Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Eccentric

Forget about Bob. What about Ed?

He lives around the corner from us. Only after we’d fallen in love with the house – a Tahoe cabin plunked down on a tree-filled, hilly half-acre in a Bay Area suburb – did we notice his house. Upon noticing it, we understood why we were sent the other way around to the house when we were viewing it with our Realtor.

With an alcoholic, screaming renter and her high school senior son living directly next door to our dream house, we can be forgiven for not paying attention to Ed’s peculiarities until after Susan slunk away in the middle of the night, behind four months in rent. Since that June of Susan’s departure five years ago, Ed’s house has been the focus of the neighborhood, the talk of the people, and the recipient of many folks’ bad vibes. With no buffer of the scandalous Susan and her curse-filled rages or her frequent arrests or her son’s underage drink fests (squealing tires and cherry-topped police cars included), all of our attention settled on Ed.

We’re not privy to what the backyard holds beyond the shell of a camper husk we can see over the 10-foot-tall spite fences. The front yard is mostly cement, although just a bit is visible. And that bit is only visible when one of his three working vehicles is being driven by the man himself throughout the town. In addition to the three running vehicles on his property, there are another five in varying degrees of decay. “Decay” is the appropriate word. He is not fixing them up. He has brought them to his home to die.

The remainder of the front of his quarter-acre lot is taken up by, among other items, enough wood to heat his home for five years, stacked as if to beckon some alien ship seeking concentric circles. He also has a hot tub, cracked and useless he’ll admit, taking up precious driveway space. Space that he surely could house another car husk upon.

Two weeks ago, he painted the sidewalk in front of his house a taupe tint, and then he took white paint and made the sidewalk appear to be pavers. At least from afar they do. Up close, his masterpiece looks like a sidewalk which has been painted as a high school prank. But none of us appear to be laughing.

He’s known as Crazy Ed. I have to be mindful to warn the children not to use that name to his face or when he could be listening. We, the neighbors, the kids, the other community denizens who have had their run-ins with him, are certain that he can be listening at any time. We assign him characteristics that only the super powers have. “Shh,” we’ll caution. “He might hear you.” “Don’t do that. He’s probably watching.”

In a neighborhood where homes now top a cool million – not justifiably, mind you, for any sane area, but in keeping with the eccentric-in-its-own-way Bay Area – neighbors looking to sell cajole him into tidying up at least until another fish is caught, another innocent trapped, another sale made. Threats don’t work with Ed. Twisted reason will.

He’s barred from a number of establishments because of the arguments he’s gotten into with the employees. He’s well known throughout town. He drives the streets in one of his cars, acknowledging the folks he passes by raising the pointer finger at them. If you don’t know him, you mistake it for another finger and you get angry. If you do know him, you understand. And if he likes you, you understand that he’s greeting you. And if he doesn’t like you, you understand that he’s warning you.

He’s not the crazy man one sees walking the streets, talking to himself, a menace to many. For Halloween, he buys my kids and the other neighborhood child a huge candy bar. He’s created a baseball diamond for my kids. (Granted, it’s in the middle of our street, but it’s not a well traveled road.) True, he’s a watcher, but he’s watching out for us. No one will be able to break into a house within view of his home and get away with it.

He’s not the crazy man, we don’t think. But I doubt any of us would be the neighbor interviewed on TV saying, “I never would have guessed.” He is eccentric, after all.

[Read how others reacted to the prompt “eccentric” by checking out their posts on
Sunday Scribblings.]


tricia stirling said...

well, at least Ed is good writing material! i love how you compare him to Bob from the movie. i love how he made your kids a baseball diamond in the middle of the street. Oh Ed.

awareness said...

yeah, there are some eccentrics who continually leave one guessing whether it's just a quirky albeit angry personality or there are mental health demons lurking. No matter, it's obvious that their brains are wired different than the folks who manage to suppress their desires to turn streets into ball diamonds.

I'd love to read more about this guy......

Regina said...

There always has to be one in the neighborhood... but yes, it does make for good fodder and for teaching our kids that there are different people in the world but that doesn't necessarily mean they're crazy...
I like that he buys the kids a big candy bar for Halloween!

Anonymous said...

But I can't help but like him.

Herb Urban said...

For some reason, I kept picturing Tom Waits as Ed in the movie version of What About Ed. I'd love to read more stories about this real life character.

Anonymous said...

After reading this, I can't help but wonder — if Ed were to sell his house and move, would the neighborhood miss him?

I'm always a bit fascinated by people who buck conventions so strongly. Very interesting read!

Anonymous said...

Are you spying on my neighbor? He has dying cars (many) and unfortunately for us he's let the hedges around his house die and we can see all of them in addition to the camper. He's not friendly though, just kinda grumpy.

Liked reading your post - was fun.

Anonymous said...

A fascinating character brought alive by your pen. I couldn't help thinking of him as a more outgoing Boo Radley.

The Owners said...

I guess there is a neighbor worse than mine. I only have to look at one big pile of discarded junk instead of several eyesores.

I'd have to move.

That's pretty funny about the pavers though. I can just imagine.

longspider said...

I have to admit I've always had a soft spot for eccentrics... :) Ed sure sounds like an interesting character, hehe


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