a special report

November 7, 2010

Percy moved a few weeks ago, which means that I won't be creating any more Percy-related posts. As a neighbor, this brings me great joy. As a writer, I am grief-stricken.

Lo, I am conflicted.

I've decided to promote Percy from a mere post-category and consolidate all of his stories into one contiguous document. Unlike the rest of Stank, here the earliest material comes first. Read from the top-down and enjoy the memories. I know I won't.

- john


percy, the euthanasia poster child

August 7, 2004

"You drive ninety minutes from work in order to be 20 feet from your neighbor?" someone once remarked. Sigh. Yes I do. Our house configurations are such that I seldom have to see or hear them, not unless they come over. Which unfortunately they do.

The Common North-American White-Breasted Geriatric (Anus rictus)

Percy and Thelm@ are septuagenarians, if that's the one that means "in their 70s." They're typical of the residents where I live: old, middle-class white folks who retired to country beach houses. It's not my favorite demographic. If you pass them in a passing zone when they're going 45 in a 55, which is sadly zippy around here, they'll follow you home to lecture you. When new ownership bought the local grocery and put the local coffee klatch's mugs atop a doily on a nice table, she was repeatedly chewed out for having moved the mugs three feet from where they'd been since the Creation. And so on. I've been advised not to turn this into a "geriatric old fucks with overdeveloped senses of entitlement" tirade, lest I lose the reader.

But they are.

Which brings us to Percy, whom I first met during my house inspection. He walked over and introduced himself, then proceeded to stand there, silently and awkwardly, forcing everyone to work around him. Why he felt it his place to inject himself in my house inspection, I can only guess, but soon I would long for those early days of awkward silences between us. A brief history:

  • Day 2. While I unpack, I'm having a crew tear out the decorative outhouses (surely an oxymoron) from the front yard and hack at the 30-inch high grass the previous owner had left me. Percy ambles over and asks if I'm having them tear down my outbuilding, too. "No," I say. "I'm tearing that down someday, but until I buy my flop, I need it for storage." He huffs off.
  • Day 3. The guys are still hacking at my acre of lawn with machetes and weed-wackers. Percy comes over. "So what's your philosophy on lawn care?" he says in an off-putting, accusing manner.  What the heck does that mean, anyway? "Grass grows. I cut it." He stares at me as though I'd talked in baby talk, then asks if he can borrow my tractor in perpetuity to mow his lawn. It doesn't work, I lied. He huffs off.
  • Day 5. Percy comes over. He points out that my back yard is filled with dandelions and asks if I'm going to fertilize. I say that, given that Puget Sound's at the edge of our back yards, it doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to see that's just poisoning the water and everything in it. So until I can find a safe way of weeding, the weeds stay. He stared at me like I'd just talked in Klingon. "I'll do it for you, then," he snapped, as if my lack of know-how was the issue. No, no you won't. Under no circumstances. He huffs off. Soon my yard was mysteriously dandelion free.
  • Day 20. Percy sees me installing planters on my balcony rail. "I hope those don't blow off!" he snidely snorted in a way that somehow indicated the exact opposite sentiment. Two years later, they're still there.
  • Day 30. Percy sees me power-washing the deck. "Are you staining or painting?" Staining. "What color?" Grey. He goes inside, presumably to update Thelm@, who presumably he's got tied up in the basement. He returns. "A natural looking stain would look pretty good, too." Uh-huh. "I need to get me a power washer," he says leadingly. "Yep. I sure do. Like yours. Yep." That night, I made sure my power-washer was locked up.
  • Day 31. I'm staining. Percy oozes over. "You going to paint the house, too?"
  • Day 50. For the first of many times to come, Percy inexplicably mows his lawn about 10 feet across our property line, effectively enlarging his own tiny yard.
  • Day 100. "You said you're getting rid of that outbuilding?" Yes. "So is that girl your wife or your girlfriend?" My girlfriend. How about Thelm@? He huffs off.
  • Day 200. I've installed a new garden where previously a debris pile lay, and behind it, I'm installing a lovely lattice around my deck, hiding the ugly cement foundation. Percy walks over. "How come you bought such little plants?" Because the mature ones cost 10x as much, that's why. "Oh!" he says with enormous satisfaction, "So you're not one of those Microsoft people!"
  • Day 300. Thelm@ somehow wriggles free long enough to tell me that she loves my china cabinet. Funnily enough, I've never had them over.
  • Day 350. The inevitable happens. Percy comes over while I'm walking around naked and, frustrated by the curtain I'd put on the front door, goes to the kitchen window to peer in before knocking.
  • Day 400. It happens again. One would think that seeing me naked once would be enough negative reinforcement. Alas.
  • Day 450. Tired of the neighbor kids cutting through my yard to get to the beach, I erect a fence on my property line opposite Percy's. Percy walks across my backyard to reach me as I work. "Well," he lies transparently, "I was going to talk to my neighbor, but I guess now I have to walk around."  I guess so.
  • Day 500. I begin my kitchen remodel. Seeing the old cabinets stack up on my deck, Thelm@ comes over. "Now what this house calls for is a country kitchen." Well, I'm going with cherry and granite. Sorry. "Oh. Well. I'm sure that can be nice, too."
  • Day 550. I buy my flop and begin moving items out of the outbuilding. "Are you finally tearing it down? When?"
  • Day 600. The kitchen remodel is done. Percy comes over with a piece of junk mail that had been left in his mailbox and knocks on the door. I answer, physically obstructing him from entering. He steps into my space and actually bumps chests, trying to come in. When it becomes obvious I'm not moving, he awkwardly asks for a phone number. I walk to my desk, and he glides on into my house, uninvited. He surveys the kitchen. "I'm going to have to memorize the details so that I can describe it to Thelm@," he hints subtly.
  • Day 650. The outbuilding is being demolished. I wasn't here for it, but the boys said that Percy was throwing his own items on their burn pile and generally interfering the whole time, even trying to get them to remove plants he doesn't like ("You taking those ferns out? Ferns are just weeds, you know.") and my clothesline rack. Mind you, these are my things. The crew was taken aback. "Dude," one finally said incredulously, "You live in a freakin' double-wide." They said he huffed off.

