Monday, August 14, 2006

Your Next Door Neighbor Is An Environment

What G.K. Chesterton (1) actually said was, "Your next-door neighbour is not a man; he is an environment. He is the barking of a dog; he is the noise of a pianola; he is a dispute about a party wall; he is drains that are worse than yours, or roses that are better than yours."(2)

He is also the man who awakens with the dawn, hawks up his first loogie, bellows "GOD DAMMIT!" and then proceeds to exercise his residential rights in clearing 40 years of black lung disease so that he can sit by his first floor window all day, glaring out over the common courtyard, screaming, YOU DAMN KIDS GET OFF THE GRASS!" (3)
That was the last neighbor I had while I lived in an apartment. The first were this young couple living under me (within these allegedly thick-walled rooms). The husband was obsessed (4) with "Thus Spake Zarathustra," (which was used as music in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, but was also the opening theme music at Elvis' shows.) (5)

He has a passion for this music. He'd crank it up. He wouldn't play the whole song, but only the opening bars with the horns blaring and the kettle drums pounding: Dumm, dumm, dumm, dumm, dumm. Then he'd start it again. And again, and again, and again, and...well you get the drift. This wasn't an occasional thing. It was daily. I used to try to visualize him down there: wearing a bath towel as a cape, strutting around, pretending he was in Vegas and saying "thenk yew verah much," (6) or curled up naked and natally on the floor, pretending to be drifting in space. The couple moved; back to California. YAY! And took the big dog! YAY! And their newborn, squalling child. YAYAYAYAYAY!

Three college boys moved in. Their favorite thing was playing basketball in the living room...on bare wood all hours of the day and night. Dude! SCORE!

Now you know why I live in a house.

(1) Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was an influential English writer of the early 20th- century. His prolific and diverse output included journalism, poetry, biography and Christian apologetics, but today he is probably best remembered for his Father Brown short stories.

(2) Which may well be, as far as the roses go, because they refuse to thrive in my heavily shaded yard. I gave all of them to neighbors with sunnier spots, including a climbing yellow rose called Golden Showers (whose name continues to tickle me in my infantile humor) in the yard next door.

(3) The man really existed and may continue to do so. My friends and I took to calling him "Mean Mr. Mustard" after a Beatles' song, and it stuck. He had a dour, frowning face, equal with his temperament, and his wife lived in those snap-fronted floral-printed housedresses. He was once quoted as saying, "It makes you numb. Like Jack Daniels."

(4) Obssessed with this song the way Hitler might be said to be obsessed with Wagner. Adolf Hitler's admiration for Wagner began at the age of 12 when he attended his first opera, a performance of Rienzi in Linz in 1901. Hitler's passion for Wagner is discussed in some detail in Frederic Spott's fascinating study Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics, published in 2002. Hitler also came to love Lehar (after first dismissing his operettas,) but Wagner was Hitler's musical mania. Spotts writes that Hitler attended more than a hundred performances of Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. According to his press chief, Otto Dietrich, Hitler knew Die Meistersinger by heart and could hum or whistle all its themes. I read this passage to a friend, and he said that perhaps if Hitler had been able to sing, he could have performed in operas and satisified his need for costumes, grandeur, pageantry, and drama, saving everyone a lot of trouble and grief.

(5) Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss not only crops up in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and Elvis' entrance music, but is used by many including professional wrestler Ric Flair and as opening music for the group's Green Day and The Dave Matthews Band. During the Boston Red Sox 2005 Opening Day ceremony, members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops played this piece while a huge banner proclaiming "World Series 2004 Champions" dropped from the top of the Green Monster and covered nearly all of the 37-foot-high wall.

(6) Contrary to popular opinion, Elvis' jumpsuits were not made of polyester, but rather a lightweight, imported wool and were designed by Bill Belew. Belew worked on Elvis' personal wardrobe from 1968 until Elvis' death in 1977. Elvis' jumpsuits could not be cleaned. You could not even hand wash them as it would damage the fabric and jeweled studding. So, according to legend, at the end of a show, when Elvis was all sweated up (and toward the end, he really got sweaty,) the King would dump half a bottle of Brut aftershave all over the suit to mask the smell. Given his penchant for the martial arts, I'm surprised he didn't use Hai Karate cologne (7).

