We went to our neighborhood trivia night with four other couples from our amazing block this evening. In the grand scheme of trivia scoring, the most important questions are the double-dare guesses at the end of a round, where correct answers score you double points. I guessed one double-dare question right, but we didn’t put the answer down because I had doubts about whether I was remembering the correct Star Trek movie with a brash, young James T. Kirk. (For the record, I never have doubts about Chris Pine. Sigh.)
Then, on a clutch, bonus-round question about a theme song to a classic television show, I totally choked. The theme song lyrics ended up being from the Underdog cartoon show from the mid 1960s, which shouldn’t be a big faux pas because the show aired four years before I was even born. But, in college at the University of Colorado, I was gifted the name Polly Purebred, after Underdog’s reporter girlfriend. I never did nail down if I got that nickname because of my blonde hair with bangs or because I was a writer. I liked to think it was because I told people my ancestry was 100% Polish and, therefore, I was a purebred and not a typical US, melting-pot mutt. I have no idea why I ended up with the sobriquet Polly Purebred among my then boyfriend’s roommates and friends (I may not want to know, either) but, in any case, I missed the question tonight, and that took us out of contention for a prize. I am hanging in my head in shame. Now, I need Underdog to fly in with his red cape and save me from my humiliation.
I just hope my neighbors let me play trivia with them again on another Wednesday night. I swear, I am a lot of things, but I am not a dumb-blonde dog who constantly needs rescuing.
A couple nights ago, Steve and I did something we haven’t done in a long time. We went to a party on a school night. And it wasn’t just any party. It was a tequila party for the Day of the Dead. Yes. The Day of the Dead was Monday, but everyone knows a party with tacos and tequila is definitely meant to be held on a Tuesday. So, the holiday got extended an extra day just for us. ¡Qué buena suerte!
We moved into our house in July of 2020, when most of the homes on our street hadn’t yet been completed and the pandemic kept us from spending much time with the few neighbors we did have. We had our first get together with some of the neighbors on our street early last month when we met outside for Happy Hour, which quickly became Happy Five Hours. When you buy a new home, you keep your fingers crossed that the people who live around you will be, at the very least, respectful neighbors. But it is a joy and blessing when you realize the people who live on your block are not only respectful but also helpful, kind, and the equivalent of a cavalcade-of-puppies worth of fun. On the evening of the happy hour at our next door neighbor’s house, the neighbors next to them on the other side said they would be hosting a Day of the Dead party with tequila on Taco Tuesday the day after the Day of the Dead. The hosts explicitly told me then that makeup was highly encouraged to go with the theme and we should not be lame and show up without. This, of course, was all said tongue-in-cheek, but I am a people-pleasing rule follower so I took it to heart.
At my next trip to Target I purchased Halloween face make up so it wouldn’t sell out before I was able to purchase it. I did not want to disappoint our hosts and I definitely didn’t want to be the lame one.
So, on Tuesday night about the time the party was set to get underway, Steve and I tried our level best to put on Day of the Dead faces. I applied my makeup in honor of my Grandma Charlotte. After a solid 30 minutes, we had subpar-but-finished Day of the Dead faces, so we walked over to the neighbor’s house. As soon as we walked in, we realized we were the only ones who had gone to such extensive lengths with our makeup. Although we felt like big dorks, we got right down to tequila tasting and that feeling dissipated.
After one rough night in my early twenties, I have traditionally only tolerated tequila in margaritas and had told myself I would not be drinking any tequila on a school night because, well, Wednesday responsibilities. That went out the window in the first five minutes, though. Our amazing hosts had many different tequilas for sampling and one bottle, appropriately named Los Vecinos (“the neighbors”) for a raffle. We learned the traditional Colombian toast (Arriba! Abajo! Al centro! Al dentro!) and we were off to the races. My favorite was the Cava de Oro Extra Anejo.
