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2:40 p.m. - September 22, 2005
Attack of the Porch People!
Diamond is a happy man again. The People on the Porch have been evicted.

He and his wife moved from Indianapolis to Crawfordsville when he became the big muckety-muck in the Advancement office. Now, while Indianapolis is not the arts and cultural mecca of the Western World, it has some nice opportunities and good shops and I was wondering how Mrs. Diamond would react to living in BFE Indiana after years in the city. (She has been here numerous times, but visiting here and living here are different things for sure.) But everything seems to be in order and they have adjusted well to life in my hometown.

They bought a nice, old house just a few yards from campus and have been busy decorating it, fixing some small things, and making it a very nice house. Like us, they also live on a busy street and with that comes the occasional rental house, or house that seems to be ill-cared for.

I don’t want to dog on rental houses or the people that live in them as a group. I have rented houses in the past and know others who rent houses and keep them nice. However, in some instances rentals fall into disrepair, because the occupants do not have a stake in the upkeep of the house and they don’t care about what happens to it after they move out. And some of the rental houses here aren’t very well cared for – they’re rented on the cheap and seem to have a revolving cast of characters. The houses are paid for already, so the landlord is just pocketing easy money, with the least amount of effort. Sort of a BFE slumlord thing.

Near to where Diamond lives are some rental houses. This past spring, what appeared to be a large family moved into the house across the street.

Soon, the old appliances appeared on the porch.

Soon, the three old computer monitors appeared on the porch.

Soon, the chicken wire appeared around the yard. (Soon, the cops told them to take it down, at least in the front yard).

Soon, the pickup truck was parked in the yard.

Soon, that pickup, with no muffler and at least a 380 engine, would start at three in the morning.

Soon, instead of a large family, a medium size platoon appeared to be living there.

Soon, the 21,218 empty soda cans appeared on the porch.

Soon, toys for kids from age 6 months to 14 appeared in the front yard, and stayed there.

Soon, all of the people in the house congregated on the porch. And stayed there.

The very worst of the white-trash BFE Indiana stereotypes were live and in person right across from this nice old house in a fairly nice neighborhood.

But the most amazing thing was the People on the Porch.

Any time during the spring and summer, if you drove by that house, there would be at least four people on the porch, and as many as a dozen.

I would love to have a porch on my house (as noted in the last essay, our house had an old wrap-around porch when it was originally built, but it’s not their now, and if I ever hit the lotto I would put one back on). Each rental house I lived in had a nice porch that my friends and I used to utilize a great deal. There was nothing better than whiling away the hours during a nice spring evening on the porch, drinking the beverage of your choice and shooting the breeze until bed time or until the mosquito army became totally belligerent.

So I understand the allure of the porch. What I don’t understand is the constant presence of the People on the Porch. All day, all night.

And it wasn’t the same folk’ll on the porch, either. This was a revolving cast of characters. You may recognize one or two people from the last time you passed by, but instead of five adults and four kids there would be six adults and three kids.

Inside the house, they must have had a duty roster. “OK, Clem, you’re out on the porch from 3 to 9, and then the last two hours you need to unload the truck of stuff that Jimbo found and put it in the yard. And not the back yard, either. We don’t want to mess that up.”

And I do know that some of those folks had a job – but when they got back from whatever they were doing, they were right there, back on the porch, doing what the People on the Porch do best.

The People on the Porch all had the same expression on their faces. You’d glance over at them and they’d give you the blank, vacant stare with the mouth hanging open. Sometimes, there’d be a little sneer on their lips, like they were channeling Billy Idol, but mostly they just cast a slack jawed glare towards you as you zoomed past.

From the reports I got, the way they disciplined the kids was simple. Basically, they yelled at the kids to stop doing whatever they were doing, and used various and sundry phrases that were a slight bit more vulgar than ‘dipstick’ or ‘freakin’ idiot’ or ‘stupid doody-head.’ The yelling was at full volume, of course, and from the porch itself, because you don’t want to get off the porch unless you absolutely have to.

In one incident, one of the Porch People actually was walking across the street (thus proving they could be ambulatory when necessity struck) when he had a seizure of some kind in the middle of the road. Mind you, this is a fairly busy street. So, he’s twitching and spasming and all in the middle of the street, while the People on the Porch just sat there until the ambulance came. Well, they actually sat there after the ambulance came, too. At least one of them called the damn ambulance.

A quote from one of the Porch People, “Oh, he does this all the time. It ain’t nothin’.”

Now that’s reassuring!

In the summer, when Indiana was a sauna, the People on the Porch got a portable pool.

We have a portable kiddie pool for Katie. We keep it in the backyard (well, side yard technically) and have used it a couple of times. It’s a standard portable kiddie pool size.

This portable pool for the People on the Porch was at least 10 feet across and at least three or four feet deep. I always saw at least four or five people in that pool, with the rest of the People on the Porch just looking out the same as they always did, mouths open and eyes glazed over.

I didn’t get close enough to check for drool. Not in my contract.

Mind you that pool did a number on their yard, not that it was much of a yard to begin with, especially with the truck and the toys and the chicken wire, and some of the appliances that may have crept onto the yard.

I have never understood why people park their cars in the yard, especially when there is a driveway or at least street parking. (This is especially true if one lives out in the country, where there is always a driveway. Yet, there are always a few yokels that have trucks in their yard, while their driveway is free and uncluttered with cars. I guess they are waiting to see if they need the room to put their dirigible there, if they ever get one.)

So Diamond and his wife lived across the street from a bazillion people who never left the porch and stayed up all hours of the night. Finally, out of desperation, they put up a tasteful curtain around their porch, because for the most part they could not enjoy their view without encountering a living diorama of Hicksville, USA.

But all is now well, as the People on the Porch have been evicted. Not for trashing the house, the porch, the lawn, and all of the various and sundry other things they did to the house. Nope.

They didn’t pay the rent.

Odd, because with all of the people living there, it must have been just $20 a month per person for rent, at the most. But I guess that would lower their budget for Mountain Dew, cigarettes, old knick knacks, and toys to put on the porch.


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