Saturday, April 5, 2008

strange neighbor

Roger Williams Park in Providence is the second largest mid-city park in the country after New York's Central Park. It was also laid out by the same landscape designer so it's very elegant and wild at the same time. There are serpentine lakes with many bridges, a Japanese garden, a boathouse, a zoo, and even a small amusement park with a beautiful antique carousel right by the water. At least that's the way it used to be but perhaps it's all been turned into condos since then. Garth (full name - Garth Cold Nose Strong Heart) and I spent many hours and many miles exploring its paths.

We lived at the end of Bartlett Ave. in an old Victorian tenement house on the second floor.. a big apartment with a front parlor, middle parlor, dining room, 2 bedrooms and screened verandah. There were lots of windows overlooking the park. We slept in the front tower since it was like being in the middle of a forest glade with the lake just across the way and the Temple to Music across the water. The kitchen and dining area we used were at the opposite end in another tower. It was nice.

The thing about living in apartments though, is that sometimes you wind up having neighbors who may be a little on the strange side and one of them moved into the place above ours at the end of a winter. At first she appeared to be very normal and so much so that we wondered what she was doing living in our building rather than a bungalow in the suburbs.

There had already been some odd characters in and out of the other apartments including one family who'd lived downstairs for a few months the previous summer. Fights had been raging at all hours but one day the guy stayed home and played 'Stayin' Alive' over and over at top volume for 10 hours straight followed by taking an aluminum baseball bat to all the windows, furniture and anyone who didn't get out of his way. Then he jumped in the family car and tore off down the road at full speed until he was stopped by a tree. The rest of them moved that night.

Anyway, back to the new third floor neighbor. We learned she'd moved out of the bungalow she'd shared with her husband and young daughter and that she worked as a secretary at a local college. During the week the little girl lived with her mother and everything was as quiet as you'd expect but when Friday afternoons rolled around dad came by on his scooter to take the girl off for the weekend. Mom, wearing her usual Mrs. Cleaver outfit, would wave good-bye but once they were safely out of sight she'd gallop upstairs and change into hot pants and halter. Like clockwork, within five minutes she'd be back downstairs waiting for 'the boys'. I do mean boys.

Now this lady was at least 40 and probably more but it seemed that while working at the school she'd developed a taste for much younger men.. and not just one in particular. She liked all of them and preferably in groups. Sometimes several carloads would park outside and all the guys would troop upstairs carrying beer, snacks and goodness knows what and partying would ensue until they either got tired or had to go home to their parents.

It came to be time for the 4th of July fireworks display that happened close to the Temple to Music every year and we invited our family over for a picnic dinner on the lawn outside our place before the show. Naturally, we weren't out there alone since lots of people came from further up the street so they'd be there for the fireworks too. Unbeknownst to us Mrs Hotpants had visitors of her own and just as everyone was eating, talking, laughing and playing (lots of kids) we heard terrific shrieks coming from above. Everybody stopped what they'd been doing and looked up at the third floor windows to see two guys holding a naked Mrs. HP. outside her window and kind of jiggling her up and down. It was a show nobody had expected.

Maybe she wasn't as anonymous as she'd imagined and maybe someone had made a phone call but the end result was that she was gone a few days later.The house was quiet again for a long time after that. People are strange, aren't they?


Mathman6293 said...

Well, that's a new way to describe dangling breasts! The little known side of Mathman is his parks and recreation side (1989 IU grad). Fredrick Law Olmsted designed Central Park and many others. Wow something non-math I knew.

Seraphine said...

Lol, I love your story and drawings. And your sense of humor.
I almost thought it might be a real story, but it's too good to be real. TOO GOOD!

CDP said...

Excellent story! I love Roger Williams park, and Providence in general, it's a cool little city.

lindsaylobe said...

Tales from that particular apartment block might make up an interesting play, Number …..complete with an unexpected ending. I look foreword to more stories about from your past experiences and places of interest.
Best wishes

Anonymous said...

Hello, Susan.
I don't think the fellow on the lower floor was all that weird.
If I had to listen to "Stayin' Alive" for ten hours straight, I might have to take a bat to something and drive my car into a tree.
The poor fellow was obviously driven to madness.

And thanks for showing the dog doing #1 instead of #2.

Wondering if this was some annual tradition Ms HP did especially for Independence Day.
So much for hanging out with the boys....

susan said...

mathman - Ahh! Thanks for the name. I was too lazy to go looking for it myself but you're right. There's an amazing variety of trees in that park - brought from all over the world.

sera - I'm so glad you enjoyed it but really my imagination isn't that good. It really is pretty close to what happened.

cdp - I still miss Providence, a much cooler and funnier city than Portland, OR.

lindsay - I'm having a wonderful time telling them too. The drawings, although not of my usual scrupulous quality because they're done fast, are what drives the process. In the future I'll also be illustrating some of the stories my parents told me which should be even more interesting.

pt - Well, the weird thing about him was that it was him playing the damn song and we were contemplating getting a bat of our own.

Garth was also known as 'If It Don't Move Piss On It' and was a featured character in 'Baby Days'.

