John's neighbors Gary in his van and Skeeter

Gary living in his van across the street (RL112)

John’s neighbor across the street is running some kind of Loser’s Lounge Halfway House. There is still a guy living in his RV, and in May of 2014 John saw him out walking in the middle of the street in a gunslinger pose with his hand out, with no shirt on but a leather vest with the Harley Davidson symbol across the back. He was walking to the store to get a beer, but in his mind he was in a showdown. There are so many things John wanted to say to him in that moment and when you run down the list of what to prioritize what to say to the drunk guy living in his van behind his neighbor’s hedge, the answer is: ”Say nothing to the guy!”

The first communication John is going to have with this guy is standing next to a cop and the cop asking: ”How long has this been going on?” - ”You know what, officer, the reality is that this has all got to go because this guy is unsafe at any speed!” It is going to happen one of these days and this guy is going to set his van on fire or something else is going to happen over there.

The other guy with the mosquito tattooed on his neck (see RL124) has his arm in a sling now. What is John’s problem with them? ”Where do I start?”

John’s across the street neighbor and her boyfriend Skeeter (RL124)

In September of 2014 John was worried about his across-the-street neighbor, the lady with the van because all of a sudden a bunch of people started being around her house, coming and going at all hours, piling out of the house, getting in her car and driving away, coming back an hour later and parking the car on the grass. On a Saturday night a bunch of sketchy people went in and out of the house and they probably called it a party to them, but to John it looked like a bad scene. John had not seen his neighbor for a week. He would often go a week or two without seeing her because she is a little disabled and walks with a cane.


Her boyfriend/fiancé has a giant neck tattoo of a mosquito that has its proboscis buried in his neck vein. It is the size of a Folgers coffee can tattooed on his neck and this is the tattoo that he chose to get. John should start calling him Skeeter. He has a long white beard with rubber bands in it like Captain Lou Albano, and he has one of those alcoholic cigarette voices. He was out there running the show and there were some real cracky people, one guy was 6’10” (210 cm) and looked like Wilt Chamberlain if Wilt Chamberlain was a mega-stoner and was completely bald on top, except with a pretty fluffy fringe around his ears and wearing a head band.

Then there were a bunch of other new sketchers coming and going in and out of the house, trying to keep quiet except for this one younger 40-year old gal who was obviously the queen of the scene and felt she could talk at any volume at any time and everybody was going to approve of it. John surveyed these goings-on. There were lot of whispered conversations in the drive way, somebody did a fast walk back into the house, somebody did a fast walk up the street. What is going on over there?

John doesn’t like it, but there are enough problems: 1) John routinely doesn’t see his neighbor for weeks at a time and he can’t really say that one day he stopped seeing her and all those people showed up, so he needed to call community service patrol, and 2) there is enough class and cultural difference between John and them that he is routinely looking out the window, saying that those are scumbags because he knows scumbags, and yet maybe he is being classist and they are just good working folk who are struggling to make ends meet. The other voice in his head says that working folk doesn’t walk like crack heads. The crack head walk is a very distinctive cockroachy walk.

John is second-guessing it the whole time because if he called somebody, saying that he is worried about his across-the-street neighbor because a bunch of sketchers go in and out of her house and he hasn’t seen her in a week, they would ask if those people were setting the house on fire or appear to be stealing her stereo, but that is not exactly what they do. People are moving things in and out of the house, but there is no moving van pulled up and filled up.

What if she is in trouble and John has been sitting and watching this go on for 4 days? She doesn’t have anybody to count on who would be calling and alerting the authorities except John because he is the only person with eyes on this and nobody else in this neighborhood pays attention to anything that is going on. What are John’s responsibilities to her?

Strange things happening

Yesterday they were standing in the driveway and Skeeter said ”We got ripped off, man! We really got ripped off this time!” He started whispering and then he was saying ”They got all my weed!”, which is not a reason to call the cops. The other drunk guy who lives in the van in the front yard (Gary) is nowhere to be seen either and he is normally John’s biggest problem. Skeeter lives in the house, while the dude in the van is a totally different guy and John would expect him to be out doing his usual act, which is ”Fuck the police! They took my kids!” He is gone, but his van is still there.

Last night as John was driving by he looked into the driveway of the house and there was a display unit of different cases for Windows phones, which is obviously a store display that someone has boosted. Someone stole a display of 25 different-colored Windows phone cases, perhaps thinking that they were phones, they got them to the house, realized they weren’t phones and just dropped them in the driveway.

