Friday, December 10, 2010

A Random Trot Down Memory Lane

It's getting to feel like winter here in good ol' dirty Jersey... I don't care what the calendar says: it's fucking cold outside! The hats and scarves have been unearthed from the pile of crap in the closet, the ankle-length puffy coat has been brushed off and I'm all ready to do my best Michelin Man impression and stand on a train platform in fifteen degree weather for who knows how long because NJ Transit can't seem to figure out how to make the trains go, ever.

It was during one of these moments, as I stood there freezing my tits off, that I started to wonder why the hell I still lived in New Jersey. This led to a not-so-nostalgic-but-highly-entertaining walk down Memory Lane, and I thought about all the places I had lived in this great state.

That background is as fuzzy as my memory.

Here's the lowdown--I have moved approximately eleven times in the past thirteen-ish years and have shared living space with 20+ in that time, 99% of whom were total strangers. I won't bore you with each and every one of these situations because if I did, this post would become a Gone-With-the-Wind epic but with less Southern ladies and plantations and more psychopathic roommates, questionable (if not dangerous) living conditions, and absurd situations, such as the one that involved my living room, a downstairs neighbor, and a lit string of fire-crackers, or an attempted car-jacking that I thwarted by driving my car directly into the house and then my roommate's work van. Nothing like a little property damage to scare off would-be thieves.

Did I mention I've lived in some iffy neighborhoods over the years?

The names and places may have been different, but there were a few constants in all those situations, and one of them has even haunted me all the way up to my current I-own-this-now-OH-Crap! abode: the heating system always sucks ass. Why?

Mother fucking radiators. They are the bane of my existence.

Oh hai, I'm a radiator. I'm useless and ugly.

Example #1
The ghetto (see car jacking referenced above.) I lived in this apartment for about two years with three dudes, a neurotic dog and a horde of special-ops ninja mice, 95% of whom could take the bait without setting off the trap and would gleefully run all over us while we watched TV.

It was a shithole.

It was kind of like this but kitsch-ier with more ashtrays and beer bottles.

Anyway, it had radiators. Except, they didn't work. They were more like hideous floor decorations, or a place for the ninja mice to run under when I chased them with a boot in my hand. I even found a pair of manties stuffed under one once (dry heaving and a bout of apoplectic cursing ensued). Occasionally, one of us would get drunk or stoned enough to decide they knew how to fix them (and sometimes this worked), but for the most part we wandered around all winter in hats and blankets or huddled around electric heaters, or alternated between drinking, chain smoking, and waging an endless battle against the ninja mice. The cabinet under our kitchen sink was the mousy version of D-Day.

Take this guy and times it by... a fucking lot. Ever open your fridge to find a mouse sitting on top of the mayo jar? It's not pretty.

I know you're probably thinking, "why didn't you just call the landlord, you fucking moron?" but we couldn't, mainly because we didn't want him to find out that someone ripped the bathroom sink from the wall while standing on it in an attempt to clean the black death mold from ceiling. And it's hard to hide a sink that was lying in the middle of a very small bathroom. Plus, I think there was still dried blood on the walls and we figured that would definitely raise some questions.

So we chose to freeze instead. Of course, I was only 22 at the time and this decision made total sense.

Example #2
A few apartments (and years) later, I found myself sharing a house (in the town I currently live in) with a revolving door of graduate students. There was the all-American girl, who had healthy teeth, shiny hair and a penchant for lounging around in her bed butt naked; the Doctorate student from Russia who had a habit of downing a case of Coronas with breakfast and then falling down the stairs, and the Korean kid who was devoutly religious and completely horrified when ML stayed the night. But that might have been because his room was the closest to mine.

I never said I was an awesome roommate, after all... (Passive Aggressive Notes )

One blustery December day I come home and realize the entire house is like an icebox. I check the thermostat and look at the furnace and pretend I know what the fuck I'm doing. Memories of the ghetto (sans the mice or firecrackers) come rushing back. I'm older now so no fucking way am I going to spend the entire winter freezing my ass off again. I mean, I was all Scarlett O'Hara at that point-- "And, as god is my witness, I'll never freeze my ass off again!!"

