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Sunday, June 17, 2007


No matter how happy you are with your apartment there's always that one thing that just gets to you. Over the weeks and months that one little irksome problem that never seemed like it would be a big deal burrows its way into your soul like an angry leech and feeds on your contentment. It's happened to you. You loved your place. Loved it. Perfect. It was on a quiet tree-lined street, you had pleasant neighbors and lots of space. You didn't think it was a big deal that it was utterly impossible to park anywhere near your building, because you were going to be "taking the train a lot" anyway. And besides if you did have to park far away at least it would force you to "take a healthy walk" now and then

That was in August when you signed your lease. Now it's late January, and you find yourself, once again, circling the same streets for an hour, squeezing yourself between a dumpster and a massive, rusty, poorly parked Buick, then trekking through 3 feet of rock-hard snow as 30 mph freezing winds singe you with icy fury. 10 minutes later you're safe and sound in your precious apartment. Unfortunately you can't enjoy it because you are too busy thawing your face out. So you vow (with an appropriate amount of self-righteousness) that your next apartment, if nothing else, will at least come with a parking spot thank you very much. Maybe your next place will have that parking spot. But what new horror will you face? You see, the difficulty with renting is that there are just too many variables to account for. Experience helps, but there are some things that you just won't know until it's too late. And almost every solution you come up with to prevent making the mistakes you made before can, and will, backfire catastrophically.

Case in point: As everyone knows the absolute worst problem to have when renting is the Evil Landlord.
If your landlord/landlady/evilrealestatecorporation doesn't care about his/her/its tenants odds are you will have a rough time of it. Because problems, minor or major, will inevitably come up and you will be relying on them to fix it. Liz and I thought we had this worked out: Just stay away from the big corporations. Renting from individuals is better, because they usually care more about their property and their tenants. A big company doesn't know you or care about you so they will be as evil and miserly as possible and try to take all your money while giving little service in return. Makes sense right? For the most part, yeah. But what happens when you make that choice, only to find out your landlord is insane? With the big corporation you had more than one person to appeal to and they had to at least show a semblance of integrity for professionalism's sake. Not anymore. And what's worse, you may not know how insane they are for a long time. You may even think you've hit the jackpot when you find a nice quiet landlady who gives you the whole bottom floor of a house for a great price and takes great pride in her property. And she's always fair to you. Okay, except for that one time when you called to renew your lease and she said "Oh, actually I wasn't sure if you wanted it so I already gave it to somebody else for next year....When did I show the apartment?...Last weekend. Didn't I tell you I was going to?"

So I know what you're wondering: What does any this have to do with a Carcass? Fair question, let me backtrack...The little annoying things that we couldn't stand from out last apartment Rogers Park were: #1 A hallway for a kitchen and #2 very low hot water pressure. The result of this unfortunate combination was that we spent long stretches of time in a hot, crammed hallway washing dishes beneath a trickle of warm water. Our new apartment in Evanston was really a great find. Significantly more space, a real room for a kitchen, a separate dinning room, a massive walk-in closet that also connects to the living room, easy parking (because the street dead-ends on both sides), amazing (like fire hose amazing) hot water pressure and only $35 more per month than what we were paying before. For all that we were willing to take a chance on renting from a big company again, and that hasn't been any worse than we expected. But what about the unexpected?

Late last Monday night Liz asks me what I think the smell in the linen closet is. I think it smells like cat poop. But we don't have a cat. I know I didn't poop in the closet. I'm pretty sure neither Liz nor Olivia (our 1 year old) pooped in the closet. We clean out the closet and this is confirmed. Nothing out of the ordinary, save a debilitating smell which seems to be growing worse by the second. Liz calls our maintenance person and leaves a message and we go to bed. The stench is wafting into the bedroom as we discuss what it could be. Liz is convinced that it is the rotting carcass of an animal. Oddly enough, it seems like the only logical explanation. Living on the third (and top) floor we have heard animals running around on the roof. Opossums and squirrels most likely. Clearly, one of the animals died and fell (or fell and died) in a hole on the roof and into our wall where it was now rotting. We named the animal Carcass John, or just "Carc" for short. As unlikely as this scenario is, let me assure you that the stench was beyond disgusting and quite profuse. At its peak it permeated the closet, bathroom, foyer and half of the dining room. But as (presumably) the maggots ate away, Carc's potency faded. By the morning of our third day with him the stink was a mere suggestion of it's former dominance. It had become quite faint and was confined solely to the closet. Of course this is when the maintenance person finally arrived and assured us that she had checked the roof and seen nothing out of the ordinary and that there was no hole in the wall from which something could get into the apartment. Then she said, I think to reassure us, "You know it's an old building. I don't know what is in those walls!" Oh well. If it's gotta be something it might as well be an animal carcass. That's not one I saw coming, so I couldn't have prevented it. For your reference, here are some more typical difficulties for renters:

10 Most Common Problems for Renters according to me

1. Evil landlord
2. Crazy landlord
3. No hot water
4. Roomate(s) and/or friend(s) of roomate(s)

5. Neighbors mating loudly
6. Unkempt barbarian guarding laundry facilities.
7. Can't regulate own heat.
8. Maintenance requests ignored.
9. Parking
10. Cable you never paid for disconnected after 3 months.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

This Vessel is for Thee

When the eyes of the winged thing
Stare into your empty soul
You will scream like a hefty rat.

When the talons of the winged thing
Grapple you like a big man
And throw you to the ground like a salty pancake
The worms will not befriend you.

When the winged thing bellows at you
Like a cowboy on an elephant
You will cry like a snowman under the sun.

So before you melt away
Whistle a tune,
Slow and simple enough to last,

And cling to that moment,
Wrap your eight arms around it
Like an arachnid
And with your final strength
Poop a web.

Ahoy Elephant Cowboy! Ahoy!
This vessel is for thee!