(7) I know I'm being a total brat making a footnote within a footnote, but I couldn't resist. Hai Karate cologne was a fragrance popular during the 1970's. Each bottle was packaged with a guide for self-defense so that men could protect themselves from the hordes of women it promised to attract.

*For triggering this memory, thanks to Fictional Rockstar.


Blogger Phil said...

The King knows his colognes.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

He sure does, Phil. I knew you'd appreciate that. We all know how The Playaz set the tone in the fashion industry and make products their own. To wit: The Kangol.

1:31 PM  
Blogger playfulinnc said...

Wagner is quite good IF you put on wrestling and turn the sound off the tv. Crank up the Wagner, and you have instant comedy.

(My parents let me play alone due to these tendencies.)

3:42 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

This "Snorting the Diet Coke Out Of Your Nose Moment" was brought to you by Playful.

3:46 PM  
Blogger avocadoinparadise said...

lol. The bit about the neighbor replaying Thus Spoke Zarathustra was very funny. I can imagine just sitting upstairs rolling my eyes as you were, and being superhappy when he moved out.

My neighbor likes to sing along loudly to oldies by the supremes, bob segar, that type of thing, but thankfully not constantly.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Ellocin: Yeah, I guess it reads funny, but the not so funny thing is that it's the truth, and it was a repetitive daily act, so it wore thin REAL fast...not forgetting the German Shepherd barking and newborn baby yowling, thrown in the mix. The day they stopped me outside and said, "Guess what? We're moving back to California," inside I was making tiny ^5's and going "YEEESSS!!!!"

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Sweet said...

I should consider myself blessed, so far I've been lucky. Maybe I'm due for a nutjob soon?

4:07 PM  
Blogger Momentary Academic said...

I'm so glad that these are just memories now. No more noisy neighbors. I would like my noisy neighbors to be a memory...

9:10 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Sweet: Cross your eyes, spit and throw salt you don't get bad neighbors.

Momentary: I didn't get into it, but moving into a house didn't end neighbor problems. It just gave me more distance from them. Not all have been bad, but some have been doozies. I really did move out of the apartment because things just kept going downhill. I didn't even mention the crazy lady downstairs with eight cats and three dogs--all there illegally, of course.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous TravelGirlDC said...

Our downstairs neighbor blares Mariah Carey every Saturday morning for some god forsaken reason. Maybe he is cleaning in the nude. Stomping on the floor has done nothing to stop the problem. I wish I had a house!

9:48 AM  
Anonymous drew said...

"Can you Canoe?" Uggh -- I always hated 70's colognes! My dad kept (aka: never wore) all his gifts, and accumulated quite the stomach turning collection. *shudder*

For noisy neighbors, I have quite a few stories -- but if you want to know about the illegal arms-dealer who pulled a gun on me one day, that's another story. No -- this story was oddly enough in the same apartment in South Florida, however. (Side note: I saw MY APARTMENT on “C.O.P.S.” three times -- never as a featured destination, but in fly-by shots.) Apparently a group of South American immigrants moved in directly upstairs. They attempted ONE evening to have a flamenco dance party. This might have been forgivably annoying during "human" hours, but this impromptu party began around 4 AM. Clearly illegal, clearly in poor taste, and clearly a young Drew and his roommates, fresh out of college were not going to sit idly by (nor act terribly responsibly) in respose.

I was living with my band at the time. We did a quick setup of our band equipment and gave them 800 watts of retaliatory "Bella Lugosi's Dead" with the Peavey speakers pointing straight up from the sofa's (so as to "dampen" the noise beneath us -- but we also knew that tenant worked nights, so we were at least THAT considerate) and that lasted for all of about ... 2 minutes? The light fixtures shook; the lights literally sagged with the load of the amps. It felt like longer than 2 minutes, but we really didn't even repeat the chorus more than twice. Needless to say their dancing stopped, their music turned off, and they scattered. Oddly we NEVER heard another peep from those tenants EVER again!

Elvis, the King, may be dead, but Bella Luguosi is even dead-er. "Bauhaus has LEFT the building!"

