A PRETTY GOOD PLUMBER, TOO

This isn’t a friendly town. People fraternize with the people who attend their church and seem to regard anyone else as potentially hostile.

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Of course we didn’t know that when we moved here. We knew that it was a very white town, that Garry was likely to be the first (only) person of color, and I might well be the first (only?) Jew. In fact, apparently well-intentioned people said stuff like “Gee, I’ve never known a Jewish person before” and honestly didn’t see anything wrong with this. Meanwhile, Garry got stares. No way to know if they were staring because they’d seen him on TV or because he’s brown. Both?

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Our situation was made even more complicated by our neighbor, Ned. A big guy. Rode a Harley. I love Harleys, but there are Harleys and then, there are Harleys. This one was chopped and really loud. When Ned started his bike, the vibration alone could knock me out of bed.

Ned was massive. Tattooed. He hung with a bunch of skin-head friends. They had raucous parties with lots of beer. We didn’t expect to be invited, nor did these seem to be our kind of party.

picture of snow all white

Ned flew a Confederate flag over his house. Prominently. We learned he’d always done this. It was part of some family roots thing tying him to his original home state of Georgia. Me? I think it’s time the south moved on. The war ended a more than a century ago. Time to get over it. But I’m from New York so I probably don’t understand.

Our neighbor’s house was the only one in the Valley flying a confederate flag and we were the only mixed-race couple in town. Ironic, to say the least. And we were a poster couple for hate groups.

black jockey racist statue

Garry is pragmatic and tough. His mild-mannered demeanor belies his Marine Corps interior (semper fi, and note I did not say “former Marine” because there’s no such thing as a former Marine). Moreover, he couldn’t have survived 40-years as a reporter without being tough.

One fine summer’s day, music screaming from Ned’s boombox, Garry looked at me and murmured those fighting words: “This is ridiculous!”

He marched down the driveway, through the woods that join our two houses, to Ned’s front door. Garry knocked. Loudly. When Ned finally answered, Garry said: “Hi. I’m your neighbor. Garry Armstrong. Do we have a problem?”

Shortly the flag disappeared along with a noxious black jockey statue. Turned out, Ned was a plumber. He fixed our bathroom pipes. The whole skinhead thing dissolved in the face of a brown-skinned guy who did news on Boston TV. Seemed it was less important who Ned was than who Ned, with a little encouragement, was willing to become.

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Eventually Ned got into drugs. Or something. We were never sure what. His wife left. His life fell apart. One day, he vanished. Fortunately, he returned our extension ladder before going.

I miss Ned. No one fixed pipes like Ned and we really need some plumbing work. He always gave us a huge discount.

He turned out to be a funny guy and a pretty good neighbor. Who’d have thunk it?



Categories: Anecdote, Home, Humor, Photography, Relationships

Tags: , , , , , ,

22 replies

  1. One can never find a good plumber so to find one next door – wow. I have a good electrician who lives across the street, but I’m in need of a plumber and can’t find one except for the big guys. So, if Ned comes back I may need to see if he makes house calls to NH. 🙂

    Like

  2. That sounds like a good plot for a book or even a play.
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a great story- the whole thing- the fact that you and Garry end up living next door to the likes of Ned is ironic to say the least. But look how it did change him. Sad ending. Both for him and your pipes

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You were lucky. It seems you can choose your friends, but not relations or neighbours. However, it must have been interesting to watch the comings and goings, and even Ned had his good side. We have a neighbour and still searching for her good side, but luckily do not see her very often.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have quite a lot of space between us and neighbors, so no matter how awful they might be (and so far, the worst they have been is annoying), they aren’t in your face. It’s the biggest plus to living out here, that you have a lot of space between you and the world. We say hi when we see each other, but that’s pretty much it. Oh, and we return each others’ dogs when they get loose.

      Like

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