I’m going to sit here in the few minutes before I have to leave for dance class and try to get some things dug out of that weird computer firing off synapses behind my eyes. It’s been a while and I feel stiff writing — both my fingers and my brain — but it also feels like putting on an old coat that’s been hanging in the closet for the past 6 months that still smells like your shampoo so you know it’s yours. It feels like home. And, since there’s no way I finish before class, I’ll post what I have literally where I trail off, and get back to it later tonight while I’m watching baseball. This is my itinerary, and while it’s likely useless to you, it helps me focus to put it down.
So, I’d like to talk about monsters.
I use the expression quite a bit and I know it’s juvenile and flippant, but it’s expressive and a much better aspersion to cast than some of the choice words that flit through my head at the sight of some of the people I’ll be mentioning. Also, ever since watching the really interesting Netflix series Stranger Things (filmed in my hood in Atlanta!), I see even more truth in the descriptor “monster”. The metaphors are endless. Speaking of Stranger Things, look at this awesomeness:
Shel Silverstein and the Duffer Brothers walk into a bar…
Anyway, I’ve met my own flower-faced carnivores, a few here in the last several years, and I want to talk about them finally because I can now. Both because I have some perspective and because I’m no longer having to meet them in court (yes, yes, we’ll come to that).
And because I recently saw a bit of graffiti that kind of shook me a little. It’s going to seem really 14-year-old girl, but remember: I live in Washington, DC. It said simply:
It’s okay to care.
I actually had to sit and think about it for a few minutes and I realized that the fact that I needed to mull that one over meant that it had all gotten to me. The mean and needlessly jealous girlfriends, the nasty landlord, the twerpy dudes, the soul-sellers, the rhetoric wranglers, the people who’ve lost their faith in anything good but refuse to admit it. In short: they were winning.
So, consider what comes next a monster exorcism…
CONTINUED (until I have to leave to head to the dirty, dirty and pick up my sidekick. A blonde millennial girl asked me recently what breed he is and I said he was a Georgia Roscoe and she said “Aw! I’ve never heard of that breed!” and I said “It’s new.” Anyway, I think I’ll be writing this all weekend. Except when I’m at the Braves game for a final turn at the Ted. I don’t want to talk about this season. I see good things ahead but GOOD GOD this has been painful…moving on…):
The Monster in the Attic
I moved to DC 7 years ago, right before the first Snowmageddon hit. I mean the week before. I was terrified. And it’s been a tough go of it, primarily I think because I’m principled, and I say that with my tongue only half in my cheek. DC doesn’t really reward principles. There are certain outfits that do, and I’m slowly seeking them out, but for the most part it’s all pay to play here. And I’m not really built that way. So, work has been pockets of brilliance and success tempered by downturns that can weaken even the most confident of spirits. And I’m pushing on. But here recently I began to question if it wasn’t time to go home because not only had I finally met someone I liked only to be pretty nastily rebuked a few years back (I think he might be ok with conditions, but the girl he chose? Hoo boy. It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone that proud of being a bitch. Fascinating.), but right around the same time, things with the landlord — which had admittedly started out kinda strange and had followed a pretty weird trajectory with increasing levels of wtf — got downright stupid. And, looking back now after having been to court with him twice, and mediation twice, and endured a few years of harassment and very-near Chinese water torture levels of discomfort, I’m not really sure how or why I did it. Which is to say, why I chose to stay and fight him rather than let him run me off.
Well, that’s not true. Initially I stayed because I quite frankly couldn’t afford to pick up and leave and didn’t have anywhere to go in the month (!) he was giving me to vacate, and then, when that shook out a little and I realized what was happening and why he and his absolutely horrific now-ex-wife were behaving the way they were, I just got pissed. I was mad at a whole host of behavior I was seeing around me — the general self-love and selfies of the millennials (I know it seems weird but it’s a cultural rot that manifests in other more tangible ways and you can literally FEEL it), the aforementioned proud bitch just stomping around getting her way and playing sweet for the cameras (nice try sister but your between the lines stuff glows like a cancer under x-ray), being treated like shit to appease said proud bitch by someone who I think maybe isn’t really that cruel but will do what he needs to do to get where he wants to go (although if he had stopped for a hot second and taken a moment to get to know me at all, he would have realized he needn’t have worried and his problem was being manufactured on his end, not on mine), work people turning on each other and stealing jobs from friends and marginalizing people (seriously, the Trump Line is a real thing), etc etc and et al — and, with all that going on, I needed a fight just to stay sane. So I chose to battle the Monster in Attic. For pragmatic reasons (it was happening in my home and that’s just unacceptable) and it was the one gauntlet that was thrown very pointedly at me and was actively coming to get me. And I mean coming in unannounced with this key while I’m getting out the shower coming to get me. So, my living room was the battlefield I chose.
