Monday, March 25, 2013

Early Neighborhood Solution

When I first moved into this house, I was a nervous wreck.  I'd nearly killed myself in the move from that slum shack in Corvallis.  It was hell, to take apart the cat yard and all I had to do to move, mostly alone.  My brothers came one day and loaded stuff into a truck and brought it over.  But I had to do the rest alone.  All the little nit picky things of wrapping up a life one place and moving it to another town.  My stay here was supposed to be temporary, from the start.  My brother promised me he would resell this house in a year so I could live somewhere I wanted to live.  That didn't happen.

I nearly wrecked out my neck, too, with such hard labor as taking down a fence and heavy lifting.  I was in pain for months afterwards, and could not move without pain.  I had the added problem of having nowhere for my 12 cats, to go outside, or anywhere really.  The place was wall to wall shag carpet, original from the 70's, and stunk to high heaven of a plethora of previous tenants and their habits and pets.

You don't want stinky carpet if you have cats.  Or even want to breath.  I hate carpet.  Carpet catches everything and keeps it forever.  Carpet is the devils' spawn!!!

Anyhow, I was also nervous about living in a middle class neighborhood.  I'd had terrible problems over in Corvallis, with the houses surrounding the slum shack being middle class.  While neighbors were nice, they hated the ugly non maintained slum and had no problems telling me so.  I longed then to live amongst my own kind, the poor, but I also loved living in a house for the first time in my life, even though it was under 400 square feet.  The size was perfect for me, actually, had it been maintained or insulated at all.  I dreamed it would be mine one day, to properly care for, to create into a beautiful efficient permanent and loved home.  I liked the location, so close to Bald Hill Park and walking paths everywhere.

Moving to a cul de sac in suburbia land, where there are no parks anywhere within miles, just cars cars cars and concrete, was like moving to a foreign country where I did not even speak the language.  I still do not speak the language here.

This house by comparison to the ill maintained slum shack felt like living in a mansion.  I felt guilty just for having a decent place to live. It was overwhelming, to think of the work involved in converting it to something workable for me and the cats.  Carpet is my enemy and it would be the first thing to go.

Fitting in here was something I wanted to accomplish but I knew it would not be easy for me.  I have always been very very isolated and alone. I have no people skills.   I have more in common with outdoor people, hiking people, nature people, but here, well I could not figure out what people value.  I still haven't.  I'm still lost.  I moved 20 miles.   I moved from a town that values parks and trails and bike paths and organic gardening to a completely alien culture.  That's how different communities can be.

It's like relocating a lone feral cat.  Doesn't work.  If you're going to snatch a cat away from their home territory, all things familiar, their haunts, their safety zones, you gotta send them off with their family or friends, at least.  I still think I'm going home one day.

But now, when I go back over there, I see Corvallis has changed too.  It's wall to wall student housing.  The university has expanded, taken over much of the housing and town.  Many of the poor people I once knew in Corvallis have also been forced across the river into low income Albany.  I don't go back very often.  I thought I would, but I don't.  I should, I know, go hike in one of their many parks once a week, to get into shape again.  There's nothing here like they have there.  Nothing at all.

When I first moved in here, a group of Mexicans lived in the house behind my back fence   There would often be 15 or 20 adults in the backyard evenings, partying.  The adults spoke no English.  The kids did.  There was a young boy, maybe 12, who owned a pellet gun and every night he was out there shooting it.  He didn't limit his shooting to his yard.  The pellets zinged by my head, and even plunked against my house.  I hated that kid and his gun.  I appealed to him through the fence and he mocked me. I had told him "if you don't stop shooting that gun through the fence I'm going to call the police."  He smirked and said, "They won't arrest me.  I'm just a 12 year old kid."  I thought to myself, 'Boy, you got a lot to learn about America.  They arrest kids for bringing a nail file to school."  I took to wearing a bike helmet and safety glasses to protect myself when out in my yard.

I finally called the cops.  I didn't know what else to do.  The officer came.  He was more interested however in the pickup parked facing the wrong way in front of my place.  I didn't know whose pickup that was and I didn't care.  But the officer seemed convinced there must be someone else in my place and that's who owned the pickup.  I denied that accusation loudly.  "Then you won't mind if I ticket that truck," the officer challenged.

 I actually did mind.  I knew it had to belong to some neighbor.  I didn't want a neighbor thinking I called the cops on their pickup.  But I have always been fearful of the police too.  It was a dilemma.  I said "No, I don't mind.  It's not my truck and there is no one else in this house! You can search my house if you want."

So he ticketed it.  It was a neighbors' truck and I got off to a very bad start in the neighborhood.

The officer claimed he would go talk to the offending kid with the gun.  I don't know if he did or not, because the shooting didn't stop.  I solved it myself.  This is how.

I waited one evening until the adults were inside.  There was the 12 year old and some younger kids out back.  I told the kid through the fence I knew his parents and relatives were illegals and if he kept shooting that gun, I was going to make sure they were all deported and it would be his fault.  I knew he wouldn't tell his parents I said that, but I knew the younger kids would.

The shooting stopped.  I don't know if it was as a result of what I said or something else.  A few months later, the whole lot of them moved.

Problem solved.

My problems here are not just my inability to assimilate into a different culture. I also struggle as a result of being surrounded by the grass seed industry.  I thought I could survive it ok because I didn't have a big problem with allergies in Corvallis.  But I do here.  The pollen comes first, with a vengeance, then the dust, from the grass fields that march to the edge of town and surround it for miles upon miles.  The pollen is only the beginning.  There's the grass seed harvest that charges the air in particulate matter, then the churning up of dust clouds that occlude vision in turning the soil before planting again, it's a respiratory killer. You have to have respiratory and sinus systems that recognize nothing as enemy to exist here.

Obvious to me now, I don't possess that system.  I thought I'd be ok, but not so much.  This year I'm going to try stuffing my nose with Vick's vapor rub, hoping to keep out much of that stuff.  But ultimately, I need to leave.

I want to move up to the Sherwood, Tigard, or Hillsboro area.  Why?  Because I know many people up there.  And I could spend my time working at my friend's sanctuary, if nothing else.  I'd like to live at the sanctuary, like in a trailer out back, with a fenced yard for my cats.  I'd just be the cat cleaner lady and maintain the sanctuary and be happy as a clam.  But it's not zoned to allow that there.  Darn it.

And because I'm so darn lonely here.  I have not found a "tribe" or a community.  Moving on no money is almost impossible however.  And to move with cats, well, that really makes it impossible.  I moved here with 12 cats, which at the time, was the most I'd ever owned.  Most of those cats were elderly.  All have died except for four--Electra, Miss Daisy, Comet and Vision.  Comet, who is nine years old, is the youngest of those four.

I did myself in quickly with the move here, to Linn County.  With cats in trouble on every block, how would I not.  I did not know it was so bad here for animals.  But am I doomed to life here, with little to no normal human contact and almost no recreational activities to be had?  Can I find a way out, wrangle a way to move to someplace where I know people or could find friends?  Probably not.  I haven't given up.  I'm always trying to figure a way out.

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