10:43 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Travel: I would not be able to take Mariah Saturdays.

Drew: Wow. I feel like we need to footnote your comment: C.O.P.S., Canoe, Peavey Speakers, Bela Lugosi, Bauhaus.

11:40 AM  
Blogger mysterygirl! said...

Those neighbors are weirder than any I have had! Still, I think about how thin my walls are every time I hear my next door neighbor hocking up snot in the shower. I hope that they can't hear me pooping with such clarity (not that I have bodily functions or anything).

I worry that sometimes I am a bad neighbor-- I have hardwood floors and tend to pace while I talk on the phone. Hopefully I don't sound like a herd of elephants.

2:29 PM  
Blogger cuff said...

Wagner and Hitler had similar feelings regarding Jews, which by the way is why Nietzsche -- author of among other things Also Sprach Zarathustra the book not the music -- broke with Wagner after first being a rather great fan.

Are you saying the King rewore his sweaty jumpsuits for other shows, or did he just douse them in cologne to get through that night's show?

3:49 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Mystery: Just don't pace wearing stilettos...they will clickety clack.

Cuff: Regarding Elvis and his jumpsuits, I was puzzled reading that comment, and I found it when I was researching the men who created his outfits. You would "think" they could be dry cleaned, but a man who would eat peanut butter, banana and bacon on fried bread is capable of anything, I guess.

Now I'll tell you a funny about that Wagner/Hitler reference point. The day I posted this piece I decided to check my site meter, which is something I don't usually do, and I had a TON of hits out of Germany. I had to laugh, including several from Bayreuth, and you know the history behind that, I am sure. I mean...what on earth were they looking for? You have to wonder. I am sure I disappointed them.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Stef said...

The day after I moved into this apartment, a new guy moved in next door. A very attractive French guy named David. He and I started chatting a bit as we were both hauling loads of stuff up and down the elevator. At some point he said something like "You like art? I should have you over sometime to drink wine and talk about art." In a French accent, it sounded a lot less cheesy. But I said no, cuz I'm not the kinda girl who just strikes up random things like that with a neighbor.

But then as the months went by, I used to hear his very vigorous, very frequent, and very... ahem... results-producing...! sexual escapades at all hours of the day and night. My bedroom and his bedroom shared a very thin wall. And it was very clear that he was a man with talent.

Damn, I should've taken him up on his offer! ;-)

10:34 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Lovely memories, Cube! Oy vey. I've had really bizarre neighbors in many locations, too - haven't we all? Though I try not to, I always have to wonder ... what's going on behind the closed doors?

We're packed in very close together here on Tennessee Ave., but since we're all good friends, it's easier to be tolerant of the neighbors having another screaming fight, or turning up the tortured flamenco music to eleven, whatevah. The barking dogs, the slamming of doors .. it's part of living in such close proximity. Here on this street, we're all so good at apologizing for our eccentricities. The "correct response" to any sincere apology is, "We didn't hear a thing." We all say this to each other, everyone knows it's a lie, but such a sweet, forgiving lie, isn't it?

10:16 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Reya: I hear ya. I was talking to friends about this piece, swapping more horror stories, and of course I didn't write about everything I've been through viz a viz "neighbors." A lot of allowances have to be made...obviously.

10:45 AM  
Blogger sparkles anonymous! said...

I love me some Thus Spake, and not in an ironic or sarcastic way. Give me bombast or give me death!

12:38 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

I'll tell ya, Miss Sparkles, it has it's place, definitely. There's a reason so many music groups are using it to open their shows. You can't get more dramatic.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Judith HeartSong said...

thanks for multiple grins this am.


6:56 AM  
Anonymous hedonisticplreasureseeker said...

I have a new neighbor who is either reaaaaaaaaaallly friendly or he's a peeping tom. Fun Fun!

Gives me something to blog about.

12:09 PM  
Blogger honeykbee said...

Carl perkins wrote Blue Suede Shoes?! Whoa... learn something new everyday. Nice.

My downstairs neighbor plays something loud and thumpy whenever they vaccuum (which, thankfully is not often). Complaints are met by "it's part of apartment living" and doors being slammed in my face. Oh how i LOVE people!

3:23 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Add to Technorati Favorites