Sunday, it appears, was a bell weather day for inter-neighbor communication.  After the “blocking the trashcan route” event, not an hour later as I was lugging groceries from my car, I saw my neighbor to the east walking down the sidewalk.  She was waving her arm at me as if she wanted to say hello.  Or impart some vital neighborhood information.  So I set the groceries down on the trunk and waited for her to come within a comfortable conversational range. (Eight feet is your maximum distance by architectural design standards.)

“So I’m not sure if that tree is on your property or mine” she began. 

Did I know instantly where this was going?  Absolutely!  The “tree” she was referring to is a ten foot tall “woody shrub” that sprouts every year, grows quickly and spreads its foliage out in a 5 foot circle (more or less).  I used to cut it down each spring but then my house-mate suggested last year to allow it to grow (after all it is an attractive if odd-shaped tree-shrub and sports dark red berries in the fall).  “Indeed. All a part of God’s creation” I responded a bit sardonically.

I couldn’t help but smirk just a tad since this is the young lady (33 would be my guess) who complained about my tomato plants “invading” her front yard last summer.  She was right of course because I had no idea that without restraint my potted tomato plants would keep on spreading like so much duckweed in a sewage pond.  But they did. I did trim them back and by way of atonement for my lax gardening transgressions offered her all tomatoes that might ripen in her front yard airspace.

Now you have to know that when I moved into the neighborhood three and a half  years ago, her front yard looked like an abandoned feedlot.  Even when her mother came up from Memphis one weekend and re-planted it, in a month it had devolved into a scraggly patch of thriving weeds and energetic kudzu.  Yes, I’m sure she’s a very busy individual although I have no idea what she does.   But she wears that smug look of genetic entitlement that I’ve seen on not a few of my White neighbors.  (Although, in truth, far, far fewer in my present location than when I lived a couple of blocks from the House Office buildings.)

Me, on the other hand, I took it upon myself in my rented digs to remove about half a foot of construction debris that passed for “soil” in my front yard, plant half a dozen pink Knock Out rose bushes on the north side of my sidewalk and create an herb garden on the other side.  The tomato plant “controversy” was during my second year of residence when I decided to discontinue what had been my herb garden (it just didn’t thrive) and see how vegetables in pots would do.  I have to be honest and say that I really had no idea that they would attempt to invade the entire neighborhood for reasons that certainly remain a mystery to me today. (Is there a leaking sewer pipe underneath?)

So as we stood on the sidewalk “discussing” my transgression of allowing my “tree” to overhang her property, it reminded me of a similar incident last year with one of my neighbors who resides in a small condo apartment building in back of us.  In fact, not similar, but exactly the same.  My response to this prior incident was:  District law provides for the removal of overhanging branches even though the offending tree is on adjacent property, as it does in most places that I know of around the country.   I also told the guy that since it wasn’t my property I had no legal authority to cut down the offending tree but would notify my landlord of the situation.  Which I did.   Oh, and another note about the previous incident:  the guy bringing me his concerns arrived at my front door one morning with his large pit bull in tow.  (Preceding him would be more accurate. But that’s a minor detail.) Now, and not to make any aspersive comments about the man, but bringing what is a scary animal along with your complaint is not – to my occasionally warped way of thinking – a really great and wonderful way to cement neighborly relationships and communication.  But that’s just me. 

As for my front yard neighbor? 

I promised that I would trim the “tree-shrub” if it grew too “large.”  (Did I purposely use the term “large” since it is such a relative term?  How absurd!  OF COURSE NOT!) 

This morning I noticed that my “two-doors down” neighbor’s car was still parked in front of my house.  Wednesdays are street cleaning days here between 9:30 and 11:30 AM.  Now the District Government may be a bit lax about  the provision of certain other “public services” but not when it comes to towing offending vehicles off C Street during street cleaning time.  It happens almost every week.  I was reading the paper on my front porch when I saw that it was 9:20.

So I went over and rang her doorbell, she answered, I told her what was up.  What was her response?  Well, she thanked me profusely and said she had lost track of time (she’s a consult to the nuclear industry and works mainly out of her home) and that we needed to catch up on neighborhood news since we hadn’t chatted since I came back from India. This as she was running around inside to find her car keys.

Should I take this as a sign that there is hope for the future of the human race?  Well, maybe not.  But on the other hand, at least one of my neighbors actually “gets” the concept of neighborliness! 

Have a good day!


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