soap operas

My neighbors. Let me tell you about them.

Firstly, I am happy to report that Horse Girl and her ghetto boyfriend appear to be moving out FOREVER. What? I never told you about Horse Girl and her ghetto boyfriend?


But first! I need to take a moment to explain a little something about where I live. See, here in downtown Santa Barbara there was a period of time when there seemingly were no zoning laws to speak of. I mean, either that or the zoning law maker guy was constantly drunk and easily bribed. Large, once-stately lots were divided and subdivided again. New buildings sprang up inches away from old buildings, and rickety add-ons were attached at any corner. The interior of each block became a tangled maze of curious living spaces.

Which probably helps explain why, four blocks up my street, there is a log cabin in the front yard of one house. As in, someone can stand on the porch of the main house and reach out and touch the log cabin. That people live in. There are people living in the log cabin. Passersby on the sidewalk can actually reach out and touch the cabin, too, that’s how close it is to the street. Which is just entirely too much touching, if you ask me and my country’s Puritan forebears.

Anyway. Here is a special artist’s rendering of my particular corner of the maze, marked with key locations:

The other thing about these places? They’re old. The two main houses on either side of us were built in the 1800s. Ours was built in 1911. None of the lot has any insulation in the walls. It’s just wood framing with some plaster slapped over the top. Which really sucks on those occasional winter nights when the temperature drops into the 20s or 30s. But it sucks every other night of the year, too, because we can hear everything that’s going on in all the other units. Music. Television shows. Conversations. Sneezing. Silverware sorting. Light petting. Hair brushing. Pieces of lint landing on carpeting.

It’s a constant auditory assault.

And so even though there’s a little yard and a fence separating us from good ol’ Horsey — so named for her distinctive, braying laugh — she and her friends may as well have been living inside our house all this time. Because honestly, it sounds just like they do.

The trouble first arrived about a year ago, in the form of, well, noise. Party noise. Music. Shouting. Screaming. More music. BEER PONG. Which fed into the shouting. The beer pong, that is. YES, INDEED IT DID. WHAT? THAT’S RIGHT.

They usually got started around 10:30 p.m. which, coincidentally, was just about the time I was winding down for bed. They weren’t so bad at first, I suppose. Most of the partying seemed to be confined to Thursday through Saturday. Yeah. Okay. I can get that crazy party kids want to party. I may not enjoy it, but I get it. I could deal.

But then, early this year, things just started sliding completely off the rails.

I remember the first really egregious incident came on a Tuesday evening. They got started around 8:30 p.m., which was incredibly early for them. At 10:30, our neighbor in the upstairs add-on in the house to the left of ours leaned out his window to ask them to turn it down. I went out on the porch to watch this unfold. Horsey was standing on a chair in her yard so that she could see over the fence, and she and my other neighbor did not seem to be reaching any kind of agreement on anything. Can you please turn it down, I have to get up early for work tomorrow, he said. She didn’t want to turn it down, she said. Okay, then can you please shut your doors so it’s not as loud? She didn’t want to shut the doors, she said. She then shouted something nonsensical like “It’s not even curfew yet!” and then turned her dull gaze on me. “What the [bad word] do you think you’re looking at?” she inquired.

This would be the first night we called the police on them.

Similar nights followed, all bleeding into each other. The constant weekday beer pong sessions. The constant music-blaring (Horsey’s favorite song was Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow“). The idiotic shouting (I can’t tell you how many times I wished I could record them and then play it back at 7:00 a.m. the next morning at top volume on speakers hidden inside their house). There was the long, loud, confusing week some of her boyfriend’s friends appeared to stay at their house. I had to assume one of them was from Cuba, based on his general vitriol towards the former Cuban president: “FUCK CASTRO! MI FAMILIA! Yo, roll me another joint, bro! TAKE MY PICTURE! YO! FUCK CASTRO! Man, you’re my BROTHER, dog, we are all LIKE BROTHERS. Mi familia all up in this shit. YO, SOMEONE TAKE MY PICTURE. AAAAAAAHHH!”