This morning as John woke up a landscaping truck with a wood chipper drove up in front of the house, there were three cars parked in the grass, and in a way that John couldn’t quite see through the hedge they spent a minute grinding something up in the wood chipper and then the wood chipper truck drove away. It was a proper landscaping truck and you wouldn’t have thrown an old computer printer in there. John has never seen one pull up, shred a thing for one minute and then drive away.

At this point John was looking through he hedges like a super-peeper like Mr Furley and as the truck drove away the cars scattered in all directions. Maybe she had died and there was enough shit in that house and enough weird stuff to figure out that her fiancee was gradually stripping all the copper pipes out of the place.

John was watching them and there was some imperturbable calm, maybe because they are crackheads who have a constant level of tense anxiety that never flares, but that is not true of crack heads who go bonkers when things are even a little bit out of whack. It has been 4-5 pretty hot days and if somebody was dead in there, it would be intolerable to live there. If she went to visit a relative, she would have taken her car!

John not knowing what to call the police for

John is enough of a busy body and a total cop caller, he calls the cops all the time, but he doesn’t know what case he can make. A part of him is inhibited by the feeling that a lot of the things he is seeing that he is making judgments about fall into the category of ”Well, is that a legitimate judgement you are making or are you just casting aspersions because you are not a member of the culture?”

When Merlin was a kid, their next-door neighbor was a professional guitar player. He would let Merlin hang out and showed him some Jimmie Hendrix licks and one day he would let Merlin borrow his tube screamer. In the time Merlin walked from their house to his house, his mom called him because their nosy next-door neighbor said that he was bringing beer into the house. She had nothing better to do and she called Merlin’s mom because he had a guitar effect pedal in his hand.

John's neighbor

John’s neighbor is a black women in her 60s, her husband was about 10 years older than she was and he was a Seattle musician who had played with Jimmie Hendrix. It is one of the calling cards of all of Seattle African-American dudes in their 60s: If you lived in Seattle your whole life and you ever smoked pot, you have a story how you used to hang out with Jimmie Hendrix. The Wilt Chamberlain guy totally has bored John to tears with his stories about how he and Jimmie were thick as thieves. Jimmie Hendrix was famously an introverted guy who would just sit in his house and play guitar alone a lot, but he knew every one of these guys and they all knew his mom, but they didn’t because Jimmie Hendrix was raised by his dad. Every one of these guys has 25 stories!

In addition to the cracky weird vibe over there, every once in a while a guy with a Fedora and a giant fucking peacock feather sticking out of it will walk in and then a guy with a suit made of scarfs comes in. John doesn’t know what he is seeing over there! He is a Rock musician and has seen some crazy shit, but this house? John never thought the day would come, but when he sees Skeeter now he feels a relieve because at least he is a guy who is reliably a broken-down unreliable alcoholic and John got his number. John has no purchase on the rest of the scene.

Everybody is super-friendly, even the guy who looks like Easy E. When John comes out into the street taking the garbage out and ”Oh, good morning!”, he wants to come over and chat and is really friendly. John doesn’t feel they have the body of his neighbor wrapped in a carpet somewhere, but what was the deal with the fucking wood chipper truck?

Over the last 4 years people come in and out of the house and it has always turned out to be benign. There was a guy there with a moving truck for a while, but it turned out it was her dead husband’s long-lost cousin, a deeply charming guy from Atlanta, who found him in the phone book and came and stayed for a week. John actually said to him to please not go, because he is a good influence, but he had to get home to Atlanta.

Going around the back of that house or peeping on it doesn’t feel safe, not to mention the fact that John hasn’t seen the cranky guy who lives in the van and he is the one who scares him. It is like a really immersive video game where you had to spend two weeks before you could go onto the property, figuring it out before you ever level up to where you would get past the guy in the van, like the Legend of Zelda, or the Legend of Skeeter.


The guy in the van is the type of alcoholic who will have a long conversation with you and the next day he will not remember ever having met you. He really hates the cops because they took his kids. John lives directly across the street and he has one of those 3000 candle-power spotlights from a battleship that can illuminate a whole theater of war. He keeps it on reserve for those moments when he really wants to light up the street because it is a little bit of a shock and awe situation, but the problem is that there is no question where the light is coming from.

John has been waiting for there to be a situation where a bunch of people are coming out and load up a car with things that seem like they belong in the house, like turntables, furniture, quilts, something that makes it is clear that they are dismantling the house, but John hasn’t quite seen that yet. For a while the woman in her 40s who was queen of the scene sat on a plastic lawn chair in the front yard for 3 hours between 1am and 4am in a way that felt like she was posted there, like she was supposed to sit out front and watch the road.

