elmo neighbors renters sweet relief trash

There’s a Kind of a Hush All Over the World Tonight

They’re out.

Praise the long-armed reach of absentee landlords (take that, Ireland!): the bohunk renters across the alley have been evicted.

After my earlier post about these five college lads’ disruptive partying tendencies, things got worse.

They hit a new high the night that Phat Boy Renter and his Li’l Blondie girl sat outside the house in her car, blaring country music at 17 on the volume dial, drinking beers (the trunk of empties clanked resoundingly each time they finished swigging, got out of the car, tossed the bottle into the bottomless well of its peers, and grabbed another. During this process, a song entitled “Marianne” thumped again and again, hammering out a psychosis-inducing tattoo. On its third go-round, I was certain that, no matter what Marianne had done to earn the gullible singer’s admiration, Bitch Stole My Chips).

Every fifteen minutes or so, to spice up the potential monotony of “drink a beer/toss the empty/ grab a new one,” Phat Boy Renter would lurch out of the car, half-filled bottle in hand, and stagger off to pee in the yard. At one point, another of the renters, this one named Dimwit, pulled up with his girl, and they, too, remained parked outside the house. Dimwit and His Girl were in the middle of a fight, apparently. At one point, Dimwit slammed out of the car and ran down the alley, causing Phat Boy and Blondie to jump out of their car, with Phat Boy chasing Dimwit and Blondie hopping into the second car next to Dimwit’s Girl. Much drama played out before Dimwit eventually meandered back home, twenty minutes later, and retrieved a sleeping bag out of the trunk of his car. His Girl had already taken her sleeping bag from the trunk and gone into the house, but Dimwit took his bag and went and slept on the lawn. (pssst, fellas…a little tip here: you’re paying money to have access to that house; you should take your drinks and sleeps inside the damn place)

All the while, Phat Boy Renter and Blondie counseled and consoled and hit the trunk for fresh beers and kept the tunes a’throbbin’, teaching the entire coulda-been-sleeping neighborhood comprised of young children, pregnant women, and solidly-employed types that–get this!–life is a highway, and those crazy college kids were going to ride it all. night. long.

I witnessed every subtlety of the drama, watching it from my back porch that night, where I lay on the couch, wrapped in a fleece blanket, shivering, yawning, muttering my own private commentary about their ongoing monkeyshine.

From my seat in the loge, all the world was The Renters’ stage from roughly 1:30 a.m. until 3 a.m., when I finally passed out into sleep. The cops, whom I’d called at 1:30 a.m., had still not arrived, denying me the much-hoped-for pleasure of seeing each blockhead receive a “drinking as a minor” citation. As I waited and waited, I wanted to huff around about how the police certainly weren’t doing their jobs that night, but the fact that my city swells by approximately 25,000 college students each August kept me sympathetic. It just might have been, at bar-closing time on a Saturday night in September, that the cops had bigger Alpha Tau Omegas to fry. Eventually, perhaps as the sun rose, Phat Boy and Li’l Blondie and Marianne, hissing, shielded themselves from the light and relinquished themselves to hangover-inducing sleep.

As they do, even when one is fatigued or hungover, the days and weeks passed. The renters, already in possession of one dog, brought back on board the ceaseless barker (of my previous post on this issue). The freshmen dunderknots drank nightly, smoked and called each other “faggot” twenty feet from my children at play during the daylight, and generally brought the vibe of Age 18 Hollister to our gentle neighborhood of Middle-Aged Coldwater Creek. Their antics made it increasingly hard to remain stuffily removed.

But then.
The landlord called.
From Arizona.
Just to check in with us.
To see if everything was going okay.
Ever since he’d given the striplings a cell phone lashing after their inaugural party some weeks before.

Sometimes I have a lot of words. So I used them.

He did okay with the part about “Marianne” and my calling the cops. Clearly, he had never heard “Marianne,” or his outrage would have been more immediate and palpable.

However, when I mentioned the dogs, old Tuscon Tom snapped. DOGS? DOOOOOOGS? DAAAAAAAAWWWGGGGSSSSS?

Seems there was a little clause in the lease that mentioned the words “castration,” “hobbling” and ultimately “eviction,” should any animal ever enter the premises.

Clutching protectively at their ‘nads and ankles, the lads got their notice. They had two weeks to get out.

