Good fences make good neighbors.
Except on Altamont Court in Morristown.
Before long, the entire neighborhood was camped in the couple’s backyard, munching hot dogs and watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show projected onto a bedsheet.
“When we moved onto that street, we were a bit nervous. We were a gay couple, and you never know how that will go over,” said Trent Pines, author of Life on Altamont Court, Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary.
They went over so well that Trent felt compelled to self-publish a chronicle of their seven years on the Court, a place he and his partner still miss, three years after moving to Atlanta.
Trent could not have predicted such an outcome. When Ken first showed him the Cape Ann colonial, it reminded him of Nora Desmond’s overgrown house in Sunset Boulevard. A gloomy money pit. The sellers were so desperate to unload the place, they agreed to give back $25,000 of the purchase price to help cover renovations.
Pretty soon, however, an army of fixer-uppers were volunteering to pitch in. The cul-de-sac yielded a zany cast of characters who were so over-the-top that the couple seldom caught a breather.
“Once I started cooking in the new kitchen, it just became a free-for-all and it never stopped,” Trent recounted in a phone interview. “The street was a big party.”
Every Halloween and Christmas became a gaudy decorating contest. Power tools were shared freely. When the fence became history, kids scampered unabashedly after balls that strayed onto the yard.
It felt like time-traveling to a bygone era, said Trent, 51.
“People miss this kind of close-knit neighborhood of 50 or 60 years ago… My grandparents told me everyone used to live within blocks of each other. As jobs forced people to move around, what we all miss out on is really close, intimate neighborhoods,” said the new author, an executive for a communications company.
Ken’s two daughters from his first marriage were frequent visitors.
“When you have kids, it changes everything,” Trent said. “You forgot that we’re gay guys. We were just another couple on the street with the same challenges and fun as anybody else there.”
The Ohio native thought he might mine a newspaper column from the Court. But as he started jotting down his Morristown adventures, they began to flow more like a book, he said.
Written on international flights and in hotels during long business trips, Life on Altamont Court has garnered enough positive responses to make Trent think he might have a humorous novel in him. Working title: Life on the Cubicle Farm.
But he knows it will be hard to top his breezy stroll down memory lane, from the Franklin Corners neighborhood to South Street, the Morristown Green, Century 21 and the movie theater at Headquarters Plaza.
“I miss being able to walk to town and know so many proprietors, and go into restaurants where they said, ‘Oh, it’s good to see you again.’ And bartenders who would mix your favorite drinks, because they remembered,” Trent said.
“It all was within walking distance.”