Monday, April 22, 2019

The House Next Door

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: So listen to this. We have lived in the same house near Boston for the past twenty-something years. We love it, it's peaceful, and in a little town with a town center, and green and wonderful. And it has ducks. So. Our next door neighbor on one side is a dear pal. And on the other side is a perfectly nice couple we see walking their some kind of dog.

But next door to that is a big big house with kind of mysterious inhabitants. In that there seemed to be lots of them,  with too many cars and too much clutter in their back yard.  We never approved.

Anyway. the other day woman who looked like me with a cute dog showed up at the front door. (Her name turned to to be Meg, and her terrier Bowie, and she's lovely. A new pal.)

Anyway. She said: I need to tell you there's a new neighbor in the big house! And he wants to cut all our trees that have branches that hang over his yard!

Here is our back yard, the view from Meg's house.




The tree he wants to cut is a 200 year old sugar maple. Here's a closer shot, and we think it's about 60 feet tall. 




But look at the photo below.  See the branches to the left of the lines? We think... he wants to cut them all. (We have called our own arborist, the one who has taken care of our trees for years, and he is coming tomorrow to trim as much as we can. Crossing fingers.)




A situation is about to ensue. But I really hope not.

Can you believe it? Don't get me started. I will be so so incredibly sad if that fabulous and historic tree gets chopped up. I love it, every day. In winter, in spring, in summer and the fabulous fall. It it a hobbit tree, I know, and has birds and squirrels and everything.  We LOVE the tree. It is an ancestor.  It was here..in the civil war. Oh. I cannot bear it.  We are trying to make this work. I hope we can compromise.

So do you know your neighbors? Did you when you were a kid? How neighborly are you?

RHYS BOWEN: We have lived on the same street since 1980. There are still some original neighbors and the new ones are friendly. We have a Halloween party every year ( with plenty of alcohol flowing after kiddies are in bed) and summer street parties, we are very friendly with our next door neighbor. Only one horribly creepy family nearby. 

We knew everyone when we had a condo in Arizona, and we've met the neighbors at our new house . They are sweet people. I'm a naturally chatty person so I speak to everyone!

HALLIE EPHRON: We do know our neighbors and are SO LUCKY with them. On one side, a State cop (he parks the cruiser in our shared driveway... better than a burglar alarm!) and his lovely wife (a teacher) with two grown kids we've known since they were babies. When enormous maple tree in our backyards precisely on our property line needs pruning, we share the cost. 

On the other side a couple just moved in with a new baby. They wanted to take out the hedge between their driveway and our front yard and replace it with a fence. We said GO TO IT! (one less hedge to trim) We also know our neighbors across the street and up the adjacent dead end where our grandkids race their scooters. 

I LOVE my neighbors! But it hasn't always been so (cue scary music)... 

LUCY BURDETTE: let me put it this way, I want to love my neighbors. When we were growing up​,​ we lived in ​a​ neighborhood te​e​ming with children and friendly people. There were block parties and bridge parties and kids roaming everywhere and nobody worried. 

In fact, stranger than fiction, our next-door neighbor Mary Jane  married my dad when he was widowed many years later. It was wonderful to have a stepmother who knew us as children!

We live in two places​. I​n Key West things are always changing. People get older and can’t stay there, transient tourist​s​ move in and out and so on. (People have actually died--I hate that!) But we do have a nice group of people in our condo whom we visit with and could call in an emergency. In Connecticut, well, how shall I say this? Some of the neighbors we know well and love. With others, situations​ have already​ ensued. It’s a small neighborhood and we are hoping for the best when we go back this summer. Fingers crossed, okay?

JENN McKINLAY: We adore our neighbors! In fact, we just had dinner at one of their houses last week, along with our other neighbors, and it lasted about seven hours because we all genuinely like each other. Our neighborhood is old, the houses small, but it's full of kids and families, and we live on a street with a school at the end so there's plenty of activity but in a good way. 

When the hooligans were young, I had no problem them tossing them out of the house to "go play and see you at dinnertime" because I am a free range mom, who thinks the best part of childhood is the shenanigans. I am happy to report the hooligans got up to plenty. I think the thing I love most about my neighborhood is that I feel safe. Everyone knows each other and we all look out for each other. Hub and I have been contemplating moving as the hooligans leave the nest, but it will be hard to say good-bye to our home of twenty plus years.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: On the plus side, we love our "historic" neighborhood, with its town square, historic houses (some of them), and beautiful trees. And as our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter live next door on one side, we count ourselves extremely lucky in that neighbor department. It's a very mixed neighborhood age-wise. There are young couples with babies either side of our kids, there are middle-aged people, retired people, and some very elderly folks who have been in their houses for decades. I think our catty-corner neighbors are in their nineties. And our former across-the-street neighbor stayed in her house until she was a hundred. We still miss her.

BUT. There was a huge, heritage, at least a hundred-year-old native elm tree just on our new rear neighbor's side of our shared fence. It was glorious, maybe the biggest tree in the whole town, and we have some serious trees here. It shaded our entire back yard, patio, deck, and the west side of our house from the afternoon sun. I loved that tree in every season for almost twenty-five years.

In February, the neighbors informed us the night before the tree crew started that they were cutting it down. I was hysterical. I mean, literally hysterical, and I'm not normally given to emotional outbursts at all. I begged them not to do it. (We'd always shared the cost of maintenance on the tree with the previous neighbors, who were friends.)

