It's not about the house.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Say You're Spinach

Not that I haven't ballsed up the rhythm scheme in half the lines already anyway, but for the duration of this poem, I have decided to pronounce years as "two thousand" with no "and." So, for example, 2009 = two-thousand-nine. Got it? All righty!

2009 – Oh man, what can I say?
I can’t wait for your stank ass to just go away.
You came and you told me I’d end the year happy;
But instead, bitch, I’m ending it totally crappy!
My father has cancer, my mother is gone,
My husband has polypses in his colon.
(Okay, so that last part’s not totally true
But I can’t rhyme “diverticulitis” – can you?),
My one Lady’s still crazy, the other’s off to a home
(And she also has cancer; pardon me while I moan...)

You could stop there, but no: you took Johnny’s One Brother,
And no one will tell us what’s ailing the Other,
Two friends back home hung themselves due to recession,
And One Friend’s developed a chronic condition —
Even poor little One Dog is in Doggie Heaven —
Good lord, I can’t wait for 2011!

(I know this year coming is 2010
But I’m thinking of hibernating until then.)

If it weren’t for my mom, then this last would be least,
But I do wish that she could have seen me released:
The Project you said would be finished by June.
Is just barely done now —
                         But we’re sending it soon...

Looking back on these twelve months, I guess it’s just fine
That we didn’t send it in 2009.
I will cryptically post here the day that it goes,
I’ll say something like “Hey! Cross your fingers and toes!”
So everyone out there can wish me good luck
'Cause if this year's like last year, I’m royally fucked.

Not yet! Not yet! Don’t wish it yet! You’ll jinx me! Just say...


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Tramp's Story, Part XV: The Final Insult

Oh, Christ, I don’t even know if I remember anymore...


Now, where was I? Oh, yeah: Continued from here. And even if you think you mostly remember where we were, may I suggest you go back and re-read the last few paragraphs? Because I had to, so I think it’s only fair…

My cell phone rang while I was on my way home from work that Monday afternoon. Ms. Notary, telling me she wasn’t going to be there until 5:00 after all.

“Oh," she offhandedly added, "and your husband has to be there, too.”

What!? But he’s actually at work for the first time in a year! You couldn’t have told me this yesterday?

But what I said was:

“His name’s not even on the mortgage!”

“Yes,” she said. “But it is on the deed, and so he has to be there.”

I repeat: you couldn’t have mentioned this yesterday?

But what I said was:

“Um, okay. I’ll call him. He’s at work, though? Down in Brockton? And he doesn’t drive. So he’s kind of at the mercy of the fella with the car. He can’t exactly, you know, demand to leave right now. I’ll call him, but if he’s not there before you we’ll have to wait.”

I was goddamned if I was going to reschedule the End of this Ordeal for something that wouldn’t have been a problem if she’d told me, so I didn’t even throw the idea out there. And sure enough, when I called Johnny he was already at home. I called the notary back to tell her, just to set her mind at ease, but she didn’t answer. While I was leaving a voice mail, my call waiting beeped. I’ve never been able to figure out call-waiting on the cell phone, so I hung up on her voice mail and waited for my phone to ring.

“Hello?” I said.

“Hello,” said the notary. “Somebody just called me from this number?”

Yes! I did! It’s me, you idiot! The person you just spoke to! The last number you dialed! Unless you called somebody else while I was calling Johnny, and you’ve never been able to figure out your call waiting either!

But what I said was: “Johnny’s going to be there, after all.” She didn’t care. She didn’t seem to understand why I thought it politic to call. And she sure as shit didn't tell me we’d need copies of his IDs as well. Didn’t mention that little nugget till she walked into the house.

“Oh!" I said. "I didn’t know that! Let me run up to Staples! It’s just two miles up the road! It will only take ten minutes! Swear to god!”

She hesitated, looked around, decided she didn’t feel like waiting.

“How about if he goes,” she said, pointing at Johnny and talking about him like he was a chair, “and we’ll start without him.”

Okay: A. I told you "he" doesn’t drive. If "he" goes it will take three hours. B. Even if he did, you would save no time starting without him, because you’d only have to go back through all the papers twice. C. Don’t you give me that look, Lady, just because I don’t have documentation ready that you didn’t tell me I would need!

But what I said was:

“He doesn’t drive.”

“He doesn’t have a driver’s license!?”

For Christ’s sake, lady, you’re a notary! Do you not realize there are other forms of ID in this world?

But what I said was:

“Yes, he has one, but he doesn’t drive.”

This blew her mind, and she muttered for a while about how she couldn’t imagine. I let her do this for a while, till she finally trailed off. She still didn’t want to wait for me to go, though (never mind that if I’d gone when this first started I would have been halfway back by now). She decided we would pass papers and then, when we were done, she’d follow me to Staples for copies of "his" license and green card.

“If I’d known there was a Staples so close,” she said, “I would’ve gone to that one instead of the one I got hung up at in Rhode Island, and then I wouldn’t have been late!”

Yes, well, except you weren't late. You were on time. But you wanted to be early. And if you had been early, Johnny would not have been here when you got here. See?

But what I said was:

Nothing. I can be wise when it suits me.

As we passed the papers there was a little to-do about the way Johnny makes his nines. She said they looked like sevens and it wouldn't do. She actually drew one for him and made him practice copying it a few times like a kindergartener. This was not at all humiliating for someone who’s been living with dyslexia for fifty years, but fortunately his accent’s thick enough and his dialect colorful enough that he can say insulting things to people’s faces with a smile and sound charming.

“Make a yob of me again, Colleen, and you’d be wise to watch yer loaf, ye dozy cunt!”

Wink. Smile.

Nervous laughter. She’s not sure if she caught that last word correctly. “What?”

“Ah, nothin’, love. Yer grand.”

Wink. Smile.

And she blushes like a schoolgirl.

So it took forever, but finally we were done. At which point the dozy cunt decided she didn’t want to follow me to Staples after all.

“It’s dark,” she said, “and I don’t know where I’m going. What if I lose you?”

It’s two miles up the road! You’ll know you got there when you see the big red building that says STAPLES on it! Argh!

But what I said was:

Well, nothing. This time I was pretty well struck dumb. It must be catching.

She told me I could make the copies by myself and fax them. Not to her, but to the bank. She wouldn’t be mailing the package until morning, anyway, so they wouldn’t have the papers for two days. As long as I got it to them first, we’d be all set.

You understand what I’m telling you, right? That even though we’d passed papers, we still weren’t done?

I called the bank before I walked into Staples the next day, just to make sure they were expecting my fax – that it wasn’t going to flutter off some forgotten machine somewhere and get doodled on. They said oh, yes, they were expecting me, but I should send it to this other fax number instead. Straight down to New Millennium Title Group, in Texas. They’d only have to fax it down there anyway, and this way it would save a generation.

“Okay. But could I have a phone number for them as well, and a name, so I can call first and make sure they're expecting me?”

While they were looking for it (and don’t ask me why that took so long) my phone battery died.

I faxed it anyway.

And when I got home, I looked up New Millennium Title Group on the internet, found a contact name in my stack of papers, and I called. Yes, they had received the fax. Yes, they were expecting it. Yes, I was all set.

“All set?”

“All set.”

“So, like, we’re done?”

“Well, you do have a three-day grace period to change your mind, so it won’t be official-official until that time’s up on Friday.”

Hold the phone. I can still change my mind? Just call 'em up and say "Psyche!" and forget the whole fifteen-part series ever happened? Hm...


I held my breath for seventy-two hours, waiting for a hurricane to hit Texas or a FedEx plane to get hijacked or for Bank of America to fail like all the rest, but nothing happened. Friday quietly came and went, and it was done.


Fixed for thirty years.

No penalty for early payment when my book sells for a million dollars and Judd Apatow turns it into a blockbuster movie starring January Jones.




A few weeks later they sent me a check I still don’t understand for around $250. A few weeks after that, I got the principal back on the extra payment that I’d made: $638. A few weeks after that, something about the escrow: $5.75. Somewhere in there I got my new bill and paid it. It is done.

