When a Celebrity Moves Into the Neighborhood
Mixed feelings abound when a celebrity becomes a country neighbor
Illustration by Chris Reed
Life occurs at nature’s pace here in the Catskills. Patchy forests and farmlands surround all eight houses on this road. Animals roam freely, including most dogs and cats. I hear owls and coyotes and foxes in the night. I see signs of deer and bear traipsing through my few acres. Geese, hawks, and heron fly overhead. Stars prick the darkness with no interference from ambient light.
At times we are without interior light, as well. During blackouts, the homes strung along this dead-end seem to come last in the restoration of power. Or we might be completely snowed in and have to wait for the main arteries to be cleared before the town gets around to us with snowplowing equipment. We manage and help each other out when necessary.
One neighbor often plays a flute on his front porch, and the notes echo through the woods. Another practices trap-shooting on his property, but even that sound cracking against the hills is somehow comforting. Through it all — silent Sundays spent gardening, ripping storms that bring down trees, occasional bonfires at the horse ranch across the meadow, glasses of wine on someone’s screened-in porch — the people living here maintain a tolerant neighborliness. We are friendly enough without being meddling.
A famous person recently moved into a house down the road, and I thought: There goes the neighborhood. Let me be honest, I feel it could be an invasion of sorts to have a notable person living so close. I appreciate that no one within miles cares who I am and what I do each day. If I feed the birds in my bathrobe, the deer and squirrels ignore me. So I’m worried about word getting out and more traffic passing by my unassuming cottage in search of a famous person photo op. I might be under peripheral scrutiny. Somebody might notice that I do my own yard work, and not very well. My curb appeal is lacking — never mind that we don’t have curbs here. Somebody might wonder why I don’t mow the whole lawn or trim the boxwoods into neat geometric shapes. Do they not understand permaculture? Somebody might think to complain about my compost heap in plain sight.
In a more suburban setting these concerns actually could be someone else’s legitimate business, but not here. I’ve lived undisturbed, five miles outside of town, for 10 years. Before I came, another celebrity and her athlete husband owned a house at the end of the road. Their parties and those looky-loos driving back and forth were cause for the former residents of my house to take note. Now there is so little traffic that, when someone passes by, I look up to see who it might be. It is a pleasantly unexciting place to dwell, but things could change. I’m worried about the tone of my surroundings. Maybe I’m even worried about this trend for wealthy celebrities to purchase rural property and gussy it up, thereby making the rest of us feel self-conscious in comparison.
Perhaps what I’m really saying is that I already miss my old neighbors. None of us has been here long enough to call ourselves indigenous, and the folks who have occupied these Marbletown hills for generations probably scoffed at our arrival when we moved in. But we relative newcomers settled in and shared this place for a time, and now a few of us have moved on — the true basis for my disappointment.
In fairness, I suppose the rich and famous have every right to live here, too, and enjoy what I love most about my neighborhood: the quiet, the wildlife, the bucolic splendor. And I guess I should simply suck it up and put together a proper basket filled with edibles from my garden and a bottle of wine, along with a nice note to make them feel at home, and treat them as if they were just like everyone else. Get over it. Be inclusive. Cue the welcome wagon.