What's Your Next-Door Neighbor Story?

Al Green Sundays

In 1986 I was living with my girlfriend on 25th Street and 2nd Avenue, Next door lived a mild mannered Black gay guy named Fred. During the week he was usually very quiet, but on Sunday mornings he would blast Al Green albums and sing loudly. He had a wonderful voice, so it wasn't much of a problem.

Of course there were week-ends when I'd be hung-over, head hurting, face swelled and half blind, wishing Fred's death as he roared through another verse of "Let's Stay Together" or "Take Me to the River." But, after a while, I got used to it.

One day I saw Fred in the street and commented on his Al Green addiction. He simply smiled and said, "Who needs church on Sunday morning when you have Al Green records." Being a lapsed Catholic and former alter-boy, who was I to argue.

It was during this period in the mid-'80s when a lot of gay men were getting sick in New York, and HIV became a very real disease. One Sunday, perhaps a year after I moved in, the silence coming from next door was deafening. Not hearing Fred's stirring versions of "Simply Beautiful" or "Love and Happiness" had thrown off my entire day.

Later that afternoon I saw my neighbor who lived across the hall. A pretty middle aged Latina, I stopped her on the stairs and inquired about Fred. "You don't," she said with a real seriousness. "Fred is very sick; he moved back down south so his sister can look after him."

Stunned by the news, I walked into my apartment and slumped on the bed. Minutes later, I walked over to my big box of cassette tapes and found a copy of Al Green's Livin' for You, and put it inside the Sony boombox. Lying on the bed, I prayed to the powerful spirit that is Memphis soul that Fred be all right.

Over twenty years later, whenever I hear an Al Green song, my former next door neighbor Fred always comes to mind.


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As part of our new webcomic, Next-Door Neighbor, we thought it appropriate to have a little contest. Tell us your best true next-door neighbor story, and the winning tale will be matched with an artist and transformed into a webcomic and included as the final installment of Next-Door Neighbor.

About Next-Door Neighbor

No matter how close or how far, we all live next to someone, and we all have a Next-Door Neighbor story. With that in mind, editor Dean Haspiel asked some of his favorite storytellers and cartoonists to create their favorite NDN stories so we could share them with you.

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