To be continued.



family is relative

June 13, 2005

Everything you need to know about Percy & Thelm@ and my sister Julie are contained neatly in one anecdote. That is, this encounter is typical of my every encounter with these people. To fully appreciate the anecdote, know that I left out nothing. This was the unembellished sum total of their contact.

Having not seen Percy and Thelm@ for the first couple days of Julie's stay, we finally saw Thelm@ poking her head out her door as Julie and I were departing.

As I climbed into my car, I hear my sister happily (and typically) scream "I'M HIS SISTER!!!" across the yard.

Thelm@, having no window overlooking my house nor any reason whatsoever to care, was nonetheless unsurprisingly unsurprised. "Yeah, that's what we were figuring. You were here before, right?"


"Please shut up," I asked.

"What?!" My sister whirled, surprised. "I didn't want them to think that you were having some girl over."

"Huh? Who gives a crap?"

"She asked."

"No she didn't."

"Well, she waved when she saw us. She was curious."

"Of that, I have little doubt."

stupid percy tricks

June 30, 2005

 Just observed: Percy spraying deadly poisonous Round-Up within six inches of the nose of his kid's curious pup.

it took percy a whole day

July 2, 2005

A creeped-out Kiki called me last night. It seems that while she was stocking shelves, Percy took it upon himself to lecherously run his fingertips up her back.

Oddly enough, he's never seen fit to touch me affectionately. Or at all.

you asked for it; you got it

July 28, 2005

 Percy has a bitchin' new safari hat.


shameless pandering to the reader base

August 9, 2005

My favorite part of this is that you can't tell definitively where his sock ends and his skin begins.


percy update

August 12, 2005

It is perhaps appropriate that I find readers' #1 request so annoying: we want more Percy.

"Would it kill you to go to arizona for material?" asks Dorkass.

The problem is that Percy and Thelm@ spend half a year in Arizona. They are a combined 202 years old, after all, and the law is the law. But fear not; Percy peeked in my window just last night, so updates cannot be far behind.

In the meantime, I give you a photo of the Metamuville Koffee [sic]  Klatch [sic] , of which Percy [sic]  is a member (though not pictured). Yep. This is my world now.

Save me.

