Tag Archives: urban

if i wanted it to be this hot, i’d live directly on the equator

i interrupt this blog hiatus (omg wtf’s up w/the blog hiatus? i know. it’s annoying me, too) to say that my car’s already reading 94 friggin degrees and it’s not even 9:15 in the morning!!!! 

yes, baltimore–and every other city w/in driving distance–is trapped in a heat wave right now. and i am not a fan of the heat. and srsly? if i wanted it to be this hot i’d live closer to, or directly on, the equator. i am not kidding. i could do very well in an area that’s consistently 60-70 degrees. (does a place like that even exist? if so, pls tell me where it is.)

yesterday was weird. first of all, it was so hot that the city, well southeast baltimore at least, felt like a ghost town. not everyone around here has air conditioning, so when it’s hot, ppl usually hang out on their stoops or the sidewalk to get some relief. but the sun was beating down with such intensity that even the usual stoop suspects stayed inside. i didn’t even smell one bbq. not even the drunks in the house by the alley were out. total silence save for some sirens here and there. like i said: weird.

then, late afternoon, our power went out. in the almost-four years we’ve lived in our house, our power has never gone out. never. the lights went out. dishwasher stopped. the hum of our air conditioner disappeared. holly and i looked at each other and were like: uh-oh.

turns out the entire block was out. within 10 minutes, the temperature in our house went up two degrees. then i started thinking about all the pricey frozen stuff we had in the freezer. and the two new half-gallons of milk in the fridge. and that our cell phones had weak batteries. and both of our computers weren’t charged up. and all the assignments i had to finish.

wow, we are so dependant on electricity, i thought, suddenly filled with deep thoughts about modern life and its luxuries. this, of course, was followed up with a loud “THIS SUCKS” to holly. so much for deep thinking.

she, of course, concurred.

“the silence is deafening,” she said from the couch.

“i know,” i said. i was about to start humming top 40 hits to fill the dead air, but instead suggested we go out for pizza, since we decided that even cracking our fridge or freezer would put all of our cold and/or frozen food in jeopardy.

we went out and came back and the power was still out, tho the BGE guys were working on it. (major props to those guys.) thankfully our neighbor lori the teacher opened her home to us like she usually does (hi lori! love ya) and we charged an extra cell phone battery and holly’s computer. everyone was out on their stoops and sidewalks by then. and i guess the darkness and boredom drove everyone that had leftover fireworks to light them off almost simultaneously. most of the ghettofabulous fireworks around here sound like machine guns, so between the darkness, silence and bursts of uzi-like explosives i felt like we were in some kind of urban warfare movie.

we broke out the flashlights and then lit all the little tealight candles we have left from our wedding (almost two years ago now! can you believe it??). it could have been a romantic moment if it hadn’t been like 90 degrees in the house.

we went up to the roofdeck and since it was so dark and on the way up, i did a little flashlight signal to jerry the drunk (who was hanging out his second-floor window, like he usually does; tho he did have clothes on this time, seemed like, anyway. note: he doesn’t always have clothes on) as my way of saying hi. he waved. (i gotta say, he really is the nicest neighborhood drunk)

we didn’t last long up there b/c honestly, the fireworks (in such close proximity) combined w/the darkness all around was freaking me out. we went to sleep, to the sound of the guys working, on top of our comforter, and holly woke me up around midnight to tell me the power was back on. i went downstairs to check on the stuff in the fridge (food: always my biggest priority) and everything in the freezer was still frozen solid. whew.

then i got some crushed ice and poured myself a cold glass of iced tea, turned up the ac, went back upstairs, turned on the ceiling fan and turned on the tv. (i would have fired up my 450-degree hair straightener, but, you know, we weren’t going anywhere.) ahhh. creature comforts.  man i love electricity.

so today it’s supposed to be even hotter (104 degrees, msnbc is telling me) b/c of the humidity. and it’s not cooling down anytime soon. do you hate this heat? do you love it? and if you love it, why?!

