8.07.2004

The Friday Situation

I apologize for not posting yesterday. Things were... slow. I had other things to take care of, and I was exhausted, and I did work on a longer post that I'd like to finish today and share, but we'll see. I may not finish it tomorrow. I have grass to cut today.

Last night I went to the final Polka party. It was an interesting time. Unlike the old parties, where I knew nearly everyone in attendance, I only knew a handful of people this time around. I sang a couple of numbers with the band, and it felt good, but then the band tore down and the disco came on the stereo and the giant stein came out, full of candied alcohol, and a melancholy settled gently on the proceedings.

Between conversations of somnambulism and W. Somerset Maugham; between cigarettes and beers; between the bright, danceable songs and the strangers who Could Not Know what all this meant; between the sequins of the disco ball shimmering on the living room walls, it occurred to me: This is the end.

It's not like everyone is leaving town, but with these two going, it sure feels like it. I'll get a chance to see them one more time before they go, but it's over.

The past two years have been like that small whirlpool that forms in the bathtub as it drains. Remember back when you were a child, and it was magical, the way you could see down the center of it and it seemed as though you could stick your finger out and touch the bottom of the tub without touching the water? How it appeared, and you sat, captivated, and then it was gone?

Well, for a time, it seemed as though I could reach out and get to the bottom of things with all these people. Of course I got all wet, and now the center is breaking up. Soon we'll all just be afloat on different horizons.

8.05.2004

Brewers Tracker

Baseball players are too easy to make fun of.

8.04.2004

Franco Macalousso!

It seems that the Anti-Christ has appeared, and he is... Barack Obama!!!!

Seriously, for anyone who remembers the Christian phase John and I went through a while back, this is quite hilarious. Triply so if you've ever watched Apocalypse, Revelation, and Tribulation.

Victory!

An update to the previous post: as of one hour ago, I have successfully negotiated the termination of Milhouse's tenancy on my property, effective immediately.

Grumble Acres

As I type these words, it is 12:07 in the morning.

I've just been woken up by a tenant who claimed another tenant was banging on his door and threatening to kick his door in if he didn't open up. This first tenant, who I will call Bill (the names are changed to protect peoples' identities), is a bit of a long story. He trafficks in exaggerations, telling manipulative lies to probably boost his non-existent self-esteem. Things like "Oh that asshole across the hall spilled milk all over the kitchen floor after I just mopped it up and then I took a shower and I don't want to be walking through that after I take a shower."

The truth is something closer to this: he didn't mop the floor (because it's totally filthy), someone poured himself a glass of milk from the refridgerator and spilled three drops in front of the refridgerator, a good seven feet away from the front of Bill's door.

I should explain that every tenant has a pet problem. Bill has this nemesis, a Mexican fellow I'll call Danny, who appears to be the source of all suffering in Bill's life, going out of his way (and his character, I have to say) to do things that have no witness (except Bill) and no evidence. Darla, upstairs, has the parking: until nobody parks in the parking lot except for her, she will not be happy. The folks across the hall from me have the problem of being undergrads, stoners, and white trash; this of course means they'll never complain to me, but be an eternal spring of complaints for me. And then Milhouse, his pet problem is paranoid schizophrenia.

He actually seemed really cool at first, Milhouse did. Really easy to interact with, if a little bit emotional about a thing or two. But emotional I can usually handle around here. Tenants have odd tics in addition to their pet problems, and emotional has been judged an "okay tic." But then he was coming over every day, walking in, asking to use the phone, complaining about some guy sleeping in the laundry room, and would I please put a lock on the door.

I first realized Milhouse might be more than just emotional when I tried to explain to him why I can't put a lock on the door.

"Why not?" he asked.

"Because I'd need to get approval from the office, and I've asked before."

"Just put one on, just like that," he said, with an expressive gesture of his hands.

"But I can't without approval from the office. I don't have the skills to do it myself, and even if I did, they need to say it's okay."

"Whatever man, you just don't fuckin' care. You ain't keepin' it real."

"I care..."

"No you don't. You do not care. Why I gotta ask you about this and you tell me you can't do this? You can do it, you just don't wanna."

Yes, the old 'you can do it, but don't want to' scenario. Employed by all tenants when a request they make would be technically, organizationally, or practically impossible, and I tell them so. Like assigned parking. This is practically impossible, because the first time a visitor shows up for ten minutes and parks in the spot for #14, the guy from #14 will park in the spot for #15. And the guy from #15 will park in #16, etc., and soon somebody doesn't have a place to park their car, and if I want to solve the problem I have to give every tenant a ticket because some non-tenant was dropping off a sack of crack rocks. The 'you can do it, but don't want to' scenario basically means that no matter what, in the eyes of the tenant, I have lost the argument. It matters not that I have actually won, or more accurately that he has dropped out of the argument. What matters is that he has come up with - an idea, a soundbite, a catchphrase! - that happens to be a logical fallacy (tabloid thinking) that would seem to explain every action I take.

