Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Stupid Rich Neighbors

The rich people in the big house next to my building have dogs. Previously, they had a huge black dog that they left outside 24/7, letting it scream all night. Not bark, folks. Scream. I finally went to them and complained. I first talked to the wife, who treated me like I was brain-damaged, and I told her I would be going to the county about the animal abuse. (They'd do things like leave the dog out in sub-freezing temperatures on holiday nights when they'd come home well after midnight - fortunately for them, Animal Control had a lot of abuse cases to deal with those nights and they got home before Animal Control could make it there.) Eventually, I spoke to the husband, who tried to tell me that the dog wasn't his problem, it was his wife's problem. I told him, if his name was on the mortgage for that address, it WAS his problem.

The next day, the black dog was gone.

Almost a year ago, they procured two new dogs. Little Bichon Frises. They leave these dogs out all the time, regardless of the weather. And, if you know the size of these critters, they ain't outdoor dogs. These little dogs scream and scream all the time. It's the YIPE YIPE YIPE bark. Some of my neighbors complained to animal control a couple of months ago because their apartment faced directly out into that family's yard. It was to no avail. Finally, tonight, I couldn't hack it anymore. After four hours of listening to the dogs scream non-stop, I went up to verify the house address, so I could call the county in the morning. As I stopped to read the house address, the wife came out and saw me. Here is the conversation:

ME: Excuse me, but are you going to bring your dogs in at some point? It's well after 10 p.m., and they've been screaming for hours.

WIFE: Are you talking to me? (She bolts from the front door down the driveway to where I am, standing in the street.)

ME: Yes. You leave these dogs out all the time, and it's impossible for people to hear themselves think after a while. Why don't you let them out for a while and then bring them back in?

WIFE: They are in outdoor crates, and my dogs can come and go as they please out of the crates.

ME: Ooookaaaay... But don't you hear them? They bark and scream incessantly. Don't you have any idea how annoying and inconsiderate it is for your neighbors?

WIFE: Yeah, it's annoying to me, too. What can I do about it? I've told my girls, but...

ME: Well, if it's annoying to you, why aren't you doing something about it, like bring them inside?

WIFE: silence

ME: You know, this isn't the first time I've had to come to you about the animal noise. And other neighbors have complained to the county. I had to come talk to you when you had the other dog.

WIFE: You talked to me? I don't think so. I don't remember anything about this.

ME: You have to be kidding. I brought you a tape of your dog screaming at 1 in the morning, and I told you if you didn't do something about the noise and the abuse of the dog, I was taking you to animal court. You left that big black standard poodle out all hours in all types of weather. You ruined Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve one year when you left that poor thing out all night in sub-freezing temperatures and you didn't come home until well after midnight.

WIFE: I don't recall any of this. And anyway, it was a Portuguese Water Dog, not a poodle. Don't you know the difference?

ME: Oh, who cares about what kind of dog it was?!? I don't care what breed the dog was - it was being abused.

WIFE: That dog is now living with the owner of the biggest circus on the planet, and I'll have you know that dog is one of the best paid and wealthiest dogs in the world!

ME: Well, la-ti-da. Why on earth would I care if your former dog is rich? I just want to be able to sleep or enjoy some peace and quiet and NOT listen to your dogs scream all the time.

WIFE: They are just tiny puppies, and they think they are protecting us.

ME: They were tiny puppies a year ago, ma'am. I remember when you had to put up posters all over because they ran away. And they may think they're protecting you, but it's interfering with your neighbors' quiet enjoyment of life. Folks who just moved out told me, "Thank god, we won't have to hear those dogs anymore." Please do something about the noise. You need to bring them inside or train them to be quiet.

WIFE: Do what I do. Go to CVS and buy yourself earplugs.

ME: Excuse me, but I should not have to live with earplugs because you can't keep your dogs quiet. I will contact the county tomorrow. You may be willing to put up with this, but your neighbors don't have to put up with it.

WIFE: Where do you live?!? WHERE DO YOU LIVE?!? Down there? (Gestures to my apartment neighborhood.) You live down there? Then, you're not my neighbor. You're from that low-class neighborhood. What's your name?!? What's your name?!? (I gladly give her my name, noting that the county already has a record of me complaining about the last dog they ignored.) You knock yourself out. We're rich, you know. The county will support us. You knock yourself out! Go right ahead, knock yourself out!

ME: You may be rich, but y'all are the most friggin' inconsiderate rich people I've ever met.

Note - at this point, she turned away in a huff and brought the damn dogs in.

These are the same people who, when a neighbor (a physician) went and told them that they might consider putting curtains on their teenage daughters' bedroom windows, as there was a creepy guy watching them change, the wife asked the physician if she was looking for a babysitting job.

And the husband is a bigwig at NIH. (My cranky fantasy is that he's friends with Bob "Probably made AIDS worse" Gallo...)

These guys are kinda creepy. Oh - their fence fell over about three weeks ago, into the parking lot of my building. Despite being rich, they still haven't fixed the fence. They took a baseball bat and tied it to the fence to prop it up. I'm waiting for it to fall over on one of the school children walking home from class...