Oh, and last week the new title came.

Addressed to Mr. John Conroy.



Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Destructo Saves the Universe

Schmortage, blortgage. Maybe, if you’re VERY good, it will be your Christmas present. Or maybe St. Stephens’ day. But first -- is there anyone out there who remembers this post? Okay.


1. Washing Machine.

I can’t say for sure I broke it. I mean, it’s not like I’m in the habit of washing pennies or overloading it or anything. Certainly not every time. But it’s only three years old, I own it, and it broke. Sounds like the work of a certain alter-ego to me. I think it must be some sort of fugue state I go into...

I am definitely responsible, however, for the holes ripped in the wall:

I ripped the shelf out before he got here, because he was charging $70 an hour and I thought he'd have to turn the machine around to get at the back. He didn't. And if you want to know why the stack of stockpots lives in the laundry room, you'll have to ask my husband (who also washes sponges).

The good news is that, whether I’m responsible for my actions as her or not, Destructo is apparently not a nefarious Super-Villian, after all! Know how I know? Because nowhere in all the comic books or tv shows, graphic novels or costume-shop parades that pass for film – in none of that is any mention made of the Superhero charging the Villian $200 to put things back to right.

2. Fat Pants

I don’t want to talk about it. It’s been a rough few months, all right? January's coming, and with it, resolutions. I’ll be thin again by Easter, swear to god. Also, Johnny says he's quitting smoking!

Wanna buy it?

3. New Car

Oh, that’s right, you don’t even know about the New Car. Well, I’ll introduce her and name her and write about her sometime after the new year. In the meantime, know that she is the best car we’ve ever owned (in terms of reliability, that is; if we’re talking about sheer love, I will never get over Grampy Jim’s 1980 Chevy Impala), the Inspection Sticker guy raved and said we’d get another 100,000 miles out of her, easily. I can see the physical relief in Dad’s face when he talks about her. And it took me two weeks to cram an entire napkin in the mechanism of my seatbelt.

(Anyone who points out the correlation between fast-food napkins in the New Car and my Destructed Fat Pants has just ordered themselves a knuckle sandwich. It’s been a rough few months! I told you!)

I hate to think how much that’s going to cost me. In the meantime, I’m driving without a seatbelt. Hey, man, Dad needs something to take his mind off all those daily radiation treatments. Destructo and I, we're just trying to help.


1. Cutting Board

(I don't want to hear a peep about the state of my kitchen floor. 
It's been a rough few months, all right?)

Destructo didn’t! Johnny broke it! He lost his grip, he says. It just hit the floor and snapped in two. Then, two days later...

2. Snowman Mug

He says he was reaching for a spoon out of the thing and crash.


Rampant Destructo-Virus Epidemic Saves Economy!

P.S. Actually, the truth is: the reason I don’t have a picture of the seatbelt-napkin debacle is that I fixed it already. I’m not driving without a seatbelt, Dad, don’t worry. I just thought it worked better for the whole “saving the economy” joke if I pretended it was going to cost me money. But no. I did it by myself. Picked it out with a bamboo skewer. Didn’t charge myself two hundred bucks to do it, either.

P.P.S. And the reason there's no picture of my fat pants is SHUT UP!

P.P.P.S. Villian? I don't know.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Knowledge Comes

Yes, yes, yes. I will finish the schmortgage story. Someday. Soon. I swear to god. Really! I would hardly take you right up to the precipice, pivot, and jeté away now, would I? Well, yeah, I might. Lord knows I’ve done it plenty of times before. But not this time. I mean, look, I’ve already taken the lord’s name in vain twice in fifty words -- I wouldn’t risk that kind of hellfire on an empty promise! I’ll finish the damn schmortgage story. Soon! But first a conglomeration of knowledge I've acquired since the last time I was here…

If you’re forty years old, and your wisdom teeth have been fully “erupted,” as they say, not bothering you one whit for twenty years, but your dentist insists you get all four of them yanked in one hour without sedation anyway – and if they tell you all the gruesome details of the procedure at your consultation but then make you wait two full months in agonizing anticipation of the actual event – it really helps if you can arrange for your mother to die four days before. Takes your mind right off those bloody forceps.

Also? Crying for the technician when the dentist leaves the room will guarantee you extra Novocaine at the slightest whimper. And if the first two extra shots don’t do it, hollering “It HURTS!” gets you a third (it comes out sounding like “Ih HUH!,” but it’ll do). None of that, however, gets you prescription pain meds. Sheesh. What does a screaming baby have to do?

Here’s another interesting tip: If you’re forty years old, and your wisdom teeth have been fully “erupted,” as they say, not bothering you one whit for twenty years, but your dentist insists you get all four of them yanked in one hour without sedation anyway – you don’t get stitches! What you get instead is very specific instructions on what to do so as not to (caution: this is disgusting) suck the clots out! Don’t spit, don’t smoke, don’t use a straw, etc. When he tells you not to spit, you just might laugh. You don’t spit, you might think. What sort of yokel does he take you for? Well, do me a favor. Tonight, when you're going to bed, try getting the toothpaste out of your mouth without spitting. You are allowed to rinse, but then of course you can’t spit that. I’m telling you, that last little rope of drool is a stubborn bugger, and you will eventually give up and grab at it with your hand. (You, however, might not decide to wipe it on your pjs...)

Ooh, speaking of which: If you can arrange for the funeral to be put off until three days after you get your teeth out, even better. Then do yourself a favor and spend a little time reading about dry socket on the internet. You will be so consumed with the fear of developing this painful complication and missing your own mother’s funeral, that you will become Model Post-Operative Procedure Girl. Which really isn’t like you whatsoever. Normally, if they tell you to “keep it clean,” you say “yeah yeah yeah” and go home and clean the basement (or not "clean the basement" necessarily, because that’s not something you would ever do, but the point is you’re just generally none too particular about post-op instructions). This time, though, you are salt-rinsing and not-spitting and cold-compressing and hot-padding it up to beat the band. And gobbling down the last of your husband’s leftover prescription pain meds. On an empty stomach.

The not-eating thing isn’t exactly what they told you. They told you “clear, cool liquids for the first day after surgery, and then reintroduce solid food as tolerated.” But you’re not sure what “the first day after surgery” might mean. You got home at 5:00 p.m. – does it just mean till bedtime? Does it mean 24 hours? Or does it mean until bedtime the next night? You figure better safe than sorry, so you eat nothing for two days. Then you wake up in the middle of the night and swallow leftover mashed potatoes straight out of the refrigerated cottage-cheese container, dropping them from your fingers straight down the back of your throat so you can gack them down without contaminating anything but your tongue.

The next day your husband makes you scrambled eggs and you eat six. He really does make the best scrambled eggs ever. The secret, as always, is loads of butter. But after two days of no food and pain meds and salt-water rinses, all that butter makes you feel a little sick. You’re afraid to puke, because you don’t want to puke the clots out, and you’re afraid to Alka-Seltzer because you don’t know if they might float away in the fizz. So you decide to just roll around and moan.

You also discover a new joy of post-operative procedure, which is that there are actually these gaping holes in all your jaws now, and when you do eat (semi-) solid food, they all fill up. It is dis-gus-ting. You open your mouth and look in the mirror and see these tiny little bowls of scrambled eggs. The sight of it gives you the courage to rinse a bit more vigorously than you have been, but in all that internet-reading you learned another vile tidbit, which is that sometimes blood-clots lose their color after a few days in the mouth. So you develop a nasty habit of examining everything you spit out in the sink. Could that be a blood clot? No, I’m pretty sure that there is scrambled-eggs...

But you do a decent job of taking care of yourself, and by the time the funeral rolls around, you know you’re safe. At which point you are suddenly, overwhelmingly exhausted from all the worrying and the relief. You are really, really glad your mom had no desire to be waked, because for three days you've only brushed your front teeth, and your back-teeth swamp-gas breath could kill a horse.