The Milhouse situation came to a head pretty early on, when a tenant ("Oliver") from one building came to visit another ("Michael") who lived in the room next to Milhouse's. As Oliver was leaving Michael's room, Milhouse confronted him and shoved him. Oliver immediately came and told me - good on him for that, by the way - and was shaking from all the adrenaline. When he told me, he also said if it happened again, he was going to stab Milhouse's ass to death.

So I went to talk to Milhouse, who was screaming and shouting and raising a ruckus over in his building. Something about a motherfucker, thinks he can come on in, he don't live here, I tell him what it is, I keepin' it real, he don't live here, etc. etc. blah blah.

What Milhouse contended was this: that Oliver, who lives 20 yards away in another building with a dry mattress and blankets and a TV and a girlfriend in his room, was the unknown person sleeping in the laundry room.

I'll give you a moment to ponder that.

This was the time when I realized that Milhouse was not right in the head at all. I tried to explain that it didn't make sense that a guy who has a dry mattress with blankets and a TV and a girlfriend in a room (a locked room, I should add and point out that earlier I have established that the laundry is not) 20 yards away.

"So you agree with him," he said. He squinted his eyes and bent over to get at my eye level, tightened his mouth and got about six inches from my face. He gestured violently towards the other building, Oliver's.

"You agree with him," he repeated.

"It's not a question of agreeing..." I started.

"See I don't care what you think. I spend my whole life with folk like you agreein' against me I understand. But you wrong. I keepin' it real, you don't know what going on around here. I just tryin' to keep it safe, it ain't safe here. I pay rent. You hear me? I pay rent and I won't have nobody sleepin' in there who ain't supposed to be in there."

"I don't want anybody in there either," I said.

"Then why you let him come over here? He don't live here."

"He can come visit Michael if he wants to."

"WHY DON' MICHAEL GO VISIT HIM?! That what I wanna know."

At this point Michael comes out and gets involved, and I have to end the whole scene here because Michael needs his own post to describe how incredibly and irreparably fucked-up he is. To try to involve him as a character in this would just make it needlessly complex.

The end of that event, though, was that I calmed Milhouse down. I told him to go to his room (I really did - it felt great), and as long as people aren't sleeping in the laundry room, we're all okay. Then I knocked on Oliver's door, and told him to stay the fuck away from Milhouse because he's totally crazy.

A week later, one of the wooden covers I use for the three outdoor trashcans disappeared and showed up covering an exterior drain of Milhouse's building. As I picked it up to bring it back to the trashcan, he came outside and told me he put it there to keep beavers from getting in the building. Because he could hear them in the building, and ever since he put that wooden cover over the drain (which just goes into the ground), he can't hear those beavers anymore. So just for his peace of mind, I replaced it with a "special board" I found in the dumpster that was "perfect" for keeping the beavers out.

And that was the end of it for a while, and I was beginning to suspect that Milhouse had finally gotten on the appropriate medication.

But last night, Bill knocked on my door.

"There's somebody sleeping in the laundry room and I don't feel safe around here anymore, that black dude chased me halfway up the stairs, accused me of being the guy who sleeps in the basement and I'm going to sue your rental office and make them pay to put me in a new apartment. The guy IS CRAZY. I don't feel safe. This guy is crazy. He's nuts. He's insane. I don't feel safe. I'm going to make you pay to put me in a new apartment, I just dropped off my rent check, but I'll have it cancelled and go somewhere else. The guy is nuts. I don't feel safe. He threatened me."

"He isn't going to hurt you," I said.

"I'm not taking that chance," he snapped.

So I looked in the laundry room and, sure enough, there was somebody sleeping in there. I'd been trying to catch this guy for a year, and finally, he was in my grasp. I called the police, who eventually showed up.

As the friendly officer was taking my information, Milhouse comes out.

"It's cool," I said. "I've got it taken care of."

"Naw man," he said, "That's Walter. He's my friend. He just tired. He just need somewhere to crash for a little while. That ain't the guy who been sleeping in there. That ain't the guy."

So. Milhouse gets angry and physically aggressive when someone is over visiting a friend, or trying to do laundry, because "they're using it as an excuse to sleep down there and smoke dope," but it's okay for his friend to sleep down there.

I walked away and let the cop take care of it. The guy sleeping there was someone we kicked out months ago, a not-too-bright young fellow who has an entourage of crack addicts, alcoholics, and prostitutes.

Today, I even wore my CRUSHER! shirt to work, for finally having caught someone sleeping in the laundry. I was hella proud.

It poured rain this afternoon and evening.

I went to bed at 9:30. Before hitting the sack, I checked to make sure no one was sleeping in the laundry room.

At 11:35, the doorbell rang. Lee nudged me awake.

"Are you gonna get that?"

"Nhmpbnnh," I said. The doorbell rang again. I pull on a pair of shorts and answer the door. It's Bill.

