Tag Archives: construction

need entertainment? put a dumpster in front of your house in baltimore and watch what happens

good times: the dumpster in front of the old man’s house. nothing cheers up baltimoreans like a good old-fashioned dumpster dive (or dumpster dump).

so someone finally bought the old man’s house even though there was a body imprint on the floor, about a million dead flies in the street-facing basement window and, when the weather is just right (rainy/humid/hot), smells like, well, if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know what it smells/smelled like.

for those of you who need a little background, the “old man” was our elderly neighbor who kept to himself–so much so that when he passed away in early fall 2009, no one knew until two+ weeks later when we smelled something, which turned out to be the stench of–not to be disrespectful or anything–human decomposition.

it was extremely sad but also extremely frustrating as we experienced (and smelled) the ripple effects of a house–which we share walls with, btw; we live in a neighborhood of traditional baltimore rowhomes (here’s a great shot of east baltimore rowhomes)–that was in a state of disrepair for far too long. while “cute,” the problem w/rowhomes is that your neighbor’s problems really become your problems, from rats and basement flooding to, yes, foul odors.

anyway, the estate owners very recently sold the house to some investors and they gutted the place, much like we did with ours years ago. well, with gutting a rowhome comes a dumpster. and with a dumpster comes, yes, folks, the very best of baltimore.

oh dumpsters! put a dumpster in front of your house in baltimore and ppl will come out of the woodwork to either take stuff out of it or drop things in it. it’s like a friggin parade.

nothing cheers up a baltimorean like a dumpster. b/c i suppose our houses all contain stuff we’ve been meaning to throw away but haven’t b/c it doesn’t fit in a garbage can? and suddenly, neighbors you haven’t seen in, like, 3 to 4 years are coming out in their pajamas carrying an old crib or microwave to throw in the damn dumpster that someone else is paying for.

dumpsters also, apparently, inspire some baltimoreans to do long-awaited home improvement projects. the woman who lives on the other side of the old man’s house told us she ripped off all the carpeting from her stairs simply b/c she would be able to throw it out.

“and i’m about to start on the basement,” she said.

well then.

and then come the scary dumpster people. they come in the middle of the night and they are loud. these are not “freegan“-types, either. they are loud and frightening and make me scared to call the police as i’m convinced they have night vision similar to that of a raccoon or possum and can see my eyes peeping thru the curtains at them. and then they will kill me.

we have not had a decent night’s sleep since they parked the dumpster in front of our house. b/c every. single. night. every night! the scary dumpster people come and jump into the the damn thing to see what they can fish out and sell.

and let me assure you, freegans (i’m speaking as if i have this huge freegan following, which, maybe i do? i have no idea), the type of dumpsters i’m talking about contain no leftover tofu, beets or other discarded vegetarian delicacies. this sh*t is dirty, dirty, dirty (and in our case, partially saturated with the sort of bodily fluid that only comes with death): nasty rotten wood, moldy drywall, old foggy glass–if you can dream it, it’s in there.

and then there are the throw-it-in scary, middle-of-the-night dumpster people. who pull up their rickety pickup trucks at 2am and dump their crap in there like it’s high noon.

(we really had no idea there was so much glass in the damn dumpster until people started jumping around in it, and throwing stuff in it. it’s really been an enlightening few days.)

so, despite dumpster-related issues, noise, dust and the fact that the workers were pounding so hard on his walls today that the mortar in our exposed bricks started falling onto our stairs (good times!), it feels good that not only is all the stinky stuff (hopefully) gone, but a painful time in our lives can finally be put to bed. i think “the old man,” wherever he is, would be glad to see it.

geesh, this was supposed to be funny and here i’ve gotten all sappy on you. oh well. that’s baltimore for ya. generally funny & ridiculous, but every once in a while it’ll tug at your heartstrings. but then you think of the $60 “environmental citation” ticket you got for “weeds” in your tiny-ass tree pit last summer and the feeling goes away. ahh. that’s better.

the back of the old man's house



saturday morning we were awoken by an obnoxious succession of doorbell rings followed by heavy pounding on our door. when i say “morning” i mean before 7 a.m., like 6:50 a.m.  and by “obnoxious” i mean effing awful and rude. i want to note that holly and i were in an exceedingly pleasant deep sleep until this point.

we were like, “what THE?!!”

as holly put on her slippers and ran downstairs, i lifted our shade and peered down, expecting to see a ups or fedex truck and wanting to yell down something about being a mothereffin persistent deliveryman. instead i saw a burly dude with glasses and a ballcap staring up at me. he had a red car with its blinkers on parked in the middle of the street behind him. i got a bad feeling and suddenly wanted to open the window and throw my pointiest shoes at his dumbass face looking up at me.

a few moments later, i hear our door beep open (our alarm system; we’ve got the place wired up like fort knox) and a man’s deep voice says, “are you holly [lastname].” i started running downstairs, my hair poofed out (didn’t straighten it yet), pajama pants blowin in the wind, “holly! noooooooooooo!!!!”

we were getting served.

all those unpaid dc parking tickets holly got when she used to stay over at my apartment in adams-morgan had finally come back to haunt us. he was going to arrest her. this was it. did i mention my cousin was visiting *for the very first time* from philly and was sleeping in the guest room??? i was like, great. great introduction to our calm home life.

