Monday, October 12, 2009

Do You Know Your Neighbor?

Our across-the-street neighbor is a crazy drunk. In fact, I call him Crazy Tom . . . 'cause he is. His tall tales are a constant amusement to our family. He is, among other things, a bicycle repairman, a nuclear engineer, a stage actor, one of the top five chefs in the nation, one of the most eligible bachelors in our town, a Jew, a Christian, and a Navy Seal. In one conversation, he told me he was asked by three different senators to testify in front of the United States Congress about health care because "I have viable alternatives." He has never graduated from college, but knows a lot of people who have--making his advice and criticism more valuable. His chocolate lab, Koko, was an award-winning police dog, has killed a pit-bull, and is trained to find lost children and crack cocaine. He informs me every other week about the money he's about to come in to, and every week opposite about how he was screwed by this hospital or that company.

In all, I don't listen to much of what he says, but I try to be a good neighbor and kind person.

The other day, Crazy Tom asked me to come over and get something from him. "I'll be right there," I promised, "but I can't stay long because I have a house full of kids." He assured me I would be in and out.

He gave me what he needed to give and then started a conversation. Oh, great. I thought, Now I'll never get out of here.

He said, "Well, are you just as pleased as I am that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize?"

Being one who doesn't pussy-foot around most any issue I bellowed out, "WHAT?? No, way!" I then gave a short diatribe about the reasons for my opinions. He countered, I responded. We then talked about every president for the last fifty years--policies, actions, corruption, success, and failure. Neither of us was shy about expressing our opinions. He loved Jimmy Carter and could not be dissuaded. Later in the conversation, it came out that Carter was a Navy man. "Ah, Ha!" I exclaimed, "That's why you like him! You are being loyal to your fellow sailor!" He admitted it to be so with a slightly embarrassed chuckle.

After the presidents, we talked about war, Shakespeare, The Ottoman-Turks, the reasons he uses beer for his drug instead of prescriptions, Einstein (Tom thinks he was a plagiarist, I don't), recipes, floods, and the solar system. I'm telling you, we covered the gamut. He sat in his underwear in his wheelchair; I stood on the porch where I could keep an eye out for renegade children darting from my door. At the end, he told me I was better educated than he had thought, "I thought you were a flake over there teaching those children." I told him he was more lucid than I had ever seen him. It was a good conversation.

I came home sad. When he wasn't drunk, he showed quite a depth of knowledge and thought, but here we have been neighbors for four years and I had never seen evidence of that knowledge until then. What a tragedy, what a waste. This one scintillating conversation put me in my place: Don't judge a book by it's cover, Emily! Tom, though worn out, full of stories, and scarred by poor choices, surprised me.

Every soul is valuable, even that of Crazy Tom.

Doctrine and Covenants 18:10

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

1 comment:

  1. you forgot about the part when he smoked the pipe with the indians