You take Communion for the first time in twenty-five years at the funeral service, realizing as you blow your horse-killing “Amen” in the Monsignor’s face that it’s the first bite of solid food you’ve had. It sticks to the roof of your mouth just like it always used to, and so, on a quick whim, you take the wine. Never got to do that bit before. You were too young for it when you left the Church. Some other time I’ll write about why it’s okay that you took the sacrament you don’t believe in just this once. For now, though, I have one final warning:

You can say there won’t be a receiving-line all you want, but people need it. And if you don’t give it to them at a wake or at the church, then they will improvise one at the luncheon after. A hundred and forty people. And as you say hello to all those strangers and hug all those old friends and kiss all those cousins that you haven’t seen in years, you will wish you hadn’t done quite such a good job, after all. Because if your face was just a little swollen, they would all at least have had fair warning.

“Poor girl,” they’ll all think (after they've picked themselves up off the floor). “So overwhelmed with grief, she's totally abandoned dental hygiene.”

Friday, December 4, 2009

Shit, Piss and Corruption

It's over.

The last thing I heard my mother say was "Fuck it."

That was last Friday. Today she just went quietly. She sure was a swell broad, wasn't she?

I'll be back here in a week or so. In the meantime, if anybody should feel so inclined -- and I'm not saying you should, but if you do -- we're asking folks to make donations to Reading is Fundamental in lieu of flowers.

Su was her name. Susan Ferguson-Ellia. And I loved her a lot. Still do.

Always will.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Tramp's Story, Part XIV: The End

I mean it! Let’s get this over with, shall we? I should say it is continued from three posts ago, as if you didn't know. And about a dozen before that...

Maria explained the “preliminary HUD document” that she had in hand was a short summary of the terms of the agreement. In other words: my schmeschminance application was approved!

“So... we’re done, then?”


“Well, not exactly.”


“I’d like to go over the numbers here, make sure everything is what you were expecting.”

This sounded positive. Very Helpful and Informative. Not at all like the three-card monty game that SchmounschmtrySchmide put me through the last time. Until she actually started reading numbers off to me, and I realized there was nothing much I “was expecting.” Her numbers sounded like one of my grandmother’s recipes: a dollop of this, a smidgen of that, a soupçon of something else – except with Grammy’s recipes, I actually knew what all those these, thats and something elses were.

I played along gamely for a while, but finally – having run out of variations on “Um... okay?” and “Er... I guess?” – decided to hang up the charade and interrupt.

“Does it say 4.375%?”


“Fixed for thirty years?”


“And my total monthly payment will be $1249?”

“Well, $1250, actually, because—”


I think I genuinely startled her a little. By which I mean to say I heard her gasp. I gave her a minute to collect herself, and then launched my next Well-Informed Inquiry.

“So... we’re done, then?”


“Well, not exactly.”


You see? You see how disciplined I’m being? Because isn’t this story just aching to let off right here and be picked up at this point tomorrow? Or the next day? If you were me, wouldn’t you think one full page of single-spaced 12-point type is more than enough to have got done in one day -- especially in one day when your mom's in the ICU on a ventilator -- even if it is just a lot of one-word paragraphs? And wouldn’t you decide to eat a slice of apple pie for breakfast and go back to sleep? But no. Because I love you, readers, and because you have officially now been tortured with this story for longer than it took me to live through, I will let that pie-slice fortify my wit, and soldier on...

“The next step is to sign the papers. Can I tell the notary when and where would be convenient?”

“You mean – what do you mean ‘when and where’? ”

Poor Maria. By now must have thought I was retarded. How could she not?

“I mean what day and time would you like to meet the notary, and in what location?”

Well, yes. Der. I know what “when” and “where” mean. But what are my choices? Where’s the office? Is there more than one? What are their hours?

“No. They’ll come to you. Anywhere. Anytime.”


“Well, within reason. Evenings are okay but not, you know, midnight.”

“And they’ll come to my house?”


“Well, all right then. Today’s Friday, so let’s say at my house, after I get home from work on Monday.”

I was assuming that they didn't work the weekend. Turns out I was wrong about that, but it's neither where nor when.

“Fine," Maria said. "Can you give me the address?”

I don’t know if this was a test or what, but what I said was:

“The – um – haven’t we just – shouldn’t you already – I mean – well...”

So totally retarded. But Maria understood where I was driving.

“Is this the property in question? 3 Morrell?”

Yes. Exactly. Der.

“And what time do you get home from work on Monday?”

“Well, I’m usually home by 4:00, but let’s say 5:00 just to be absolutely sure.”

“All right then. At your house, at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 25th. I’ll call you the next day to see how it went, and we’ll get this thing closed by the end of the month!”


Or would we?

Again. You see? If you were me, wouldn’t you so much rather drop it here and pick it up again tomorrow? Scurry off to somehow miraculously save my mother's life and leave everybody wondering how I could possibly screw the schmeschminance up at this point? But I won’t. I can do it all. Crazy Ladies, sick Moms, this blog and The Project (which is really, really finished, by the way). So I will tell you.


I sat bolt upright in the middle of the night.

Hadn’t Henry told me – weeks ago – that I could have Johnny’s name put on the deed? Wasn't Maria supposed to ask me about that? Or was I supposed to have brought it up to her? Or was it just miraculously done already? And speaking of things that Henry told me all those years and years ago...

“Hello, Maria?” I was leaving her a voice mail in the middle of the night. “I’m wondering if it’s too late to have my husband’s name put on the deed. And also, Henry told me that when we were done the process I would get to skip a payment, but he also told me to keep making my payments as usual till then, so I already paid November – weeks ago. If we close by the end of October, am I screwed?”

I probably shouldn’t have said “screwed.” But Johnny and I had already done the math and realized that one mortgage-free month was almost the equivalent of free heat for the winter – if you count the old, newly-raised mortgage amount. And if we had a very, very mild winter. And we had gotten used to that idea.

But no. We were screwed.

Maria called back to say it was not too late to put his name on the deed, but as far as the skipped payment goes...

“It’s all right,” I said. “It’s not a deal-breaker. Just would have been very nice for us, is all.”

It only occurs to me now that all I had to do was ask her to put off the closing for a week. We’d close in November instead, and I would skip December. But oh well. Plus, in my plentiful life experience, more lag time only means more possible screw-things-up time. So if I don’t get free heat after all, well, it’s not like I was counting on it before this whole thing began.

The notary called me on Sunday night.

“Is it possible,” she said, “for you to meet me at 4:00 instead of 5:00? I’ve got another closing I’ve got to do that night in Brockton.”

I said I would, but that the only reason I’d said 5:00 in the first place was so I wouldn’t have to worry if there was a backup on the train. I told her I’d probably be here at 4:00, but if by any chance I wasn’t then she would have to just sit tight and I would be here soon.

“Great,” she said. “And also: make sure you have a photocopy of two forms of ID. Your driver’s license and one other.”

“A passport, I assume, will be okay?” I asked her.

“Oh,” she said. “You don’t have a driver’s license?”

Well, yes. I do. But you said “your license and one other,” see, so I was clarifying? Because I’m not too terribly keen on giving away copies of my credit cards?

“Oh. Sure. I guess a passport will probably be okay.”

You guess? Probably? You sure you don’t want to look that up or something before we get any further in? Because, I mean, this little blue booklet with the haggy-looking picture (seriously: yeesh) is valid for identification purposes at any government-sanctioned occasion in any country in the world, but I would understand if a Notary Public must insist on a copy of my Mastercard. I just need to know ahead of time. In fact, should I just go ahead and copy my AmEx and Visa, too?


This was just the first of several ways the Notary would prove to be a slightly flighty pain in my patoot.

Okay. I’m sorry. I am done. For today, I mean. I tried. I really did. But I’m at the bottom of page four (in Word) now, and I just can’t bring myself to go on anymore. So it’s going to have to be continued one last time, after all. Looks like it is going to be a fifteen-part series... And I lied.

Su me.

