Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Tale of Two Neighbors: A Buddhist monk and a Christian preacher

I live in the end unit of a small, modest, and slightly run-down apartment complex on the main drag of
a small beach town.  A few feet west of my bedroom window is a separate building that has a car rental business out front, two small office spaces, and one or two living units on top and in the back, with a small back yard.  The car rental place can be counted on to disturb my early morning sleep at least a couple times a week, but after a few years, you really don't notice car alarms and slamming doors so much.  For the most part over the years, the living units there have been rented to youngish couples or small families.  They live, come and go, and sometimes have some friends over and/or barbecue.  If once in a while the barbecue smoke gets all in my window, or the music is a little loud, or the kids start loudly playing outside at 8:00 in the morning, I ignore it or shut the window, although shutting the window is not a very nice option in August, or for most of the year here in fact.  Truth is, I just can't bring myself to complain about good, happy people having a good time doing fun, happy things, even if it slightly inconveniences me at times.  I don't want to live in a world where a few beers and a tri-tip grill-up or kids playing tag needs neighborhood approval, even in a fairly tightly-packed neighborhood.    

For a few months back in 2009, I had a comparatively interesting neighbor living there.  I say he was interesting, yet I never even met him.  He was a white Canadian man and a buddhist monk(the orange flowing robes, the grace...bald,...striking), and for a short while he made the upstairs room his meditation space.  I saw him several times on the street from a distance, but we never spoke as far as I can recall.  I vaguely remember a friendly nod or two at best.  What I do remember most is that it took me weeks to realize he lived 20 feet away from me.  You could almost say it was a time blessed by silence, although I'm sure part of that was due to the fact that few if any people knew that he was there at all.  While he was living there, I eventually found out more or less who he is, as he does have a slight online presence even though he avoids social attachments.  Apparently, while he lived here, he was pretty badly harassed by the park rangers at the beach, which definitely bums me out, although it seems the judge in the matter saw through the state park cops' bullshit.  See for yourself:              

I'm not a buddhist, but he was a decent neighbor.  From reading his blog, he does sometimes come across to me as both entirely useless and a bit of a smug cunt, for one so enlightened, (like many Canadian liberals and progressives online, I've noticed) but....whatever.  I can't really be bothered to care, and apparently, neither can he.  And that's just fine with me and mine.  That's just California.

But now, after another small family has come and gone, I have a new neighbor.  A fire and brimstone Christian preacher.  Six days a week this is no problem.  He is quieter than I am, six days out of seven.  As with the buddhist monk, I'm not even sure if he actually lives there or not, or is there by someone else's permission.  I'm not sure, but I think he may be affiliated with the church that used to be a block up and across the street, that also used to do the free lunch for the needy and homeless.  Although I really don't like that church or most of what they teach, I did not mind at all living right down the street from the daily bum-fest.  They had a big lot with the space needed to pull it off, many yards away from the nearest local residents.  Even though I'm not a believer, seeing Christians actually live up to their bullshit and help people with some reasonably decent food is nice sometimes.

 But here's the thing......for the last few Sundays, my next door preacher has been holding church service and handing out free BBQ  in the tiny back yard.  The back yard that is within spitting distance of my living room window.  On my ONE fucking day I get to really sleep in, relax, and not work, his dozen or so congregants start showing up by 9:30am or so and wait by the yard gate, which is maybe 12' from my bedroom window.  His only congregants, as far as I can see and hear, are the loudest, drunkest, and most assholish bunch of the free lunch crowd, all young to middle-aged people who for the most part are perfectly capable of getting a job, finding food, signing up for government assistance, or at the very fucking least, staying the fuck out of my carport and stairwell.   They are not there for spiritual enlightenment.  They don't even seem to much enjoy the community interaction that is provided.  They all have access to food, though not quite as tasty as free chicken or tri-tip BBQ.  They just drink and yell and sit on my stairs and in my carport right underneath my bedroom window and try to bum smokes off any rent-paying tenants that walk by, until it's time for "church" and then free BBQ. The preacher himself is damn near as annoying.  I have yet to hear a full sermon.  He screams too loud and too frothily to really make out what he is saying, though the neighborhood dogs seem to enjoy responding in kind.  A far as I can tell, he's just teaching potentially useful, potentially self-actualized homeless people how to act like entitled, self-righteous assholes, much like himself.

I think that the buddhist monk staying there was a quiet, smug, self-righteous, freeloading ass with good intentions, trying to help people find peace.  I think that the christian preacher there now is a loud, self-righteous, ignorant blowhard ass with good intentions, trying to help people find peace.  I don't actually know anything about their inner characters other than what they have given me to go on.  I will least the buddhist respected MY peace, and to be honest, the couples and families that have lived there were better than either, all things considered.

Personally, I am a big fan of free speech and I do not morally judge any of the people I've written about, despite my personal feelings about their actions.  I'm sure the preacher and the monk are both decent people.  They clearly think they are helping people, and I'm sure in some ways they are.  But if you're going to "help" people by promoting your worldview and growing a flock, you need to own it.  You need to take some responsibility for it and not expect endless patience and respect and deference from the dozen tenants who are sick of the loud mess, just because you "believe something", or even because of the help you are giving.

If tomorrow's sermon is much like the last few, it may be time for calm, friendly words and helpful suggestions for my neighbor, like: "Hey, do you think you could arrange your church so that you shout toward the empty street, rather than right into my window?" and "Maybe you could put something in your sermon about not arguing, pissing, or puking in a stranger's stairwell?"

Ah, California problems...all kinds of silly fun....

We will see what we see, and hear what we hear.