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and here’s why people move to the suburbs

b/c when you’re trying to have a nice dinner outside–on your deck, say–some dude goes in the alleyway directly across the street–you know, the one you have an absolutely perfect view of–and just when you think he’s going to do something completely disgusting like pee he actually proceeds to do the ultimate in disgusting: barfs his guts up. repeatedly. and then you lose your friggin appetite, pack up the dishes and the half-eaten plates of food and haul everything inside with a big sigh.

then you say to your partner when you get downstairs–holding your breath so you won’t barf yourself–that you know why ppl move to the suburbs. that this is why ppl move to the suburbs. and maybe we should move to the suburbs?

ok, so obviously you know that this story wasn’t about someone else or hypothetical. it’s about us and it’s about last night and i’m having a hard time not getting sick just thinking about it. i’ve never wished for someone to pee in an alleyway before. and i’ve never wished for a hard rain like this either. (luckily, we think Jerry the Drunk ,who lives in the house directly next to the alley, cleaned it up since he has a hose he uses to water the plants–he has an incredibly green thumb, you’d swear he wasn’t drunk the way his plants and flowers grow–out front.)

look, it’s not baltimore per se. this kind of crap happens in every city. anytime you have a mass of humanity living close together, disgusting things inevitably happen. but for crying out loud. the dude was probably drunk and it wasn’t even 7pm. 

each day that passes here makes me more and more appreciative of the picturesque little new jersey town i grew up in. you’d be hard pressed to find me making cracks about living in the suburbs anymore. not after living here. wooh boy. no way.

oh fer cryin out loud: i really am old now

b/c i just called the local elementary/middle school “not as a parent but as a concerned member of the community.” damn kids are running wild in the neighborhood! not only walking in the middle of the street–i’m not talking a few at a time either, i’m talking 15-20 at a time; the sidewalks are clear btw, there’s  no reason to walk in the middle of the street–but taking handfuls of icy, sharp snow and scratching cars as they drive by.

this one kid did it to the car in front of us, then looked us straight in the eye and did it to us, too. they all pretty much sh*t a brick when all the sudden holly opens her door and gets out to yell at them, “hey! do you have money to fix the scratches on my car?? do you????” at which point they all started taunting us, shouting curses, dancing and giving us the finger, still in the middle of the street, of course.

look, i’m not stupid. these kids have been cooped up inside for over a week. and a lot of the kids around here depend on school to eat, so they’re probably grumpy and their home lives are probably crap. but: it is DANGEROUS for them to be walking down the middle of the street any time of the year, but esp. when two-way streets are now one-way and there’s ice and snow everywhere and most ppl around here don’t know how to drive in these conditions anyway! half the cars you see every day are slipping and sliding down these narrow sidestreets that a lot of the schools are on. they also shouldn’t be messing with moving vehicles, trying to damage them. these kids are badasses as it is. middle schoolers have actually beaten up full-grown adults in this city. but c’mon now. taunting drivers while they’re slipping and sliding on bad road conditions? plus taunting drivers in general! and destroying property. school administrators should know about that.

then we’re trying to pull in our spot and just as we’re starting to back up we see this woman–i don’t know if she was a mother or just a caretaker/daycare person–but she is beating this little girl that couldn’t have been more than four. i’m sorry but a kid that little does not need to be hit like that. what could she have possibly done?? the woman’s got about four or five kids with her, including an itty-bitty one in stroller. and this little girl is just wailing and now the others that saw her get hit are crying, too. we didn’t know if we should say something to this woman or not. i just kept thinking, if we say something she’ll probably get even more mad and beat the girl some more. yeah, and we’re wondering why kids are cursing us out and destroying property. i’m not saying it gives older kids a carte blanche to do whatever they want to, but it was certainly a cause-and-effect reminder of what some of these kids have gone thru and continue to go thru on a daily basis. it’s funny how you need a license to drive, but anyone biologically able can have a child.

anyway, i’m like, 80 now, calling school administrators. and i know they have enough to worry about. but still, they ought to know what their kids are up to in the neighborhood just outside the school building.

i knew it was only a matter of time

before some dumbass pulled a knife on somebody over a parking spot. this is today’s new neighborhood development.

yup, some dude moved someone else’s chair and parked in his spot. we saw cop cars and asked what was going on. like i keep saying: respect the chair. [or the cone, milkcrate, dining room set, tv tray, coffee table (yes, saw one of those today) or, my new favorite, a laundry basket full of snow with a pink foam floaty noodle sticking out of it.] respect it or you might get cut. at least in baltimore. so beware.

well now i feel like a giant ass

b/c the old man really did kick it.

if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know who i’m talking about: our old man neighbor, the loner, the one we always checked in with each other about–that we’d seen him around. the one i’ve been irritated with for months and months: for his overgrown yard, rat factory garage, unconnected gutters…for reporting us to the city for a bag of leftover recycling that was mistaken for trash when i don’t even know if he’s the one that reported us. the one we could have reached out to more b/c we knew he didn’t have any family or friends.

