I finally met the girl upstairs… and her name is Mary Jane.

Footsteps above our apartment — for the first time in months, we hear human activity in the apartment above us… Yes, it’s definitely footsteps.  Heavy workboots, by the sound of it.  And sure enough, within an hour or so they’re tossing stuff out the window, onto the sidewalk below:  rotted pieces of drywall, some tangled old wires, and potting soil.

Yes, you read that correctly:  potting soil.  And not just a little bit of it.  Bags and bags of rich, black earth.

Very strange, you might think… to have a mountain of potting soil in a second-story apartment (in the middle of Amsterdam, no less).  But I don’t think it all that odd, believe it or not.  In fact, it fits some of the final puzzle pieces into place and solves some of the mysteries of our upstairs neighbors.  It turns out that they weren’t necessarily anti-social after all — they were just farmers.  Agriculturalists.  Botanists, to be specific.  Growing one of Amsterdam’s premium cash crops.

I suppose I should’ve suspected as much.  A couple of Brazillian guys in their late 20s or early 30s — friendly enough, but with strange and furtive mannerisms at times.  Their comings and goings were mostly limited to the night-time — and even at that, we didn’t see a whole lot of them.  In a way, we actually enjoyed their lack of presence — far preferable to the cross-dressing Latino "family" and their four scampering chihuahuas who had previously occupied the space with their salsa-dancing and fetch-playing foosteps at all hours of the day.  We really had no problems with the nocturnal introverts who had unassumingly occupied the space for the last several months…

Well… I guess there was that one time when our ceiling started dripping with water last summer.  And as much as we rang the bell — and yelled at the top of our lungs to get their attention — and pelted the windows of the apartment with handfuls of pebbles — it was a strangely slow and seemingly nonchalant response to our aquatic crisis (allegedly caused by the bathtub overflowing)… that is, until we threatened to call the police — at which point, their response was remarkably prompt…

And well… Then again in December, there was that one experience when we had an incredibly difficult time keeping our home warm.  Another neighbor, who had a better vantage-point that allowed her to see the upstairs-neighbors’ balcony, tipped us off that the door to the balcony was wide-open — and had been so for days — letting all that cold air into our building and stealing whatever insulation we might normally receive from a heated apartment above.  That was weird and kind of inconsiderate of them.  And that time, try as we might, we never could reach the tenants — so in the end, we called the manager of the building and solved things that way… Which, come to think of it, may have been our neighbors’ downfall.

Really, though, other than these isolated (though now, in retrospect, quite dubious) events, we never had any problems with our upstairs neighbors…

It just turns out that the primary residents of the apartment upstairs were not people — but plants (or so I can deduce from the potting soil).  Nice, quiet plants.  And I don’t want to assume too much — in spite of what the other neighbors might insinuate… And I don’t want to alarm the grandparents of my children — or anyone else who might be quick to pass judgment on "Big Bad Amsterdam"… And I don’t want to add to the sometimes shady reputation of our neighborhood (because I really think it’s a great place to live, for the most part)… But I can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if our apartment would’ve ever caught fire.  Would the neighbors have called the fire department?  Would they have formed an old-fashioned "bucket brigade" if necessary — helping to carry in water to douse the flames and helping to carry out our children and our prized possessions?

Or would they have simply kicked back, inhaled deeply — maybe grabbing some Doritos and listening to Bob Marley records — and just enjoyed the high times in the Transvaalbuurt.

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