Fighting Roommates and Wayward Dogs

My neighbor from the rental on our east side is walking up and down the street yelling, “PACO!  PACO!”  His pit bull, the one who never gives a warning bark and moves in a blur once a target has been sighted, has escaped again.  Paco made his move tonight around 8:30.  Breaks for freedom usually occur around three in the morning when Joe, his owner, is drunk and lowers his guard.  One can tell how drunk Joe is by the slurring of his “Paco”s as he wanders up and down the road calling for his missing doggy.

I used to worry about Joe and his haphazard lifestyle.  He lives at loose ends and tends to run through roommates at six month intervals.  They usually leave following late night shouting matches.  The language gets loud, abusive and threatening, and I sometimes wonder whether I’ll wake one morning to discover police cars and yellow tape next door.

The latest blow out happened a few weeks ago, and it began when I heard scuffling sounds followed by Joe saying, “Now where do you think you’re going?”  I assumed he was wrangling his dog inside his gate to his back yard, but instead it was his roommate attempting to run from Joe at five in the morning.  I couldn’t make out what they were arguing about, but the fella shouted, “I’m gonna fuckin’ kill you!”  Joe mocked, “Oh sure, you’re gonna kill me.  Yeah, why don’t you try it?”  Roommate sputtered in fury and slushed, “I’m gonna slit your throat!”  Joe mocked him again and said, “You owe me $150, bitch,” and, “This is my house.”  I heard more scuffling sounds, and a woman stepped out onto the carport and yelled in a high pitched whine, “Stop it you guys!”  Roommate must have broken away–I heard his work truck door squeak open and the motor grind.  Joe attempted to stop him, but the man drove off.

He returned an hour later, and Joe and he sat outside and made their apologies.  Peace at 6 a.m.  Yeah.

Some might wonder why I didn’t call the cops.  It’s a matter of growing indifference.  I did call 9 months ago when Joe and another roommate, Ray, got into a loud argument on their front lawn.  Joe came home at 3 a.m. and started to pound on doors and windows.  He had forgotten to take his keys when he went out on a drinking spree.  Ray didn’t answer right away, and Joe pounded so hard on Ray’s bedroom window that he shattered the glass.  I decided at first to ignore the commotion when Ray burst outside and started to curse Joe.  I thought, “If they want to get into a fistfight, let them.”  But the argument escalated until Ray said, “Oh, you’re the big man with a gun.  Why don’t you shoot me?  I don’t give a damn.  Shoot me!” I called 911.

The cops arrived a few minutes later, and by then the argument had calmed down.  I saw Ray and Joe go in for a man hug just before a squad car pulled up.  No gun in sight.  An officer talked to them and offered to take Joe to a hospital as his hand was bleeding from a glass cut.  Joe declined.  Finally the cop said, “Is everything warm and fuzzy between you two?”  Joe and Ray muttered something, the cops left, and the two men went inside.

I gave Joe a ride to a gas station a few months ago when he needed fuel for his generator.  Hurricane Irma had toppled a tree that stripped his power line away.  He told me as we headed up Eastbrook that he had rented next door for seven years.  I said, “Wow!  That long?!  We’ve been here since ’92, and we’ve seen a lot of folks come and go.  We called the lady just before you, ‘The Screamer’.  She was always yelling at her kids at the top of her lungs.  We could hear her inside her house with our windows closed.”

Joe smirked and said, “Well, I bet you’ve heard a lot of screaming from me too.”

“I didn’t mean that,” I said.

We rode on in silence for a minute or so, and then he said, “It’s these roommates.  I can’t get them to pay rent.  This latest guy is two weeks late.”

“That sucks.  And your power’s been out for aweek,” I commiserated.

Joe laughed and said, “Well I just keep rolling.  Whatever comes my way, I just keep rolling.  What else can I do?”

Paco remains at large, and I hear Joe shouting far down the road.  I wonder how many times he will wake me up tonight, but don’t doubt that this could go on for a long time.

Joe’s Screwed

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Work crews appeared in our neighborhood Thursday, and their trucks clustered a half mile away.  They came closer and closer the next day.  Around 4 p.m. I heard workers talking near my back yard.  Our power line poles run the length of a drainage ditch behind our house.  I walked out back and saw a man climbing into a viburnum bush-turned-tree near the southeast corner, and he chain-sawed to clear branches fallen on our line. Another worker appeared in the neighbor’s yard and used a saw on a long pole to cut from the other side.

A few minutes later our line sprung upwards a few feet, and ten minutes later it snapped into position higher than I’d ever seen it.  The workmen left, and an hour later trucks from Duke Energy pulled up in front of our house.  They blocked my driveway and the neighbors, but I didn’t care.  I was ready after five days of soggy heat to run out and kiss their bumpers.

