Thursday, August 30, 2007

Not Again!

Poor, poor Martin. Yesterday he saw me packing boxes in the garage. So he knows. He knows that familiar screech of packing tape all too well.

To Martin the sounds of assembling boxes can mean only one thing: the world as he knows it is about to be completely dismantled and relocated. I feel badly for him - especially since we'll be moving from 2280 square feet into a space that's probably going to be around 500 square feet.

My poor baby. Last night he never even came to bed. He hasn't snubbed my pillow since Miss Madison was here over a year ago. He only does that when he's either mad at me or just stressed out.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that we are moving to Manhattan! Woo-hoo! A dream come true. Ever since we set foot in Maryland 19 months ago I've wanted to go back to NY. Yesterday I accepted a wonderful job opportunity at a Wall Street brokerage firm that I'm very well acquainted with, and I plan to start in about a month. That means I have a million logistical details to work out.

I have to list the townhouse, sell the car, sell some furniture, find temporary (furnished) housing until the townhouse sells, move stuff into storage now, move stuff into temp housing, and later move all my furniture up to NY after closing on the townhouse and finding a permanent apartment. Yikes!

Earlier tonight I was drinking a glass of milk when it hit me: Over the past year I got used to drinking organic milk. But I probably won't be able to afford organic milk in Manhattan. I'm guessing it sells for around six bucks a gallon. Just a guess. And I'm going to have to stock up on thirteen-dollar bags of kitty litter here because they'll be ten bucks more up there. At least this time I'll actually be earning enough money to afford the rent. :)

I also need to stock up on non-perishables at Costco before I go. Dang - I'm going to miss Costco! But believe me, that's about all I'll miss, besides the few close friends I've made here.

For now, I just can't get there quick enough. (But don't tell Martin. I don't want to sleep alone again tonight!)

So that's my good news (and Martin's bad news). Back to packing!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Partly Cloudy over Missy's House

My friend Missy and her family took a vacation to the beach last week. It's something they do every couple years. When she called me tonight and described their numerous vacation mishaps, I told her she never should've invited me over for that Maryland crab dinner at her house a couple weeks ago - my bad luck must be contagious.

I should let her tell the story - she had me in stitches when she described the "comedy of errors" they endured at Sunset Beach. I can't possibly do it justice, but here's how their family vacation went.

Missy's youngest daughter, 8-year-old Natalie, was riding a bike during vacation when she got her foot caught in the spokes and tore up her leg so badly that she is still on crutches today. She literally ripped the skin off part of her leg. That fiasco handled, Missy tried to soak up some rays on the beach. While there, she got a visit from her husband who said he was taking their 14-year-old son Derek to the emergency room. He'd cut himself on some coral (or barnacles). Derek ended up with stitches on his arm and eight staples on his leg! Staples - ick! The staples were so uncomfortable that he had to get a local beforehand. And I suspect that Derek hates needles as much as I do. I cringed when Missy told me about that.

Meanwhile, their other daughter, 12-year-old Kendall, has been confined to a bubble as a preventative measure. She's still alive and has yet to require an ER visit.

So they left early to come home, thinking they could leave my bad luck at edge of the Atlantic. Not so!

Today Missy had her first day at her new teaching job, and I asked her how it went. She told me it was chaos. Basically she spent her whole day helping kids find their school buses. Huh? Mysteriously, this morning it was discovered that all the school buses had flat tires. A teenage prank, no less. So on opening day of school the buses were running two hours behind, wreaking havoc on families everywhere. I was laughing so hard. I thought, That's the perfect prank - let all the air out of the school bus tires on opening day! She said it is presumed that the perpetrators got the idea from an MTV show.

To top that off, her husband's car stalled and her computer at home is down.

So I told her it was a mistake to have me over to their house. Even Missy admitted it had already occurred to her that it was as if my little black cloud had moved over to her house. My thoughts exactly.

I'd sure like to see that little cloud move on to someone who deserves it, for a change - like that contractor who completed my 10-day deck/fence/patio job in three months last summer, or the doctor who botched my Lasik surgery in February, or the woman at Howard County Recycling who hung up on me this morning when I called for the sixth time to complain about them leaving my recycling bin on the baby grass I am trying to nurture, or the idiots at that sent three defective computers in a row this spring then put me through hell trying to get my rightful refund (which took two months). . . .