But the tree is gone--it took them four different crews to finish the job, and the crews had to work out of our back yard to get it down. It was a devastating loss.  Now, not only do we have no afternoon shade, we no longer have any privacy in our back yard. We're in the process of seeing if we can put up shade sails to give us a little relief on the deck and patio.

HANK: Oh, Debs.. that is horrific. Ridiculous. Amazing. Breathtaking. And so so so scary. WHY??  
(And bizarre coincidence, I am no reading a terrific book by the amazing Louise Candlish, called THOSE PEOPLE. It's wonderful. And guess what it's about?) 
What about you, Reds and readers? Are you lovin' thy neighbor? Or...not so much?

100 comments:

  1. Oh, goodness, Hank . . . that’s sad. I’d think your new neighbor would be treasuring such a magnificent tree . . . .

    Around us, no one is looking to cut down any of the trees [and there are plenty of them] because there’s about an acre of land between the houses. And, to make things even more copacetic, the closest neighbors are all family, sparing us from all those unhappy neighbor disputes, drama, and disappointments. We are incredibly lucky . . . .

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    1. Oh, that does sound pretty perfect right about now… and you are so right, neighbor disputes are really awful.

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    2. Joan, does your twin sister live nearby?

      I'm so envious of people with relatives that close, like Debs and her daughter. We will be moving across the street from my husband's bachelor (fraternal) twin, but he's not someone I am especially close to.

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    3. Yes, Karen, Jean lives so close that we joke about being within "hollering distance" of each other . . . .

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  2. The neighbors I have talked to are all lovely people. Some I don't really know that well, especially those living in the units where people seem to move in and out once or twice a year. I really hope you get to keep your tree. The complex I live in cut down several of the trees here a couple months ago (with no sign of replacing them), and while they weren't as magnificent as your tree I still miss them.

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    1. I understand cutting trees if they are going to interfere with powerlines, or if they are dangerous. But sometimes it seems like people do it wantonly… end it makes such a difference in how it looks!

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  3. Too bad about those trees. Ah, neighbors. Ours are all nice. People help each other when it snows. We watch out for our errant pets. BUT...just to our right they used scented dryer sheets. Their dryer vent is next to our deck. I cannot abide the smell. It makes me choke, and if I'm eating out there in nice weather? No! I offered (in a FB message) to buy Ann a case of unscented ones and got no response. It seems like a small thing but really does a number on my quality of life. Also, the number of dogs left outside to bark (not our adjacent neighbors but one farther in several directions) is increasing. I can't stand it. There's my morning grump!

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    1. Edith, I sympathize! Unscented laundry products here--and so so fortunate in that, while we are a dog-lover's paradise in my neighborhood, no barkers abide within hearing distance (knock wood!).

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    2. That is incredibly annoying! They probably love the fragrance, you know? And who’d of thought that would be a problem. Such a weird situation with the vent. And why do people think their barking dogs are OK?

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    3. Edith, when I taught sewing one of my kid students always brought her freshly laundered fabric from home, scented with some laundry product that made me gag. I can relate!

      I use unscented soap, and plain white vinegar as a rinse agent, with wool dryer balls instead of softener sheets.

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  4. I would be hysterical, too, Deborah! And, really, Hank--what is the problem?? Looking at the photos, why on earth do they need to touch those trees at all?? I have been very fortunate in my neighbors--we are considerate of one another's needs and help each other out. That said, my neighbor to the east has three large trees he would like to remove--two of which are between his property and mine. They are yellow maples, prone to losing limbs when storms rage through, but I love the privacy and the shade they provide. So far, he has not found a service willing to take them down at a cost he will consider. Keeping my fingers crossed that it stays that way!

    My biggest beef is not with my neighbors, it is with the tree-trimming services that drive along the roads around here and mutilate the trees with limbs near the road. I want to cry every time I see those trucks.

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    1. We did a big story about that! Those tree crews sometimes seem not to care about the aesthetics at all, you know? They just hack off the trees, and they look so tortured and grotesque. I know in places like Massachusetts, winter storms are really a problem, and the trees do take down powerlines, and then everyone is without power for a long time. So I understand the need to cut certain ones. But they should at least be cognizant of how it looks.

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    2. Hank, I do understand the need--but not only is it grotesque, they also seem to remove way too much around here.

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    3. Here, too! They just butcher them.

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  5. Blogs are written by fools like me, but ...
    With apologies to Joyce Kilmer.

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  6. Growing up on my street, we knew all of the neighbors. And since most of them were families, there were lots of kids to play with.

    Time passed, as it tends to do, and people grew up and moved away. As you get older, there's less time to play and so the bonds of friendship and/or closeness tended to fade.

    Now, I'm one of only 3 original people on my street. I don't know all the neighbors anymore and the ones that I do are more of the wave when you see each other outside kind of thing rather than invite over for coffee after the kids have gone to school. There's still some of the "help shovel each other out" during the winter so there is some neighborly stuff going on but a neighborhood block party isn't in the cards.

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    1. Yes, it does sort of seem like a throwback event--people are SO busy these days!

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  7. What is wrong with people? When I was planning to build my house more than 10 years ago my major requirement was there must be trees. And there are, on all sides! Not sure I could live a very good life without trees around me. I grew up in a rural area, knowing all my neighbors and even now that is a description for this neighborhood too. But I have lived in places where it wasn't always easy to get along with the people close by.