So I do what any responsible renter would do: I call the landlord and complain. I mean, there was no broken bathroom sink or blood on the walls, so there was no reason not to call him.

The landlord was alarmingly unconcerned. And by "unconcerned" I mean "didn't give a shit." Three weeks and thirty phone calls later, we were still walking around in our coats and hats. Except naked girl but at least she got under the covers finally. It was only after I threatened to take legal action that he finally came over and fixed the heat. I left a pile of ferret shit in the corner of the closet when I moved anyway. Childish or not, sometimes spite feels good.

Moving right along...

Example #3 (well, 3 & 4, I guess)
Eventually, ML and I end up shacking up together in an itty bitty one and 1/2 bedroom apartment, except that the 1/2 bedroom was off limits because somehow squirrels claimed it. The landlady was a fucking downright twat and I kept telling ML I will kill her the next time she complains about me blow-drying my hair too early in the morning or leaving the blinds up at uneven levels, so we decided to move out. Quickly.

We found a cute apartment in a quad (which is basically a really big-ass house with four apartments in it -- two on the second floor and two on the first) and yay! we moved in. Everything was all hunky dory and then one night it's kind of cold so I turned on the heat and ML and I head to bed.


ML and I bolted out of bed, each of us clutching our weapons of choice and fully prepared to bludgeon each other to death because OH MAH GAHD WHO THE FUCK IS SHOOTING UP OUR ROOM???

No one. It was just the little unassuming fucking radiator in the corner. The tiny, meek little coil of metal and whatever-the-fuck those things are made out of is emitting a staccato machine gun fire like it's fucking Scarface.

I think Al Pacino and "his little friend" are living inside my radiator...

ML and I are baffled. For the next few weeks we try to suffer through it but by mid-January we're both suffering from PTSD and lack of sleep from the "shock and awe" coming from our radiators. We called the landlord, who was a really nice Orthodox Jewish guy with a stammer and a twitch. He told us to bleed the radiators. He didn't tell us to turn off the heat before we do this. Scalded, we called him back and told him to come do it. Naturally, as was his habit, he showed up unannounced when ML isn't around and I'm tipsy and half-naked. Mr. Landlord didn't want to come into the house without ML there and it was all awkward so eventually we stopped calling him (I think he did that on purpose, the bastard) and just lowered the heat waaaaaaay down before we go to bed. I wore a hat to bed for the first time in a few years.

Life is such a cunt sometimes.

But everything's all good now, right? I mean, we bought a house and no one has these kind of problems in a house that is almost one hundred years old. Right?

Home sweet home...

Uh huh. Shockingly, the radiators seemed to be in good working order at first, something that made me insanely happy. Sure, the windows are totally useless - there is a constant not-so-summer breeze on the second floor... But no biggie - I still have my electric heater from the ghetto. I'm adaptable! And what else could possibly go wrong?

A few things, apparently. I discovered this the other night when I was lying in bed and...


Wait, what the fuck was that sound?

Fuck me. Hard.


  1. Oh My Hell -- does that take me back. Sounds like we had a similar decade of random roommate fuckery.

    I am still trying to figure out how they all managed to pay their share of the rent, when I was the only one who always had a job. I learned it was best not to ask the tough questions.

    I think the best part was when we had a home invasion (thankfully I was not home). Dudes were clearly looking for drugs (and were way too stupid to actually find them) and my roommate, in his infinite wisdom, decided to be a smart ass to them. To prove they had real bullets in the gun, they shot my T.V. -- because, of course, I was the only one who actually had anything of real value in the house. I was like -- really, you thought it was a good idea to be a wise ass. Really? He totally never replaced my TV, either.

    The best part of that story is when the Police came to the house to take fingerprints and the like, they totally said nothing about the three huge ass traffic signs in our living room.

