Sheltering in Place–a Pictorial

I heard on the political podcast Left, Right, & Center that some millennials are referring to COVID-19 as the “Boomer Remover.” Of all the horrible things this virus has created, at least it has inspired someone to create a funny joke about it. I like that–and I’m one of those Boomers. I am one of the lucky ones: I’m a civil servant whose executive management has directed me to work from home. I’m not spending my days trying to get through to the Employment Development Department; monotony is the main challenge I need to overcome.

As bad as things are in this country right now, I see an opportunity for positive change. A few things have to happen first to create this opportunity. First, we need a new president. Bernie Sanders would have been perfect for this opportunity, but we may have to settle for Joe Biden–a neoliberal. Second, we need more progressive lawmakers. Bernie Sanders, Barbara Lee, Ro Khanna, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Katie Porter are not enough. Third, we need to vote out the egregious politicians like Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton, and Steve King, to name only a few. If we can achieve this in the next three elections, we could create a new America that would fix the economy, creating new initiatives, much like how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) helped usher in over 30 years of prosperity. The change could be/should be the death of neoliberalism and the resurrection of the long-dead benevolent government that lasted from FDR through Richard Nixon. (Yeah, I know those past administrations were racist and sexist ones, but the new one doesn’t have to be.

We can re-enact the Pre-Reagan 70 to 90 percent marginal tax rate, bring back the estate tax, and put teeth in Ocasio-Cortez-Markey Green New Deal. It was the Great Depression that shook this country up and resulted in a government that addressed the needs of its people. Now is the time for significant change. Now it is critical. The only thing that needs to change is the lawmakers and a catastrophic event to make it happen. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the novel coronavirus epidemic.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we get four more years of Donald Trump. (God, it hurt to type those words!) We may not have discovered, mass-produced, and mass distributed a vaccine for the virus until Trump is well into his second term. In the meantime, we will have to be vigilant by following what is now become as common sense as not running with scissors: practice social distancing, wearing personal protection equipment (PPE), using hand sanitizers, sheltering in place, if you can, and if you feel sick stay home. Below is my own experience over the first 53 days of sheltering in place.

My teleworking office complete with washer, dryer, incessant dog barking, some unused yoga gear, and located way too close to the TV and kitchen. Did I mention the barking dog? With me working here, I can think of four coffee houses, one nutrition store, a cookie shop, my credit union, and a half-dozen restaurants that would usually get my business that now does not. Multiply that by thousands of people no longer supporting the downtown economy, and you can see how serious this adds all of those who have lost their jobs. It’s not hard to imagine how devastating this situation is for Downtown and Midtown Sacramento. Now, multiple that by 26.5 million-plus across America who are unemployed thanks chiefly due to the pandemic, and it is genuinely tragic.
Shelter in place has allowed me the time to walk my dog every morning, instead of just the days that I have off, but unlike most of my neighbors, who appear to love walking their canines, I have never enjoyed it. When Vivian (I didn’t name her!) was young, walking her was more like a perpetual tug of war. She would take off after every dog, cat, and squirrel that came near our route. Now, at 12, she has lost a lot of that vigor, but she still wants to mix it up with most dogs and every cat and squirrel she sees. Now, on weekday walks when I’m struggling with her, all I can think about is my cozy cube and a cup of java. Damn this Coronavirus!
I’m exercising less and eating and napping more. Not good for an overweight, out of shape old man! I used to commute to work on my bike (11 miles total in a day) and practiced yoga three times a week. Those activities were never enough to combat my overeating and sedentary ways, but when my club closed down, and I started to work from home, I began to put on the weight.
I’m a bit of a YouTube junkie. (I say “a bit” because there are real YouTube junkies out there that are scary. Check out the New York Times podcast Rabbit Hole to get an idea of how dangerous this phenomenon can be.) In pre-Pandemic times, I would spend most of my lunch breaks eating and watching Democracy Now!, The Rational National and The Hill’s Rising. Now, it’s a struggle to watch no more than an hour a day. What am I going to do when I retire?