    So sorry for you who have lost or are losing trees. I do understand and would be grief-stricken too.

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    1. I just burst out laughing, Judi! Yup. And the tree guys are here right now, being VERY careful.

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  8. Also about trees: A dear friend who died three years ago planted hundreds of trees in our town and the next one. There is now a Richard Gale Memorial Tree Planting program here in Amesbury, and I'm proud to be the owner of a new baby tree in our front yard that we planted a week ago. It's terrible to lose old grand-dame trees, for sure, and we have the last majestic swamp oak on our street (every house had one at one time), but somebody planted that swamp oak a long, long time ago, and we have to plant for the future. (Jumps off her soapbox...)

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    1. Of course! What a wonderful idea...it's a cycle, but our sugar maple's cycle is not over!

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  9. I am grieving for the elm tree -- what a shame. Natural shade a/c. What drove me crazy was a neighbor on one side (where the baby now lives) who did not weed her garden. Ever. So saplings - dozens and dozens of them--took root just on her side of the property line. I'd sneak over there and try to weed as many as I could before they got too big to pull. Along the back of her property (not adjacent to us) there is now a row of very tall spindly maples, cheek by jowl, and every wind storm one of them blows over. Trees need to be cared for. Fortunately another of our neighbors across the street owns a tree service. YAY Richard Hunt Tree Service! They know how to prune trees, how to save them, and how to safely remove them.

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    1. Oh, so frustrating! SO they all came over to your garden?

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  10. I am fortunate to have wonderful neighbors. We did have a bit of a shock when the lovely couple beside us moved in and took out a bunch of evergreen trees. It absolutely affected the feel of our property. But they explained that the neighbor who had originally planted them hadn't followed any kind of plan, so they were too close to each other with the result that none of them were healthy and well-developed enough to survive if they took out only a portion. They have assured us that they, too, want trees on that side of the property and plan to begin gradually re-planting in a way that will thrive with eventual growth.

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    1. Maybe that's true--but people do get the strangest advice from "experts" who "know."

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  11. I too am grieving for the elm tree. In Atlanta, we had to pay for a tree permit for every tree removed (the pine trees afflicted with beetles) and justify WHY we wanted to remove it. I once had a neighbor who didn't allow flowers or flowering trees and bushes in her yard because they attract "bees". She expected me to comply and I refused.

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    1. That's SO crazy! I mean--okay, I get it, she's afraid of bees, and that makes sense. I had a garden person who wanted to leave all the dead echinacea pleats--brown and yucky and ugly--in our front yard garden because the birds liked the seeds. It was a dilemma.

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    2. I leave my coneflowers standing so the goldfinches can pluck the seeds from the cone heads and sing their beautiful songs. But only till Thanksgiving.

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    3. Yes, we leave our coneflower seedheads standing into the fall, too. But we do keep everything else tidy.

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  12. How awful about the Elm. There are so few left after the ravages of Dutch Elm disease (did it affect your elms in TX as well) that each should be cherished. And you had to allow them on your property to take it down - that is an assault.

    As a child of the baby boom, I grew up in a neighborhood of kids and friends all in reasonably proximity of my age. I love the neighbors in Maine. They are the friendly, creative, and always have their neighbor's backs. Here in Florida, well, we haven't been so lucky. Sad but true.

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    1. Isn't it strange how that proximity can be a ...situation? And one person's lovely-smelling dryer sheets can cause another person's severe allergies? The volume of a barking dog is inversely proportional to the ownership of the dog. Something like that.

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    2. Kait, both our lawyer and the city arborist told us that we would eventually be forced to let them work from our property, so that we might as well get it over with. It was awful because it took so long to do the job, and they damaged some of our smaller trees on the fence line.

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  13. It appears the entire trunk of this beautiful tree is on your side of the boundary line, is that correct, Hank? If so, you own the tree. The neighbors have the legal right to trim branches that overhang their yard, but if they harm the tree in the course of that work, they could owe you significant damages.

    Good for you for having your arborist assess the situation (and, I hope, documenting the underlying health of the tree) before any trimming begins. Then be proactive - go see the new neighbors and try to arrange for their arborist to consult with yours, the goal being to wind up with judicious trimming, not a hack job that will affect the health of the tree.

    In my law practice I've had to deal with this issue a few times. It is very emotional (Deb, I think you are more normal than you think in that regard.) For good reason, we love the trees that surround us and beautify our lives.

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    1. Yeah, exactly. It's absolutely our tree. And he can absolutely cut, but cannot kill the tree.However, if he does kill the tree, then it's too late, right?

      Our arborists are here right now, in fact, doing preemptive pruning! grrrrr

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  14. We've been in our house 20 years at this point. The neighbor on our left has been there the entire time (he grew up in the house). But now, they are getting older and spending more time in Florida. The house has been in his family for a couple generations, but I don't know if any of his sons are up to taking it on. One is in Florida (and please, let him stay there because that's the one who screams at his girlfriends at 3am). One is local, but he's in IT and knows nothing about house maintenance - and the house needs a lot of work. The third is in the Air Force. He's divorced, but relatively handy so he *could* take over the house but...we just don't know.

