Thursday, June 01, 2006

Neighborhood Watch & Post #100!!

Fair Oaks, California is a sleepy little community on the eastern edge of unincorporated Sacramento County. It borders the American River, the Nimbus Dam and it’s reservoir - Lake Natoma. Its better-known neighbor, the city of Folsom, is just to the east and upstream. Folsom is much like Fair Oaks except bigger in every way. A bigger dam (Folsom Dam), a bigger reservoir (Folsom Lake), both banks of the American River, a larger population and geographically it is larger both physically and politically, as Folsom is an incorporated city. Nonetheless, the two municipalities are quite similar and share a common heritage.

Folsom has attained recognition not only from its very real and appealing physical qualities, but also from its landmark, Folsom Prison, made famous from the movie “Walk the Line.” Fair Oaks holds no such infamy. Although both Folsom and New Folsom prisons are a very short distance, the crime rates in Fair Oaks, Folsom and the surrounding areas are not exceptionally high. Indeed, when paroled, the former inmates are taken far from here.

Fair Oaks is about as economically diverse as an upper middle class community can be. Within it are pockets of very upper middle class homes. I have lived in such a neighborhood for exactly one year to the day. It is, by all accounts, a very safe neighborhood, especially in light of the fact that it is not a “gated” community. There is a homeowner’s association, but no amenities and very low fees. Fees that, as far as I can tell do nothing but pay to administer the collection and management of those fees – but that’s a rant for another day. The point is that my neighbors are not used to crime in their backyard.

Until recently. Last week there were two home invasion robberies in this area. They were the real deal – not just bored kids throwing eggs. The bandits were armed, physical, bold and dangerous. Although the victims were not severely hurt, the potential was there and it was real. Both amusing and sad, the ramifications are already apparent. My neighbors are acting kind of funny. They are getting more neighborly.

Yesterday, while writing in my office (just adjacent to my front door), someone came up to my front door and slipped something into the handle. Then he left - no bell, no knock, no cordiality – and I was obviously home. I opened the door as he was on his way down my driveway off to the next house. It was then that he explained the nature of the flyer and if I had heard the news about the crimes. He thinks it would be a good idea to get a phone list of the neighbors in the immediate area and maybe watch out for each other. He lives very close and across the street, the last two digits of his address are 36 – mine are 43. It was the first time I have ever seen this man in my life!

When I opened my front door this morning to get my newspaper, a woman was jogging past the front of my home. This is a common sight around here. This time, however, there was an obvious and ominous difference. In addition to her water bottle, she carried with her - tucked under her left arm with her hand clasped around the end – a Louisville Slugger. That’s right, a baseball bat. I don’t think she was on her way to play baseball! In and of itself, maybe just an anomaly, but it triggered other heretofore disconnected observances that are now starting to make sense.

There are notices posted on every pole in the neighborhood. Warnings, descriptions, what to do, who to call – these were not put up by law enforcement but by residents. There is a genuine fear that this could happen again and it has ignited a call to action – it has forced the kind of neighbors that are used to keeping to themselves to talk to each other. What a concept! Although the motivation may by purely selfish, this kind of safety net can only be accomplished through cooperation. To meet a self centered ends – individual protection – a community means must be employed. They have to talk to each other.

And I am smiling to myself. You see, they already had my cooperation and didn’t even know it. I have been watching out for them since I moved in – even that next-door so and so that I can’t stand – even her. I am home more than most; I write from an office that has two very large windows facing the street; I am observant bordering on nosey. Those punks that committed these crimes would be begging for the police if they fell into my sphere of influence – and all my neighbors (except one) haven’t a clue.

The irony is this: Until these crimes were committed, I was the one they were worried about. A longhaired, tattooed, motorcycle riding non-conformist was the bane of their existence. I don’t look like them and I knew it coming in. I’m ok with that; I am certainly not hurting for friends. I think, however, that I may have personalized the ambivalence. It would appear that none of my neighbors know each other. Could it be that in the quest for the good life, while striving for ever increasing levels of safety and comfort that they have left those very elements secured by the community behind? Perhaps they are only now realizing that they can’t do it alone.

P.S. According to the Blogger Dashboard, this is my 100th post! I don't usually see the Dashboard unless I am editing, and not even always then, but as I passed through that screen earlier it confirmed that this milestone has indeed passed. It caught me off-guard... I have nothing prepared save this: Thank you all for taking time out of your life to read my work. I will post more on what all this means once I figure it out - probably in tomorrow's post**. Until then, have a wonderful day,


It's now tomorrow, abeit not by very much. Enough, however, to know that the above mentioned 100th post reflection piece will not be written today. I did post a new installment on This Is Fiction, so if fiction is your bag, well it's not mine, but I'm trying...



Jinsane said...

Happy 100!!!! What a milestone!

Coming from Louisville, I can only say that your female jogger has excellent taste! A LS can be a wonderful tool - if needed!