Just out of frame on the back wall are photos of deceased Klatchers, each adorned with a little brass plaque with a saying that manages to be both cloying and repulsive: "Bob Magoo, Gone Fishin' In Heaven's Lake," "Betty Struedel, Knitting God's Afghan," and the like. It's utterly fuckin' mortifying.

Other activities in town:

  • Newcomer Tea
  • Yodeling/line dancing night
  • Prayer Canaries
  • Boot Scootin' Grannies
  • ROMEOS (Retired Old Men Eating Out)
  • Solitarians (widows)
  • and my personal favorite, the Metamuville Huggers

I strongly suspect it's the same six people doing each activity.

stupid thelma tricks

August 17, 2005

At one point last weekend, my house was clogged with furniture and boxes destined for a rummage sale, and I was simultaneously shampooing a rug, installing shelves, and ignoring wet spaghetti noodles oozing all over the kitchen counters and literally dripping down the cabinets and sink. The place looked roughly like coastal Indonesia. This is when I heard a knock at the door. It could only be one person. "Hi, Percy." Percy and Thelm@ (she with a camera in hand) had brought over the elderly woman who had built my house. They wanted a tour, and they wanted it right now. "I'm sorry," I said. "The place is a wreck. If you give me 15 minutes, I can give you the whole tour." "Don't bother," the woman sniffed. "I have to go." And they sulked off, Percy shooting me a dirty look over his shoulder. What about our past relationship suggested that we're close enough for him to pop in without warning and show my house to strangers, I do not know. Oh, that's right. He's a geriatric old fuck with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. I keep forgetting.

• • •

Around the same time, I told Thelm@ I'm painting my house the same color as one two miles down the road. A few days later, having seen the color I said was my favorite out of the entire world of possible colors, she approached me. "I saw that house you talked about. It's much too dark, don't you think? It's ugly, don't you think?"

Woman, you don't wanna know what I'm thinking.

the case for pseudonyms

August 17, 2005

 If you google "Percy Thelm@," you get 134,000 hits. I'm number three.

public percy

August 25, 2005

A minor Percy note. Last week when he was working the Metamuville Community Crap-Swap Where Senile Old Geriatrics Buy One Another's Victrolas,* I was talking with the cable guy about installing cable broadband. We had a question for Percy, and Thelm@ went to fetch him. When told that I was getting cable service, he, annoyed, snorted loud enough for all to hear: "I thought that kid already HAD everything." That's why I live here. I'm "that kid."

*Might not be its real name.

we're #1!

August 28, 2005

A reader just pointed out that this page is now the #1 ranked hit (out of 127,000) if you google "Percy Thelm@." I know many of you think those are pseudonyms, but they aren't. They're my neighbors' honest to goodness, impossible-to-believe real names. Which, sadly, means I need to throw Google off the trail. It's for this reason that Thelm@ will henceforth be spelled with that irritating character.

percy adds to his case file against me

September 20, 2005

Yesterday, I bought the oddest boat accessory yet: an old, gas-guzzling pickup truck for towing. The idea is that I can replace my 'tweener Jeep (tweener = lousy mileage + poor towing capability) with a beater truck I'll use twice a year and a car that gets good gas mileage. It took Percy 16 hours to inquire about the new arrival. "Did you buy a truck?" Officer Percy snarls. "Yes." He needn't know why. This news causes him to look exactly like he's trying to pass a small sea urchin out his urethra. "Do you still have that boat?" "Yes." "Where is it moored?" I recognize the question as one he asked Kiki months ago, to no avail. I tell him. "Do you still have your place in Redmond?" Man, Percy, why don't you just cut to the chase and ask for a copy of my W-2?

i'm running out of percy headlines

September 29, 2005

In painting my house, I chose a color several shades darker than the one Thelm@ kindly deemed "too dark" and "ugly." I had a vicious retort at the ready, so naturally the anticipated rude comment never came. (For the record, it was "Well, look at the bright side. You won't have to look at it too much longer, what with your dying soon.") But the project was not without its Percinality. When the painters arrived, we talked shop for maybe half an hour, and then I went to work. They said my car wasn't even out of my driveway when Percy and Theml@ descended upon them and asked to see the paint colors. They were less than thrilled, so that's something.