    We've had three different sets of neighbors on the right, but have always been lucky. The current residents, a gay couple, are very nice, but don't plan to stay there more than the next five years or so (once the one guy retires, he wants to go to California to be near family).

    On the other side of that house though, ugh. We used to know the guy, he lost the house after his wife died, and there have been a series of renters. Some are better about property maintenance than others. And since their far back yard butts up against ours, I'd really like it if they'd cut their grass - but they don't.

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    1. Oh it's SO frustrating! It really alters the lives of everyone--and uncut grass is so bleak.

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    2. Not to mention the risks from field rodents and insects living in the tall grass. The Boy mowed it down last year on our riding mower. We'll see if he's that motivated this year.

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  15. What Brenda said. You cannot be compelled to remove a tree on your own property unless it's a hazard to someone else's property. And in insurance terms, if you've been warned that the tree is a hazard and then it becomes so, there can be repercussions. But Jonathan will be able to find that out, I'm sure.

    We've outlasted all but two of the neighbors in both places we have property here. After 34 years, we've seen a lot of changeover. The "new" house (property the family has owned since 1962) where we are moving soon is only .6 of a mile away, and we have known most of the neighbors for a long time. Including Steve's twin brother, who lives just across the street. That's really nice, to already have friends nearby.

    However, there is a major conflict with the neighbors along one side of our land. An old farm was turned into a subdivision in the early 90's, and they put in sewer lines. When we were in the process of planning we tried to get sewer line easements across one of the three properties adjacent to ours. It would have been a four-inch line, buried four feet deep, from the back of their property to the street, and we were willing to pay for the easement.

    Nope. None of them would do it. I tried to explain that we would have to cut down MANY trees behind them, ruining the privacy they enjoyed thanks to OUR trees, but they all cut me off, without any explanation. So we had to have an entire half acre cleared behind the new house, destroying what used to be a beautiful natural woods, in order to create a septic field and mound. It's hideous, and it cuts us off from the back two acres of the property, too (it's downhill, but would have been nice for trails, etc.). And it added an extra $50,000 to the cost of the house.

    Every time I think about this it makes the stomach acid curdle, realizing I will now have these jerk neighbors. It's really taken a lot of the shine off the fun we've had creating this new home, let me tell you.

    The only consolation is that the one neighbor was sure I'd be compelled to "put back" the trees. Hardly. They were fifty-seventy feet tall, and trees in septic fields are verboten. She will never get back what they lost. My husband wants so badly to put something really ugly back there for them to have to look at. Not if I can help it.

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    1. Oh, Karen, that is heartbreaking!!

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    2. That is so terrible for you! Why won't people even try to understand. I know what you mean about an engineered septic situation. That's what I have and it cost a bundle of money that doesn't even add value to the property! And it's ugly to boot! But you are right that you cannot plant trees there. Talk about salt in the wound.

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    3. That is SO awful. Completely incomprehensible. Ahhhh....I am SO sorry.

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    4. And exactly, he can't make us cut what's on OUR side. But he can lop off whatever he wants of our tree that overhangs HIS property. Which we are trying to avoid...

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    5. The worst part is that our street will most likely have sewers in the entire length within just a few years. The nearest connection is literally less than 200 feet from our property line. It's maddening.

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  16. Ah...neighbors. I've mention before that I live in an apartment. I have been in this building for almost 9 years. It is an older complex with a shared courtyard. I've watched the children, who were babies when I moved in, lean to walk, learn to talk and, since the pool is steps from my front door, I watched the progression from "water wings and timid" to what I suspect will be "cannon ball" this summer. I feel very safe here. That's the up side. The more unfortunate downside is the family that have the apartment above me. They moved in a few weeks prior to me. They now have two sons, both of whom have disabilities, one physical and one emotional. As the boys have gotten older they have naturally gotten louder, more active and, apparently more challenging for "Mom" who is given to verbal outbursts of frustration. This all goes on over my head. I've never said anything to the manager. After all this is apartment living. Also, the building is rent controlled so no one is going to move any time soon. And... the building manager's wife loves to garden so the tiny areas of border plants have started to sprout with geraniums and she has installed some azaleas that are a riot of pink. And... the ducks come every year. Nope, not leaving any time soon.

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    1. Well, yeah, the good news and the bad news. But lots of good here! As Paul Simon sang--wasn't it?--one man's ceiling is another man's floor.

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  17. Hank, your tree is beautiful, and absolutely on your property. Please let us know how it turns out!

    From a novelist point of view, I suppose that the weird things neighbors do provide us with lots of material!

    Some of our neighbors I wish we knew better. I always have good intentions about things like organizing block parties, but never end up with the time.

    Also, we try not to put up political signs because everyone is so polarized now and that doesn't help. In our last senate race, we didn't put up a sign for our guy because we know the political affiliation of our across the street neighbors, who we like, and we didn't want to foster any animosity. Then, they put up a HUGE sign for their guy, right where we had to look at it out our front windows. And he won, damn it.

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    1. Oh ,the lawn sign thing. Big big situation. Lots of people in our neighborhood have the "science is real" sign--have you seen that?

      And yes, our arborist and three guys--Nick, Nick and Eric, seriously--are preemptively pruning right now. We shall see.. Sigh. xoxoo I actually dreamed about this last night.

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  18. Hank, does your town have a tree warden? Wardens are responsible for trees on public property, but sometimes even trees on private property are protected by town laws if they are of a certain species or size. It’s worth a try.