Oh, never mind. The blogger server doesn't have enough TB of disk space to store such a list.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

What Ever Happened to Being a Good Neighbor?

It's bad enough that I am now stuck in suburbia, but why did I have to end up next door to the worst possible neighbors? The Rednecks. I keep asking myself "Why me?" but no one is answering. I guess I should just give up on trying to figure out why my luck stinks.

So the woman who lives on one side of me is about 55 years old. Let's call her Kitty. She still dresses like a 22-year-old--not to mentions drinks and smokes like one too. I mean, when was the last time you saw a 55-year-old woman's belly ring? It's just inappropriate. Anyway, she started dating this beer-bellied redneck right around the time we both moved into these townhomes. Let's call him Bubba. What Bubba didn't know was that Kitty was lying to him about her age, claiming that she was 10 years younger than she is. She also was cheating on him, dating another man at the same time.

I can't stand Bubba. He is one of those big, fat, mooching losers who don't work and treat women like crap. He's also a know-it-all. I could be out doing something in my yard, like watering my plants, and he'll come over and tell me I'm doing it wrong. Not to mention, he was always parking his car illegally, on the curb in front of the house, instead of in the driveway or garage, as our HOA rules state. Kitty owns two cars - one being a snazzy BMW convertible, and the other a van. Despite living in Maryland, Bubba still licenses his vehicle in West Virginia because it's cheaper that way, or so Kitty told me.

These two are perpetual law-breakers. For one thing, they are always pawning their garbage off on someone else. Kitty would be taking her garbage out and putting it in her car when she'd announce to me, "I'm taking this over the to dumpster where my Ex lives." Prior to that, when we still had construction dumpters nearby, she'd dump her garbage illegally in those. My neighbors on the right did the same every single week for months last year, despite all the signs saying that the dumpster is someone else's property and is not for homeowner use.

Eventually, the dumpster went away, and Kitty had to find someone else to dump her garbage on. (Don't ask my why she can't just put it out by the curb like everyone else.)

On more than one occasion, she or Bubba put their garbage bags out on my lawn instead of in front of their own house. (Note: I said on my lawn, not at the curb.) The county limits the number of bags you can put out at the curb to four per week. One time several months ago I had three bags out. Bubba or Kitty went and dumped two of their bags with mine, leaving them under the limit and me over the limit. I went out and put their damn bags back on their curb. This was after I'd sent her an email asking nicely that she put her garbage in front of her house, not mine. But these people don't care. (Note: They certainly don't recycle, either.)

Not long after we moved in, Kitty complained to me repeatedly about a neighbor parking her car across from our townhouses, making it harder to get in and out of our very narrow driveways. (Meanwhile, she and Bubba continue to park directly in front of the mailboxes, in front of my house, in front of their house, everywhere but where they should be parking.) Then these two rang my doorbell one day last summer, HOA documents in hand. Bubba showed me the page where it states that there is no on-street parking in our community. He turned around, pointed to the neighbor's Merceds parked across the street from Kitty's house and said, "She's not allowed to do that!"

However, directly across from that car was Kitty's van, also parked illegally AND on the wrong side, blocking the mailboxes and reducing the road to one lane.

It was from that exchange I deduced that the Rednecks don't think the rules apply to them - but the rules certainly must apply to everyone else.

Kitty's not too bright either. She likes to blab about her illegal activities. She told me about how Bubba cheats on his license tags and on his taxes (I mean to say, doesn't pay taxes). One day she also complained to me that she wasn't feeling well and how she'd gotten a prescription in her son's name to use for herself.

Ok, so we've got insurance fraud, tax evasion, ongoing (and multiple) HOA rules violations, and illegal dumping going on next door. But it doesn't stop there.

