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This is where we used to live

by anna at 07:05 PM on October 27, 2003

Buying a home is much like getting married. You think it’s for life but oftentimes it isn’t. The converse holds true as well; hence the novel concept of a “starter spouse.”

We’re preparing to sell ours and it’s gotten me to mulling the last time we endured that living-in-a-fishbowl ordeal. It was twelve years ago. My wife and two stepdaughters lived in what is known as a piggyback townhouse. This means two 2-level residences sit over one wide one story job. The lower half is actually the basement of the top two. As such, it is subjected to groundwater infiltration. We lived in one the upper units, thank God.

So the seepage got so bad that the homeowners’ association was hounded into Taking Action. Since we blew off all their meetings, my family had no inkling of what was to come until a large construction trailer appeared in our parking lot. It eliminated half the already scarce parking.

Backhoes dug huge trenches around each row of townhouses. Men clambered down in there and slapped creosote on the foundation. This was supposed to keep the basement-dwellers’ homes dry, but it didn’t work. More Urgent Measures were necessary.

Of course, this debacle didn’t come cheap. The association thus saddled residents with a $250 monthly assessment. That would include those who’d remained blissfully unaffected by the water i.e. us. I remember being upset by the collectiveness of this burden. I’m like, sorry to hear about the standing water in your living room but hey, it’s not my problem. I think I know how if feels to write a monthly alimony check to an ex-spouse who continually cheated on you.

It was at that point that my wife became pregnant with Ian. The townhouse no longer met our needs. Enter AA Clay.

I’ve been chums with this idiot all my life. To say he has an addictive, driven personality would be an understatement. He used to hole up in hotel rooms for days on end with an ounce of cocaine, a cooler full of beer and stacks of pornography. He’d get all wired and jerk off until his dick was bloodied. One time we went to Atlantic City and gambled away a small fortune. We retired to my car with only toll money left. When I awoke, all groggy and disoriented, he was nowhere to be seen. He had gotten a hunch and put our last dollars on a number. Needless to say it didn’t hit. I had to call my dad to bail us out.

Anyway, AA Clay cleaned up his act and became a realtor. He applied that same maniacal if futile persistence to selling houses that he had to drug abuse, pud-paddling and gambling. So naturally we turned to him when it came time to unload our townhouse. Impediments to quick sale included said burdensome assessment that would increase any prospective buyer’s monthly outlay by 30%, the trailer/parking problem, construction strewn equipment everywhere and the fact that we had three small, very messy children.

Time after time couples would tromp through our abode, peering disdainfully at our meager belongings. After nine months of this humbling torture Clay took me aside and looked at me gravely. “It’s your appliances, man,” he blurted out. “What about them,” I asked. “Dude, they are avocado green. It’s so seventies it isn’t even funny. No one will ever buy this house until you update the kitchen.” Since we were flat broke, he agreed to foot the cost and be repaid when the sale was complete. I can’t tell you how painful it is to be in the throes of poverty and to throw away a perfectly serviceable stove, dishwasher and fridge.

Within days the house sold and we were prancing on our merry way. But to this day I refuse to be a part of any collective endeavor, unless you count soccer or Bad Sam. Indeed, as we search for a new place to huddle, our #1 criteria is that there be no homeowners’ association. We will deal with our own household problems, thank you very much. Nobody will tell us what colors we can paint our house. To my mind it comes down to the age-old communism vs. capitalism debate. And I am not my brother’s keeper. I’m worried about my neighbors’ welfare in the same detached way I care about the state of Ben ‘n Jen’s marriage: I’m all for it so long as it has no adverse effect on me or mine.

As for AA Clay, he’s since retired to play Mr. Mom to five children. The only homes he sells are his own. He buys shabby hovels on the cheap, renovates them and doubles his money upon sale. I am going to blackmail him into coming out of retirement. I’ll threaten to tell his wife about those porno binges.

comments (8)

I would have taken your green appliances... that sounds cool... & it would match my merigold wallpaper & rust colored carpeting. (Shan & I actually grew up with that...)

by Linz at October 28, 2003 4:26 PM

in my last year of college, we were charged with the task of showing our place to prospective renters for next year. that after we actually left the place, it was condemned for either the whole next year or to ultimate destruction is neither here nor there.

our landlord would give us notice and drop by with applicants, or curious parties would contact us directly for viewing. why the latter ever happened just boggled me. it was clear the place was leaning a bit, and was right next to some medium to heavy traffic train tracks. also within 50 feet was a loud bar with live music, and a well worn path between the local bars and fraternity houses, which hardly bares mentioning the possibility of what a popular urinal my back yard could, and in fact did, turn out to be. also the toilets were loose against the sagging floors. but here i'm rambling again....

on one such weekend day, my roomates and i had forgotten that the landlord would be traipsing through our expertly unmade hovel at around 10 am. in various states of undress, or consciousness, we heard the broken bell switch click at the door. my roomate went to answer. not to get all fashionista about the moment, but here we had a young man, pale of skin, slightly overweight, and only wearing a pair of too small, middle school-throwback boxers. the kind of which the thigh has become an ameteur tourniquette around an ever expanding beer thigh of college memory, and the waistband has turned to a stiffened, powdery dust of its former elastic self. i won't even make mention of the rips.

at the door was my 60 year old landlord, and three sweet, supple and ever so innocent fair maidens who had no idea what could possibly greet them, beyond these, our gates of hell. what happened next was only remarkable for the deer-like swiftness that they moved through the place, and the noticable fact that my neither my landlord, nor his guests would look my roomate in the eye as he stood at the door to greet them, and accompanied them for a minute while they took a panicked peek and ran.

i remember quite clearly how the sun was at his back as he slowly and quietly walked into the living room in which we all sat, waiting for an explanation. i also remember, pretty clearly an enormous testicle...sleep swollen and pink as candy hanging out of one of the opening(s) in the loin cloth, that he still referred to as underwear.

to say that i remained face down on the carpet, uncontrollably crying from laughter for more minutes than i can recall, is such an understatement, it also hardly bares mentioning.

by lajoie at October 28, 2003 6:01 PM

Well, Linz the green ones actually worked real well. We never could figure out all the gadgetry on the spiffy new white ones.

Lajo that story is too much---quintessential college stuff.

Ironically (and I can't help but think God had a hand in this) we are moving to escape the constant flooding here. All we want is higher ground.

by anna at October 28, 2003 6:41 PM

Lajoie, that was beautiful writing. Esp. the image of his darkened form walking in and then stepping into a different light in which you could see the... um... issue...

precious moment.

by Linz at October 29, 2003 4:14 PM

did you mean to say "tissues"?

i'll assume yes.

by lajoie at October 29, 2003 5:39 PM

A friend of mine went on a few dates once with a guy who'd just gotten out of Cocaine Anonymous. He took her on a drive in his Porsche and then flew her around L.A. in a helicopter (may or may not have been his). I thought that was so Hollywood.

by jean at October 29, 2003 11:42 PM

Wait a minute. You can get out of Cocaine Anonymous, like your cured? I thought it was a lifetime commitment. BTW, all my AA/NA buds are such phonies. When their wives aren't present, look out.

by anna at October 30, 2003 7:46 AM

Anna, you're probably right. My friend told me he'd "gotten out", but I never really thought about it. You can't truly get out of any 12-step program, can you? He probably just tells himself he "got out", in between lines. That's pretty sad about your xA buds. Makes me glad that the thing between my friend and the guy never went anywhere.

by jean at October 31, 2003 9:54 PM

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