Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Distractions

We’re way behind schedule for this year’s holiday preparations. I’m kind of giving up hope that we’ll be able to accomplish the usual baking, decorating, and gift-procuring activities, and once again I think Christmas cards will go by the wayside. I used to send out handmade cards every year, with a “newsletter” included.

Yes, we have excuses. No, I’m not going to go into them. We had a difficult fall and are now in “recovery” mode. We’re basically going through the motions of Christmastime in hopes that the familiar holiday distractions will help us get back to “normal” quicker. And by the time we’re on the other side of the holidays—in January—maybe life will seem more “routine.”

But there are plenty of other distractions. Last weekend, for instance, we put up the tree (the Weinachtspyramide)—two weeks later than we ordinarily do—and my folks came over Sunday evening for a visit, and for soup.

I made a nice, healthy vegan black bean soup. And as I was in the kitchen off and on, Sunday, I noticed activity at our neighbors’ house. Even though we have our nice privacy fence, I have a direct view to the sole entryway to the upstairs apartment in the house just north of us. It’s second-floor to second-floor, and I see them going in and out when I look out my kitchen window, the one right above the sink.

By the way, their door is pathetic. I think the previous owners of the house had installed an indoor-rated door for this outside entry. I think that’s why the outer layers of wood have peeled off during the tenures of two or three renters of that place. The landlord should be ashamed of this door. Surely it’s not up to code. That door says, “Slum, slum, slum.” (And—grimace—I look at it every day.)

Well, Sunday this couple apparently moved out. It didn’t take them long. I don’t think they had a lot of stuff. They are poor.

They’re also messed up—like many people in the low-income housing in Munichburg. “Poor” and “messed up” naturally go hand-in-hand. Sometimes we’re furious at such people, when they disturb our sleep, and our peace, with their inconsiderate, loud “whatever.” Poor doesn’t have to mean “uncouth.”

Anyway, this couple has serious challenges. We weren’t spying on them, but we couldn’t help noticing things. They have two little kids—a baby girl and a boy who’s about three or four. “She” works—I think at a hotel uptown, as a maid or something—and they don’t have a car, so she walks to work every day. “He” has never seemed to have a job.

Actually, for a long time, he seemed to be a pretty good stay-at-home daddy. We decided we like the couple. They’re reasonably quiet, for the most part, and seem to take care of their children.

But “he” has been trouble, off and on; we finally decided he’s fairly worthless as a father and partner. He has some friends or relatives—men—with whom he tends to get reinvolved every once in a while, and they apparently are into drugs, or whatever. They tended to come over and “hang around” with him while she was away at work.

She has kicked his sorry ass out of the house at least once or twice. A few years ago they had a spectacular fight on a Palm Sunday morning—swearing and throwing each other’s stuff out the door. (Remember, this is a second-floor apartment, with just a single rickety-seeming wooden staircase leading up to the small landing outside their door.)

That morning, we were sitting on our back porch, enjoying coffee and breakfast, the pretty spring daylight, the birds chirping, the fresh green that had sprung up everywhere . . .

The fight started with shouting and stamping and slamming doors. Then we watched a boombox sail out the door and heard its brittle crash on the ground below. Then came handfuls of CDs. Then came a blanket and wads of clothing. She was throwing his stuff, and he was throwing hers. Then they went inside and apparently commenced hitting each other.

We didn’t need to call the police for this neighborhood incident, as apparently the people downstairs from this couple had called before us. The cops showed up presently and put an end to the altercation. (As for the junk they threw, it littered the yard for months afterward; no one ever picked it up. The landlord’s brutish yard guy just kicked the stuff aside or simply mowed over it, CDs and all.)

From what we could gather, she had discovered that he’d been involved with those no-good loser friends of his, and (I’ll bet) he had run them out of money, or in some other way betrayed or failed her.

So he was gone for a long time after that—but he came back, apparently somehow mending his ways. And I should also point out that, to this couple’s credit, as far as it’s worth, right before they commenced that big fight, the fellow had quickly carried their little boy (who was then about two) down the steps and put him into their then-car—so that the little guy didn’t have to see his parents fight.