I have never liked the way Bubba treats Kitty. He is always yelling at her, telling her what to do and how to do it, like she's a six-year-old. She just stands there and takes it, following his orders. It makes me sick. Last year Kitty would complain to me about him all the time. He was lazy. He was living with her but not paying any rent. He'd taken $15,000 from her but was not paying her back. He had promised to put up a fence and build a deck for her, but she couldn't get him to do that. She was sick of his cat pooping outside in the back yard (Bubba wouldn't clean it up).

Then one day this past spring, Kitty asked me to come over and replace her locks. Bubba had beat her up--(no surprise there)--and she was done with him. He was in jail. I was relieved she'd finally gotten rid of the loser, and I did go over that Saturday and change her dead-bolts for her.

A week later, Kitty rang my doorbell. "You're gonna hate me. Bubba's back." Sure enough, she'd taken him back. She told me, "I know, I know. My kids hate him; my best friend hates him; everybody hates him. But we talked for like six hours and worked everything out." I told her, "You know it's going to happen again." But there was nothing else I could say.

A couple weeks later I was out gardening when I came around to the front of the building and there were three cop cars out front, blocking our driveways. Bubba, shirtless, was loading some stuff into the back of his SUV, and a cop was taking Polaroids of his fat gut. I didn't see any marks on him. Bubba sees me and chirps "Hey Sue!" like nothing is going on. (My name is not Sue, and I hate being called Sue.) I didn't know where Kitty was. I finally figured out she was in the back of the patrol car, gesturing wildly at me. The policeman on the sidewalk wouldn't let me talk to her, so I went on inside.

Next I did what any neighbor would do: I watched the scene unfold out my front window. Kitty was out of the car and standing behind the patrol car when they cuffed her--right in front of her own home in broad daylight. How humiliating. I drove away a bit later, on my way to the gym. I rolled down my right window to speak to one of the officers after he unblocked my driveway for me. I said, "He beats her, you know." He nodded in empathy and asked me for my phone number - said that Kitty had asked him to get it so she could call me from jail.

I fully expected her to call me and ask to be bailed out. I counted the cash I had in the house, anticipating having to spend it on this worthless cause. When she finally did call it was 9:30 at night. Someone had already bailed her out. She told me what had happened. They'd had another fight and Bubba wouldn't let her have her phone charger back. She reached out to grab it from him and scratched his chest with her fingernail. So Bubba called 911 and said she assaulted him.

I knew what was going on - Bubba wanted was avenging her for having him arrested last time he beat her up. On the phone I told Kitty, "Well so now he's gone for good. That's good. You can get on with your life. Just forget about the money he owes you. You're better off this way." Blah, blah, blah.

Wrong. Next morning Bubba's car was back in her driveway. Her excuse? She wanted to sweet-talk him into dropping the charges against her.

And so the saga continues. Bubba finally built a fence. It took three months; they didn't get architectural approval from the HOA board first as required, and the stupid fence doesn't match everyone else's. Big surprise there.

Kitty told me that the only reason he finally put up the fence was for his cat. At the time, he had a 14-year-old indoor cat with diabetes. This cat was pretty fat and didn't look well. One day this summer I was outside tending to my garden when the cat came over and peed right on the mulch next to an azalea in my garden - Bubba and Kitty were both standing right there and said nothing. (My Martin is forbidden from crossing any property lines when he's outside with me.)

A few days later I was outside talking to Kitty. I told her I'd just received notice that I was getting laid off and really needed the $350 she owed me for her half of the fence I put up between our properties (um, over a year ago). She said she didn't have it just then. I told her my last paycheck would be coming the first week of July, so I'd appreciate the money by then. She then proceeded to bitch about Bubba's cat. She'd devised a plan to get rid of it. She was going to tell Bubba that the cat must've run away. In reality, she and her best friend planned to take this cat far away and dump it in a field somewhere.

She also told me that the cat needs an insulin shot every day. I knew that if she did what she was threatening to do to the poor cat, it would be dead within a week. I honestly didn't think she'd do it. I thought killing people's pets was something only done by serial killers during their formative years.

Three days later I'm pulling into my garage after work when my neighbor on the other side walks up and asks, "Have you seen Bubba's cat?" I told him no. "Well, Bubba's been out here crying because his cat's missing."

