Friday, February 17, 2012

Why I Live Here

The sign at either end of town reads 'Sumas: A Nice Place To Live...And Do Business'.  My house is the first thing you see right after you pass that sign, and I try to keep the place looking nice. So it was that  I came to be outside yanking weeds last Summer when a couple of bicyclists came riding past reading the sign to each other in snarky voices and laughing.  I flipped them off and said 'Yeah, keep on riding, assholes' as they passed. They had the nerve to look astonished.  But I was hurt, y'all.  Snotty fucking bicyclists and their snotty fucking attitudes.  Keep pedalling your kids' toy right on out of town and don't let a combine hit you on the way out, dipshits.  We wouldn't have you.

Is it perfect here?  Depends on your definition.

The wind through here can reach hurricane force in Spring and Fall, and does so often. If you have a metal shed, you either tie it down or you watch it fly away like the Wicked Witch. On the other hand, snow doesn't stay around for long, since it never really gets a chance to touch the ground.

There are times that it smells like you're living in a cow butt.  Silage, flattened skunk, aged dairy pee and rotting cole add to the symphony of delicious aromas on certain still, humid days.

We have weird next-door neighbors.  They live in a tottering house just barely visible behind a tangle of un-mowed grass and overgrown shrubs and trees.  (Migrating birds love this jungle and I've added seven new species to my life list just by looking out my kitchen window at their yard.)  The neighbors hoard animals. Rats seem to be their favorites. Occasionally those tame rats come over to visit and to amble around in my flowerbeds and lick their butts in my front yard. The daughter likes to argue loudly with the pear tree, and occasionally on nice nights she comes out onto the back porch and screams gibberish.  Perfectly nice woman in her right mind, as is her mother, who I haven't seen in two years. We haven't seen the father in over five.

I've had worse neighbors.  Hell, I've had worse family. Add prime birdwatching and the knowledge that they'll never, ever complain about anything we do over here (mainly because they don't come out during the daytime), and you have a situation that is pretty much ideal for both Hippie and Biker and the type of element we attract. In fact it's like the Small World ride at Disneyland here. I dress up like a toy nutcracker and the Biker puts on his dirndl and everyone sings about global brotherhood, and you never hear a peep from next door.

Across the street is a hayfield.  In the spring and summer, and on  into the early fall they take a harvest off it about once every three weeks, and my allergies kick into high gear. The mower sends a fine green mist into the air as it circles the field, which you can taste.  When the silage equipment comes through and shoots the cut green hay into the wagon,  the fermented spray that creates acts like a heavy drifting fog that leaves dried ripples of fibrous stuff on windshields, windows, and the side of the house.  The crud I dump out of my vacuum cleaner turns beige and fluffy for a couple of days, and when you sneeze it tastes like grass. That can get annoying.

On the other hand  I can go into City Hall dressed in yoga pants and a cut off t-shirt with my tattoos hanging out, or caked in mud with shit all in my hair like aphids and twigs and stuff, and compost down the front of my pants and my shoes tracking wet lagoonage,  and I can speak with the Mayor just by asking to. Any damn time I want.  Or the Chief of Police.  Or anyone on the City Council or in the Works Department. I've done this. Despite my appearance they'll listen to me and take me seriously. They did.

This kind of casual accessibility is priceless.  These people aren't sequestered, they aren't faceless; they don't belong to a different class than me and they don't live in another part of town...they're neighbors.  I see them wearing torn sweatpants buying animal beer at the Quickie Mart.  We know each other. Cops included.

Last winter when the Biker was working graveyard I was up alone about midnight when I heard something outside at my front door. Something THROWING ITSELF at the front door!  I could see the door shudder with each blow!   Pistol in hand, eyes bugging out,  I dialed the police.  Before I hung up the goddamn PHONE they were in my driveway shining a spotlight.

No it wasn't a tweaker. Or a zombie. Or a zombie tweaker. It was a stray dog. Why some random-ass dog tried to bread into my house at 12:03 at night is still a mystery.  I still get a big smartass grin and wave every time I see the officer who answered that call.*

Here's another example.  One day the Biker decided out of the blue to stop off for a drink after work at the local watering hole, three blocks away. Once there, he thought that it would be a good idea to take three of the brand-new pain pills he'd just been prescribed that afternoon with a Long Island Iced Tea, because he is a man.  After that hit, he realized he was feeling a little funny; so because he is a man and also sixteen and bulletproof, decided it was time to drive home.  Very slowly.

