Tag Archives: Sicily

I Didn’t Hump Anyone’s Leg. I Promise.

A good neighbor is a fellow who smiles at you over the back fence, but doesn’t climb over it. ~ Arthur Baer

Loving Husband and I are shopping for houses.

Well, we’re shopping for one house. It’s not like we’re thinking of buying one and a spare.

This is a pretty major development for us. An evolutionary milestone, if you will. It means that, for the first time ever, we are prepared to stay in one place for a long time.

By “a long time,” I mean at least ten years. Since we’ve never lived anywhere for more than four years, that’s pretty huge.

But, now that our time in the Navy is done (at least as active duty folks), LH has a good job that won’t make him move every few years, and we’re tired of renting. It’s expensive, and we can’t do things to a rental house (like make repairs, or paint, or whatever) that we could do to a house that we own.

So we’re shopping.

This brings up an issue, though. Neighbors.

I mean, we’ve had neighbors before, obviously. But when you’re renting, and you know that you’re not going to be there for long, you don’t have to be on really good terms with your neighbors. It’s not important. Which was good for us, because, for various reasons, I’m a rotten neighbor.

For starters, I grew up in New Jersey, where people are not especially outgoing. So that’s one strike against me — culturally, my expectation is to ignore and be ignored.

I also grew up in a family of people who are introverts. As a family, we just don’t know what to do with strangers, and we’re certainly not about to knock on someone’s door to introduce ourselves, even without taking into account my own personal struggles with social anxiety. Strike two.

Um … yeah, hi. I’m just going to stay behind this nice tree until you go away, and then I’m going to beat myself up with recriminations, okay? (Photo by bigevil600)

My biggest problem, though, is that I’m a trouble-maker (I like to call myself a ‘free-thinker’). Let me give you an example to show you what I mean.

At our last station just before we left active duty, we had to live on base. This broke my heart when I found out — we were going to Sicily, and we’d have to live surrounded by only Americans? Where’s the fun in that? But we didn’t have a choice at that time — it was policy that any service members with families had to live in on-base housing.

We arrive to find that, not only do we have a lawn (which, having come from a third-story apartment, we’d never had before) but we’re expected to maintain it ourselves. In addition to weeding the lawn and pruning shrubs, that meant watering the lawn. Every day. Twice a day.

They wanted this.

Now, I’m a research nerd. As soon as I learned that we were going to Sicily, I started doing research on it. In the course of that, I found that Sicily has a lot of water distribution problems. Some are due to changing agricultural practices, with a move toward more water-intensive crops and away from the traditionally Mediterranean olives and almonds. Others are due to corruption and the influence of organized criminal organizations. Either way, every summer there is some problem with water, and people frequently have to go without water in their homes for days at a time.

To me, this spelled out the word C-O-N-S-E-R-V-E. I thought, if there are water troubles, the responsible thing to do would be to conserve water. And a good way to start would be to eliminate uses that were purely aesthetic, like watering your lawn. Makes sense, right?

Wrong. I’m a damn hippie. No matter how much research I quoted, or how often I showed my findings to the maintenance folks and the chain of command, nobody wanted to hear anything about it.

On the contrary, it made people awfully angry. I know, I know, I was na├»ve to think that people would be willing to listen, to not realize that people would feel threatened and angry at some LT’s wife trying to save the world one lawn at a time. As an idealistic, I-can-make-the-world-a-better-place, twenty-something artistic type, it was a pretty rude awakening for me.

They got this.

What really shocked me, more than anything else, was the reaction of some of my neighbors. One in particular, a woman whose husband my husband happened to work closely with, was so angry about the state of our lawn (that state being mostly dead) that she confronted me about it. Angrily. If we had been men, I’m pretty sure that fists would have been involved. And after that, with very few exceptions, we never spoke to one another again.

(Can I tell you one of the exceptions? We were at a command dinner at a restaurant, a large group of Americans surrounded by Italians, who were studiously ignoring us. I was talking at my end of the table with one of Loving Husband’s colleagues, who asked me about my theater background and what sort of things I had done. When I mentioned that I had been involved in a production of The Vagina Monologues, this neighbor woman yells from the other end of the table, “Watch your mouth!” As if I was randomly shouting out the clinical names of lady-parts in public — VULVA! VAGINA! CLITORIS! I mean come on. Context, people! I think she really did expect me to pee on the floor, or start humping someone’s leg.)

I’m pretty sure that our neighborhood had a block party to celebrate our departure at the end of our tour. I can’t prove it, though, because when I left I was on speaking terms with so few of our neighbors.

Strike three. We’re out.

Buying a house, we’re going to be there for a long time. I want to be on good terms with the neighbors. I mean, we don’t have to become life-long friends, walking into each other’s houses without knocking, like in the old sitcoms. But I would like to be reasonably certain that they’re not going to leave flaming piles of poo on my doorstep.

With that in mind, we’re preferring houses that don’t have lawns, at least in front. And we’re automatically dismissing any houses that have Homeowner’s Associations.