John is not even really delving into the cars that are just driving up in front of the house, idling for 5 minutes, no-one gets in or out, the windows are tinted and the car drives away. It is very concerning. Merlin thinks that there is probably one thing that explains it all, maybe it is an unlicensed halfway house, but things are out of control now.

Drug & alcohol counselor

John's neighbor was always a pretty respectable lady and the whole reason that Skeeter came into the house was that she characterized herself to John as a drug and alcohol counselor and John was ”Really? I don’t know about that!”, like if somebody tells him that they are a sex educator. Anytime somebody says that they are a mental health professional, John immediately goes ”Really? Are you?”

Everybody who ever went to a 12-step meeting kind of thinks that they are a drug and alcohol counselor, but it doesn’t make it true. Skeeter was originally there ostensibly to get clean and she was walking him through, but he is out there right now drinking Sterno and spraying hair spray into a plastic bag. Nobody is sober! It is causing John some anxiety.

Merlin used to be much more confident about everything and he used to falsely feel that he understood a lot more than he does today. It gets worse every week! He has more and more self-doubt about all the angles he is probably getting wrong about something and sometimes it cripples him.

The simple life of an alcoholic like Skeeter (RL127)

One day in October of 2014 as John was driving to his office he passed by the bus stop at the corner of his block and Skeeter was sitting out there rolling a cigarette. He wears a Peruvian hat with ear flaps and he is unmistakable because not many guys are rocking that look right now. It was 8:30am, Skeeter was rolling a cigarette, and John as a former smoker and drug addict knew: ”Oh, right on! Skeeter is having his first smoke of the day, maybe his second!” He is marking his passage through the day, one cigarette at a time, until he can get his first drink or his first hit of dope, which might have happened already.

You are marking the day: ”Cigarette, cigarette, toke, cigarette, cigarette, cigarette, beer, toke, cigarette, cigarette, toke, toke, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, cigarette, beer, cigarette, beer” and then the day is over. There is something very comforting and reassuring about that. As you are stubbing out the last cigarette you have the next cigarette on the horizon and you are leapfrogging lilypad to lilypad throughout the day and you never are at sea, wondering how you are going to make it to dusk.

John's neighbor Gary living in his van (RL137)

The guy across the street who is living in his van behind a hedge is of course called Gary. It is the perfect name for him! John has had several encounters with him lately. You talk to him for 45 minutes and when you meet him the day after he acts as if he has never met you before. He is yelling into his phone at his ex-wife at 1am and John doesn’t want to hit him with the fire hose, but something has to happen! What is the long game? Is he going to live in his van in the front yard of John’s neighbor’s house for another year, two years, or five years? He is a very angry guy and John has a little kid!

There have been times when John has thought that he would just run a hose from Gary’s tail pipe right into the back window and that would solve the problem completely, but Gary never turns the motor on because the van doesn’t run anymore. John is wondering why Gary’s ex-wife is taking these hour-long phone calls at 1am. If John was her he would hang up the phone after the 40th raged ”Fuck you!”

The conflict between John and Gary is also tied up in a lot of class issues where John is super-concerned about being someone who has moved into their neighborhood, but he has lived in his house longer than they lived in theirs! Over the last months of 2014 there were people moving in and out, there appeared to be some parties, there was a lot of quiet talking, and goods were coming in and out of the house (see RL124). It was a bad scene for a while and then it calmed down and became a new normal where at least it was quiet, but there has to be some level of decorum here that doesn’t include a party where people are just ransacking the house.

At the same time, John has been to a lot of parties where it would have looked to an outsider like they were just stripping the house and it wasn’t that at all. John has slept on some park benches for a few nights, but he no longer makes the mistake of thinking that he has real insight into what it is to be poor and that he shares a life experience.

He does feel a bit of creeping Republicanism in the phrase ”I am a homeowner!”, and as a homeowner he feels like he and his neighbors across the street need to have homeowner meetings where they go around the room and say: ”Who has got a guy living in a van in his front yard? Anybody? How many people? Let’s see a show of hands!”

For a year John hasn’t said a word about it because it is on her property and it is her business and if Gary was her boyfriend who was in there drunkenly screaming into the phone every night, that is just what happens when you live in a neighborhood, but the crucial distinction is that Gary is living in the front yard, which is still on her property, but it is public space and a year is a long time for someone to live in a van in someone’s front yard.

