A sure sign that husband & I reside in the 'burbs is who inhabits the abandoned house next door to us.
When we first thought of entering the bittersweet world of home ownership, we dared to dream big and imagine we could afford a house or condo inside the city. When we awoke from our fantasy, we realized that one could only afford to live within the city limits if one :
a.) had bought their home while husband and I were still in diapers
b.) didn't mind living next door to a crack house, or
c.) was a rich, gay man, combining one's income with another rich gay man.
Husband and I meet none of these criteria, so we packed up our bags, and with our combined salaries that in other parts of the country would buy us 5 acres of land and a 4 bedroom McMansion, we purchased one side of a quaint little 2-bedroom duplex just outside the city.
Our neighborhood is in "transition". That means we spent a shitload of money on a house in a neighborhood that 5-10 years ago, no one wanted to live in. It means that 1/2 the houses are owned by young, yuppy-esque types like husband and I, with our stainless steel and granite kitchens and our Crate & Barrell, and the other 1/2 are owned by people pushing 100 years old who haven't been outside of their homes since the '80's and whose kitchen appliances are still of the avocado and marigold variety. It's pretty easy to tell, just by looking, which houses belong to whom.
The house next to us is the stuff that childrens' fantasy novels are made of. It is old, brick, boarded up on the ground floor, and broken-windowed on the top floors. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if someday, Boo Radley walked out the front door. Husband and I turned up our noses when we first saw it right next to our potential new home, but the truth is, we couldn't bear to lose another bid and figured, "what the hell--at least the neighbors won't disturb us"....so we bought it.
It didn't take us long to realize that the abandoned house (still owned by some fool who keeps paying the taxes on it, so it can't be auctioned off or anything like that), is actually occupied. Not by way-ward homeless (they stay mostly inside the city, although I have seen a few "regulars" in our Starbucks) or by tweekers seeking a new location for their lucrative meth lab (also more of a city phenomenon--the previous owners of our house had the city board up the downstairs to discourage that sort of industrious, but deadly behavior).
No, the house next door is occupied by an entire village of squatter squirrels. They run across our roof, jump into the tree separating our houses and then scurry into the broken attic window of the house next door. I can only imagine what the scene is in there---it must be a veritable garden of Eden for those little critters. It's a 3 story home, for cripe's sake; a whole world by squirrel standards!!! I shudder to think of what will happen someday when this house does get put back on the market. I hope we've moved on by then, as I imagine the equipment required to gut a home is big and noisy. Besides, I don't want to see "squirrel eviction day". Imagine the carnage...
Generally, our squirrel neighbors wouldn't really be blog-noteworthy, but as it is spring, and I think there must be many, many baby squirrels just making their way into the world inside that house, I have noticed a flurry of activity outside my window. For the past 3 or 4 days, one little male squirrel in particular has been defying gravity and flinging himself all around the tree branches that are just now starting to bud in a herculean effort to gather leaves and twigs for a nest. Ah, the beauty of nature. Ah, the mockery of it all....
Yes, that's right. Not only am I forced to watch spring from the confines of my bed, now I have to watch a daddy squirrel (I know it's a "he"; the branches are very close to our window and he's pretty shameless when he's dangling from a limb) "nesting". At first I thought, "Oh, how sweet" and all that "circle of life" crap. Then I realized, "hey--that's what I want to be doing!!!" Of course, I don't want to be dangling 25 feet up by my toes or anything, but I DO want to be preparing for the arrival of my baby, making him a lovely little "nest" and whatnot. But of course, I have the cervix of incomparable incompetence, and so here I sit...forced to watch this little rodent mock me with his industrious zeal, creating the perfect little home for his baby squirrel.
I am trying not to be too bitter about it; that's just silly and sure sign that I am losing touch with my sanity more and more on a daily basis. I am perhaps equally as disturbed by the fact that my cat is not the slightest bit interested in this creature, only inches away from the window screen. The first day she got all up in the window, intense and chattering like "Let me at him!!! This is my destiny!!!!!" But after 12 years indoors, I think she realizes she would have no idea what to do with him if she actually did get him (she is known to just watch an ant walk across an entire floor rather than actually attack it), so she has gone back to curling up on the bed and watching the squirrel's acrobatic antics as her own form of "kitty TV" or something.
I guess all in all, they make pretty good neighbors. No loud music, no car doors slamming, good family values...