Neighborhood

John’s neighbors doing the Grand Slam (RL282)

New neighbors in Jamaika's house

In March of 2018, John had a little bit of a situation in his neighborhood. Skeeter had died of cirrhosis of the liver during 2017 and they also lost Gary (John said Randy at first and didn’t remember his name until 38:20 into the show) who lived in his van down by the river. Then Jamaika’s old house across the street got sold to flippers who worked on it for a long time and spent a lot of money on it, expecting to sell it at an instant, but they didn’t. Part of it was that the street John lives on didn’t have a lot of curb appeal. His next door neighbor Patrick works in the Underground Sewer Installation Department of a company that works with the city and he has got a working man’s truck parked up front. His son in law wrecked a car and they brought it over to Patrick’s to put it under a tarp. John had an RV at the time that was hidden under a huge bushel basket. The guys across the street have a side business working on cars and there are always between 13 and 30 cars over there. Still, the flippers did a very nice job fixing up the house and eventually it did sell.

The new owners were a delightful African-American couple with young children age 5 and 3. She was a long-time Seattleite and he was from Brooklyn. John had an extremely pleasant exchange with them on the street when they were moving in on Christmas Eve of 2017 about how amazing it is getting to spend your first Christmas in the new house! John was just leaving to spend Christmas with his family in a little house in the snow and during January and February of 2018 he traveled a lot and he didn’t see his new neighbors on the street at all. The last time they talked she asked if John would take Gary's van into his yard for a couple of weeks while Gary got his stuff figured out, but John declined because this van is not an asset and you need to stop thinking about like it like that. Gary thought that his retirement was in this van, but it is garbage and needs to go to the crusher. It is not restorable or salvageable as a piece of metal, but it is rusted and full of rats. It is not just not a nice truck, very but it is tetanus on wheels.

Cars parking on the streets and John not seeing his new neighbors

John's new neighbors drove nice new SUV-style cars and every once in a while somebody would even drive up in a pearlescent SUV. John does not know what brand it was because they all look the same now. There are no sidewalks in this neighborhood and the areas in front of people’s houses sort of belong to the house. If there were sidewalks, then you would just park on the sidewalk in any spot that wouldn't belong to anybody specific, but the gravel in front of John’s house is an extension of John’s yard and you would park your car in your own area and not bleed over into somebody else’s area. John’s neighbor next to him on the other side will bring the front bumper of their car right over to the fence line, but they would never go even 2 inches (5 cm) with their bumper over that fence line.

When John came home on a Sunday night, a whole bunch of cars were parked on his side of the street so that there was no place for him to park. He talked to his mom about it, but she said that those were public roads and asking his neighbors not to park in front of his house would make John a very bad person. No matter the social conventions, you do not mess with public roads! It was a temporary thing, but it made John realize that they were church people who were inviting people over on Sunday evenings after church, which made it even harder to tell them ”I know you are having this church event, but don’t park in front of my house!” After that it got real quiet over there and by the end of February John had become curious. He had never seen or heard their children. The garage has a door, but John could always tell when Jamaika or Gary were there, because the garage was full of garbage so they couldn’t park inside and their car was either there or not. His new neighbors do have their two cars inside and John is out at odd hours and he never saw them come and go. The house was very neatly kept and put into neat zone in order to sell and it still looks like it is a house for sale.

The Grand Slam begins

In the beginning of March 2018, cars started coming and going from John's neighbors' house. Three cars would pull up, all arriving at the same time, and John would hear a dozen door slams like the Mafia had just driven up. As was obvious from the multiple slams, or the Grand Slam, as John likes to call it, between 9 and 13 white kids in their early 20s, all pretty clean cut and fresh faced, got out of the cars. They were not going through the front door into the house, but through the gate into the backyard. John thought they could be missionaries because this young African-American family had already established that they have Sunday evening events and now there were a bunch of college-age kids coming and going as a group. He might be a pastor who has a youth group of some kind and these might be the leaders getting some extra training.

At some point, a sign appeared on the fence next to the garage, the kind of sign that you would get at Target saying ”This is Janet’s room. Keep out!”, or one that is made to look like a street sign saying ”Keep Calm and Carry on!”, ”Volkswagen Bug parking only” or ”Parking for world’s greatest peepaw”. The sign was shaped like a city sign and it said something like ”Parking for Guests Only!”, worded strangely like something you would find in front of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. It was the first expression of personality that this family had put on the house. They didn’t put two white lions on either side of the driveway as you see in John’s neighborhood a lot, they didn’t put a Buddha next to the front door, no wind chime, but they put this charming ”Parking for Guests Only” sign on the fence.

