My mother always believed it was not a good idea to “get too close to the neighbors.” She was a very private person and preferred to associate with trusted friends instead of people whom we knew only because they lived in close proximity. Having had my share of problems with nosy neighbors, noisy neighbors, and other unpleasantries, I generally agree it is a good policy to be polite, wave and smile, but otherwise maintain a distance when it comes to my neighbors. Unless…the neighbor just happens to be a mobster! Living in wonderful south Florida for several decades, I have learned that members of the mob and other underworld types are just as likely as little old church ladies to be one’s neighbor. In fact, one of the absolute best neighbors my husband and I have ever had, in any place we have lived, was a mobster. We always had our suspicions about our dear friend’s occupation (including the stereotypical mobster desire to never sit with his back to a door or window), but it was only after his passing a few years ago that our suspicions were confirmed by none other than another mobster, who was our friend’s so called “business associate.” Our dearly departed friend had several aliases, always carried a gun and a baseball bat (and didn’t laugh when I asked how many knees had been broken with the bat!), and seemed to have an affinity for computers and other electronics that “just fell off a truck.” But, for all of the years we knew him, our friend and neighbor was a wonderful guy to us, who helped us in many ways we will never, ever, forget. So, you just never know-maybe Mom would have felt differently about associating with her neighbors if only she had a neighbor who was like mine!
As far as I know, I’ve only lived next door to a mobster one time. And, he wasn’t the godfather by any means, but he grew up in a time and place where mobsters were a big part of his surroundings. He was (past tense because he passed away too many years ago) smart and very adaptable and Melissa and I both learned much from him. And, I think we would have liked him even if he hadn’t had mob connections! And, though, as far as we could tell, at the time we knew him he was at least semi-retired from mob work, the ways in which he knew how to turn a profit here and there or negotiate a deal were fascinating to observe. In the big picture, I’ve had other neighbors who were important and positive influences on me, especially as a child. But, counting neighbors as a friends seems more and more rare as we go home and into our private retreats. And, while we have become friendly with other neighbors to some degree, other than the aforementioned mobster, no other neighbor has ever become a true friend. We miss him!