Back to work—sort of. My office is easing into returning to work. Right now, only one person from our analyst crew are allowed on-site, so we are rotating. My building is a frigging ghost town. My office is easing staff back into work. As of this posting, each of us is only putting in one day of office work. Not at our desk, but a post, no one likes but receives a lot of traffic with long gaps of inactivity. It’s a challenge trying to stay busy at this post at this time. Ironically, it reminds me of the first week of teleworking. What’s worse, I cannot leave this post. (This isn’t my usual job, nor is it my cubical. I don’t know when I will be able to return to my regular job.

On my break, I notice the coffee house that I used to frequent isn’t open yet–maybe it never will re-open. In early April, when the shelter in place commandment was in full swing, whenever I would ride through town, it looked like a scene from the Walking Dead except there were no cars in the middle of the road helter-skelter. (There were simply no cars at all.) It looked like the homeless had successfully overrun the town, and now they owned it.

Sacramento has one of the worst homeless problems in California, but you don’t know just how bad it is until you remove everyone else. Returning to work five weeks after the initial stay at home orders, I see more workers milling around and more cars on the street, but it is only a fraction of what would be typical. I’m sure this pandemic initially won’t help the homeless crisis. It will make it worse for them. More people—the people who could barely make rent and feed themselves—will end up on the streets. I say “initially” because I hope and believe–especially if we can replace the person in the Oval Office and some of the legislative representatives in Washington, we can usher in a new egalitarian society that will care for the least of us.

In the meantime, we will go through a series of shelter in place orders, followed by the opening up of businesses, followed by another spike in COVID-19 cases, followed by another shelter in place order, who knows how many times. The fastest time we ever created a vaccine and available to the public was for Mumps, and that was–wait for it–four years! Currently, labs like Johnson & Johnson are cutting corners to find a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 (the name of this novel coronavirus) that causes COVID-19 (the disease). Still, there are no guarantees the labs will find a vaccine that works any faster than four years or that doesn’t have horrible side effects.

But let me close with some good news, something I touched on in the beginning of this post. After the Great Depression and World War II, not only did the economy bounce back, but the legislation that was passed into law in the dark days of the 30s and the 40s created the greatest era in this country’s history:

  • The Social Security Act of 1935 gave all American workers 65 or older a continuing income after retirement.
  • The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (aka the GI Bill) gave needed assistance to veterans coming back into the marketplace.
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 provided workers a minimum wage to an untrained workforce.
  • The Federal Housing Administration was established in 1934 for families needing assistance getting back into homes after losing theirs in the Great Depression.
  • Americans needed affordable health care and almost received it in 1945, but the GOP and the American Medical Association prevented the bill from becoming law. The fear at the time, as the Cold War began, was that it was a step towards Socialism. However, in 1965 President Lyndon Johnson enacted Medicare and Medicaid. (Perhaps this pandemic would have been administrated more efficiently if the nation had a single-payer health system. As it stands now, people of color are the most adversely affected by this pandemic.

As challenging as this pandemic is, I like to think we have a chance to make some positive changes to our country after a vaccine is found and administered. In the meantime, stay vigilant, stay inside if you can, practice social distancing, wear a mask when you should, sanitize your hands, and praying wouldn’t hurt.

Custom-made stainless steel nails


This story has no break ins, no gangs, no chop shop, no riot police like my previous neighborhood story set in 2006. I haven’t stepped on anyone’s toes who would read this or know this blog existed. Still, all the names have been changed here except for the pets, who are all dead except for the dog, who I’m betting doesn’t read.

