(This is based on a true story, names and genders may have been changed)
Growing up in the suburban town of Warwick, NY – I was blessed with an environment conducive to a happy life. However, every rose has a thorn, and mine took the form of Pepi Miststück, and his wife Massel.
Early on, I can recall eating dinner at their home once or twice, as their kids were friends with my siblings. I would later discover this was more of a case of parents keeping quiet and letting ‘kids be kids.’ The problems began long before I was a gleam in my father’s eye… before my family had even moved to the town. Our neighborhood had been built over an old apple orchard, Pepi got in on the ground floor, purchasing one of the first lots. He’d actually tried to purchase the adjacent lots as well, in the end only successfully getting 3 lots. The remaining 2 were developed into my family homestead, and another neighbor.
Two other families had lived in the house before us, one owner died, and the other owner – a black belt – moved out before he used his skills to give Pepi a dirt nap. Days after my family moved in, a young couple with two small children, Pepi was on site – telling them what needed to be done with the house and the property.
It didn’t take long for my folks, both children of NYC in the mid 1900’s, kindly asked the schlemiel to take a hike. Pepi had successfully driven two families from the home, and was hell bent on driving us out as well… As my folks bought the house in 1971, and still happily live there over 40 years later, you can say he wasn’t very successful… but he still hasn’t stopped trying.
A few gems to start, I’ll add more as I remember them…
One of my earliest memories of Pepi’s depravity was around Christmas time. I was probably around 10 years old. That year, the day after Christmas was very windy. Now Pepi’s house was in the ‘sac’ of the Cull-De-Sac, which was at the bottom of a hill lined with about 6-8 homes on each side. After the holiday, everyone had put out very large bags of torn wrapping paper at the curbside. Over the course of the day, these bags proceeded to blow down the road and wound up scattered all over Pepi’s property.
His response was to collect the bags, put them on our yard with our bags… within minutes or hours, they’d wind up back on his yard. Now I can’t recall exactly how we kept ours from blowing away – probably because we had one of those huge garbage cans (what an idea!) – but as the day progressed, the pile of bags near our driveway would shrink and grow. Eventually, this wore pretty thin with Pepi, and in a fit of rage / stupidity, he decided to bring the bags back up to our yard, and rip one open.
Simple theory, right? Rip the bag, wrapping papers, spread out all over our property because of the wind, and he gets his tiny victory… In actuality, the bags and the papers all ended up over his entire yard (figure 2/3 of an acre, remember he bought 2 lots). This sent him into a fury. He collected some samples with the name tags still on them, and called the police…
Now remember, our garbage is still neatly tucked in our garbage can…
The police arrive, and Pepi cries foul, showing the name tags… none of which match anyone in our immediate or extended family. Tags from at least 4 different families all the way at the top of the hill. Police didn’t do anything, Pepi looked like the shmuck that he was, and life went on.
Another time, one of my siblings had picked up an old muscle-car from the 60’s…
He worked on it day and night, tuning it into a precision instrument of raw horsepower. The only thing is, while it went very fast, very quick – it still had an old fashioned single-piston master cylinder. One day as he returned home the brakes decided to fail at the top of our street. He managed to slow it down to around 30mph by the time he reached our house. His only option to stop the car without hurting anyone was a small oak tree in our front yard that had the circumference of a beer can.
Sure enough, he nailed it dead center, and the tree sacrificed itself to save him and his friend. The car was totaled and left hanging over the driveway. After hearing the crash, we all ran out of the house to see what happened and make sure he was ok. Pepi’s wife, Massel, instead decided to call the police and claim that he had actually rammed into their house… and followed it up by coming outside and screaming at him.
Now, when I was 6 years old – I did something pretty stupid.
A friend of mine from down the street had introduced me to a cigarette lighter, and we would hang out in the woods near Pepi’s house, burning leaves and putting them out. One day, while bored I thought ‘why don’t I go play with fire.’ Yes, I actually thought that. So I snuck into the treeline adjacent to Pepi’s house and started to light up some leaves on a very dry and sunny summer day. The first few batches lit up and burned away, but that last leaf caught under a pile of wood that Pepi had discarded in the woods, and try as I might to put the flames out, I couldn’t. Now Pepi didn’t just dump wood back there, he dumped everything back there. Wood, appliances, garbage – and besides the leaves, guess what burned up? All of the crap he was illegally discarding (if memory serves, I think part of the fallout of the fire was he getting a fine for dumping garbage and other combustible materials improperly). He had actually been away that day, thank God… Once the fire took and I realized I couldn’t put it out, I ran screaming. My mom recalls seeing me running towards her, screaming, with a wall of flame behind me. Two fire trucks came and quickly put it out, I got to sit in a police car and get scared out of EVER doing something so stupid again, even made the front page of the weekly local newspaper. It was a pretty traumatic experience, but chances are had Pepi not been storing piles of combustible garbage – it may never have happened.
Cars… ah yes, the cars!
One thing I noticed early on is that any time my folks would get a new car, within a month – the Miststück family had picked up the same exact car, with a different color, and generally a higher trim level. If we had a base model, they would get the fully-loaded model. This went on for at least 15 years. Imitation? Envy? Who knows. The one thing we always knew would set him off was parking in front of his house. It wasn’t illegal, but it just caused the right synapses to fire in his pea brain to whine, complain, yell, and threaten whichever member of our family was in sight. Now we – not being a group of Zhlub’s – wouldn’t block his driveway. On the other hand, he would make a point any time there was a family event at their home – have someone block our driveway. Of course, my family is a family of doers – not talkers. So one day when their son-in-law decided to park his car in front of our driveway, we simply went out, picked it up, and moved it out of the way. Hilarity ensued, police were called, (by now pretty much every level of town government knew and accepted the fact that Pepi was a meshungina looked at the situation, and left Pepi to stew in his own lunacy.
One night, Pepi came home and saw a car parked in front of his house. This of course impeded him from swooping around the cull-de-sac like he usually did so he could back in to his driveway. So he sat there, in his car, laying on the horn, and expecting us to come out and move the car. Instead, he ended up in a shouting match with my Dad, who invited him to ‘come a little closer (as in come onto our property) and discuss it.’ Growing up, and even today in his 70’s, my old man is built like a freight train. Had that incident gone another way, I have little doubt that it would have lasted more than one punch from my Dad’s giant fists. Thankfully though, Pepi did what he usually did when confronted – and scurried into his house to call the police. A female officer arrived (lets just say Pepi’s treatment of women has always been questionable) and the end result of that conversation was the officer clearly telling Pepi that if he calls them one more time for this sort of thing, they would bring HIM in. Eventually Pepi figured out that when the town oiled the road again, they would leave quite a bit of extra gravel lying around, which he would collect well after dark and end up building himself a small turnaround near his garage so he could back the car in regardless of who was parked in the road. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the same thought when it came to get our cars off the road for winter, as the usual practice of parking the extra car on the lawn was hindered by Pepi calling the town zoning department and complaining that we were doing what everyone else in the neighborhood was doing that time of year and didn’t have the forethought to steal a ton of fresh gravel to make a proper driveway. We ended up having to make our own gravel parking spot (to code of course) to satisfy the shmuck.
To this day, for nothing more than the satisfaction of knowing that it raises his blood pressure a few bpm’s – I always make a point to park in front of his house whenever I visit. Sure its petty, I could be the better man, but that’s my dad’s job.
I’ll add more stories as time goes on, but for now – enjoy, and feel free to share your bad neighbor stories in the comment section.