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    1. Yes, we do--they are not very helpful, since the laws are so clear. Great idea, though...and if necessary, we will take some steps to make a bigger stink with them :-)

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    2. How interesting about the tree warden. I’ve never heard that before. Will have to investigate to see if we have one.

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  19. Hank and Debs - that is wrenching. We had to take down the hooligans climbing tree after storm damage and I was devastated. Inconsolable. If a neighbor did it for no good reason, we’d have issues.

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  20. This is really tough! When I lived in an apartment, we had a balcony. Unfortunately, there was a storm and a tree from next door apartments hit our balcony. We were on the third floor and it was a really BIG tree! The storm caused the tree to hit our balcony and half of the balcony was gone! The landlord of the next door apartment building would not do anything. All we could do was cut off the branches near the balcony AFTER the balcony was repaired. The tree is still there, though no branches near the balcony as far as I know. LOL.

    It amazes me that all of the Jungle Reds know their neighbors. I read somewhere that because we live in a upwardly mobile society, we do not know all of the neighbors with many people moving in and out! When I was a kid, we lived in a small town that resembled the English Cotswold villages with the winding roads and English style houses. Yes, we knew all of the neighbors. I was one of these kids who knocked on every door and met everyone. I was lucky that nothing bad happened! Though our house was built Mediterrean style with white stucco walls by a Swedish sailor who built the house for his family in 1939! I have relatives who live in a house that looks like a storybook cottage. Other relatives lived in a house that was on the Historical Register, which is very unusual in the USA. You rarely see a house built before 1900 these days.

    Hank, your tree is beautiful. Please let us know how it turns out.

    Diana

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    1. How scary! Yikes.

      And thank you...Yes, our house was built in 1894, so we are very luck. and the tree was there then, too. Grrr.

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  21. I am afraid I am in the 'bad neighbor' group. I planted clumping bamboo that did spread to the neighbors yard. I allowed the pampas grass to stay, providing a green fence along the north border. I don't always harvest my oranges. My grandfather oak, 42 inches in circumference, is still healthy. Ms. Maple in the front yard needs an arborist. On the other hand, we are let it be folks. We don't complain about noise, or drug usage.

    The house to the west is in foreclosure and will be auctioned on the 30th of this month. We hope for the best outcome. This time, tho, I will report drug usage. No more heroin next door, thank you very much.

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    1. Yeah, gotta draw the line at heroin, dear Coralee! xx

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  22. For a moment I breathed a huge sigh of relief - next door neighbor moved! But, no, I checked, and he is still here. Must be his brother in your neighborhood. He used to sweep the dirt in the gutter in front of our house because the street slopes so that dirt is ours. And it's not just with us. He's been to the city to try and get ordinances changed about things that bother him.

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    1. How awful! How deliberately awful!

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    2. Isn't it? He's just one of those guys, from the day he moved in. Put cardboard on his windows every single night so no one could spy on him. When I retired we did major back yard work - (attractive) shed, koi pond w/waterfalls end to end. I do take a little pleasure in that since it's all perfectly legally permitted he has nothing to do but enjoy the sounds of the bubbling brook ;-).

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  23. Debs and Hank, I'm so sorry about the trees. We actually have the opposite: I pay to keep the trees in the house below us trimmed so they don't obscure your view. THey have been so good about this.

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    1. It's all a balance, right? But you're not ruining >their view.

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  24. My neighborhood is on a dead end street that leads into city-owned woods and a creek. Every once in a while, the police come in and shake up the teenagers who like to go into the woods and smoke some nature, but otherwise it is very dull and quiet. Until last year, we had the same neighbors for 20+ years. There's very little turnover, but my wonderful next door neighbors went into assisted living, so we were nervous. Now we have a great young couple--she's a CPA who works at home and he's a nurse who works at night, so the quiet remains. On the other side...ugh. Batty neighbor no one likes. I swear she sends her cat over on purpose to use my flower bed at a litter box.

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    1. Yup. Or else she got a cat that matches her own personality... xxx

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  25. For the most part we have been lucky when it comes to neighbors. We've been in our current house almost 13 years now and in our little group of houses we're second in being here the longest. Our problem child is the house two doors down. A very young clueless couple bought it and redid the inside. They didn't have anyone overseeing the work so my nextdoor neighbor who is also their nextdoor neighbor got the fallout. The painters killed the tree in her front yard by dumping their waste water by it. The roofers not only didn't clean up all the nails and crap in the back drive (which four of us share) they managed to break off one of the heads on her sprinkler system. They have two barky dogs who live in the air-conditioned garage and have access to the side yard which is rarely cleaned. It stinks. Maybe the house is cursed. The neighbors before them managed to dodge contributing to any communal costs: gate repair, new fence when Ike destroyed the old one. They always pled budget issues yet threw elaborate birthday parties for their kids. Then we found out they had bought a lot and were having a house built in a nearby neighborhood. Oh well. A couple of older homes across the street are rentals. One of those is cursed too. Tenants would last one year and then move on, much to everyone's relief. Screaming, shouting, noisy parties in the front yard on school nights, you name it. We endured three consecutive tenants who had no regard for anyone else. The current batch seem to be fine and have passed the one year mark, so maybe it'll be okay for a while.