(hopefully) the final percy story of the year

October 21, 2005

Percy mowed his lawn last weekend and left, which is his annual ritual right before he irritates Arizona for the winter. Sure enough, they disappeared without a comment. They're still pissed about my house color, you know. Concurrent with the glorious No Percy season is Walking Around Outside in My Underwear season, and I commenced immediately. When I got home from my interview, I tore off my costume and started puttering around the house. I needed to cut a metal plate, so I grabbed my jigsaw and went outside. And there I was, in nothing but my white underwear and black socks and brown sandals, making my cut, being watched by an alarmingly present Percy and Thelm@. Goddamn it. I'm not supposed to give them blog material.

hail! hail! to mich-i-gan!
the ucla of the midwest!

November 6, 2005

My undergraduate degree is from Ohio State. About this I neither boast nor apologize, even though I knew when I was there that my education wasn't what I wanted it to be. That, I decided, is what a master's degree would be for. OSU was my stepping stone, my dues payment. When you were poor in Ohio, you went to Ohio State. They charged little for in-state tuition, and they practiced "open" admission; if you met the nominal entrance requirements, you got in. Period. (In my day, admission swelled to 60,000 students. They have since closed admission somewhat.) Your name, gender, race, income, and academic pedigree didn't matter. All were equal in the eyes of Ohio State, which is to say, all were dog meat. Ohio State championship The football team excepted—they never did anything to me—I hated OSU when I was there. The hate has abated over time, but it hasn't been supplanted by affection. It's simply where I did time. It's where I learned to manipulate an uncaring bureaucracy to my advantage, using its agents' worst tendencies against them. It's where I learned to build relationships with people who worked not in fancy offices, but in cubicles—I befriended the clerks and secretaries who actually work all day. And it's where I learned to bet on myself ultimately prevailing, to trust myself even during setbacks. Am I grateful? Hell no. Ohio State didn't set out to teach me survival skills. They set out to teach me about Chaucer and calculus, and in that they largely failed. But. Chris Webber timeoutIf I hear one more Michigan alum sniff that his alma mater is "The Princeton of the Midwest," blood will surely flow. Michigan's a fine school, the second-best in the Big Ten after Northwestern, but let's not overstate things, hmmm? The latest perpetrator was Percy, who recently came out as a Wolverine, making all the cosmic tumblers of my universe suddenly click into place. Of course he's from Michigan. He could be from nowhere else. "It's the Harvard of the Big Ten, you know," he said. "Hard to get into." "I thought it was the Stanford of the Midwest." "That too." "What about the University of Chicago? Northwestern? Notre Dame? Those are better rated, more exclusive Midwestern schools." "Nope. Michigan." And thus do I cheerfully present a reality check for any Michigan alumni still reading. The average SAT scores of incoming freshmen in 2004:

UW: 570/590
OSU: 580/580
Michigan: 620/660
UCLA: 620/660
Notre Dame: 670/690
Northwestern: 680/700
University of Chicago: 700/700
Stanford: 720/740
Harvard: 750/750

To summarize: Stanford and Harvard should sue for defamation.

and thus does Whizzing Outside Season come to an untimely and inglorious end

May 28, 2006

A telltale mini-van appeared next door not ten minutes ago. Yes, kids, the dread Percy is back from Arizona.

point, dorkass

June 1, 2006

Giving Dorkass credit goes against everything I believe in, but credit must be given. On Memorial Day, she packed up her child and visited me in the sticks, a friendship-maintainance effort unparalleled by any other parent. I so appreciate it that I've removed the Dorkass-mocking counter from the sidebar. And replaced it with a Katrina-mocking counter. When Dorkass arrived, she spied Percy watching from next door. She pulled the baby from the car, turned to me, and yelled, "Yes. She's yours."

he's back, and he's pissed off

June 21, 2006

Actually, this is Percy happy. Safari getup = happy suit

Is that belly-button camel-toe I see?

 Help me get this back into my ass

hey, everybody, look at me!

