Friday, April 13, 2007

C'mon, you know you missed me.

It’s four o’clock in the morning and my mind is restless, but all my body wants to do is curl into the sheets and go back to sleep. Rex is hogging most of the bed. Pip is snoring. Just thought of going down the street to the all-night diner for some green chile-smothered eggs; sitting with the sketch-balls who frequent the place, which looks like it’s straight out of a smoke-filled 1960’s flick starring blonde waitresses donning bouffant hair-dos, long cigarettes dripping from their mouths into the food.

I’ve been on hiatus for too long. But I’ve got serious excuses. Before I get to those, I’ll tell you what happened last night.

I was on my way out, getting into my car, when one of the most prominent drug dealers in the neighborhood (the one who’s always wearing a track suit that looks like my grandma’s pajamas) approached.
“Hey, girl,” he said, crossing the street towards me with a beer. “Whatchoo doin? Where you goin’ this late?”
“Nowhere,” I said. “Just to pick something up, then I’m coming right back.” Translation: not enough time for you to break into my house.
“Whatchoo doin’ with that there window?” he pointed to the nine-foot slider I have propped against the fence. I shrugged.
“Not sure yet,” I told him.
“What kinda music you listen to?” I knew then that this exchange was headed in a very bad direction.
“Um, a little bit of everything, I guess.” It’s best to be non-specific, I think, when you want to show disinterest.
“Damn right!” he said, taking a swig of his beer. “I walked by yo’ house one day and you was listenin’ to rap! Damn, girl, I was trippin’!”
I told him I was from Brooklyn…which is sort of true. Kind of.
“Is that guy you who comes ‘round here, is he yo’ man?” He meant the contractor, who I banished from the house about a month ago (story to follow).
“What guy?” I asked.
“That dude. With that big black dog? He always gettin’ dropped off by some fat chick?”
“No,” I said. “He’s not.”
“So you ever dated a black man before?”
“Several,” I said.
“You like it?” As in, do you like big, black cock, little white girl?
“They were nice men,” I said, getting the shivers. The truth is, they weren’t very nice men; their character wasn’t as firm as their members. Here, the drug dealer proceeded to drape his six-foot-four body, reeking of Tecate, over mine, and whisper,
“You’s a very fine female, you know.”
Um, thanks? “You’s gots a man?” I almost told him I was a lesbian, but I didn’t want to cause undue excitement. So, I lied and said, yes, I do. And he has a gun and a dog and has killed a man with his bare hands in my honor. So, pretty please, go back to your boys and your beer. Don’t get your ‘do rag in a twist.

So, what’s happened? Where have I been? Why did I banish the contractor? I’ll try to make this saga short.

I’d been feeling frustrated by the contractor for a long time. I felt as though he wasn’t doing shit around my house – at least, no more than making idle messes and leaving them for me to pick up. He’d start something, but never finish it. There were semi-demolished structures throughout the house, which I worried jeopardized the building’s integrity and put me at risk for a citation by the health dept. I worried the house would be condemned if the wrong person were to find out I was living in it. I felt like I was being taken advantage of, and that my concerns, which I voiced very reasonably (time after time), were falling on deaf (and possibly retarded…definitely very stoned) ears. When I’d raise a concern, he’d condescend to me like I was a stupid girl-child who didn’t know shit about construction. And maybe I don’t, but I do have common sense. The guy was a serious stoner, which I didn’t have a major issue with, except for the fact that we live a mere block away from an elementary school. It’s not the kind of neighborhood where anyone’s likely to get busted for pot, but it was still a liability. Moreover, he was clumsy and disrespectful, and constantly complaining. Totatlly irresponsible (i.e. setting off the alarm and sending the cops to my house; losing his keys on a daily basis; leaving his enormous, aggressive dog alone in his room w/o food or water for days at a time; asking me to baby sit his nieces when he’d already agreed to do it; dumping refuse from another job in my yard; breaking shit all the time…)

Worse, he had my future planned for the next ten to twenty years: we were going to go into business together, fix up houses, and get rich. Now, that idea’s all well and good, except for a few key points: 1) He has nothing to bring to the business (his work is sloppy, he’s unmotivated, and totally broke), and 2) I didn’t move here to become a real estate mogul or strike it rich. I came here to write and live simply. To be happy. That’s all. His incessant jive about “when we do our next house,” and on and on, set my jaw off-kilter and stirred panic in my chest. He made me feel claustrophobic.

During what may have been one of the hardest weeks of my life (esp. work-wise), and while I was sick (suffering bronchitis, which morphed into pneumonia), the contractor’s dog nearly killed Rex. He’d left the dog in his bedroom (sans sustenance, of course) for about three days. I’d been taking care of it, as always: I fed the dog (with MY dog food, because he never bought any and would just use mine when and if he did feed the dog), let it outside, and gave it water and affection. The dog had been really aggressive with Rex in the past, and had attacked him on several occasions. I’d told the contractor that this couldn’t happen any more – that the next time, something awful could happen. And it did.

My neighbors, three Mexican men and the nice guy from next door, had to beat the dog off of Rex with a shovel. Trying to break up a dog fight – two snarling, biting, growling beasts trying to kill one another with their gleaming teeth and hundred-pound bodies – is a terrifying thing. Before the guys came running (and thank GOD they did), I was screaming like a wretch and trying to kick the dogs apart with my foot (as I’d seen the contractor do previously, after he’d encouraged the dogs to fight by giving all of his attention to Rex…the idiot). His dog didn’t suffer a scratch. Rex, however, could barely walk. The contractor came home for no more than a minute to pick something up (and steal some of my tools) and told me I was making a big deal out of nothing (meanwhile, Rex unable to move, bleeding profusely from multiple puncture wounds, clearly in very, very bad shape…and me, with a painful puncture wound on my ankle, from where his dog had bitten me…I was in bad pain from just one bite, and couldn’t imagine how much pain Rex was feeling). The fucking asshole took off and disappeared for three days. I tried calling him, but to no avail.

Rex’s vet bill cost over $600. My medical care was expensive, too, and both of us were on serious drugs for a few weeks. That weekend, I got pneumonia. I lost my voice. Fever of 102. Neither one of us could walk. At the hospital, I had to report the bite. At the vet, I had to report the attack. The dog, I’m sure, doesn’t have its rabies vacc, nor is it neutered or licensed (all against the law). For the contractor, this spells deep doggie doo-doo.

The contractor remained MIA. I didn’t see or hear from him for five days.

I deliberated: was this situation working out? No. Was it more trouble than it was worth? Absolutely. On the unanimous advice of numerous friends, I threw the bastard out. I put all of his shit in the yard and called his mom, because I knew where she worked, and she was the only one I could get a hold of. The contractor stole expensive tools from me. I cursed him out on the phone, letting loose my inner banshee. I don’t remember the last time I screamed like that. Maybe since I was a girl.

The guy is seriously delusional. He lives in a world where everything’s all right, all the time. He’s the kind of guy who gets a bill and shrugs, throws it in the fire and sparks up a joint. (In retrospect, I wonder now if he was schizo. Seriously.) I don’t know who was more dangerous, the guy or his dog.

More drama: While I was bed-ridden with pneumonia, there were constant visits to the house by gruff police officers, looking for the contractor and his dog. One of them threatened me, and accused me of covering for the guy. I told him, as politely as possible with my squeaky pneumonia voice, that if he didn’t rescind his threat and apologize, that he could get the fuck off of my porch. The next police officer was ever the gentleman. He took a picture of the puncture wound on my obscenely hairy leg, and despite the fact that I looked like a white trash wretch out of COPS, called several times to check up on me – and asked me out. I was so caught off guard, I actually agreed. Me? And a COP? Suffice it to say, my intuition, as ever, was dead-on: like most of the police officers I’ve ever met (and, mind you, I’m always on the straight-and-narrow), he was a total, absolute jackass. Skeeve. Major, major skeeve. Now, he’s stalking me. I’ve seen him drive by my house a bunch of times, despite his telling me, over drinks, that he’s “never in the neighborhood” I live in. He tried to impress me with his megabucks, which he makes investing in real estate. “I’m not just a dogcatcher, baby,” he said. And he actually fucking winked. I had to stifle the urge to run. No, I should have said. But you ARE a TOTAL dickhead.

I found a new contractor right away, who I’m paying hourly (more than twice the money I make) and who doesn’t live in my house (amen!). He loves to bitch and moan, and he’s definitely an odd duck, but he does good work, and I kinda like the guy for his quirks. Most people, I’m guessing, wouldn’t put up with his oddities, but his work is so meticulous – and I really don’t mind. He’s always complaining about shit that the old contractor did sloppily. So, it wasn’t just my ignorant suspicion: the guy was a hack. He made more work, and cost me more money, than hiring someone would have. At least, if I had, things would have gotten done.

Finally, my house is REALLY coming together. The new front door and all of the windows are installed. Most are trimmed in that beautiful poplar. My cabinets arrived just a few hours ago: 37 different pieces for me to assemble. I have all new kitchen appliances; just using the ‘fridge for now. More drywall up, and hired another stoner (ugh, so many out here) to fix the stucco on the outside of the house. I promise to post pictures very soon. The house is actually beginning to look pretty cute. I’ve got flowers in the front yard, a Chinese lantern on the porch, and bushes with purple blossoms flowering like mad. Lilacs, I think, and the scent wafts into the house with the breeze.

Still don’t know what I’m going to do with this place, or what I’m going to do once the summer’s up. Trying not to get too far ahead of myself with plans, but my intention over the summer is to finish the book, for chrissake, and test my full-time freelancing career, which I hope to kick-off SOON. Like, as in, next school year. This is me: Also, scored another assignment for the women’s glossy (hooray!), as my editor was pleased with my last assignment. More of my stuff for the local rag I love so much at

The drama has a happy ending: I got a great reason to kick the contractor to the curb, which I’d been lusting to do, and Rex and I are both breathing and walking and sturdy again. At last, the house is shaping up. It’s also made me ask a big question of myself: is it worth it? As for this house, I don’t know yet. It’s all a great, big gamble.


5 Red Pandas said...

Damn Kate. I'm glad you've survived that bout of insanity. I miss you!

I'm extra glad to hear that you're going to go free-lance AND that you're planning to finish the book. What's the worst that can happen? Remember, in a pinch you could ALWAYS substitute. We went through hell, but now we always have a safety net when things all go to hell. It's not the best solution, but if things get tough it's nice to know that we can always make a couple extra bucks.

I hope to hear from you soon...

Kristen said...

Jesus christ! Drama abounds, Kate! Your ability to wash your life free of it always impresses me. You are a scrapper indeed, m'dear. I'm glad that things are back on track and that you, Rex, and the house are all on the mend. I'm also thrilled that you're on the brink of the leap into FT freelance. (In fact, it's inspired me to make a few plans of my own...)

Much love and sawdust, KS.