Wednesday, July 19, 2006
MY WIFE and I live in a duplex. We have the downstairs half of the house. Until the first of this month, our landlords lived upstairs. We now have new neighbors.
The new people seem like a nice quiet couple. This is good. We became very used to quiet people living upstairs when our landlords were in residence.
Our landlords were the Pantazopouloses, a young married couple who had their first child - a really cute son named Georgie - while they lived here. Vassilios, a computer programmer, and his wife, Tatiana, a doctor, seemed almost afraid to walk across the floor above our heads. I think in all the time they lived here, we didn't hear their TV once. There may have been three or four instances of them turning up their stereo loud enough to reach our ears, and even then it was just barely so. And they were continually apologizing to us for whatever noise Georgie might have been making.
The thing is, Georgie made almost no noise at all. Sure, he cried now and again; that's what babies do. And there was the occasional mad dash across the living room, once he started to walk. Outside of those small things, however, we heard almost nothing from him. We honestly felt that sometimes they waited to hear us grinding our coffee in the morning before they'd even allow Georgie out of bed.
All in all, they were the perfect neighbors. They were also great landlords. Every time we came to them with a problem, it was fixed immediately. Of course, we're damned good tenants, too.
I'll give you an idea of our landlord/tenant relationship. One day last winter, our heat stopped functioning. MY WIFE and I considered not telling them about it until the morning. It was somewhat late at night - perhaps 10:00 or so - and we knew we wouldn't be terribly uncomfortable if we waited until morning to tell them. The apartment wasn't cold and we had plenty of blankets. If worse came to worse, we could always turn on the stove. However, we knew we might not catch them in the morning, so when we definitely heard someone walking around upstairs, we decided this would be a better time to inform them of the situation.
I went up the back steps and knocked on their kitchen door. Vassilios answered. When I told him about the furnace not functioning, I also told him not to worry about it immediately. I suggested he get someone to come out in the morning and everything would be fine when we got home tomorrow night. He said no, that wouldn't do, and he called someone to come work on it immediately, at what were probably exorbitant overtime rates. The furnace was back in working order before we went to sleep that night.
Now they're gone and we have new upstairs neighbors. They seem nice from the brief meeting we had while they were moving in. They may turn out to be one of the sweetest couples on the face of God's green earth, but how can they possibly beat ultra-quiet super-conscientious landlords with a cute son?
The Pantazopouloses (dope that I am, I had to refer to Vassilios's business card every month, when I made out the rent check, to be sure I was spelling his name correctly - and I just looked at it again now, to be sure) had originally purchased the house with help from Vassilios's father, George. As I understand it, he actually helped both Vassilios and Vassilios's brother, Nick, to purchase the place, although Vassilios and Tatiana were going to take residence.
George, the father - a very nice fellow with a ready smile - is about the same age as MY WIFE and me. He's a good man with his hands, adept at all sorts of minor repairs, and if there were a small problem, such as a leaky faucet, he would be on-hand to fix it as soon as possible. Since the birth of Georgie, he is now known as "Big George". And Big George is the final arbiter on all matters concerning our house.
There was never any question concerning our staying on as tenants when the Pantazopouloses purchased the house. We had been here for about two years already and the previous landlord made it an unwritten condition of the sale that we would be allowed to stay. I'm sure if someone had made an offer of a million dollars over the asking price, we would have been out on the street quicker than you could have said "eviction notice", but any reasonable offer came with that proviso.
Of course, for a couple like Vassilios and Tatiana, it was a good deal. We were a ready source of income. They didn't have to advertise for tenants and keep the apartment empty and non-revenue-generating for a few months while finding some people they liked.
And now, Vassilios and Tatiana have decided that they would like to have a larger family. The upstairs apartment was really only barely big enough for a couple with one child; it would have been far too small for two children. So, they started looking for a new house back in March. They found one and moved. Our house now has passed into Nick's hands and the upstairs apartment was rented almost immediately.
We have been assured that the downstairs apartment is ours for as long as we want it. Big George says that even if neither of his sons is involved in the house in any way, he will keep it himself. He likes us and we like him. And he loves the house. It is solid, built in the 1940's of brick, and has the feel of absolute safety once you're inside. It would take five or six big bombs to knock it down - or at least that's the feeling you have when you live here.
(My friend and former fellow band member, Sean Flaherty, used to say the same thing about my old house at Caddy Road in Dorchester. When we were teenagers, he'd come over to my house to listen to Deep Purple or Black Sabbath records. The shades were always drawn in the living room as the records played. Sean told me - more than once - that he felt as safe there as anywhere on the planet. A nuclear holocaust could have occurred outside - bombs raining down, people screaming and running around on fire - but we wouldn't have known about it until he got up to go home, opened the front door, and found the rest of the world was destroyed. At which point, presumably, he would have closed the door and sat back down on the couch while I put on some Grand Funk.)
(He also liked my stereo a lot. He swears that, on that stereo only, there was one point during the record Live Album by Grand Funk [there was an imaginative title...] wherein he expected Mark Farner's hand to burst through the speaker holding the broken neck of a guitar in bloody fingers, strings dangling.)
(And I was the one doing drugs, not Sean. I guess Sean didn't need them. Or maybe he did. However, I digress.)
That's about all I've got for now, except to tell you one more short story concerning our new neighbors and why I think everything's going to be swell with them.
Our trash day is Thursday. Now, while Vassilios and Tatiana lived here, whichever of us would get home from work first would bring in not only their own empty trash barrel, but that of the other couple, too. Same for recycling bins when they went out. And we never said anything to each other about it. It was just something nice that two couples did for each other to make life easier. I have no idea which one of us did it first.
The first week our new neighbors were here, I put out our trash barrel and recycling bin on Thursday. When I got home, the empty barrel was put away in the backyard and our recycling bin was next to it. And they didn't even have a barrel of their own to put out yet.
They're going to work out just fine.