July 7, 2006

There was a breakthrough of sorts at work today, and on the announcement mail my co-workers kept replying-all with MP3 attachments. One person attached the song "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang. Another attached "Everybody Dance Now." After it had gone on for some time, I decided it was time to revive an old-school prank. I recorded, at an impossibly loud level, myself shouting "HEY, EVERYBODY! LOOK AT ME! I'M SURFING PORNOGRAPHY!" and sent it to my peers. I fondly remember getting Amy (no, the other one) with this joke back in the 90s. She was humiliated. I couldn't open the old clip, however, so I recorded a new one. It took about a dozen takes before I was satisfied. So I sat at my desk and yelled "HEY, EVERYBODY! LOOK AT ME! I'M SURFING PORNOGRAPHY! HEY, EVERYBODY! LOOK AT ME! I'M SURFING PORNOGRAPHY! HEY, EVERYBODY! LOOK AT ME! I'M SURFING PORNOGRAPHY!" over and over. And then I looked outside and saw Percy staring quizzically at my open window.

percy, we hardly knew ye

August 17, 2006

If I'm asked this once a day, I'm asked it, um, one time. "Where's Percy? Write more about Percy!" Alas, Percy is keeping to himself this summer. I see him mow his lawn every three weeks, and the other day he brought me some mail that had been mistakenly delivered to his house. That is it. That's the sum of our interactions this summer. There's nothing anecdote-worthy to share. Maybe I should poke him with a stick.

arizona bound

October 12, 2006

Percy's prepping his house for the winter. I think we went the whole year together without one post-worthy Percy story. With any luck, he'll sell the house to bikers soon and writer's block will lift.

my second-favorite time of the year

October 25, 2006

My favorite time of the year is, of course, Football Weekend. A close second is when Percy leaves for the winter. To commemorate today's official beginning of glorious Walking Around Outside in my Underwear season, I give you this post from last year, an all-time reader favorite.

wonder of wonders, a miracle a miracle!

May 25, 2007


Percy told me today that they're putting the house on the market. This was after he studiously read the report (from Ed's dog-walker) that was under my welcome mat.


door.jpgJuly 10, 2007

When I replaced my front door, one concern superseded all others: it must be opaque. Percy had developed the unfortunate habit of staring through the glass before knocking, and he'd seen me naked just a few hundred dozen times too many. Okay, it was maybe four times. But it felt like a few hundred dozen. And thus did I order an expensive "rain" glass that I did not particularly like. My door is now impenetrable to the geriatric eye. Percy, for his part, has completely changed his behavior. Now he walks all the way around my deck and knocks on my back door. After staring inside for a bit, of course.

prick tease

June 3, 2008

Percy just commented that they're probably going to sell the house this year. Which does make me wonder: what happened to his selling it last year?

Don't tease me, prick.

poindexter percival

July 22, 2009

Yep, as soon as I saw the nomination "Percy," I knew poor Dex's fate. Poindexter Percival it is. There was surprising support for Poindexter Bartholomew, even after I vacated one ballot-stuffing attempt. I didn't see that coming. My personal favorite, Poindexter Jemima, came in a close third. No, I'm not blind to the racial undertone of the name Jemima (essentially, a female Uncle Tom). That was a concern, and it was also the appeal. I can't imagine a more comical non sequiter than Percival Jemima. It's the black-and-white cookie of names, for my black and white dog. Fortunately, y'all kept me from having to make a call.

dicks with decks

July 23, 2009

My co-workers decided to join me in working from home. And so did five of us assemble in my office, a.k.a. my deck. While we ate crab and drank, Percy was inspired to power-wash his own deck, 10 feet from mine. The chainsaw din was bad enough, but soon clouds of mist enveloped my guests, none of whom had previously believed that Percy is fully as obnoxious as I say.


more stupid percy tricks

May 5, 2010

photasddaso.jpgI had my property line surveyed last week. No, not Percy's. The other one. That neighbor has thoughtfully torn down the thick forest that was once between us so that I might have a better look at the beater pickups parked in the lawn; the cement swan lawn ornaments; the enormous tin trumpeting angels she has tacked on the front of the house 365 days a year; and the 17, count 'em, 17 lights that illuminate it all 24/7. And so I am erecting a fence. If I could erect a 20-foot high electrified fence with guard towers and gun turrets, I would. As the surveyor was packing up, I grabbed a line marker out of the back of his truck. I marched about 15 feet into Percy's yard and planted it there, pink flag a-fluttering, roughly aligned with the center of his new garage. I couldn't wait for Percy to emerge from his toolshed. I waited a half hour, but I had to go. When I returned home, Percy was waiting for me. "IS THAT FOR REAL?!" I burst out laughing. Percy tried to muster a smile, but he couldn't. Apparently I had set off a neighborhood panic. No fewer than six homeowners were on their hands and knees, sifting frantically through foliage for survey pegs. "Jesus fuckin' christ," exclaimed a neighbor I'd never met before. "Hi, I'm John. Nice to meet you."