[That was not a typo, and I'm leaving it. Please send any spare mojo for her, would you all?]

Monday, November 30, 2009

Also, The Sun'll Come Out!

I am going back to bed right this minute, to crank out the final installment of the Schmeschminance Saga, which I will post in this very space tomorrow.


And then it will finally be back to business as usual. You know, poop jokes and breakin' shit.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Sub-Prime Mortgage Massacree (or: How's This for a Turkey?)

I wrote this two years ago and re-posted it last year. I wasn't planning on posting it again this year, but I have three pies and a batch of dinner rolls to bake, so I don't have time to write a real post. Or else I just don't feel like it. Either way, I ain't. But this fits in well with the theme I've been endlessly dragging out for weeks, so enjoy! Again!


This post is called The Sub-Prime Massacree, and it's about the Sub-Prime, and the Massacree, but Sub-Prime Massacree is not the name of the Massacree, that's just the name of the post, and that's why I called the post the Sub-Prime Massacree.

You can get anything you want, and you don’t need documents!
You can get anything you want, and you don’t need documents!
Walk right in there’s beer in the fridge,
Just a half a mile from the damn drawbridge.
You can get anything you want, and you don’t need documents!

Now it all started six Thanksgivings ago, was on – well, actually was on Groundhog Day, when my Johnny bought himself a scratch ticket. Johnny didn’t live in the scratch ticket store but he lived nearby the scratch ticket store, on the second floor, with me and Him and Her, the two cats. And livin’ nearby the scratch ticket store like that, we got a lot of tickets where our bank balance used to be. Havin’ all those tickets, seein’ as how we had no money, we decided that we didn’t have to be responsible adults for a good long time.

But we got up this day, this Groundhog Day, we found a down payment in one of them tickets, and we decided it would be a friendly gesture to take the ticket down to the Lottery Commission and trade it in for actual cash dollars. So we took the scratched-off ticket, put it in the back of a red Cadillac Sedan DeVille, took passports and licenses and implements of identification and headed on toward the Lottery Commission.

Well we got there and there was a chain along the wall and a big sign saying “Welcome to the Mass State Lottery” and there was Fox News on the television. And we had never seen Fox News on the television before, and with tears in our eyes we cashed that ticket and went looking for a safe place to dump the money.

We didn’t find one. Until we came to a side road, and off the side of the side road there was a fifteen foot cliff and at the bottom of the cliff there was a credit union. And we decided that one big pile is better than lots of little piles, and rather than empty the credit union we decided to throw our money in there.

That’s what we did, and we drove back to the cats, had a piss-up that could not be beat, went to sleep and didn’t get up until the next year, when we got a phone call from the universe. It said “Kids, we found your name on an account at the bottom of a ton of money, and just wanted to know if you had any intentions regarding it.” And I said “Yes, sir, Universe, I cannot tell a lie. I intend to ignore it for a little while longer.”

After speaking to the Universe for about forty-five days on the telephone we finally arrived at the truth of the matter and said that we had to go down and put that money to some Practical Use. So we got in the red Cadillac Sedan DeVille with the passports and the licenses and implements of identification and headed on toward the realtor’s office.

Now friends, there was only one or two things that the Universe coulda done at the Realtor’s office, and the first was it could have given us a medal for having avoided homeownership for this long, which wasn’t very likely, and we didn’t expect it, and the other thing was it could have bawled us out and told us never to be seen sittin’ on a wad of money like that again, which is what we expected, but when we got to the Realtor’s office there was a third possibility that we hadn’t even counted upon, and we was both immediately bamboozled. Bemused. And I said “Universe, I don’t think I can invest that money with these here blinders on.” Universe said “Shut up, kid. Get in the back of the patrol car.”

And that’s what we did, sat in the back of the patrol car and drove to quote Houses For Sale unquote. I want to tell you about fixer-uppers, which we looked at here. They got three kinds of poison, two infestations, and one major structural issue, but when we got to the AssVac there was five kinds of poison and three major issues, being the rottenest house of the last fifty years, and everybody wanted us to get in on the action around her. So we set to taking twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs or our bank accounts, with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was, to be used as evidence against us.

After the ordeal, we went back to the Realtor’s Office. Universe said he was going to put us in the red. Said, "Kid, I'm going to put you in the red, I want your wallet and your belt." And I said, "Uni, I can understand you wanting my wallet so I don't have any money to spend while I'm in the red, but what do you want my belt for?" And it said, "Kid, we don't want any hangings." I said, "Now there’s an idea," and I handed it over. Uni said he was making sure, and friends it’s a good thing he was, cause what we went through next I wanted to hit myself over the head and drown, and ‘bout the only thing I haven’t done with toilet paper since is roll it out the window, slide down the roll and have an escape.

But first we had to get a mortgage.

We walked in, sat down, with twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures of our bank account, with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one. Universe walked in, sat down. Man came in said, "All rise." We all stood up, and we presented our twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures, and the broker walked in sat down with a seeing eye dog. And he sat down, we sat down. Universe looked at the seeing eye dog, then at the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, and looked at the seeing eye dog and began to laugh, as we came to the realization that it was a typical case of Undocumented Lending, and there wasn't nothing we could do about it. The broker wasn't going to look at the twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. We was given 5% fixed for ten years and had to pick up the garbage in the AssVac, but that’s not what I came to tell you about.

Came to talk about foreclosure.

They got a final step in buying a house, called Closing, where you walk in, you get injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected. I went down to get my Closing one day, and I got good and drunk the night before so I looked and felt my best when I went in that morning. `Cause I wanted to look like the all-American kid from Townville. Man I wanted, I wanted to feel like the all-, I wanted to be the all American kid from Townville! I was hung down, brung down, hung up, and all kinds o' mean nasty ugly things. And I walked in and sat down and they gave me a piece of paper, said: "Kid, sign this sayin’ you’re not poor."

And I went up there, I said, "Bank, I’m poor. I mean, I’m freakin’, I’m freakin’ poor. Poor. I eat soup three days a week, I reuse my tea bags. Eat dead burnt hamburgers for breakfast. I mean poor, Poor, POOR, POOR." And I started jumpin’ up and down yelling, "POOR! POOR!" and he started jumpin up and down with me and we was both jumping up and down yelling, "POOR! POOR!" And the banker came over, pinned a medal on me, sent me down the hall, said, "You're our boy."

Didn't feel too good about it.

Proceeded on down the hall, skippin’ all the injections, inspections, detections, neglections and all kinds of stuff that they wasn’t doin' to me at the thing there, and I was there for two hours, three hours, four hours, I was there for a long time going through all kinds of mean nasty ugly papers I didn’t understand and I was just having a tough time there. Proceeded through, and when I finally came to the see the last man after that whole big thing there, I walked up and said, "What do you want?" He said, "Kid, we only got one question.

"Have you got a down payment?"

And I proceeded to tell him the story of the Scratch Ticket Lottery, with full orchestration and five part harmony and stuff like that - and he stopped me right there and said "Kid, did you ever cash it in?"

And I proceeded to tell him the story of the Cadillac Sedan DeVille and the Fox News on the television, and he stopped me right there and said, "Kid, I want you to go and sit down on that bench that says Undocumented .... NOW kid!!"

And I, I walked over to the, to the bench there. Undocumented’s where they put you if you may not be qualified to get a mortgage after spending all your money, and there was all kinds of mean nasty ugly looking people on the bench there. Single mothers. Immigrants. Single immigrants! Single immigrants sitting right there on the bench next to me! And the singlest, immigrantest mother of them all was coming over to me and she was mean 'n' ugly 'n' nasty 'n' horrible and all kind of things and she sat down next to me and said, "Kid, whad'ya get?"

I said, "I got 5% fixed for 10 and I have to pick up the garbage."

She said, "What house did you buy, kid?" And I said, "AssVac." And they all moved away from me on the bench there, and gave me the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things, till I said, "I’m gonna fix it up and sell it." And they all came back, shook my hand, and we had a great time on the bench, talkin about money, real estate, bein’ poor, all kinds of groovy things that we was talking about on the bench. And everything was fine, we was smoking cigarettes and all kinds of things, until the Banker came over, had some paper in his hand, held it up and said.