The 1968 Ford van is tucked behind a 25 feet tall (7.5m) Laurel Hedge in between their houses, slowly rusting into the ground with 4 flat tires and there is an extension chord running from the van to the outlet at the front of her house, but it is tucked away so the cops are not aware it is there. If the hedge wasn’t there and it was just this rusting-ass piece-of-shit van with an extension chord going into one of the windows and a guy in there, yelling into his phone, then other people would have taken notice and Health & Human Services would have asked if he was pissing in a bucket. How much access does he have to the house? As a chronic alcoholic, sometimes you have to go to the bathroom.

John’s next door neighbor Patrick will once in a while drop a little science about Gary: ”Do you hear that guy out there, slamming his van door in the middle of the night?” Patrick airs on the other side of: ”What happens on your property is your business!”, but he is also the guy who fired a gun in the air when some teenage kid climbed on the roof to talk to his teenage daughter (see RL47), meaning when the chips are down he is capable of handling the situation. Patrick is off the sauce as well, so the whole neighborhood is cleaning up and Gary is the last of the Mohicans.

John calling his neighbor because Gary has become a problem (RL137)

John tried to call his across-the-street neighbors several times, but only reached an anonymous voicemail that tells him that the mailbox is full and hangs up on him. It is a weird voice, not the normal one, like if you had bought your phone at a gas station. John hadn’t seen her in a long time, but if they had buried her in a shallow grave they wouldn’t just be coming and going with 7-Eleven bags, but they would be high-tailing it or they would be stripping the copper pipes. Miraculously she called John back at 1am because she had seen that he had called.

Gary is quite audible to John, going: ”God fucking dammit! Fuck you! Fucking…”, having an explosion of rage that has been lasting long enough that John decided to call his neighbor: ”I am calling about Gary!” - ”Yeah?” There is probably a place in her house where she can go where she doesn’t hear Gary and there are also places in John’s house, but those are not his living room or his bedroom. ”I have to be honest with you: Gary is starting to be a problem for me!” - ”Yeah… Gary needs to go!” - ”I didn’t want to be the one to say it, but I really think Gary has got to go!”

He has gotten to be a problem, he is cussing her out now. For a while she was planning on having a little rehab house there, but then she got engaged to one of the guys and the other guy has been fucking living in his van for at least a year. They had a very nice conversation about how Gary need to shuffle off the buffalo. On one hand it is the holidays, a vulnerable time for everybody and maybe John should take a softer line on Gary right now, but the other voice in his head said: ”What? No! Fuck Gary!” Everybody hits a bottom and sometimes the bottom is that you next-door neighbor finally calls and tells you that he is going to send a tow-truck for your van.

Now they have broached the topic, and if Gary is still going to be there in a week, which he absolutely is going to be, then there is a new uncomfortableness because after having talked about Gary getting gone there is the implication of a timeline and she has implicitly agreed that it will happen and every time he sees her now he will be: ”So, how is it going with Gary, where are we at on that?” and that is not a relationship John wants to have with her. She definitely has an uphill climb.

Gary's van has been moved (RL148)

In March of 2015 things were coming to a head over there and one time they were yelling at Gary who yelled back: ”What can I do?” - ”Do something!” John also had a long conversation with Skeeter who did not look well and told John that they didn't have his medication: ”Skeeter, you look bad!” - ”I know! We just need to figure out the cocktail!” John is his brother's keeper in a way and he helps out when he can. You don't want anything set on fire, that is for sure. John doesn’t want Gary living in the front yard anymore, but Gary might be the only thing that is holding that whole thing down. It is like a human game of Jenga: You don't want to move the van, but when John came out the other day the van had moved!

John had previously stipulated that the van didn't run, but it must have run enough to pull out of where it was and repark itself. It seemed like they had a big fight, shouted at Gary: ”You are out of here!”, and he went out and spent what probably was 2.5 hours getting the van started, he got it into gear, pulled it around as though he was going to load up his extension cord, but then he remembered he needed to find his weed whacker and he parked the van while he went in to get his stuff out of the kitchen.

John doesn’t think he would have started that van for any other reason if there hadn’t been a fight. Gary probably went inside to get his spatula and they had a rapprochement. The new position of the van was pointed out the driveway instead of tucked safely behind the hedge, and even if Gary would live there for two more years he was never going to feel 100% secure. The van was potentially closer to moving than it was before, and he had changed his superposition to one of motion. The inertia was on the side of Gary's van until it moved, and one day it was going to disappear and John was never going to know why unless he would ask.

