JAIMIE VERNON: NEIGHBOURING RIGHTS (AND WRONGS) – Part Two

Jaimie 2

Part One can be found here

Sorry. This is not the music industry blog you were looking for.
Instead, I have an admission to make. I have become Gladys Kravitz.
No, not the mother of Lenny Kravitz; that was the late great actress Roxie Roker from the TV show ‘The Jeffersons’ who was also cousin to White House pants sharting TV morning man Al Roker.

Part Two

All-in-all we had very few incidents with our neighbours in the 11 years we lived there – and we lived directly across the street from two schools. In fact, the place was usually nice and quiet and a Ukrainian retired gent at the end of our street always came out with his snow blower to clear all our sidewalks and driveways everytime it snowed. I’d pay for his gas and appreciated his thoughtfulness. Then we were evicted at the end of 2010 when we could no longer sustain ourselves following the economic collapse of 2008.

EllesmereWhich brings us to our current existence with the new neighbours from hell. We now live not too far from the the Metro Toronto Zoo in the eastern most part of Scarborough north of Highland Creek Village (a small town secluded in the middle of a nightmarish, gang-hostile city). We landed here literally in the middle of a cold winters night desperate for any place to live after a fruitless search following our eviction. The landlord of this WW2 bungalow – it’s the oldest house on the street – felt sorry for our plight and gave us the place without checking references or doing a credit check. We lucked out.

Above the garage is a one bedroom apartment with an open kitchen and a secluded washroom. That apartment is accessible through a mudroom and side door that also attaches to our kitchen. The house is not soundproof – in fact, I don’t think it has any insulation or barriers at all as it’s friggin’ freezing in here in the winter.

Old man with dogWhen we moved in the upstairs apartment was already occupied by a 50-something gent with Multiple Sclerosis and his dog. He had a hard time getting around but he was stubborn and forced himself to remain active – usually walking the dog around the block a few times a day just so he could smoke (which he can’t inside the apartment as per the lease agreement). Bill was a nice guy and never disturbed anyone. Occasionally I’d help him put his garbage out because he had a problem with one arm because of his condition. His daughter was happy he was there and staying out of trouble. Apparently in his last place – on Danforth Avenue – he’d wander the streets and usually ended up back home in the back of a cop car.

But our location in the most easterly end of Scarborough was limiting – the Village is the closest place to civilization. On a good day I can walk there in 20 minutes. For Bill it was an impossible journey. He had to take the bus – or the landlord would drive him to the supermarket a few times a month. Not an ideal place for someone struggling like he was. He decided one day he was moving. He called the landlord, gathered a bunch of friends, loaded up a van and off he went. As they were pulling out I asked him where he was going. He said, “Camping”. We never saw him again.

SThe next tenant was an older deaf mute woman with a yappy dog. She had moved to Scarborough from Belleville, Ontario because she was a Jehovah’s Witness and the Kingdom Hall (that happened to be near my mother) offered services for the deaf – including signing. She seemed pleasant enough. At first. Then it became clear that she had lived her whole life relying on people to do her bidding. She was 54 and it looked like she hadn’t gotten much farther than Grade 4 or 5. She’d hand me notes scrolled on note paper that were nearly impossible to decipher because she hadn’t learned to use the word “I”. It was me this and me that.

The second day there she wanted to know if I could call the cable company to get her internet and cable TV services installed (but no phone, obviously).  I decided to be the helpful neighbour and go assist. It was a nightmare. The process took an hour. Because I wasn’t her legal guardian or assisted living helper for her handicap they put me through the hoops. I gave them everything they needed like her I.D. information – birth certificate, drivers license (!!!), social insurance number, etc. Then the cable company asked me to ask her if it was alright to do a credit check. She nodded yes to me. The person on the phone wouldn’t accept that.

Rogered“For security purposes we need her to tell us personally over the phone,” said the idiot Rogers cable rep.
“Oh, okay,” I said. “Would you like her to hold her notebook up to the receiver or can you read sign language?”