"Kids, this-piece-of-paper's-got-47-words-37-sentences-we-wanna- know-details-of-the-any-other-kind-of-thing-you-gotta-say-pertaining-to-and-about-the-I-want-to-know-names-and" and talked for forty-five minutes and nobody understood a word that he said, but we had fun filling out the forms and playing with the pencils on the bench there, and I filled out about the scratch ticket with the four part harmony, I wrote it down there, just like it was, and everything was fine and I put down the pencil. And I turned over the piece of paper, and there, there on the other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else on the other side, in parentheses, capital letters, quotated, read the following words:


I went over to the bank, and I said, "Bank, you got a lotta damn gall to ask me if I’m a liar, I mean, I mean, I mean I'm just, I'm sittin' here on the bench, I mean I'm sittin here on the Undocumented bench 'cause you want to know if I'm stupid enough to buy a house, burn money, hit myself on the head and drown myself after winnin’ the lottery." He looked at me and said, "Kid, we don't like your kind, and we're gonna send your mortgage application off to Washington."

And friends, somewhere in Washington enshrined in some little folder, is a study in black and white of my mortage application. And the only reason I'm singing you this song now is cause you may know somebody in a similar situation, or you may be in a similar situation, and if you're in a situation like that there's only one thing you can do and that's walk into the bank wherever you are, just walk in and say "Bank: You can get anything you want, and you don’t need documents!" And walk out.

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't notice. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think it’s performance art and they won't notice them either. And if three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin’ a bar of Don’t Need No Documents and walking out? They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in, singin’ a bar of Don’t Need No Documents and walking out? Friends, they may think it's a Recession.

And that's what it is, the Sub-Prime Mortgage Anti-Massacree Recession, and all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar.

With feeling.

So we'll wait for it to come around on the guitar here and sing it when it does.

Here it comes.

You can get anything you want, and you don’t need documents!
You can get anything you want, and you don’t need documents!
Walk right in there’s beer in the fridge
Just a half a mile from the damn drawbridge
You can get anything you want, and you don’t need documents

That was horrible. If you want to avoid Depression and stuff you got to sing loud. I've been writing this post now for three and a half hours. I could write it for another twenty minutes. I'm not proud... or tired.

So we'll wait till it comes around again, and this time with four part harmony and feeling.

We're just waitin' for it to come around is what we're doing.

And now here it comes.

You can get anything you want, and you don’t need documents!
You’ll wish you didn’t
You can get anything you want, and you don’t need documents!
Walk right in there’s beer in the fridge
Just a half a mile from the damn drawbridge
You can get anything you want, and you don’t need documents!

Da da da da da da da dum
You don’t need documents!

Everything I said in this little ditty was true when I wrote it, but some of the facts might have changed in the last few years. I don't know. I didn't read it. It's freakin' long!

Oh, and apologies to Arlo. Somehow, I think he'd understand.
Da da da da da da da dum
You don’t need documents!

Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Tramp's Story, Part XIII: Children and Fools

Con’t from a couple of posts ago, in which I faxed my 1099s to Maria, so as to convince her she ought to lend me more than ten times my yearly income…

I made the same piddling amount of money the last time we went through this, but — well, actually, last time my puddle was even smaller. And despite what the news cycle can't bring itself to stop reporting, even at the height of the Stupid Boom banks were not just throwing money at anyone with a death wish and a catcher's mitt. They did still have at least one standard in 2004, and my husband (only he was not my husband then) was not up to it: Johnny had no credit rating whatsoever. Still doesn't, as a matter of fact. So he couldn’t be officially included on the mortgage papers, which is why I (not entirely truthfully) added his annual income to my own.

I still think of this as a little white lie, though. It was our honest household income, even if that isn't the question that was asked. And at least I wasn’t like those other people, inventing million-dollar incomes to get $500,000 loans. All I did was add Johnny’s $25K on to my 17! And that still wasn’t enough to buy even this shitbox of a house! The mortgage broker took it upon himself to pop another $15K on top, just to be sure! But it wasn’t my idea! All I did was sign the freakin’ thing!


So I was pretty well determined not to get into any of that crap this time around, even if it meant aborting the attempt. Johnny doesn’t have any income this time, anyway, and I’d been very up front with everyone about that from the start. Henry, Aroutyan, Sarah, Maria – all of Sybil’s alternates who’d so far come out to play. I made good and sure that not one of them would be surprised by the wee numbers reported on my 1099s, but I didn’t know if there were more I hadn't met. And I didn't know how the Inner Council would judge these things. I didn’t know what Runic Guidelines they might follow, what their Urim and Thummim would have to say, or if anybody’d told yet them exactly how much money I don’t have.

So after I faxed the 1009s, I emailed Maria:

“Is there any chance that they’ll say no,” I asked, “when they see these numbers? I mean, you and Henry have both made it sound like a done deal, but… $17K? Are you absolutely sure no one will laugh?”

“This is not an income-based program,” she assured me. “They really only want to see proof that you’re employed. After that, the numbers just don’t matter.”

“Okay, then I have another question: If you – or ‘they,’ or whomever – aren’t interested in how much money I (don’t) make, then why do you-or-they care if I’m employed? I could very well be jobless with a ginormous trust fund like My Lady, or I could be gainfully employed by her and pulling down seventeen grand. If all you really care about is my past record of timely payment, then why bother with all this hoop-jumping rigamarole?”

Not really. I didn’t say that to Maria. I thought it, but I kept the idea to myself. I decided it was best to leave well enough alone for the time being, sit on my hands until I had a final answer, and repeat the mantra “The worst that happens is we’re back where we started” over and over in my head while rocking back and forth, eating my hair.

The next morning, Maria called me on my cell phone. I was standing in my living room at the time:

“I just wanted to let you know," she said, "I have your preliminary HUD document in front of me.”


“Yeah. So have you got a minute? I'd like to go over the numbers.”

Sure! But um, first...

Can you tell me what “preliminary HUD document” means?

To be continued. Maybe only two more times! Or three. But the end is in sight, I swear to god. Really. Do I seem like the kind of person who would lie? I mean about something of this magnitude? To you?

Well, I never.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I'm Baaacck!

Here's what I learned at My (Crazy) Lady's house this week:

1. It's okay to say Crazy. Her psychiatrist did, and he's the head of the department at Mass General. If that's not authority pronouncing, then what is? Crazy!

2. No matter what the psychiatrist says, though, doubling down on all her meds and throwing in 5mg of Valium for good measure will not knock her out for the night. And when she comes creeping out into the living room in the midnight dark, you get frightened like a small child and have to fight to not throw shoes at her till she retreats. But instead you get up, take her arm, and guide her back to bed. Then she gets up again, and you steal a valium from her stash to enjoy later.

3. I'm not the kind of person who can steal a valium. The idea of it in my overnight bag got me through the longest night, but I put it back in the bottle the next morning.

4. It took three days for me to figure out that when she said she used the bathroom "comprehensively," that meant she pooed. Still not sure why she felt I had to know.

5. Crazy is just a little bit contagious. I wrote the next installment of The Schmeschminance Saga while I was over there, but it's not the most coherent thing I've ever read. I'll need a few more days of R&R before the mental and physical knots all get untied. Ugh. I've never played so much computer solitaire or eaten so many cheese-based meals in my life. So I'm not doing anything for a while.

Comprehensively speaking, that is.

In the meantime, let's have a hand for...

 Dr. One Friend!

She performed nobly in my absence, and is looking over my shoulder right now as I type this -- she even brought me a bottle of It's-All-Gone-To-Shit Champagne (although she thinks it's a celebration bottle, because I may have possibly finally finished my Big Project before I went away). But upon seeing that picture of herself, she'd decided to remind me that I gave her the password to this blog. I can't change it, because then it won't be the same as all my other passwords and I'll never be able to remember what it is.

