MY TURN: Longtime neighbor put on his best face for the town to see


By Tom Kirvan
Legal News, Editor-in-Chief

Founding father Benjamin Franklin offered an interesting view on being neighborly, exhorting his fellow rebels to “Love thy neighbor – but don’t pull down your hedge.”

A fence or a hedge would have come in handy when I came face-to-face with a certain neighbor more than 35 years ago on an overcast spring day.

The occasion was a Sunday open house we were hosting in an attempt to sell our very modest home, which was tucked into a non-descript suburban neighborhood with scores of other cookie-cutter abodes.

As first-time home sellers, we pulled out all the stops that day, sprucing up the yard with an abundance of showy shrubs and spring flowers, while staging the interior in tidy fashion to accent its many limited features.

Our across-the-street neighbor was a prince of a fellow, who doubled as a dutiful dad to two budding sports stars. Each night after work, he could be spotted playing catch or shooting baskets with his two school-age boys, showing them the ropes on how best to climb the athletic ladder.

It was on those fields of play where we as neighbors, and fathers of athletically inclined sons, began to bond, sharing the joy of seeing our boys make incremental progress on the uncertain road to stardom. Our bond was further cemented by our fixation on golf, a four-letter word that has bedeviled otherwise sane men and women alike for generations.

As our friendship grew over a 5-year period, so did the difficulty of telling him that we planned to move to somewhat greener pastures, effectively ending our almost daily contact on various fields of play. Once I revealed our plans, my soon-to-be former neighbor began plotting plans of his own that would be acted out a month later at the aforementioned open house.

On that special day, just minutes after we opened our doors to what seemed to be a slew of would-be home-buyers, I looked out the dining room window to see an unusual sight. There, charging toward the front door with a handful of papers, was my neighbor, dressed in a gorilla outfit, perhaps left over from a Halloween party long ago.

Within seconds, he had made his way through the open house, depositing leaflets that read: “BUYER BEWARE!! This house has been CONDEMNED!! Call City Hall for the SORDID DETAILS!!”

He was right on one count: I should have come clean about our neighbors – one in particular.

That said, and minus any sordid details, we sold the house that day, striking a deal with a rock-solid middle age couple that sported an above average sense of humor.

Several years later, my former neighbor would come calling again, this time asking his newspaper editor friend for a favor.

“Would you kindly be a reference for me?” he asked. “I’m a finalist for a new job and they have asked to speak with several people who know me well.”

I “kindly” agreed, receiving a call a week later from the CEO and founder of the growing company. Over the course of a half-hour, I fielded a variety of thoughtful questions about my friend’s background, work ethic, personality, and “special talents.”

The last query gave me momentary pause. “Should I or shouldn’t I,” I wondered, faced with my version of Prince Hamlet’s quandary, “To be or not to be?”

Suddenly I gave in to the urge, figuring that if my friend’s future boss couldn’t appreciate the humor of a neighbor masquerading as a gorilla, then there were far better places to grind out a paycheck.

“Now that’s my kind of guy,” the CEO exclaimed after hearing the open house episode. “I need a sales director with that kind of chutzpah.”


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