Two weeks and three days later, they started packing. The whole moving process was like a Three Stooges movie starring Robert Downey, Jr., Kiefer Sutherland, and Judd Apatow, featuring a guest appearance by Mickey Rourke (Fifth Renter was noticably absent from the proceedings, no doubt drowned in a fifth of a different sort near a bus stop somewhere)…

what with Phat Boy’s only contribution being, inexplicably, to deposit a pair of shoes onto the side lawn–perhaps to mark the spots where he’d drunkenly peed;

Dimwit dragging out various pieces of his possessions to the car–all of them jammed inside a sleeping bag;

Kyle clambering into the trash can in an attempt to stuff in just seven more pizza boxes;

and Joshua fumbling through the long-empty packs of smokes that littered the driveway, seeking out one last puff as he sat on the cooler and considered the asphalt, for quite a very long while, before slowly standing up.

Eventually, after they’d all worked really, really hard, in the fashion of Paris Hilton making her own way in the world, they hopped into their cars and drove away, crashing into whatever unsuspecting neighborhood will be saddled with them next. Call Mommy! Call Daddy! America’s Best had not only lived on their own for the first time; they had also moved out of a place, all on their own, for the first time!

But what they had failed to do, for the first (and certainly not the last) time, was reclaim their security deposit. For three days after their departure, a cleaning lady scoured the place, a handy man came in to repair the holes punched into the walls, and a carpet dude came to pull out the rugs and put in new ones. And that was just the inside work. Here’s a little math problem for you, College Boys:



That crying Native American there? It’s probably for the best that, at the close of this commercial, he stepped out into speeding traffic and was taken down by a mail truck. Had he survived, he’d have needed a full-on box of Kleenex Aloe Vera and a whole new treaty struck with the White Man’s King after looking down into the ravine next door to the now-empty rental–

a ravine, curiously, where the creek was newly dammed

with a couch

and a bookshelf

furniture that had spent the previous three days perched outside, on the porch of the rental, mysteriously “disappearing” (with great ruckus at midnight) just as the knucklebutts left for good.

Suffice it to say, there were more phone calls: to the landlord, to the delinquents (who swore they dinn’t know nuffin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies, Mizz Scarlett!), nearly to the cops. They were given two days to get the furniture out of the ravine. It was out the next day.

And left there, next to the ravine, on the sidewalk.

At this point, while I was still gunning for police work and enormous fines, the beleaguered landlord discovered his inner Native American and decided that instead of continuing to fight past exhaustion and nearly to extinction, he would, in the interests of self-preservation,

step back, let the feckless bastards move on, give them ample time, and feel secure in the knowledge that

the idiots will eventually hang themselves in a web of their own weaving.

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Foreclosed Without Purchase

It was the yapping that yanked me to consciousness.

Bad doggie woke me.

Curse the bad doggie.

But what doggie? All previous yappers had met their fate as Main Ingredient in Jocelyn’s Yippy Puppy Stew (oft-requested at local potlucks). So what was this odd barking noise that was killing my snooze?

New doggie.

Across the alley.

In the rental house.

Before I adulticized and became a homo-wner, I had no sense of the fear that the word “rental” could strike into a mid-life, quietly-contented heart. When I was a renter, during the Jagermeister Years, I never had the faintest notion that my lack of investment in a neighborhood, or in the quality of life of those around me, might be a bother. Parties were my right, as was coming and going at 2 a.m., car tires grinding in the gravel. Life was all just me and my peeps, doin’ our bang thang. Rhythm was a dancer, and my days were all about good vibrations. That my vibrations resonated sloppily onto anyone else in the two-block radius was so far beyond unthinkable that it took the light from Unthinkable two thousand years to reach my orbit.

But now. I live in my sweet place with sweet neighbors, and we like our family-life vibe and our quiet.

Not so much the renters. In the four years that we’ve lived next to the rental, we’ve witnessed the sad family with Abusive Daddy, he who hollered at his kids that they were “worthless f**ks”. We’ve had the Snaggle-Toothies, telemarketers who smoked out by the garbage can on Sundays (game day!) while dressed in full Vikings football regalia. We’ve had Baby Daddy, who broke up with his girlfriend right about the week their baby, Liberty, was born.

The latest, them responsible for Yapping Doggie Stewmeat, are five 18-year-old boys, all on the cusp of their first term at college.

The yappy wake-up happened about a month ago, on a day when the first of the lads was moving in to the house with the help of his father, sister, and BroBuddy. Trying not to be passive/aggressive, I straightforwardly and, in a psychologically-healthy manner, channeled my peevishness into a carefully-phrased note (“I don’t mean for us to get off on the wrong foot here, but it seems fair to let you know that your dog, while perfectly happy when you’re around, seems to get loudly and unrelentingly distressed in your absence…and if there’s anything we all can do to help with training or making your dog feel more comfortable during the long hours that you are out of the house, do let us know”), which I then tacked to their screen door with a bloody, cyanide-laced dart.

