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August 2005 Trail Head

Posted in Features on August 1, 2005
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I'm typically the neighbor everyone hates to have. With several Jeeps in different states of disrepair and greasy drivetrain parts scattered around the yard, it's easy to see why I don't fit into most areas with homeowners' rules and regulations. Don't get me wrong - I don't collect junk that I never do anything with, but I have enough useful garbage to upset the average Starbucks customer. That's why I moved a little farther out of town. Well, that and the fact that I can't actually afford a house in Los Angeles. In LA it takes a half a million dollars to get into a 250-square-foot studio apartment built in 1920 with newspaper-thin walls you can see your neighbors through, an asbestos ceiling that flakes into your Cap'n Crunch every morning, rotting water pipes that make the Titanic look cherry, a police outline of a dead body on the floor, and a single parking spot that's just big enough for a Vespa scooter. I'm not a picky person but it ain't exactly my idea of a dream home.

Anyway, I have a new neighbor who is even more undesirable to the rest of society than I am. He moved in a few weeks ago. He doesn't make a house payment, doesn't pay rent, and doesn't even have to work. He's a bum and he decided that the spot underneath the tree in the empty lot next to my house would be the perfect place to take up residence. Now, I'm just as sympathetic as the next guy, and the truth is, I don't really mind my new neighbor as long as he cleans up after himself and doesn't turn the empty lot into his own personal dumpster. But on the other hand, I'm not exactly looking forward to finding a herd of homeless hippies grazing in the lot next door. A staffer who shall remain nameless advised me to shoot my pellet gun in that general direction. He considered it sort of a moving-away gift for my new neighbor. The other 10 magazine editors at lunch that day agreed with him. Apparently I'm the only one who knows better than to just go around shooting a BB gun at people who do things I don't like.

I guess what really irritates me is his campfires. It's early summer and pretty much all of California has become a dried-up box of kindling just waiting to ignite. If I come home and there's a brushfire near my house, I guarantee you I'll be doing some hunting, and you can bet it won't be with a BB gun. Also, I don't have much, but if I find my house being cased or broken into, bums will likely be in-season with no bag limit.

Now, it's not like all I'm doing is complaining here. I tried the logical route. First of all, the bum came over and asked me if it was my property and if he could stay for five days or so. The property owners plan on building there soon anyway, so I didn't think much of it but told him it would be a good idea to move soon. Two weeks later the guy was still there, so I called Santa Clarita's finest, who responded, "It's not illegal to be homeless." After some prodding on my part, Mr. Humanitarian acknowledged that he wouldn't want Mr. Bum near his house and family either. However, there was nothing I could do about it (the BB gun solution started sounding pretty good). Apparently the owner of the property has to have him removed. After jumping through the appropriate city hoops, a sheriff meandered over to my side of town to take a look. He drove around, apparently looking with his eyes closed, and was about ready to leave when I waved him down and explained where my new neighbor was living. His response? "I don't wanna get out of the car. I'll have my deputies do it."

Needless to say, weeks later my vagrant neighbor still lives under the tree next door for free. I suspect he's filing a legitimate complaint with the city regarding the nonrunning vehicles and excess junk in my yard. Perhaps tonight I'll receive a visit from my city's finest requesting that I clean up or remove myself from the premises. And if that happens, you can bet I'll be heading to the sporting goods store for a more powerful BB gun.- John Cappa

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