So. If you should happen to read anything here in the future that you don't think seems up to snuff, blame her. Also, any pictures posted of a kohl-eyed, sideburned punk purporting to be me: if you don't think it's pretty, then it ain't.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

In conclusion,

Psst, over here....

Hi All -

Dr. One Friend here again.  E is still busy dealing with a (not so) minor crisis with her Lady.  Since I feel sorry for you guys, I am going to finish the story for her.  Don't tell though.  You have to promise to act surprised when she gets back to blogging on Friday or Saturday.
Okay, here goes:


Well I did warn you that I stopped paying attention to the details with E years ago.  I am sure there will be lots of words and details in the story when E tells it...but at least you now know how it ends. 

Dr. OF

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We interrupt this broadcast...

Hi All -
The magnificent Dr. One-Friend here. E had to go away, something about her Lady and medication and staying over. Blah blah blah. To be honest I stopped listening to the details with E years ago. As you guys have witnessed with this last 5,000 part series about a phone call, E's explanations can get a little long...amusing, but long. 
Anyway, I am pretty sure she apologized for the interruption, and that she would finish the story ASAP (I wouldn't hold my breath though or your end will likely come before the story's end if you do). 
Dr. OF
P.S.  I know all of her secrets and I can be bribed (I'm just sayin'...)

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Tramp's Story, Part XII: The Imaginary Unit

Con’t from previous post…

I faxed my Lady-signed, employment-verifying letter over to the third number Maria gave me, and called her to make sure it came through okay. It did.

So, you know, that's a huge relief.

Maria said the next step was for her to send it along to Bank of America’s Super Secret Illuminati and Knights Templar Division (which I believe she said is located in the basement of the Heart of Gold building on Yellow Brick Road in Atlantis), and then we wait. Not long. We should expect an owl back with the Oracle's secret message within two days.

Modern technology. What won’t they think of next?

Well, I’ll be damned if I didn’t have an email from Maria almost exactly forty-eight hours later, just like she said. Sort of. An owl had arrived from the Sanhedrin, she explained, but not an answer. The Ouija seemed instead to be spelling out "1099."

“They want to see your forms," Maria said, "just as further proof of your employment." I'm sure she intended this to reassure. "Better send a couple years' worth if you have 'em, to be safe. And then we really, really ought to be all set.

"Oh, I almost forgot! I just got my own fax machine in my office. So could you send them to this new number instead?”

Another number? Certainly! At least that shatters the Illuminati curse! 2-6-3-4 ≠ Skiddoo!

The shocking part, you understand, is not that I went ahead and did what she asked me without question. No. You all ought to be well inured to that sort of shit by now. The truly shocking thing here (and if you know it, sing along!) is that I had the freaking things to send. Right handy, too. On the shelf in the closet in my office.

For a couple years, the cats pooed in that closet. By which I mean to say: it's where the cat box lived. But when the dog arrived in June and the litter box went in the master bedroom (which is really loads of fun, I tell you what) we started using it as a sort of spillover pantry. You don’t want to think about those facts too hard, I know, but I’m only talking about things that come in cans and jars. Maybe the occasional box of pasta. Bag of beans. Old El Paso Taco Dinner Kits that Johnny made me buy last year and has still refused to eat. What? I mopped it first! It’s not like we're eating cooked spaghetti off the floor!


On the top shelf of that closet, on the left, behind the cans of whole, peeled, crushed tomatoes, there lay a stack of manila envelopes, all but forgotten. Labeled things like “computer garbage,” “water bills,” and “Dublin House,” they were artifacts from a burst of organizing I accidentally found myself up to my armpits in last spring. And, if I remembered correctly, there was one up there somehow related to the IRS.

There was! Three of them! Labeled “Tax crap” and sorted by year!

Two minutes of shuffling, and I had ‘em in my grubby little mitts. Right there, in black and white, there was cold hard proof for Caiaphus that I am actually employed. See? In 2006, I earned $12,000! $17,000 in '07 and '8!

Tell me again, Maria, about how you're going to lend me eleven times what I manage to bring home in a year?

Somebody out there -- I believe it was AtlanticMo -- guessed that this would turn out to be a fifteen-part series. I think that's starting to sound about right.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Tramp's Story, Part XI: Only the Insane is Absolutely Certain

Con’t from previous post…

Turns out I’d spelled Maria’s name wrong. Her last name has a K in it, see, and when she spelled it for me the first time we spoke on the phone, I misheard that letter as an A. You’d almost think she might have pointed that out to me when I hand-wrote it the wrong way on the cover sheet to the fax I’d sent the week before – considering it is the first letter of her last name and all, and the resultant spelling was somewhat bizarre – but I guess that level of detail is beyond the ken of a multi-billion-dollar, post-bailout, Fannie-Mae-backed mortgage corporation. I mean, really, don’t these people have enough to do?

This time she sent me an email, asking me to have My Lady write a letter for my file. She said it should be on letterhead (which My Lady doesn’t have, because she’s just a Lady). It should say when I was hired (that's easy: sometime in 1999 -- or was it '98?). Should explain that I'm a 1099-contracted employee (which I’m sort of kind of not). And state my job title explicitly (I do not have one).

So what I did is, I made it up.

I created some letterhead for My Lady on my handy-dandy home word processing machine, whipped up a hundred words on a sheet of it explaining that I surely was her 1099-contracted employee, had been for at least a decade, and that the job title I use on my 1040 form is “Writer” (and that part there is even true). Then I stuck it in my bag for her to sign.

Ha! You thought I was going to say I signed it for her, didn’t you? Eh, I probably could have. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t think about it. After all, I wasn’t going to be seeing her for another couple days, and this damn thing has been dragging on for long enough. But no. She’s too savvy, My Lady is. And even if she wouldn't catch me, she's too kind. I knew there was nothing in that letter she’d object to, but I also knew I couldn’t live with myself if I signed her name.

So I waited two more days. I brought it to her. And she signed it. Then I called Maria to report that I’d be faxing it along.

“Great!” exclaimed Maria K---. “But do you think you could fax it to this other number? The one you used last time in is my boss’s office, and she’s gone on vacation for a week.”

Sure. Because naturally a multi-billion-dollar, post-bailout, Fannie-Mae-backed mortgage corporation doesn’t have communal fax machines for folks to use. They’re all in bosses’ offices, of course. And everybody knows that when a boss goes on vacation, she locks her office and swallows the key. Along with her secretary. And what’s left of my mental health.

Two people, six names, three email addresses, three fax numbers.


Holy shit.

Have I gotten myself involved with the Illuminati?

If I don't post the next installment in two days, you'll know who to blame...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Tramp's Story, Part X: As a Dog Returneth to His -- Well, You Know

Con’t from previous post…

Maria said she’d have to check with "people" to find out what we had to do about my peculiar employment situation, and that I should just sit tight and wait to hear. Two days went by, though – which is an eternity in schmeschminance time – so I shot her a quick email asking how things were going and if there was anything she needed me to do. Or, rather, I tried to shoot her a quick email asking how things were going and if there was anything she needed me to do. But the email address she gave me – which was just – came bouncing back.

What the tap-dancing Christ!? First I get two different contacts with six different names between them, and now the one we finally settled on does not exist? What kind of short-bus scam-operation is this, anyway? Somebody really ought to remind these folks that the “con” in “con game” is short for “confidence,” because they aren’t inspiring too much of that in me, I tell you what.

I called Maria – or whatever her name was – ready to tell her to tear up my application form once and for all. I’d already signed and faxed whatever the hell documents I’d signed and faxed, so I’d probably already consigned myself to at least two or three circles of financial hell (I imagined Satan as the naked love-child of Suze Orman and Alan Greenspan, with a pair of very small Dick Cheney horns). But maybe, if I reached down waaay deep in my dark inner pocket where I keep spare sets of testicles for times like these, I just might be able to stop it from getting any worse. I would be firm, and forceful. I would insist upon my right to be heard. I would not be fast-talked out of my newfound resolve. I would, for once in my 40 years of miserable existence, make a sensible decision and follow through with it, so help me god.