Cat Scat Fever
In the twenty or so years we have lived at our current address we have been fortunate enough to have very few feuds with our next-door neighbor, Steve. The only one of note was the time he was rightly upset at one of our cats–Casey–who habitually crapped in his garden. It was the ultimate litter box for my favorite cat. Steve didn’t know this was my favorite cat. He also wouldn’t have cared. He cared for his tomatoes and not stepping in cat shit. He also didn’t know that we had dispensed with a litter box some time ago, thinking the great outdoors was his and his littermate’s litter box. All Steve knew was our cat was making his gardening life difficult. After we provided him with various (failed) suggestions on how to keep our cat out of his garden he had had enough. When I answered the door to his knock one day, I remember how Steve stood on his toes for a split-second, as if to hurl himself into something he clearly didn’t want to do–issue an ultimatum. I felt bad that my favorite cat was causing him such trouble and that he obviously had to get mad–something the gentle man didn’t seem comfortable doing. When he said his piece I remember wondering what we were going to do. We started a litter box in the house again, but it couldn’t compare to the earth around our house and the turned soil of Steve’s garden.

For no apparent reason, the complaints stopped. Steve no longer came over upset about cat crap on his veggies. When we did talk, we discovered we both were into progressive politics and other topics that didn’t involve cat scatology. We also attended some talks together, and my wife and I attended his lovely daughter’s bat mitzvah. Bliss.

Meth House 2: Electric Boogaloo
Then there are the drug dealers on the corner. Well, I can’t say for certain that they are dealers, but there’s a lot of traffic there day and especially late at night. Just like there was when we lived near a meth lab two doors down the street where we used to live. Yep, I can pick ’em, can’t I! Refer to link above for a re-post of an 11-year-old tale for gangs, chop shops, and riot police neighborhood we used to live in.

Customers or to be fair late-night visitors don’t knock on the door of the two-story duplex rental, they have a particular kind of knock on the adjacent window. The renters stay awake all night and I’m guessing have kind of a drive-up service. During one summer, they broke up the monotony of waiting for pickups by removing all the furniture from their front room and setup a ping-pong table. On many a summer night, with our bedroom windows open, my wife and I could hear the ping pong games occasionally being broken up by one guy on a motorized skateboard that drove my dog nuts, another guy on a Kawasaki Ninja and numerous cars stopping by for brief visits late at night.

Besides the traffic and the ping pong, there were the loud arguments during the day. The main guy (boss?) and his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend argued often. One day they were shouting across a car in their driveway, pushing a folded five dollar bill across the hood like it was a paper football and screaming, “Hey, you wanted it! Take it. It’s your five bucks, now.” “No, I don’t want your fuckin’ money, it’s yours.” “I gave it to you. It’s yours now.” Part of me was hoping the bill would ultimately hang over a side of the hood so I could yell from my front yard, “Touchdown,” giving the arms sign, but the guy was big and intimidating, and the woman looked pretty scary, too.

One day, when I was looking out my kitchen window, I saw the big guy with some crusty-looking guy pushing an old, white Buick Riviera across the street and parking it right in front of my house. This wasn’t cool, but I figured it would be temporary so I told myself to wait a couple of days. When three days passed and the car was still in front of my house, I walked across the street and knocked on the door. My knock was received with a quick and loud “Who is it!” that made me jump down to the bottom step. I sheepishly replied, “Yu-your neighbor.” When he opened the door and pushed the screen door out a little too quickly, I flinched thinking he was going to get directly in my face. He was a walking cliche: wife-beater t-shirt complete with a few holes and–what looked like–a gravy stain. When I politely explained the situation to him pointing to the white Riviera, he calmed down and apologized about the car and promised he and his “partner” would move it in a day or two. I didn’t like his time frame, but I didn’t want to argue with him. It took him a couple more days than he promised, but before I could muster the guts to go over there again, the car disappeared.

That incident became our icebreaker. From that point on the big guy would always say hello to me as I walked home past his house from the bus stop. On one morning, as I was walking to the bus stop, he pointed to tracks across his lawn and said in what seemed to me to be an accusatory tone, “Look at this!” Someone had drive across his corner lot. For this reason, my wife and I do not like corner lots–they are prone to crazy/drunk college students cutting across your lawn, but this wasn’t your garden-variety lawn job. These tracks were DEEP. A heavy, four-wheel-drive truck with big tires did this, and it looked like the disgruntled meth customer (Yeah, I know, I can’t let go of my meth house assumption) popped his truck in 4-Low before cutting the two canal-deep tracks across my neighbor’s lawn.