It's funny, and you are right, very ironic, that your neighbors stereotyped you from the beginning. In my small corner of the world, I'd say about 65% of the population look like you do, and they are generally the most kind, soft-hearted and generous people I've ever known. You can watch my house anytime!


mckay said...

when i lived in my Corona neighborhood which had an amazingly low crime rate, i would notice women jogging with large sticks for defense. defense from muggers?...or the coyotes that roamed the little mountain range we lived beneath. probably both. better safe than sorry.

i sure hope they catch the SOBs that are reaking havoc in your sleepy town.

i long to live in a neighborhood that has front porches, where everyone says hi and gets together for neighborhood BBQs. i guess i'm....arg. i've sat here for 5 minutes and can't think of the word i'm looking for. as soon as i hit the 'publish' button, it'll come to me.

i bet you'd be a cool neighbor ;-)


awareness said...

Jog softly and carry a big stick?

It's always so jolting when crime invades what is perceived as a safe community.......or when we find out about a crime. I often wonder (probably given my line of work on the frontlines and my penchant for being nosey) what goes on silently behind closed doors. One never knows. And what is scary is the fact that people do stereotype. Monsters come in all shapes and sizes........some even wear three piece suits!!

In my community? We rarely lock the front door, rarely have to worry about locking the car. And gated communities? Non-existant. Though this is not the norm in the Rest of Canada.....

Given that, every now and then evil lurks in my community and it always stirs the fear.

One last thing.......My God Mike...I leave the longest comments on your blog....... it was through my children and their playing out the front of my house that I realized just how many good neighbours were keeping an eye, as well as watching them grow up year after year.

Happy 100th.


Kathleen Jennette said... bring back the Ward and June Cleaver neighborhood. So time changes things always...

Happy 100th post!

Snaggle Tooth said...

I learned to play the Johnny Cash Tune "Folsom Prison Blues" on guitar in the early 80's. Is there still a train-line running by?

Wow, home invasions are pretty scary to deal with! I've been broken into when not here, would hate to deal with burglars comin in while I'm home! Went over the subject of improvised weapons with the girls when they lived here (there's a tire Iron under the book-case, Bats behide the door, hot water in the kettle, hook-locks on the doors, ect)

I do know almost all of my year-round neighbors. We began talking more often after a woman and her twin 4yr-old daughters (friends of my kids) died in a fire at 2am in July '92. One neighbor failed to get them out in time after climbing a ladder to the upstairs windows which wouldn't break. Funny how we were all awake, n went outside to see what was wrong. It took a tragedy to get us to open-up also, even in this crowded together village.

A shame the "welcome wagon" attitude, at least to just have faces to recognize in emergencies, has gone the way of the dinosaur. People are so "on guard" and judgemental of appearance it's tough to feel welcome to just walk up and begin talking. That's what we all should do, though. People are too self-involved these days.

btw, Congrats on 100 - you're welcome!

Ellen said...

A hearty congrats on the 100th post... such an achievement we rarely think we'll make when we first start out this blogging adventure, isn't it?

Even my neighborhood has had it's share of home invaders and vandals, as its seems the "have-nots" want more of the "haves" stuff. What a sad situation it is because it causes fear and suspicion amongst the occupants.
It has made me more aware of my surroundings, and more cautious to keep things locked up. (I've had my vehicle ransacked, although I was lucky to not have anything stolen, and my neighbor across the street had an actual invader who brandished a gun and duck-taped her up.... all this in broad daylight! Long story, I'll post about someday...)

Your neighborhood is lucky to have you as an additional "McGruff/ Crime Dog", keeping a vigilant eye on the happenings. I see the trend more and more lately to communities that are not gated, and it's good to know that we can count on neighbors who care.... but unfortunate that it takes an incident to promote that.

Good for you to be such a caring neighbor, even if you were stereotyped differently. It goes to show that decent people ALSO come in all shapes and sizes.

Helene said...

happy 100. I wonder how many I have read... guessing maybe 30... 35... funny to think.

I loved your post today. I totally felt it. I may reference it in a post later if you dont mind. Lee posted something relevant and I think I will blabber about it on my site later. (I posted about flipping the bird today,,, kinda lame!)

I LOVE blogging because it brings people from all walks of life together. I LOVE that. I have met some significant people in my life online.

I dont think that our paths would have crossed (ok I absolutely know they wouldnt as we are half way across the earth from one another)or that either of us would have made an effort to get to know one another...

I think I look different than I really am inside(I think I look like a woman that many people want to dislike on first glance honestly...) You wrote that people see you differently than you are as well(well that was how I read it)... People often dont share who they are in real life either... they stay in their office and write. *wink

lol jog slowly and carry a big stick! lolol cute comment

Bar L. said...

Blogger hates me - I just left you a long comment and it would not post.

Anyhow, Happy 100! Your blog is one of my very favorites and I am glad you post often. I look forward to it every day!