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    1. Yikes. Noisy parties in the front yard--who would DO that??? Crossing fingers for the new people..

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  26. I missed this entirely because I was getting ready for houseguests and 23 people for Easter which stretched from 2 until 10pm! Hank, my first lawyer-thought was: I don't think a neighbor has the right to cut limbs of a tree mot belonging to him. I trust, since you have in-house legal counsel, you can get it sorted out. :-)

    Our neighborhood, with its historic houses and 100+ year old trees, has varied over the years from super close, with regular parties and outdoor summertime movie showings - to what it is right now, which is quiet and polite. Never had any problems, thank God, and one of my very BEST friends in the world was my next door neighbor for 17 years. It broke my heart when she moved to Colorado.

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    1. Yeah, they can cut whatever's in their airspace. SIgh. But they can't kill the tree. However , by the time that happened...

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  27. Oh, and Debs - did the elm tree have to come down because it was diseased? Our then-across the street neighbors had to take down a glorious maple that had been there since, probably, the Civil War. It LOOKED fine, but they had had it tested, and it was punkly almost all the way through. It was so sad to see it go, but it was obvious as it was coming down that it was seriously rotted inside.

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    1. Julia, it needed to be re-cabled. The trees guys (from the first couple of crews that quit) said there were a couple of hollow spots near the top that needed to be cut out, but that it was basically healthy.

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    2. Yes, we had a glorious weeping willow in our front yard, HUGE, and so beautiful, and all leafed out. But they tested it, and it was absolutely hollow. When they cut it down, it was so sad, but yikes, it was hollow. And so dangerous.

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    3. Before we demolished the old house I had an arborist look at a massive, 150+ year old oak that was right next to it. This tree dwarfed the house already in photos taken in 1961, so we knew it was old, and we really wanted to try to save it, through the process of demolition, and rebuilding.

      The tree guy got all excited about the tree, throwing out numbers for keeping out of the root space, etc. Until he saw the split. This tree, well over 100 feet tall, had a split starting at about 10-12 feet up the trunk. ALL the weight of the mass was held above that, ensuring that when it finally split all the way half would fall on our house, and half would fall on the neighbor's house.

      We both cried when they took it down. The trunk at the base was nearly six feet across.

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    4. Oh, so sad! But gotta count yourself lucky that the guy found that crack...

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  28. As a child, neighbors were a big part of my life, as we kids were in and out of each other's houses, and parents knew each other, too. We didn't have block parties, but we had cookouts with the neighbors next door, whose son Jimmie was my best friend. My mother was friends with another neighbor down the street, and we went on shopping trips and swimming. The whole street knew everyone, and it was such a great way to grow up. I haven't had that sense of community where I lived since leaving my hometown. Of course, we live on a road that isn't conducive to running up and down the neighborhood, and people are mostly gone during the day. However, my kids did have a family two doors down with whom they got to share the same experience as I had as a child.

    Oh, and trees. Debs, I understand how heartbroken you must be, and I know how horrified you must be, Hank. Our big tree in our front yard has been like a friend for 30 years. I watch it through the seasons, and it seems like it is the last tree around here to drop its last leaf in the fall. Now, my husband is insisting that we need to cut it down. He says it is a disaster just waiting to happen, to fall onto our house during a big storm. It's already upended some of the sidewalk down to our circle drive. But, I just can't imagine looking out and not seeing it there. It's a comfort to me, a big comfort. But, you all have given me an idea. Before I agree to let the tree go, I need to get an expert in and talk to her/him about it. Have it tested or whatever.

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    1. Yes, do. You won't love the tree so much when ti smashes your house. And your husband won't be so worried when you find out it's fine.

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    2. But, Kathy, make sure it's a reputable arborist and not a tree demolition guy. As Hank says, those guys don't make money by telling you your tree is okay...

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    3. Yes, I don't want to rely on the tree demolition guys to tell me the tree is safe. My husband will probably suggest we ask them, but I'm better informed now. Thanks!

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  29. The neighbor on one side of us loves lawn decorations and adds new kitsch weekly. It looks very junky and is probably against the community code. We won't complain because other than that they are great neighbors. But I sure wish someone else would!!

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    1. So funny--years ago, a person put soem pink flamingos in her yard. Lie two, maybe. Someone snippily complained in the local newspaper that it "wasn't very Newton." Everyone got so mad that EVERYONE put pink flamingos in their yards. We did ,too.
      But I can understand not being happy with, like, the leaning-over garden lady, plastic squirrels and whirling thing-a-ma-jigs.

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  30. Shalom Reds and fans. “Love your neighbor…” I have attended conservative and reformed churches for over 30 years now and I don’t think there has been a more important topic that I have heard so little about in sermons. At the church I now attend, the teaching pastors have series of topics that they preach on for about 10 to 15 weeks in a row. I suspect they use sermon notes from an online company because they use very professionally done logos and giveaways. I should ask about it. I never gave it much thought until this morning. The most recent series leading up to Palm Sunday, the topic was “LOVE” and I clearly remember there was a sermon on “Love your neighbor…”

    When I was a kid, we lived in the projects in New York. When I was about 7 years of age, we moved from one federally subsidized project to another new one. We were the first tenants of those buildings. There were a lot of young couples with young children. We all needed to make new friends. So when we weren’t in school or doing homework, we were out roaming the streets. I remember being bullied once or twice but for the most part we were all friends. It wasn’t until high school that I had to take a bus to school. I remember playing the equivalent of Little League baseball and a little soccer in Junior High School but nothing like the organized sports that young people play today. There were probably 30 seven to eight storied buildings with a total of hundreds of apartments. Today, I am “friends” on Facebook with many of those same kids, a few of them whom I really have no recollection of today. When I first joined Facebook 10 years ago, this month, I posted on one colloquy that I couldn’t remember the name of the boy who shared my bar mitzvah with me. Within a few seconds literally, another friend (whom I had less of a recollection of) reminded me that he had been there and gave me the missing name and the name of the synagogue we all attended.