Shortly after the lawn job incident, I was walking home from the bus stop when I saw him sunning himself with a reflector. We had just exchanged hellos when my wife yelled at me from across the street, “Hi Jack,” followed by something I have long forgotten. Then my big, intimidating neighbor, the presumed drug dealer, said in–what sounded to me like–a creepy mock-friendly voice, “So Jack’s your name. Hello, Jaaaack!” Not cool, wife. Not cool!

A Serendipitous Interlude 
Outside of the above events, everyone seemed to get along in the neighborhood. Of course, there were the events caused–we hope–by outsiders. (You’ll have to read the “Home Sweet Home” post for those details.) Two of our neighbors–Jeff and his wife Linda–turned out to work in the same hospital as my wife, and he and Linda were cat lovers.

In fact, they really loved one of our cats, the out-going (and probably mentally retarded) Casey. (You know, the one that crapped in Steve’s garden.) Casey didn’t seem all there, and partly because of this he had a charm that converted me from someone who merely tolerated cats to a full-blown cat lover. He would lick my bald head when I watched TV and insist on sleeping on my shoulders or lap when I read. He had a personality that won over my feline indifference. I never loved an animal as much as I loved Casey and I don’t think I’ll ever love another animal that much.

When we got a dog (more on that later), Jeff and Linda’s love for our Casey became a great blessing to us. When it came to our new puppy, Casey wouldn’t have any of it. He sat, ate, and slept on top of my grill in the back yard waiting for the strange small animal in the house to go away. When it didn’t Casey disappeared. My beloved cat spent the last seven years of his life at Jeff and Linda’s house where he was treated like a king. Rachel, his littermate, stuck it out, trained the dog not to mess with her.

We got to know another couple down that street that was so likable, so sweet, we jokingly thought there was a catch–some dark secret that would be revealed later when the cops would haul them away, and the local news reporter would ask us what they were like. We would say the same, too-common reply, “They seemed like a lovely couple.” Joking aside, we found out one of them was in real estate and home finance. We ignored the wisdom of never doing business with neighbors or family members and re-financed our home and bought an investment property from him. Things worked out beautifully and until the day–when the cops find the drawer of fingers from past victims they ate–they will be known to us as the perfect neighbors.

Dog Day Afternoons
When my youngest son moved out of the house to live with his girlfriend my wife took it hard. In what I think was an empty-nest (and ultimately rash) reaction my wife got a dog. She has been a cat person her whole life, so I was surprised. I was also surprised that Vivian (my wife named her) was quite the barker.

As Vivian got bigger, and her bark became more full bodied and carried further, there were a few neighbors who passive-aggressively objected with unsigned letters dropped in our mail slot and comments we heard second hand. The notes always said she barked too much/too loudly, or they would comment in a less than warm tone as I would walk the dog, “There’s that little noise maker.”

In the house, the sound was amplified as her barks bounced off the walls. Some evenings Vivian would hear something that distressed her. Often she would shoot between my wife and me in bed and–standing on her back legs with her front legs on our window sill–and bark seemingly to the heavens as if she is trying to get someone’s attention in Denver. I would usually get up and look through the window, surveying the street and especially our cars. One good thing about having a dog is that they can hear someone breaking into a car or breaking into a house when you are asleep. The bad thing is she usually is taking exception of something that does not benefit the rest of her pack (my wife, son, and me). It’s all perspective. When your dog is barking her head off at a snapped twig and continuing to bark throughout the house, you just can’t appreciate the deterrence factor. So yeah, I can understand how neighbors don’t like my obnoxious dog, but there’s always that deterrence element that comes in handy, albeit very rarely. One neighbor who had complained about Vivian’s barking before now said (after she learned from her Nextdoor social media app that there were two neighborhood robberies at gunpoint), “It sure is nice to have Vivian as a sentinel.”

