We moved from San Antonio, Texas to the Florida Panhandle (aka southern Alabama or the Redneck Riviera) in 2012. It was to be my last assignment before retiring three years later and subsequently relocating to live near Seattle for a few years.
I got the idea to blog about my neighbors from reading one of Joey’s posts. To be brief, I’ll post it in four parts, each with a featured glimpse of one of the real-life characters/neighbors I met whilst living in the Sunshine State.
Part 1 of 4: Wheeler-Dealer Danny Boy
The neighborhood was built in 1964 and was mid-century semi-modern (i.e., small and old). A man who was a native of either the Empire or Garden State named Danny was my neighbor and lived in the house to the left of ours. Several feet separated our long, sloped driveways.
Danny was an interesting character. If I were to write a book titled, Wheeler-Dealer Meets Reality, Danny would be the main character. His first name was the same as my estranged half-brother and I noticed similarities. Danny’s house was in an uncertain stage of foreclosure. For whatever reason (I neither knew or cared) Danny-borrowed using his home as collateral when the housing market value was increasing. He told me that several times he went to the bank for more as the assumed value increased.
After the collapse of the housing market, Danny owed far more than the property was worth. So, he stopped making all payments. He moved out for a while, opening the door for repo, but then (with legal advice) he moved back in so that they could not repo so fast and easy.
Danny went to different doctors for medical care and used two services. VA for free and some other docs covered by his mail carrier’s insurance. The way he explained it to me was, “I kind of play them against each other.” I cannot recall responding to that comment, but I know what I was thinking. Irony is coming.
I am not sure exactly what marriage Danny was on, but it was number three or four. I never asked him if trading in wives for newer models was precipitous to his financial problems. For as long as I knew him, Danny was deep in debt, in default, and living in a house that was going to be taken away “any day now.” But living there virtually for free. He kept the lights on, but was no longer buying his house. Danny was interesting and while I liked him, I was not gunna follow any of his get rich quick plans.
One day a pre-teen boy knocked on my door. He was a pleasant lad between the ages of 10 and 13. He asked me if he and his friends could use my driveway, which was probably the largest hill in Fort Walton Beach, to ride their bikes (and skate boards and whatever else with wheels) down. I was impressed that he asked, so I said yes provided that their parents knew about the deal. I agreed to this in a town where all children’s swings in the parks had been removed for fear of litigation. While there were some minor crashes, no serious injuries resulted, and I have not been sued. The kids had fun almost every day and I liked the idea that I contributed. It was my driveway on my rented property, or so I thought.
I forget how I learned that Danny had told the kids to go away and that they were not allowed to use my driveway for recreation. But, he did exactly that, and I was pissed. Before I could calm down enough to confront him, Danny had a severe heart attack and was hospitalized for bypass surgery. He recovered, and I decided to let it go. The kids would not return, even if I explained the problem. Danny and his wife eventually moved (evicted), and his home was finally repossessed by the lenders or banks, flipped, and then sold. I don’t recall the new neighbor’s name, but they were not as interesting as Danny. Normal neighbors can be boring.
Look both ways to see your neighbors. Mind the gaps and the children.