Can I tell you how crazy I went over the first part of this year? I was bad. It got to the point where anytime I heard the grating sound of Horse Girl’s voice floating across the yard I’d stiffen like a board. My stomach would drop into my socks, and my heart raced. I would get so angry that I couldn’t sleep. Sometimes I got so stressed I cried. I had the phone number to report noise violations stored in my phone.

And I used it. A lot.

And I dreamed about moving out. A lot.

Then, sometime in the late summer, Horsey and her boyfriend had a big fight. I could hear them in their parking lot, by the storage units. She was shouting and crying. It was something about how could he [bad word] around on her like that, and she never even [bad word] gave him [bad word] about him [bad word] calling his [bad word] baby mama on the phone all the [bad word] time, and was he just gonna [bad word] walk away? From my bathroom window, I could see their heads over the top of the back fence. And he indeed walked away, my friends. He did.

After that it was quiet for a week. It was the best week of my life.

The week after that I started hearing different people in that house. Sometimes they spoke another language — was it Danish? I couldn’t quite tell. Sometimes they had friends over and partied, but they were different. They kept the music low, and they always left around 10:00 to head to the bar. I was never awakened in the middle of the night by drunken shouting.

I wanted to kiss these people on the mouth.

Two months of bliss went by. I stopped checking housing rental ads.


I started hearing Horsey’s familiar whinny again. Here and there. And she had her boyfriend with her again. Did they patch things up? Were they moving back into their old place? Were the good people moving out? Had they been subletting? Where had they gone? WHAT WAS HAPPENING? There was an epic soap opera unfolding on the other side of my fence, and there I was leaning out of the bathroom window, straining to see or hear evidence of any new plot development.

Well, I think — I think, I think — the series is finally coming to a conclusive end. Yesterday Horsey and her special friend showed up with a U-Haul truck and began packing it up. And they’re still packing today. As of the moment I type this, I can see the boyfriend’s baseball cap skimming the fence as he carries boxes and furniture out. I think it’s happening for real. They are moving out for good, you guys. Forever and ever. They’re taking their stuff with them, and they’re never coming back.

I am so happy I want to kiss ALL OF YOU on the mouth. Come here a minute. Come here. Hang on. Stop squirming.

This means that we’re left with only these folks as our other “noisy” neighbors:

  • Techno guy, whose repetitive bass beats makes me feel like I should be in a club, except I am lying on the couch in my pajamas watching Gene Simmons Family Jewels. But he usually turns it down by 11:00, so. I can’t really complain.
  • Old dude, who insists on blaring his classic rock tunes from his car every time he goes up and down the driveway.
  • The other beer pong people, who usually play in the house on their kitchen table, and who all actually have real jobs and so they always knock off by around 10:00 p.m.
  • Motorcycle man, who likes to start his motorcycle up and rev the engine for no apparent reason.
  • The children of Motorcycle man, who only get dangerous when they have their cousins over and start chasing each other around the yard screaming as if they’re all being murdered.
  • The weird kid who, when he is not already busy wearing a pink polo shirt and riding a moped, apparently fills his time by inviting his friends over to take drugs. Last Friday they all moshed about in his living room, wrestling and flapping their arms and squawking like birds. “Your computer is a vagina!” one of them yelped. Then they all took off running full speed down the street and I didn’t see them for the rest of the weekend. Which was kind of nice, when you think about it.
  • Loud sex neighbors, which is mostly funny and gets a little awkward only when we have company over. I can’t help but notice this couple really likes spanking.

Not bad, right? I’ll take these people any day over Horsey and her pals. Hell, I’d pay to keep them here, so that no one noisier has the opportunity to move in.

What about you? I know you have bad neighbor stories. I shamelessly beg you to share, share!

20 Responses to “soap operas”

  1. Hilarious. I just hope that your new tenants haven’t got some weird loud thing too!

    As for me. Well. I live next door to a harpist. Not a hobby, hour a day practise harpist – a 9-5 play at home harpist. At first it was soothing. Now (when I work from home) I want to take my kitchen knives and cut her strings in half.
    AND! Our previous apartment? Next door to a park – where every weekend at 7am, the local BAGPIPE PLAYER would settle in for a two hour session.
    Recently J has mentioned how he wants to learn the trumpet. I think he’s brainwashed.

