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November 08, 2006


Kathy K

Oh man...San Fran is a different world from Edmonton. I'm sure that there are places in our fair city where there are such 'fascinating' neighbours, but I'm not there ~ thank the lord!

I live with my family in an area that is about 15 to 20 minutes away from downtown [and we're more or less on the outskirts of the city ~ for now] and we've been in our house for almost 21 years now. Our neighbourhood is nice and quiet, for the most part, and in the summer we hear lots of birds and kids. Mind you this past year, I could have strangled the birds, or at least the crows. For some reason there was a surfeit of these cawing pests and the magpies seemed to feel the need to assert their presence. In the winter we've got chickadees and blue jays, and the less interesting sparrows, but the crows are gone and the magpies are MUCH quieter.

I'm also NOT going to be moving until my kids take me out of my home. My dad was in the Air Force when I was young and then my parents seemed to have gypsy blood as they moved a LOT. In fact, they mentioned years ago that when they'd been married for 20 years, they had lived in over 23 different houses / apts. Needless to say, I'm totally against the moving part. After I left home and before we moved to this house, I had lived in a total of 6 different apartments - in 9 years; that was enough of that!

So, as far as interesting neighbours, nope...I'm too white-bread for that; boring and loving it!

I love to hear about experiences like yours, Julie, but I'm a quiet type overall [and that's not hysterical laughter in the background coming from my two oldest kids...really, it's not!]

Have a great day!!

Kathy *.*

Julie Anne Long

Yeah, Kathy, and the irony is...I moved to the Russian Hill neighborhood to get away from the, um, *colorful* Haight. LOL. One can only take so much color, as it were. I have a feeling odd experiences will simply find me, no matter where I go. I lived in my last flat for about ten years (and have a million stories about that one), and moved last year into this one, a nice, very, very quiet (by San Francisco terms) flat, though I'm half afraid to tempt fate by saying that. Life is often Seinfeld-ian here in San Francisco. :) Theater of the Absurd!! And I can't blame you for wanting to stay put after moving so much in your youth!!

We have crows around here, too. Big HONKIN' crows, about a foot tall or so, if not taller. They lord it over the other smaller birds. They even kind of intimidate *me*. LOL. I guess I should add "caw, caw" to the list of my neighborhood's ongoing ambient noises.

And yeah...sure, you're a quiet type. :)


I love San Francisco. :) Reading your blog reinforced my love, although I'm sure glad that it's relatively quiet where I live. However, sometimes I hear the guy upstairs (he lives in the apartment with his wife) screaming and swearing. I think he's watching sports, but it's freaky how upset and angry he gets over a game. I've never spoken to him, and he doesn't come off as very friendly. One time I heard him screaming a string of expletives, and I wasn't sure if he was talking to someone on the phone or his wife (hope it wasn't his wife because he was calling someone a f-ing c--t). Other than the guy upstairs, it's pretty quiet around here, which I like. I'm not a very loud and noisy person and appreciate when people aren't either.

Julie Anne Long

It's funny, isn't it, Diana, how much we all learn about the habits of our neighbors here in the city?? So many of the buildings are old, and many years ago when I lived in the Outer Sunset (where many of the houses were built in the 30's and are right smack up against each other), we could hear our next door neighbor come home and listen to his phone messages, argue with his son, yell at the TV, etc.. We could even hear his big fat old Golden Retriever *snoring* through the wall!! And in my last place, let's just say I learned more about my neighbor's love life (his bedroom was right below mine) than I ever, ever wanted to know. Lots of enthusiastic shouting and thumping going on down there. LOL. Having been a downstairs neighbor more than once, I've learned to wear my socks instead of clunky shoes around the house when I'm an upstairs neighbor (until I go out the door), and not to, say, play basketball in the house (which is what one of our upstairs neighbors did when we lived in the Haight—we actually had chunks of plaster coming down), or clog dancing, etc. I mean, it's only polite. :)

It's hilarious how worked up some men get over football, too. I'm always bemused. My normally pretty taciturn dad would throw a conniption in front of the 49'ers on TV. LOL. I'm hoping your neighbor was shouting at the TV, not at an actual person.

