My Neighbor, Myself

Our next door neighbors have been having some hard times. Jane, the mom, hurt herself six months or so ago by falling down some broken stairs, busted her tailbone. She’s been in a lot of pain, can’t walk too well, and has been out of work since then. She was recuperating, and then she fell again, in the house again. 

The house is a mess, a rental property and not well-maintained, but it was all she could afford. Since she hurt herself the owner has been trying to get her to move out, but she doesn’t have the money to go anywhere else. So, they are involved in some litigation, or threats of litigation. I imagine that the owner wants to sell the house now, as I’m pretty sure she’s lost her homeowner’s insurance. But she can’t really kick Jane out, given that her slumlord ways were the reason that Jane got hurt in the first place. 

When Jane first moved in, she was excited to have a place of her own. She’d come back to Denver after getting out of an abusive relationship, and was looking to make a new start. But then one of her three sons moved in with his wife and kids. He had moved back to Colorado from North Carolina, where he’d been in the military, and needed a place to stay. His family stayed next door for several months while he looked for work. Eventually, he moved to the suburbs. As he said to me, he didn’t want his kids to go to school with a bunch of mexicans. Of course, he said he wasn’t racist. Just wants his kids to be with their own kind. 

Once his family moved out, Jane’s high school age son (her youngest), moved in. Just the two of them. At first. But then Jane told me one day that her son’s girlfriend was pregnant. His high school girlfriend. Soon enough, the girlfriend moves in, and now there are three generations there once again, now that the grandkid has been born. And more. Jane’s middle son moved back from Wyoming, where he’d apparently lost his job working on an oil rig. And her brother, he’s staying there too, just for a while. 

It’s a little unclear what anyone does over there, at least most of the time. There’s a lot of time spent smoking on the front porch, and the cigarette butts tend to pile up on the sidewalk, and then work their way down the hill into our yard. Occasionally, there’s a forty ounce beer bottle on display. But there’s almost never any sign of industrious activity. 

Last weekend we put up an Obama Biden sign in our yard. Not a big deal around here – this is a pretty urban neighborhood in Denver and, as you would expect, it votes pretty significantly to the progressive side of the spectrum. Of course, I realize that yard signs are not a particularly useful way to promote a candidate (fivethirtyeight.com had a pretty funny post on the topic last month), but what the heck. Show your flair. And, I thought maybe it might get our neighbors to consider becoming involved in politics, and maybe vote for their own self-interest.

So, imagine my surprise earlier this week when I look out and saw that our neighbors had put up some yard signs in front of their house. Three, actually. Two for John McCain, and one for Bob Schaffer. Apparently, they are three times as excited about their candidate as we are about ours. 

At first, I was shocked. Republicans? In my neighborhood? And right next door? And it’s the unemployed family with the unwed teenage mother who are on the verge of getting evicted, and have no where to go, and they are supporting McCain Palin and Big Oil Bob? Unbelievable. 

When I thought about it a bit more though, it does take a bit a cojones to politic for the republicans in this neighborhood. As Kenny Be said when we told him about it a couple nights ago, “hey, it’s easier to come out as gay in this neighborhood than republican.” 

I haven’t had the chance to ask why they support who they do, but I suppose I can imagine. There’s a teenage mom. Some military. Some fear of immigrants taking their jobs. Fear, really, has to be the driving force in their decisions. 

I’d love to see that fear replaced with hope – through education, job training, sustainable growth. I feel for Jane, and know that she’s got a lot on her plate, unemployed, hurt, with a teenage kid and his girlfriend and their son and her brother and her other son all living together and threatened with losing their home. It’s tough, and I hope for the best. 

Here’s hoping the election doesn’t turn out the way they want it to.

Vote 2008
Vote 2008

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