...nothing here is promised, not one day... Lin-Manuel Miranda

The joys of renting
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We’ve been here since 1990, moved in in October. It’s the lower story of a house, a duplex. We’ve been immensely fortunate in some ways but you know I am so sick to DEATH of my landlady.

I don’t want to go into how lucky we are – she’s a good landlady in tons of respects, doesn’t hike the rent just for the hell of it, but she hates being a landlady – she kvetches about how hard it is to find tenants and whines about how irresponsible people are. Except when she moved and provided us all with address labels, she got her own address wrong.

She imposes her own image of what is good and right and true onto her rental property. No, It’s not that she complains about the political signs; she knows she can’t. But her buzzword is “nice” and if it’s not “nice” she tries to remove it. Weeds aren’t nice, browned foliage isn’t nice. Trees are a nuisance and she lost that battle more than once, because sometimes brown foliage is party of a growth cycle. She does not like that. Or get it. She’d love to get rid of the remaining apple tree because it would make it easier to mow the lawn, but I chant the mantra “it was here when we moved in” and she backs off,thwarted. And tries again later on.

So she hires this guy and twice now, he’s come in and gotten rid of things. That technically aren’t his to get rid of but he was hired by her to “clean up”. Never mind that I planted it all. Never mind that for 6 or 8 years I labored with compost and digging and put in flowers and herbs. It doesn’t look “nice”.

I know it doesn’t look nice – but Stu and I are the only ones LOOKING at it – she doesn’t live here. This was the first place I ever planted tulips, but I won’t be doing that any more – because twice now she’s removed the foliage and ensured that they’d die. I won’t be putting in any more herbs because they tend to go straggly and they don’t look good. Tough shit. Her employee trimmed everything back so far that it looks like the garden version of hell “It’ll come back, they’re perennials.” He said. A) I don’t care and B) if they don’t? ”Oh, he says “we’ll replace them.” Right. 6 years of tending a patch of this or that, 8 years after putting something in and watching it grow, five years of training something to fill an empty spot and it’s all cut back. It’s so fucking ugly out there. I used to throw open the shutters and look at the colors and go out and enjoy it.

Three years ago or so, thelandlady tried to get rid of the flowering cherry trees on the side of the house and the city refused to give her permission. On a spring day, you can lie on the couch and look out at these glorious pink flowers against the blue sky. I know – the first year I was disabled, I spent days on the couch. She had a tantrum when they said no – after all it’s her property – and stopped spraying the trees. I have no idea if that mattered – they seem fine. I hate spraying. I used to argue with the guy when he came into the yard to cover my stuff before he sprayed. I’ an organic gardener – I don’t use chemical preparations. Ever. Now apparently the trees are going. Whether she got permission or not, they’re being replaced. No more pink blossoms in spring.

It’s so ugly and diminished and I so do not have any energy to deal with her anymore. This is the same woman who, when we found a leak under the sink, suggested that we just put a bucket under it and empty the bucket every few days. She will not pay a professional to do ANY work. I take it back – the day that the toilet backed up AND the shower stall flooded, she called the professionals right away; didn’t try sending over her husband first. Which is how most things get done – Jerry works in HVAC, so apparently he knows how to do everything. And yes, granted, he knows a TON (and is nice and doesn’t try the “just use a bucket from now on” approach; he will do a “can you use a bucket til I get there?”) He’s fixed the refrigerator, the stove (when the oven element did something weird like short out and wouldn’t turn off) and he knows about dryers and how to fix them so they don’t need replacing. And he thought my idea to ramp the walkway made sense – it’s 2 dinky steps, not real steps and not well done. But he’s not a plumber or electrician. So there’s a very creepy dubious black ring under the bathroom tiles where the toilet is – something cearly leaks and some day? Oh god. They had 5 days to replace the bathroom when we were in the Bouchercon hotel and we came home to no sink. On Monday. And we were to wait until Saturday to get one. And I said no, I would not brush my teeth in the kitchen all week, ineeded a bathroom sink. They’d had five days, after all. And poor Jerry – then her boyfriend, schleipped over and was here til midnight putting in the sink. Because other things had taken longer than they thought.

Everything takes longer than you think when it comes to home repairs and home improvements. Especially when you’re not an expert. Because – for example – you don’t know that you’re supposed to put a plate over something so that someone doesn’t drill into the pipe. Good thing we were home that day because the torn off valve is concealed in our bedroom closet. And the guy upstairs drilled into a pipe that was not protected by a plate and had started a flood.