we’d been smelling something weird in the house since wednesday or thursday. honestly, it smelled like a dead mouse, but just in the front of the house. we figured this was the case, since we just hired a new exterminator and he’d set a bunch of traps. as the days went by, it got stronger. hell, just this morning holly was sniffing really deeply–reallly really deeply (ugh)–by our front window looking for clues. we lifted up the arm chairs yesterday, half-expecting to find a rotting mouse or something. late last week we lifted up the couch. nothing there either. the smell sort of seeped into the basement, too. i’d even decided i’d call the exterminator to have a look this week since we just couldn’t find anything. it got to the point that we couldn’t do anything for any period of time (homework for holly, various writing assignments for me) b/c the smell got so distracting that we couldn’t concentrate, let alone cook, and it really freaked us out that we couldn’t locate its source.

we didn’t see the old man on halloween (us three next-door neighbors: the “BGE guy,” old man and holly and i usually sit on our marble stoops each year with bowls of candy for trick-or-treaters). heck, we hadn’t seen him for at least a couple of weeks. we decided today we’d knock on his door to see if he was ok. if no one answered, we’d call 311, the non-emergency police line.

we knocked before we left to go out this morning. no answer. then we knocked on our neighbors’ door (the one who lives on the other side of the old man, the aforementioned “BGE guy” and his family) to ask if they’d seen him lately. or smelled something. but they weren’t home. we knocked on the old man’s door when we got back. still no answer. we talked to a couple more  neighbors and asked if they’d seen him lately (he usually walked out to the local grocery store a couple times a week) and they all said, come to think of it, no we haven’t. so that’s when we decided we’d call 311, all the while expecting it to be nothing. he’d be alive–and mad and freaked out when the fire department kicked down his door, hell that might kill him, we figured–and we’d have wasted a whole lot of emergency responder time over a dead mouse in the wall, and we’d feel like the crazy, worry-over-nothing neighbors.

as soon as the officer got to the old man’s front door he knew. he said he could smell it from outside. plus there were flies on the inside of the windows. and condensation. (we’ve had an abundance of flies lately. it’s been odd, and i…don’t want to talk about it.) he was “95 percent sure” he said that our neighbor was dead inside the house, and had been so for some time.

soon the fire crew came, took out their ladders, climbed up and opened his windows to get in. we watched from the roof (we didn’t want to be in the house, but we didn’t want to be outside of it either; the roofdeck seemed like the best possible option, tho we noticed we could smell it from up there, too) as the firefighters and officers put on oxygen tanks and masks to go inside. that’s when i knew that our very worst baltimore nightmare had come true.

i wasn’t out there when they cracked the windows open, but when i came outside a little while later, there were still flies swarming on the formstone front of his house. the smell spilled out onto the sidewalk. it morphed into a smell that i don’t want to ever smell again. it’s burned into my memory.

i felt selfish for feeling so grossed out and disgusted. after those grossed-out type feelings passed a little, i felt just plain weirded out that we were just going on with our lives as he lay dead inside. (he must’ve had a heart attack and fallen on the ground, the crew told us.) once i got all those feelings (temporarily) out of my system, i started feeling really sad for him. that he didn’t get to die with dignity or with family around. that he was so alone in this world that the two girls next store wound up smelling something and called the police and the coroner had to take him out in a bag. that’s no way to go. then we both started feeling bad for not making more of an effort. we should have brought him hot meals, holly said. i shouldn’t have been so mad at him the past few weeks (since we got that environmental citation i suspect he turned us in for), i said. hell, the last time i saw him, just over two weeks ago, i’d say, he was standing in his doorway, wanting to say hello. he was oddly friendly all of the sudden, and i figured it was b/c he wanted to keep us off his trail (from suspecting that he was reporting our trash that wasn’t really our trash). he startled me, and i said hello and that was it. i was grumpy. little did i know that would be the last time i’d see him alive. now i feel terrible about it.

i take comfort in the fact that, in my mind, he’s not alone anymore. and with loved ones long gone. i wish the cops hadn’t thought it’d be funny to tell me gruesome details i pretty much begged them not to tell me so i could picture him as i had known him: as the white-haired, long-bearded eccentric man, always in his tan safari hat with the string hanging around his neck. walking quietly to the supermarket, always in khaki, multi-pocketed cargo pants and a dark blue jacket, always buttoned up, even on the hottest days. who mumbled about public television shows even i didn’t watch (like britcoms; oy, the britcoms) even when i worked at one (admittedly, i watch very little public television; yes, even when i worked at a public television station). who thought we were spying on him when we built our decks. the ex-morgan state librarian who tried to be friendly to us, even tho it was painfully obvious it was hard for him.

we won’t be staying in our house for the next couple days. (i’m writing this from our good friends’ house) it needs to air out. my whole head needs to air out, actually. i’m going to saline spray the hell out of my nose before i go to sleep tonight. we think our freshly laundered pajamas may have an odor to them, but honestly, what can we do? i’m going to ignore it and just put them on and try to go to sleep.