Gary having grown up in the neighborhood (RL148)

One of the amazing things about Gary was that you could have multiple conversations with him and he would have no recollection of ever having met you before. He had been living across the street for a couple of years at least, but he introduces himself to John every time and starts to tell him his story: ”Hey man, I am just staying over here for a little while!” - ”Gary, I fucking know who you are. We have talked like 15 times!” In one of those conversations John learned that Gary grew up in that neighborhood three blocks away, and John was dismayed because it can only mean that Gary may never go away. He may move his van around that front yard for 20 more years because he remembers that neighborhood from the 1970s. It is depressing! There are a lot of things that could happen. There are a million stories in the naked city!

Gary shouting about Obama in the middle of the night, John reading him the riot act (RL157)

At the end of May 2015 there was a warm night and Gary was standing outside of his van at 2am, yelling into his phone about how the country is an abomination/Obamanation. At about the 4th or 5th time he said it loud while John was in bed, John had had it, got up, put on his bathrobe and stormed across the street. Gary was standing in the dark behind the laurel hedge and John yelled: ”God damn it Gary! I’m sick of it! I am sick of you over here yelling in your phone and living in the front yard of my neighbor’s house. I’m sick of you drunk son of a bitch! I have got a little kid over here and you are yelling about Obamanation. I am done with you Gary!”

Gary went: "Woooohoooooo!" and John asked: ”Gary, you don’t even know my name, do you?” - ”Jeff?” and John proceeded to read him the riot act for another 20 minutes. Gary had picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue! John dressed him up and down and told him that they have met 40 times and the reason he doesn’t remember John’s name is because he is a god-damn alcoholic. "If you don’t figure out a way to quit drinking and get your shit together, you are going to spend the rest of your life living in this van and that is no way for a man to live!"

Gary's birthday was 1968 and John said: ”I was born in 1968, you and me are the same fucking age! I used to be a dumb alcoholic living in a van and it wasn’t even my van! I don’t even want to know if this is your van!” and Gary mumbled that he had tried to quit drinking 1000 times and John continued: ”1001! Try it 1001 times, because it is 2am out here and you are living in this van. How long have you been living in this van? How long have you been living in the front yard of my neighbor’s house?”

John never let him get a word in, he just fucking unloaded and at the end he was holding him, petting his hair and saying: ”Gary, you can do it! You can change your life, you can get through this and get on down the road. You can get your kids back, you just have to fucking take the first step!” and Hary was blubbering. John continued: ”But in the meantime, fucking stop yelling about Obama in the middle of a god-damn night across the street from my house! If you are going to live in your van, live in your fucking van with the door closed quietly”.

6 days later, John parked his car and Gary was standing there with his hat actually in his hands. He walked across the street and said: ”Hi John! I remember your name! The reason I called you Jeff is because my best friend’s name is Jeff." John replied that he is not interested, but Gary said: ”Ever since our talk three days ago, I haven’t had a single drink!” - ”It was 6 days ago, Gary!” - ”Anyway, when I drink I am an asshole” - ”Yes, you are an asshole when you drink, but unlike me, you are also an asshole when you don’t drink!”

Gary having the cat in his van? (RL167)

One day in August of 2015 Gary's landlordrix came out and yelled at him: ”Gary! Gary! Wake up!” - ”Urgghhhh” John heard the van-door slide open before she continued: ”Is my cat in there?” - ”I don’t even know! What do you…” - ”I told you never to take my cat into your van!” - ”I don’t even know. I don’t think so!” Gary's van is not a big van, but a shorty van, and the two of them were trying to figure out whether her cat was in his van, but they could not tell.

John thinks Gary was playing dumb because the cat was in the van and she yelled at him for 10 minutes about the cat. As soon as he woke up a little bit he started to yell back at her and at one point he said: ”I know one thing, and that is that I don’t know!”, which seemed like something John should write down. Now John was awake and this woke him up in the morning.

She continued: ”You don’t yell at me, Gary!” - ”I just feel like I do all the work around here! Nobody ever gives me any credit!” John was trying to think of a single thing that Gary has ever done that he had ever seen, but he didn’t want to get involved, open his window, stick his head out with his hair curlers, and start waving his pan at him: ”You never did anything around here! You shut up over there!”

Gary having grandfathered himself into the neighborhood, remembering John between conversations (RL192)

Gary grandfathered himself into the neighborhood and in March of 2016 he still lived in his van in the front yard. John would never have guessed that he would stay there this long, he had used all of his psionic power to dismember Gary while he slept, but Gary has matured into a lively character drunk in the neighborhood. He remembers John now and John is his best friend and John has to avoid him now because he is going to strike up a long conversation about Jesus.

