Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Nasty Neighbor Needs to Chill

I really don’t want to fan the flames of the lunatic fringe, but right now I’ve got a slow burn going and frankly, I’m pretty pissed. I have been forced to tolerate the bullshit antics of some of our neighbors for over 16 years, and finally, I’m saying ENOUGH!

We’ve had a volatile road situation surrounding our small neighborhood, which we’ve known about since the day we took ownership of this house. We hadn’t even made our first trip from Wisconsin to live in this place when one neighbor called to explain his side of the situation and attempt to rally our support.

It was a disturbing phone call. “Welcome to the neighborhood and we want you to side with us on the road issue.” Since it was impossible to fully understand the issue, and we didn’t intend to move into our new house for months, all I could say to him was that we’d have to at least wait until we arrived in Tucson to check all the facts for ourselves.

In brief, on the south end of our property, there is a 30-foot easement from the fence line bordering a large area of undeveloped land. There wasn’t a road there when we first came; however, we understood this easement marked an ingress/egress from the west in order to access a still undeveloped parcel to the east.

The man who called us, owner of the house to the west of us, apparently ignored the easement when he built his house, and had not only a wall on the easement, but also the corner of his family room. Naturally, he wanted to do everything possible to prevent a road from going in there. He and his neighbor to the west, who also had a wall and a corral built into the easement, campaigned to move the ingress/egress to a different location, a utility easement from the north.

And that made them the Hatfields and all the homeowners to the north of us with properties backing up to the utility easement the McCoys. Since we lived on the corner, I suppose they thought we were the swing vote.

Fast forward eight years or so with both of the original Hatfields gone and two of McCoys gone, the property behind us develops and the road goes in on the legal ingress/egress. Our new neighbors to the west, who as it turns out were misinformed—told by the real estate agent selling both properties that the easement was only 15-feet on their side of the fence—are stunned by the notices they receive to move their development in the easement. (Apparently they took the word of the agent and failed to check the deed or title report). Nevertheless, they strike compromises with the developer in order to keep, in one case, the violating wall and in another, their living room.

Then the first house goes up on the newly developed property. Turns out this new homeowner wants all 30-feet of the road easement cleared and accessible, and we all receive letters from his attorney informing us of what needed to be moved.

For us it was only a matter of relocating a propane tank because they were worried about their elderly in-law hitting it with her car (!) Naturally we thought that if there were truly a danger of her hitting that tank, perhaps she shouldn’t be driving? Regardless, it was easy for us to move it and we did.

The battle between the rest of them went on for years and culminated in a lawsuit. Saguaros were relocated, a beautiful natural mesquite removed and I don’t even know what else happened in court other than the emergence of a new Hatfield in a previously uninvolved household, who moved into the neighborhood believing, for some reason, that this dirt road (not his legal ingress/egress) belonged to him.

And he became the neighborhood bully.

Metal Speed Bump, 17' width
He put down a lot of dusty stones, narrowed the road to 15 to 17 feet, erected crappy metal speed bumps, and installed video surveillance to monitor all traffic going by. He then chose to harass drivers who have the nerve to use this road and called the sheriff’s department to file complaints in order to intimidate and prevent people from driving by his house.

He did that to us today. He called my home and informed me that “my daughter purposefully spun out her wheels” in front of his house and that he was planning to call the sheriff to file “a harassment charge” against her. He said he had “evidence of her action on surveillance cameras.” 

My daughter claimed that the tire on her pickup spun on the rocks as she crossed one of the crappy speed bumps, and that she didn’t do anything on purpose, nor did she have any reason to do so.

He was having none of it, and told me I needed to be a better parent and “parent her correctly” so she didn’t drive down that road.

Road narrowed to 15' at this makeshift speed bump
“You have some nerve,” I said. “Don’t ever call here again.” And I promptly hung up the phone.

The smiling sheriff was soon at our front door, informing us of the complaint and also informing us that the sheriff’s office couldn’t do anything about it but deliver the message. For half a minute I thought about filing a counter complaint because . . . if this harassment charge isn’t an example of the pot calling the kettle black, I don’t know what is.  

