The day we moved into the Lockardugan Estate, we decided the crumbling, spooky old house needed some honest-to-goodness mojo cleansing before we started hauling furniture. The house was in rough condition when we bought it, and while we could see the potential through the dirt and old wallpaper, it gave us the willies. Armed with a pair of sage sticks, Jen and I entered the house for the first time as owners and proceeded to fill every corner of every room with smoke, hoping it would have the appropriate effect: the idea is to remove negative energy and replace it with positive. Now, what the hippies don’t tell you is that burnt sage smells an awful lot like marijuana smoke; it tends to get into hair and clothes and practically scream DOPE FIEND. We opened all the windows to air out the smell, and I’m sure it resembled a Cheech & Chong movie as all of the stink wafted from the house, but we were marked permanently.

Exiting the house and walking out to the moving van, a shiny Jeep pulled into the driveway next to ours, and a colorful new character entered our lives. He was wearing a shiny white nylon campaign jacket with a huge First Marine Division patch on the back, a Korean War Veterans baseball cap, and a huge smile. He introduced himself with a handshake and a hearty “Hello, citizens!” as the Judge, a retired Marine, police officer, lawyer, and next-door neighbor. Standing downwind, we introduced ourselves, and before we could say anything else, he suddenly informed us, “Just in case, you should know, I’m packing heat.” He turned to the side and lifted his jacket to reveal a pearl-handled automatic in a holster on his hip, and after we picked our jaws up off the ground, Jen and I couldn’t think of what to say next. We stood and chatted with him for about five minutes, smelling like we’d just burned an entire bale of weed in the fireplace, praying he wouldn’t call the cops on us, and then he shook our hands graciously and walked to his front door. In the years since then, he’s always had a smile and a story for us, offering advice with property lines, warm food during hurricanes, and jokes; I don’t know that we could have wound up with a more outgoing and friendly neighbor.

Sadly, the Judge passed this week after a short stay in the hospital; it had only been a week or so since we’d seen him last. Having reviewed pictures of him in his prime at the viewing last night, it was hard to reconcile the smiling little man we knew with the hard-nosed Marine or the steely-looking cop from the newspaper photos, and he’d definitely lost a step or two in the four years we’ve known him, but he never lost the twinkle in his eye or the grandfatherly tone in his voice when he saw us. I’d like to think he was happy to have us dope fiends living next door, and I hope he knew about Finley before he passed, because I was looking forward to introducing the two of them.

In a P.C. world rapidly purging itself of colorful, unique people, he was the real deal, and I will miss him. Farewell, Marine.

Date posted: October 16, 2008 | Filed under life | Comments Off on Semper Fi, Citizen.

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