Your neighborhood sounds a lot like mine (Mission Viejo!). I have been there 15 years and only know 3 neighbors. I am guilty, I have not really made an effort. I did have one neighbor/friend who I hung out with but he moved...and interestlingly enough he had long hair, was covered in tats and drove a Harley!

I am going to check out your fiction, I've been dabbling in that too but not ready to share yet.

Blogger really does hate me - the tagged me as a spam blog yesterday and I have lost the ability to post on Ramble On and my template is completely jacked up. I am distraught.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Hey sweetie! As you know, it's been quite the day for me. But I love your posts, and I'm glad you're still writing!

I own a house on a very quiet street. I'm going to get an alarm system, for sure. I need to make some calls about it next week. I don't live by myself, yet (though I intend to, soon enough) and want it in place for when I do. Dogs are nice, but I want sirens! ;o)

In my experience, (at least here) it's usually the long haired tatted up bikers that are the good guys. The bad guys are the sneaky, slicked back types. But what do I know? I don't exactly run around in criminal circles. Maybe I should! It would have to be more exciting than my recent, dull existence~!

Michael K. Althouse said...

OK... Now that Blogger has shaken the cobwebs loose, I'll try to comment.

Jen ~ Is there any other bat worth having??

I'd say about 65% of the population look like you do, and they are generally the most kind, soft-hearted and generous people I've ever known.

And if they're like me and the people I know, they don't often get taken. Oh, but maybe that's just another stereotype! ;-')

mck ~ Those punks are too stupid to not to go to jail. They'll get caught - if they're lucky, by the police!

I am a cool neighbor! TNX!

awareness ~ When I lived up at 6500 feet, it was like that, but not anymore - even in Truckee, they lock their doors. Funny thing - they get their own police force and all of a sudden there's all this crime. Coincidence?

kt ~ Ya, longing to hear those soothing words: "Ward, I think you were a little hard on the Beaver last night." ;-'O

snaggle ~ I talked to the neighbor to get my name on his watch list... I am the only one - no one else has bothered to respond. Sad eh?

ellen ~ Not long after I moved in here last summer, I hosted a birthday party for a friend. There were about ten Harleys parked in front of my house (I'll post a picture of it soon - promise!). I'm quite sure that several neighbors thought that this street was going to Hell. The value of the bikes - over $250,000 - and that is conservative. Furthermore, there is absolutely nothing that could have gone down in this general area at that time that these guys could not or would not have handled. End of story! If they only knew how safe they actually were.

kate ~ Thank you, thank you very much and of course, you are welcome to use anything I post. I saw your post on the one fingered salute and tried to post a comment but blogger was acting bloggy and I don't know if it went through. Thanks again!

barb ~ Blogger is just having growing pains, or something.

This is what they used to call a bedroom community. I guess that means no one comes out of their bedroom? i dunno.

saur ~ it's not that there aren't bad guys with long hair and tattoos. It's just that the ones that are out in public, going about their business in a respectable manner either have reformed from that life or were never a part of it to begin with. The criminals to be feared the most are not the ones hiding in plain sight - most are too dumb to know how to do that - but the ones lurking around in the shadows, biker or banger, it does not matter,

neal said...


Sorry to barge in and ask a stupid question in response to your post but how did you get your other two blogs to show up as links by your profile. If you want to reply offblog you can contact me at


Biker Betty said...

Congratulations on your 100th post.

Your neighborhood has been lucky with the crime, up till now. For whatever reason, we see the police in our neighborhood at least once a month. We had to actually call them and recieved a visit just two days ago. My eldest son's friend was almost in front of our house when he got jumped by 3 teens just younger then himself (he's 18). Punched him in the face and knocked him to the ground and would have done more if it weren't for a passerby in a truck. We were steaming mad. Found out from the police that this was at least the second attack these teens have done.

We have also had a neighbor (who has since moved) in the apartments across the street pull a gun in broad daylight on a guy. Shook my husband up pretty bad, he was out front at the time.

We do know almost all the homeowners in the area and that's why we stay. There are lots of apartments across the street and that lays the problem. The cops are there at least once a month. People are always moving in and out. We get to know some of the nice ones and they don't stay long.

Until I was 10yrs old, I lived in Sacramento and since then I have never left a door unlocked. My mom never felt safe after that and she passed it on to my sister and I. Up in the Redwoods we could have lived without locking our doors, but my mom just couldn't.

Mike, we all can use a neighbor like you.

Wendy aka Cheeky said...

Congrats on your 100th post - I am celebrating mine today too - so I thought I would try to visit as many 100th posters today as possible :)

I just recently moved to a nice neighborhood in MN. As we moved in we thought to ourselves - this is a great neighborhood - why is the house so heavily secured - talking alarm, bars on the doors. I am from the south and it was not uncommon to sleep with the windows open and the doors unlocked. We were always looking out for each other. Here the only reason the neighbors talk to you is to get gossip....

Lee Ann said...

That is very interesting....human behavior.
Almost predictable!
Very good post.
Oh yes, Congrats on 100!
Have a great week Mike!