To the MAX, Push the envelope, go extreme, and other cliches

It's spring. That means that around here, there is finally an end to the hurried dash to a frozen car. We have emerged from our long winter's naps, blinking at that weird glowing thing in the sky.

It means we remember that we have neighbours.

My neighbours are an assorted lot. On one side I have the New Neighbours, who replaced the Always Outside People last summer. They've been rather disappointingly normal. In the back I have Nice Neighbours, who we sadly don't have much to do with, and Bitchy Lady, who once suggested that maybe people with dogs should consider living in the country, and maybe I should take my dog back to the pound because she barks too much. We also have Midnight Carpenter, who I've never exchanged more than a few pleasantries with, but who uses the power saw in his garage at all hours of the night (though I've never actually seen him build anything. You'll see me on the local news in a few years protesting, "But he seemed so normal!").

Across the street is Ninja Neighbour, who moved in last year but who I've never seen, Two Yappy Dogs and Single Guy. Down the street is Neighbourhood Gossip Information Hub and the halfway house for problem children, like the one who rides his bike up & down the alley to taunt my dog.

And directly on the other side of us are the Passive Aggressive Octogenerians, Max and Gertie. They do things like leave plastic buckets of pinecones next to our house in the hopes that we'll pick the rest of ours up, and duct tape my solar lights back onto their posts when they fall off and I don't re-attach them for more than two days. But they're also super sweet and Gertie adores my kid, and I'm fairly certain Max changed the lightbulb in the porch light one time when hubby was too lazy we didn't get around to it. It's 12 feet in the air, you guys. He's 87.

That Max. Ah, Max. Max is what you would very diplomatically call A Character. He's the kind of guy that would be AWESOME to have as a grandfather or great-uncle, but, uh...not so much as a neighbour.

The first summer we lived in this house, there was a minor infestation of tiny ants. We didn't have air conditioning, so we slept with the window open. Following the arrival of the ants, I was awoken every morning promptly at 6am by the sound of Max standing on his deck, in his underwear, flicking them off the metal railing with a flyswatter: ftwing! ftwing! ftwing!

Occasionally he'd wear a shirt. You know, out of consideration.

When we got the dog, the Always Outside People nodded and said, "Ah, good, it will keep Max out of your yard." I was a little confused. I'd never seen Max in our yard.

And yet the following morning, I looked up from my Cheerios to see him shuffling around in our front yard, picking weeds. Out of MY lawn. In his underwear.

But despite his penchant for wandering the neighbourhood in his skivvies, Max is quite the snazzy dresser. He and Gertie have a pretty hoppin' social life; they go to the casino almost every day, they have friends over for coffee, they go out for dinner. And they are always dressed to the nines. Gertie gets done up in slacks and a nice blouse like a regular little old lady, and Max channels a 1940s pimp.

After a few months of living here, I wandered into the kitchen to see hubby peering over the bottom of the piano window.

"Psst," he said, "Come here, you have to see this!"

So we both poked our noses over the ledge to secretly observe Max, who was standing on his front step waiting for Gertie. He was wearing lime green pants, a rhinestone belt buckle the size of my head, and a T-shirt with his own picture on it, emblazoned with the caption, "Life of the Party!"

No kidding.

Max keeps several classic cars and polishes the Cadillac up to drive to the store, which is less than half a block away. He calls me 'sweetie' and offers to help with the gardening if he thinks he'll catch a glimpse of cleavage when I'm bending over weeding. He treats the entire block like his own yard, but when someone pointed out that the roof over his porch was collapsing, he shrugged and said, "Enh, not my problem."

He's a fucking nutbar, but he's hilarious.

When I'M 87, I'm going to be a Max.

Or possibly just the nutbar part.

What about you?