm both fortunate and appreciative. But sometimes it is my turn to give back. Ellie just baked up some beet bread to be served with her secret recipe yam butter. Knowing we couldn't eat all of it ourselves, I went around the neighborhood hoping to return the many food-favors owed. I hoped to give some to all those who have given so much to me. I'm shocked — what are the odds that on any given day not one person in my hood was hungry?
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com. Biff's new book "Mind, Body, Soul." is available at local shops and bookstores or Shop.HolpPublications.com/products/biff-america-mind-body-soul
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