Then there’s Joan, the neighbor who lives behind me, that filed a formal complaint with the City. The complaint was more threatening because of its formality, but my dog never barks enough to elicit more than the initial warning. (Are you in the same boat as me or are you one of my neighbors–fed up with my dog? Check this out.) When I received this complaint, I walked over to the woman’s house and apologized. I explained what we would do to help mitigate this problem. Also, I tactfully explained that if she only called my dog’s name in a friendly or animated voice, my dog would realize that she is one of the pack and would stop barking at her. I used her gardener as an example–a man who, whenever Vivian would bark at him from the other side of the fence would respond with something like, “Hey, poochy, it’s alright…” I wasn’t trying to get her to manage my problem, only to show her there was a way to shut my dog up without calling the authorities. I also wanted to say. “By the way, Bitch, spraying my dog with the hose through the fence will net you nothing. She’s a labrador. She loves water, but if that action is doing anything, it is making her more excited and will bark even more and louder,” but I stopped short of that.

She was remarkably cold about the whole thing. I decided this was as good a time as any to bring up the matter of our shared fence and how it was falling apart. When I broached the subject, she agreed we needed to replace it, then said, “I want that kind of fence,” pointing at a fence she shared with another neighbor. It looked expensive, and her tone was less of a suggestion than a demand. I said, “Sure.” All I wanted to do is make her happy, though she seemed like the kind of person where “happy” wasn’t part of her personal makeup.

Custom-Made Stainless Steel Nails
Time passed, and the fence slowly deteriorated with no action on either my part or Joan’s. It hadn’t blown over yet, but my son had, from time to time, used lumber laying around to shore up the fence. About a year ago I called a contractor (I’ll call him Mark) who came out and gave me a quote on how much the labor and materials would cost to replace the fence, but I never got around to giving it to Joan. Part of the problem is I lack confidence coupled with the bad habit of rambling speech. I also could very well agree to things that upon reflection do not benefit me. My wife, who is much better at this kind of business, decided to handle it but kept putting the meeting off until the quote became invalid.

On a windy day in the spring of 2017, a segment of the fence blew down, and my dog was in Joan’s backyard. My wife, my son, and I ran out and got the dog and tried to prop up the fence. Joan came out and said she has been working with a construction company to replace our common fence along with other things in her yard. At this point, Joan and I began a frustrating bout of text messages and emails that included fuzzy images of a too complicated quote from her contractor and questions about the old quote from Mark that I had sent her. A week later Joan walked over to our house with a letter that she had typed informing us how much the fence would cost, how much our portion would be, and that she would need all our part within a week. Neither the exorbitant price, the lack of satisfying documentation from her contractor, nor the fact that she/the construction company wanted all our money up front part was acceptable to us. I contacted Mark, the guy I had worked with earlier, and he was able to update the numbers on the quote he previously wrote up for me.  When I sent it to her, she immediately wanted to strike a deal. Things were looking up–for now.

When my wife visited Joan, and she seemed amiable to working with our contractor, we finally began to make progress. Our original plan was to order a plain redwood, dog-ear, two rail fence. We, as a show of what great neighbors we were, would pay for the entire project, but when she started in with all the expensive items: three-rail, lattice top, with kickboard we decided to split it down the middle. Also, we offered a “great neighbor” option of having the rails on our side–all 86 linear feet of it. (For those never working out a fence deal with a neighbor, a “good neighbor fence” is where the sides of the fence alternate between the front side and back/rails side at each post. The idea is that neither neighbor gets stuck with the rail side only.)

Joan also wanted to know if my contractor used stainless steel nails. “They should use stainless steel nails, so they won’t rust and stain the wood when it rains.” I didn’t know about stainless steel nails and forward the question to my Mark who told me by the time the nails rust the fence will be too weathered for you to notice the stains. He said he would look into it. In the meantime, we were given a start date about ninety days out.

