The Angriest Man in NoPo died last week and it’s still bugging me.
I’m sad about it, which – given his nickname – may surprise you. He was my neighbor when Sacha and I lived on Kerby Ave over in NoPo. We named our freshly gentrified, one block street The Gayest Block in Portland, because most of the homes were gay-owned or ally- owned…which probably would explain a lot about my neighbor to the north, TAMiNoPo, who was the patriarch of the last African American family on a block that had likely been predominantly black ten years before – like most of the rest of NoPo.
It might have also been because he was a public school teacher before he retired. That would probably be a job that put me in an early grave. That’s coming from a retail veteran, too.
Our block was unique in the extreme, not just for its gay and gay friendly residents, but also because it was literally a block. Our stretch of Kerby was sandwiched between Peninsula Park at one end and an abandoned convent on the other. There was very little traffic because you couldn’t get anywhere by traveling down our street.
There were also zero children. Well, eventually, there was one. The child of a pair of NY transplants that arrived a couple years after they moved onto the block and who was pretty much adopted as the neighborhood’s child.
TAMiNoPo also had a child. She was in early double digits when we moved onto the block. I can probably count on both hands the number of times I saw his beautiful daughter or equally striking wife – tall and attractive in a matronly-meets-action-heroine manner – as they were sequestered in his small kingdom of a lot, which was flanked by 15 foot tall laurel hedges from the sidewalk to the back of his property. The lot itself was about 20 feet across and the tiny postage stamp house sat far enough back on the lot that it was parallel to my back yard.
Ironically, the house was semi-famous in the neighborhood, rumored to have been the post office for the convent back when it was active. Who knows if that’s true or legend, though. I do know that it was small enough that his deeper than bass voice was easily heard through the tarpaper and plywood walls and into my back yard. Something that bothered him way more than it bothered us since we entertained in a idyllic back yard that Sacha created from nothing but scratch and his imagination.
And the equity in the house…
But I have witnesses that will attest to him being angry at the world before we moved in. I doubt we helped his disposition with our back yard entertaining, but we couldn’t win there. I think when we moved in, he wrote us off. Disappointed that the lesbian couple that lived there before us had “kept the house in the family” versus selling to a “normal” family, regardless of whether or not they had turned out to be as black as I suspect he’d been hoping for…
The Angriest Man in NoPo despised our dogs. He used to yell at them through his hedge – which they correctly interpreted as hostility and responded by barking back at him. He surely did not understand animals or dog logic. The poor bastard gave up any hope of a relaxing evening on his porch or peaceful conversation the first time he boomed at them to “Shut the fuck up” while talking on the phone one afternoon. It’s too bad, too. He used his front porch as his living room and smoking lounge all summer long.
They were just being dogs.
He was just being The Angriest Man in NoPo. I think only one party was capable of changing their behavior in this scenario.
But not understanding dogs was a forgivable failing.
Not understanding people was a critical failing and likely what made him so damned miserable.
Particularly as an educator.
I once overheard a phone conversation that he had on his porch about a young woman – I couldn’t tell if she had been a student of his or a member of the same church that his wife and daughter were allowed to attend.
It did nothing for my opinion of him.
“Well, she wouldn’t be in this situation if she could keep her legs closed” he bellowed. I don’t know who this young lady was, but whoever and wherever she was I suspect she overheard his mysoginistic comment. The conversation deteriorated from there, going on to include the phrase “wet pussy” and several other completely inappropriate adjectives as I gaped, somehow still surprised. Probably surprised at my ability to be shocked still by my hateful neighbor who had managed to become stuck in his own personal hell on earth – surrounded by the things I suspect he hated most:
What’s been bugging me about the death of this tragically angry man is more complex than I may be able to articulate.
He died suddenly, it seemed. Sadly discovered by his wife in their home.
When I was told of his death by a former neighbor who still lives on the block I replied with, “His wife finally snapped, eh?”
I don’t think my morose attempt at humor was appreciated.
People always talk about the good fortune of a fast or sudden death.
Maybe not, though…I think there are very few truly sudden deaths. My suspicion is that even in a quick death, there’s an awareness of the impending catastrophe. Enough time for your final moments to be filled with terror, I’m sure.
If your life does indeed flash before your eyes, that terror could be mixed with regret. Hopefully some appropriate mortification in this man’s instance…but I doubt it.
I don’t wish that he had somehow suffered a slow and agonizing illness prior to his death. Conversely, I think of all of the good and beautiful people that I know who have suffered before the merciful release their welcomed death must have finally provided them and wonder why they weren’t afforded the quicker – suspected terrified awareness aside – death this crusty old bastard escaped with.
Maybe the universe knew what type of infirm person he would be. How truly insufferable he would be if he was made to endure the physical suffering of a slow death.
That’s where my conflict has been as I think back on what I knew of this man.
I don’t know what happens after a human dies.
Perhaps an evolution to a higher plane of existence?
My crazy-assed brain has entertained the notion that his quick death was really his anger going nova and becoming a timeless black hole of misery. The suspected escape death purportedly offers being nothing more than an inversion of our physical lives for eternity.
Way to put a scientific bend on the Heaven and Hell of my religious upbringing, eh?
While I admit that sometimes it’s hard to do anything other than rearrange the moral furnishings one owns, I’m strangely comforted by this notion of a quick death versus a slow decline toward the grave. It gives me the opportunity to – by acknowledging my ignorance about what happens next – accept the suffering of good people and those whose lives seemed unjustly short by comparison.
But, you know what? I do hope his raging emotional magma has cooled, that there’s a peace for him in his death.
And for his family. As miserable as I was living next to him and the complex feelings I have experienced regarding his death, I can only imagine the whirlpool of emotions his wife and daughter are experiencing…