    Today I have lived for the past 25+ years in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. For a little more than half of that time I have lived a town which has eaten up much of the once rural lands surrounding our bedroom community of Philadelphia. I live once again in an apartment building; maybe 30 units. I know most of my apartment neighbors, but certainly not most of the people who live on the surrounding streets. Real estate is much too precious for most people with school age children. So children (particularly middle schoolers) need to be driven by car to and fro. Most of the high school children, I think, have driver’s licenses and often cars of their own. (Very, very rare, even for children of affluence, when I was growing up.) When I was that age, I remember having more semi-supervised, unstructured play venues. Almost all of my Facebook childhood friends remember our youth with great nostalgia.

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    1. Yes, it did seem safer then, and easier then. And more..fun?

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  31. When we bought our home in 1972, we were the only young couple on the block. Soon two other young families moved next door and across the street and we became fast friends. Somehow, we'd all arrive home from work at about the same time and come together on our large driveway to chat. Soon the beach chairs and beverages would come out and the kids would play and chase around in the various yards, occasionally coming to beg money for a Popsicle from a nearby store. Despite the fact that we have a big backyard and patio, we usually stayed put, there on our driveway, laughing and comparing war stories of our days, edging our chairs into the shade as needed. Eventually someone would wonder about dinner and we'd either throw something together (Judy might've made Jello but no one else had anything started or even thought of) or troop the two blocks down to town for corn burritos at the Frosty. Summer parenting at its best.
    Years have passed and the Frosty has been demolished in the name of progress. One couple divorced and the other moved away. Spouses have died, and the children are all grown, hopefully hosting their own versions of driveway gatherings.

    I, who was once the youngest adult on the block, am now one of the oldest. When did that happen?
    My daughter lives in one side of me and a lovely family are on the other. Their children pet sit when I’m away and he addresses my dandelions with a weed whacker from time to time, dismissing my thanks with a wave. When his wife had major surgery a neighbor arranged a sign up sheet for dinners and the family didn’t have to cook for weeks.
    Regarding trees...when my Acacia seemed to threaten the back fence of a neighbor, he asked that I have it trimmed and offered to pay half the expense. My tree trimmer did a very thoughtful job, maintaining the integrity of the tree and the safety of the fence. Although I appreciated that neighbor’s kind offer to spit the expense, I didn’t take him up on it. Mr. next door once offered to take down his beautiful old magnolia tree if it bothered me that the leaves and pods made a mess of my yard, and I begged him not to.

    The congenial atmosphere of this little block has only occasionally been disturbed, mostly by my children and their friends during their teenage years. Fortunately I had forgiving neighbors.

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  32. I am currently embroiled in an awful dispute with the neighbors below us. In a nutshell, they have a hedge that violates the covenants, and will do nothing about it.

    My husband and I have spent over $2,000 trimming their hedge over a period of 4 years (which is more like a forrest, as some of the trees have reached over 60’). The hedge height limit is 8’. They micromanaged every cut, every time.

    I grew frustrated, and formally filed a complaint, in which the Board voted for us, and against them, and agreed that it’s a hedge, and violates both our covenants and state law, which considers it a structure). It’s been almost exactly a year, and nothing has been done.

    Three weeks ago, my neighbors came home extremely drunk, and the husband screamed at me and threatened me. I lost count of how many f-bombs he dropped. Oh, and I was also informed that his lawyer would f me, too. The next day, he tried to follow me home (I had just bought a new/used car), and I didn’t want to pull in my driveway and get blocked in. He has no cause to drive that way; his house is in the opposite direction. So I had to pass my own house and take a circuitous way home.

    Since then, I wear a baseball hat when I drive, keep my car in the garage, carry mace, and have filed an incident report with the sheriff’s office. All because they won’t cut down a few ugly trees. Which we would’ve helped to pay for if they didn’t act psychotic. These are not madronas or redwoods; they are scraggly conifers, which should never have been planted to demarcate a property line.

    I don’t understand why they are being so hostile and obstreperous. I have never encountered anything like this before. These people are in their mid-60’s; I am 39. I am amazed at their immaturity, and am pretty much afraid to go in my own back yard.


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    1. Oh, gosh, that is terrifying! It is so difficult to understand people sometimes--and it's even worse when people just dig in their heels and refuse for the sake of refusing. Ahhh...What a terrible story. Wow. xxxxx

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  33. There are two huge street trees on either side of my house. The city used to trim them when I was a child, and my mother paid to have a limb chopped that was coming near our house. I contacted a company two years ago to have branches cut before they got over my new roof but although they came several times over the two years, not a twig has been cut. I cringe every time the wind blows fearing a branch crushing my house or car.

