Friday, August 05, 2016

Our Wonderful Neighborhood



This year marks ten years since we moved from our sylvan paradise in Pennsylvania to Delaware. My oh my, where did those ten years go? 

Bill and I have lived together for fifty-two years.  We started out in Bill's two bedroom garden apartment in Pennsauken, New Jersey.  

We moved to a modern apartment complex in the Roxborough section Philadelphia after a few years because I wanted to be closer to my job at Girard Bank in Center City Philadelphia.

Then I had a year to walk to work (and the gay bars on the weekends) so we brought a townhouse in Center City Philly.  We lived there for eleven years until I started to feel constricted with the limitations of living in the city.  The almost constant wail of police sirens, the lack of grocery shopping opportunities and the novelty of going to the gay bars wore off. We then brought seven acres of land in nearby Chester County and built a classic, gambrel roofed, two story farm house.  We lived there for twenty-five years until I could no longer afford to pay the ever increasing real estate taxes. Pennsylvania is one of those tax confiscatory state.  Sales tax, state income tax, county tax, personal property tax, school tax, real estate tax, township tax.  We could no longer afford got live in the Keystone State.

For years (since the 70's) I often visited my good friend Bob McCamley, who lived in Sussex County, Delaware.  My good friend Larry lived (and still does) in Claymont Delaware. Every time they told me of the low taxes they paid, it only reinforced my desire to move to Delaware.  

So, after much thought and research, in the years 2006 I put our home in Pennsylvania up for sale and built a new home in Delaware.

I decided to move into a "development", a development.  A Ryan homes development to be specific. 

Now, wherever we moved it's always a roll of the dice who we have for neighbors.  At our last home in Pennsylvania, even though we moved into the relative isolation of the woods, we ended up with homophobic neighbors.  Yes folks, even though we consciously did not move into a neighborhood, we still had homophobic neighbors.  Neighbors who one time had their children on our border yelling "GO AWAY FAGS!"  Against the advice of Bill, who didn't want me to call the police, I called the police.  When the officer arrived the kids ran away to a waiting SUV of the dad.  The police officer knocked on their door and warned the wife (who was the main homophobe, I don't think her husband cared either way) and warned her she was breaking the law.  Pennsylvania has a Hate Crimes Law.

A couple of weeks later she went to the local police chief and wanted to know why he couldn't arrest me and Bill because we were gay.  Seriously, this is what she asked.  He told her that it was not against the law to be gay and sent her away.  She tried the crying jag outside his office but it didn't work.  She claimed that her kids were "in danger" because she had gay neighbors.  By the way, a week later Bill and I did get a hand written letter signed by the four kids apologizing for their behavior.  After receiving that letter Bill and I were never again subjected to taunts.  However, she did spread the word around the neighborhood about the "gaywads" who she was unfortunate enough to have for neighbors.  Now mind you, Bill and I never did anything but live our lives.  Our only "crime" was that we were two men living together.  The irony of this whole situation was that one reason we moved to the center of the woods on a seven acre parcel was so we wouldn't be subjected to homophobe neighbors like we witnessed a gay couple who lived the street down from us in center city Philadelphia was.  We also heard tales of other gay couples who lived in "family" neighborhoods who were the target of homophobic teens.  

When we brought our seven acre park in East Brandywine Township we didn't have these homophobic neighbors. That happened when the man who owned the land who sold us our parcel died and his land was sub-divided.  Yes, they moved in after we were already there and then they tried to run us out by homophobic taunts and spreading the word around the neighborhood that we were gay.  By the way, I have to give credit to two of our neighbors who confronted our homophobic neighbors and told them "Ron and Bill are our friends and we don't want to hear your hate."  

I will never forget a face to face with the neighbor who lived on the other side of our homophobic neighbor. I was over at their place on their back desk visiting them when the husband interrupted my conversation and said "Ron, are you gay?"  I said "Yes I am.  If that is a problem for you I can leave now."  His wife was so embarrassed.  I was embarrassed at how embarrassed she was but I understand that they would be uncomfortable with a "gaywad" on their back deck. After all, they had children too. He just glared at me but his wife said "No, you don't have to leave."  But the pink elephant was clearly on the deck with us.  I was never invited back.  Bill was mad at me because I "outed" us.  