John was hearing the Grand Slam a lot: In the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, at 11:30pm at night. He did a little bit of reconnoitering, went over and looked at the cars. There was a 2010 Toyota 4Runner with Montana plates, "Big Sky Country" and a sticker of a blue whale with no other writing on it. It was the type of blue whale you would get at an aquarium, but it didn't say ”Rhode Island Aquarium” or anything on it. There was also a little sticker at the bottom corner of the window that John later deciphered as a parking sticker for Boise State College in Boise, Idaho. The second car was a 2009 Infiniti with Washington plates, no stickers, no other sign of life, and nothing inside. The third car, which always parked in the Guest-only-spot was a brand-new car with temporary and expired Washington plates. Next time John would see the kids, he would be prepared to say ”I’m your neighbor! What are you guys doing?”, but during the week that John was trying to put himself into that situation, he was never able to get to them between hearing the Grand Slam and them all disappearing behind the gate. There was still no sign of the African-American family at all: You could hear no kids or any darn thing at all and at night none of the lights were on.

John tried to anticipate when the Grand Slam of white Millennials was going to show up again in order to move very quickly through what is just one fence gate. One time John was driving up as they arrived, but as he got out of the car, they reflexively looked down and away from him, suggesting that they were young people who didn’t ever want to look at an adult or be addressed by one.

The most diverse neighborhood in America

The house had been fixed up by flipper Dan and John had toured it many times. The downstairs, which had previously been a kind of slapdash mother in law, got turned into a proper 3-bedroom apartment, even though the zoning would not allow you to describe it as that. There was a nice big living room, a full bath, a large legal bedroom, an office and another bedroom, so you could have 3 people living down there comfortably. It had its own entrance because flipper Dan had been thinking ahead and some of the people who were looking at the house when it was for sale were thinking about having their mother live in that basement.

The young family who did buy it did not show any signs of having a mother-in-law-plan, but they were an affluent young family and John assumed they would fill up that house with toys and excitement. He thought they would have kids over who could play with John’s daughter, they could have a lemonade stand and they were part of the kind of gentrification that John was waiting for. This neighborhood is the most diverse ZIP-code in America and they want to keep that true. They don’t want to see displacement, but they want the standard of living to rise while maintaining a diverse community. The new neighbors were decidedly a middle class family who would increase the tax base so the schools could get better, while at the same time not changing the fact that John is the only white person in his neighborhood. He is the anchor baby and they need him to keep it diverse.

The Mexican family with the rooster and the dog

There is a Mexican family living on the corner with between 13 and 30 cars parked out front. They have chickens running around the neighborhood and everybody thinks that is charming, but for many years they had a rooster which is technically against Seattle city regulations because roosters are a pain in the ass. This rooster was a fucking dumbass as they all are and from the first inkling of light he started cockadoodling all morning all the time. Within the Mexican culture, a rooster is a very important character and plays a cultural role within the whole pantheon. John was okay with keeping the rooster around because he lives in a diverse neighborhood and he claims the ravens and the raccoons, they got their rooster and somebody is going to want the possum and they all got the rats. John wasn’t thrilled about the rooster, but he was fine with it.

At some point along the way they also bought a dog which they kept in a pen right at the fence at the far end of their property, pretty far from their house, but very close to flipper Dan’s house. The pen of the dog was probably closer to John’s bedroom window than it was to the house to which it belonged. John has been conscious of the dog for a long time because it barked a few times a day and another dog in the neighborhood often enough answered to that, but John took it for what it was, just like with the rooster. There used to be a dog down the road that would bark all day long. Merlin’s neighbors upstairs had a sweet little dog called Linus and they would keep it in a kennel literally right over Merlin’s head where Merlin worked all day, and it would go ”Happ, happ, happ!” In terms of tape measures, that dog was maybe 8 feet (240 cm) from Merlin’s ear, which will make a person a little bit crazy after a while. His owners were gone all day, which was why sweet little Linus was in his little basket.

The whole situation with the dog and the rooster became a problem for John. The Mexicans were an extended family, meaning there were between 3 and 5 families living in this big house with a lot of daughters and at least one quinceañera per year for the last 8 years, but John loved them as neighbors because they were extremely conscientious. In the morning the girls were going to school in a big gaggle, they would come home in the afternoon, there were moms around, there were cars coming and going, and everybody tipped their hat over there when you drove by.

The situation getting worse

The members of the Grand Slam used to sit on the back porch of the house in a way John could not see, but the penned dog right on the other side of the fence was very aware of them, barking relentlessly from 10pm-2am. For a few days John didn’t make the connection, but all of a sudden he was conscious of this dog that had been around for 1-11 years barking all night. This wasn’t how things go around here! There were those fucking kids across the street and where was the family that John though he was going to be friends with? What the hell was going on around here? John thought they would be getting stability when Jamaika and Gary went away! He was traveling a lot and was home at unusual times, so it wasn’t unusual that he would not see his neighbors. The Grand Slam could just as well have happened every Sunday and John just hadn't noticed.

John was also missing a tooth at the time (see RL277) and if you did have the option of driving up to your house, pushing a button to open the garage door, driving in and the garage door closing while John was standing there with a pitchfork in one hand and a Romanian flag in the other, like ”Hi neighbors”, he understood why you would go straight in, but that was not what was happening. Only in March when all of that started to happen all at once did John realize that he hadn’t seen his neighbors in a long time.

