Neighbors

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Getting to know the neighbors can be daunting. It seems that in the poorer neighborhoods people mingle a lot better than they do in the more affluent ones, and I’ve been in both. Berry Creek, in Georgetown, Texas was the upper end of the top end. Even the “garden homes” would shame most of the homes in my native Killeen. Now, to be sure, I was certified white trash. I grew up in a little town in Texas called Simmonsville, later absorbed by Killeen. We were so poor that the people on welfare were the cream of society because they had a check. That put them right up there with the civil service in the eyes of the little town.

So, as luck would have it, I won the real estate lottery, and the Beverly Hillbillies moved to Berry Creek. We ended up owning three homes there. My hand would literally shake as I wrote the checks for the mortgages each month. Our homes sat on the golf course, the main house, a recreation of Elvis’s Graceland,was positioned on the twelfth green. I was a gold member of the Berry Creek Country Club, with unlimited golf privileges. Please note that I can’t hit a golf ball, but I can drink beer, and drive a golf cart like nobody’s business.

We had NO contact with the neighbors. Their shorts were in such a knot that it amazed me they could go to the bathroom. Since my roots were back in Killeen, and my friends couldn’t afford the gas for the fifty mile trip to what was basically North Austin, nobody came a calling. When we went to the club for dinner we sat at a large, round table. No one sat near us. We were the turds in the swimming pool. (They didn’t like us going to the pool, either!)

As luck would have it, I ended up divorced, living in the main house alone. I had this friend in L.A. Lance had met me on YouTube. I admired his videos. Lance was, well is, a video genius. He did it all. He used Final Cut Pro, and was a wiz at blending story, sound, and special effects. He had this dream of coming to Texas. One day I got a call. He wasn’t COMING to Texas, he as IN Texas. Right down the street at the bus station. He had no idea how hot it was here so I had to rush to pick him up before he had a heat stroke. Poor guy showed up in a leather jacket during the summer. Hey, he’s from SoCal, ok?

After he settled in we hung out on the porch and got to know each other. Now, this guy is like Bob Denver from Gilligan’s Island, complete with the Dixie Cup sailor’s cap, and he even played a flute. My son, and his wife, Jackie moved in along about this time, and we had a rather comfortable little group. About a week or so after he arrived, Lance received a package that he had mailed himself from California prior to hopping on the bus. Several quart jars of his “prescription” to help him get through the summer. After we saw him unpack we just waited for the cops to show up. I’ll never understand how Lance got away with that. While I, myself, do not partake, suffice to say everybody else did, including the cat, and in short order the house on the twelfth green became the Yellow Submarine. This was a very laid back group. We didn’t mind that the neighbors didn’t have anything to do with us, we barely noticed that there were other HOUSES in the area.

One Sunday afternoon we were setting up a cookout on the back lawn. We put meat on the grill, I got beer, wine, and cheese, and we commenced our own private party as the golfers played through. My son and I looked up, and here came Lance with a water pipe I’d gotten from Afghanistan. And brothers and sisters, he was open for business. My son rushed over and let him know that he WAS in Texas, and law enforcement frowned on such action, whereupon, Lance corrected the situation by returning to the house, and emerging with a bowl. Not the bowl you think, but a real BOWL! A soup bowl you could put an entire serving of Campbell’s soup into. Like the Lord said, “Filled and pressed down!”

As the golfers played through, Lance fired up, and enjoyed the view. I jumped off into a pitcher of martinis, and I must admit, the view wasn’t bad. As luck would have it, it wasn’t long before the smell permeated the atmosphere, and drew the attention of two rather distinguished looking gentlemen who drove their cart right up onto the lawn to inquire as to just what did wet think we were doing. They  had a bottle! Well, there was no getting out of this. Lance, being Lance, simply showed them the bowl, and then astounded me by asking them if they’d like to “hang out!” As I tried to construct my legal defense, to my amazement, they sat down. Lance rolled a “Fat Boy,” and passed it around.

Then another golf cart showed up . . . and another . . . and another, until we had a lawn full if people I’d never met in my eight years at Berry Creek. There was also a traffic jam on the twelfth, with a couple of carts just going in circles. The course Marshall didn’t mind because he was sitting with Lance! The day melted into the evening, and soon it was gone, as if it never happened. Lance went home after that, but he left his mark. I go there now and then, pause in front of the house on Oak Tree Drive, and wonder what became of all those people. What I do know is on one Sunday afternoon, for a little while, we were all neighbors.

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