Or else I would just leave a friendly voice mail.

Well, Maria did not answer her telephone! What the hell was I supposed to do? Besides, I’d had a chance to think about things while I listened to it ring and ring, and I reminded myself how this whole mess got started in the first place. I had called them, remember. Not about schmeschminance, certainly, but it’s not as if I gave it all up to a telemarketer like some yokel Pollyanna innocently describing her undergarments to a heavy-breathing caller.

“Maria? Um, it’s Erin. Ellia? Calling about loan #XXXXXX? I’m just wondering how things are going, because I haven’t heard from you in a couple days. Sorry to bother you, but I tried to send you an email and it came back. I probably just wrote down your email address wrong or something, but… Yeah. Well, anyway. Call me back and let me know if there’s anything you need me to do at this end. Okay? Thanks.”

Sorry. Probably my fault. Thanks.

Way to follow through, there, Pullback McBunterson.

How will our hero get out of this latest scrape!? Will she finally be done in by her own stupidity? Find out next time!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Tramp's Story, Part IX: A Fool and Her Money

Con’t from previous post…

My Lady, see, she's very…

Well, I might as well just lay it out: she’s very rich. She inherited her money, she has never really worked, and – unless she goes on some kind of P. Diddy spending bender – there’ll be loads of it leftover when she’s gone. But if you met her you would never know. She lives in a two-room condo, for crying out loud, with thirty-year old Shaker furniture, and her biggest personal indulgence is local art. Granted, the condo is on Beacon Hill, but she paid cash for it ’81 so it probably cost her like a hundred bucks, and she hasn’t ever once in her life owned a car. She does happen to own a parking spot that’s worth more than my house, but that’s a story for another time.

The point is: My Lady is very aware of her good fortune at having been born into a cushy safety net. Because, see, the money’s not the reason she has never really worked, it’s just what allowed her to survive without the pressure. Lots of schizophrenic folks wind up wandering the streets, or hospitalized, or worse, and thanks to her inheritance she’s been stable now for quite a while. So she does her best to pay it forward to the universe.

She gives thousands to charity and spare change to homeless people. She funds children’s theater and food projects. She gives scholarships and land trusts and butterfly gardens, and is just generally – discerningly – philanthropic to a fault. I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that she's also been very generous to me over the years, but what I find most endearing is how exceedingly wise she is about her finances. Very wise, and very wary. My Lady is no chump, is what I mean.

She can smell for miles when a charity, a foundation, a friend or family member is circling to try to hit her up. When she senses it, she makes her yes or no decision in advance  -- if yes, then she decides how much -- and heads them off before they reach the pass. She's had the same accountant, bank, and broker for at least thirty years. When her trust fund account-exec retired, she had his replacement vetted and requested someone else.

Her phone number’s unlisted, naturally. And she never, never, never gives it out.

I meant to ask if I could have Maria call, I really did! But I meant to ask in person, when I saw her face to face! I didn’t know it would be happening so fast!

She was very nice about it. I apologized and said I didn't expect her to say anything that might make her uncomfortable. Once I reminded her, though, she did remember having been through this before, when I got the mortgage in the first place. All they wanted to know -- then, and now -- was simply that yes, I was employed by her, and for how long.

Okay, My Lady said. Maria could call back. She’d tell her.

Well. Before I even got off the house phone with My Lady, Maria was on my cell phone in a tizz. “It’s okay,” I reassured her. “I know it probably sounds shady, but My Lady understands now. She says that if you call her back, she’ll be happy to cooperate this time.”

“Hang on,” Maria said. “Are you a W-2 employee?”

“No,” I said. “She gives me a 1099. Why?”

“Well, on this form you sent you checked the box that says W-2.”


You see? You see how much fun it is being me? Don’t you wish we’d never embarked on this together in the first place? Who wants to guess how many more installments there will be?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Tramp's Story, Part VIII: Evil is Easy

Con’t from previous post…

So I sent the forms in.

I called Maria first and told her I was going to send them in like she asked because Henry said it was okay, but that I couldn’t help but notice the name on the letter in the package wasn’t hers. She wheezed her answer, just like she always did.

“yeah things get shuffled around a lot but--"

“I understand,” I interrupted. Her simpering voice was really grating on my nerves. “I’m just wondering if the fax number it gives for her will also work for you.”

For those of you out there growing increasingly concerned: I thank you. But these forms I was faxing out into the nominal void were not deeds to my soul or anything. They were just – well, one of them I’ve forgotten what it was. Borrower’s Certification and Blood Oath or some such fucking thing. I don’t know, I didn’t read it. But I do still have it in an envelope around here, somewhere. I’m pretty sure I do, at least. I'm in bed, though, and it's cold. So you're nuts if you think I'm getting out and looking for it now.

Anyway, the other one I definitely remember. I don't know what it was called, of course, but it wanted me to check a box per my employment: was I a W-2 employee, it wanted to know (i.e., for you foreigners out there: was I employed by an actual company getting actual paychecks with actual taxes taken out of them. As if.) or was I self-employed.

Honestly, I don’t remember which box I checked. This is always a tricky question for me. I work for My Lady, of course, so I don’t consider me self-employed -- but the IRS does. My Lady gives me a 1099 form instead of a W-2, and that's all they care about. Because self-employed people, you see, have to pay taxes at twice the rate of W-2 people, to make up for what they’re not getting from your employer.

Oh, it’s totally fair. Not so much for me, I mean, because I make $17,000 a year so I can totally afford an extra grand. But let’s say for, oh, I don't know -- a painter. A regular-employed person puts in their eight hours (or more; I do recognize that oftentimes it’s more) and collects a check with roughly 1/3 missing – some of which, if he’s planned it wisely, will come back to him as a refund in April. A painter, on the other hand, spends half his time unpaid, driving around and pricing jobs he will not get, or picking up material for those he does. Plus he has to spend evening hours doing his own billing and accounting. Or his wife does. He can’t possibly charge enough per hour for the time he’s actually at work to make up for the time he’s not – people already think $25/hour is too much to pay for labor that they don’t believe takes any skill. (It would work out to $52K a year, before taxes, if he worked 40 hours every week -- with no sick time, health benefits, or paid vacation. Which is about what a secretary makes around these parts with all of those. But never mind.) And for all of this he gets the privilege of paying half again as much in taxes, not a cent of which does he have any hope of getting back.

I know, I know, I said “twice the rate” above and then “half again as much” right there. That’s because I don’t remember what it is, exactly. Johnny hasn’t had work in so long, we haven’t even had to file for the past few years, and if I look it up right now I will get agida.

Anyway. This form was surely asking how I file, and since I didn't in the years they specified, I didn't see how it mattered what I said. I considered checking yes, I am a W-2 employee, because it seemed it would be easier, and because -- since this was a non-income thingy-dingy -- I assumed they weren't checking, anyway. But, honestly, I don't remember if that's what I did or not. I could find out. It's in an envelope around here somewhere, swear to god.

Whatever box I checked, I sent it. Maria gave me a new number, I faxed the forms from Gary Drug, and when I called to confirm that they’d arrived, I found Maria working up some actual inflection! Was she warming up to me? Or was this a Pavlovian response in direct proportion to the tangibility of my account? Either way, it didn’t matter. A stalk of celery makes a more stimulating conversationalist than a limp carrot, any day. And what she said to me in her crunchy new voice was:

“What fax number did you send them to?”

Oh, jeez.

“Um? The number you gave me? This morning? When we spoke? The XXX one?”

Apparently? In an attempt to turn my own inflection up a notch to match Maria’s? I’d turned into an up-speaking Valley Girl?

“I’ll look around,” she said, “and call you. But next time use this other number, just in case.”

Um? Okay?

She called back in an hour to say she found the forms. “That person isn’t in today,” she said, “so your fax got kind of buried.”

You mean that person? Who’s fax number you gave me? Isn’t you?