we continue to shake our heads b/c we never really thought it would come to this. we didn’t really think he’d “kick it” and then we’d “smell something.” it was always this morbid half-joke. and here’s it come true.

i’ve got to admit that this is just too much. i just want some peace and quiet. i just want all of this disgusting stuff to stop (and i haven’t even told you the half of it; i am saving some real doozies for the book). i know i joke around a lot about everything: about our neighborhood. the hookers and the dealers and the rats and the alleys. but at this point, i gotta say:  i really just want to move away and leave this all behind. i don’t want to go back to our house. i feel like everything’s changed. i don’t want to sleep there. i don’t want to live there. i feel crazy just thinking about it. baltimore, i’ve had enough. i really think it might be time to go.

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i’m tired of telling you how crappy this town is, so tonight i’m gonna show you

i’ve kind of had it today. i was going to blog (yesterday, but i got too tired) about all the special things holly did for my birthday (and all the wonderful facebook notes i got throughout the day, even the day before) but baltimore city has ruined things again. so instead i’m going to rant about our ghettoass neighborhood. specifically our alleyway.

if you have a weak stomach i suggest you stop reading now.

they say a picture’s worth a thousand words. and up until this point, i haven’t shown you photos of crap in/the antics of our shittyass neighborhood in order to protect our privacy. but alleyways are fairly anonymous.

so here you go:

trash_decaying rat

that’s the alley behind our house. about a week ago.

see that flat, rotting thing on the right? that’s a dead rat.
and that sewer right there? that’s a chesapeake bay water drain! like blue crabs? that’s what you’re eatin’, folks!

here’s what it looks like right now:


and you know what i especially love? i love how the city fined *us*, we got a notice this afternoon, for not having our trash “in the proper receptacle,” which we always do, btw, it’s just that the recycling guys refused to pick up the one bag that wouldn’t fit in our city-approved yellow recycling can last week.

We, of course, will be requesting a hearing about this,I wrote our councilperson and the mayor (i heard they actually read the emails she gets) tonight, but it is a true slap in the face considering how much we actually care about our neighborhood. We’re the ones that shout out our bedroom windows that we’re calling the police when we see our neighbors literally being beaten to a pulp in the middle of the night–without us shouting, they might be dead. (For the record, we called the police. This has happened twice.) We’re the ones that stood with the young mother (who didn’t speak any English) directly in front of our house many months ago that was sucker-punched by a bunch of teenage boys while her two young children were sitting–scared and bewildered–in her car, until the police showed up. We’re the ones with the carbon monoxide detector that, two winters ago, saved the lives of the temporary residents of the once-vacant house next door  (the six men living there were using propane to heat their entire home since they didn’t have power). Look up “Jessica X” and “Holly X” in your 311 records and you’ll see how many times we’ve called about so many different things in our neighborhood. Thus far, I haven’t seen a single thing improve. And now, the icing on the cake: a $50 fine.

as i was taking photos of all the crap out back this afternoon (to attach to the email), i saw one of our neighbors walking up the alley towards me. she’s a rollergirl, seems tough as nails, and she told me about a junkie she saw in the alley this morning, passed out, needle still in her arm. and it’s just like, look. i know all cities have their problems. but some days this place downright sucks. esp. when you’ve put so much of your hard-earned money into renovating a once-crackhouse in a neighborhood that seemed like it was getting better, but instead got a whole lot worse.

i wish i could show you a photo of the front of our house, which is pretty nice, i must say, but alas, the privacy. i promise the alley’s a whole lot worse than the actual street. and i gotta say: our alley’s one of the worst in the neighborhood. i honestly cannot tell you why, but it is. anyway, i wanted to show you. you can hate me now, since you probably barfed up your dinner.

so about my birthday–and sticking with this general grossness theme i’ve got going on tonight–i got a special gift from my parents that arrived today in a truck and a knock on the door:

an exterminator.

yes, i asked my parents for an exterminator for my birthday. (that’s kind of how you know your life is more than a little ridiculous: you ask for an exterminator for your birthday) and they totally got one for me. i was so happy when he (“the orkin man”) showed up. he was very nice–perhaps a bit offbeat, but, from personal experience, i’m going to hypothesize that most probably are–and pretty chatty.

holly likes to study w/the tv on (that’s why i have headphones on right now; marriage is about compromise, right?) so as she was working away on her cute lil netbook, she had a movie going in the background.

“what is that, ‘fools rush in’?” he asked, craning his neck over from the mouse traps he was setting to see the screen.

“yeah,” holly said. “it’s one of my favorites.”