Gary is native to the neighborhood, he grew up there, and although John remembers when Gary moved into the van, he might have been sleeping in that front yard already as a teenager.

John starting to feel sympathy for Gary and not planning to call the police on him (RL227)

Once John became good pals with Gary and understood his travails, his sympathy for him kept him from calling the police and from threatening to call the police because he is not a person who wants to threaten to call the police and if you are up to the point when you want to call the police, then call them! If something is suspicious and John is not comfortable with it, he will check it out for himself, and he will only call the police if some people need to be arrested or somebody needs to spend the night in a cell, a clear and present danger.

John didn't even call the police when his next-door neighbor was out in the street firing his pistol in the air because the guy was a reasonable man and some guy had snuck into his daughter’s room and jumped out the window and onto the roof, of course you are going to fire your pistol at a thing like that (see RL47)!

Gary was predictable in his moods and John had more problems with the rooster (see RL167) than with Gary. Gary is yelling things at 1:30am, which is the middle of the day for John, whereas the rooster starts at dawn.

Skeeter died of liver failure (RL192)

In March of 2016 Roscoe / Skeeter died of liver failure. He had lived in the house and was going to marry the matron of the house. She has a generous spirit and is always trying to rescue people and for some reason she rescued these two dingalings. It seems like she knew Skeeter for a long time. John had watched his decline from across the street, it is not pretty, you get bloated and jaundice-y and a couple of times when John was talking to him in the street John told him that he was past the point now and needed to get some help and it was not a joke anymore, but obviously Skeeter knew that. He was about 55, but looked like he was 1000 years old.

Roscoe was called Skeeter because he had a neck tattoo of a giant mosquito sucking blood out of his neck, a shitty tattoo as big as your hand that he got in Kodiak Alaska. John knew he had been working there because there is only one reason for a tattoo like that unless you are from Siberia. John doesn’t believe his real name was Roscoe, it was probably Brian, but nobody knew it because he had been going by Roscoe since back in a time when that seemed cool. John had even started calling him Skeeter to his face, although he didn’t know what was up or down.

Now that Skeeter is gone Gary is top dog! John saw him laughing, walking up and down the street, not that he was celebrating, but he finally felt released from under Skeeter who kept him down. He would tell John in the middle of the night that Roscoe had threatened him with a fish knife, and stories like that, but John didn’t want to hear that because those guys were all bananas. The matron still won’t have Gary in the house, but he has graduated to trusted handyman and he is doing little inconsequential chores like taking out the garbage.

John worries that she will now save some other guy and we reset to young Skeeter. She is a lovely person and John knows that impulse and he is rooting for her. There was a bad time before Roscoe lost his agency where it seemed like he was stripping the place and John was genuinely worried about her. He was a colorful guy and he burned brightly and he went ungently into this good night. John doesn’t want to end up like Skeeter, and nobody does! He also doesn’t want to end up like Gary, and Gary is going to live forever over there, listening to Jethro Tull.

Gary claiming that the Mexican family living next to him messed with his van (RL192)

The house next door where Gary’s Van is parked is a fairly big house where a couple of large Mexican families moved in. They are great neighbors although they have a rooster now, which is driving John crazy and it is awful, but it is a small price to pay because in all the neighborhood they are probably the best neighbors except for this fucking rooster (see RL167).

Gary at one point decided that they were coming over and messing with his van, but they would be the last people to mess with his van. They have a lot of kids, everybody in the house is trying hard, they had a foothold, and they are not going to cause trouble with Gary who had nothing of value to anybody.

At one point in the middle of the night Gary was pacing back and forth on the other side of the fence, shouting slurs into their darkened house when everyone was sleeping: ”Stay out of my van! Stay out of my yard! I know what you are doing!” and John had to go tell him that this was not in keeping with neighborhood standings. It is inhospitable and also: Nobody is messing with his van except for fucking gnomes that he is imagining. Dingaling!

Building a fence around the house where Gary's van is parked in front of (RL227)

John is on good terms with his neighbor who lives in the house with Gary's van in front of it, even more than friendly with her, and she has only very occasionally called him on the phone. During 2016 she had built a fence because she was worried that the neighborhood kids were breaking into their house and stealing stuff, but that was not true and they were either pawning that stuff and forgetting that they were pawning it, or their friends were stealing it.

John had concerns for a long time about the foot traffic in and out of the house. It was sketch-o-rama! But instead of staunching the bleeding by not letting these people come by they built a huge fence across the entire front of their house. The big gate for the car immediately sagged to the point that it couldn’t be opened and they had forgotten to put a human gate and no-one could go in or out, which they didn’t realize until the day the fence was finished and they had to have someone come and put a gate in after the fact.

