Sunday, May 07, 2006
Loathe Thy Neighbor
They seemed like nice people.
But then they always do, don't they?
A little more than a year ago, we rented the upstairs apartment of our two-family house to what we thought was a decent family.
We needed the money to pay for my father's homecare aide and renting the apartment was the only way to do it.
The wife loved the apartment; it was so big and homey. The husband (boyfriend, sperm donator, I honestly don't know) works for the MTA and seemed like a hard-working family man.
Oh, Jesus, we sure called that one wrong. The first day they moved in, the wife (mistress, whore, psychopath, I honestly don't know) asked if they could pay the rent in two monthly installments instead one payment the way normal people do. Since they were all moved in, my sister and I thought, what the hell?
Meet The Anti-Christs
It turns out "hell" is the operative word for this bunch, as in "living hell."
Within the first month, the wife's mother shows up at the house, has a bad reaction to her diabetes medication and starts to fall. She grabs the knob on the garden fence, which breaks, and she hits the ground breaking her arm.
Next thing I know, some barracuda lawyer from Staten Island sends us a letter demanding compensation for our "negligence." We let the crowd upstairs know that if this thing goes through, they can find another place to live.
The wife does a Weeping Willie routine and swears up and down her mother is not going to sue. We give it over to our insurance company who tells the shyster to drop dead. End of that story.
But from there it only got worse.
All these people do is fight. They never talk when they can scream and they never miss a chance to slam doors, stomp around on the floor and tear down the stairs as if they've been shot from a cannon (oh, if only!).
Over the summer, the butthole teen-age son has his friends over for all-nighters while "the parents" are away. Mary, my dad's aide, called the cops on the bastards at least twice while I was out for the evening. And when they're not fighting, you wait for the fight you know is coming to begin.
Last week was the kicker, though.
It was a Friday. I came home tired, still trying to shake a nasty cold, and I decided I'd just sit in front of the idiot box and watch "Austin Powers: Goldmember" on Channel Five. Yes, it's not "Masterpiece Theater" but I was pretty beat.
Well, the animals start yelling at each other. I'm pretty much used to this, so I wasn't paying much attention. But gradually I notice that this particular bout is going on longer than the usual brawls, and it's getting progressively louder.
I hear shouting in the stairwell and then there's shouting in front of the house. I get up and peer out the little diamond-shaped window on my front door and I see the wife, holding a suitcase, trying to walk away, while the teen-age butthole son has got his arms around her, saying, "don't go, don't go," over and over.
So while Austin Powers is taking on Dr. Evil, Mini-Me, and Fat Bastard, I'm watching my tenants take on each other. Yeah, baby!
The husband is standing on the front stoop saying, "let her go, Bobby, let her go," while the couple's three-year-old daughter, a beautiful little girl, is running back and forth between her parents like a duck in a shooting gallery, crying "mommy, daddy, mommy, daddy..."
For this alone, for causing this innocent child all that pain, these bastards should be horse-whipped at high noon on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library in Grand Army Plaza.
The wife's eyes are rolling out of her and finally the son let's her go. Then it seems like it's going to settle down, but a few moments later, the husband throws the butthole son out of the house, saying, "get out, all of you get out of my fucking life!" Hmmm, my thoughts exactly...
It was like an episode of "Cops" happening on my front stoop. I've never lived in a trailer park, but I think it's got to be a lot like living with these animals.
House of Pain
I lived in that upstairs apartment until I was about five, and then we moved downstairs to live with my grandmother and began renting out the second floor. We've had six families and only one was decent. The rest were drug addicts, dirt bags, liars and crooks.
There was family where the son, who was my age, was routinely brought home by a cop car in the dead of night. He eventually croaked, I believe, but not before my father went to war with the whole bunch of them.
I seem to recall the woman of the house, Mrs. Condon, telling my father to drop dead during a heated phone argument and hanging up on him. Big mistake. My father charged down to the basement and yanked her phone lines out of the wall.
There was another bunch who also fought morning, new and night and then lit out of here one Saturday morning. I don't know if they ripped us off or not, but, again, we were glad to see them go.
And each time, when the relationship soured, and we wondered how in the hell did we ever rent to this crew, my parents would say, "they seemed nice."
The last bunch was a Vietnamese family who just that apartment something fierce. They wrote on the walls in crayon (!); they never cleaned the stove for all the years they were up there, and they fought us tooth and nail when we tried to bring in prospective tenants.
I got into a shouting match with the son one evening and that was about as close as I've ever come to punching somebody in a long while--but I didn't.
My father was in better shape two years ago and he had taken to love the Vietnamese people. Now my father's love, like his hatred, is unconditional an unchanging. If he likes you, that's it for life. You could be Jack the Ripper, practice your craft right over his head, toss body parts out into the alley, my dad won't say a bad word about you.
We had an Irish family in there one time and my father hated them so much, he took them to small claims court after they moved out. And he won. The son of the family was shouting at my father after the judge made his ruling, yelling, "how could you lie like that?" I could have told the guy, save your strength, pal, your anger is like ice cream to my father.
But the Vietnamese bunch, when they left with that apartment in appalling condition, my father gave them their deposit back. I could have strangled him.
Now we've got this crew who make the last pack of losers look like the Vanderbilts. The wife came down on Friday, the one-week anniversary of the big brawl, to meekly apologize for the fiasco.
I heard myself, "oh, that's all right," but I don't know why, because that's not how I feel.
Feel Free to Drop Dead
It isn't all right that you behave this way, it is not remotely all right that you hold your nauseating family battles in front of my father's house so the entire block has to look at you. Yet again, it's my desperate need to smooth things over, to avoid confrontation. It's a sickness, I know.
We had fights in my family, but we had enough decency to keep them within the four walls of our home. I realize now how noisy we were, how our fights must have go up through the floorboards, out into the alley, and I wish I could go back in time and undo all these battles.
These bums, however, have no sense of shame. Tonight, while we were watching "Jarhead" on DVD, the mother and her middle daughter had one of their many battles, to a point where the scenes of Desert Storm depicted in the movie started to look pretty good.
The irony here is that a local grocery store owner we've known for years recommended these people. I could strangle him for this grief he's brought into our house, but he is the very same guy who introduced us to Mary, my dad's aide and a walking gift from God. I guess we'll call it even.
Right now we're in it for the money. When my dad dies, we're going to sell the house and, as God is my judge, I will never be a landlord as long as I live.
It is not worth the misery and in New York City, at least, it is a losing battle. Talk to homeowners and you'll hear are horror stories of devil tenants blowing off their rent for six months while the landlord fights in court. No, thank you.
I could complain about the noise, but it's like trying to tell a pig not to roll around in its own filth. They wouldn't understand and they would miss the slop something fierce.
Tonight my sister broached the idea of maybe taking the upstairs bunch to court and kicking them out. I don't like the idea of protracted legal battles and losing that steady income, but I know I can't take much more of this nonsense. The next few weeks will be telling.
I just don't get it. They seemed like nice people...