Last night, daughter Jess had an occasion to make a wish. Wife Brenda asked her what it was. (No superstition at our house.) Jess said, “I wished I was rich and in a Jacuzzi.”
Our poor underprivileged child. The only whirlpooling she gets is when she sits down in one of our old claw-foot tubs and makes the water spin around her own self. I guess it’s just a matter of time before some jack-booted social workers kick down our door and take her away from us.
Jess’ hardware envy will only get worse after this weekend’s neighborhood home tour. Yesterday, a neighbor told me that at least two tour houses have bathrooms suitable for Roman orgies, tricked out with all kinds of giant swirly tubs, multi-nozzle showers, fireplaces, mood lights, and piped-in opera music. This description came from a woman who, just a few years ago, bought her house from a shyster loan company, and spent the first year raking pop-tops and spark plugs out of the front yard. The place had been occupied by “redneck goobers,” she said. And of course, since I was then the editor of the neighborhood newsletter, I quoted her out of context, just for kicks.
The next day, her neighbor charged up onto her porch, and said, “They might have been redneck goobers, missy, but they was good people!”
No doubt. After 15 years here, I’ve found all the neighbors to be good people. In this neighborhood, where the sidewalks connect all the front porches, where you can pass pots from your dining room to your neighbor’s, we’ve had to make ourselves into an extended family. We tend to take an interest in the whole neighborhood, and not just hide out in our own little quarter-acre.
For instance, neighbor Ted has adopted the seedy I-440 right-of-way, which Metro stopped mowing a few years ago after one of the Public “Worse” bubbas bush-hogged a dozen neighbor-planted treeswhich were roughly the size of grown menand the bubba said he didn’t see. Last week, Ted had a guest, Chris, visit from the Shetland Islands. Chris is a talented stonemason, so Ted and Chris salvaged some roadside limestone, and Chris built a beautiful stacked-stone wall along the I-440 right-of-way.
Neighbors Buddy and Ellen have aided Ted’s landscaping schemes by lending him their old beater pickup truck. (You know you love a neighbor when you let him drive your pickup truck.) The truck comes with some strings attached, though, and the last time Ted borrowed it, the deal was that the truck had to be home by 5 o’clock.
Five o’clock came and went. No truck.
Late that evening, Buddy’s pager went off. The message, from Ted, started out, “Buddy, you’re not gonna believe this....”
Turns out Ted had used the truck to go fetch his car from a repair shop, and he had left the truck in the repair shop’s parking lot. Later, when Ted caught a ride back to the shop, the place was locked up. Ted, not one to give up easily, got through the fence and found the watchman. “I gotta take this truck,” he said urgently.
Watchman said, “How do I know it’s your truck?”
Ted, tired and disheveled from an afternoon of wall-building, and probably not looking his most credible, replied, “Well, it’s not really my truck. It’s my neighbor’s truck.”
“Uh-huh,” watchman says. “So there wouldn’t be any registration or anything in it that might match your ID?”
“Well, no,” Ted told the truth. “But I really need to take it. It’s overdue.”
“Can’t let you have it,” watchman says.
Ted had caught on by this time, and he tried one last appeal. “Listen, if I wanted to break in here and steal a truck, would I pick this one? It’s got a bed full of frozen catalpa beans. I can’t even haul anything in it!”
Watchman held his ground; the truck had to spend the night in jail.
You’ve got to love a home tour in a place where the neighbors have bonded, the trees are tall, the sidewalks are wide, and sweet little kids have lemonade stands set up every few feet. Y’all come and donate to Jess’ Jacuzzi fund.
The Richland-West End Home Tour takes place 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat., 1-5 p.m. Sun. Go to West End and Bowling and follow the signs. Call 298-1810 for details.
Walter Jowers may be reached at Walter.Jowers@nashville.com