You can see how a writer can find endless fodder for stories here in the city. :)It's a lot of sensory input, that's for sure.


Julie, I feel your pain on the love lives of neighbors. My neighbors that I share a bedroom wall with...well there used to be loud bangy noises quite often that I was pretty sure could just be one thing. It would happen a lot. I tend to have trouble sleeping anyway, and at 4 a.m. sometimes they would start up. That was loads of fun, but either they moved or broke up or something because it doesn't happen anymore. I had some very creative ideas about getting them to shut up, though, haha. None of which I ever used.

I used to have issues with neighbors on my other side as well. They would play loud, thumping music at all hours, including midnight and noon and any other time. I called the police a couple of times, only to watch helplessly as my neighbors left a couple minutes later and I had to call and cancel, apologizing profusely. Finally I went down to the office and they said they would leave a note on their door saying there had been complaints. They also told me to keep reporting it, because 3 such complaints and they'd be out. Well that seemed to do it...then I saw a bunch of failure to pay rent notices on the door next to me, and finally an intent to lock them out notice, or something like that. I think by this point they were already living elsewhere, but then one Saturday as I left for work I saw them (about four of them, and I'm pretty sure there's a two-person limit for one bedrooms) come up. I came home that night and the notes were gone and so were they, for good. A few days later I got a nice, sweet girl about my age who seemed so excited to meet me, haha. She even asked if her dog Tank was scaring my cats (the cats like to look out the window and keep an eye on things). I assured her they weren't, and she's been very nice so far. No problems at all there. And Tank will often sit on the balcony and bark at me as I come or go, he's a little dog and very cute. So yeah. The situation is better now, I sort of hate that I'm graduating soon and leaving as soon as I can find a job, whenever that may be (two leads have fizzled out this week).

So yeah. I love my apartment and even love the apartment life in a weird way, but it is kind of a crapshot. You never know if you'll get perfect neighbors or really lousy ones. For awhile I was hearing loud music from near my kitchen wall, haa, but that hasn't been an issue lately, although it might return. And I'm on the second floor and really like it. I don't wear clunky shoes in general, but I'll keep the sock rule in mind. It's a good idea.

Haven Rich

Your not the only one.

When my husband and I lived in San Diego, which is very populated by the Navy, we lived in a complex that housed several military people. Well, the girls up stairs, about 4 of them, were in the military.

I've lived in apartments before and know that sound carries really easy, but was a bit stunned one day while picking up my kids clothing in their room. I heard two of the girls going at it and then suddenly here "f**k me big daddy!!". Knowing that all the girls up there weren't fond of men, it had me both laughing, and cringing. Laughing because it was said between two women, but cringing because I was in my kids room. It made me wonder what else my kids heard.

Another good lesson..I have a canopy bed and even non-sexual movements would cause the bars to hit the wall...needless to say, we had pillows between my headboard and the wall...as the guy next door bedroom was mirrored to ours.

This is a good reason to buy a house with a bit of land around it haha.

Julie Anne Long

Oh man, Lareign, Haven, you guys are cracking me up!! But Lareign, that situation you described—with the music being turned down (or the neighbors leaving) before the police show up—is exactly what I went through a few years ago. Well, what my whole building, and the building next door, went through. These old San Francisco buildings weren't built anticipating the advent of loud bloody stereos, so as we've discussed here, everyone can hear everything through the walls. And this group of unbelievably obnoxious young guys moved into the building next door. They constantly played their music at a deafening volume—so loud it vibrated a print off my wall. And it was WEIRD stuff. Like...The theme from Twin Peaks!!! Who on earth would CRANK that song?? And...Loverboy. This, mind you, was NOT the 80's. LOL. And they paid no attention to complaints of any kind, from anyone. Various people in their building and mine called the police, but the noisy boys always saw the cop car coming, and turned the music down before the cops got there. The police, of course, are smarter than that. LOL. They knew what was up. And those boys eventually got evicted because of all the complaints, and on their last day there, as they loaded stuff into their moving van and the rest of us lurked in our windows, one of the guys stood on the sidewalk and yelled sarcastically up to no one in particular, "We're packing up the STEREO now!!" OMG. Karma will get those boys. LOL.

And Haven—dear God!! That story!! ROFL! Yeah, isn't it funny how you get to know WAY more than you want to about the people who live around you?? I swear, I began to think of one downstairs neighbor as Ohhhhh DOUG! vs. just "Doug." LOL. God knows I heard that shouted often enough in the wee hours of the morning. I'd see him on the street and think, "there goes Oh Doug." LOL. (Doug isn't really his name, btw—I changed it to protect the not-so-innocent.) He was a squiddly little 20-something guy who once invited me to drink some wine and look at his Burning Man slides. I think he was at that age when he'd hit on just about anyone. LOL. I'll confess I *was* a little curious, but you can't convince me a guy that age is as good as all that noise would make it seem. LOL! It's more about frequency at that age.

I'm pretty grateful for my relatively quiet flat now. (Knocking on wood, of course).

Haven Rich

Umm, does it help that it was in the middle of the afternoon and I'm thankful that the kids were at school.

But I know what you mean...I was a bit curious who was "big daddy" of the group of woman. Now, don't get me wrong, we partied with these ladies and they were all sweet as could be, but there are some things you just don't want to know about anyone!!

Kathy K

Like, TMI, right?? Way too much, and way too personal.

All these neighbours-going-at-it tales brings back memories of our second-last apartment. Gads, it'd be 2:00 in the morning, I have a newborn son that does NOT like going to sleep [he's like his night-owl dad...GAH] and these two start up. Her husband was out of town fairly frequently, I think he worked on the oilfields and was out 2 or 3 weeks and in 1 or 2...I cringed when I'd see his truck in the parking lot, truly! 'Cause they'd be at it and she was L-O-U-D! Our bed was right up against the bedroom wall ~ big furniture, not so big room ~ and my side of the bed was the wall side, of course. And the noise would build and crescendo...and I am NOT a voyeur [or the aural equivalent]...and being a morning person with an "I don't want to go to sleep" newborn was too much. Thank heavens we were only there for a few months ~ although it seemed like an eternity when "he" was home ~ before we moved to the last apartment: same complex, different building, what a relief! I swear, there were nights I was in tears, and even banging on the wall, which I finally did, didn't seem to have any effect. They probably didn't hear me. *sigh*...
I LOVE my house! and no more apartments in my future *fingers crossed*.

That's my horror story ~ Haven, I can't imagine your kids hearing that; how would you explain it? *grin* And Julie: Oh Doug...LOL...funny, too funny; younger men just live in their own worlds, don't they?


Julie Anne Long

Yeah, Haven, it's kind of astonishing what people will shout out in the heat of the moment, when inhibitions have been tossed to the wind and words get out without going through the internal editing process. LOL. You're like, *that's* what's been lurking in your little mind all this time?? LOL. I've heard a few stories about some doozies. You have to wonder if your neighbor alarmed her "activity partner" when she shouted that out. LOL. Or if her partner *always* went by "Big Daddy."

Kathy, oh, you had me laughing. That's awful, but hilarious, too. Life goes on all around us, doesn't it? LOL. When you pounded on the wall, they probably just thought you were doing the same thing they were. :) And if loud music was the problem, we all probably would have complained to the culbprits directly, but so few of us have the nerve to go up to a person and say, "Yo. Your noisy sex is keeping us awake. Try a little finesse." I once had a first date stop by my apartment to pick me up, and my downstairs neighbor was unmistakably going at it. Oh, man. Talk about an ice-breaker. My date and I tried to make polite conversation over the thumping and "Oh, Doug"-ing, but it proved impossible, and pretty soon we were both in hysterics.

Haven Rich

It's truly funny what you hear in the paper thin walls of an apartment.

Before we got the "big daddy" apartment, we shared a place with several other military guys (and their girlfriends). Since it was only a two bedroom, there were three couples...we had one room, another in the other and one couple slept in the living room floor. Well the couple in the living room would start-up while everyone was watching tv in the living room. And I don't mean just smooching. I'm talking rock-the-boat baby.

