When we moved into our house (in 2005!), the next door neighbors (the Isaacs — dad, son, and occasional visiting grandson) had lived there for like 30 years. They were awesome. They would tell us stories about the time our house was a crackhouse and they would sit on the front porch arguing about which of them had better weed. The son would watch loud satan-sounding action movies upstairs with the windows open while I would work in the yard. The dad drove a cab for Taxi Latino (they had a soccer ball on the cabs), which was very convenient for going to beer fest because we could just call him up and be like hey, it’s your neighbors, wanna drive us to the Convention Center?
They were great neighbors, but eventually they moved. (As dad-Isaac said, now that there’s two houses of white people on the block, it’s time to sell. This was very smart because he got a great price for that house, which plummeted in value shortly thereafter.) Some cousins of theirs moved in for a while, and they were cool too. Eventually they left and were followed by two sets of people (the house used to be divided into two units, upstairs and downstairs) who, as best I can tell, all worked for some day labor place that, in exchange for them working for ridiculously low wages, gave them this place to live. There were tons of people living in the house. Most of them were cool, like the older guy who would sit out front reading inserts from the newspaper, or even the guy with the rattail who peed in the yard, but some of them weren’t so cool, like the guys who got in a fight one night that resulted in a beer bottle being thrown through our back window. That was fun.
Anyway, the guys who lived upstairs during this time, which my dog Coltrane would refer to as The Golden Era When All Those Awesome Guys Lived Next Door, used to hang out on the balcony and throw Coltrane chicken bones with remnants of some kind of chili on them. This made Coltrane, as you might imagine, more happy than he has ever been at any other time in his life. I know I’ve used the Romeo and Juliet metaphor earlier in this blog, I think when referring to watching Colorado Rockies relief pitchers in the bullpen (This is true. It happened here. -ed.), but seriously, it’s even more true here. Coltrane : Romeo :: the chicken-bone-throwing guys next door : Juliet. It was a beautiful summer romance. Coltrane filled his days with the following activities: eating chicken bones, standing in the back yard staring at the balcony of the house next door, and having the shits. Ben would tell the guys next door to stop giving our dog chicken bones because it gave him the shits, but I don’t know if they did.
Eventually the bank foreclosed and somebody came and locked the bottom unit (but not the top, I think because they didn’t know where the entrance was or some stupid shit). So everybody lived upstairs for a while and eventually something went terribly wrong with the overloaded plumbing, which resulted in sewage and shit seeping into the arms’ length alley (our property) that separates our house from that house. We had to call some city inspector on that shit. Eventually everybody left and the house was vacant for at least a year. This was the era I would refer to as the time guys peed in the yard for a while and eventually the weeds took over and feral cats came to roost, which drove our other dog crazy as she wiled away her days with her nose poking through the dilapidated fence (since replaced) gazing at those assholes who are just hanging out over there OMGCATS woof woof woof yip yip yip yipyipyipyipyipyip. YIP!
For weeks after the tenants left the premises, Coltrane stood like a jilted lover, gazing lovingly at the balcony, waiting for his true love to emerge and throw him chili-encrusted chicken bones so he could eat them and then have the shits. It was kind of disturbing, actually, to see the dog in the yard, just standing there staring at an empty house. But that’s what he did.
Eventually he, like all jilted lovers, got over it and moved on with his life. He focused on new things like eating cat poo, licking peanut butter out of his Kong, barking at shit for no reason, getting agitated about fireworks (for the love of God why must everybody in the hood spend the entire summer shooting off fireworks), and doing normal things dogs do. Eventually, people came and looked at the house, but deal after almost-deal fell through because of things like foundation issues and, well, possibly the fact that there was raw sewage lingering somewhere in there. Seriously, that shit was gross.
Eventually, somebody bought the house and fixed it up (I am so, so, so happy we live in a hood where people buy houses and fix them up instead of buying houses, tearing them down, and replacing them with behemoth hideous duplexes that take up almost the entire lot and dwarf the surrounding houses, because that shit just pisses me right off). The balcony was removed during this process. Coltrane soldiered on, as dogs are wont to do.
Today there are new people living in the house next door. They’re nice. They ride bikes and take cabs and stuff. They don’t have a balcony and have never, to the best of my knowledge, thrown a chili-covered chicken bone over the beautiful new fence for Coltrane.
But I shit you not, ever since they first grilled something in the back yard the other day, Coltrane has been staring over there, waiting to be reunited with his love. You can even catch him gazing up where the balcony used to be, which now is just empty space outside the master bedroom window. There’s not even a kitchen up there any more. Right now, as I write this, he’s staring at the fence, wondering why these people aren’t throwing him something delicious to eat that will give him the shits.