Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sumpin Good

It was called the sump.

Quite a name huh?

It was this reservoir/murky water/sewage area enclosure between the big town park and the driving range. I actually didn't know it was called the sump until I got to high school. The only reason I knew it was called the sump was because apparently, that's where teenagers would go to drink and smoke and do god knows what else.

And those stories always involved the sump.

I say god knows what else because I never found out… because I never went. Just like I never went or did a lot of things in high school. Not that I was a sheltered kid. In fact I would argue I had a more robust high school experience than most people. However, my experience consisted of things that did not happen in a sump.

I was never a part of that kind of crowd. Looking back you could probably have picked out the "Sump" crowd in 4th or 5th grade.

I might have had some casual acquaintance with pre-sump people back then, but that was it. I remember hanging out with my friend Jeff one day when he ran into a couple of his slightly older, slightly more nefarious friends. Pre-sump types. The types that left at each other's jokes but seemed to never hear mine. No matter how many times I repeated them.

Well Jet and I and the pre-sumpers were just walking around one day when we all went in to the local drug store. They all bought large cans of Arizona Iced Tea. I didn't particularly want one but I figured this was what cool people did. So I bought one too.

We then walked behind the bank and sat on the curb of the closed drive through teller drinking our iced teas. Like it was illegal or something. I distinctly remember stepping outside myself to observe us sitting against the backdrop of white washed brick and thinking "Is this what being cool is about? Sitting behind the bank and drinking Iced tea?"

It was merely a foreshadowing for years later when alcohol and cigarettes would replace ice tea and tires, broken glass (and possibly sewage) would replace white washed bank walls. Teenagedom was a far cry from adolescence.

People started referring to the gathering at the sump as "Sump Parties."

It seemed a strange pairing of words even back then. Like, Manure Fiesta or Compost Celebration.

But when you are a teenager with no privacy and nowhere else to go, I suppose a sump is the equivalent of a local Tijuana.

There might have even been a donkey at the sump, who knows.

I never went to the "sump parties" for several reasons. The first was, IT WAS AT THE SUMP. The idea of lying to my parents to hop over a fence into a park, to sneak through another fence, to scramble down a disgusting trash filled hill in the pitch black of night so I could hang out around of bunch of people I couldn't see smoking cigarettes just didn't get my joy meter spinning.

I was far more interested in staying home, watching Friday night television about idealized versions of high school and cramming things like waffles, ice cream and as many sugar based toppings as possible into a bowl in a sundae that probably should have come with a full medical and dental plan.

The other reason I never went to a sump party was because, well, I was never invited.

Now I'm sure most of the people who went weren't "invited." Ninth graders aren't known for sending out hand written invitations to partake in illegal activities. I'm sure most of the people just heard from somebody who heard from somebody else. They probably didn't need to say more than "alcohol, sump, night" to spread the word.

But I had never gone to an event that I wasn't invited to. We had these "float making parties" in 7th and 8th grade where a bunch of kids would get together to fold tissue paper flowers to go on the floats. But those weren't the kinds of parties that everybody wanted to go to.

Hey guys, who wants to do some manual labor?

But there were girls there, often lots of girls. So needless to say, I went. There was usually a healthy amount of pretzels and soda and that was good enough for me.

That wasn't a real party type of party with cool kids and sketchy goings on. Those were the kinds of parties that like... moms invited to me to. In fact looking back, I'm almost positive I was invited to more social gatherings by mothers of my friends than by my actual friends.

And that formalized invitation, which expressed interest in having me partake in a social function was something significant for me. I was invited and so I attended.

This inability to understand social gatherings would follow me into my college years when people down the hall said, "Hey we're going to a frat party." And my first thought was "were you invited?" I had never really gone anywhere I wasn't directly invited before. I always thought that the only people who were supposed to show up were those directly told of the event.

I've come a long way since then considering when I plan my own birthday I usually end up telling my friends "Tell anybody who might like me they should come."

Needless to say I haven't typically had epic turnouts at my birthday.

But then again, I've never had my birthday at the sump.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Having Somebodys

I have somebody who might be interested in renting your apartment.

As far as I’m concerned those are pretty much famous last words by this point, but any time somebody says that I have no choice but to ask who.

Typically it’s the friend of a friend who just moved into town, or somebody who is in some unique situation. I know everybody means well but it’s the way the news is delivered that makes it so misleading

I HAVE somebody who etc.