On the wrong side of the road.

With a police car following him. 

The police simply made sure he got home safely and let it go.  Never said a word, never issued a ticket.  Why?  Because they know us. We're not fucked-up people. We don't make a habit of visiting the local watering hole, let alone driving 10mph on the wrong side of the road.   That, and they probably realized that the best thing they could do in terms of deterrence is to let him face ME. 

But the best example of why we live here happened while we were away in Nevada.

We pay our utilities directly to the City.  Once they bill you, you have I think it's three working days to settle before they send a guy out.

We got caught up in the preparations for our trip, and the bill went due two days before we left.

We came back after four days gone and receive a telephone call from the city.  Did we know they had to shut off our lights?

WTF?  Our lights are still on.

Oh, 'Local Philanthropist' paid your bill.  Holy crap lady, we're glad to hear from you.  We've had the police making welfare checks on your place for the past three days! We were scared you guys were laying dead in there or something! I mean there were cars in the driveway, and...

OK freaked-out person. We'll be right in. Don't worry.

I went down and everyone in the office is all relieved.  Oh, there she is! Thank God!

The cops peek in from their desk in the next room. 'We didn't know what happened to you guys!  You usually let us know when you go away! We didn't know what to think!  I was going to get a dog and, because..' 

Local Philanthropist wanders in. 'Listen, it's OK if you need time. I know you just got back from Vegas-'

Not at all. Here's the cash.  We shake hands.

And that's why we live here.

*Of course, I have a history of dog-centric police calls. Like the time someones' Australian Cattle Dog decided to herd me, in my car, all the way back to his house, and then lead me around the whole farmyard five times barking and crying before running off. I called the police on that one, because I've evidently seen too many episodes of 'Lassie' as a child, and figured Timmy was laying in there with a broken leg helpless to stop the weasels from eating his face. Turns out this dog likes to herd vehicles. He's even stopped semi trucks and herded them back to his farm.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Quaint Vignettes From My Charming Rural Idyll

The Biker is descended from original (white) settlers here in Subdued Excitement. If there is a street out hyar that was named prior to 1900, chances are that it's named after the pioneer family homestead it lead to, and that the Biker clan is related to that family. They liked their strange, those Bikers. Which is a good thing, particularly when you consider the whole 'rural and isolated' part of the equation. This is a part of the country where memories are long and people stay put generation after generation. Long-time residents hear a last name and go 'Oh. You're a 'Fill In the Name,' huh?' after which you're either welcomed and accepted, or turned down for a loan, or remanded to sheriffs' custody. If you've ever read 'To Kill a Mockingbird' you know what I mean.

We got a visit yesterday from one of the self-appointed family historians, who came to consult the photographs and papers we inherited from the Bikers' father, the Playboy of the Western World. In passing he mentioned that what we'd thought was the original family homestead was instead the second one. The actual factual first homestead was only a short distance away, and the two cabins that those early Bikers had hammered together from cedar logs, sawpit baulks and hand-whittled pegs are still there and still inhabited. They've been remodelled over the years of course, but the original structure is still clearly visible.

Across the street from the main ancestral manse is a graveyard. We walked through and found where the Bikers ancestors were planted. I was happy to see that despite their age, isolation and Goth appeal, the old granite and marble markers have lain unvandalized all these years.

It brought back a lot of memories for us about the Playboy, and how much history was lost when he passed away, and how much our visitor had resembled him in feature, turn of phrase and gesture. There is no mistaking a member of the Biker clan. It was the type of sodden winter afternoon, overcast and windy, and certainly the type of excursion, that made you think about mortality. It was an interesting day.

Today, the Biker was almost killed in a head-on collision on the way to work.

A car tried to pass a semi in the oncoming lane, doing 70. It shot out in front of the Biker, who braked hard. The car missed him by less than a foot and continued on into the ditch at the side of the road, plunging at speed beneath a concrete flood control grate.

The Biker pulled over. The car in the ditch was bent in such a way that the rear tires were actually higher than the roof, and the roof was smashed backward by the impact. The Biker reached through the window and held the man upright because he was drowning in his own blood. It took a rescue team and lots of equipment to cut the car from around the man. He was alive and in a lot of pain when they took him away in the ambulance.

The Bikers vehicle? Not a scratch. The Biker? Not a scratch.

So he went to work.

The Bikers are a hardy fucking breed, folks.