Mar. 22nd, 2011

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My Downstairs neighbor, who I think is either a strange man or a relatively normal man with a strange history, may have moved out today. I believe he may have moved out because I saw his pickup, which has a hand-welded metal camper on top, full of what seemed to be his possessions, and then later I saw the housekeeping cart next to the door. It would be strange to see the housekeeping cart next to the door because we only get housekeeping visits on Monday.

I live in a Motel, by the way. I have a number of reasons why I live in a motel by the interstate in Wyoming. Basically, Laramie, Wyoming is the worst place in which to rent in my experience as a renter. I have lived in 3 college towns, and this one has the worst rentals and worst landlords I have ever dealt with. It was easier to rent month to month in a fucking motel. The manager at the Motel is the first decent landlord I have encountered here; I get free cable, free internet, and free utilities. I abuse the free utilities by taking very long showers. I am the kind of person who needs to be extremely clean. If I feel physically dirty in any way, I freak out a little bit. What is interesting is that my personal space is often in disarray. I think a psychiatrist might find this juxtaposition interesting. "Clean body, Messy Home". That could be the title of a book about the kind of person I am. You know, if anyone ever figured that out for me. Once a week a housekeeper visits my room while I am gone and changes my towels and cleans my bathrooms. This is something I actually feel a bit bad about. Or weird about. But would you complain if someone came into your apartment and brought you new towels and cleaned your bathroom once a week?

Most of my neighbors are wind farm workers. This is a good thing because they tend to come home and immediately crash out. Several motel rooms have families in them, and several of these families have very large dogs. I can understand taking one's family along to work on a wind farm ( up to a point ) but the huge dogs are a thing I don't understand. People here live in motel rooms with labs and pit bulls and rottweilers. They let their dogs out into the field beyond the parking-lot several times a day to excrete, but many of the dogs don't make it and the snow that covers the parking-lot is often dotted with dog shit. I have to be careful not to step in it.

What I mean about this being a good thing is that in many college towns you have to deal with 20-something dipshits blasting their stereos. The wind farm workers don't have stereos. They come home from a hard day of blue-collar work, drink a few beers with names that end in -lite or -ice from twelve packs they buy on their way home, and sleep soundly.

It's quiet, and if I stand on the walkway in front of my room you can see an open field ( with a discarded couch someone left ), some of the town, and the mountains beyond.

My downstairs neighbor was strange because aside from me he was the only other person who lived there who didn't seem to fit. In his entire time there I never spoke to him. You can accuse me of being the insular one, but I have lived in places like this before, transient places where people are only there to work a job or to work for a season. The people whose stories you can't figure out usually have a story you are better off not knowing. He had dark, close cropped hair, wore dickies, and smoked continuously.

The wind farm workers leave early in the morning. They rev up their pickups and are gone before six while I am still ironing my slacks and getting ready to go teach a class. But during the day my downstairs neighbor would stay. He would pull his pickup up close to the door of his apartment and begin to work. His self-welded, self-assembled camper shell on his pickup was a little shop in which he worked. I would hear hammering, and the sound of electric tools at work. Drills, saws, that kind of thing. And then he would leave for a while and come back. At first I thought he was building an inside for his camper so that he could use it in the mountains for camping or something, but I was wrong. This has gone on for six months.

I never figured out what he was building because I never spoke to him. He lived in his room with a sandy-haired, middle-aged woman who would sit at a table in front of the window and smoke. When I climbed the steps to go up to my room this woman whose name I have never and will never learn stares at me with a sad look in her eyes. The table ( that is not part of the furniture of the motel room - they must have brought it themselves ) was used for puzzles. You know what I mean by puzzles. Images that come cut into pieces that must be assembled. They could both be seen assembling them at night, with their curtains open. Both smoking. There were knick knacks ( ceramic animals and shit like that ) on the table like you would find in a lower-class home.

His shop had spread outward away from his room and into the space beside the motel building. He had stacks of wood, stacks of rocks, and cans of paint and other substances. He had a barbeque grill and several bags of charcoal briquiettes.

They were always quiet, and even though something about them made me just a shade uneasy, I value that they never made much actual noise. In a place like this, quiet neighbors seem always replaced by idiotic ones. It is part of this flow of in-between people who lead transient lives. I could get, instead of this couple, a pair of obnoxious young men with a blasting stereo and three rottweilers living with them. So I consider myself lucky, in a sense.

In this town they are always squeezing me for more money. It is like the desolation of the landscape that surrounds Laramie makes the people who live here desperate to grasp at any resources they can get their hands on. College students are squeezed dry and then some. The wind farm workers must be to the Laramie townies like fat berries, ready to be plucked, ripe and rich compared to students and other young people affiliated with this god-forsaken excuse for a university.

From what I know about my neighbor, I assembled the following image of him:.

He is an ex con. He had trouble finding work after he got out of the joint, and has developed that kind of self-sufficiency that people like him develop out of necessity. They no longer belong to rational society, have a hard time renting, and have a hard time getting a loan for a car. He was a carpenter in his life in the Great Before. Might have been married, but the woman he is with is no one he knew before he went to prison. He met her in a bar. They discussed their common love of puzzles, and fell in love with each other, in that later in life kind of way, and in the manner of people who have been damaged by life. The woman has a daughter but she lives elsewhere. In another state most likely. The man has a job assembling or fixing or building something. He crafted his own camper shell both because he could not afford one or get credit for one, and as a demonstration to the gods above of his own ingenuity. He assembles or fixes or builds things, gets paid, and delivers these things during the day.

I saw him once, walking the other way, away from town I mean, under the overpass. He is the one and only neighbor that I would recognize if I passed him on the street.

Today everything was packed up. He put his possessions in his camper shell, his extra furniture and other things, and he is on the road now with his companion. This is a life he is used to. I know this because he has everything figured out. He will live somewhere else and use his camper trailer for a shop. He will build or assemble or fix things, and his woman will sit in their apartment and smoke. His life is figured out, and it makes total sense to him. In conversations late at night, the two cause the narratives if their lives together to make sense in the way that most couples do. They construct a shared reality, a common mythology about what they have done and will in the future do.

My next neighbor downstairs will unnerve me less and piss me off more. That is the way things always go. It will be a younger man or pair of men living as roomates. They WILL bring a stereo and at least 3 very large dogs. They will drive enormous pickups with various opaque white stickers on the back. Half of their clothing will be in hunting cammo. If the immortal gods had any regard for me, they would keep the downstairs empty. But you and I both know that this simply is not the case.

I wish my neighbor luck and happiness in the reality he has crafted for himself and his chain-smoking life-partner. I hope they continue to weave their mythology at night in the living space they fill with cigarette smoke. I wish him luck in his unfathomable profession in which he does things with tools inside a metal camper shell on top of an old pickup. I hope they continue to enjoy assembling puzzles together.

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