  2. So, once upon a time, I lived with 4 roommates in a run-down 2bedroom apartment in Berkeley. The building was populated entirely by students, being only 6 blocks from campus. Mostly, we liked our neighbors, particularly the hilarious Korean stoners across the hall. The location and the lax attention to rules (only 2 of us were on the lease, and we had an illegal cat) made up for the creepy landlord (another story entirely, that). But then THEY moved in.

    They lived in the apartment below ours. I’ve never known their names. There was a dude, and a girl, and maybe another dude? I’m not sure. What I am sure about: there were LOUD. Now, when you’re 21 and given to staying up all night and are pretty noisy your damn self, and you still think your neighbors are being unreasonable, you know it’s bad. Remember that stupid annoying IM noise? The “UH OH!”? They had that shit turned up so loud we heard it over our tv. “UH OH! UH OH! UH OH!” To this day, that noise makes me want to stab someone.

    We could also hear all the sounds from their constant video games. The bass from their techno music shook our floor. We heard/felt this at all hours; we assumed they were all meth addicts, since they never seemed to sleep.

    The noise wasn’t actually the worst part, though. It turns out they hung out with all manner of sketchy ass people. Again, at the time, my roommates and I were hanging out with plenty of sketchy people ourselves, and these people freaked us out. We’re pretty sure they’re the ones who repeatedly broke the garage door by yanking it up while it was locked instead of just being buzzed in. And that they were the source of my roommate’s second car break-in.* The best part, though, was when we were moving out, at the end of December. We had already moved the bulk of our stuff before going away for Christmas. When we got back, we found that someone had climbed up from the lower patio (inaccessible except via the apartment below) and broken into the apartment via our balcony. They tore apart all our neatly bagged stuff waiting to go to the thrift store, leaving quite a mess. For all this effort, they scored like one expired bottle of vicodin left over from a roommate’s dental surgery.

    *So the car had already been broken into once, professionally. The thief removed the lock from the driver’s side door. My roommate didn’t have the money to fix it, so he just stopped leaving anything interesting in the car. He would just stick his finger in the hole and pop the lock. The second time around, the thief cored out the lock on the passenger side, but did a horrible job on it, and it would scrape your finger when you popped the lock. Said thief also attempted to boost the stereo, even though the dashboard was one solid piece of plastic. S/he didn’t get the radio, but after that the dashboard rattled annoyingly whenever anyone drove the car.

  3. I’ve been relatively lucky with my neighbors. When the boy and I first started dating he worked a late shift so would come by my place in the wee hours to crash. One day I was getting my mail and my downstairs neighbor made a rude and ugly comment about my getting “late night visitors”. Our units were such that my front door was directly above their bedroom. This same neighbor also once started yelling at me to shut up when I was in the middle of coughing fit because I had strep throat. Granted, I had been coughing non stop for an hour at like 2 am. But still. STREP THROAT. Yeah. He also used to yell at his girlfriend a lot and throw things. So glad when they broke up and he moved out.

    My most interesting neighbor story has to be when the boy’s ex started dating our next door neighbor and then decided to rent the unit directly beneath ours. Fun times! (In all honesty it wasn’t bad)

    Our unit now is sound proof. LOVE.

  4. Our downstairs neighbors loved karaoke. Mid-day, baby’s-naptime-hour karaoke. I don’t think these people had jobs. Or shame, for that matter. They were so loud, it sounded like broke-down Alicia Keys was ‘fallin’ in my bedroom. SO. LOUD.

  5. Oh goodness, we have a neighbor who has the loudest creepiest crazy lady laugh as well. She’s always cackling and arguing with people on her cell phone. Of course she always does this in the driveway next to our apartment, not inside her own home. She also likes to blast old rock music and sing along at the top of her lungs.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen certain ‘transactions’ take place behind our apartment involving said cackling lady. Often cars will come speeding down our driveway, blasting music, then either honk or yell at her window, there will be an exchange, then more speedy driving back down the driveway.

    The worst though is the fights. There have been a few of these and every one has had multiple people involved, yelling and screaming. They always choose to do this outside their apartment where everyone can hear. Someone is almost always drunk and hollering about someone else’s mother or something along those lines. Whole families seems to be involved, sometimes half the block. More than once helicopters have been sent out.

