There were lots of comments on my last post, regarding how my dad is a great role model for how to screw with people. And because I only scratched the surface with that post, and because Dad loves being the center of attention, I figured I’d tell you a couple more stories. (Several of which HE suggested, mind you.)
The first place we lived in Columbus (Ohio) was right across an alley from a synagogue. Dad used to get a big kick out of it every time Mom would cook bacon with the windows open on Saturday mornings. He wasn’t really “driving” that one, but I remember how funny he thought that was. (I didn’t really get the joke until much later.)
One of the first stories I remember about Dad messing with people was when I was in early Jr. High. We lived in another place in Columbus, cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood, and some of the neighbors were known for being a little fussy. At one get-together early in our tenure there, one of the neighbor ladies was talking about how she heard that another neighbor wanted all of his underwear labeled by day, so it would wear out evenly.
Dad said, “Don’t laugh… I have labels put in my underwear too…” He paused before delivering the punch line… “January, February, March…”
They gave us a wide berth, after that.
We got along real well with our next-door neighbors though. They were some nice, down-to-earth West Virginians. Dad once complained to him about his own abysmal golf game. (Dad was never much of a golfer.)
“I don’t know why I even have clubs any more, for all the good they do me,” he said.
Later that spring, the neighbor was out in his back yard and happened to look over at our garden, which was right alongside our chain-link border fence. Dad had his tomato plants staked to his golf clubs.
The neighbor thought that was the funniest thing ever. “Why in the world are you using golf clubs?” he asked.
“Puts iron in the soil,” Dad answered.
For the rest of the summer, whenever the neighbors had guests, he’d drag them out to the back fence to show them his crazy neighbor’s garden.
When we moved up to the farmlands of northwest Ohio, it was a completely different scene. Houses were interspersed between fields and much farther apart. We happened to have one neighbor that was close by, with our barn in between the houses.
I have to establish some background before I continue with the mind-game stories.
Our neighbors were people that seemed better suited for a gated community than open farmlands. We knew they were a bit “off” when we first moved in. The first thing they suggested to us is that we take down the sun-porch from the front of the house, and put up pillars.
Fucking pillars! Like it was “Tara” or something. We pegged them as tools pretty quickly.
They were a prototypical WASPy couple. He was a big blond dude, broad shoulders, about 6’2”. Former athlete. She was his little blond cheerleader. They had one little blond boy, Chad, and a baby blond girl. During the big jogging craze of the 70s, Mrs. Blond decided to jog. She would put on her best fashionable tracksuit and jog. Up and down the driveway. She could have even jogged the perimeter of their property and have it add up pretty well. But no… up and down the driveway, back and forth, about 35 yards each way. Weird.
A little later, they decided to take up tennis. They got matching tennis outfits, got some fancy new aluminum rackets and took tennis lessons. I don’t know how it came about, exactly, but Mr. Blond wanted to know if he would play them in doubles. Now, Mom was not then, nor has ever been an athlete. So Dad suggested he team up with our neighbor across the street, Mrs. Mo. (“Mo” is short for a very long and very Polish name with more consonants per square inch than a Warsaw phone book.)
The Mo family were athletes. Mrs. Mo was the only girl in a family of large brothers, one of whom was an NFL lineman. Her son was a middle linebacker in high school. I believe she was an athlete as well, but I don’t know any specifics.
But Dad didn’t even have a proper tennis racket. The only one we had in the house was this old thing we picked up at a garage sale, which had steel strings. Every time you’d hit a ball, it would go, “Sproiiiiiiiing!”
It looked just like this. Who knew it was an actual ‘antique?’
So my little 5’9” Dad, with his steel-stringed racket, who hadn’t played tennis in years, and Mrs. Mo took on the Blonds on the tennis court. I thought for sure it would be an embarrassment, and I was right.
Dad and Mrs. Mo kicked their asses all over the court. I wasn’t there, but it must have something to behold. Dad said they were just atrocious… could barely get the ball over the net. It must have been quite a sight to see the two short, stocky, older players with the “Sproiiiiiiing” running the young jocks off the court.
Anyway, for whatever the quirks, we all started out friendly enough. But shortly after, the friction started to build. Mostly, it was because of the boy, who was prone to wander. He’d stroll over and start with a million questions about what we were doing and generally stay under-foot. One time he went into our storage shed and turned the key on our lawn tractor. It didn’t start, but it drained the battery, so Dad had to pony up for a new one. He never mentioned it to the Blonds.