    And here I sit, living in the burbs, the lights of downtown visible, but still 15 minutes away. Yep -- totally worth it!!

  2. Seriously? Damn. I was all "Um...Why the fuck did she write this? Are we really going to talk about ninja mice and radiators for this long? There'd better be something going on with her radiator or I am going to freak the fuck out."

    So...I'm sorry there's some weird shit going on at your house. Just hit it with a baseball bat and curse it to hell. You know...The usual Jersey remedy for broken shit or shit that just pisses you off.

    I miss you. Whiny-ass twat rocket.

  3. Fucking hell... you had me at 'ninja mice'.

    I can sympathize with the death-by-mold, but fortunately have no experience with radiators. Kentucky's high-class like that (fireplaces and fucking gas heaters that kill you in your sleep).

    Good luck with that, hoor. ;)

  4. Yup, student house had mice (guess who got to deal with the traps?), a leaking roof that nearly collasped on me, a mirror that fell of the wall and nearly killed me, sewage backup (twice. One time the landlord was refusing to clean it up until we called public health), a burst water pipe, and a break-in (through my room).

    First apartment that MrCC eventually moved into wasn't too bad. It was in a bit of a sketch area, but it had a nice view of a conservation area (i.e. I could walk around the apartment naked no problemo). There were a few random things, like the clearly rotting wall in the shower that probably contained more mold than a cheese factory, and the fact that the water level in the toilet would drastically drop if it was windy outside. The place was like a slow cooker, so we never turned on the radiators.

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  6. @CC WTF? Why did the water in the toilet go down when it was windy?? LOL
    Living out in the boonies we get mice, none of them have been Ninjas, but several appeared to have been brain damaged. They just sit there while my husband goes to get his boots, puts them on & then...stomp. Stupid mice don't even know they are supposed to run!

  7. Radiators were made by the devil. I've never lived in a place that had a decent (or quiet) radiator either. The landlord at one place wouldn't fix the heating system even though it was probably a good 85 degrees in most of the apartments. So we all did what any normal person would do and we opened our windows. Then we got a stern letter stating that we should not open our windows in the winter because we were wasting energy. Uh, I realize that, man, but I also don't want to end up with heat stroke in my own apartment when it's fucking 15 degrees outside!

    One time I rented a duplex from a scary old Catholic lady who had written 'no overnight guests of the opposite sex' on my lease. WTF? It was the only time in my life I wished I was a lesbian just so I could freak her the fuck out. She also had a no smoking rule which I took to mean open-the-windows-really-wide-and-smoke-all-I-want. She also yelled at me for moving out after only one year. Nice!

  8. Special-ops ninja mice!!! Hahahaha!

    Oh yes, the first house. I remember it well.... 100+ yr old rancher which had a stained wood floor from the lil' old lady who fell and almost died in the hallway. Well, she eventually did pass away but not in the house, thankfully.

    The cubbyhole (aka bathroom) had a tub with clawed feet, a tiny sink but no shower. The well was ancient and would only pumped water out of the faucets in a stream that rivaled a guy taking a piss... seriously, and it was rusty water at that! Yeah, that was the first room we gutted. But no special-ops ninja mice!

  9. Ah, the joys of living in old houses. Part of mine is about 100 and the other 200 years old. My room's in the 'newer' part, but for some reason is the coldest in the house. Seriously, it's colder than a witch's snatch in here. The windows let draughts in and the radiator has never worked. Oh, I know all about those evil metal bastards. Last time I bled the one in the bathroom the valve popped out of it and I wad soaked, as was the bathroom floor. FML. Know all about ninja mice too. Sneaky little drywall eating towel pooping bastards.

    Old houses may have character, but remember, so does that crazy guy who talks to himself in the middle of the street...

  10. I wonder why I still live in Jersey too.

  11. You should move to the south. We have central heat & air. It is very reliable(ish). When we bought our first house, we moved in January. In the middle of an ice storm. The fucking builder forgot to hook up both the heater & the hot water heater. I'm not sure how this didn't show up on the inspection. Of course the repairmen couldn't get to our house because of the aforementioned ice storm. I wore 3 shirts, 2 sweaters, a coat & a robe for over a week.