They had to get a supervisor to approve the transaction. But the story doesn’t end there. They came out to do the installation and I signed for the maintenance work and they guy went on his merry way. That was a Wednesday. On Friday she came back to my door and let me know that neither her cable or internet was working. I called Rogers back. It took them until Tuesday the following week to take a look at this woman’s connections – now having no communication with the outside world for 5 days straight.
The 2nd maintenance guy had confirmed it had been turned off. I phoned Rogers while he waited. After a 20 minute dicking around the clerk confirmed they’d received a disconnect order and they’d have it re-established – in another week. I freaked out. I told our poor neighbour what was going on. All she could do was ask “why?”. I didn’t know but told her she’d have to be patient.

InspectorThe next day and inspector came to the house. I assumed he was there to reconnect her service. He wasn’t. He was there to take statements about the fuck up. I went up one side of the guy and down the other. “Look, asshat. This lady is deaf. She needs 24 hour access to the outside world in case of any emergency. She can’t even cry out for help if it came to that.”

He made a phone call, took out a tool belt and had back up and running in 20 minutes. But the story doesn’t end there either. On the third day after the disconnect another maintenance guy showed up and watched him go to the side of our house and start tinkering with the cable box on the side of our house.  “What the fuck are you doing,” I asked.

“I’ve got an order to reconnect the 2nd floor’s services”. I did a face palm.
“It’s already been reconnected. An inspector did it yesterday because your head office can’t get their shit together.”
He didn’t believe me. We went up to see the neighbour. Sure enough, her cable and computer were working just fine.

Home repair man isolatedHe left shaking his head. I phoned Rogers and told them that they owed her a month’s free service after having screwed around this deaf woman and I’d go to the media if they didn’t make amends. They not only dropped all the installation and connection fees but she got three months free service.

However, this woman proved to be a complete burden on me and my family. She cornered Sharon one night and gave her a sob story about going to the grocery store on a bus and ended up missing every local bus stop…putting her in a really bad part of Scarborough. My wife threw her in our car and took her to the store. This was the green light for her to use that as an excuse for us to take her shopping every time she needed to. I put an end to that right away. Soon, some friends from Kingdom Hall started taking her shopping instead. I don’t mean to be inconsiderate, but that was a bullet that was dodged.

lawnmowerAs a person on a disability pension, and no real local friends, she became a busy body around the house. Soon she was gardening and weeding and what not. But grass mowing was my responsibility (as I had the lawnmower). She came to the door one day while I was working – which I do from home – and insisting I mow the grass. NOW! She wanted to clear the scrub and the bushes and dead flower beds and the grass needed to be done before she could do it. Reluctantly I did it so she’d leave me alone.

YappyDogThen she decided to do a front yard sun-tanning constitutional during the day and would tie the dog up. No problem. They’d sit and he’d play and she’d send text messages to people and wave at passersby. Then she’d get the urge to go upstairs and make food….and leave the dog tied to a chair. And it would lose its flipping mind. Turns out it was trained to bark when she left a room. Sometimes she’d come back an hour later and the dog was now, ahem, hoarse.  She also did this in the morning when it needed to pee first thing in the morning…right outside my son’s bedroom window. She’d tie it to a stake and then fuck-off. The dog would go mental. I talked to her about it and told her to not leave the dog alone. She gave me the okay sign…and then kept doing it. I complained to the landlord. It was summer and we were trying to sleep-in longer than 8am in the morning. He talked to her. She signed okay again. It continued. Over the next week I started moving the stake that the dog was tied to farther back in the yard…until the dog was 200 feet into the back 40. She got the hint and started keeping the dog out front…where it would still bark…but we could no longer hear it.

Eventually, a deaf older gentleman began to come around. Soon he was staying overnight. One day she came to the door saying she was moving. He had found a job in St. Catharines, Ontario and wanted her to move with him because he knew a few places that would hire her. She said she had to go because her church had condemned her relationship with him and she was no longer wanted there. Good work with the tolerance Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Rose bushesThe day before she moved out she took a pair of hedge trimmers and cut down three years worth of pink and white roses that a former tenant had planted. I freaked out and called the landlord. He came over and blasted her…which wasn’t very effective what with the not being able to hear what he was saying thing. But she did say that she’d been growing roses for decades back ‘home’ and these were strangling in the poorly kept garden. She left and re-assured us that they would bloom the following year even better. She was wrong. She’d killed the plants and we get less than ¼ of the flowers we used to. I mean this woman no ill will. She seems to have a big heart. But I did not need that complete disruption of my life.