In addition to the tequila, the hosts had provided taco fixings and all the neighbors had shown up with tasty side dishes. Their home was tastefully decorated for the holiday. We met neighbors we didn’t meet last month. Everyone ate and drank and mingled and tried new things and laughed and enjoyed the evening. When Steve and I finally left and walked our next door neighbors to their front walk, it was after 11 on a school night. We had done it! We’d broken the streak of dull, pandemic weeknights at home. There we were, happily toasted on a Tuesday. Although our face makeup had long since dried up and was falling off onto our clothing, we were grateful for the opportunity to relax with some wonderful new friends who happen to live mere yards away.
I learned a few lessons on Tuesday night. First, putting on decent make up for a Day of the Dead fiesta is a lot harder than you would imagine. Second, there’s no not having tequila at a tequila tasting unless you want to be lame, and I never want to be lame again. Third, I like my tequila extra anejo, like me. Fourth, even at 53, you can totally party on a Tuesday night and function on Wednesday, although it might require a willingness to miss some sleep and to take an Advil for a teeny, tiny headache. And fifth, sometimes you buy a dream house and you get dream neighbors too.
I know what you’re thinking now and, sadly, we have no homes for sale on our block at this time. Sorry. For now, these premium vecinos are spoken for.
Well…what I suspected has become reality. We’ve become those neighbors. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones you worry will ruin your property value by virtue of their sheer proximity to your home. We try to be good about taking care of our home and yard but, when given a choice between spending a weekend working on our lawn and garden or spending a weekend hanging with friends on a last-minute camping trip, we skip town. We’re always on the go. We’re not around much. As a result, we’re not the best about taking care of our property. We’d just rather be doing things other than home maintenance, and it shows.
I’ve long suspected that our next door neighbors wished they lived adjacent to a neater, tidier family. Instead, they got us. Their yard is immaculate. They have a beautiful patio with a built-in grill, a perfectly stained pergola, and a discreetly placed hot tub. Winter, spring, summer, and fall, their yard is perfectly maintained and their garden is appropriately appointed with seasonal plants. Their house is immaculate. I like to attribute their beautifully maintained home to the fact that their children are grown and out of the house. (Of course, it certainly helps that they actually work around their home fairly regularly too.)
Our house? Well, let’s just say that our house looks lived in. It’s not unusual for me to pull out of the garage in the morning and discover Nerf weapons strewn across the grass, a hockey stick leaning against the siding, and a bike helmet resting on the sidewalk. We’ve had parachute-laden plastic soldiers hanging from the ash tree while Lego minifigures fight battles in the lawn. But, as bad as we are about our front and back yard, the yard on the south side of our house that borders our neighbor’s beautiful home teeters on the edge of Sanford and Son. We don’t have enough room in our garage for two cars, much less all the many things that should neatly fit in there. So, our side yard has become a haven for all sorts of random things. It holds plastic planters, a wheelbarrow, empty propane tanks, patio furniture, kid toys, dog toys, and sawhorses. Truth be told, I won’t even walk in there. It’s fenced off from our backyard so I can pretend it doesn’t exist. And, while everything in there is hidden below the fence line and not visible from the front or the backyard, it’s still an embarrassing eyesore. I know it. Steve knows it. Our next door neighbors know it. It’s been the elephant in the room for years. In the ten years we’ve lived here we haven’t figured out what to do about it.
Well, a couple days ago our neighbors figured out what to do about it. They told Steve they would be erecting a trellis for vines on the north side of their home that overlooks our yard. They didn’t want us to think they were doing it because of our crappy side yard. They just decided they wanted something more pleasant to look at than our siding. I so do not blame them. I would do the same thing if I lived next door to us. It would be hard to enjoy a pleasant Thanksgiving dinner if when looking out of the dining room window you got to gaze upon our uncovered yard waste receptacle. We’ve talked about getting a storage unit for some of our extra crap. We would do it too if we could afford an extra $60 a month. The only way a storage unit would fit into our budget, however, is if I went to work part-time at Starbucks as a barista. As much as I truly like our neighbors, I can’t say I like them that much.
So, I am going to try to live with the shame of being that neighbor instead. If you hear me call one of our boys Lamont now, though, at least you’ll know why. Hold on, Elizabeth! I’m coming!