"I am ready to move out and you have to do something he is knocking on my door and finally shouting that he will kick it down if I don't open it and this guy is crazy. Okay? He's nuts. He's crazy. And he's telling me he'll kick my door down if I don't open it. He's crazy. I don't feel safe."

"He isn't going to kick your door down," I say.

"And Bobby (another tenant - ed.) has those people over again. Go knock on his door! And this guy is pounding on my door telling me to open up or he'll kick it down. He's crazy. I don't feel safe." (If you think it's annoying reading these repeated phrases, you should consider what it's like listening to them in person.)

"He isn't going to hurt you," I say.

"I don't know that!" he snaps. I start to feel like I've had this conversation before.

Bill launches into a sob story about how he was attacked and beaten and robbed and dragged across a parking lot downtown when he used to work there, and his best friend is a lawyer, and he's going to sue us and make us pay him to get a new apartment and it isn't safe and that guy is crazy and I've been awake for all of two minutes and I'm wondering how to make it all stop.

So as Bill takes a breath I quickly say "I'll take care of it," and shut the door on him as he's launching into more "He's crazy"s and "I don't feel safe"s. And I put a shirt on. And I put my sandals on. And I go over to the building.

Milhouse has laid a soaking wet mattress down over the hallway in front of his room. A fire inspector's dream.

I start hauling it away. Milhouse's door jerks open and he starts shouting at me.

"What the fuck are you doin'?!"

"This can't be here," I say.

"You don't know shit. You're fuckin' stupid. C'm'ere and look at this. LOOK AT THIS!!!"

He shows me the soaking wet carpet beneath where the soaking wet mattress was and explains how he was keeping the rain from getting in his room. I don't even try counter-explaining that there's no conceivable possible way that the water is magically appearing in a hallway in the bottom of a building, with no wet trail leading to it. It is not leaking up through the bottom of the building. What happened is that Milhouse got worried that water might get in his room, took a water-logged mattress from the laundry room, and forced it down onto the ground. And then proceeded to threaten to kick down someone's door, maybe.

So as he's trying to explain what's real, I just walk away. I've had enough of him.

He follows, shouting at me, calling me all manner of names and insulting my intelligence. He tells me I'm a bird brain; that I've got one bird seed in my head; that I don't use my head for nothin' but a hat rack; that I don't even try to think; that I am a lying, cheating, unfair sumbitch; that I don't make no sense. Finally, when I tell him that he needs to cool his jets and not threaten to kick in peoples' doors, he wants to go upstairs and have a talk with Bill.

"He can show you what he's got going on in his place. Unless you're in on it too, which you are I know it."

He claims people are being loud, keeping him up, doing illegal stuff. It's the aforementioned Bobby, he's got some people over. But Bobby is black, and Milhouse knows it's not a black guy.

I knock on Bobby's door. I tell him to quiet things down, and start wrapping up the party (not really a party, he's got two friends over and they're having a few beers and watching a movie).

Milhouse is not satisfied and starts yelling at me that we need to go talk to Bill.

"We will not," I say, "and keep your voice down. People are trying to sleep."

Milhouse raises his voice and says we need to go and check on Bill and see what he's got cooking in there, tells me he'll open his door for me, why won't Bill open his?

"That's not the issue here," I say.

But suddenly Milhouse is in a shouting match with one of Bobby's guests, a Cuban guy. I don't know how it started, but now it's myself and Bobby between these two, shouting and pointing fingers at each other, I can't understand a goddamn word of what they're saying.

Somehow, Milhouse decides he's had enough and leaves. But only after pointing at me and levelling some insults I didn't catch.

Now the Cuban wants to talk to me. He goes on and on about he don't give nobody no harm, he's from Guantanamo and he's got his papers, he just needs to get his new place.

As usual with the friends of tenants, especially those that have had a few beers, I have no fucking clue what he's talking about. I shake his hand several times. He grips my hand to his heart. We're brothers, he and I. We understand each other. He's got his papers, so this country is wide open to him. He's been here 37 years and has never stabbed anybody (he jabs two fingers into my ribs while telling me this), never raped nobody, never killed nobody. He drove drunk once, got caught, but he's learned his lesson. He's a good guy.

I politely guide him back into Bobby's room, then call out Bobby. I tell him to keep the noise down, get ready to tell his friends to leave. He asks me if I want some of his pizza.

I come back home.

And now I'm writing this. It's anticlimactic, certainly, but it's an idea of what happens here, at my home, in my neighborhood. My girlfriend is likely awake as I type this, and she has to work in four hours (it's now almost 2AM), I'm not going to sleep I'm so tense, and I'm supposed to be at work in six hours.

It's true that Milhouse is completely insane, and is perhaps a threat to peoples' safety. I think he's just a bully who happens to be a paranoid schizophrenic, but I don't think he'd go so far as to hurt someone.

The person I keep coming back to in my thoughts is Bill. He's obviously miserable here, and I really do sympathize with him, but if someone was pounding on my door, threatening to kick it in if I didn't open up, the first thing I'd do is call the cops. Wouldn't you?