The woman that replaced her was a young 20 something. After the first two conversations with her I had determined she was either a drug addict or had been hit with a baseball bat in the head too many times. Or both.

Drug addled blondeThankfully, she kept to herself except on those occasions when her whiny, dependent boyfriend came around leaving used condoms on the driveway instead of in the garbage bin. It wasn’t long before he stopped coming around. It wasn’t long before she stopped coming around. She’d disappear for days at a time. I just assumed she was working nights because she’d wander in about 2.30 am some nights.

Then the landlord phoned one day asking if I’d seen her. I told him the exact day I’d last see her go out. Seven days passed. He hadn’t gotten his rent from her and she wasn’t answering her phone. On the tenth day he came to the door and asked if I’d follow up while he entered the apartment – so I could be witness to him entering according to the Landlord & Tenant Act. We were both scared about what we’d find. We found nothing out of the ordinary. A few dishes in the sink. Messy bed. Unwashed clothing in a basket. That was it.

Cop CarHe called her sister to say she hadn’t been home in 10 days. The sister, who had apparently been estranged for many months, called the police. An officer showed up and went through the events of the previous 10 days. He took a statement from me and gave us both business cards in case she came back. And she did. The next day. As she came up the driveway I said that the police had been looking for her. She seemed genuinely shocked and asked why. I told her that it was because she hadn’t been home for 10 days and owed the landlord rent. But mostly because we were all concerned. She shrugged and said “I’m fine. It’s none of your business”.

RunawayShe went into her apartment. I immediately called the landlord and the police. By the time they both arrived she’d already packed a suitcase and ran. The cops told us they’d done some digging and found out she’d been cashing fake cheques under an assumed name at a Cash Stop a few miles away. The landlord filed papers for a tribunal hearing to get her evicted. She didn’t show up and automatically lost the case. She came back one afternoon with a few guys and truck and loaded out her shit. She came back a while later and asked me to hold her mail for her. She never came back. The mail was returned to senders.

HeroinThis gal was then replaced by our current nightmare. A 6’ 5” Slovakian with anger management issues and his 4’ 9” drug addicted/spousally abused girlfriend. By day he’s a ceramic tiles installer for the construction industry. By night he’s making drug deals for both selling and consuming. I know this because the first week they moved in he got into a fight with a dealer in Ajax, Ontario and was brought to our front door by the Durham Police. I didn’t know why until they called me two hours later asking to talk to him for further questioning. WTF? How did the Durham Police get my phone number? I pounded on his door and told him that the cops were on the phone to talk to him. I stood dumbfounded as he tried to explain why he had a giant knife wound in his upper forearm – which was now bleeding on my dining room floor. He hung up, thanked me, and then went back up stairs. No explanation.

Days later he was banging on my door again. It was summer and he’d blown out all the upstairs fuses by turning on everything in the apartment – including a second air conditioner which he’d installed. The control panel was in our kitchen – and it was now up to me to dig up half a dozen fuses at a cost of $25.
Then he did it again. I called the landlord. He brought over the next batch of fuses. The tenant was then given a firm talking to about the age of the power grid in our house. He needed to turn some shit off or we’d be changing fuses every other day and/or the house would burn down.

Cellphone userThen his cellphone was mysteriously no longer working and he’d have to use our phone. The truth was the cell company cut him off. He spoke on the phone in a language I didn’t understand but there was a lot of arm waving and raised voices. Sounded like a drug deal that was not working out for him.

Then there was the coming and going at all hours of the night – usually 3 and 4am. Strange work hours for a guy installing tile. Then the yelling and screaming. And the unbelievably loud sex. Sometimes both at the same time. Then they bought a dog. It barks and shits all over the apartment. While the guy works, she’s strung out during the day and can’t get her ass out of bed long enough to take the dog out for a walk. I’ve seen them do it four or five times in the 8 months they’ve been here.

One day he decided he was going to mow our lawn. Fine by me. I showed him the lawnmower and the gas can and he did his share. Awesome. Except the next time I went to do the lawn the mower was destroyed. The arched handle was in three pieces and the pull cord to fire it up had been torn right out of the motor. It was useless. I pinned a note to his door saying “Any idea what happened to the lawnmower?”. Instead of coming to me to say he was sorry or to tell me he had no idea what happened to it he has spent the last 7 months avoiding me. Fine by me.