We have every right to drive on this road. And if any of our vehicles respond to his crappy speed bumps or a little extra oomph is needed to get the tires over them, well that’s his fault, not ours.

But I simply cannot stoop to this person’s level.  And given his volatile and explosive behavior in the past, I don’t want my children anywhere near him! And that’s because I AM a good parent and I AM parenting correctly. We have another legal ingress/egress road that no one minds if we use.

I don’t care if this means he “wins.” It may be the only pleasure this man receives in what is, perhaps, a very sad existence.

Don't run or walk behind my house!
Meanwhile, regarding the other easement, the one from the north originally protected by the McCoys, I wonder what I need to do to deal with the idiot on the far northeast end who blocked all access with wire fencing and “no trespassing” signs behind his yard’s back wall. It has blocked my regular running route, one I’ve used daily for the past 16 years.

Like I said, I’ve had enough of this ridiculous, selfish and intimidating behavior on behalf of people who are supposed to be our neighbors. If they don’t want anyone running by or driving past their precious properties, why did they move to this neighborhood in the first place?

Shouldn’t they have settled for forty acres and a mule some place without people?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tucson Foodies: Have You Heard About Alfonso?

I’m not truly comfortable with the term “foodie;” however, since I’ve been one for the past 15 months or so, I suppose I should embrace it. Regardless, before I bury the lead and go off on a tangent, I will stress that today’s blog is about Alfonso Gourmet Olive Oil & Balsamics, located at St. Philips Plaza off River and Campbell in Tucson.

Alfonso is a one-of-a-kind shopping (and tasting) experience. And whether or not you're familiar with the term “foodie,” IF YOU COOK and you live in Tucson, pay attention: Do yourself a favor and visit this shop.

Tom Alfonso, owner, Alfonso Gourmet Olive Oil & Balsamics
I’ve been meaning to go to Alfonso for months, ever since my childhood friend, Cindy Ridings, recommended it. And today was the day. This olive oil and balsamic vinegar boutique is located across town—on a route I normally take for my weekend trips out of town to Phoenix. But generally speaking, it’s in the fertile, gourmet heart of Tucson. It’s not that far from the Tanque Verde Valley nor from anywhere in the beloved cowtown we call Tucson.

Today was the day because A: I made the time and couldn’t take the distressing news out of Boston another minute; and B: The owner, Tom Alfonso, at the prompting of Mrs. Ridings, generously offered to help support the Sabino Volleyball program with purchases made at his shop.

Give me a cause to support and I WILL make the trip.

In this case, however, I intend to become a regular customer of this special destination. Alfonso is one of those places that appeals to a multitude of senses—aka, MY, and I’ll bet YOUR foodie senses.

From the outside, St. Philips Plaza is classy and exclusive. Step into the Plaza and you’ll find the shop immediately, which is located next to the popular restaurant, Vivace

Enter Alfonso, and the subtle aromas of the oils and balsamics are immediately tempting. The backdrop colors—olive green, deep purple—reflect the bottled products and the sophisticated tasting apparatuses lining the walls. The shop is neither overcrowded nor stuffed with product, and I was immediately greeted and made to feel comfortable.

I told Mr. Alfonso I was a balsamics novice and therefore hoped to learn more about them. Within moments, he handed me a small cup of his traditional style balsamic, and upon tasting, I’m not kidding, my taste buds ZINGGED out of control. This is touted as his “finest grade,” aged 18 years and it pairs well with any of the oils in his collection. It made me want to taste samples of everything on the walls! And trust, there are PLENTY of varietals from which to choose, on both the balsamic side and the oil side of the display.

Ultimately I chose the  “TRADITIONAL Balsamic Vinegar” and the “Organic Tuscan Herb Infused Olive Oil.” I felt that was a good place to start. And I suspect I won’t wait long before I’m back for the “Tangerine Balsamic Vinegar.”

If you cook with olive oil (honestly, WHO DOESN’T?) and have any interest in balsamic vinegars for marinades, salad dressings, or as I learned today, so much more, Alfonso is a gift. And the staff will help you realize this.

4320 N. Campbell Avenue, Suite 40, Tucson, AZ   85718. 520-441-9081.