Of course, they shouldn’t have been fighting at all, but considering that they did, it was good of them to try to protect their children from it. You have to give them credit for that.

Anyway, in recent months, they seem to have gotten into a relatively stable pattern. They’ve walked together to pick up their children from daycare. We hear them vacuuming, see them taking out their trash. Doing normal stuff. They have friends and family drop by, we hear talking and laughing, and it’s seemed pretty decent over there.

But we’ve noticed that he seems to have become preoccupied with talking on his cell phone, recently, and not watching the children. Maybe he got into trouble again.

Anyway—on Sunday they moved out. They had plastic storage bins and laundry baskets full of stuff on their landing, and friends to help carry it to awaiting cars. And the landlord showed up. When we saw him standing around up there, walking inside the apartment with them, we knew that was it. Although I’d like to hope that they had accumulated enough income to move into a better place, my guess is they couldn’t make the rent, and he made them move out.

And that was Sunday.

As usual with our neighborhood’s rentals, we wonder what kind of people will move in to replace them. Will they be outright drug dealers? Will they litter their yard with trash? Will they play thumping music incessantly in their house, in their cars? Will they scream curses all the time? Or what? Can we get relatively lucky two times in a row?

We scarcely knew this couple, but we grew used to seeing them. I rather liked them, or at least her—I got the idea that even though they were messed up, they were at least trying. She would probably be much better off if she told him to take a hike. She doesn’t need him. And he would be better off if he grew a backbone and learned to say “no” to his no-good “friends,” got a job, found a direction in life, became a man.

Wonder where they’ve gone, and where they’ll go?

Anyway—I was just trying to make my bean soup and focus on the “joy” of the season—and there they were, carrying their little boxes of stuff down the stairs. It makes me sad that they lost their apartment the week before Christmas. I do wish them well.


Anonymous said...

What you have described occurs way to often in the Munichburg neighborhood. The few owners whom occupy their property in the neighborhood have to deal with what the profiteers have dumped on us on a daily basis. With no city oversight of rental units, landlords have tried to maximize the return on their investment by creating as many apartments as they can in each stucture. In the case of your neighbor it is an attic apartment that would not meet code in any other municipality. Since nothing has ever been corrected by complaining to the landlord or city we can only hope the new tenants aren't as bad as the last ones. If not just wait another three to four months until the next ones move into the apartment.

Julianna Schroeder said...

*Sigh.* I have to agree with you, Anon. Especially given the events of last Thursday night, which occurred essentially in the backyard of this very building. (Here's the URL for KMIZ's version of the story: http://www.abc17news.com/news.php?id=8570 ). The "200 block" of Schroeder Way, where the murder occurred, is, unfortunately, a perfect place for drug transactions to occur--close to the expressway, shielded from view by tenement housing and trash-ridden abandoned houses and vacant lots, and DARK.

I noticed that one of the criminals had lived at one time in those awful apartment buildings on Mulberry St., now boarded up and slated for demolition. Those structures can't be torn down fast enough, IMHO. Of course, closing those apartments forced their tenants to move elsewhere--and probably still in our neighborhood, in similar dilapidated housing.

I should point out, however, that sordid criminal activities happen in all the "old town" areas of Jeff City, and not just in Munichburg. Also that Munichburg's crime has been dropping. Change won't happen overnight. There are LOTS of things the city can do to help us.

In this case, I wish that codes would simply BE ENFORCED. I've heard of towns that require inspection (and reinspection, to make sure the work's been done!) prior to a building's changing hands. So, to sell or buy a building, it must be completely up to code. I can hear the whining already, but one look at the homes in towns like Kirkwood and Richmond Heights (to name a few I've heard of) shows how well this works.

In order to get rid of the low-life slums, we need to find ways to discourage the low-life slumlords--force them go somewhere else if they want to get rich off the welfare/Section 8 system by exploiting the poor, hopeless, and ignorant.

Just my two cents' worth....