Recycle_BinThen he started sticking his garbage in the recycling bin and putting it at the curb for collection. The City was not amused and fined the landlord $150. They gave me the summons to give to him. The landlord was not amused. But he was so afraid of this tenant he’s been coming around every week and attending to the garbage bins and recycling himself. I told him he needs to kick these people out. They obviously have no respect for him or us or the neighbourhood. He did nothing.

Honeymooners1Well until December 23rd this past Christmas. At 2.30 AM, after my son and my wife had gone to bed, the War of the Roses erupted in the laundry room. The mudroom door was being slammed every few seconds and one or the other of them stormed in and out of the laundry room as they screamed at each other. But there was a second couple there. I had lied down too to try and get some shut eye. When Sharon worked early and I went to bed late I’d take the spare bedroom beside the laundry/mudroom. And now I was wide awake. I could hear the entire conversation as they settled down and headed up to their apartment.

At 3.00 am the music started. Drinking and laughing and a television set at full blast. Someone came down the stairs and slammed the mudroom door again. More yelling. Back IN the mudroom he was screaming at her for leaving their laundry in the machines. She yelled back something about the shit he hadn’t done. She told him to fuck off. He told her to get sober. She slammed the lid on the washing machine and fired it up. Great, now she was doing laundry at 3.30 in the morning.

Honeymooners 2I went out and told them to shut the fuck up or I was calling the police. I expected him to deck me. Instead, he berated her for making noise. She went back upstairs and he followed. Then all hell broke loose. She said some stuff I couldn’t hear. And he blew up.

“I work for you. I put a roof over your head. I run around every night getting you your ‘stuff’. And this is the thanks I get? I took a fucking knife for you, you ungrateful bitch!”

couple-fightingMore swearing. More Slovakian rage. Then another woman’s voice popped up telling him to step down and shut the hell up. It wasn’t his girlfriend. It was the woman from the other couple. He verbally assaulted her. Then the girlfriend jumped back in. Apparently, punching him.

“You’re hitting me now you stupid bitch? I’m taking you to your parents where you can dry out.” The arguing got louder and they were back in the mudroom again. She was opening and closing washing machine and dryer doors.

“Get in the truck. I’m taking you to your parents’ place. Let’s go.”
“Fuck off.” Door slam.
Door open.
“You’re not leaving those friends of yours in MY apartment. Get them out.”
“Fuck off”. Door slam.

I went out to the living room and watched his truck peel out of the driveway. It was going to be a long night. I planted myself on the couch and turned on the TV. I expected he’d be back and there’d be more noise. A few minutes later the second couple left – walking off down the street. Not sure where they were headed as there’s zero bus service in our neighbourhood that late at night. Oh, well. Not my problem.

InsomniaI knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep in the spare bedroom until this episode was over. I fell asleep on the couch. I woke up awhile later with a sore back and noticed the pick up truck was back. Guess he got rid of the bitch. I wandered back into the spare bedroom and crashed. Thank God that was over with. I’d call the landlord in the morning. I was awakened, once again, early in the morning not by the sounds of banging doors and screaming but the two of them having loud sex again. FUCK! It was now Christmas Eve day and I was awake and exhausted….and there was a shitload of stuff to do that day. A call to the landlord would have to wait.

I did call him over the Christmas break. I told him that the very next incident that happens with this couple would be resolved by the police. He assured me it would all be over soon. He’d evicted them. They’d be gone on January 31st. That’s almost good news. I fear who might be the next neighbour from hell. Stay tuned.

Send your CDs to: Jaimie Vernon, 180 Station Street, Suite 53, Ajax, ON L1S 1R9 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.
Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS_Button– Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.com

One Response to “JAIMIE VERNON: NEIGHBOURING RIGHTS (AND WRONGS) – Part Two”

  1. @Jaimie….I guess those FB friends of yours who suggested that you were a little cranky this past year might be well advised not to judge a man until they’ve walked 10 miles in his moccasins and met his neighbours!…lol Nice work! I can’t wait to hear about your next new neighbour.

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