When new neighbors turn viral
As we mature and become wiser — at least we’re supposed to become wiser — we accept that our personal view of the world is not necessarily the correct or only one.
We accept, for example, that the lifestyles of other people are not necessarily bad or wrong simply because they’re not how we live. Their values are no less worthy than ours simply because they’re different.
One of the areas where I apply this philosophy broadly is to the rearing of children. My neighbors’ kids might not take ballet or violin lessons or spend summers in enrichment programs, but that doesn’t mean they’re abused or malnourished or that their parents are neglectful.
Sometimes, however, personal lifestyles cross a line — becoming detrimental or even dangerous to the welfare of children in the family — and then it’s not just “a cultural thing,” as we like to explain it away.
It’s simply wrong.
Such ruminations were keeping me awake on a recent night — along with the noise from down the block where the early spring has caused some neighbors to emerge from hibernation to party raucously out in front of their building.
We don’t shrink from parties in the Stockade. There’s hardly a weekend when you can’t find one. But they rarely intrude on the peace of their neighbors or threaten to erupt into violence.
Not so the parties down the block. They start with a crowd of people milling around the front stoop, smoking, drinking and walking up and down and talking loudly on cellphones. They don’t all live here. Their language is peppered with obscenities. In the morning, we pick up liquor and beer bottles that they drop wherever the hell they feel like.
Most disturbing is that there’s a school-age girl in the house, and I have heard her childish laughter outside as late as 2 a.m. on a school night. It’s not only wrong, it makes us worry for the little girl’s safety.
The occupants of the house are relatively new tenants. The house tends not to keep tenants for long.
In the current situation, the police are called at regular intervals, sometimes by us, sometimes by other neighbors, sometimes by the inhabitants of the building themselves who get into scraps with each other.
One weekend morning about a month ago, we heard loud voices coming from the back of the house in question. Peering over a couple of fences, we could see two women nose to nose and arguing loudly while a man cradled an infant in his arms. It went on for some time and then seemed to quiet down when one of the women left.
Just minutes later, the screaming resumed and I looked out the window to see one of the women pulling the other by her hair down the sidewalk. She deposited her against the house and began pummeling and kicking her as I dialed 911.
Only a few minutes later, after the cops had arrived and separated the combatants, the young woman who was getting the worst of it came sobbing down the walk toward our house. “I hate my life,” she bawled loudly. We gave her a blanket to warm her, and my wife offered her some consoling words.
Since then, the police continue to be regular visitors at the address in question. I went to put out recyclables the other night and found two police cars parked in front of the place. A man with a backpack stood outside and, upon seeing me, began an agitated monologue.
He said he had lived in the house and had come to reclaim his personal belongings. Instead, he said, he got a smack in the face.
Later that evening, a boisterous crowd gathered in front of the house. The police were called about the potential for trouble and did a drive-by. The partying went on for hours.
We went to a party ourselves on Saturday, a birthday party, and sat with some of our across-the-street neighbors. Can you guess the topic of conversation?
We don’t know where or how this will all end, but I thought the return of cooler weather might dampen the party spirits.
I was wrong.
At 4 in the morning, at least two of the women were outside screaming at each other. It went on for a half-hour or more.
We will continue to monitor what’s happening at the house in question, particularly where the child is concerned.
Our Neighborhood Watch group has been alerted to the events taking place.
The police will continue to be called, and it now seems inevitable that Child Protective Services also will have to be alerted.
Life in the Stockade is many things, dear readers, but it’s never boring.
Irv Dean is the Gazette’s city editor. Reach him by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.