“oh me, too,” he said. “i love that one. you know which one i also love? whassit called…oh, i know,  ‘sweet home alabama!’ that’s a good one. and that actress, whasser name, i don’t know her name…murphy brown, the one that played the new york city mayor? she was spot-on (he was laughing at this point). she was great.”

i knew holly and i were thinking the same thing: our exteminator likes chick flicks??? 

i came thiiiiis close to asking him what he thought of one of our all-time favorites, ‘how to lose a guy in 10 days,’ but stopped myself for fear of embarrassing our surprisingly sensitive exterminator (who picked up a fairly huge rigamortis dead rat outside, placed it in a doubled up safeway bag and put it in his supplybox about five minutes before this) in case i was pushing it too far. (all joking aside, i wanted to know if he liked it.)

anyway, it was probably the best present i could possibly get. aside from things money can’t buy. like being (accidentally) woken up by your partner before the sun’s even up as she’s preparing to leave to get you a triple shot tall soy latte from starbucks, croissant, fresh oj, a bouquet of fall flowers and two cards (one just words, one with music) and present them to you upon her return. (yes, i cried. talk about supersensitive. i just love being loved by her.)

and now i had to ruin this perfectly gross/obnoxious post by getting all sappy. again.

would it make you feel any better if i told you that the honeymoon phase of holly and i both being unemployed and home all day together (except when she’s in class) is over?

how do you know when the honeymoon phase is over, you ask? probably when your partner tells you she’s gonna put you in a “sleeper hold,” which is apparently some kind of dorkyass navy headlock (she was in the navy reserves for 11 years). she thinks it’ll quiet me down. haha. yeah, right, babe. gonna take more than a headlock to quiet my ass down.

here’s why you don’t set off firecrackers in baltimore

’cause, friggin a,  they sound like gunshots.

late june/early july in “charm city” (haha; that’s almost as good as “baltimore: the city that reads”) always stresses me the hell out. it’s like HIT THE DECK every five minutes in our neighborhood. at least after the sun goes down. i swear, even the rumblings of our fridge ice machine set me off these days. is it wrong to say i miss suburban new jersey right now?? 

tell me: where’s the pleasure in setting off firecrackers? (holly, don’t answer this. she would gladly set them off every single night if she had her way.) ok, lighting a bunch and throwing them at the damn ice cream truck with the little girl voice that, after a brief silence, pops up in the middle of whatever it’s playing (damn truck started w/christmas music once spring set in: wtf?) at who-knows-what-decibel and says: HELLO?! would be fun. i’ll admit that. that would be fun. (shorty: you lived in our hood. you know the truck. total shoutout to you right now, btw. hearts.)

i’m already jumpy, what, with the helicopters and searchlights all the time (this is a baltimore thing, and isn’t confined to just our neighborhood, so if you’re a friend that hasn’t visited us yet but wants to, pls don’t be scared). but now it sounds like there’s machine guns around, too.

oh, and don’t think it ends july 4th either. oh no. you see, you have to finish off ALL your explosives. so the fun continues for at least a week after the holiday. yeah if you knock on my door and i don’t answer? i’m hiding under the couch. come back in august.

in other news: we went to latinofest last night. “ahh. it’s so nice to finally be with my ppl,” i said to holly.  not that i’m latina, but apparently i pass for it. i pretty much “pass” for what ethnicity is being celebrated at most ethnic festival around the city (save for african-american/native-american). so, yeah: greekfest? sure, i’m greek! (gimme feta!) polish–yeah, that, too. (gimme perogies!) russian? you betcha. (gimme borscht!) (of course my ancestry does help just a little bit on that one, wink wink)

holly really wanted a “latinofest 09” shirt, which i, of course, found completely adorable (seeing how she’s even less latina than i am). we weren’t finding them anywhere, and we started thinking that maybe they were for workers and volunteers only. she asked this cute guy working the beer stand about it, and he was like, no, sorry. then she joked and was like, can i have yours? and you know what he did? he totally gave her the shirt off his back. (hey germaphobes: he was wearing another t-shirt under it) ppl do that for holly. but the thing is, she’d totally do that for someone, too. (this is one of the many reasons i married her.) he was exceptionally cute, and this created quite a stir. fun.

we got home and watched “vicki cristina barcelona,” which came highly recommended from my favorite food blogger. i must say: i liked it. and don’t ask me how in the hell it happened, but holly fell asleep. and before the very best part! i’m gonna youtube it right here for ya, baby. i’ll slap it on in here for you, too, whoever you are. b/c honestly? sometimes the only way to make a monday better is to watch penelope cruz and scarlett johansson make out in a darkroom. ttys 😉