Power came on about twenty minutes later, and I saw the outside lights shining at the neighbor’s.  I texted him.  The power went off, however, after ten minutes.  We saw men on the roof next door and in the back yard.  A supervisor yelled something from the street.  Our power came back, and I flipped the breaker for the AC unit.  We waited five minutes for anything to happen, but then Blessed Relief clicked on and blew cool air from the vents.  The inside temperature just before had been 86 degrees with 80% humidity, and the unit ran until 9:00 to get it down to 80 degrees.

Our neighbor knocked on our door that evening and reported that he had no power.  I told him about the turn on-off-on and swore that I had seen his safety light burning in his carport.  He came back a few minutes later with a notice he’d found hanging on his door.  It read, “Power line repaired.  Damage to meter can.  Contact an electrician to fix.”  He trudged home and started his generator.

Joe lives in a rental unit managed by a real estate company that only makes repairs after tenants move out.  The owner refuses to remove dead trees even when they loom over the house, and can be stubborn about plumbing issues.  The power, most likely, won’t be coming back on unless Joe pays for the repairs himself.  He’s already cleared away branches from the tree that had fallen, hit the house, and snapped his line.  The trunk still needs to be chopped, and I’ve agreed to loan Joe my axe.

The next evening I heard a car pull into his driveway.  Joe had visitors.  Seconds later I heard two men yelling, “Paco!  Paco!”  The neighbor’s pit bull escaped when Joe opened the door to let a friend inside.  The yelling went on at intervals into the wee hours, and I heard a few “Paco!”s the next morning.

The Prodigal Dog made his unwilling return Sunday afternoon.  Someone in the neighborhood had found him after Joe put up a notice on a community message board.  The power’s still off, however, and Paco might be planning a new escape.  I wouldn’t blame him.

 

 

 

 

No Ice In Orlando

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Hurricane Irma hit us last Sunday evening.  We heard transformers pop once, twice around 7, and then we lost power.  An outer band struck at 10:30 with long lashes of high speed wind and driving rain, and I winced as branches bashed my roof and skylight.  The monster weakened as it came near us, and the wind didn’t pick up much intensity. The eastern wall of the eye passed through downtown Orlando (five or six miles west of us) at 2:30 Monday morning.  I collapsed on my bed at 3:00 and slept through Irma’s parting shot, an outer band that ripped us one more time at 6 a.m.

I began to pick up downed branches and clumps of leaves Monday morning after the wind started to slow down.  I kept looking up to study the trees looming above me.  Folks get killed in the aftermath of a storm when a limb or a trunk suddenly give way.  My daughter and son-in-law joined me in the afternoon after they returned from an emergency veterinary clinic.  (One of their dogs had become ill shortly before the storm hit.)  The day was fairly cool and breezy (thanks Irma), and we got most of it done by four p.m.

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My daughter and her husband went out on a scavenging expedition on Monday evening and found a two pound bag of ice at a Walgreens near a hospital.  The store still had power as the electrical lines nearby had been buried.  Most of Winter Park sweltered in darkness.

I spent the next four days searching for ice.  My wife has a limited diet, and we had to keep certain foods edible.  No grocery, drug or liquor store had any ice, and one clerk told me that the local supplier couldn’t make any more as their plant had no power.  I began to visit 711s and quicky-marts to get ice from soda fountains.  They all charged fifty or 75 cents per cup, and I ended up shelling out a couple bucks a day.

On the last day on which I had to make an ice run, a clerk at a 711 handed me a small grocery bag and told me to fill it with ice.  She charged me a buck for an amount that normally would have cost two.  She smiled at me with compassion as she rang me up, and that went a long way to lifting my spirits.

I had been grateful on Monday that we had been mostly spared.  The rental house next to us had been struck by a fallen tree that grazed the roof, snapped off the power line and damaged an electrical meter, while we remained unscathed.  And we heard reports on our battery powered radios of massive destruction in the Keys, South Florida, Barbuda, Puerto Rico, St. Martin and Cuba.  Orlando had gotten whacked hard, but we hadn’t been plowed into the ground and washed away.  But after several days of 90 degree heat, falling asleep covered in sweat, and struggling to cook and refrigerate food, I felt weary and woozy.  And my neighbor in the rental unit acquired a generator on Wednesday that sounded like a growling motorcycle.  He set it up ten feet away from my bedroom window.  When he ran it, we had to choose between leaving the windows open to catch a stray breeze and going insane from the constant rumbling, burbling noise.