Sure enough, she'd done it. So we can now add cruelty to animals to the Rednecks' rap sheet. Animal cruelty is just something I can't tolerate. These two can beat each other up until someone gets killed, for all I care. But to harm a defenseless, sick, old cat is just unconscionable.

Bubba never found out what happened to his cat. He never mentioned it to me. (Thank god, or I would've been forced into a position where I'd have to lie.)

Meanwhile, I did ask Kitty again for the money that she promised me (in April 2006) she would pay me. She got all mad at me and told me, "I don't have it, Sue." So I asked her nicely if she knew when she'd have it. This really flustered her and she started getting miffy. (It really was a simple question.) Her answer was, "I need to see the bill," followed by, "Your flowers are growing on my property."

Ok, she was being irrational. I can't even explain it here, but I have always taken care of the grass in front of my house that is between her driveway and mine. It's not technically anyone's yard, really, but I take care of it. My other neighbors follow the same unwritten rule - we take care of whatever is in front of each of our units where there are no official property lines. Kitty's yard is nothing but weeds and brown dirt that the rest of us are sick of looking it. So her accusation about my flowers encroaching on "her" property was just a way of justifying (in her feeble mind) not paying me the money she owes me.

I did dig up the bill and took it over to her. She was in the back yard with Bubba when I called to her through the fence. But she didn't want to see the bill - told me "Now's not a good time." I gave up.

I know I'll never see that money. We had a verbal agreement about splitting the money that i paid for the fence, but such matters requiring minimal integrity do not concern this type of person.

And the final part of this story follows. (Mind you, this is only one household of unneighborly folks I have to live near. There are other horrors besides the Redneck household of lunatics.)

I've been struggling to keep my grass and other landscaping alive two summers (and two droughts) in a row. With the blazing, relentless heat here, it's not easy - it requires attention on a daily basis.

The area between the sidewalk and the road in front of each townhouse is owned by the county but was sodded by the builder at construction time. I do my best to nourish that grass, trim it, and keep it up. But this summer it was a struggle. A lot of it had turned brown. So I went out and dug up the dead grass by hand, put down fresh grass seed, covered it with a dark humus, and started watering it like crazy - mornings and evenings.

(I'm quite sure Bubba would tell me that August is no time to plant grass seed, but my house is for sale, so it had to be done.) Two days ago I noticed fresh baby blades of bright green grass coming up. I felt like the proud mother. Yay!

This morning, out the front window, I saw Kitty's van parked illegally, partly on her grass and partly on my curb. Later the van was gone when I went out to water everything before going to the gym and was talking to my neighbor Patty when I noticed the blatant tire tracks across my fresh baby grass and humus. There were dirty tire tracks along the curb in front of my driveway and Kitty's driveway too. I was livid. I said to Patty, "I can't believe Kitty drove over my new grass!" She just shook her head because she's sick of uncaring neighbors too. I said, "This is exactly why I have to leave here!" She understood.

So I got two green plant stakes and drove one into each corner of that strip of land where my new grass was growing, adjacent to the curb. I tied bright yellow plastic tape to each. This should keep Kitty and Bubba off my grass. I went to the gym. Not two hours later, I returned home. The stake closest to my driveway was intact. The other (closest to Kitty's driveway) was gone. Her van was back, parked in the same spot. I looked around and found the stake with yellow tape in front of her garage where she'd tossed it. I picked it up. It was half the stake it used to be. She'd mowed it right down with absolutely no regret! She said nothing to me about it - didn't even bother to return the stake.

See, I'm telling you. I paid a half a million for this place expecting to live with a decent class of people. Nope. Doesn't work that way. I have learned that there are rednecks at all income levels. They don't take care of their property, they don't give a crap about what they do to their neighbors, and they don't care about anyone but themselves.

And I'm the one who has to live next door to them.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

99.999% Downtime - Guaranteed!

I don't normally do this, but I have to share this Web site with my readers. My brother Dave sent this link to me, along with this sentiment: "Some people have too much time on their hands." Here it is, for my fellow geeks:

Oh, and do click the Tech Support tab and fill in the form.