2:04 p.m. - 2004-08-10
*DEEP BREATH* I live in the ghetto. Within a block of my apartment are: a meth lab, a crack house, a McDonald's, a liquor store, a tire shop run by Hispanics, and an 18-and-up beer-only dive. There are also numerous dogs which may or may not belong to someone, (allegedly) homeless people who never fail to ask if they can "wash my windows" with some nasty old rags and a spray bottle containing a mysterious fluid which closely resembles that green shit Jack Nicholson fell into in Batman, a variety of non-running cars, porch couches, and an apartment complex with gated parking?!? Additionally, I live on a direct path to two major hospitals…so there's always an ambulance lurking about. From my window, I can see the interstate, McDonalds, the dumpster, cars which are not supposed to be there in my parking lot, and the top 2 feet of the state capitol dome (the interstate is in the way). I can usually also see some bar fights, drug deals, people peeing on the side of the building, and the homeless guy with the window rags digging in the dumpster at Mickey D's. He's pretty much quit bugging me since I suggested that if he spent as much time filling out a job application at Mickey D's as he did digging through their dumpster, he might not need to ask me for money anymore.
You might ask why I would choose to live there. The answer is simple. My rent is $230 a month less than my car payment, and it's five minutes from work. And the apartment itself is pretty cool….REAL hardwood floors (more on this later), cool architectural details, and a kickass landlord who sends our super-nice maintenance guy to fix things when they break. Believe me, in 10 years of apartment living, these things have never all been present at once. I'm much better acquainted with landlords like this:
ME: It's 105 outside and my air conditioning is not working at all. Matter of fact, there's a huge puddle forming in my hallway. Can you send someone over to fix it?
MANAGER: Not today….everyone's are breaking. Perhaps tomorrow.
ME (THE NEXT DAY): Okay, it's boiling hot, I can't stay here, and my cats aren't too happy either. Can you please send someone?
MANAGER: Well, we've had some elderly people call since you called yesterday, and we're fixing theirs first, because they are more important than you.
ME: Okay, but can I be next?
MANAGER: No, because if I let you do that, everyone would expect to have things fixed when they call. What, do you think that anyone pays attention to those landlord-tenant laws?
This exchange continued for the next THREE WEEKS, and the outside temperature was never lower than 95. I stayed with friends a lot of the time, and made sure there were many fans blowing and lots of cold water for my pets. Finally, in desperation, I called the management company which owned this complex and explained the situation. They, of course, had no clue that their on-site managers would rather drink and watch soap operas in their AIR CONDITIONED office than they would pay attention to their tenants. My A/C was fixed within hours. After this, I would call the complex office once for every problem, and then proceed directly to the owners. This included such things as a broken hot water heater and a maintenance man who could lift heavy tools to the roof but couldn't move a fiberboard bookcase to get to the panel in the wall concealing the water heater; heat that wouldn't shut off unless you flipped the circuit breaker; water stains on the ceiling; and a freezer which took a week to make ice cubes. In the meantime, every time they had to come over, they threatened to evict me for some alleged violation of the rental agreement….and they raised my rent. Needless to say, I finally moved. While the next place I lived was certainly an improvement, it left much to be desired location-wise. We're talking a 45 minute commute to a crappy $10 an hour job….my paychecks were spent on gas and car repairs. Therefore, I decided to move closer to work….which, on a budget, provides limited options. Sure, there were apartments in a more preserved area…for twice the price…and they were still next to a bar.
However, while living next to a bar provides a source of entertainment, it's also a source of frustration. It would be one thing if these stupid children partied hard on the weekends….but they turn out in force for Wednesday night karaoke. Some of us have jobs, and being awakened by two frat-boy types fighting over some girl in a way-too-short skirt screaming "Oh my God" at the top of her lungs is really disruptive to your REM cycle. One such fight resulted in the police being called. When the officer arrived, he proceeded to get out the BULLHORN. (Mind you, this is 2:30 a.m.) I suppose that, in their training, they're taught to break up drunken brawls by waking up the whole neighborhood.
Another night, another fight…two guys are beating the crap out of each other. One guy finally knocks the other unconscious (or maybe he just passed out from drinking too much cheap beer). The winner hops in the passenger side of his buddy's car. The girlfriend of the loser (who is about half the size of the winner), attempts to drag his ass out of the car. The driver takes off, nearly dragging the girl down the street. She screams at the retreating taillights for a while, then starts screaming at her boyfriend to get up. Finally, another friend gets smart and uses his cell phone to alert emergency personnel. At this point, I hear the only intelligent shouting of the evening…a designated driver telling her (surely very underage) passengers to get the hell in the car because the cops are coming. About 10 minutes later, amid the girlfriend's continued exhortations to the boyfriend to get up, an ambulance arrives, accompanied by….a fire truck. No cop anywhere (not that it would have mattered…the perpetrators were long gone…all they could have done was cite the remaining persons for public intox or disturbing the peace). Keep in mind, this is RIGHT OUTSIDE MY WINDOW….flashing lights, screaming sirens, noisy bystanders, and all.
After numerous incidents like these, and no response from police to things like gunshots or vandalism, BFRB (who lives in my building) and I had a brilliant idea. Around the 4th of July, they start selling those little "poppers" (gunpowder & sand in little twisty sperm-like packages). We've got boxes of them. If those fuckers start making noise, we just hop out to the fire escape and toss a handful on the cement. With all the concrete, it sounds like automatic fire. Instant duck and cover. At least that's the theory. So far, since we've purchased them, the patrons haven't been doing anything to wake us up. But it's summer, and the college students/bar's main patrons are on vacation. They'll be back….and we'll be waiting.