Even if we were in our respective rooms, we could hear her bark! Yes I said BARK! She would sound like a little yorkie or something. Needless to say, I understood why the husband kept tennis balls by the bed. He would toss them at the door and then you'd hear a "sorry man".

We were mean and would tease the girl if she annoyed us by doing little "arf" sounds hehe. *evil smile*


Well, you guys certainly have had interesting neighbors and I feel positively "sheltered" in where I've lived, well, except for where I live now.

Of course, I can't remember what happened before I was about 2 or 3 when my mother, my uncle and I went illegally across the border between the Russian and the American sector to join my father in Stuttgart from close to Berlin, Germany. My uncle went back to my grandparents' apartment in Berlin and our family lived in three rooms with an elderly woman whose son had moved to Chile. Life was relatively comfortable there: my mother worked, my father became an architect and I went to Kindergarten, i.e., nursery school. When I got home, our landlady tended me.

I've never lived in a big apartment building. The worst living conditions were probably on the ship that brought us to Canada. My mother, my little brother and I were together in 2 bunkbeds in a room with several 100 other women, while the men got to sleep in triple bunks. My brother was the only one, according to the ship's officers, who made it to every meal. He'd trot off to get it and he wasn't even two yet. He also wanted to know how everything worked. We should have known then that we had a budding genius. One woman wailed loudly before we even left Bremerhaven that she was seasick.

When we finally landed, we lived crowded into an old hotel or lodging until we could find some sort of accommodation. The first one we stayed in for only a few weeks. The teacher at the school there was really mean to me, according to my mother, and we soon moved in with a family from the church that had sponsored us. About a year later, we were able to move into our own house. My father had been lucky enough to get a job right away. He may even have had one waiting. From then on I continued to live in single-family houses. That is very strange for Germans and Europeans in general. There just isn't enough available land for everyone to have their own house. In my case, though, as both au pair and a help to my aunt, I lived in single family homes in France and Germany respectively.

My first communal living experience was in university where I lived on campus during my last year. My next-door neighbor in the dorm was from either of the Dakotas or Minnesota. Her boyfriend apparently often came to visit her--though that was a strict no-no at the time, but I don't remember ever seeing--or hearing--him. The walls were quite sound.

Next I was back in Germany again at a boarding school where I taught English conversation and some French and Russian to interested students. I was also part of the team of "ladies" looking after the girls in the dorm, where I also had a very small apt. Apart from a lot of giggling and whispering at night, it was an agreeable place to be and even the boys weren't bad. From a couple of them I learned to go to all the classical movies in both Tuebingen and at the small local cinema.

Next I again stayed with friends, basement apt. Then in a house in Stuttgart, attic apt. Then another top apartment and I think I was either quiet enough or the floor-ceiling was good enough not to bother anyone. My rent wasn't raised for the whole time I was there. I really lucked out. They even offered a guest room free of charge to my parents when they came to Europe after I finished my last year of teaching there.

For me, the probably noisiest place till then was my parents' house here in London. The furnace made an unbearable racket right on the either side of the wall where my bed was. My mother played the radio so that she could hear it throughout the whole house and not miss a beat of music. I developed almost a phobia to music and sounds in general. That continued after we sold her house and I moved into a basement apartment where I could hear every click of the dog's toenails upstairs and every other sound.

And this is definitely the noisiest place I have ever lived--this being where I made the mistake to move to just over a year ago. I get anxiety attacks about the noise: the famous hairdresser next to my bedroom wall (not to mention the Eau de Perm Solution that drifts through the walls or whatever). When I stepped into the house after returning from Mexico on Thursday night, I thought, "What died in here?" When the smell grew stronger as I entered the bedroom, I knew and immediately opened both windows as wide as I could stand before leaving just a crack in the bedroom window. There is often noise of kids yelling outside until 3 or 4 in the morning, the kid upstairs running and jumping (from his bed?) to say nothing of roaring motorcycles, screaming fire-engines, police-cars and ambulances. So now I use anti-anxiety drugs once in a while and earplugs almost daily. My life is a sea of noise but nothing as interesting as any of you others experienced has ever crossed either my eye or my ear. I didn't even hear the time some guys tried to steal the truck belonging to the upstairs guy. I did find one woman smoking a suspicious-looking cigarette and a lot of stubs behind the building. The only reason for the semi-hiding to me spells illegal and there are numerous glass shards around everywhere which the afore-mentioned hairdresser vowed to keep under control. Hah!

