Nancy Lemann

Nancy Lemann

A weeklong electronic journal.
Feb. 20 1998 12:30 AM

Nancy Lemann

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       Why do I move so much? (see yesterday). Well, once you start moving, you can't stop. Or, if you keep moving, you're not a target.
       I was reminiscing about the misfit neighbor I had when I first moved here, to San Diego.
       I used to lie awake all night listening to every single noise, unnerved by each, like in an Alfred Hitchcock movie, until I was ultimately able to trace most of them to the disturbed neighbor (his crazed dog, etc.).
       The demented fellow was always making strange noises that sounded as if they were virtually coming from my house. They sounded as if he were moving bodies around in my daughter's room. He had a huge Dumpster permanently parked outside his house where he put bodies or things that he removed.
       He was incapable of carrying on a conversation that was not at the top of his lungs. At first I thought he was carrying on these screaming conversations with imaginary people. Then I realized he lived with his mother and was yelling at her.
       At night while reading in bed I heard his strange doings. Loud banging. Screaming conversations with his mother. His bedroom was just across the way from mine. He watched television at 3 in the morning. Usually he watched at excruciatingly loud volume episodes of Ozzie and Harriet-type family shows emphasizing normalcy--ironically.
       One day when I got home the city water department was at my house with their gigantic water trucks to work on my water-meter leak. They crushed a pipe to cut off my water to prevent a catastrophe--and then they had to hook me up to the misfit neighbor's house's water. So I told them, "Look, he's sort of a nut, and when he sees it he might go mad. He might go berserk or something, and I have small children coming in, etc. I need water."
       But he didn't seem to mind. He just came home and drove around on his motorcycle in his backyard. Then loud banging, etc. He also had a pet iguana that escaped frequently.
       One day I told his mother that she might want to get her son a muffler for his car. She said he had a muffler, a sports muffler, and was pretty good about not running the car at inopportune times (which was not really accurate, unless you consider 2 in the morning an opportune time to start revving your motor), and then she winked at me in a cornball way, as if to indicate, "Isn't he adorable?" or "We're all just putting up with his adorable wastrel youth."
       She was an "enabler," said the neighbors. They were "dysfunctional."
       But when I moved, I actually missed him, though I did not miss his car, his boat, his Dumpster, his iguana, etc. In a certain way I admired him. At least he was not a conformist. Yes, he was troubled. Disturbed. At least he wasn't bland.

Nancy Lemann is the author of Lives of the Saints, The Ritz of the Bayou, and Sportsman's Paradise. Her new novel, The Fiery Pantheon, was recently released. She lives in San Diego and is a new mother for the second time.