And, yet again, time has crept away from me and I gotta run. More later possibly when I get off the road. I can’t stop now it seems…
CONTINUED: The Best Laid Plans of Monsters and Men
And here I am again, writing for a few minutes before I head back up the road to DC, sidekick safely tucked in beside me in the shotgun seat, returning to writing deadlines, and contract negotiations, and apartment hunting (things are looking positive on that front despite the short time frame, so don’t fret if you were inclined to), and — but of course! — the monster requesting to come into my apartment in the 2 weeks I have left to “do a few things”.
I. Can’t. Even.
Because the recent settlement agreement was specific in the terms, one of them being that he was to do no further repairs or bother me until I vacate and he turns over the settlement check (they call it “cash for keys”) barring some emergency that must be addressed (even then I think I’d just absorb the cost for the convenience of never having to deal with his hateful and abusive self EVER AGAIN). But, because he lives in some solipsistic fantasy world where the rules don’t apply to him, he is asking my attorney to schedule some time for him to come do a few thing (whatever the hell that means) before I leave.
My response?: “Absolutely not, and I expect the certified check in my hand by noon when the movers arrive.” The movers, by the way, are marines and so I’m looking forward to them being there when Mr. Sensitive Detroit Liberal in his black frame glasses who is actually an elitist bastard who thinks there are 2 sets of rules in life (sound familiar?) comes around and tries to bully me. God, I hope he does in front of them. I truly, truly do.
So, in the few minutes I have, let me start the narrative of how this all began. I don’t know that anyone cares, but it’s therapeutic for me to write about it and maybe will shed some light on how the bullying better-than-yous function, think, and make ridiculously stupid mistakes borne of their own self-love, and help someone else dealing with them.
I also just like to talk about how stupid they were and are and laugh about it. It’s actually really hilarious and worth the ridicule.
When I moved to DC back in Dec. 2009, I rented from the mother/mother-in-law of my neighbors across the street in Athens, Ga., where I owned a house through grad school. The apartment was a great deal in a million dollar home in an up and coming section of DC, my former landlady was never there and let me house sit when she traveled, and generally, we had a good relationship. And she cut me a deal on rent.
Flash forward to 2012, and all of a sudden, with almost no notice, I was told I had new landlords — a married couple with 2 children who, according to former landlady, couldn’t afford the place based on their salaries. “One of them must have family money,” she told me one night when she was swimming in a wine glass (which she did fairly frequently).
And I got a really good weird feeling when they asked me to be out the weekend they were having the inspection done to finalize the loan. I had owned my own home so I knew that was a strange request, but I was out of town that weekend anyway so I never pushed back. Looking back, that was the first attempt to defraud. If no one outside the family lived in the basement apartment — and by extension they could claim no money was changing hands — then the apartment could be illegal (meaning in violation of about 800 different housing codes, which it turned out to be) and it wouldn’t matter. At the time I didn’t know that DC tenant and housing codes. I could write a book on them now.
And so, fine. They bought the place, the lease I had signed wasn’t up for another few months, they were louder and were there all the time, but I’m nothing if not very Southern and so I accommodated and adjusted without complaint because that’s just good manners.
And then, one day, 6 day laborers showed up at my door with no warning and began to tear into my ceilings and walls, running my cat off in the process, and working in my home for almost 2 months, every day (seriously, my stuff was just covered in plastic when I got home from work in the evenings) so that the new owners could upgrade the pipes to put in brand new radiators upstairs. There was no benefit to me. But I sure as hell felt the inconvenience. My cat never came home.
And then, after the lease ended, I was asked to provide them with a copy of my lease so we could sign a new one. Which I did. But a new lease was never drafted, despite my repeated attempts to find out where that stood. I did a little research and discovered that if a new lease is never drafted and signed, the terms of the old lease applied and the tenant merely went month to month. So, I was getting nothing from them, so I made sure I understood the law and carried on. I wasn’t really worried at this point because I generally try to think the best of people (I just heard my friend Bay laugh in his head. He doesn’t believe me, but I do. His optimism is boundless so I suppose mine is only middling by comparison.).
And then came the day I was told that I had to surrender my parking space to them — something that was covered as part of my lease — or they would raise my rent. And I didn’t at that time know the law well enough to know that I was actually rent-controlled — everyone in DC is by default — and that Monster had to go jump through some fairly easy bureaucratic hoops to change that. I just thought he could likely raise my rent a percentage of what I paid, and my car was old and just sitting there, and I was almost exclusively taking public transportation to work, and I could start to finance a nicer car (something that was harder than I thought because work took a turn), and so — I sold it and surrendered my space in lieu of a rent increase.
And Monster immediately started renting it to someone for several hundred dollars a month.
At this point their walking across my ceiling (found out later there was no insulation between their floor and my ceiling so every noise they made was amplified and echoed throughout my apartment. That got really fun when they began to have marital discord.) became almost unbearably loud. He literally put a bouncy house in their dining room, directly over my sofa and living room area.
And so, thick-headed and Southern though I am, I began to wonder if there wasn’t a concerted effort to make me uncomfortable enough to leave. I know…people think I’m brilliant. It makes me laugh sometimes, too.
Right-o, I have to shove off. We’re already going to be there by midnight as it is. More in a day or so…