Before HARDBARNED! became a book in 2016, it was a blog I began in 2008. It still is, from time to time, and you have found its home. Scroll through it all here, or browse selected posts at Medium. In case you were wondering…none of this blog content appears in the book, which is its own separate thing and mostly about working for a living. The blog is usually about pop culture-type stuff. Cheers.

Neighbors II: In Search of Ninja For Discrete Assassination

Living in an apartment with neighbors can be a real pain in the ass. A teenager recently moved in with some buddies near where my wife and I live. According to neighborhood gossip, he is a 17-year-old high school student whose parents are paying for his apartment.

He is never spotted—day or night—without his trademark Elton John sunglasses with white frames and black lenses, or the large, metal, cobalt blue spike that pokes through his eyebrow. He often wears a “Hooters” shirt and seems to have trouble keeping his pants up. He has big, wide child-like eyes and a peachfuzz stache on his upper lip.

He often has an entourage of other teens, one of whom looks just like Mitch Kramer from Dazed and Confused, the goofy freshman with long hair who is paddled by Ben Affleck. Maybe Ben could come by with that paddle some afternoon. I'll bring the beers. These kids, who come and go about 14 times a day and simply cannot be attending high school, are no doubt excited about the chance to smoke weed and drink in an apartment with no grownups around, and why wouldn't they?

Elton Jr's sport utility vehicle has a large Transformers symbol on the back windshield, as well as a bumper sticker that reads: PLAYER. The SUV’s interior glows bright blue at night, and bass music thumps aggressively from his trunk, as if he is hosting his own mobile rave dance party, the blue light reflecting from the white frames of his dayglow sunglasses as he cruises the parking lot, slumped over to one side like a wannabe gangster, his booming system belching at our neighborhood in the dark.

The thumping bass was what brought us together. About a week after he had moved into the neighborhood, coming and going at irregular intervals with wall-shaking bass thumps that literally vibrated the pictures from our walls, I had had enough of his douchebaggery. I heard him driving up and rushed out to meet him, approaching his thundering truck as he pulled into a parking place.

I stood outside the driver-side door and waited for him to emerge. Not un-cordially, but firmly and directly I said:

Hi. I live right there with my wife. I need you to do something for me. I need you to not do that thing that you do with your stereo when you come and go. It shakes the walls of my apartment. In the interest of being considerate of me and this neighborhood, I’d like to ask that you turn down the stereo when you’re here.”

“Okay man, sure. Sorry.” was his reply.

Two days later, I woke up and looked out the window. His SUV was slumped over to one side with two flat tires. Great, I thought. Now he’ll think I did something to his truck. My wife and I met him in the lot on our way out to dinner and asked what had happened.

“I hope you don’t think I had anything to do with that,” I said. “I can see how you might have pissed someone off with your stereo, but as you know, I like to speak directly with people if I have a problem.”

“Oh, no!” he said. “I know exactly who did it.”

“Yeah, and we’ll see how he likes a .45 in his face!” squeaked one of his many skinny-twerp sidekicks in a T-shirt and khakis from the Big and Tall men’s shop. Elton Jr. went on to tell me a story about some kid he had feuded with who had texted a mutual acquaintance to gloat about having slashed the tires.

“Sorry to hear that man, that sucks. I’ll keep an eye on the neighborhood, and you should too.” I said.

“Sure, you all have a nice night,” he replied.

The next day the kid and his 10-kid entourage were hanging out in the parking lot for several hours, helping fix the two tires and just being kids, loudly. I went to band practice and got home late. The next day my wife found that someone had rear-ended her car and caused considerable damage. Of course nobody had left a note or taken responsibility. I saw Elton and asked if he had seen anything or knew who had done it. Nope.

I filed a police report, which was required by my insurance, and as soon as the cop left, another neighbor approached and said that he had seen—guess who? little Elton Jr. himself—smash into my wife’s car and come back out later and wipe her car's paint from his bumper.

I saw mini-Elton in the lot again and asked again if he had seen anything that night. Saying nothing, he shook his head. “That’s funny, I said, because I have a witness who claims to have seen you do it yourself.”

“Naw man, I didn’t do it. I’m honest.” was his reply.

A few days went by and another neighbor came forward, telling my wife that he too had seen the kid smash her car. I confronted him again and said, 

Look. I know you did it. You know you did it. You caused over a thousand dollars worth of damage to my wife’s car and lied to my face about it. We have to pay a $250 deductible and be short a car for a week because of you.”

“I’m sorry man. I’m sorry I lied to you. It was me. I was afraid I’d lose my insurance because I’ve had other people hit me, and if I have one more claim I’ll lose it. I’m gonna pay you back for it man. I get paid on Friday. I’m sorry.”

He offered me his hand; I shook it and accepted the apology.

That was three weeks ago. Since then he has offered me the excuse that since there has been a lot of rain, he hasn’t been able to work at his job “painting signs,” and so he has no money. Two days ago, I approached him as he was leaving with a truck full of kids and said,

“I want to know when you’re going to keep your word and pay for what you did.”

More excuses and this gem escaped from the window of his truck: 

“I wouldn’t have said I’d pay for it if I didn’t mean it.” 

Ah, so he wants me to think he’s a guy who speaks truth. He wants me to believe him. He thinks that I actually think he’s going to pay me. Well I don’t. The cops aren’t interested, the apartment complex doesn’t seem to want to kick him out, despite multiple complaints from other residents about his noise and his friends and his general riffraffery.

The other day I picked up a bunch of 40-ounce beer bottles that he and his friends had left behind in the parking lot. Just this afternoon as I wrote this he arrived, booming his bass system as loud as ever. Maybe I should show up at his door with a ghetto blaster from 1982 and blast Dolly Parton's Greatest Hits in his little shithead face until he cries.

So I can’t just beat him into the asphalt without going to jail. I can’t smash his car without witnesses. The cops won't investigate a misdemeanor. Lawyers cost too much. Civil court takes forever and probably isn't worth the hassle. The authorities don’t care. How do I get back my $250?

My question is this: are there any ninja for hire in the area, and if so, how much do they charge for discrete elimination of neighborhood problems? And how does one get in touch with a ninja anyway? Damn I wish we could afford a house. And a ninja.

Post script: Here's what happened next.