The person who built the fence was not a fence person, but just a guy in a truck that said: ”We’ll Haul Junk”. He was there one day to haul some junk out of her place and they got into a conversation and he offered her to build a fence. It is a cedar fence, but not an expensively done one. John would come by and say: ”Hmm, you are making good progress on the fence!” and he would turn his attention to John’s house and tell him that he could build him a windmill, and while John is not not interested in having a windmill on his property, that guy was not the guy for it, but John would have a licensed and bonded windmill builder.

After they put up that fence and jerry-rigged a gate into it, all of a sudden a bunch of signs showed up on the fence that said: ”Security cameras in effect”, ”Beware of dog”, ”Don’t beware of dog, beware of owner”, ”Don’t beware of owner, beware of chemtrails”, ”Do not enter”, ”No trespassing”, ”Private property, no parking” They just went to the store and got every sign that said: ”No!” on it and stapled them up all over this fence which really raises the whole look and feel of the neighborhood. They didn’t go as far as a radiation symbol and there is nothing in a foreign language on it. None of the signs says: ”Achtung!”, but only because they didn’t have those at the Lowe’s.

One time she tried to build a bridge over John's river Kwai when she asked him for a loan to build this fence that he now has to stare at all day. She said that she needed to build this fence, it was halfway done, and the junk hauling guy wanted another $1500 to finish it and she needed it finished because the neighborhood kids were coming in the window and were stealing the woofers and tweeters out of her speakers. John said: ”Jamaica, good fences make good neighbors, this is not a good fence, and one other thing that makes good neighbors is not asking neighbors for loans, particularly to finish shit fences” - ”Right!” John would not be giving her the money to finish a thing that he thinks is idiotic.

Other than that they have always been very tight and she has never really called him to say that there was something suspicious, but to say: ”Have you seen my cat?” The cat lives on John’s front porch, which is another thing, but he won’t let John pet him. Every night at 2am when John arrives home with his keys jangling and some box in his arms he is newly startled by this cat leaping out of the dark shadows of his porch and running away from him.

For 5 years he has said: ”Hey, kitty! It is just me! Hi kitty!” and the cat gives him nothing, but he is living on his porch, and when John had the possum (see RL167, JoCo2015), the cat just sat there licking his paws, he wasn’t doing shit around here! She will call John sometimes, saying that she hadn’t seen her cat in a couple of days, but if that cat got taken up a tree by a couple of raccoons John was not going to shed a tear for him.

House-flippers buying the house where Gary's van was parked (RL227)

One day in December of 2016 there was a knock on John's door, which never happens, and he doesn’t like it when it happens, because: "How did you get inside of my gate?" A man and a woman with a very distinctive look were standing on his porch, she was wearing a Washington State Cougars sweatshirt. John went to the University of Washington, he is a Husky, while the Cougars are from the agricultural college from across the state.

Those two were suburban people and John could not tell if they were his age. They seemed older, a married couple wearing college sweatshirts, but they were also clearly living a life of adulthood and became adults earlier than John did. He became an adult somewhere around 41-42, arguably, but they became adults when they were 21. Normally when somebody knocks on the door it is not a white person and just the fact that they were white was unusual, plus they had a Cougar sweatshirt which is generally unusual, and they looked like adults.

She leaned in conspiratorially and said: ”We just bought that house across the street at a police auction! It was foreclosed upon two years ago and they have been living there ever since!", gesturing with her thumb over her shoulder, like: ”What the hay? We just bought this house, what can you tell me about it?” - ”Let’s just say that the signs on the fence are more suggestive of a general mood on the other side of the fence than they are of any actual surveillance dogs, guns, or anything else.

John had done a property record search about the house and he knew that the house had been in foreclosure a long time, but at least in Washington state you can continue to live there. Now times were changing and John didn’t want his neighbor to lose her house. She has family upstate, although they don’t say ”upstate” in Washington, but that is the best definition of it. They don’t say ”The 5” either (for Interstate i5), that is an LA thing.

On the other hand John doesn’t want Gary living in the front yard in his van anymore. Gary is very unpredictable, but also very predictable in that you can predict that every night at 1am he will be standing in the middle of the street, yelling at the moon, and he is mad at the moon because the moon took his kids.” Nothing against him, but if anybody in this neighborhood is yelling at the moon about how it took his kids John wants it to be himself!

