They Only Come Out at Night

If at all possible, if you have the ability, you should spend a couple nights In, At and Around any place you plan to relocate to, move someone into or acquire. I know its old advice. I have heard it myself… or read it in a NOLO Press book on real-estate or Landlord-Tenant Law. See, you never really know what you are getting into AND if you have any choice, choice can be a good thing.

The most obvious is probably the most creepy, but very true and very real: Crawlies. We are lucky. Our cave is not and apparently has never been very bothered by crawlies. But if you ever wound up poised to rent a place like my brother Marlo did in San Diego, you would—at the very least—want to be warned. I visited Marlo in ’82 when he was renting off-base housing, while stationed in the US Navy. I’d probably been there a couple days when he showed me that if you suddenly turned on the lights in his bathroom, all kinds of little friends would scurry. Yikes! We had never had any kind of bug problem where we grew up. I had never even seen a cockroach ‘cept for a display of some kind of wooded roach, in the ‘nature glen’ of Navarro Boy Scout Camp. The pests, of course, were not isolated to the bathroom and had hundreds of friends than one would care to know about. Even with inspections etc, I don’t think you can really know what you are facing, bug wise, unless you are able to surprise them in the middle of the night. ALSO worthy of note, it is not limited to the confines of the intended abode. I know a nearby neighborhood which has both a dairy plant and a grain processor. On that block, late at night, if one dares stroll there and dares to illuminate select sections of pavement, one might reconsider the premise of late night walks altogether.

Another pretty obvious thing that goes bump in the night pertains to late night scavengers. We live not far from the town police department. To those not in the know, that is not altogether a good thing and often quite the opposite. There is a generally accepted phenomena which indicates neighborhoods near law enforcement agencies tend to be ‘questionable’ on more than one level. Now add surrounding elements of low-income housing, both retail and light industrial zoning and railroad tracks (often referred to, on the streets, as the Mexican highway). It is a sketchy enough area during the day, but between the hours of 2:30 and 5AM things get extra special. I have seen groups of 4-5 homeless people, on bicycles, divide and ride down each side of the street and indicate to each other specific addresses that look worthy of gleaning… verbal accounts of how many bicycles and other noticeable items can be found on each property. Yeah, I was on my porch, in the shadows, enjoying a break from an overnight project. Many times locks have been cut and human-powered transportation stolen. We also have two sets of dumpsters in our complex. The very early morning hours seem to be a preferred harvesting time for recyclables. This activity too is generally carried out by an armed and intimidating crew of 4-5 homeless people, with loud banter and camaraderie. Add close proximity to bars and liquor stores and you also have the frequent drunken fight on your porch. In one incident last year, a fighting couple believed they were scuffling on their own porch, which was actually blocks away.

Yes, we could see, when we moved here, there was a nearby market and, in another direction, a nearby min-market (read liquor store). No prob. The only thing that came to mind about those was convenience. These businesses have a staggered schedule of very noisy business-related events. The market receives shipments of stock 2-3 times a week, after 1AM, by the arrival of a big rig that blares its horn twice upon arrival. There is a 2AM parking lot cleaning and power wash, once a week. On another day the shopping carts are power washed at 4AM. The worst, however, is the 3AM garbage truck which empties the liquor store dumpster on Tuesdays. The backside of the building faces our complex and seems to amplify the sound as the dumpster is pounded several times against the open top of the truck. This particular event I never fail to notice. Some nights, I can fall back to sleep almost instantly… other nights, I have to get up and write.

The front of this apartment complex features two mixed-use buildings. One houses a daycare (which does not receive younglings until 6:30) and the other the traffic enforcement division of our local police. Apparently, motorcycle traffic enforcement begins between 3 and 4AM. I am also told, by a couple bikers, that police motorcycles are the only ‘bikes’ on the public roads that can legally have illegal pipes (exhaust systems which are specifically altered to make them much louder). Add that to the frequent code3 (lights and siren) responses to distant emergencies and it becomes quite a noticeable feature of the neighborhood.

Spending a night or two, on different nights of the week, at or near an address you are considering for residence or business could reveal elements you may not be comfortable with and help you avoid a bad move. If you find yourself, however, in a situation of limited options… try not to fret. Learn to roll with the punches. Maybe find a way to be productive at off hours or days. Maybe buy a nice set of headphones and get used to sleeping to music.

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