15 February 2011

like a good neighbor

"Good fences make good neighbors."

Isn't that what Robert Frost said?

And there's my problem: I live in a condo, so I don't have a fence. I have an apartment that I own from the studs in. I have a balcony with a railing, but you wouldn't really call it a fence.

I don't have a fence; how, then, dear Robert Frost, am I supposed to be a good neighbor?

I am pondering this question because on Valentine's Day I opened not a pink, heart-shaped, rose-scented Valentine—but a letter from the Board of Governors of my Condo Association.

It read, in its overly formal and {to me} harsh language: The violation is: It has been brought to our attention that your dog is barking excessively and creating a noise nuisance. Please take action within the next 10 days to stop this nuisance.

Your dog.



I am not a good neighbor.

After processing through the letter, that is the one thought I was left with.

The goody-two-shoes part of me {which is such an essential part of me that I can tell you what kind of goody-two-shoes they are: red Mary Janes} stood, unable to speak as I held the letter and looked down at Miss Daisy.

Barking excessively? Her? With her little squished in nose? And inability to breathe well sometimes?

The sinking gut reaction to the letter quickly turned fearful: Who has been talking about me? Who have I offended without knowing? Is everyone mad at me, even my neighbors who call her Princess Daisy and gave her a "welcome to the building" present?

With that letter, I was back in elementary school, back in middle school, back when there was a clear board of authority over me and when one note—Please see me after school—could make me feel that I would never recover from the shock.

I was in trouble. With a capital T and that rhymes with D and that stands for Daisy.

Not that, to be honest, I ever really got a see me after school note, but I was the kid who lived in fear of that ever happening.

I'm still that kid. At the Art Institute on Saturday, I jumped, noticeably jumped, every time the "you're too close to the Van Gogh" alarm went off. Even though I wasn't the one who was too close. It was someone else in trouble, but the electronic warning was enough for me.

I heard it and felt the need to show my goody-two-shoes card.

So with this letter, I thought: I'm a bad neighbor. I'm in trouble.




I'm a good girl. I don't get in trouble. I follow the rules.

I've dealt with this situation, by the way. But I'm not going to tell you about that right now. I will tell you, though, that I launched a full-scale operation called Charm the Neighbors. The potential subtitle of this operation {do operations have subtitles?} is: Be the State Farm.

Right now, I will leave you with Robert Frost's poem where he says "Good fences make good neighbors," and I'd like to say that that isn't really the point of his poem, the whole fences and neighbors thing, but that's the one line everyone remembers.

So, what do you think Robert Frost is really saying?

{And you can skip the poem and go to Part 2 of the story, if you really want/hate poetry.}

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."


  1. Poor Miss Daisy! You are going to tell us how the story ends, right?

  2. I know exactly how you feel.

    High School was hell for me because there were so many rules to worry about. I think that's why I loved college so much (and just love adulthood), but I completely understand when something like this pops up and sends you right back to being a teenager.

    Hope it all goes well.

  3. Favorite part? The Music Man reference. :)



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