    Two houses down, the last neighbor had health and financial problems and let weed trees grow up in the back yard. I try to cut branches by the fence because they all seed and make more weeds in my garden. I'm not sure who owns the place now but the house probably will be condemned. It's a shame.

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    1. Oh, that is such a shame... And you are so right that's important to keep the trees trimmed! Around here in the winter, the weight of the ice is incredible.

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  34. I've been in my condo for 15 years, and I've had absolutely horrible neighbors for 14 years. I finally got them to stop smoking in the garage this past December. Their garage is right under by bedroom and the smoke comes into my unit and lingers until I open windows to air it out. It took an e-mail to our HOA's attorney at 2 AM to finally get them to stop despite promises that they'd stop. Well, not everyone would promise to stop. Some basically told me to deal with it because they could do whatever they wanted.

    Of course, I'll still get smoke in my living room from them smoking on the front steps, but that usually clears out fairly quickly all by itself, so that doesn't bother me as much. They also don't spend hours hanging out on the steps smoking, especially in winter and summer, and it won't keep me from sleeping.

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  35. When we lived in California, we were in a suburban neighborhood in which we were "the kids" even though John was in his forties and I in my late twenties and through my thirties. The neighbors were literally in their 80's and 90's and had been there for many decades, and I loved almost every one of them. The stories I heard! I don't think we'll ever have a better neighbor than the elderly woman who lived next door who used to call and ask us if we would please let our dog Dusty go outside "because I love to hear her bark". Can you imagine? We have since moved to a rural property in a different state, and have been mostly very lucky in that many of our neighbors have been helpful in teaching us the particulars of living in the country and dealing with being on a well, having a septic system, what to do when the power goes out and it's actually freezing outside, etc. As to the neighbors we have felt less hospitable vibes coming from or going toward, I remember the words of my mom, who grew up on a farm, and told me that her dad said people in the country didn't have the luxury of arguing with their neighbors, because those were the folks who'd answer the call if your barn was on fire, and it wasn't like you were going to up and move any time soon. So we are careful "not to start anything", and mindful that this is a very small town and connections run deeper than we are aware.

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  36. We love almost all of our neighbors. The one we don't called the dog officer when I was babysitting my cousin's dog during a school vacation a couple of years ago. In our city if you want to own more than three dogs you need your neighbors' approval to apply for a kennel license. I own three dogs. It was so mean-spirited because if I had acquired a fourth dog, I'm sure she wouldn't have approved the license in which case I'd have had to give up one of my beloved pets. She has a dog herself. Not sure why she's so difficult but I heard from one of her family members that she's like that. I hope she never needs a favor because I'm not going to help her. Oh, and recently they got rid of a couch and instead of putting it on their precious, not-so-great-looking lawn, they actually put it in the street for a couple of days! Thoughtless, rude, entitled--you be the judge.

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  37. I hope all will be well with your tree. One very large oak had to be removed for my neighbors' house to be built, and it was sad, but there was no way to fit the house. I tried the talk the tree into backing up a few yards, but it couldn't. I love the large hickory tree in my yard, which seems sturdy, and the squirrels love it . . . though are fewer squirrels and no rabbits. I suspect fox and other predator neighbors. We are a friendly neighborhood and keep each other apprized on the shenanigans of the four-legged and winged creatures with whom we share space.

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  38. Oh, Mark, you've just outlined the reasons I moved from my condo to a house. Shared walls made me a participant in my neighbors' smoking habits, and since the allergist recommend closed windows, I was stuck. An HEPA filter can help a bit, and sealing openings in the walls around pipes and electrical outlets can help also, but nothing will stop it all. I read that if the smokers open two windows, that cross ventilation, can help, but if they only open one, it increases air pressure and actually forces more smoke into your space. Good luck to you in dealing with tobacco abuse.

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  39. Hank, we won the neighbor lottery with the neighbors to one side when we moved into our house just over 10 years ago. They’re a great couple, and we get along so well. We’re always “meeting at the fence” to pass food/leftovers/desserts across to each other. We dog-sit and house-sit for each other. We mow each other’s lawn, depending on the life circumstances at any given time.

    The neighbors on the other side? Just the opposite in every way. They were friendly enough, smiling or waving, but that was about it. The guy’s mother lived with him, along with his girlfriend, his daughter, and her two daughters. The mother would go out on her back patio every morning after the kids went to school, around 8am. The patio was right by our bedroom window. She would then proceed to chain smoke and talk on the phone -on speaker!- for the next several hours. I tried to talk to her about it, telling her that I worked nights (which she should have understood because she was a nurse, too) so I was just getting to bed when she was heading outside. I also told her I had moderate asthma, and her constant smoking was affecting my quality of life, because I’d had to go to the ER for an asthma/bronchitis flare-up. I asked her to consider going to the front patio, which was as nice as the one in back, part of the time. Her response? “F*ck you! Change your f’ing schedule to days and wear a f’ing mask”. Yeah, they didn’t get holiday goodies from us that year. Thankfully, the homeowner (the ex of the oh-so-pleasant (not)neighbor, didn’t like his son’s girlfriend, so he kicked them out. There *may* have been a small block party when they left!

    The current neighbors are both teachers. They’re a really nice couple who are members of the 501st Legion. I’m envious and very grateful that they make a difference in the lives of sick children...even if they do have snakes. I just try not to think about that part.

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