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When walking through the homeowners' association lands, beware the Suburban Commando

I live in the foothills. It wasn't expensive when we bought up here, and we thought it was the boonies. Of course, maybe "boonies" is a meaningless term these days--there's too much rampant suburban sprawl. Hell, just across the road, there's a development with the houses so close together, if you ate a big meal, you couldn't walk between them. And they all look alike. Coming home drunk, you'd face long odds on finding the right one. You'd just sort of have to close your eyes, pick one and hope for the best.

There are two big problems when it comes to diminishing turf. One, wildlife disappears, and two, people get touchy defending their patch. The latter gives rise to all kinds of annoying territorial behavior, one of which is forming homeowners' associations.

I acknowledge the right of these organizations to exist, even the fact that there are benefits in joining. My family alone gets $2.50 off the cost of our monthly garbage pickup thanks to the tireless efforts of the local homeowners' association.

The problems arise because homeowners' associations arbitrarily define neighborhoods. The divisions they create make no sense except to the six or seven people who attend the monthly meetings, one of whom is invariably a lunkhead who wishes he was a cop, or worse, Adolf Hitler.

Recently, I encountered just such a person. I was walking down a dirt road I've walked 100 times before, and I noticed something different. Every 20 feet or so were signs declaring, "Property of the FWMP Homeowners' Association. No Trespassing." I continued on my way.

And he appeared, wearing a fishing hat sans fishhooks, dark glasses and a puffy hunter's vest. In his left hand, he clutched the black leather leash of a block-headed dog, and in his right a cell phone, finger poised at the speed dial lest, apparently, he require backup. Interestingly enough, his fly was open. I couldn't actually see his weenie, but almost. He was on patrol commando style, if you know what I'm saying. "Can't you read?" he said.

I shrugged, "I live in the neighborhood," and walked on.

He followed. "In the Fiesta del Mundo development?"

"No," I said, "south of Mundo Avenue."

"Well, you can't walk here unless you live north of Mundo."

"Since when?" I said.

"Since always. It just wasn't posted until now."

I walked around him. Within seconds, there he was again. "I just don't understand people like you with no respect for the law."

"Well, maybe you should go back to school," I said, stepping forward.

He blocked my path again. "I want you to turn around and go the other way," he said.

I shook my head. "I don't care what you want."

"Am I going to have to call the police?"

"You might have to, because I don't think you have any authority here."

Against my will, my eyes kept wandering back to his gaping fly; I'll admit he was making me a little nervous: big guy all up in my face and no one else around. So I did what I always do when I get nervous: I started to laugh.

"You think this is funny?" said the man.

"I guess."

"What's your address?"

"Uh-uh. You're not my type."

He was getting madder and madder, because I wasn't leaving. The madder he got, the harder I laughed. It's a tic. (I sometimes laugh at funerals, too.) We got to where he practically had smoke coming out of his ears.

So I made the only decision possible. "Talk about not having any respect for the law," I said, eyeballing his pants. "Do you have a license to sell hot dogs?"

He twigged on where I was looking. Jeez, it took long enough.

"Because I think it's against the law to sell hot dogs without a license. Certainly, displaying them is a big no-no."

I walked around him. It was a nice day. The birds were singing; the lizards were, ah ... lizarding. I told all the women I saw to beware; there was an exhibitionist on the loose.

It's been months now since I saw that guy. Oh, I don't doubt that he's harassing other people: kids making out or smoking joints in the local park, old ladies playing their radios too loud. Maybe he's planting yet more cholla cactus in his front yard so that when the school children are waiting for the bus, they have to stand in the street. All I know is that he's not bothering me anymore.

The big weenie.

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