• • •

Percy left me his garage door opener for the winter, just in case something happens.

In the above photo, I'm rockin' his safari hat. This is why you don't lend me keys.

percy, we hardly knew ye:
part deux

July 26, 2010

As I alluded last week, Percy's house is on the market. I haven't celebrated here because, well, I've been down this road before. As recently as May, they told me they were selling, then at the 11th hour didn't list it. But finally, after years of teasing me, they put a sign in their yard. Rumor has it that they're close to selling. This has me thinking about who I want living 15 feet away. In order of preference:

  1. Hot single woman. (But we're talking Beyoncé hot. Surely she yearns for a yellow double-wide on a postage stamp of land in a community laden with bitchy white old farts.)
  2. Childless young gay couple (Preferably with a minor conviction in one of their histories that would preclude future adoptions)
  3. Infertile young straight couple
  4. More bitchy old farts. Sigh. (The devil I know)
  5. Single person of any age, gender, attractiveness, orientation, or race. No religiousness a turn-on. Must not talk about soccer.
  6. Hell's Angels
  7. Fertile young couple
  8. Family with kids, or
    bipolar meth dealer (tie)

wither, percy
(as opposed to "wither percy." the comma is important.)

August 4, 2010

Percy has accepted a bid on his house, and when I met the buyers, I couldn't believe my luck. Childless lesbians. My second choice of new neighbors. First choice, if you disallow Beyoncé, which I never will. But failing that particular miracle, can you believe my luck? Better still, they're kind and complimented my house instead of bitching about it. Better still, they're my age instead of the median Metamuvillian age of 104. Better still, they're already talking about joint beach parties. Better still, they have a house in Seattle and would only be here every other weekend. Best of all, one of them works as a headhunter for people in my profession. I could scarcely believe my luck. I was vibrating with rare levels of happiness. I offered them free wifi as an inducement. Every day, I watch Percy's sign for a "sold" placard. Every day, nothing happens. "They came back with some requests from their inspection," Percy just snarled at me, visibly offended. "I said no to 'em all."

gearstick lesbians

August 9, 2010

Percy has confirmed the purchase of his house. Our long national nightmare is almost over. While I ponder what to do with Stank's first retired category (there will be no more "Percy" posts soon, after all), I've resumed my happy dance. Childless lesbians. I can't believe my luck. Upon hearing about the new tenants, guy-friends get that look. That lascivious as-soon-as-the-women-are-gone-let's-hit-a-strip-club look. "High five, John!" I leave them hanging. "No, no. Not porn lesbians. Real lesbians."

we interrupt this programming for a major announcement

September 30, 2010

four firsts

October 1, 2010

My new neighbors moved in Wednesday night, and by noon Thursday, four unprecedented things had happened:

  1. I heard laughter next door. It jarred me. Not once in eight years had I heard that.
  2. I knocked on my neighbors' door.
  3. I was invited inside for a visit and offered a drink.
  4. I was invited to a BBQ this weekend.

I want to weep. Huge, wracking sobs. "Look at you, being all social!" cooed Darcy. "Who are you?"

Now if only I could remember their names.


October 4, 2010

Saturday night, I sat at what five days earlier was Percy's dining room table. I got hammered, played poker, and watched lesbians dance.

I'm not sure what I was doing the last 416 Saturday nights, but I assure you that it was not that.

more satisfying than is probably mentally healthy

October 7, 2010

When I uploaded the Percy tribute to YouTube, they had me enter a value for "tags." Not knowing how they would manifest, I entered simply "Percy." The result? When I played the video, YouTube placed Percy-themed ads overtop. For instance, they hawked Vikings tickets because of Vikings player Percy Harvin. "I can do so much better than this," I said. It took a couple days, but finally the new tags went into effect.