Opinion » The Rant

There goes the neighborhood.



My husband found four shrubs and a palm tree by the side of the road. Well, it's not really a palm. It's some kind of giant fern with a weird hairy trunk. And it's like four-feet tall, except now it's dead. Or maybe it's just resting, what do I know about plants?

Neighbors who own a lawn-care business left the carcasses of shrubs and other assorted flora in the Designated Trash Spot, which was the fence at the culvert. This was the best place in Memphis to find and leave stuff. My husband Chuck and his friend Alan once hauled out our busted washing machine, and by the time they'd finished a beer to reward themselves for the manly job they'd done, the sucker was gone. I once saw a Tory Burch-swathed middle-aged woman in a Mercedes sedan try to pick up two club chairs and put them in her trunk. It was like the Filene's Basement of junk.


You might have noticed the past tense when describing my magical happy place. Some of our neighbors didn't like the idea of people coming through the neighborhood and pillaging our hard-earned trash. Do you have the Nextdoor app? It's the one where your neighborhood can post notices of garage sales or lost dogs. It's also an excellent way to find out which of your neighbors are racist busybodies. In other words, it's the worst. I had to mute all the alerts except for lost children and pets, because I couldn't take anymore posts about someone seeing a black man driving a white panel van slowly down the street. Did anyone else see him? Did you get the license plate number? For the love of all that is holy, has anyone called Tillman Station yet? Maybe I'm naive, but I live in a neighborhood where many of the houses are being renovated by young couples. I see a white panel van moving slowly, I assume it's a plumber looking for the correct address. But as I said, I'm probably being naive. Nextdoor is a great forum to passive aggressively shake your virtual fist at your neighbors who obviously don't recycle because you never see the bin out and what kind of monster are they? Being the good neighbor he is, Chuck went with the mob, I mean neighborhood, decision not to use the area as an ersatz swap sale.

I will admit, it got a little ridiculous there for a while when someone dumped a truckload of red dirt and concrete blocks at the culvert. I really miss putting out boxes of books and seeing that they were gone by dinner. The street doesn't actually look any better because now there are piles in everyone's yards rather than two central locations, which only two of us could actually see from our homes. Also, it means that the scary outsiders stop at several houses to see if we've left anything good rather than one place, thereby increasing the time these trash thieves stay in our neighborhood. But I'm not allowed to talk about it anymore, because my husband says I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, which I'm totally not. I want ALL the molehills turned into one mountain.

I don't know why these particular plants were put out to pasture. The four shrubs have been sitting in their pots in front of Chuck's garden forming a nice hedgerow. But I'm Southern. I must decorate my porch in some fashion. Generally, I just stuck some leaves in a basket and called it a day. Recently, I had an epiphany and stuck a shrub in an ice cream freezer.

We have an old White Mountain ice cream freezer. You know the one: wooden bucket, loud motor. I really liked the bucket, so I stuck it at my front door and threw some greenery in it. It was very Pinterest. Then, of course, I let the greenery turn brown. You'll know my house because there's generally an ice cream freezer full of sticks adorning the front porch. Oh, and last spring a squirrel nested in it. So that was nifty.

But that particular morning, I looked at the black aucuba leaves that were once a jaunty mottled green and yellow and some crackly taupe Nandina and thought I should be embarrassed. I mean, I wasn't. But I should have been. So I grabbed a shrub, threw out the nest, tossed my crunchy foliage, and now my porch is about a quarter of the way to being ready for a photo shoot for a really bad Southern Living knockoff. Now I'm just waiting for a really pissed-off squirrel to come banging on my door wanting to know why I thought I could evict him without proper legal notice.

Susan Wilson also writes for likethedew.com and yeahandanotherthing.com. While not Memphis natives, she and her husband Chuck Elliott have lived here long enough to know Midtown does not start at Highland.

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