They have, only them. It’s like every one of my friends suddenly became a broker. They are always so confident that they have fixed solution. They’ve done it; they figured it out, case closed.

I HAVE somebody who is interested in renting your apartment; she’s got an internship in the city for 3 months.

That’s awesome for her, congratulations and all, but unless she’s going to have 4 consecutive internships that pay her the salary of a real employee I don’t think you really have somebody for me.

Once in a while I’ll get the semi-brazen friend who declares:

I think I rented your apartment for you.

Everybody is so excited to jump right to the end. Just because you have somebody who really wants an apartment and says a bunch of things, doesn’t mean they will pass a background check, and a credit check, and will actually come through.

You can’t take everybody at his or her word. After all, this is the city where the phrase “voted best pizza” exists on half the pizza places in the city.

Oh yea? Voted by whom? Your mom?

So you could understand how I might be slightly less than eager to jump when somebody says they have somebody to rent my apartment. But nonetheless, I must continue to jump.

Like last week.

A colleague of mine told me they had somebody.

“My wife knows him but he’s Italian and doesn’t speak great English and wants to communicate via text.”

I thought about making some hilarious stereotype joke about it being impossible to talk with your hands via text message but deferred and texted him anyway.

What follows is not an exaggeration. All punctuation actually happened. The name has been changed to protect the ridiculous.

Hi Luigi this is Rich I hear you were interested in my apt. You can email me at ______.

One minute later he responded.

We can txt????

I figured what he meant to say can we text, but the typical Italian language format made him confuse his statements with his questions. That really didn’t bother me. Though haven’t somebody who’s English was that poor could potentially make for some really awkward landlord conversations.

What if a pipe burst or there was an emergency, was I going to have to text him to figure out what the hell was going on. But I was getting ahead of myself.

I was more concerned about the amount of question marks he used. Was he really that inquisitive? Maybe. I just conceded realizing this conversation would probably be easier (barely) over text message. I wrote back.


Two minutes later Luigi responded.

Okok yes I m interest of your apt!!!! When can I see u to talk about it!!!! Please let me know

At this point I realize this guy not only overuses punctuation but he has no idea how to use punctuation. He’s mistaking exclamation points (which he uses far too many of) for questions marks, and disregarding periods all together. I mean 8 exclamation points in two sentences.

I once had a writing teacher who told me for the entire semester we got 3 exclamation points.

I think by this point my teacher would have thrown his phone out the window.

I also realize that I am not going to just invite this import over to look at my apartment unless he meets the bare minimum criteria I have for renters. So I decide to check something quickly with him.

Can you answer a couple questions for me? Do you know what your credit rating is?

As soon as I send the text I realize there is no way this guy knows what a credit rating is, and even if he does, he probably doesn’t have one.

Two minutes later my suspicions are confirmed.

Im sorry about I just come here!!!! I have

New text message

I have few months here but I really iterest in ur apt!!! Im a good guy !!! U gonna have the rent on time trust me

How the hell is this guy really iterest in my apartment? All he knows is that I have an apartment and by that logic he would be iterest in every person in New York’s apartment. As far as I’m concerned I’m not that special to this guy.

I feel cheap.

U gonna have the rent on time? TRUST ME? This guy could not be more of a stereotype if he tried. I know he only has few months here but is this guy negotiating everything like this?

Is he buying mozzarella at the market with a post dated check and saying:

You gonna cash this check on Tuesday and it gonna work. Trust me.

 I call on the depths of my Italian heritage and my College minor in the language itself but still cannot remember the word for “balls.”

I call Luigi on his bluff.

What is your salary?

Two minutes later…

2000 dollars a month!!!! But we r 3 persons so I don’t think that we gonna have anyproblem

One minute later…

What do u think about it????

What do I think about it? I think you have some serious issues conceptualizing the New York City housing market to start. I also think your punctuation use is driving me batshit. And last but not least I think you are out of your damn mind if you think that you can survive in this city on 24,000 dollars a year.

Just to confirm, you want a one bedroom apartment for three people?

Two minutes later…

Actually we are two guys only!!! But my friend just came to visit me!!!!

Now I’m positive I don’t want this human anywhere near my apartment. So I just text him back to get rid of him.

 I need a tenant who makes at least 60,000 a year

Fourteen minutes later he responds.

Thanks so much im not the right persone!! I just came!!! I don’t make that money yet!!!!!