It got so bad that he went down the block to ring the doorbell at the Mexicans' house to ask what was going on. The problem was that between their house and the house in question was a big area where they did all the mechanical work on those between 13 and 30 cars, where they would have all the quinceañera, and where they had a basketball hoop. Living in their house, their dog could just sound like a dog in the distance and you can’t see into flipper Dan’s yard either.

In the different layers of languages that are happening in John’s neighborhood, English is between 2nd and 5th place of the languages that are regularly spoken. Because there was a lot of activity in the Mexican's house, there was a guy standing out in the yard at 11:30pm and John asked him ”Hi! Let’s talk about this dog” His reply was ”What did he do?”, while the dog was barking like crazy, and John said ”It is 11:30pm and the dog is barking like this all night. It is barking like this now all the time! I don’t know what happened and what changed, but this has to stop!” and the guy nodded ”Well, I’ll talk to the guy who owns the dog”, which made sense because there were a lot of people living in this house and different things were owned by different people. They were not just all in co-ownership of this dog or the Volkswagen GTI or the plastic 4-foot (120 cm) tall illuminated Christmas ornament of Jesus that was up all year. John said ”Thank you!” and listened to the dog continue to signal for the rest of the night. It is frustrating when you talk to somebody and the problem doesn’t go away immediately, but John had some faith that they were going to work it out.

The generational gulf between John and Millennials

One day there was a big 12 or 13 person Grand Slam, but they all went through the fence before John could get his shoes on and go outside. It was in the afternoon and this time John could see them through the fence sitting together. Some of them were sitting in a semi-circle up on the Rock wall, having a meeting but it was not a culty thing. This would have been an opportunity to go over, go through the gate and say ”Hey, since we are all here”, but John was reluctant. Every exchange in this neighborhood has a racial component because everybody is a different ethnicity and anytime one person from one house goes over to another house, language is possibly not the only problem. For example, the neighbors who always park 2-inches (5 cm) to John’s fence line are Vietnamese and for some reason they have been cutting John's bamboo.

The house in question was owned by an affluent African American family, but now there were a dozen white Millennials coming and going. If it were a Christian meeting, they would probably have been inclined to answer politely, but there was also a cultural separation and John was not sure exactly what he was asking for. That was also the time when he made the connection that the dog was barking at the kids. It had been there for years and had just barked once in a while when a sketchy person went by. It did not bark at Gary, and when Gary was out at 2am talking on the phone, he was the problem and not the dog. John did not feel 100% secure in walking across the street, ringing the doorbell and demanding answers, particularly because his mom had told him that he had no right to yell at them about their parking. What were his rights then? This is America and they can do whatever they want in their own house! He can’t just go over and say ”Can you 11 people not all close your car doors at the same time?” Because they are Millennials, they are not conscious of the dog. They don’t even hear the dog and they are not conscious of themselves being the source of the dog barking, because the dog is always barking when they are out there and for them that is just what it is. It had taken John four days to figure it out himself!

While John definitely felt secure to go over to the people he knew and ask about the dog, he didn’t feel secure to go over, ring the door bell and ask ”Who are you and why are you in my neighborhood all of a sudden? What the fuck is going on? Is this a Jesus thing? That is fine, but I want to know!” He was almost at the point of "I can’t live like this!" The dog all night, kids coming and going, his curiosity was going crazy, what was the story here? Did those guys kill the family that was living there? John was dealing with white 22-year olds with a blue whale sticker on the back of their Nissan Xterra, a group of people he can address in a shared language, except for the Millennial Generation cultural gulf, but the language barrier with millennials is sometimes greater than with any hispanics. John didn’t know which way to go!

The Grand Slam stops without an explanation

Two days before they recorded the episode, John heard a Grand Slam in the morning, off they went and they have not returned since. The house was empty and there was no sign of life there at all. There had been a Grand Slam 4 times a day through the entire Grand Slam period. They were never not coming and going. Now there has not been a Grand Slam for 48 hours, no sign of life, nor has the dog barked. It is back to silence, emptiness, and complete lack of motion.

The entire reason John brought this story up was that the family who owns flipper Dan’s house hired landscapers who came once a week with gas-powered leaf-blowers to walk around blowing leafs and dirt. Confusingly, the dog wouldn't care about the leaf blower, but leaf blowers drive John crazy just in principle. Right before Merlin called, John was sitting in his chair looking out the window at the gas-powered leaf-blower guy walking around the driveway and John thought ”Merlin is going to call and there is this leaf-blower guy”, but as the phone rang, the leaf-blower-guy miraculously turned his motor off almost simultaneously and John started to tell this story to prep Merlin for the fact that there might be gas-powered leaf-blower noise, but the guy was gone, the sun came out, and there was not even a rooster! Either everything has gone quiet because they were feeling some electromagnetic pulse and Mount Rainier is about to explode, or John doesn’t know what happened. Maybe everybody got raptured?

Merlin had written his guess of what was going on over there on a 3x5 card and he guessed it was a startup. John was laughing out loud when he heard that at the end of the show

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