Would You Be, Could You Be, Won’t You Be…My Neighbour!

Hello
again from Mountain Mecca & Hippie Heaven!
 

“Hot
town, summer in the city
…” takes on a whole new meaning when you are surrounded by wilderness
at the height of forest fire season. The majority of the forest fires burning
in BC are in the vicinity of Nelson. The first visible one was at Six Mile
Creek, just north of us – the top of the mountain glowed so orange, and spewed
so much smoke, you’d think it was a volcano erupting! A constant stream of
helicopters and water bombers fly by us daily, and a few days ago a Mars water
bomber arrived. If you’ve never seen one of these magnificent machines, have a
look here. They are HUGE – they can pick up 7200 gallons of water in 25
to 30 seconds at speeds of 60 to70 miles per hour – and yet they seem so slow
and cumbersome you expect them to fall out of the sky at any moment.

You
gotta love small towns because any big event, even the arrival of a water
bomber, is cause for conversation and speculation. When the Mars bomber started
circling closer to the lake, we ran outside to the deck to get a better view,
only to discover our neighbours had the same idea. We waved and called comments
back and forth to Dickie, and the Ripsters, and eventually we all converged to
discuss the new arrival. A few nights after that, we all met again to go “skunk
hunting” under our front deck. It seems the little stinker has returned but a
good dousing with the hose and a couple of (mostly harmless) bb pellets seem to
have sent him on his way.

So, I’ve
been thinking about neighbours. Prez and I seem to have almost
too-good-to-be-true neighbour karma, no exaggeration. When I first met Prez, he
lived in quiet cul-de-sac in Port Coquitlam, (a suburb of Vancouver). What a
great neighbourhood! Everyone knew each other and looked out for one another.
Kids abounded, and though we were child-free our status as stunt people with
lots of toys made us interesting to the mob of ankle-biters. Our neighbours to
our right were none other than the infamous Pat & Joyce Roney aka: Martha
& Patty-Cakes.

Now, you
probably couldn’t find two more diametrically opposed families than us and the
Roneys. Pat & Joyce have two kids and are very family oriented; their roots
are strong and deep in the community (they’ve lived in the same house for over
20 years); and their yard could grace the cover of Better Homes and Gardens,
(our yard might’ve qualified for the “what not to do” section of that
magazine). Yet, despite the obvious differences, the Roneys quickly became two
of our dearest friends in the entire world. The day we pulled out of that cul-de-sac,
with our bathrobe-clad neighbours waving goodbye in the rearview mirror was one
of the most heart breaking days of my life.

Of
course, we were soon back, this time not as neighbours but as house guests
living in the basement suite!  

One of
the unexpected consequences of our crazy lifestyle is that we often find
ourselves temporarily bunking with friends between adventures. I’ve lost count
of how many times we’ve lived with the Roneys now, but every time has been an
incredible gift as far as I’m concerned. For some reason, the four of us seem
to gel – no easy feat when you have four adults, three cats (one who hates
everyone), and one young-adult male, all on different time schedules, and all
with different lifestyles, under one roof for extended periods of time.

It
probably works so well because Pat & Joyce are so damn easy-going and
generous, but who knows? What I do know is that we have had some great times
sharing meals, watching movies, playing cards into the wee hours, and just
generally “hanging out”, which we never would have experienced if we weren’t
homeless now and then.

Our next
neighbourly stroke of luck was when we moved next door to Mom II & HQ –
Ruth-Ann & Harry Quarles – in Baja, Mexico. Ruth-Ann loves to tell the
story of how she first met Prez when he was shopping for a piece of property,
and how annoyed she was to have to show yet another looky-loo around while she
was trying to get her fireplace painted. The annoying young man in his fancy rented
jeep became her next door neighbour, and ten years later the Quarles are like
family to us.

I
suspect Ruth-Ann saw us more as guests in her extended hotel than as neighbours
because it wasn’t unusual to come back from a day of fishing to find our laundry
done and folded, dinner waiting, and other little chores taken care of. Some
days I half-expected to find our sheets turned down and a mint on our pillow,
that’s how well we were cared for as neighbours.

We’ve
also bunked with the Quarles on a few occasions…just this past winter actually.
Again, different kinds of people, different ages, different lifestyles, but we
made it work.

Our move
from the Quarles was not far, just down the beach, and though it was still sad
we began to see our strange lucky-streak with neighbours was not over. Enter
Big Wave Dave & Miz Liz – Dave & Liz Meyers of 30th Palm
fame.

Our
neighbour experience with the Meyers was probably the most natural, most
comfortable one we’ve had. We didn’t become friends, we just were friends
from minute one. It was as if we’d known each other our entire lives. Eating
breakfast with the Meyer’s “bad dogs”, Chase & Cassie, running in and out
of our doors, was not an unusual scenario. We all had a very open-door policy
between our homes. The Mexican expression, Mi casa es su casa, (my home
is your home), held very true with us. I’m sure, back then, they couldn’t have
guessed just how true.

