A lot of people have been asking why my writing hiatus lasted longer than I said it would. Here's the back-story:
The Brother and I co-own and operate a small, four-unit rental complex in Ocean Beach we call “The Compound.” In recent years, The Compound has started showing its age, and time came for our first-ever major remodel project. To do this, we had to evict, among others, a middle-aged man I'll call J.
Evicting J. was extraordinarily difficult and painful. For one reason, J. has been living on this property for 20 years-eight years longer than we've even owned it.
I remember thinking when I broke the news of his impending eviction, Who the hell am I to be kicking this man out of his home? This here is an O.B. original, and I'm just the New Yorker who came out here and gentrified his ass.
Indeed it was true: I had become “The Man.” And I don't mean Da Man, like the “Yo-you-da-man” kind of The Man. I mean The Man in the worst sense of it-the “bullying, landowning-capitalist-megalomaniacal pig crapping all over the serfs again” sense of the term, and I remember thinking as I told J. he had to leave, Just when and how the hell did that happen?
The other reason evicting J. was difficult and painful was, well, J. is an odd pigeon-a somewhat reclusive, quasi-bipolar, mildly savant sorta bird who rarely went anywhere and never had visitors. His windows were all covered with cardboard, he only ever opened his door but a crack, and in all the years we've owned the place, he never asked for one repair or upgrade, so we always knew it was probably pretty bad in there.
On the day I broke the news of his impending eviction-the guilt dripping from me like the purple pulp of concubine-fed grapes dripping down an obese lord's blinged-out neck-I also had to give him notice of an impending apartment inspection.
J. was distraught. He couldn't bear the thought of an inspection, so he avoided me. And his techniques were impressive. I wouldn't see him for days or weeks, even. When I did catch up with him he hemmed and hawed his way out of it. He was a masterful hemmer and hawer. And since I was already feeling so very The Man-like these days, I suffered his delays.
After 10 weeks of this, I had no choice but to go into asshole-landowner mode. I told him to let me in the apartment now, or I would call a locksmith. He sobbed. It was awful. He knew it was over. As we walked to his front stoop, he begged my forgiveness and understanding. I told him he already had it.
My heart was flying as he unlocked the door. It's been 12 years of wondering what was inside this apartment: How many body parts are in the freezer? What petrified virgin did he have chained in a cubicle he built beneath the floorboards for unspeakable purposes?
The door swung open.
He continued to sob and shake as I panned the room. It was horrible. The living room was a dank cave with trash piled on the floor and along the walls. A network of twine-thick cobwebs sprawled across the ceiling like net stockings on the leg of a woman who hasn't been sexy in a very long time.
There were no human cadavers, thankfully, but the bodies of a hundred roaches were peppered all over the place. The kitchen was unusable: The cabinets sealed shut by cobwebs. The microwave was open and crusted black on the inside with dead insects corroding on the plate.
The bathroom was equally disturbing. A diarrheic monkey with genital crabs and a colony of nits living in his ass-hair wouldn't shit in this bathroom. Thick black mold was everywhere. Beside the toilet was a litter box containing the petrified turds of his cat that died seven years ago.
Three days later, red-eyed and shaking, J. departed The Compound. We had to shovel our way through his apartment. It took a week to clean it out, during which time we came upon some truly hairy discoveries: Like his ponytail in a bag in a drawer. Like the weird Post-It notes to himself that said things like “Beware the dragon that lives by the lake.” But of all the horrors and oddities inside the Apartment from the Sewers beneath the Bowels of the Underside of Hell, I think, none were so traumatic as the refrigerator.
Removing the contents of this refrigerator was like removing the entrails of a great fish hung by a hook on a putrid wharf. It had bricks of cheese that had gone concrete. It had a couple of ancient sticks of butter which must have been kosher because they had grown these great, dangling black Jew-beards. It had a twelver of Keystone Light in which all the cans were empty because the beers eventually ate through the aluminum and emptied themselves down onto the base pan where it turned into a tar pit of yeast and mold, and, to be honest, when I was on my knees digging out the guts of that thing, I no longer felt like The Man. I felt like a dipshit.
Whew, I thought to myself, back to normal again.
All in all, it took four rented dumpsters, three Toyota-pickup-truckloads and two calls to 1-800-Got-Junk to remove all the bullshit from that apartment just so we could begin the remodel. And, therein lies your answer to why I was gone so long. Now get off my back already!
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