Neighbors then and now

Back in Texas, I lived in a middle-class Houston neighborhood. My house did not stand out. In Mexico, I live in a working-class neighborhood, and my house stands out a lot.

Here are my current neighbors:

Directly to the left, as one faces the street is, of course, the sex motel. Directly to the right is a family of surly people. They have animals that come and go, plus a tractor and a horse. Across the street, a nice, late-middle-aged couple who live two blocks away are building two storefronts. We’re looking forward to that.


My neighbors in Houston couldn’t have been more different.

Directly to the left was a woman from Finland. For the nine years I lived there, I never saw the inside of her home, and she never saw the inside of mine. She was standoffishly friendly. To the right was a retired Baptist preacher and his wife who were about 60 when we arrived. They were very nice people. Once he invited my then-wife and me to a church where he was delivering a guest sermon. We accepted the invitation.

I am not a Christian, but I support and favor them.

Directly across the street lived an elderly woman and her troubled, unemployed son who was about 40 years old. The woman was very nice. She was a chain smoker, and her home smelled like an ashtray. I was over there now and then, mostly to do her favors. Her son was worse than useless.

One day there was an ambulance parked outside. I looked through my window as a covered body was wheeled out and slipped into the ambulance. I figured it was the old lady, but it wasn’t. It was the son. I never knew why he died.

Cater-cornered to the left was a couple in their 30s with two children, one of whom was born about midway through my time on that street. It was the second marriage for the woman, and she also had a son from her first marriage. That son was mentally dysfunctional in some way. He was about 10 when I moved there in 1986.

They were a very nice couple whom I liked a lot. The second baby was born about 1990, and they named him Travis, a traditional Texas name. Travis was a good boy. Around 1993, we heard that the older boy had been caught molesting a girl child down the block, but he was not arrested. I do not remember why.

Later, during the years after my 1996 divorce and before I moved to Mexico in 2000, my ex-wife told me the older boy had died. He would have been in his early 20s. I don’t know the details, or perhaps I just don’t remember. Been a long, long time.

My second ex-wife still lives in that house. The Finnish woman moved to New York to live with a sister. The Baptist preacher and his wife likely are deceased as is the old woman across the street. I think Travis’s parents are still there. I would enjoy seeing them, but I doubt I ever will. Travis would be about 30.


I paid $65,000 for that ranch house in 1986, and now it’s worth over $200,000. I got the house in the divorce, and shortly afterwards, in a moment of madness, I gave it to my ex-wife, not the most financially astute move of my life.

We paid about $100,000 for the Hacienda land and construction in 2002-03, and I have no idea what it’s worth now, but I’m not going anywhere, which is, of course, what I thought when I lived in the Houston house. Life springs surprises. Sometimes they hurt.

And neighbors can be very different.

16 thoughts on “Neighbors then and now

  1. It looks like the house is your last stop, just like this one is mine. I enjoy reading your posts – well, most of them. 🙂

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    1. John: I hope it’s my last stop, but life throws curve balls. Thanks for the kind words. As for those (sage, political) posts you aren’t too fond of, I hope one day you will see the light. I was clueless till age 64. Never too late.

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  2. It is always good to be on good terms with your neighbors. They are the ones who will call 911 or the fire department when your house is on fire.

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    1. Señor Gill: I doubt my surly neighbors would lift a finger. The sex motel? Who knows? As for our Downtown Casita, we have good neighbors on one side, and a surly one on the other.

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  3. Thanks for the interesting read. It sounds like good fodder for a book or a made-for-TV movie. It’s always good to be friendly with your neighbours, but some people are more reclusive, and that’s okay too. I remember my mother taking me over to many people’s houses who lived on our block when I was a toddler. She was young then, and I was a novelty, I guess. That neighbourliness eroded as we aged and different people moved in. My old neighbourhood has been hollowed out by foreign investors, unfortunately. What my dad bought for $45,000 in 1958 — a princely sum back then — he sold for $1.7 million in 1998 after my Mum died. The Chinese buyer promptly demolished it and built a huge concrete monstrosity, not that there’s anything wrong with concrete. It sold for north of $15 million in 2016. Crazy, eh?

    Thanks for sharing your story.

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    1. Brent: Your father’s purchase went from $45,000 to $1.7 million in just four decades. That’s a darn nice return. I never bought a house till I was 42. It was the one in Houston where my ex-wife still lives. My first wife and I toyed with the notion of buying a house. We found one in what is now a very trendy area of New Orleans, a shotgun double. It was priced at $16,000. That was in the late-1960s. We ultimately did not have the money. Lord knows what it’s worth now. Of course, stupidly, I would have given it to her. I’m nuts like that.

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  4. Daughter lives in a 1950s neighborhood in Houston on the cusp of being gentrified. Houses that sold when she bought a 3-2 in 2014 are being leveled on smallish lots making way for new mansions. Property taxes for those ’50s houses are skyrocketing just because of the plots of ground on which they sit. That ‘hood did not flood when hurricane Harvey devastated much of the new-build subdivisions in 2017.

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    1. Carole: I was paying about $2,000 a year in property taxes in the early 1990s. I wonder what my ex is coughing up now. Gotta fund the government, of course. My property tax now is laughable by comparison, for a much larger house and lot.

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      1. Property tax is overwhelming many old neighborhoods here in River City, and people who have lived a lifetime in their houses are being forced to sell due to higher valuations. But the people have to live somewhere, and wherever they go is priced out of their grasp, except for perhaps subsidized housing, even with the lump sum they collect on the sale of their property.

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  5. I have a feeling the real estate market is about to undergo some drastic changes. Let’s see what happens when the ban on evictions expires at the end of the year.

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  6. I suspect sleepy Joe may have some problems in the future. The Feds are looking into his son’s business dealings with Red China. So, we may end up dealing with Que Mala, and God only knows where that will take us.

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  7. When I bought my house, an elderly woman about my mother’s age was my neighbor to the west. To the east, there was a large, decrepit house with a bunch of 50- to 60-year-old guys living in noise and squalor. Fortunately for me, the owner died (no, I’m not delighting in his death) and the house was sold to an extended family who, over the years, have renovated it. They’re nice folks, quiet, and pretty much keep to themselves, except 70-something mom who’s very chatty with me. In fact, sometimes I wonder if she’s flirting with me as she’s kind of on the giggly side for a woman of that age.

    Meanwhile, my neighbor to the west got old, moved into assisted living, and then the house went on the market. I was very nervous about who might move in, because due to the layout of that and my house, I see whoever’s there very often. Fortunately, a lovely young, professional couple moved in about six years ago. They’ve now got three small children, and I have to say that I’m thankful every day that they are the folks who bought the house. Had it gone otherwise, my life would be very different.

    As you know, I fantasize about someday owning a Mexico City penthouse, and I often wonder who God has in store to be my neighbors. While it’s definitely an advantage to be on the top floor, even a downstairs neighbor who’s noisy and a partier would be a real drag.

    And I have no idea how to even figure out something like that in advance.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where it has gotten cold enough that there’s not much going on outdoors these days.

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