(Side note: He used 5 exclamation points for this statement, the most of any of his sentences which I thought appropriate considering I felt it really was the most important of all his texts.)

I hope u find some one !!! If u don’t find  no body let me know!!

!! Thanks have a great day

I did have a great day. And I really hope I don’t find no body soon.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Do As I Do

I took my father to a baseball game recently. I have done it once a year for three out of the last four years. It is hands down one of my favorite days of the year. Just my dad and I eating pulled pork sandwiches and watching the Mets lose.

We went on a weeknight this year when the Mets were playing a less than stellar team on a night that should have poured but ended up perfect. The stadium was empty.

We sat on field level on the first base side. The row in front of us had only two people in it a couple that appeared to be anything but in love. The woman was sitting closer to home plate and watched the game at almost a right angle to her significant other. He practically watched the game over her shoulder.

They didn’t hold hands, they didn’t laugh, and they barely looked at each other. And when she did turn to look at him it was almost disdainful. Like when she yelled at him for overtipping the guy who sold him a soda.

It was one of those interactions I had a hard time looking away from, nor did I have to as I was afforded the luxury of anonymity, watching them from behind.

I couldn’t get over how completely unhappy they seemed to be. Perhaps they had just had a fight, or maybe something more severe was taking place, but I couldn’t understand why anybody would want to spend their time like that.

But as I watched them not be in love with each other I started thinking other things. And the thoughts fell like dominoes.

How could anybody tolerate being in a relationship like that?
I don’t want a relationship like that.
I want to truly enjoy the person I’m with.

And then the couple I have watched interact with each other more than anybody else popped into my head; my parents. I thought about how they might sit together at a baseball game. I thought about how I’ve seen them sit together on a bench, out to dinner or anywhere else.

I realized I never saw my parents sit like that couple at the baseball game. They were always enjoying each other’s company, always affectionate with each other, subtly but consistently.

Now I am lucky to be the child of parents about to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. I know that puts me in the minority in so many ways. It is a minority I am very lucky to be a part of. And as all things go in my life, I am suddenly understanding lessons from many many years ago. Lessons I hadn’t even realized I had learned.

The first vacation I ever took with my college girlfriend was months before we actually started dating. We were best friends at the time, spending all our time together, laughing and driving her car around Arizona. At the end of our sophomore year we decided to take a weekend road trip to San Diego.

In my memory the trip is colored by the beautiful innocence that exists between two people when they have unlimited time, tremendous capability and a healthy ignorance of all future responsibilities.

We ate, we experienced, and we laughed. We grew closer in new ways.

On our last day there, on a morning soaked in stubborn fog we said goodbye to the beach and started back to her car. She stopped to tie her shoe while I was looking in the other direction and I didn’t notice until she was already ten steps behind.

I slowed my pace as a sudden affection came over me. Wanting to express something but unsure of how to show it, like a giraffe learning to nuzzle, I did something for the first time that also seemed strangely familiar.

While slowly walking still looking straight ahead and with my arms at my side I reached the fingers of my right hand open wide, wiggling them slowly, as though stretching. And without a word exchanged, or even a glance, by the time she caught up with me her palm found mine.

It hadn’t been something I’d thought about in advance. The action of it almost seemed foreign to my body, something I couldn’t control. It wasn’t until her fingers were laced through mine that I realized why it seemed so familiar.

It's what my father did. It’s what he always did when he held hands with my mother.

I had seen him do it many times before. Walking side by side with my mother he’d open his hand wide and her hand would find his. I can’t remember specific instances, this memory comes in bulk. But it’s there in the cells of my being, a built-in example.

It seems silly to say that I am regularly learning things my parents taught me decades ago, but I suppose that is how it goes. The knowledge never matters until it does. The experience is kept on the shelf until it’s needed. And hopefully, the familiarity of it all isn’t lost on us.

As I get older I inhabit more of my father’s mannerisms than I can count. Some of them seem insignificant, simple gestures, motions that indicate nothing else but uniqueness.

But there are some gestures that have come naturally to me and embody much more just an action. They embody a mentality, a personality, and a way of being. They are things that connect me to my father.

They are effortless yet significant, spontaneous yet important, and most warmly unexpected.

Like two hands finding each other for the first time.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Housing Crisis - Part 2

I am waiting at my apartment for this brain genius rocket propulsion human species wizard home inspector to show up at my apartment to tell me what apartment is worth.