Over the years I've met a few women who got into similar states about young guys including a nurse who embarrassed her student son by trying to seduce his frat brothers. He stopped taking them back to his home for visits. Mrs Robinson lives.

Anonymous said...

Wow Susan. What a great story. I could just imagine the water cooler boiling at the telling of this one at the office. Say Joe,"what did you do this 4th of July?"

"I went over to Susan's place and saw some naked lady get boob-dangled out a window."

Okay, enough of the boob stuff. I just wanted you to know that there are several intra-city parks in New York, some of which I think are bigger than Central Park in size. My favorite is in the borough of Queens - Forest Park which ran from Kew Gardens on the East end to the Brooklyn border on the West, which is something like 3 or 4 miles. In fact, this park is very much like the park you describe in Rhode Island, except for the naked women dangling from the windows part. Can't say I ever saw that along Myrtle Avenue.

Seraphine said...

So other people really *are* strange?
Am I really the only normal person I know?
Well, you too of course.

grannyfiddler said...

i'm trying to imagine one of my wierd middle aged lady neighbors hanging upside down and naked.... the face would be obscured by bountiful and none-too-firm mammaries.

grannyfiddler said...

great story, by the way.... and the pictures !!!! (giggle)

Randal Graves said...

What a delightfully odd story!

susan said...

spartacus - Hah! I'm so glad you enjoyed it since I did have fun putting it together.

I guess I never did see enough of New York to visit the other parks but they do sound very cool. The places I saw had very few trees and it was easy to believe the people I knew back then that open woodland, lakes and meadows were fantasy for most City dwellers.

sera - Yeah, I think it's just you, me and a few others :-)

Gfid - It seemed best to be kind to my memory of the lady rather than get very realistic.

randal - Mon but veuillez être à vous, mon ami.

Ben said...

I think this is the first of these pen and ink stories drawn from people and things I remember. Like the "Staying Alive" incident, that was weird but it only struck me as a little oddish, mostly funny at the time. I sort of remember Mrs HP, but that climactic incident I didn't know about. Maybe being long out of elementary school, she missed hanging upside-down from the monkey bars.

So Roger Williams Park was designed by the same architect who did Central Park? Dude was on a roll.

Anonymous said...

Ah, neighbors! I was positively drooling over your description of the park and the apartment.

We've had some interesting neighbors, but thankfully, we never got to see them dangling naked.

Seraphine said...

I wish I could draw like that. There are lots of textures, yet the overall effect is simple and clean. My texture drawing always looks muddied, muddled and complicated.
I wish I could draw like that. Because. I draw in shadows, you draw in light.

Scarlet W. Blue said...

Excellent story and great pictures. Those drawings are fantastic!

Well, your neighbor story beats my neighbor story about Nelson the drug dealer whose toenails clicked loudly on the concrete when he walked past our door. Kind of like a dog's.

susan said...

ben - It's nice to get some outside corroberation :-)

mathman said it was Frederick Law Olmsted who designed both. The most remarkable thing about the place is a pretty subtle one and that's the fact he had the young trees placed in such a way that he knew how they would look in the landscape 100 or more years later. Inigo Jones did that for the English country estates he designed and that's how people imagine English countryside.

dcup - It really is a lovely park and I'd love to go for a walk there with you.

sera - I've never heard a lovelier compliment about my drawing than yours. It's been a matter of cutting to the chase for me since I can be known to spend weeks on a drawing and that wasn't possible if I was going to post the stories. It's been very liberating.

scarlet - Did you write that story about Nelson? I'd definitely come by to read it.

Scarlet W. Blue said...

Are you going to do a picture for it? Nelson: big sloppy guy with shaggy hair, a somewhat protruding belly, and bare feet (long toenails). Disposition of a puppy, though. Maybe I will write that story. There are some funny parts.

Scarlet W. Blue said...

Mathman, I heard the other day that Forest Park in St. Louis is larger than Central Park. Peops call it the "Crown Jewel" of St. Louis. It's a great place.

susan said...

scarlet - For you I'll make the attempt but not before the weekend :-)

Gary said...

What a great story! I think I have recollections of hearing it long ago...

For the record, none of my high school teachers behaved like that, but there was a French teacher who I wish did (although I always imagined us alone and never dangling out of a window).

Great drawings too.

Ingrid said...

that is hilarious! Like Lindsay said, what a great play that would make...goodbye Oh Calcutta, hellow Strange Neighbor, LOL!!


Freida Bee said...

Oh, I like your story.

The irony in "Stayin' Alive" is not unnoticed, though, don't knock it 'til you try it.

I'm kinda surprised Ms. HP maoved, 'cause it seems like she just got past the difficult acclimation stage and npw she's gonna have to start all over agin somewhere else. The grass id always greener... or is that her men?


Sorry. (I didn't see that one coming.)

susan said...

gary - It was weird and remembered by all who witnessed. Yes, I had a few teachers you may have enjoyed too but it didn't work that way for me.. all old dudes.

ingrid - Glad you enjoyed it. Oh! Calcutta, indeed.

freida-bee - I think it was because they were so green that she needed so many :-)

Scarlet W. Blue said...

Now you've asked for it.

susan said...

scarlet - a threat? or a promise? I await the result with my usual patience :-)