I’d love to hear your crazy neighbor stories! Unless they’re about me, “That damn crazy hippie who moved in and crusaded against decent, hard-working lawns.” In which case you may keep it to yourself.

The Devil’s In The Details. And Also In My Closet.

Probably the worst time in a person’s life is when they have to kill a family member because they are the devil. But otherwise it’s been a pretty good day. ~ Emo Philips

I have a thing to talk about. It might make some people uncomfortable, but I think that I really ought to talk about it anyway. If you are a person who is easily made uncomfortable, or who likes to send nasty comments to bloggers just because you think that they’re a little fucked up, you should maybe go away now.

Seriously. Go.

Okay, friends and cool people; are they gone?

Good.

I have a little issue about … deep breath, I just know I’m going to piss someone off … Satan.

Here’s the thing; I think he’s HILARIOUS.

Okay, maybe I should clarify: I think that the way that the concept of Satan (or The Devil, or The Prince of Lies, etc etc etc) is represented visually is hilarious. This has nothing to do with my spiritual beliefs. It has everything to do with my wicked, dirty, and childish sense of humor.

Because seriously. Images of Lucifer (or Lucky, as his friends call him) are awesome. They run the gamut from adorable little mischievous devils …

Awww. (Art by Jlorenz1)

… to horrific nightmares of blood and guts and everlasting sadism.

Ack!

Doesn’t matter what it is, I love it. Okay, so it’s meant to be scary and to make you be good in this life and all that. But come on! He’s got some dude’s legs hanging out of his mouth, and an expression on his face that I frequently get while playing sudoku! IT’S FUNNY.

This little fixation of mine really wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t for the fact that, because I heart different representations of the devil so much, I have invested in some. To own.

Well, one in particular. See, we lived in Sicily for a few years, and I just HAD to have one of those puppets that they use to put on the famous Sicilian puppet shows. No, no, I didn’t want Orlando or Rinaldo, the boring old paladins of good. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t much interested in any of the ones usually sold as souvenirs. I wanted a REAL one, and I wanted Il Diavolo.

One store in Catania had a whole set. Genuine puppets, hand carved for actual use by puppeteers, nearly two feet tall and GORGEOUS. There were all the characters — yes, the paladins of boringness, but also the King, the Queen, the Saracen, the Angel … and the Devil.

I coveted that puppet. For two years, I would stop in that shop and look at the puppet, never daring to ask how much it cost. I knew it would be a lot. I also knew that once I asked, I would buy it. That would be it, it would be a done deal.

Eventually, after my years of yearning for that puppet, my wonderful, understanding, loving, and generous husband, who is a little uncomfortable with my attitude toward insensate evil (though he pretends that it’s all JUST FINE), bought it for me. The store owner was surprised that anyone asked about any of these puppets — I suspect he thought of them as decoration, not really as something for sale. He pulled a price out of his butt, we haggled a little, and it was MINE.

Isn’t he BEAUTIFUL?

I LOVE MY DEVIL PUPPET. He is beautiful — hand carved wood, hand painted face, and just look at those boots! The cape is FABULOUS, and he has a ponytail, just as any truly Bad-Ass Motherfucker should.

The eyelashes! The goatee! And the evil little widow’s peak! Ahhhhh, I love it!

So here’s my problem. WHAT DO I DO WITH IT NOW THAT I HAVE IT?

I really want to show him off. I want him to be the fascinating conversation starter that I know he is. But do I hang him in my dining room, where he will watch guests eat? That might make some people uncomfortable. Like the little devil on your shoulder telling you to eat more dessert.

Should I put him in my living room? That’s the place that nosy and judgmental neighbors are most likely to see when they knock on my door. And there’s always the UPS guy, who already thinks that I’m pretty weird because I never leave the house and order everything I need from Amazon.

How about the guest bedroom? Um, never mind. Definitely shouldn’t put a big, scary Satan puppet in the room where my nice, Christian family members will be trying to sleep.

Our bedroom doesn’t seem like a good option either, since Loving Husband has repeatedly expressed discomfort at my little fixation, and would definitely not like to have Il Diavolo supervising his … uh, dreams.

That really just leaves the nursery.

Hmm.

Intriguing, but … no, that won’t work. Thing is, red and black aren’t really the color scheme we’ve got going on in there. Also, I really would rather have Il Diavolo somewhere that I can show him off, and I don’t plan on entertaining visitors much in the nursery.

So for now, my much-loved puppet is hanging from a hook in one of our basement storage rooms, waiting for the day when I figure out how best to display him while incurring minimal social repercussions. Eventually I’ll probably just get pissed off about the entire situation, drink a little too much blood-red wine, and decide to hang him in the front window. But in an effort to prevent such a thing from happening, does anyone have any ideas about where to display Il Diavolo? I could use some help here. (Um, I do screen my comments, just so you know. So anyone who says things like “Up your evil butt, you Satanic whore” is likely to get censored. Kthxbai.)