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I realized on Thursday that I had symptoms of heat exhaustion.  I felt listless, dizzy enough to slightly veer as I walked, irritable and impatient.  On Friday morning, I had difficulty teaching a drawing class.  My thoughts jumbled, and even when I felt more coherent, my tongue and mind refused to cooperate with each other.  I babbled a few times and had to carefully slow down my speech so that I could think about a concept, choose the right words to express it, make a few edits, and then speak.  Once class had progressed for a half hour, and once I enjoyed enough cool air (the school has the same power line as the hospital and Walgreens) to refresh mind and body, I began to feel good enough to function normally.

I’ve heard some folks criticize the toughness of Floridians following the storm.  We’ve been called whiners and babies who can’t take hardship.  My only response to that is to feel sorry for these compassionless schmucks and wonder what happened to their sense of humanity.  What compels them to attack folks while they suffer?  What makes them feel superior as they sit in comfort far away from downed power lines, roads blocked by fallen trees, tattered roofs and flooded homes?

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The clerk at the 711 still shines as an angel of mercy to me, as does the waiter who kept filling our glasses with ice water when my wife and I took refuge at an Outback after three days eating cold canned food.  And most people I met didn’t whine and complain about anything.  They simply went about their business of cleaning up, going back to work, finding ways of getting through some rough days and nights.

It’s Getting Kind of Weird

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Last week I watched the news and followed the ongoing disaster in Texas.  I didn’t really know what it felt like to be there, but I’ve been through several hurricanes since I moved to Orlando in 1991.  Last year a major storm ran up the length of the east coast and sent tropical storm force winds our way.  A tree branch fell on our power line.  I removed it while the wind still gusted in the 50s as the line bent down several feet and looked ready to break.  I didn’t want my wife to suffer through several powerless days.

Now I’m waking up early to look at the latest forecasts for Irma.  Yesterday the spaghetti models tracked the hurricane to the northwest edge of Cuba.  After that the paths diverged, but a lot of them sent the storm straight up the peninsula.  My stomach flipped.  We’re probably going to get hit.  My daughter and her husband live in Miami, and they’re in the target zone too.

This morning I checked again and saw no improvement.  I knew that drifts and shifts can still occur in Irma’s path, but my sense of dread deepened.  I flipped to other sites and turned on the local news, but nothing gave me any real reassurance.  I gave up when I heard a garbage truck lumbering around a curve in our neighborhood.  I had been lazy the night before–the kitchen bin was still full.

I hauled a can to the curb and saw butterflies flitting around flowering bushes in our front yard.  Two grasshoppers mated in the driveway.  Nature seemed intent on going about its business regardless of impending doom.

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I decided to do the same.  I washed dishes, got breakfast and read from Terry Pratchett’s, Hogfather.  Then I went outside and raked magnolia seed pods and twigs off the front lawn.  In back I picked up dead branches fallen near the east fence.  I climbed on the roof and pull more branches off the roof.  I came inside, took a shower, and got lunch ready.  All fairly normal activities for a Tuesday morning.

My daughter called at noon, and we cancelled her upcoming visit.  She told me about her hurricane preparations in Miami, and we wished each other good luck.  I passed the phone to my wife and went about my business.  Time to run errands and get ready to teach a class tonight.  Such an average day.

Publix was a mixed bag.  A man in the parking lot gave me his empty cart and said, “Better take it, man.  There’s none left in the store.”  The aisles were crowded, and I grew impatient when shoppers parked their carts, stood next to them in the middle, and blocked traffic while they contemplated the selection of can goods left on the shelves. Some were so intent on studying their lists that near collisions were a constant threat.  Two woman slowly pushed their carts side by side in the main aisle leading to the cash registers.  They engaged in a leisurely conversation as I silently walked behind them, but one finally stopped and stood aside to let me by.  She said sarcastically, “There, now you can pass me.”  And when I did with some difficulty (her cart still partially blocked my way) she called after me, “Have a nice day!”  A Publix worker stood with her arms crossed in front of the egg shelves.  She surveyed the crowds of customers weaving from aisle to aisle with a look of grim disdain.  I gingerly picked a carton off the shelf behind her as I wasn’t sure if she was there to guard them.  Another employee came up and said, “There was this lady who filled her cart with water, and then another one next to her got the bright idea and started to do the same…”

The weatherman in the latest forecast hopes that a cold front will arrive in time to push Irma off the east coast.  His expression looks a bit desperate, and I take no comfort.

But for now my kitchen garden is blooming, the butterflies are darting around the blue porter weed in the backyard, the bee balm attracts bees near my front porch, and the grasshoppers are mating.  Judy is listening to an audio book, and I’m writing this post.  A relatively ordinary day.

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But it’s getting kind of weird.