New neighbors… when they move in, you never know what to expect. Just about a year ago a couple of Southern Kalifawnians bought the house next door – a seemingly typical American family – husband, wife, 2.5 kids, dog… oh yeah, and a pair of Prius Hybrids in the driveway complete with “I Brake for Baby Seals” and “It's Still Bush's Fault” bumper stickers. But it was the “Proud Berkeley Graduate” shield in the rear window that told me that my fat, cigar-sucking Polack ass was going to experience a few minor speed bumps with the new folk.
Meet Walter, an early 30-something guy who got transferred to his company's corporate headquarters in northern New Jersey. Seems like a decent dude, kind of the chemistry professor with the elbow patches type, left brained, doesn't like sports and owns a rare Russian nesting egg doll collection. Way cool, huh? And then there's his so-called better-half, Karyn, “That's Karyn with a “Y,” she was sure to let me know. The first time I met this 5 foot nothing gal, she was wearing a Greenpeace t-shirt, Birkenstocks, and a tennis visor just resting above her thick rimmed black Coke bottle glasses. Let's put it this way, my wife doesn't have to worry about me peering over their fence each night.
As we did the chit-chat small talk thing, Karyn was ordering Walt around like he's a five year old boy whose nut sack is no doubt kept in a jar next to her Streisand anthology. She's compelled to tell me about her vegan lifestyle, six years in the Peace Corp, along with her MBA in lower hemisphere social work. And then… the magic question came, the one I couldn't avoid, “So, what do you do for a living, Tommy?”
“I smoke and write about cigars.”
“Ha ha, now that's funny,” this puckish imp chuckled as she ordered Walter to get her a coconut water. “No really, what kind of work do you do?”
Earth to Zman, you are in grave danger… get the hell out while you still can, fella. Ah fuck it, what am I going to do, make up some story about me managing a semi-conductor fund or that I invented Beer Nuts? Nope, I stood there in the eye of the hurricane and blurted out the smoky truth…
“Seriously, I'm in the cigar business. I smoke them and then write about premium hand rolled cigars for blogs and magazines. Been doing it for years.”
Guys, the look on this woman's face was as if I had just dredged a basket of kittens in chop meat and fed them to a Rottweiler.
“That is absolutely repulsive, disgusting and shameless,” she blurted with her fists on her hips and a scowl that would make a grizzly soil his fur. “And your wife… she approves of this toxic vocation?”
“Well, Karyn with a “Y”, let's just say that she happens to be a sucker for food, heat and electric and she's particularly thrilled that the mortgage company lets us stay in our house.”
Then, out of nowhere, Walter almost grows a pair for sixty seconds as he actually raised his tone of voice half an octave.
“Honey, I really don't think that's the nicest way for the new people on the block to be greeting the people who have lived here for years, do you?”
“This man is aiding and abetting a company that murders innocent people on a daily basis!” she screeched like a loon.
So I lowered my voice and asked her in the most calm and rational tone, “You mean, like I actually hold a gun to people's heads and force them to smoke cigars?”
Then, in the most infantile manner, the lovely Ms. Karyn stormed into her garage, stomping her Birkenstocked clad hoofs while tossing out epithets that only a person who attended Berkeley could possibly understand. She obviously had some spotted squirrels to save that evening.
For a brief moment, I actually felt sorry for Walter, a man whose last ounce of dignity was obviously left at the alter several years ago. He looked at me, thoroughly embarrassed with a face that clearly said “I'm so tired of going through this time and time again and I wish that someone would please put an ice pick through that evil twat's skull”.
“Tommy, I'm so sorry about this. She doesn't handle conservatism very well,” he remarked with a sigh. “And for what it's worth, she has organized a number of anti-tobacco rallies in her day.”
“So, does that mean I cross you two off for my Labor Day Cigar-b-que, all you can consume drunken meat-fest?”
Walt just shook his head in obvious disgust and then scurried inside to somehow appease the beast. And, while I took his apology as a sincere attempt to make nice, the real matter at hand was that fact that it was the beginning of summer and I sit out back each night and enjoy a cigar or ten – and often with a herd of my maniacal herfing bruthas of the leaf. How was this sociopathic new neighbor of mine going to handle the waft of my La Gloria's, Ligas, and La Aurora 107?
As a cigar smoker and a guy who works in the industry, I've come across a good number of Karyn's in my day – the ones who want to tell you how to live your life while attempting to save us from ourselves. But I've never had one move in next door to me. The worst damned thing you can have is war with your neighbors as it gets ugly on a regular basis. Two previous owners ago of the house next door parked a humongous, property-value lowering redneck trailer in the driveway that drove my wife completely bonkers. One night before Halloween a few mischievous youths spray painted a 20 foot horse cock on the side of that thing and of course the neighbors swore it was us. I personally would have wrapped it around both sides, giant hairy balls and all, but the glowing magenta dong that the locals rendered did just fine. But now I have been presented with Karyn with a “Y” who thinks she's going to screw with my life-long smoky passion? Like we say in Jersey, fuggegaboudit, cuz this tofu-sucking, save the whales gnome is going down.