About a month from the start date I called Mark to ensure the dates were still on their books. Mark told me he was still looking into the nails–the only ones he had found so far didn’t fit their nail guns. He then became uncharacteristically animated and told me he pitied my wife and I for living next to Joan and suggested we should seek therapy after this venture. He said he had never dealt with a neighbor like ours. It turned out Joan had had him on the phone for a half an hour going over details already spelled out in the quote, and much more that were assumptions fence builders usually did not discuss with customers–like the kind of nails used in the fence raising. I later found out the office manager had been stuck on the phone with her for fifteen minutes, as well.

Just before the start date, I received an email from Mark’s office with a quote for $590 for stainless steel nails.  After swallowing hard, I forwarded the quote to Joan. She said it was okay. But she wasn’t done. She said she felt pushed into a “contract that you already had with [fence builder company name who I’ll keep out of this].” Like we were taking advantage of her. I almost pointed out to her that this was not a “contract” but a quote, and she could have, at any time, said no to the deal. My wife, the brains of the house told me not to reply to this latest epistle. “Just keep all emails and text messages in case she takes us to small claims court.” She was pretty sure Joan was going to stiff us for her half anyway.

As it turned out the contractor didn’t foot us with the entire invoice–they walked half of the bill to Joan’s house. I was impressed by that, but perhaps that is standard practice for fence-building companies. Also, it turned out the stainless steel nails had to be custom built to fit the builder’s nail guns. The things we do to keep our neighbors happy. It turned out when the fence builder handed Joan the bill he returned smiling and saying with dripping sarcasm, “Nice neighbor.”

The funny thing is one of the neighbors who are the nicest people turned out to have a fit on the first day of the fence job. As I was sitting at the kitchen table examining one of the specially-made stainless steel nails that Joan was so hot over, I heard my neighbor Jeff go ballistic at the two fence builders having their lunch break on my front lawn. A second later he was knocking hard on my door. When I opened it he came at me with something like, “These motherfuckers think they are going to tear down a portion of my fence. I want to know did you tell them they could do that?!” I said I didn’t know what he was talking about, but said, as a way to buy me some time, “Let’s look at my backyard.”

As I lead Jeff and the two fence builders around the front of my house, through the side gate, to my backyard, Jeff was rattling on something like “If you guys think you are going to tear down a part of my fence, you’ve got another thing coming.” Suddenly, I was filled with dread. Did I fail to consider his portion of the fence? By the time we got to the far corner of my backyard I had realized this wasn’t my problem, it was his and Joan’s problem. Joan had been working with Mike and his people to continue the fence beyond my property since our lots do not line up symmetrically. The problem was short lived when it was discovered that Jeff’s fence and Joan’s old fence were doubled up. The fence builders would demolish and rebuild only Joan’s fence. Jeff stomped out of my yard muttering something like, “Damn lucky for you guys, ’cause you weren’t tearing down my fence!” The same fence builder who dealt with Joan then said to me in the same tone, “Nice neighbors!”

Actually, that is a nice neighbor, he was just a little frazzled. Ironically our fence–the common fence between us is in horrible shape. For some reason, Jeff and Linda insist on patching up the crappy fire hazard instead of replacing it. What ever you want, Blue Chip Neighbors! You guys put up with my dog and housed and fed my beloved cat. You guys are worth gold nails!

Vivian, between barks.


Home Sweet Home–Redux

This is a repost from October of 2006. I thought I would revisit this moment as I put the finishing touches on a similar post having to do with neighbors.

About 17 years ago, my wife, our two sons and I moved out of our mid-town apartment and into a nice little home in East Sacramento. I recall looking at all the children riding their bikes up and down the street when the real estate agent first showed us the house. “What a wonderful place to raise our children,” my wife and I concurred. It was a nice house in a nice part of town, near a freeway, a grocery store, and a beautiful, shaded, median park.

I wonder to this day if the agent who, in the words of Joe Bob Briggs, looked like she had a “head-on collision with Max Factor,” planted her nieces and nephews in the neighborhood with the promise of ice cream for the kids and 20 hours of babysitting for their parents. A short while after we moved in, we noticed the children had disappeared and, some months later, we began to notice suspicious characters hanging around a house a few doors down and across the street. Soon we, and the rest of the homeowners knew we had a gang’s club house on our street. The music coming from the house was loud, there were many visitors, and this activity went on virtually around the clock. To top it off, many afternoons we were the audience to a big guy, who would sit in a chair in the middle of the driveway and shout profanities at people driving by.

