• Nasty Neighbors and How to Deal with Them

    • Posted on Oct 02, 1980
    10/7/80

    Consider the unavoidable irritations that we all put up with year after year: leaky faucets, drafty windows, flooded basements, balky cars, stained ties, taxes, boring dinner speakers, detours, broken-down machinery of all varieties, expired warranties, quarter-sized dollars, grumpy bosses.

     Everyone can add more of their own special irritants; we put up with them because most can't be helped. 

    Drips, detours, and puny dollars are part of living these days, so when some irritant comes up that can be avoided, we all get furious. 

    Take nasty, noisy, neighbors. Last night some friends were lamenting at length about their across-the-street neighbors. Seems that the situation has gone so far that the whole neighborhood recently circulated a petition outlining their complaints, and they plan to give the petition to the mayor, the city council, and the police chief. 

    The complainers are not usually complainers. They're quiet, conservative, hard-working folks. Norman Rockwell could have used any of them as models. Indeed, my friends were long suffering concerning these neighbors; they first complained over two years ago, and they've been patient ever since, until just recently.

    These people have been pushed to their limit. 

    The neighbors in question are several college guys who evidently turn into various animal species after sunset: banshees, hyenas, gorillas, monkeys, toads, roosters, and maybe a skunk or two.

    They use surrounding yards for bathrooms (both 1 and 2! ), they regularly throw up and pass out in the same yards, and lately they've taken to screaming obscenities at passers-by. Actually, not even animals get that rotten; even skunks and toads maintain some self-respect.

    What to do about such animal-neighbors? The local police have ticketed and arrested several of them. The landlord has been called, then re-called, but to no avail. He seems to think "boys will be boys," not seeing that these "boys" 'would have been shot long ago by any self-respecting zoo-keeper. 

    AS A PUBLIC service, I've devised four simple, legal solutions any one of which would work: 
    1. Write registered letters to the parents of each lousy neighbor: 
    "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Parent of our lousy neighbor: 
       Your son is nothing like you wanted him to be, and everything you feared he would become. Talk to him immediately about his nighttime behavior or he will continue to be the sap in your family tree. If you want more details, write us, 
    His Neighbors." 

    2. Every neighbor could invite one of the critters over for an evening every weekend. Then lock them gently in a closet for a few hours with a little Ripple and cheese. They can't raise hell when they're closeted and sipping Ripple. 

    3. Form a new group called "Nasty Neighbors Anonymous," or NNA. Get the noise addicts to join, en pain of further arrests and permanent damage to their reputations. They could meet with all the other rotten neighbors (there are others, I'm told) who would stand up individually and say, "I'm Biff Banshee, and I'm a Nasty Neighbor. I irritate my neighbors needlessly by playing my stereo too loudly, and I grow louder and meaner when I drink. I want to get better, since now no neighborhood will have me."

    Then all the others would console poor Biff, and he'd go home feeling better. He'd have the name of a reformed Nasty Neighbor he could call whenever he felt like irritating his neighbors. 

    4. Move to the country. This is expensive and not for everyone, but out in the boonies, neighbors are football fields away, and most of them stay too busy to make such late whoopee.

    It's blissfully tranquil because only the real animals use your yard as their bathroom. 


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  • Good luck, Alicia—You’ll Need It

    • Posted on Sep 26, 1980

    Note:  ALICIA WITT, now 33, graduated from high school when she was 14, and has acted in some 55 films and TV series.  Wish I had predicted that too--but I at least noticed that she was destined for an unusual life.  That has certainly happened.  (11-16-2012)  


    9/26/80

    Everyone knows some ante-raiser.

    You know, the secretary who cheerfully types twice as much, twice as fast as anyone in the office and makes good coffee besides? Or the athlete who breaks all the records, then says, “Ah, it wasn’t nothing,” and means it. Or the movie star who plays Shakespeare well.

    These super-secretaries, jocks, and stars inevitably make their colleagues feel inadequate. In general, they have fewer friends than most and find that though they might be respected and admired, they’re not liked because they up the ante, so to speak.

    Then there's little Alicia Witt. Alicia, you may have read, raises everybody enough so we all have to pay more. A lot more.

    You think you have a smart kid because he-she babbled “Muh-muh” at seven months? Alicia was “deciphering diaper boxes and world maps” at seven months.

                Are you proud of your 2-year-old because he-she remembered Uncle Wylie’s name? At 2, Alicia said to Robert, her father, as he came home, “Is thy name Robert a fair name? I’ll have no father if you be not him.” Shakespeare; she’d read it that day.

    Your five year old knows the alphabet? Little Alicia, now just 5, writes stories more than 20 pages long. She knew the alphabet, both phonetically and the letters, when she was 16 months.

    When Alicia was just under 3, a psychologist reported that she was intellectually at least 12. As her mother says, “A month for Alicia is like a couple of years for other children.”

    In a word, Alicia is a freak, or at least that’s how she’s going to be treated. For if people have trouble with super secretaries, what will they do with a super-everything like Alicia? Her teachers will slow her down, her friends will bore her, her parents won’t know what to do with her.

    And the rest of us will be reminded, because of her very existence, that our ideas about human intelligence have been too narrow. That’s hard to deal with because our own intelligence seems so much more limited than Alicia’s.

    Consider what may happen to Alicia:

    -       She could marry, have kids, grow old happily and live a good life.

    -       She could join a carnival sideshow as “Memory Woman.”

    -       She could become the 51st president, though she’s probably too bright to try.

    -       She could write poetry, novels and plays, winning three Nobel Prizes for literature.

    -       She could write treatises on theoretical physics, winning a Nobel Prize for same.

    -       She could become a career waitress at Barney’s Bar and Grille in her hometown of Worchester, Mass., becoming locally famous for her witty cracks about the food and customers.

    With a name like Alicia, she’s halfway there.

    -       She could join a nunnery to eventually become the first female Pope.

    -       She could become a revolutionary, turning against her parents and the system that turned her into such a freak.

    Given what I know of the world and Alicia, the answer to what she will become is simple: she’ll do all of the above, then die having lived a full and varied life.

     At 18.

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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

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