John has been deputized by the Cougar lady who has given him her number and asked him to give her a call if anything goes on over there, and now she is on the list of people John was going to call, like the fire department and the Environmental Protection Agency. While they were recording this episode she appeared on the porch again when John was in his underwear, wearing headphones. He took his laptop, his Beecaster microphone, and opened the door and was just standing there in all his glory. Her eyes got wide and she said: ”Are you on the phone?"

She re-deputized him and made it clear again that she wanted John to give her a call if they are moving or stealing the copper plumbing on their way out because she didn’t want it to be one of those situations where there is no wall-board left. She didn’t ask John if he wanted this role, but having had a conversation with her she now considers him an ally. Buying houses and flipping them around was their thing. Her husband was fairly quiet, he is a contractor and they do the work.

This was another indicator that they were grown-ups because what they do as a couple is not to go golfing or to got to Thailand or race cars, but their thing is to buy houses at auctions, fix them up and sell them. What an interesting husband/wife thing! It has to be a hobby: They have to like to go to auctions, they have to know what they are getting into, she surely handles the financials, which is no small potato, and she is the one who knocks on the door and says: ”Hi neighbor, here is the deal, here is our new plan: We are going to work on the house across the street, trying to do a nice job…” while he was just standing there looking at his boots the whole time, thinking to himself: ”I wonder how cheaply I can redo the bathroom!”

He wore contractor supervisor clothes, he is licensed and bonded, and he doesn’t wear a tool belt anymore, but when work is getting done he is not above swinging a hammer. He is a small independent contractor, but he is definitely on the up-and-up with the city and the county, he is not doing it under the table, but he is a straight shooter.

John didn’t see their car, but he is 100% sure it was a Dodge Ram 2500. If you see a Dodge Ram 1500, it could just be a regular person, it is the equivalent of an Ford F150, a consumer pickup truck, a halv-ton, but a Dodge 2500 Diesel truck is a working truck. You have chosen the Dodge because it communicates less flibbity-gibbity and more: ”I am going to work here and this truck communicates that I am a work person!”

But John's neighbor will move out it is going to happen in the middle of the night. Unlike that one time when John was living in the apartment with the rat where he was taking all the light bulbs (see RL218), which was just bratty and churlish, she is not going to do that because there is not that much market for second-hand light bulbs.

Gary being evicted from his van (RL237)

In March of 2017, while Gary et al were still in their full flower, a moving truck pulled up at the house across the street, parked so close to the fence that it blocked the gate, and stayed there for two days. At one point John was about to leave his house, but he could hear Gary out in the street and he didn’t want to deal with neither Gary nor the moving truck. He went out his back door, snuck around the perimeter, went in his truck and started it up.

It was only 20 feet (6 m) from Gary who was standing by the moving van giving the movers some advice and because the truck takes about 12 minutes to warm up and has a very distinctive exhaust note John was waiting for Gary to come over and knock at the window, but Gary didn’t notice John until his truck was in motion because he has special eyes and his tongue can feel the heat. Maybe he is like a dinosaur and as long as you stand still, he can’t see you. Only as John was pulling out and driving away was Gary walking toward the truck, yelling ”Hey! Ho! John’s truck! It is moving!” or whatever.

As the moving truck drove away, the gate and the front door of the house had been left wide open. Three cars pulled up right in through the fence like at the end of Road Warrior where The Humungus and his gang finally have access to the oil refinery. The Washington State Cougars Repossession League, the house flippers, all piled out of their cars, staring at the thing and John waited for it to blow up. John hasn’t given them names yet, it is probably Brandy Wine or something, because people who go to Washington State University are all named like Brandon. Later John could hear clanks and bonks from stuff getting thrown in dumpsters.

A couple had bought the house, but the lady and presumably Gary continued to live there. The flippers were putting the arm on John to provide intel to what was happening over there and they left notes in various colored paper, like legal "Vacate these premises!" The first time John's new neighbors came over was two days before Christmas. John doesn’t have any particular dog in the race, but was that the last he will ever see of Gary? It can’t be! Gary in his rear view mirror, going ”Truck! Truck!”

John kept waiting for his new neighbors to come over, knock on the door and either ask for a screw driver or more likely ask to store 50 boxes in John’s barn, but they were just gone. There was never a situation where the two parties were in the house at the same time. The Washington State Cougar House Flipping Guild was over there and John could see by their body language that the former tenants had left some stuff that the new owners didn’t want in the house. John didn't know if he was going to get a call by his former neighbors, telling him that they moved out because John really liked that lady and she had his phone number.

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