I am waiting, and he is ten minutes late.

I call him but he doesn’t answer, so I leave a voicemail. He calls me back.

Oh geez I gotta tell you I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve been here for 25 minutes, there is just nowhere to park, I mean I can keep trying but I just don’t know we might have to reschedule this.

First of all, we are not rescheduling. I don’t care if I have to drag his car up to the roof with a rope made of spit and licorice rope I will make sure this idiot gets into my apartment.

Second of all, we are not rescheduling.

I will keep trying. That’s what he said. Trying. Trying is not a word one uses to describe finding a parking spot. Looking is more like it. Basically he was just driving around the block with his eyes open, which is how almost all people drive.

Ten minutes later he arrives at my door having apparently managed to find a spot.

I open the door and see before me a kindly old gentleman which makes all of the hate and anger I have saved up for him hard to apply.

He walks into my apartment and starts asking me questions which I am trying to answer as best as I can because this guy apparently holds the key to whether or not my apartment is worth what its supposed to be worth which shouldn’t even be a question because I own it.


Would you call this a living room slash dining room?

Dude, I would call this a living room slash dining room slash Turkish bath house slash discotecca if I thought it would help me refinance my mortgage faster. So yes, call it whatever you’d slash like.

How many square feet would you say this is?

Um, 27,000. He fathoms a guess but I raise his estimate.

Yea, I can’t check because I don’t have my measuring stick.

Measuring stick? You were going to get the square footage of my apartment with a 3 foot piece of reject wood? It’s no wonder this guy only works 10 hours a week, if I only had a stick to measure with I wouldn’t want to work more than 10 hours a week either.

I maintain a pleasant demeanor though because again, I don’t want him to leave and tell the bank that my apartment is worth 14 dollars. After five minutes he is gone. As he leaves he tells me he will send the documents to the appropriate people, which, I don’t even know who that is anymore since I am dealing with so many different idiots.

Like the guy at the bank who was processing my refinance who calls me and says:

Hey Rich we need you to send in those forms.
What do you mean? I sent them in last week.
You did? You sent them here?
Yes, I sent them where you told me to send them.
Oh Ok, my partner didn’t tell me. No problem.

Well, not no problem entirely but why don’t you go ahead and take your partner out for a coffee or something and get your shit together because if you come back and tell me the refinancing of my motorcycle went through I’m going to walk into the bank and just start doing karate.

And I don’t even know karate.

But amazingly the process continues on to the next step where I have to get the board of my condo to approve my refinance. Because that makes sense. The building in which I own an apartment needs to approve of me spending less money every month. I don’t even know how to get in touch with my board so I call my broker; another space genius prodigy mind-winning superhero.

I ask him how to get in touch with the board. He tells me to email the management company. I email them. What follows is the EXACT email conversation that took place.
I really wish this were an exaggeration.

Dear Bob and Joe,

Gentlemen, I am currently refinancing my mortgage and need to send over the paperwork to be approved by the board. Can you let me know where I need to send it? I have it ready.
Thank you.

One minute later

??? What property is this for?

The so and so apartment building in Queens

Send it in

Please tell me where to send it.


Bob I don't have the address please send me the address where you would like me to send this.

Joe please deal with this request thanks.

Can either of you please tell me the address of your company so I can send this in? I'm not sure what the issue is here.

They don’t respond. So later that day.

Bob and Joe,
Please give me the address of where to send in my paperwork for my apartment so the board can sign off on it. I am concerned at this point at the lack of professionalism in responding to this email. Can you explain to me what the issue is?

By the time the conversation ends I am in such disbelief I am looking around my office like I am on candid camera. I feel like annoying 14-year-old girls from the valley runs my apartment complex.

I want to quit my apartment and the process. I want to buy an RV with cash and park it on a deserted beach outside of Tijuana. I cannot believe that other people have managed to successfully refinance their apartment without ending up in a homicide trial.

I become convinced everybody I have encountered in the process is a complete and total moron. I want to pick them in a room filled with one way mirrors and watch them interact like baboons, which aside from the ones I've met, I am not sure they aren’t.

When I began the process I stupidly hoped I could get it done in a couple of weeks. I was mind blown when they told me it would be many many weeks.

The process is still not done though I am pretty sure the end is near. Either the end of this process or just the apocalypse is looming. Either way I am never refinancing again.