So, sorry, no juicy tales to tell though the hairdresser tells everybody about his numerous girlfriends. He also gives all the women he meets advice on how to stay fit. In my opinion, he should shut up. He's stayed fit playing soccer for most of his life. He has no idea what pains I or some of the other women he tries to reform have gone or are going through.

Julie Anne Long

Ranurgis, you've had such an interesting life!! And even though your new apartment is driving you crazy, it's still pretty "interesting," so to speak. LOL. Your description of Tony the hairdresser always cracks me up. You're definitely living a story, of sorts. But it's really tough to live in a very noisy place...the apartment I lived in (above Mr. Tattoo) was at a fairly busy intersection, too, and I heard and/or saw five car crashes there....the long, long squeal of brakes followed by the inevitable crunch of metal. Argh. Tough on the nerves. Some people seem to be able to tune everything out; I can tune out *some* things, but not all. I have to wonder how I'd adjust to a quieter place if I moved to a quieter place than the city. Would I go nuts from the peace?? Is noise and friction part of the creative process, or anathema to it?? I think they must work in tandem.

Sherrie Holmes

Julie, we get so much traffic over at the Word Wenches from your site that I had to drop by again and say hi! Love your site! About weird neighbors: I live on a farm in the country, and there are 5 houses on our dead end road. The first house is a run-down rental, and they've had some unusual renters over the years.

My favorite was the middle-aged guy with a long white beard who used to mow his lawn in a Santa Claus suit. He had old junker cars up on blocks in front of the house, and each Christmas he'd really get into the spirit and decorate them with Christmas lights. In true hillbilly fashion, he never took the lights down, but he did change them to all green for St. Patrick's day.

I had to be careful what I left in my front yard or on my porch because he was an inveterate and cheerful scavenger. I can't tell you how many times he'd point to a lawn chair or a garden hose, or a can of paint, or whatever, and say, "You getting rid of that?"

Whenever I wanted to toss something, I'd put it in my driveway with a "Free" sign on it, and it'd be gone in a few hours. He hauled away filing cabinets, broken chairs, tires, jars and bottles, ugly lamps, chipped vases, dying houseplants, tacky pictures, paperbacks, dilapidated silk flowers ...

Once, when I had to dig up some juniper tams to make room for the new septic system, I set the plants in a corner of the yard for transplanting in a new location. The next day I had to go ask Santa to return my junipers. :-)

Hey Sherrie! I love the Wenches site!! All those ladies are such wonderful writers. Nice to know some of my visitors are also visiting you gals. :) I try to stop by at least a couple of times a week. And your neighbor story cracked me up!! I love the image of the lights strung around the cars. Gave me some decorating ideas. LOL. I suppose those of us with scavenging tendencies are useful to have around, until they get a bit too zealous. When I was moving from my old flat to this one and doing my first round of clear-outs, I would take something down to the sidewalk, run back upstairs for something else, and by the time I got downstairs again, the stuff on the sidewalk was gone!! This was fairly big stuff, too: an old nonfunctioning computer monitor, one of those early boomboxes about the size of a desk, that sort of thing. I'd look up the street and down the street, and saw no cars, no people. It was almost eerie!! LOL. And someone was clearly watching me, because everything I put out there that day vanished within minutes. Pretty funny. Of course, on the actual moving day, I had to post a guard out by the truck, lest someone think that anything out on the sidewalk was automatically fair game. One time, though, I put an old broken printer out there, and someone snagged it...then brought it back the next day!! LOL. They didn't want it because it was broken, I suppose, so they politely put it right back where they found it. Cracked me up.

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