Monday, August 01, 2005

Lenora The Neighbor

I met the neighbor across the street today for the first time. She doesn’t live there, but rents out this very tiny, tiny little house that sits at the back of the lot. The “House” must be less than 300 sq ft. It is a small cabin, really. Most of the lot is vacant and everyone in the neighborhood is afraid she is going to build an apartment on the lot. This is the first time I’ve ever met her.

Lenora cleaning the gutter with her tiny house in the background

The woman is older than dirt. Here name is Lenora and she was born and raised in Eureka. She told me that when her parents came here they came by boat up from the Bay Area because there were no roads into Eureka. When I pulled up in my truck Gary, another neighbor, was out there talking to her, so I went over to say hello. As I walked up, Gary and Lenora were in a kind of a heated discussion. Well, actually, she was heated and Gary had a bit of a grin on his face. All I heard was, “If one more person tells me not to build an apartment on this lot I’m going to put a four-plex on it”. I kept my mouth shut.

Gary introduced us and we all started to talk about the neighborhood and then Gary excused himself and went to mow his lawn. So there I was with Lenora. I had just gone and gotten a sandwich after working and sanding all day, and really didn’t want to stand out there and talk a lot, but we had never met so I stayed and chatted.

If you look up the word cantankerous in the dictionary you will find a picture of Lenora. She went on and on about The Supreme Court decision on Emanate Domain, Terri Schivo, our illustrious City Council, drug attics, the war in Iraq, and just about everything and anything else you can think of. The woman is in her 80s but she is sharp as a tack. That is not to say we agreed on everything. To be honest I mostly just kept my mouth shut and nodded in agreement. I’m not about to get in a knock-down drag-out socio-political debate with and 80+ year old woman I just met while my dinner is in a sack in my hands. It was impressive, though, that she was more up to date on current issues than most people half her age.

Eventually the discussion came back around to the neighborhood. I asked here about the little house. She said she got two of them for free years ago from a local construction firm. She said she went by their place one day and there were 4 of them on a job site. They had bulldozed two and she asked them if she could have the last 2 before they knocked them over. She moved one on to the lot across the street and the other one is someplace else. It is a neat little house. Sort of Craftsman-esque in design.

She asked me about my house and I put the discussion and description of my house in to the context of the Single Family Home in a Neighborhood of Single Family Homes. There are a few in-fill type apartments in my neighborhood, and I took the opportunity to point out how they seemed incongruous with the rest of the neighborhood. (No four-plex – hint, hint)

She suggested that my house was too big to be a single family home and I wasn’t being practical. I told her, if I wanted to be practical I would own a condo in LA and work for a large corporation. Sometimes being practical is not the best thing. I stood there on the corner and extolled the virtues of the home. I told here that it was originally intended to be a single family home and that is what it should be. Also, it was in a neighborhood meant for single family homes despite what the idiots down at city hall had zoned the neighborhood for. I’m not sure if I made a difference in her thinking, but I never told her not to build and apartment on the lot. I did suggest, if she ever wanted to sell the lot I would buy it. Not that I have the money, but who knows.


Trissa said...

How long has she had the little house across the street? I wonder if she has any other stories about your house or neighborhood. I think your home is a single family home. If it was any smaller, you'd be bored and wouldn't have enough projects!

Jocelyn said...

neat story. We get a lot of crusty older types at our neighborhood meetings. They've lived here for "25 years" and they are not shy about heckling our Alderman at meetings. I get a kick out of it.

Her comment that the house is too big for a single family doesn't hold up- at least around here. They are tearing down 2000 square foot 100 year old homes in the burbs to put up 3200 square foot new homes with mudrooms and large open floorplans.

I don't understand why people don't feel nostalgic about the past like me and like the simplicity of old homes. An article I read yesterday said it costs more to rehab an old structure than to build new. Very sad- but at least some of us are saving old buildings :)

Patricia W said...

The house I bought was a 2 apartment that was originally a single family home. It is almost 2200 sq.ft. and I want it as a single family again. It's just me and my daughter, two cats and a dog. When I was in Michigan for two weeks, doing the preliminary work to my new house, I received an extremely cold reception from all neighbors. I promise, I don't have BO and walk around with my knuckles dragging across the ground. I don't know what it was but none of them stopped to say 'hi' or even wave. In fact, a neighbor two houses over had the gall to walk all the way back to my garage, unannounced, and do her own inspection. My sister is the one who noticed her walking past the kitchen doorway on her way back toward the street so she ran out and asked her if there was something she could do for her and the woman, who was busy talking on a cell phone, waved her hand up in the air and kept walking back to her house (my sis watched where she went). This upset me because I have a child and don't like people feeling entitled to trespass without my consent. That was her introduction and you know, that is all it took for me to realize she is probably a real witch. I think she was on the phone to the city to check up on us and make sure we had the proper permits for anything we were doing. I'm sorry, but I hate people who can't mind their own business when it is obvious we live at the house and have done nothing but make it better. Greg, I'm glad you got to meet another neighbor. Maybe I'll get lucky and some of the ice will begin to thaw in my new neighborhood.

Scott in Washington said...

The same thing happened to a lesser extent when we moved into our neighborhood. I think suspicion of the newcomers is a natural tendency. Our next door neighbors (the alcoholics, as opposed to the meth freaks who lived on the other side of us) made a point of driving through our turn around and peeling out gravel several times until I parked my truck in the way as if to say, "We are the old timers. Your claim of ownership is illegitmate."

I guess they didn't know I used to deliver the papers on 'our' road because I grew up there. Thankfully we got a more appropriate welcome from the real old timers.

Greg said...

Trissa: It was a little hard to talk to her. The conversation sort of jumps around. I tried to get more information out of her, but it just wasn't there.

Patricia: I would be pissed if that happened to me. I would have been running after that woman. I hope they warm up to you, and if not screw 'em.

Jocelyn: Ahh, Chicago Politics. That must be a fun city to live in. I will never forget the image of Dan Rather being hustled out of the 68 (?) DNC by some of the Mayors goons. Now that's politics.