    Overall I can deal with it especially as a trade off for cheaper rent than most of Los Angeles, but I have to say, the cackling sure does get to me. To bad to can’t call the police on having an annoying laugh.

  6. Um. I have such similar neighbors! We have one d-bag who lives across the courtyard from us, and when the awesome people who used to live above us moved out, he convinced his best friend to move in. And ever since then (a year, at least) we have deemed “the big gay dance party” (not ’cause we’re homophobes, just because it sounds like all the boystown clubs and they do happen to be gay. As do we. We’re just less annoying about it.) going on above us EVERY. SATURDAY. NIGHT. And sometimes Thursday and/or Friday too. They start up around 9pm and go until sometime after I finally manage to tune them out and fall asleep (3am or later). They are SO. LOUD. And they like to move the party back and forth between their places (we’re in the middle, yay!) and they have some female friends who have voices/laughs much like your horsey neighbor. Kill me. And these dudes are easily 45+ years old. Partying like they are in a frat house.

    We have the occasional loud party in the rest of the building, which are totally forgivable because, as you mentioned, they are not too often, mostly on weekends, and usually end at a decent hour. Although the ones who throw the karaoke parties do get quite loud which would be fine except they cannot sing to save their lives.

    Ah, neighbors.

  7. We don’t have annoying neighbors, unless you count Dr. Antoine, (Toi, pronounced “toy” which is a pretty badass name) whose basement light is on every moment of every day which CLEARLY means he is making meth down there and will someday blow up both our houses when he leaves the burners unattended when he rushes out the door to work to save someone’s life.

    We have something worse than annoying neighbors. We have a neighborhood FULL of Jehova’s WItnesses. If anyone out there is a Jehova’s Witness, I am sorry but I DON’T LIKE YOU because your peeps come to my house every saturday at 9AM and ring my doorbell and stand around on my porch and make my dog lose her shit for the rest of the day, trying to convince me that I’m going to hell because I was so BLASPHEMOUS as to celebrate my birthday last year. I happen to like my birthday. Go away.

  8. I had a downstairs neighbor that had sub woofers and HUGE speakers……who has a sub woofer when they live in an apartment?? He would listen to his angry rock, screaming music for hours and hours! I went down and talked to him about it once (after I called my sister and her boyfriend to come over and make sure he didn’t pull me into his apartment and lock me in his closet – did I mention he was on parol??? just got out of jail). So after I talked to him he was quiet that night. Then it started again. I called the police. The police left. Things got worse from there. He started banging on the cieling/my floor and shouting at me, “yeah you gonna call the cops now”. It got pretty scary. He was finally evicted.

    • I had Post loud music, aggresive neighbor syndrom (a mild form of PTSD) from his music for quite a while after that. I had get all tense and riddled with anxiety when I would hear him come home because I knew the music would start soon. It was horrible. So glad we bought a house.

  9. We had these neighbors at an old apartment who liked to have sex at 9 p.m. on the dot every night. And every night I would forget. The noises started by sounding like a poor whimpering cat. I would hear it and think, oh that’s weird. It sounds like a sad cat purr. Well it would continue, and get a little louder. At which point I would look at the clock and realize it was their nightly sex. Ahhh good times.

  10. What is it with the loud ones and spanking?! I don’t have any crazies here (yet, but there’s plenty of assumptions!) –ah, suburbs–but in my lovely old apartment we had: a) African drum circle lady, who would carry around her drum that’s bigger than me and have parties with it b) two pink poodles man c) the gay soap opera: six gay guys who would make out with each other all over but switch it up and fight a lot, and all had Labs, d) loud sex spanking neighbors, who did it at least once a day and shared a wall with my bedroom, loved spanking and the use of nicknames, e) woman who vacuums with kids who lived above us and vacuumed half of the day, while her children jumped off of the trampolines mounted on the walls and landed on the floor, and f) a lot of police officers.

  11. Our neighbors smoke a lot of pot with their windows down, so much so that I can smell it in our living room. Oh yeah, and they also deal drugs, which means that people are constantly parking on the sidewalk in front of our house for approx. 7 minutes while they go up and get their goods. The only part that bothers me is that they leave their trash in front of the house, overflowing in a bin that has no lid.