We did nothing about this; what could we do? There were police cars patrolling and occasionally stopping at the house. Our first Fourth of July at the house sounded like the decapitation of Baghdad – the gang’s clubhouse had a car trunk full of stuff that you cannot get at Red Devil Fireworks. For what seemed like all night, bottle rockets and, what sounded like M-80s or cherry bombs, were set off.

When one bottle rocket exploded on my front porch – lighting up my front room as if it was high noon–while I was on the other side of the porch wall trying to calm down my infant son, I came unglued. For those following minutes, the fact that I was preparing to lock horns with a bunch of guys that were probably “packin’ 9’s” totally escaped me.

Lucky for me, by the time I got to the middle of the street where these guys were setting off the contraband, they had finished their pyrotechnics show and were calling it a night. Oh, but I was far too fired-up to simply turn around and go to bed. The reason I am here to write this post and am not just a memory to my widowed wife who had to settle for a closed coffin is that the people I ended up screaming at were a couple of 11-year-olds who were almost in the house when I got to ground zero. Of course, this did not stop me from unleashing my rage, even if there was no one in the street to receive it.

Some months later, my wife and I were speaking with Karryl, a woman who lived directly across from the clubhouse. She had had enough of the activities and was going to sell her home – probably at a loss. Karryl told us she had spoken with a detective from the Sacramento Police Department who was trying to bust the gang bangers on something but could not get anything that would stick. She surprised us when she said that only a week or so earlier, four police cars were parked in front of the clubhouse and the police arrested all the gang members. My wife and I were both at work at the time. She said the police had made a couple of wholesale arrests over the previous six months, but the gang members always returned. She said the detective was also watching another neighbor, who lived next to Karryl, just four houses down on our side of the street.

Karryl told us that about once a week, she would wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of trucks and multiple voices in the neighbor’s backyard. When she looked through the window, she would see these trucks were towing cars into the backyard. It was a chop shop. Karryl told us the police had been to both houses before. What was so ironic was that with all the nefarious activity going on in our own neighborhood, we never were robbed or harassed.

A couple of months later, when I was riding my bike home from work, I saw four police cars lining the street around the clubhouse and the chop-shop house. At the time I did not think much of it: “It is just another bust and these guys will be back in business by sunrise,” I thought. However, a day or two later I saw Karryl, and she told me she was walking out her front door around Noon that day when she saw coming from both directions, descending on the clubhouse, a dozen police officers with body armor and shotguns. She said she ran back inside and hid in the back room, afraid she might be accidentally shot.

By the time she settled on the carpet of her back bedroom, she saw a Costco-size mayonnaise jar flying over her fence from the chop-shop house into her backyard. Ten minutes later, without a shot having been fired, she peeked through her kitchen window. On the front lawn was a bunch of gang members on their knees in cuffs and the detective she had spoken with before was walking around casually, clad in black slacks and a polo shirt, with a holstered sidearm on his chest. Karryl walked out, greeted the detective and asked him to examine the mayonnaise jar.

It turned out to be crystal meth. Now the detective was able to get a search warrant for the house and found a meth lab in the basement and enough evidence for convictions related to the chop-shop activities. All of this was too much for Karryl; she sold her house right after the arrests. The clubhouse was sold; the chop-shop house was vacant. About five quiet years later, we bought a bigger, better house in South Land Park.

Less than two years after moving into our new home, one of our cars was stolen and, a couple of years after that, our house was broken into and my wife’s jewelry, my SLR camera and equipment, a pair of binoculars and a brand new computer, among other items, were lifted. I would not be surprised if the culprits were from another neighborhood. They might have applied the “trick-or-treat” method of choosing victims: go to the nice neighborhood to get the candy and do not crap where you eat.