Twenty minutes later, First Boy and his posse—burping up eggs and waffles–pulled up, ready to continue to unload the moving truck. I was working in our garden, hugging the carrots a bit, which gave me a fine vantage point from which to watch the reading of the note, which spun them from bewilderment to incredulity to defensiveness. Right as they rounded the corner to “Geez, what a bitch” territory, I stood up, startling them all, and hied across the alley. I introduced myself as their new penpal and started gladhanding and gerrymandering and do-si-do-ing. Before you know it, we learned that First Lad, a thick-necked creature named Kyle, was entering the fire fighting program at the college where I teach. All his impending roommates, too, would be attending what I like to call my college.

Kyle looked distinctly nervous when I pointed out that I teach a range of required classes that would be hard for all five members of the rental to avoid during their college careers.

Quickly, he assured me that Yippy Doggie Stewmeat was only in town for the day and would be returning to his hometown that night. But, er, one of the other guys would, um, hem, haw, be bringing his dog in a few weeks, when the whole crew moved in.

Then he turned and ran.

After that day, we had two more weeks of blessed quiet, as the rental remained empty, save for Kyle’s futon, lava lamp, and keg-o-liter.


The college term started this past Monday, which meant those far-thinking boys were here in town, in full occupancy, the weekend before.

When we were out of town.

Unable to enforce the idea of No Trespassing, You Frat-Boy Wannabe RatAsses.

Thus, when we pulled up Sunday evening, spent and craving noodles, it surprised us to see our tetherball pole leaning awkwardly as it did. Groom, wide-eyed, started wondering aloud what might have happened to it. But since I’ve taught college kids for 18 years, my gaze immediately shifted to the rental, which lay there stolidly, feigning innocence.

“Looks like someone might have backed a car into it,” I noted, loading and locking another cyanide dart. “Or maybe, it looks like about 200 pounds of simpleton decided to challenge 190 pounds of shirtless drunk to a match.”

Agitated, we unpacked the car and muttered about our intention of stomping over there and cracking some heads, realizing, of course, that tempered feelings find better reception. So I began mulling, trying to find the right forceful language that also struck a chord of diplomacy, so that the next 12 months wouldn’t lapse into an impasse and climate of increasing hostility, wherein our cars are urinated upon every night at 3 a.m. and our sunflowers mauled and scattered around the alley before the lads segue to synchronized beer dives into our compost bin.

As I fought down the pissed-off-ishness, my next door neighbor, Mike, spotted me in the yard. “God, I felt like such a jerk,” he called out.

“What? Why? What’re you talking about?”

As it turns out, neighbors on all sides had become alarmed when the crew of big boys entered our yard during the weekend and started whaling on our tetherball pole, whipping at the rope and ball with a flurry of profanities as they played game after game. Mike was finally the one to go up to the boys and ask, “Do you guys, uh, have permission to be here doing this?”

Why yes, he was told, Jocelyn had told them it was fine. They were in Jocelyn’s class at the college. We all were friends. They had my explicit permission.

While a part of me admired the chutzpah in this audacious response, the bigger part of me immediately began slicing up each lad into stew-meat-sized chunks and adding them to the simmering pot.

So I shifted my mulling into high gear. I lost sleep that night. In a riveting inner monologue that lasted from 1:14 a.m. ‘til 2:24 a.m., I called each renter’s mother and advised her that her son needed her, that she should come right away and stay for some weeks, that she should bring all of her Oprah’s book club selections along and read them aloud to her respective son while simultaneously ruffling his curly head and changing the sheets on his bed–sniffing them for any hint of a spew–that the neighbor lady across the alley would love to share recipes (and phone numbers) with her, ending the entire visit with a firm and public embrace between concerned neighbor lady and college-boy mother.

After a few days of stewing the boys in my mental Dutch oven, I decided to let it go. However, I’m on alert now, crouching at the windows and observing every late-night brake screeching and cigarette butt randomly tossed into the alley. With one small incident, they’ve made me The Crazy Lady With Calloused Patellas.

I give them time. My list of infringements will lengthen. I have the landlord’s phone number.

But best of all: even though I have no one named Kyle in any of my classes this semester, there’s always Spring term.

As it turns out, I can be a very—almost unreasonably, crazily—hard grader. And with all the f-bombs being dropped out in the yard over at the rental, I find myself constantly thinking “F” this and “F” that. “’F’ Kyle” is rather stuck in my head..

Quite elegantly, grades for Spring term will be posted just when the lease across the alley runs out. Bon Foyage.

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