    But we also have old lesbian veterinarians across the street (who have pinball machines in their living room!) with 4 dogs (one is a 3 legged chihuahua that gets out and runs around), a coop full of chickens, and a pig named Joey (who answers to his name by running up and wagging his tail! i love him, but he’s ruining bacon for me.) so I’d say the two even each other out. (btw, we live in philly. in the city. urban farming!)

  12. No lie, right about the time my Belle and I started dating, I was living in the middle of crack town in Dallas, Texas. I once looked up the crime stats for the area after I moved and they were consistently the highest in Dallas County, by far. But, I was paying down debt for law school and, therefore, broke…so.

    My upstairs neighbor was Michael, a sweet, meth-skinny angel who had the coolest African art and incense. His apartment was always spotless (well, what I saw of it, anyway). Also, he was a prostitute (#fact). With a seemingly safe and loyal clientele, and of course the noise was mainly of the sexual variety, but tolerable. His friends, however, would often knock on my door and ask for money.

    In the apartment right across the way from me (I could open my door and be at his door in two steps) lived a gorgeous jock college student. He loved thug rap and the ladies, and the ladies loved him.

    One evening after work, I heard him enter his apartment as per usual. About 30 minutes later I hear knocking on his door. For whatever reason, he doesn’t answer. Knocker keeps knocking. Louder and more aggressively. And then I hear crying. And knocking harder. And crying harder…until she’s sobbing/knocking/kicking the door.

    This goes on for 30-minutes. By this time, I’ve looked out the peephole, even though I can still hear her non-stop knocking/crying. Mr. Gorgeous Ladies Man, however, is not opening the door.

    Another 15- minutes go by, but now she’s crumpled at the base of his door, sobbing…still knocking.

    Well, I felt sorry for her.

    Grabbing a glass a water, I open the door and offer it to her, along with, “honey, I don’t guess he’s there and if he is, he’s not answering. You know you deserve better than that and…” BOOM, waterworks stop instantly and she gives me a look that pretty much stopped me dead in my tracks.

    Alright-y then.

    The next morning, every single one of my tires had been slashed.

    Lessons learned: when lover boy won’t even open his door, it’s a pretty good indication you shouldn’t either. Also, water is really not a go-to choice in such circumstances.

    Ah – hindsight. 😉

  13. Landlord and Neighbor had been in court for EIGHT YEARS over a shared parking space. Neighbor made his dog shit on the property line. Neighbor’s wife carried around a video camera and yelled obscenities while Neighbor tried to pick fights so that someone would hit him, Wife would record it, and then they could sue. Good times.

  14. An Alaskan Bride October 24, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Ugh. I hear you. We had the 4 to 6 college students living in a 2 bedroom apartment above us. With their giant husky dog. Loud music, parties every day, insanity. They finally got evicted. But for those 8 months, I was praying they would flunk out of school and be forced to move. 🙂

  15. Oh neighbours and old houses. Go together so well. Our old place was one of MANY basement suites, hastily built in an old house. The walls were not the least bit insulated or sound proofed, so yes, you could practically hear a page turning. Well. Our neighbours’ bedroom was right across the wall from our bedroom we soon learned. And these neighbours liked to have loud sex, screeching sex, usually at about 3 am. Never at a respectable hour, noooo…. had to be early morning hours and wake us from a dead sleep. And always had to involve over-the-top screaming by the girl. Yeah we get it, you’re enjoying yourself – who exactly are you trying to convince? We resorted to banging on the wall and screaming for them to shut the hell up, which only worked for one night at a time. And one night when it didn’t, I actually tried to go bang on their door but no one answered. Probably safer for them.

    Couldn’t really call the cops on the sex people, but we did once when the people upstairs had a rowdy party and people started fighting on the front steps of the house. So glad to be out of there.

    And I reaaaally hope horse girl is long gone and that your post-traumatic anxiety over hearing any horse-like sounds doesn’t last too long. I still shudder when I hear a screeching-like sound.

  16. We live on the corner in suburban hell. I hear we have neighbors but I don’t know them. Or see them. Ever. Lights go on and off. Cars come and go. But I see no people. Ever.

  17. I love all these stories SO HARD, you guys.

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