And she buys the cheapest she can, so that the vanity that she bought when they redid the bathroom? We don’t expect marble. We have a pseudo-French provincial vanity in the bathroom and silver colored strip lighting. When I did say to Jerry “it’s like an operating room in here” about the bathroom (six bulbs? Say what 50 watts each?) he DID put in a dimmer switch. But in our last conversation about the plumbing (this house’s clear weakness) when she made it clear nothing would be done until we left, I said “well, you COULD just move us into another property that’s vacant at some point and redo this one.” She liked that idea but when I reminded her I couldn’t’ do stairs, she suggested one place wouldn’t be bad. It only had one flight. “I can’t do stairs” I said. “Well, but you’d only have to do them once”. She replied. Apparently assuming that I would just stay in the house, 24/7 until the month-long or whatever plumbing fix was completed..

But because she is big on “nice” seems to mean, well, sterile is overstating it but trimmed edges are REAL BIG here – as I was fumbling for it Stu said “Astroturf” and yeah, I think she’s like that. Uproot the trees, dig up the growing stuff, pave and paint it or put in indoor-outdoor carpeting. She won’t let the folks upstairs plant anything because it won’t look nice; one time she talked me into letting the upstairs neighbor have one of my planting beds. This enthusiast put in ornamental grass I’m still removing. And I realized that I was constantly looking out OUR windows and seeing someone in OUR yard. Just like this hapless bozo here today – who I yelled at just like I did two weeks ago. I know I’m not employing him but would YOU want to work here? No one tells us he’s coming, no one tells us what he’s going to do and by the time I look? Too late. Not to menion the joy of going out in the morning in my robe with a headache, pre coffee, pre-hair being brushed, and realizing there’s a fucking stranger in my yard.

I don’t know what her problem is. Sometime about control I think. She doesn’t LIVE here so what the fuck does she care how it looks when her tenants OF 15 YEARS say it’s fine and nothing we’ve done harms the place at all. A few years ago she decided it didn’t look “nice” to have the chain link fence up, so she took it down. From the front. It’s still along the side of the house. The neighborhood cats have made my former planting beds into the corner litter box; one other reason I used to leave stuff covering the dirt.

Why she is in the business, I don’t now. As an investment, I guess. She works for the city, but she’s not real aware of the city. When the post office tried to get her to put in a mailbox for both addresses up at the corner and I refused, she tried to understand why. When I explained for like the 3d time that I could not walk and it meant going a) to the garage and getting the scooter and b) going up to the corner in the scooter and c) maybe doing that 3 or 4 times d) possibly in the rain, she wanted to now why I couldn’t just wait until Stu got home and brought in the mail. Of course he never goes out of town either. And said I HAD to – until I said “give me the name of the post office person who told you that. I’ll ask for a copy of those new “requirements” and file a discrimination lawsuit under ADA. When I said I could not walk a block she asked how I got around and I said I used the bus. She asked what I did with the scooter, where I left it when I was on the bus. She was totally unaware that every bus in this town has been lift-equipped for YEARS. Since she has had a problem with walking, she assumes she knows what my problems are and when I have told her no, I would not walk to the corner, she wanted to know why I couldn’t because she could. That’s a very close quote.

Mind you ,in other things she’s totally nice. She’s NOT a bitch – anything but. She really IS reasonable about many things – including what she charges for rent – and does try to pass on tips about heating efficiency and what she learns about conservation. Even if she is a church-goer who, when she heard our new neighbor studied aikido asked itf that was a form of Satanism. (It was around the time that the Republican party in our state developed a platform that condemned, among other things, witchcraft, crystal healing, yoga and hypnosis. Apparently, her minister listened to their broadsides.. But she’s a landlady and as such she’s got obligations. Her control-freakism has ruined my day and has ensured that I’m done gardening. Period. I will not plant another thing nor try to do anything again. I’m sick at heart and tired of fighting her – she just will find another way around me and my messy garden. And I can’t find the energy anymore but god damn, I am so sad. Angry, tired, and fed up because what I did harmed NO ONE and brought me pleasure and joy. And knowing it’s been destroyed – or even if not – even if the guy is right and it’s back next year? It’s no longer mine.

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