During this time, we also had a dog… my beloved golden retriever, Jesse, who I got as a puppy for my 15th birthday. As we were out in farm country, we didn’t keep her tied up. One day when I came home from school, she wasn’t there. Normally, she was ALWAYS there to meet my school bus. (God, I loved that dog.) Anyway, we looked all over the place and couldn’t find her. Eventually we called the pound and yup, there she was. We then learned that our neighbors, the Blonds, called in a complaint on her, because she knocked down one of their kids.
Now, anyone that knows golden retrievers knows that they’re harmless and are rarely aggressive. Obviously, my Jesse was much bigger than the little kid so I can see how she got knocked down. But wouldn’t a phone call to us be a better choice than having the freakin’ dog catcher come pick her up? They knew whose dog it was. Still, we didn’t say anything right then.
Later that week, Dad was out in the back yard and heard the Blond kids calling the dog over into their yard. That’s when Dad went ballistic. They’re calling the pound when their fucking kids are calling the dog over??? He called up Mr. Blond and reamed him a new one, right through his designer tracksuit. Man, it was brutal. Dad also told him about how his brat screwed up our tractor but we didn’t say anything about it. What would they have done in a similar situation, called the cops?
Anyway, we didn’t have much to do with them after that. From then on, Dad took every opportunity to screw with his head.
Most of the opportunities came because of the way our properties were laid out. Like I said, our barn ran lengthwise between our houses. And we had about 3 or 4 feet of property on the other side of the barn. Basically, it was turf that we never really saw, but was right there for them to see every day.
First, there was the lawn cutting wars. As you might imagine, the Blonds were pretty fussy about their lawn. So Dad would time it so that he cut his grass 2 or 3 days after the Blonds did, so that ours would look more manicured. Invariably, Mr. Blond would come out afterwards and re-cut the parts that bordered ours, so not to look bad in comparison.
Then Dad decided that each time he cut the grass, he’s take one less swipe along the border, effectively making it appear that our part was smaller. The actual goal was to get Mr. Blond to start cutting our grass. Dad knew that Mr. Blond would never let a single uncut section remain between our properties, so he’d invariably break down and cut it himself. Dad eventually got him to cut about 4 feet of our lot before Mr. Blond let it go.
Then Dad stopped cutting the strip on the other side of the barn entirely. Eventually Mr. Blond ended up cutting it too. It was probably a better deal for him anyway, because unlike my dad, HE wouldn’t blow the grass clippings into his garden.
Psychological warfare is fun!
My brother Ed even got into the act one Saturday afternoon, by shooting bottle rockets over our barn from our back yard. Most of them blew up in the air, out of harm’s way, but one took off a little low. It shot over the low end of the barn, scooted into the Blonds’ garage and blew up there... while Mr. Blond and the brat were inside it. He came running around the end of the barn and yelled at us to knock it off. We said we were sorry and he went back home.
I looked at Ed and said, “So what are we going to do with the rest of them.”
Ed just giggled and lit another one, sending it into the garage again. But this time, we got the hell out of Dodge and ran back in the house. Dad thought it was funny as hell.
My favorite story is this, and I really have no idea what even started it.
Dad took a tape measure out to the other side of the barn one day, (again, out of sight from our house but right beside their house) and started making some measurements. Almost immediately, Mr. Blond approached to ask what he was doing.
Dad said, “Well, I’ve been thinking about raising some pigs and I thought this would be the best place for the pen.”
Dad said Mr. Blond turned an even whiter shade of white and just said, “Pigs?”
Dad went on about how they would keep us stocked with meat and bacon, and that Mr. Blond should try to make sure the kids didn’t bother his pigs. He made some marks and put a few stakes in the ground, then went back in the house, leaving the big guy to stew about this new development.
Of course, there were no pigs. Dad was completely screwing with him. But the thing is, he totally would have if he could have gotten either of his sons to buy in on the plan. He traveled too much to care for the pigs himself so Ed and I would have had to do most of it. This was one of the few times my brother and I were on the same page. We told him there was no way we were taking care of any pigs.
I had friends that had pigs… I knew how much work it was to keep them.
Dad was mildly disappointed. It would have been his crowning glory… investing in raising thousands of pounds of pig, for no other reason but to annoy the neighbors.
So you see? You’ve all been saying that now you understand where I get it… Now you understand the depths of the condition.
I think it also explains my fascination with bacon, as well.