The next step, Maria said, was to verify my employment, which she would do in the next day or so and call me. But what happened instead was that, an hour later, I got a panicked phone call from My Lady.

“Some woman from Bank of America just called! Asking all these questions! About whether or not you work for me!" She was quite worked up about it. I felt bad.

"But don’t worry," she went on.

"I didn't confirm anything.”

To be continued. Because I really don’t see any reason why you people should get to know how this turns out any faster than I did. This is MY soul I’m selling, after all...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Tramp's Story, Part VII: Whena Yousa Thinking We Are in Trouble?

con't from previous post

Although I felt I ought to sort through this roll call somehow, my gut told me not to rely on the two people with five names between them to dish up the straight dope (I know: I astound even myself sometimes with these rare moments of clarity). But Bank of America is so large and ubiquitous that I didn’t even know which state to call for Directory Assistance.

In a flash of inspiration (moment of clarity #2), I logged on to the BoA website. I was looking for a general customer-service phone number, but all the listings were so specific that I got all turned around. Somehow, I found myself on a page that wanted me to "live-chat with a representative to confidentially discuss the possibility of a schmeschminance!" I’d already done that, of course, but it sounded close enough. I might even be connected to the same bank of employees as I was the last time, and this way I could get candid answers about Aroutyun/Henry V--/B-- and Maria/Sarah without the chance that either -- or any -- of them would overhear. And if they weren't quite rubbing elbows, well, whoever came on the chatline would at least have access to a directory of employees in the schmeschminance department. No?

Well, to put it frankly: I don't know. Because simply by having an application on file already, I started off on the wrong foot with Mr. Chat.

He called himself something nonspecifically exotic – Nevi or Udal or Jar Jar – and, perhaps because of this, seemed to infer a level of ethnocentricity in my questioning of Henry’s list of names. His response was: “Mr. V-- may find that certain people have difficulty pronouncing Aroutyun and so uses Henry to make it easier on them” (n other words: “shut up, you racist retard”). Refusing to be cowed, I countered with “What about his second last name? The Germanic-sounding one that starts with B, that may or may not have been clipped from a certain terrorist-hunting agent, played by someone who I still think of as a vampire, on a clock-watching television show I’ve never seen?”

Silly me. I thought he might look up Henry B— for me, confirm whether or not he actually exists. But no. Jar Jar told me to ask Henry. He gave me Henry V—’s phone number (which I already had, but which means he did look in a directory, just not for the right guy), and the number of his boss (because if we’re all changing names around here on a daily basis, our bosses are going to both be aware of it and confirm it to our customers). I ended the chat right then and there without saying goodbye, never bothering to ask about Maria’s alias at all.

Why is Jar Jar’s the only name in all of this I can’t remember? Prick.

So anyway, I did. I called Henry and asked if he could catch the cloud and pin it down. He said well, yes. Since it can sometimes take six months between the package and the phone call, see, accounts do tend to get shifted around. It’s not unusual for the name on the letter not to match up with the person who eventually makes contact. That's why he originally told me not to mail the forms. You see?

I bought it. Doesn’t seem like a sound business strategy to me, but then again, neither does giving a $189,000 loan to someone making $17,000 a year, and I’m still hoping for that to happen, aren’t I? So what the hell. Until I actually put pen to paper, after all, I'm still no worse off than I was before I made that fateful first contact. So I don't see any harm, for now, in letting this particular charade keep playing out.

As far as his new last name went, Henry was baffled. I had to pull the papers out and tell him exactly where to find it on the page. “Very, very tiny type,” I said, “up in the extreme left-hand corner. ‘Prepared,’ it clearly says, ‘by Henry B—.’”

Henry laughed. Laughed!

“You are very meticulous about reading your paperwork,” he said. “That is just the name of the person who printed and collated the physical pages. He is not an account representative, he's just a clerk. He apparently has the same name as I do, yes, but it is purely a coincidence.”

“Really?" I said, a bit relieved despite my surviving skepticism. "How odd. Because, I mean, it’s not as though 'Henry' is the most common name in the English language.”

“Yes,” Henry agreed. “That’s why I chose it.”

I am so totally not meticulous about reading my paperwork. At all. I think that much, at least, should be obvious to everyone (if not Henry) by now.

But I don’t see any harm in letting that particular charade keep playing out.

to be (say it with me) continued!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Tramp's Story, Part VI: the people the people the people the people...

...con't from previous post...

It must have been a bad connection or something. The voice on the answering machine was so wee and small, it was like Horton Hears a Who (the book, I mean; I didn't even know there'd been a movie till I googled it. I am so sick of Jim Carrey screwing up classic literature, man). The only reason I didn't just delete it was that I managed to catch the words “Bank of America,” and I had to listen two more times before I caught her name: 

I've just met a—

No, I can’t say I heard the swelling of the orchestra quite yet. Even when I called her back, I could barely hear Maria's freaking voice.

I can’t hear a girl named Maria...

Yeah, that's more like it.

Seriously, she had a voice like a weak handshake. No force or inflection, no enthusiasm or punctuation. She just exhaled, almost simpered, only barely repositioning her lips. (I wouldn’t swear to that last bit, either, except I’m pretty sure you can’t say “Bank of America” without moving your lips at least a little bit. I can’t, anyway. You try it.)

“hello ms ellia," Maria said, "my name is maria k— I will be handling your [schm]e[scmh]inance and I was just wondering if you had any questions”

No. My best friend Henry was pretty clear about everything – oh, wait.

“Henry told me to verify my new loan number with anyone who called. Do you have it?”

She did.

Well, all right then.


Nope. Still no questions.

“okay well my last name is spelled xxxx and my email address is yyyy and my phone number is zzzz and you can call me anytime if you think of any”

Okay, but I really won’t. Henry told me to just sit tight and wait for somebody to call, so that’s exactly what I plan to do.

“have you received the package”

I have, but I haven’t opened it, because Henry told me not to send the forms.

“oh I do need you to send the forms”

What? No. No, no. I need to speak to Henry V—.

“do you want me to give you his phone number”

No. No, no. I have it.

“okay well call him and then call me back if you have any questions”

I’m not saying she wasn’t nice. She was very nice, and trying to be helpful. In a disturbing and uninflected sort of way.

“Henry?" I said. "I’ve got this Maria K— lady on the phone telling me I have to send the forms, but you told me I didn’t have to send the forms!”

“I told you not to send the forms until somebody called…”




“So now somebody did…”

“Yes, but – oh. Oh!” Der! This is the call I'm waiting for! “But you said it wouldn’t come for sixty days!”

“That’s the average. I actually have some people who’ve been waiting for six months. Yours is happening very fast. That’s good. So yes, you should definitely send in the forms she needs.”

I hung up and tore open the package, only to discover three mildly disturbing things:

1. The account rep who signed the cover letter was most decidedly not Maria X.

2. The person who prepared the package went by the name of Henry B—. Which is just weird. I mean, I forgave Henry his pair of first names, why'd he have to go and get a spare last one as well?

3. It said if I didn't get the forms back to them in twelve days the whole thing would fall apart, but I had no idea what day the FedEx box arrived. I suppose I’d better fax them to be sure – but which of these three (or four) people am I supposed to fax them over to?

Well, hell, you didn’t think I was going to put the brakes on this process just because everyone I speak with seems to be under witness protection? Come on, people! Let me remind you:


Although, now that I see it written out like that in bold italics...

Doesn’t it look like a bunch of cartoon swears?

Somebody told me once, a loooong time ago, that she got the sense just about anything could be turned into a good story in my hands. It was a very nice thing to say, and because of it -- because of her -- I’ve stuck with this little hobby through incomeless-years of shouting my barbaric yawp into the void. And, although god only knows why, she has stuck around with me as well. If she even remembers saying it anymore, however, I bet she’s regretting having thrown that particular gantlet down before me now. 8000 words (and counting) on schmeschminancing a schmortgage. Yeesh. 

All of which is a roundabout way of saying...

To be continued. Yet again.