EDWISE  - EDITOR AND EDUCATION CONSULTANT
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Neighbours

I live in an old, small wood-framed apartment building constructed in the 40s or 50s which is situated a green-looking area of a major suburb. It is tucked into the corner of the municipality beside a small mountain and near the seashore, just north of a wetland area and a couple of lakes. Walking and cycling paths lay all around the area and there are a couple of small shopping plazas and a community centre nearby, along with primary and secondary schools. This area is therefore a quieter part of the metropolis where families in grand and modest homes dwell as well as couples and single occupants in a few low-rises.

For such a nice location, the rent for in my building is on the low end of the inflated market, and the heat and parking and storage are included in the price. I use a spacious, 1-bedroom suite with a long veranda over a garden.

"Not bad," you'd say. Yeah, I liked it and it was very peaceful in my first couple of years. Now, I find myself irritated by the goings on around me and the conditions here.

However, the owners changed hands. We have an apparently small-time owner, actually a married, elderly couple now. We lost regular maintenance teams to shore up the grounds and common space. This guy and his wife like to try to do things themselves, which, as you can no doubt imagine, is inadequate. Tenants such as myself end up doing some of the gardening and clean-up. The owners like to slash approach to gardening. They razed all the flowering trees and shrubs last winter, which suffered but have managed to make a come-back this summer. The owners like to dump all the yard waste into the waste dumpster, rather than haul it away or invest in a yard waste bin.

Meanwhile, the old place is looking older. I've been here 3 years and the apartment's inner walls are looking dingy. The place was not repainted before I moved in. It is worse give the fact that the tenant living above my place often forgets to turn off the water and has sometimes let it overflow until it is streaming through the ceiling into my living space. The stuccoed ceilings are decrepit, as you can imagine just by seeing the word "stucco" here--such an outdated decor.

Despite my grousing here, the interior is not a main problem. I decorate and organize well enough to make the place homey and bright.

What is getting to me is the neighbourhood. I'll describe my encirclement. Behind my apartment across the lane is the peculiar single 50+ guy who has regular visits twice a day like clockwork from one 30-something girl driving one SUV or another. She exchanges small but heavy looking packages with him. Sometimes he loads reno supplies or various equipment into the SUV and she sometimes unloads the same type of stuff. One woman might go inside the house for a few hours until they both emerge holding hands. Else, he drives off with whatever woman for the day. I am sure there is some sort of illegal activity going on; it's probably home production of something for the black market, along with some form of prostitution or other slavery. They are recent immigrants, for sure.

Going clockwise from there, you will find the student house with its jungle-like, brambles infested backyard where the raccoons like to hang out and the collapsing wooden fence. In the middle of this yard is a stand of cedars, firs and a pine. A pile of trash lies just beyond the dilapidated garage.

To the right of that property, at the corner of the lane on one side and the corner of a side street at the other, is a quieter, stable family that picks up after themselves well and rarely bothers anyone, except for that yapping dog occasionally. 

Just past that place at the same corner is another story. An oversized house on a bungalow-sized lot, it is bursting with people, machinery and commotion. People are always visiting, parking illegally in the lane, while the double garage seems to serve as a workshop. Machines buzz as the father builds or repairs this or that, and comes and goes in his old pick-up truck with cargo hold over-stacked. With so little yard space, the lane has become the kiddies' playground. Grrr.

Continuing to the right of that is another strange household. This one houses a group of men who also crowd their vehicles into the lane. They have applied for a permit to replace the bungalow with another monster house. The other day, an electrician parked his van cross-ways, blocking the through-way, while they sawed and drilled to build a power pole. I am sure it is illegal. NOT looking forward to the constant noise and disruption over there for months as some inappropriate structure gets built. Across the zigzagging lane from them is a second low-rise complex. People there like to take short cuts between their underground car lot and the road through our apartment building parking lot, to which several tenants strenuously resist.

Carrying on clockwise, we arrive at the front of our building where lies our parking lot with 13 spaces. The rear of the third apartment building sits in our view there. I have no complaints about it. About the same age, there are real caretakers who manage that place extremely well.

Proceeding to the right where the side street parallels our building and apartment building #3, you can see a fourth low-rise apartment complex. It is a strange set up, with different building numbers for each section and a separation into two buildings. Anyway, it is in the opposite state to apartment #3. Obviously not home to a caretaker or manager, it is messier and run down. Barely any landscaping. Trash including beer cans lies on the infrequently cut lawn and spills onto the sidewalk and street, which I and other residents of neighbouring homes feel compelled to pick up now and then. There is always a pile of discarded furniture sitting off the driveway. Shelter for many students as singles or couples, there are a very few number of small children. Some people in that place like to party sometimes.

I am starting to feel that this area is not right for me as I ease into full retirement. I do not know where else to reside, though, if I want the same access to nature, transit, stores and work. I will have to look hard. I may find myself living outside the metropolis by the time I reach full retirement, as I had imagined I might at an earlier transition point about three years ago.

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