Oh, sure, given a few years of buds and blooms that bring beauty to the community, every dog-walking daddy and baby-strollin' mommy is quick with a "Howdy neighbor." Even that mean old lady who walks the streets armed with a stick or golf club politely grins before sauntering over to ask, "What's your secret" before begging for a cutting or 10.
But be the new guy on the block and suddenly everyone's suspicious. Granted I did little to ingratiate myself to the more entrenched residents of Garrett Pines (that's my new address).
Still, a little eye contact never hurt anyone
My neighbors wouldn't even cross the street to offer a handshake. Course most people in this hand-sanitized world aren't all that interested in making nice with a strange dude dressed in a gamey Charles Manson T-shirt, covered in muck and Alabama red clay from head to toe who smells like the business end of the Loch Ness monster.
OK, so perhaps the above rant is a tad unfair. After all these alien cul de sac dwellers with their perfectly manicured lawns are probably fine people who simply haven't been given the proper introduction to my somewhat unique brand of neighborly mingling.
In the years to come, I promise to provide ample opportunity to earn their suspicion.
The reason I was outside in the middle of a blistering May afternoon has little to do with a gardener's gluttony for seasonal punishment.
Simply put, I was locked out and had nothing better to do than unload the horse trailer of plants and yard art I'd kidnapped from my Stoneybrook abode.
For reasons too complicated and frustrating to fully recount, the Buckners were homeless. Sure Jewel made it sound all quaint and cozy, sleeping in a car only to grow up to be a wonky-toothed, yodeling pop princess, but my experience was less enlightening.
But have no fear. We weren't exactly in the market for shopping carts and refrigerator boxes. My Lovely Wife and Jellybean were nervously waiting for a phone call from our realtor in the cool comfort of my father-in-law's house (The Diva was with her dad). Meanwhile I took all my anger out on the tender virgin soil that would someday — God willing — be my garden.
So with nothing better to do, I pounded the ground like that little miner in Dig-Dug, minus the fire-breathing dragons and Atari soundtrack. For 12 hours, I moved earth, mud and stone, planting my transplanted plants, filling pots, spreading fertilizer and growing grimier by the minute.
I couldn't have been happier and yet so miserable. I was a madman, a gardener possessed.
That's probably what my neighbors whispered to themselves as they peered through their blinds.
Unaware of this intrusion, I'd pace back and fourth, talking out loud to no one in particular, pointing and cursing the heavens. Then I'd stomp out to the street, stand in front of the house and just stare, as if waiting for the voice of the gardening gods to give direction to my imagination.
The final insult came when I half-mooned the old Italian guy sitting in his garage across the street.
I was innocently planting a row of Mexican petunias along the curb when … well … suffice it to say the belt responsible for keeping my button-less yard shorts high and snug was packed in a box by our overzealous movers.
On second thought, eye contact is overrated.