We’ve
called the 30th Palm “home” twice, once while Dave was still with
us, and once after his passing. If you think living with other people is a
challenge, try doing it in a little grass shack with no sound-proofing! But we
had no problems, and our time together in the 30th Palm was time
I’ll cherish always. We’ve also been roomies with Miz Liz and the bad dogs in
29 Palms, California. On the first occasion, Miz Liz and I stood arm in arm
watching a fiery desert sunrise (OK, we didn’t stay that way for very long
because fiery desert sunrises come far, far too early for Princesses, but it
was a lovely moment nonetheless). On the last occasion, she played nurse to
Prez and I who were both stricken with that nasty, funk-inducing flu. I can’t
think of a nicer place to be sick!

Our
gypsy existence has thrown us together with friends we’d never expect, too. Iron
Chef Kozy and Techie-Tweeter – Paul & Wendy Kozak – had never been our
neighbours, and though we were friends, we didn’t get to see much of each other
most of the time. But that all changed when they offered up the empty basement
wing of the Kozak mansion while we were starting up our handyman business.

In our
short time in Key Largo, Florida, we partied with all our neighbours, some we
still stay in contact with – Prez was a very bad influence on one of our
neighbours who skipped work 3 times to go fishing with my bad husband! And then
we bunked with the Baneys who’d been guests at the resort we ran in the Bahamas,
and they forced us to eat stone crab legs and swim in their pool. Oh, the
sacrifices we make!

While I
hate feeling as if we’re taking advantage of friend’s hospitality, I’m so
thankful life created an opportunity for us to get to know the Kozaks better.
Believe me; we uncovered some very deep secrets while we stayed at the mansion.
For example, Kozy likes to play Mr. Penny Pincher to the rest of the world –
scanning flyers for sales, bargaining at the Jiffy Lube – but what I found out
is that he is, in reality, one of the most generous, caring people you’ll ever
know. We offered to pay rent and a share of utilities during our long stay but Kozy
wouldn’t hear of it, and he even fed us, more than once, five-star gourmet! And
Wendy, oh you’d meet her and think she is just the quietest, sweetest woman on
the planet…ha! Don’t let that “angel face” fool you! The real Wendy is witty,
clever, and has a devilish sense of humour. She had me cracking up endlessly.
Well, anyone who has every episode of AbFab on DVD is someone who understands
good comedy! And she also happens to be just as generous and caring as her
husband; not bad.

And now
we claim the Ripsters – Tim & Becky Rippel – as neighbours. They aren’t
right next door, but they’re one door over and the house between us is
Dickie’s, who’s also a friend, so we have it pretty damn good. We are back and
forth between our houses on a regular basis, having dinners, watching movies,
or just chatting about the news of the day – a Mars water bomber, for instance.
Again, I’m so incredibly grateful life gave us a chance to spend time with such
amazing friends; time we wouldn’t have under normal circumstances.

I’ve
said before that Prez and I may not be financially rich but we invested in
friends and the pay offs are well worth it, and I think that’s worth repeating.

It’s
easy to get swept up in the logistics of life. We’re tired at the end of the
day and there always seems to be some chore that needs doing, so sacrificing
time with friends becomes a necessity. And then it becomes a way of life. Even
when we get to spend time with the people we love, it’s limited and we have to
get back home and: water the lawn, buy groceries, take the kids to soccer,
finish the laundry, walk the dog, go to the gym, shop at the mall, call Mom,
fix that squeaky door, send emails, watch the next episode of that show we
love, get paperwork done, etc. etc. etc. The beauty of neighbours (or, as is
often our case, roommates) is that they’re right there, right beside you.
Visiting neighbours doesn’t have to be a momentous, planned event involving
calendars and schedules, nope; you can just pop over and say “hi, got time for
a coffee?” Simple.

I think
as we become “compacted”, as cities start funneling more people into smaller
spaces, our privacy starts to become critical. We shut out the people around us
as a way to protect ourselves and we begin to lose the feeling of community we
once considered so valuable. I remember telling some co-workers who were
city-dwellers about how the Roneys helped us out when we’d go down to Baja by
taking in our mail, paying our bills, depositing our cheques, etc., and they
were absolutely horrified that we’d let mere “neighbours” have so much access
to our lives. “I don’t even know my next door neighbour and I don’t want to
know them!” one person said. They completely missed the point; we couldn’t live
the way we do if we didn’t have such incredible neighbours and friends.

I know
not everyone can live the way we do…or even wants to for that matter. But we
can choose to know our neighbours. Hell, many of us can even choose to live
close to people we know, or in neighbourhoods where people are friendly. And
maybe your next door neighbour is just a friend you haven’t met yet.

To all
our neighbours, and roommates, who are also our friends, a million thank you’s
for being so close…even when we’re miles apart!

 QUESTION: Who are the people in your
neighbourhood?

Until
next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!

The
Princess

This entry was posted in Friends. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Would You Be, Could You Be, Won’t You Be…My Neighbour!

  1. Cindy says:

    In my humble opinion, it isn\’t blind luck that no matter where you live … you have great neighbors.  It takes one to know one.
     
     

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