“please sign here.”

as i arrived downstairs, i saw her take hold of a clipboard and a pen that this a-hole pushed thru the practically shut door.

“holly, noooooooooooo! DON’T SIGN THAT!”

she told me to simmer down, and shut the door in the guy’s face. the idiot knocked and she cracked open the door.

“hey, it’s raining out here!” he said, (total pansyass).

“i don’t know you,” holly said. “you’re going to have to wait out there while i read this.”

then she shut the door in his face. good girl.

my hands and feet were ice cold. what the hell was all this??!! we flipped thru the papers and finally found what we were looking for. an electrician, this effing awful electrician we fired back when we were renovating our once-crackhouse, was sueing us. we had a courtdate.

i breathed a huge sigh of relief. so she wasn’t getting arrested. my baby wasn’t going to jail. we’re only being sued. thank G-d.


hey, i know what you’re thinking right now. but let me tell you: when enough crappy stuff has happens to you, you really and truly start looking at the bright side.

so yeah. a little background here. we bought a boarded up rowhouse about three years ago. it was pretty much a drughouse. so we demo’ed the whole thing, down to the original bricks and joists. holly designed the inside and hired all the subcontractors to rebuild it from the inside out. the electrician we hired was pretty terrible. he didn’t show up to do the work most of the time. when he did, he did it wrong. he also put us a month behind schedule (we were living in an apt. while searching for the house and then during the renovation). so holly fired his ass and found a new electrician. we wound up paying even more money b/c of this jerk to pay the new electrician to fix the idiot’s work. about a year or so later, the original electrician said we owed him x amount of money and sent a bunch of generic collections agency lawyers after us. we hired our own lawyer and got them to drop it. that lawyer told us he seriously doubted they’d come back after us. maybe he’s grasping at straws b/c the economy’s so bad and he doesn’t have a lot of work right now? all i know is that he’s not getting a red cent from us and he can kiss our collective ass.

let me tell you something, and i offer a disclaimer in case you or someone you know or are close to or someone in your family is in any kind of construction business, b/c there’s exceptions to every rule: contractors are pretty much the scum of the earth. this is my opinion only, and i’m sure i sound like a major effing jerk to say that, esp on the internets. but i offer the following from experience: they will take you for all you have. they will rip you off and never look back. they will spill insanely sweet iced tea all over your subfloors (and not even bother to pick up the overturned bottles) until roaches are crawling everywhere. they will piss on your basement floor (yes, this happened to us). and electricians are the worst of  em all.

it’s kind of like: i thought this was all over. all this headache over our renovation. but obviously it’s not.

so we signed the damned papers and handed them back to the guy. (look, i know it’s just his job but he was a total jerk and too bad you got stuck standing out in the rain! what do you expect? us to invite you in and make you a mothereffin pot’a coffee?!! get a grip, dude! grow a set and stand out in the rain for a minute. it’s only drizzling you big baby!) somehow my cousin fell back to sleep after all that commotion. we did, too, tho i hate to do that b/c sleeping too late can set off migraines for me. (i turned out to be ok)

she padded downstairs a couple hours later and was like, “what was all that?”

“we’ve been served,” i said. i couldn’t help but laugh. our ridiculous lives. like i always say: never a dull moment.

holly and i have a way of putting these sorts of things in the back of our minds, b/c really, what can you do? if we focused on all this, we’d wind up in a padded room (hopefully they would put us in the same one? not funny but it is).

so we did what all normal ppl would do in this situation: we made coffee and then went out for omlettes.

i meant to write about all this earlier in the week, but i just didn’t have the mental energy to do it. also i’m working on my book proposal, which is a serious endeavor, i’ve come to see. anyway, now you know what’s up. i know, i know. you all really want to stay over at our place to experience all this excitement. but there’s a waitlist, you see, b/c we only have one guestroom (!). haha. jk jk.

the upside to all this is that now i can say to holly: YOU GOT SERVED!!! i don’t think that one is ever going to get old. i’ve said it about 20 times since saturday and it’s still pretty damn funny.