    Oh & did I mention we had the worst infestation of mice our exterminator had seen in his 14 years of experience? Nothing like cooking and showering with rodents.

    Thanks for that walk down memory lane.

  12. I spent the better chunk of 12 years living in sketchy apartments all over San Francisco, and all in all probably had over 40 roommates. What a hellish collection of memories that produced. I am still haunted in my dreams to this very day.

    The worst one (location location location) was a half a block from a project (as in, crack dealing, low income, don't leave your house after dusk). When my mother came to visit, she was serenaded by gunfire outside. That lasted 6 months.

    Then there was the roommate from hell who stole my boyfriend (well, technically we had broken up but were still fucking regularly, and that means I'm not done yet in my world). After listening to them consummate their new relationship multiple times through the door that connected our bedrooms, I found myself insanely drunk one night, standing over her sleeping form brandishing a large carving knife. Smart bitch that she was (not), she moved.

    Never had ninja mice or a clanky radiator though. But certainly had my share of drama. ;)

  13. I got two words for you - fire & place. If you can't get a house that already has one, they make great gas logs that don't need to be vented. Ours even came with a remote control. Boy do the put out the heat.

  14. Maybe you shouldn't live in NJ!!

    I have been VERY lucky with the places I have lived but of course because of that I don't have any funny posts to write about it harumph.

  15. I remember an appartment that hubs found and said we could live there rent free for a year..Here's the deal. It was a FUCKING DUMP should have been condemed.No ceiling just wood beams the kitchen was candy apple red, no flooring and as old as dirt the windows in winter would freeze on the inside..I literally cried and called my mom and asked to move back Christmas time we had snow ON the tree ..the tree happened to be in front of the window so the snow actually came in through it (no joke) and mice..GAH.I had to keep EVERYTHING in plastic totes..oh and we didn't have walls either I think they took em down at some point. Needless to say, we did stay there free and fixed it up somewhat, but once I got preggers..I was like..were out. Oh also found out that by touching the kitchen sink and the refridge at the same time, would electricute times..

  16. My trip down memory lane is a boring one. The only time I ever lived with strangers was in college dorms. I lived at home until I was 27 and then lived by myself in a one bedroom apartment until LKHubs finally moved in and then we bought a house. Not much moving around for me! I had no ninja mice or clanky radiators or psycho roommates and I feel sort of empty...

  17. I feel your pain with the ninja mice. We had those at my last residence. They are the reason I moved out actually. The little effers! One night I was reading in my bed & one climbed up my bedside lamp cord & just stared at me. Later I realized they were gettin on my bed & stuff. I was SO OUTTA THERE!!!

  18. @Fanfic Zombie - Thankfully no one shot up my TV but I too often wondered how my housemates could afford the rent (which was like $180.00 a month, if I remember correctly).

    There were a couple of times I couldn't get into my driveway because the block had been sectioned off with crime scene tape so there's that.

    @CC - why the hell would the water level drop when it was windy?? That is just bizarre.

    @Banshee713 - bleeding the radiators was a very traumatizing experience, lol. And a major pain in the ass.

    @Vermonstermom - my old man had to stop by the apartment once and there was gunfire. He was not happy in the least. He even offered to get me a gun but I told him no because I knew if I had one, there was a good potential of me shooting one of my roommates, because they had a habit of barrelling into my room drunk off their asses at 3 am and scaring the every loving fuck out of me.

    @Double Dippin' - You win. No walls?

  19. None of my apartments have ever had radiators. But my high school did (very small town, very old building). All the boys chewed tobacco (shocker) and would spit on the radiators in the back of the classrooms. On a day when they weren't running was gross enough. But in the winter when those things were fired up, the spit would sizzle on them and the entire school would reek. Blech. And people wonder why I didn't date much in high school.


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