It's the following Saturday, a perfect 72 degree day, the wife and kids are away at the shore and my posse of cigar fiends had come over to play. I'm charring up the ribs on the back patio while mass-amounts of ice cold brew are being consumed by the animals. Within moments the cigars are cut and lit and my little slice of New Jersey smells like absolute heaven. It was a ball scratching man-fest, the absolute most perfect day that one could ask for… well not 'every'one.
“You pigs are killing my children and I'm ordering you to stop,” cried a shrill voice from the hedges of my property line. Seems the smell of burnt carcass and premium aged tobacco had my lovely new neighbor set on DEFCON 1. “I'm serious, you jackasses need to stop what you're doing this instant or there will be consequences!”
“Is dat da psycho lil' bitch you were tellin' us about, Zman?” my very Italian buddy, Louie inquired with a chuckle. “Tell her to get over here to light our cigars and throw together a few sammiches.”
As the boys roared with a giddy childish laughter, little Miss Smoke Nazi stood there glaring with her teeth clenched, just 30 seconds away from popping a blood vessel in her forehead. I was actually concerned that she was crazy enough to do something stupid, and then when I turned for only a moment, the demon was gone. Maybe she decided to give up, knowing she was outnumbered? Or… maybe not.
About twenty minutes later as my group of gluttonous sloths were elbow deep in barbecue sauce and Ecuadorian Habano, two police cars pulled up to the house. One of the cops was my good buddy Richie from high school, along with big Sam, the guy who gave both my kids driving school lessons. By the looks on their faces, they didn't stop by for the ribs and the smokes.
“Tommy, we got a pretty disturbing phone call about what's going on back here,” Richie said with one of the more serious faces I've seen him display. “We've been told that you are illegally burning poisonous substances from your home and endangering the lives of the people in your neighborhood.”
Holy God in heaven, that deranged Berkeley grad was crazier than I ever imagined. “Richie… Sam… look at us… we're smoking cigars and grilling up some barbecue on my personal private property. You guys didn't actually believe we were doing anything illegal?”
“Of course we didn't,” said Sam in an apologetic tone, “But the call that came into dispatch was as if terrorists were performing chemical warfare.”
And at that moment, the grotesque shrill returned to the hedges and blurted out to the boys in blue, “That's right, officers, that's pretty close to what's going on and I expect you benefactors of my tax payments will do the right thing, here.”
For the first time ever, my group of herfing troglodytes were at a total loss for words, jaws dropped and food plates placed down in front of them. I have met some insane Smoke Nazi's in my day, but Karyn with a “Y” was at the top of the heap, and for a brief moment I expected Alan Funt to poke his head out from the bushes and yell, “Gotcha!”
Then like out of a spaghetti western, Officer Richie, with both his hands on his belt, slowly approached my neighboring nutjob.
“Ma'am, are you the one who made the phone call about felonious acts being perpetrated on this property?” he asked as the proud little gal shook her head with a sinister bout of confidence.
1-Adam 12, 1-Adam 12, a major league bitch-slapping is about to take progress… see the man…
Richie then looked back at Sam and nodded as the Zman herfing crew watched history in the making. “Ma'am, we'll need you to meet us at the front of your property,” asserted the good officer in that very pissed off cop tone that no living person wants to be on the receiving end of. “You have the right to remain silent when questioned; anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law…”
“WHAAAAAAAAAAAT?!!!” screamed the neighboring imp as we all looked on in shock. “You're arresting me… are you fucking insane?!”
Well, people… the fact is, filing a false report about terrorist activity is most definitely a felony these days, something the people in law enforcement don't take too kindly. Right in front of our drunken, smoke-filled eyes, they dragged Karyn with a “Y” out front and placed her in the back of their squad car as she screamed and wailed relentlessly. Seems this wasn't a first for the lil' scamp as Walt called his bail bondsman on speed dial. Never in all my life have I seen justice served in such ironic fashion. My group of cigar loving maniacs went berserk, high-fiving like children as barbecue sauce and cigar ash collided! Referring to this as “one for the ages” is one hell of an understatement.
It's over a year later now, and we never, ever see Ms. Karyn. Good old Walt had a prison camp type fence erected to protect my family and there has been nothing but peace in my little corner of north Jersey. The boys make their weekend appearances, the food and drink flows, and cigars are lit in celebration each and every time. God Bless America as justice has been rightfully served.