On another occasion Bill was on our other neighbor's lawn waiting for a delivery.  We lived down a long, winding road in the woods.  You couldn't see our house from the road so sometimes Bill would go to the neighbor's lawn down front to flag down someone who was looking for us.  Bill had done this before without a problem. I thought we got along good with those neighbors but apparently not because the husband came out that day and asked Bill to leave.  He said "You make my wife feel uncomfortable."  I couldn't believe my ears.  This was the same neighbor who two boys broke out our roadway lights and we didn't complain to them or ask them to replace the lights.  This was the same neighbor who I thought we had a friendly relationship with but I guess that changed when our homophobic neighbors spread "the word."  I think this incident was the one that finalized my decision to move to Delaware. To get away from the high confiscatory Pennsylvania taxes. To get away from the homophobic neighbors who wanted to keep their neighborhood "family friendly."  

Thus, in 2006, against the advice of Bill who loved our wooded paradise, I put our house up for sale.  I wasn't going to live my retirement years, struggling to pay taxes for those homophobic straight people's kids to attend school. 

Southern Delaware, while conservative in many ways (and still is, both of our local representatives voted against marriage equality), promised a more welcoming environment. There was a large gay population, which I naively thought would be more accepting and friendly.  That didn't prove to be true but that's a subject for another (long) blog posting.  Let's just say Bill and I don't fit in because our "lifestyle" is that we don't camp it up and dress in drag for recreational fun and games. We also are not acceptable to the very cliquey gay sub culture here in the Rehoboth Beach. They're mostly D.C. retired government employees with generous pension payments.  Bill and I are of more modest means.  

But what did happen, much to our surprise, was that we did make friends with our straight neighbors in the neighborhood where we moved. Of course moving into any neighborhood is a roll of the dice, you never know who you're neighbors are going too be but I have to say we are very fortunate to have wonderful neighbors. And they're all straight!  And they know we're gay.  Imagine that?  Ironically, when we first moved here there was another male gay couple who I attempted to be friendly with but that didn't work out.  The one guy was a racist.  After he called our neighbor Marty the "N" word (she in the above video), we broke off the relationship. He died a few years ago and his partner/husband sold their house and moved out of the neighborhood.  

There used to be two lesbian couples in the neighborhood but lesbian couples (I have found) are standoffish to gay guys.  They say "Hi!" to you if you say "Hi!" to them but nothing goes further than that.  They have their own circle of friends just like the D.C. Gay Guys Clique.  

Bill is a generous and friendly human being.  I am too, although I do have my "moments" (smile). Thus it was with pleasure a few days ago, as we were returning form shopping at the local supermarket so see our neighbors Howard and Marty working in their front yard.  Bill asked me to stop the car so he could give Marty a hug.  

All of our other neighbors are just fine.  I don't know if there are any homophobes among them, probably are.  But I know this, in our declining years Bill and I are living in a neighborhood where we are comfortable and appreciated.  And we appreciate our neighbors! 


5 comments:

  1. Back when I was a kid in the 70s we had neighbors who were two men. I remember one had rockabilly sideburns, wore t-shirts, and denim. The other was quite tall and trim and always seemed to be wearing a small cap. They were quiet, drove a station wagon, pwmed a dog, and seemed friendly, but not overly so. Because we grew up with two gay Uncles, I knew that they were gay, even if I didn't have the word for it yet. As far as I know, no one in the 'hood gave a fig that they were gay. Too bad you and Bill couldn't have lived in the SF Bay Area, instead of Penn. We have less hateful bigots here.

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    1. Bea,
      We were those "two old men" who kept to ourselves in the neighborhood. We knew we were taking a chance moving out of the city but I so wanted to live in the country. Until our neighbor subdivided his property next to our, we did live about four years in peaceful tranquility. But when he died and his property was subdivided we were unfortunate enough to have new homophobic neighbors who made our lives Hell for years. They eventually sold their house and we went back to our quiet ways, albeit most of the neighbors keeping their distance. Here, in southern Delaware, we are relatively "accepted." But there are still bigots here, they're not as out about it though for the most part.
      Ron

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  2. An epic tale of intolerance and standing up to it , Ron - which could well have cowed and broken many a lesser man, myself included. So pleased that you've both achieved a serenity now which had been singularly short in supply at earlier times.

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    1. Ray,
      The one overriding goal in my life is to demand to live my life as an equal citizen, even though at times it came as a great cost to me. I lost two jobs and had many harrowing physical encounters but I'm still standing. The only time I permitted myself to live in the closet was when I was in the Army and that was because I wanted to serve my country and get an honorable discharge. That I accomplished and once I got out I vowed never to get in that closet again.
      Ron

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  3. We were never threatened or harassed in any of our homes in NC. Very lucky, I'd say. But we had experienced not being served in a diner and service at a garden nursery there. Now, we live in a gay city in South Florida where we walk down the streets holding hands and maybe even a peck on the cheek in a restaurant without any reservation or fear. Very lucky again. This is why I will not go backwards in equality. Vote Hillary!!

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