By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Good fences, as every homeowner knows, make bad property taxes. Bad fences make trouble, unless you have good neighbors, who are a blessing when a fence needs to be replaced.
And, lo, I was blessed not only with good neighbors, but with the fence guy for the pope.
Chris Curcio installed the fence around St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City when Pope Francis came to town in 2015.
“Did you meet the pope?” I asked Chris when he and his assistant, J.B. Becak, arrived to replace my backyard fence.
“No, but I saw him drive by,” said Chris. “He waved and gave me a blessing.”
“I’ve never met the pope, either,” I said. “But a cardinal lives in one of our trees.”
Chris told me that his full name is Christian.
“Does the pope know that?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” Chris said. “But I hope it helps.”
“Have you ever been the fence guy for any other celebrities?” I wondered.
“Yes,” Chris replied. “I got the job when Trump and Hillary Clinton debated at Hofstra University in 2016.”
“Where do I rank among your customers?” I wanted to know.
“You’re just below the pope,” said Chris, “but way above the politicians.”
It was a great compliment considering that Chris, who’s 60 and owns Complete Fence and Railing of Long Island, N.Y., has had countless customers in his 40 years in the business.
“You know who a fence guy’s best friend is?” Chris said.
“Who?” I responded.
“A nosy neighbor,” he answered. “It will make somebody say, ‘I need a fence.’ There’s the old saying, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’ But bad neighbors are good for me.”
“Do you have good neighbors?” I asked Chris, who has a four-foot-tall chain link fence bordering his property.
“Not the one who lives to the right of my house,” he said. “She’s getting a six-foot privacy fence. And I’m going to install it.”
As Chris has learned over the years, installation can lead to confrontation.
“On one job, there was a corner post and four people were involved,” he recalled. “They were fighting over where I was putting it. I said, ‘Leave me alone.’ People fight over inches. I’ve put up fences where I couldn’t step on the neighbor’s property.”
Nonetheless, people aren’t the greatest challenge.
“You know the No. 1 enemy of fence guys?” Chris said.
“What?” I replied.
“Lawn sprinklers. We bust them for a living,” he said, adding: “I saw your sprinklers. They’re safe.”
Unfortunately, our old fence wasn’t. It had holes big enough for dogs and cats to come through. One spot could have accommodated a grizzly bear.
So I asked my good backyard neighbor, Ann Marie, who had put up the fence many years before, if she wanted to split a new one, though not a fence of the split rail variety. Her good next-door neighbor, Leo, was replacing his perfectly usable stockade fence, which bordered the backyard of my good next-door neighbor, Bob, with a PVC fence.
Ann Marie kindly agreed and we got a great price from Chris, who is also the fence guy for Leo.
Chris and J.B., who both look like Olympic weightlifters, dismantled the old fence with tools and muscle.
“It’s good exercise,” said J.B., 47, who also owns J.B. 24-Hour Towing Service.
“My truck broke down the other day,” he told me. “I had to call another towing company. They double-charged me.”
Chris and J.B. attached the stockade fence to several posts, none of which was The Washington Post or the New York Post, and the improvement was remarkable.
“Now grizzly bears can’t get through,” Chris said.
“Great job,” I told him. “This is the answer to my prayers.”
“When you’re the fence guy for the pope,” Chris said, “miracles do happen.”
Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima