Monday, May 28, 2012

The Housing Crisis - Part 1

Renting out one's apartment is an awful, tiresome, and frustrating task.

Refinancing one's mortgage is a process so convoluted, confusing, and frustrating that it should be reserved as a punishment for war criminals.

In April of 2012 I decided to try and rent out my apartment and refinance my apartment at the same time.

This was a poor decision.

I started by trying to sell my apartment. Or I thought I was going to sell my apartment. I had a broker come in and take a look at it, he said I could get my money back for what I paid for it. He said he'd call me to start the process.

I never heard from him again.

I invited another broker to look at my apartment, he was not as optimistic about me getting my money back... Because he wasn’t lying to me.

When I asked him how much he thought I could get for it he made what some people would call "a poop face" and started telling me about the real estate market.

It was at that point that I realized I would not be getting my money back.

Real estate broker suggested I rent out my apartment. After some thought and private counsel with my trusted board of advisers, or as I call them: mom, I decided to go ahead and try to rent my place.

My broker was excited. "great" he said. "when can you be out and have it painted?"

Ummm after you rent it for me?

Apparently my profound confidence, snappy dress, and impeccable grammar led apartment broker to think I was some sort of Vanderbilt who could afford to keep several homes around the city in which to stay in when I become bored with any of the others.

I told him he would have to rent my apartment with my stuff in it.

Well, its gonna be a lot harder to rent if its not empty.

Well, that's why I am not doing it. That's why I have you apartment broker. I didn't say you had to rent my apartment to a gnome, a red head, or Australian royalty, I just said rent it. I don't care how hard it is, just make it happen. When I go to a restaurant and I order a dish the chef doesn't come out and tell me how hard it is to make.

So apartment broker begins the process. He complains that it’s tough showing the apartment only at night and he could show it more if he had the keys. And there is nothing I love more than giving strangers keys to my apartment.

Regardless, I give him my keys.

Apartment broker complains that what I am asking in rent will be too high and we should lower the price. I tell him I NEED to get that rental price to cover my mortgage which I acquired in the spring of 2008 when the mortgage rate was just under 437 percent.

I realize I need to save some money somehow.

So now I go to see a new broker. Mortgage broker. He explains to me I can save a considerable amount every month by refinancing my mortgage. All I need to do is fax in several documents and forms to begin the process. I am excited. I begin the process.

Meanwhile every time I talk to apartment broker he tells me how my kitchen is too small and before they rented out a similar apartment they had to show it 35 times.

First of all, I start to loathe him.

Second of all I want to scream at him that I don’t care if he has to show it 100 times. You have the keys. That's why I gave you the keys, so I wouldn't have to care. Again, the chef doesn't come out of the kitchen and go

Oh geez guys sorry but I am having a hell of a time chopping this onion

No! He chops the fucking onion and makes me my dinner. You on the other hand insist on telling me all the minute intricacies of apartment renting that I have never once cared about until now. And looking at it now, I still don’t care about them.

Every time I get on the phone with him he wants to tell me everything about every prospective person. I ask him how its going and it’s like he hears me say “Hey, ramble for five minutes.” Every conversation sounds like this:

Ya know its tough we got a lot of traffic in the office and then we post ya know but we gotta make sure we get the right people because and then ya know I gotta deal with the board and you don't even wanna know what I gotta deal with.

You’re right. So please shut up and just rent my apartment.

Meanwhile after faxing in my forms, my mortgage broker explains to me that I have to have somebody assess my apartment to tell me what it's worth.

Good. I was hoping I could invite a stranger into my home to place a value on the thing that I own but no longer want to so must rent except at a lower cost than what I am currently paying now so that I could potentially lose money to not live in the place where I live.

Getting in touch with the, I don’t even know what to call him, apartment assessor, is like trying to track down a missing child but I finally succeed. This bozo calls me back and asks if he can come by my apartment at noon the following day. I tell him no because I have a job, like other adults. I ask him what times he works. He says

Monday to Friday 10 to 12.

Oh. Good. I was thinking this might be a challenging experience but if you work ten whole hours a week this should be a piece of cake.

Naturally, I should have anticipated what would happen when he showed up at my apartment.

To be continued…

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Great GoogaMooga

This is such a Brooklyn's so disappointing.

That’s what one guy said to his friends. He was standing in front of us in line for a Food and Music Festival in Brooklyn. It was at that exact moment that I realized the day would be filled with many ridiculous things said. And that’s when we decided to capture them for memory.

The festival was called The Great GoogaMooga. 'GoogaMooga' means "Giant food clusterfuck." 

Or something like that. 

Brooklyn gets all kinds of reputations for different reasons. Be it Mommies or Hipsters or whatever, I had a strong feeling we would come across all of them and more. Not just because we were in Brooklyn, but also because we were at an all day food/music/wine festival in Brooklyn on the nicest Saturday of the year and well… it’s was ripe for ridiculousity.

And people were already in a spicy mood when they got in because to start, the festival gates opened 30 minutes late, which in New York equals 5 hours. So there was that to season the mood.

The longer you are single the more you care about music festivals.

The same group of friends said that while waiting to get in. They were referencing their 35-year-old friend who thought it made sense to pay five thousand dollars for the VIP section at some music festival. They were right.

I am 28 and I enjoy music but care very little about music festivals. Way less than a large majority of my friends. Mainly because I’m afraid of the sun and I think spending all day out in a dirt field in a tank top and using a port a potty should be a once a year kind of thing. But that’s not something that repels everybody.

But if I don’t enjoy festivals now, I can’t imagine being 35 and thinking “Ya know what? I’d really like to start attending music festivals!”

Eventually the gates opened and we got inside the festival where we immediately started purchasing every delicious gourmet food item we could find.

Seeing as this was a pretty hyped up festival, and it was in Brooklyn, and the time we live in, everybody was taking pictures of everything, myself included.

People would buy food and then immediately have their friend take a picture of them eating it. Like this bacon wrapped hot dog with guacamole and sour cream for example.

No filter, extremely delicious, I’m tagging it.

That’s what somebody said while eating a chicken wing. No filter meaning she wasn’t going to alter the photo. Which if you are taking a picture of yourself eating a chicken wing, you shouldn’t need to doctor it to make people understand how much you enjoy said chicken wing.

See? Happiness.

Hot Dogs, Chicken Wings, and duck, holy crap the duck. It seems like everything was made with duck. Duck in dogs, duck in donuts, duck just… being itself. It was ubiquitous. Which prompted one of the food vendors to drop this bit of gem on a seemingly confused patron.

If you’re a vegetarian, honey, this is NOT the place for you.

And boy was he right. There was so much meat that at one point we needed to lie down on the grass and take a nap.

Well, I mean, the lay down on the grass part was intentional, the taking of the nap just kind of happened. But when I woke up 3 women instantly tied me into a conversation taking place across from me.

They were the kind of women that one might start to instantly dislike for no good reason. I’m not saying I felt that way, I’m just saying, ya know, people.

It had a lot to do with their conversation actually. And even though I listened to their conversation for a solid 20 minutes, I still had NO idea what any of them were talking about. Mainly because they all seemed to be talking at the same time.

What’s that album that says don’t put your hand in the béarnaise sauce?

This preceded a lengthy discussion about a guy, presumably one of their boyfriends, having actually put his hand IN the béarnaise sauce, which was apparently some sort of egregious transgression which was unforgivable.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t even understand why somebody would have an album that referenced béarnaise sauce.

And the next day he went down a slip and slide, a SLIP and SLIDE. AAAAAAAA slip and slide.

Girl number three said this as the other two continued talking. I couldn’t figure out if she was emphasizing slip and slide to get their attention or if she was trying to convey that a slip and slide was a bad thing. Has any adult ever caused an argument by going down a slip and slide? I can’t speak from experience.

Eventually I had to get up and walk away because if I didn’t leave then I might never have. It was like watching trashy TV.

So we wandered in and amongst the thirsty patrons waiting in line for the limited supply of poorly organized alcohol distribution. I won’t go into the details but when the line for tickets to purchase alcohol is longer than the line to actually get said alcohol, you have a serious problem on your hand.

The people who were lucky enough to purchase tickets in a timely manner quickly burned through them in an attempt to take advantage of alcohol’s rumored effects.

Let’s get another beer that’s anything besides this one.

Also a challenge was choosing the right thing to drink, because while you could sample everything, that would cost you tickets. And getting tickets was only slightly less challenging than bringing the one ring to rule them all back to Mordor.

But the lack of alcohol didn’t really bother me because I was too elated to be full of mud pudding, and fried cheesecake, and all other manner of goodness.

Take care good luck and keep the faith.

Oddly enough we heard somebody say this about an hour into the festival. But it made just as much sense seeking out the food as it did leaving it behind. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sandy Memories

The beach is called Bar Beach. It's not a glamorous beach by any means. It is quite utilitarian in the sense that while pleasant, it is little more than a sandy inlet on the north shore of Long Island. It is sandwiched between the slightly more glorious "Hempstead Harbor" and far less glorious "Water Treatment Plant."

We didn't go to Bar Beach a lot growing up, but there was one day we never missed.

Every year, on the Friday before Memorial Day, Bar Beach held it's annual Fireworks Spectacular. And on that day, the Boehmckes loaded up the car for 6 hours of what in my memory, is pure bliss.

I don't really know when we started going, but I don't ever remember not going. It was one of those things that, by the time I was a sentient human being, was already a part of the fabric of our family.

We went every year.

I'd get home from school at 3:15 or 3:30 to find my parents already home from work. My dad would have the trunk of his car open and be packing up coolers, blankets and beach chairs.

My mother would be in the kitchen packing up the snacks; fresh fruit and cookies, always cookies. 

Oh how my family loves cookies.

My sister and I would hurry up to our rooms to pack up a sweatshirt and sweatpants for when the sun went down.

And in almost no time we'd be in the car on the way to pick up some fried chicken to bring to the beach for dinner.

For many years, until it closed, the place we went to was called 'Chicken Galore.' The sign outside had some faded image of a yellow chicken dancing around, seemingly completely unaware of what was going on underneath him.

When the chicken made it's way into the car, and the smell infected us all we'd sing this ridiculous song that went:

I feel like chicken tonight, like chicken tonight.

And my mother and I would start flapping our wings. I don't know if that was an actual song, the jingle for Chicken Galore, or something my mother made up.

We'd arrive at the beach before most, the sun still high in the sky, and unload all of our stuff to get to the beach in one trip.

We were always part of a group of families that went, four or more families creating a sandy island of blankets, beach chairs, and fried chicken. We'd locate the families already there and begin the delicate ballet of trying to lay out all of our stuff without spreading sand everywhere. Sand, that despite our best efforts, almost always ended up seasoning our chicken shortly thereafter.

Man this chicken is so moist I really *CRUNCH*

Everybody was always in a good mood. Why wouldnt't they be? Everybody was out of work early and sitting on the beach at the front edge of a three day weekend. I could barely contain my excitement.

Once we were setup and in place, we'd open up our food and listen in to the entertainment for the evening.

The Capris.

They were a half dozen Dean Martin wannabees in mint green and white jackets on the stage of a mobile bandstand belting out the hits of 40 years ago with as much enthusiasm as though it was their debut concert.

It was where I heard hits like Beyond the Sea and Mack the Knife for the first time. To this day it is hard for me to hear any of the songs from that time without thinking of The Capris.

After we ate the kids would wander off together. We'd create games to play, or walk along the beach picking up shells we'd eventually lose track of.

We'd have sand fights which almost always ended in screaming and tears.

But after the majority of sand had been removed from ears and eyes, things went back to normal. Transgressions on the beach were quickly forgiven

Some years when the sun went down, the beach got very cold, some years the temperature barely changed at all. But as we got older it seemed as though the landscape changed, or my sister and I did. It seemed kids from other schools started attending in larger numbers, but more likely we just started noticing it more.

We began spending less time with our families on the blanket, and more time seeking out our friends. 

High School saw us trying to coordinate with our friends before we got to the beach based on where we had set up the year before.

OK you know when you see the bandstand, the second light pole from the right before you get to the benches, we're usually between there and the ocean.

Ridiculous plans that we tried desperately to adhere to.

As day turned to dusk, and dusk leaned into night, the vendors selling glow necklaces and bracelets would venture along the beach.

When we were kids we'd lay on the beach looking for shooting stars. As we got older we pursued far less elusive things the dark could provide.

But no matter my age or the year, I always loved the fireworks. I have met people in my life who tell me they don't like fireworks, or don't get them. Often, I don't get those people... or don't like them. 

I have always loved the soul shaking boom of the explosions, the overwhelming brightness you anticipate but are still affected by. It was the most impressive and magical thing I can remember as a child.

I had friends in high school who looked to other substances to enhance the experience, but I didn't need that. Nor did I want it. The evening in and of itself was all I really wanted. Regardless of the friends, or girls, the fireworks were enough for me.

The night would end and if we hadn't already, we'd return to our families, commencing our critique of the fireworks as we all packed up our stuff.

Do you have all your stuff?

That question would be asked no less than 9 times before we left the sand.

We'd then make our way to the parking lot and load up the car before sitting in traffic on the one road that could get you to the beach.

I'd quickly fall asleep, head against the window, or the middle arm rest that folded down, when my body was small and limber enough to bend as such.

We'd arrive home, take off our shoes and socks outside because of all the sand, drop our stuff in the laundry room and go to bed exhausted and elated, excited to do it all again next year.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Unlikely Women I Could Potentially Marry - Part 2

When I first started working in Manhattan, I worked for a magazine publisher. Actually that's not true, my real first job was working for a company in sales. I was so unhappy I quit after seven weeks.

I gave my two weeks notice to go and work for the magazine publisher. When I got there I was suddenly a part of a big corporation with different departments with a myriad of responsibilities.

One of the departments I regularly had to deal with was Finance.

Now when one thinks of Finance and Manhattan one probably thinks of slick high powered businessmen in 5,000 dollar suits talking about bulls, bears and foreign currencies.

But Finance in my company was an office that dealt with payouts, with reimbursements and paychecks. It was also an office filled with somewhat unintentionally hilarious Filipino women.

I didn't quite understand how four quiet reserved Filipino women all ended up in the same department, but I suppose it was no more unique than four white people working in my department.

When I first started I didn't know the women in Finance that well. But as my job progressed I had to spend more and more time working with them to figure out specific issues and challenges.

Often times, I would need things from them.

Now there is an unspoken rule in businesses that she who controls the money controls the pace of business.

Since I needed things from Finance, payouts and author checks and such, I would do my best to charm the ladies. I usually dressed up for work in a tie or a vest or cufflinks or some other aspect of snazzy. This, I found out, made it easier to charm them.

Gradually these tough Filipino females softened to my presence. They would engage me in conversation and laugh at my jokes, giggle when I asked them if they wanted to hang out that weekend.

But soon they began engaging me. As soon as I would start talking, one woman in particular, would say, "You're so handsome!"

This was a wonderful thing. Especially when I started hearing it on a regular basis.

But things quickly got out of hand.

Like the time when one of the women brought her daughter to work. As soon as I walked into Finance on that day, the ladies started whipping out cameras like a horde of Filipino paparazzi.

Go, go stand with Richie, take a picture, he's so handsome.

There is probably nothing more embarrassing for an adolescent than being forced to take a picture with a gangly 23 year old her mother apparently has a crush on.

I was extremely uncomfortable. When I had dreamed of being rich and famous, this wasn't exactly what I had in mind.

I don't know if anybody was more upset than the Finance ladies when I left that company.

I moved onto another corporation, also with a Finance department. While also all women, this department seemed to be made up of women from only island nations. Again, strange, but perhaps not that strange.

One day, the middle-aged women of this finance department were having a spirited debate about the correct pronunciation of my last name. To settle it they took to the Internet. At this point I had already started my blog and was well into publishing regularly.

While looking up my name they came across my picture from my blog. I know this because I walked into their department in the middle of this process. I saw the headshot from my blog up on one of their screens.

Richie, Richie, how you say your last name?

I told them that in English it was Bem-key but in German it was Boomka


And that's when they started comparing me to a guy that was on a semi popular cable show about a former spy.

He look like that guy from Burrrn Noootice.
Don't he look like that guy from burn notice?
Boomka, you look like that guy from Burrrn Noootice.

I couldn't really agree or disagree.

That day really opened up the relationship I had with the ladies of that department.

I would chat them up and try to be friendly because, once again they controlled the money, and I often needed their help.

I even brought a special bottle of booze back for one of them when I went away to South America.

It's kind of easy to chat up middle-aged married women as a 24 year old. It's about as nonthreatening as it gets.

However as I poured on the charm and faux flirtation inside the office, I did not anticipate it being reciprocated.

I grew a beard at this time. And many people know my beard is red. Well one day at an all team meeting one of them ladies of finance tapped me on the shoulder before it started. I turned around.

Hey Boomka why is your beard red?

Oh, I said, my Dad has red hair.



Does the carpet match the drapes?

For those of you unfamiliar with that phrase I will just say they she was specifically inquiring if my facial hair was the same color as, well, it was probably not an HR appropriate comment.

It was the LAST thing I expected to hear from her. But since I was so caught off guard I did what I always do, I went into full out panic mode and made a ridiculous joke about it in the spur of the moment.

Oh you know, that's between me and the 100 or so ladies I've been with.

Jokingly. I said that JOKINGLY! Hyperbole. Exaggeration. Ridiculousness. These are my things. But the lady from finance reacted like I just told her I had a Ferrari, and I could swear the look she gave me was one of... pride. And she said;

Ohhhh alright now. Ok. Good for you!

My relationship with her was sufficiently tainted from that point going forward.

Fortunately, I quit several monthly later.

Unfortunately, the jury is still out on whether I actually look like that guy from Buuuurrrrrn Noootice.