Quote of the night: "I'll have you know that dog is one of the best paid and wealthiest dogs in the world!"

At least it's quiet now. I feel sorry for whomever moves into that now vacant apartment that faces their yard. God help them.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Weird Mail en Russe

I got a letter from Paris yesterday. I know some people in Paris, but I haven't been in touch with any of them for years. I turned the envelope over, expecting to see a familiar name, but didn't. Instead I saw "Dmitri Shostakovich" with an address on the rue Beaubourg, just a few buildings down from the Pompidou Center (I looked it up on Google.)

The first thing I thought was, uhhh, Dmitri Shostakovich is dead. Waaaay dead. Who's pulling my leg?

Then, I opened the envelope. There was a handwritten sheet in Russian, with instructions to mail the letter to me, noting me as "Manager of Charitable Orthodox Projects" ("orthodox" as in Russian Orthodox Church) and giving the website address for my former place of employment. Below that, my home address, several e-mail addresses for me, including one I haven't had for at least 7 or 8 years, and one badly mangled (noting my ISP as "" which is pretty funny.)

Then, finally, I saw the reason for this strangeness - the name of a terribly annoying Russian interpreter with whom I used to work. A couple of years ago, this man has handed off my contact information to friends in Russia who are desperate for grant money to maintain Russian monuments. I feel bad, but I'm not in a position to help these folks. I've told the interpreter this time and again, but he is clueless. Also, I want to know how these folks got an e-mail address for me that ceased to be YEARS before I met the interpreter. And when did I become a "orthodox" charity agent???

With this was a four page, typed proposal in Russian, begging me to find several million dollars to rebuild and restore the town of Pavlovsk, a royal retreat outside of St. Petersburg. This is not the first time I've received this request. In fact, this is the fifth time I've received this request. Each time, I've told these folks "Sorry, cannot do pro bono work at this time."

I'm baffled by how odd this has become, though. Letters are now coming from Russians in France? If this dude is a Shostakovich, living in a very tony part of Paris, why isn't he funding the reconstruction of Pavlovsk? And there are SO many wealthy Russians, both in country and expatriate now - why aren't they looking to them for cash???

Arrrrrg. I will have to respond yet again. And I HATE typing in Russian.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Goodbye, Paul

Paul Hester killed himself. Can any of us imagine a depth of despair so deep it would carry off a man with two young children to raise and a career that seemed quite on track? He must have been in great pain to wrench himself away from a very full life. He hanged himself, in the middle of the day, in a park near his home.

I only knew him as the goofy grin behind the drum kit in the Crowded House videos I watched in the '80's, and yet, because Crowded House left such a mark on me, musically, I'm feeling sad and haunted by his suicide. What a sad thing.

If you don't know the music of Crowded House, you should go pick some up, right now.


Four seasons in one day
Lying in the depths of your imagination
Worlds above and worlds below
The sun shines on the black clouds hanging over the domain

Even when you’re feeling warm
The temperature could drop away
Like four seasons in one day

Smiling as the shit comes down
You can tell a man from what he has to say
Everything gets turned around
And I will risk my neck again, again

You can take me where you will
Up the creek and through the mill
All the things you can’t explain
Four seasons in one day

Blood dries up
Like rain, like rain
Fills my cup
Like four seasons in one day

It doesn’t pay to make predictions
Sleeping on an unmade bed
Finding out wherever there is comfort there is pain
Only one step away
Like four seasons in one day

Blood dries up
Like rain, like rain
Fills my cup
Like four seasons in one day

Sunday, March 20, 2005

You have a funny sense of fun...

It may be wrong, but this is how I think most people at my former place of employment perceive me:

Prince Feisal to Mr. Dryden and General Allenby:

"But 'awrence is a sword with two edges; we are equally glad to be rid of him, are we not?"

It won't make sense to you unless you know the source.

But you do, don't you?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Venite, Andrew!

My old high school friend Andy is a fairly accomplished musician. We sang together in the concert choir, where he was a first tenor and I was a first soprano. We used to amuse each other by switching parts and driving the choir director insane with a very credible soprano floating in from the tenors and, vice versa, a pretty darn good tenor ringing out from the sopranos. There was some number we performed that included a tenor solo where Andy had to warble the word "Venite!" over several bars of music. We messed with the director at one of the final rehearsals by having me sing it. Heh heh heh. Good times for choir geeks.

Anyway, flash forward many years. Andy and his partner Rick live in Brooklyn now and are part of the very lively music scene in NYC. Something I had never figured Andy for was a folk musician, and yet, that is what he has become (along with being a respected editor in the New York theater community.) He and Rick play little venues on a fairly regular basis, and, lo and behold - they have released a cd! (Through CD Baby, which is the same company that released Thomas Dolby's "40.")

Here is the link to Andy and Rick's CD page (okay, so officially they're "Rick & Andy" but I don't know Rick, so, it's Andy & Rick for me...): .

It's been so long since I've blogged, I've forgotten all my HTML and can't remember how to make hyperlinks. I'd better refresh my memory. My resume says something about a rudimentary knowledge of HTML. Oops.

Anyway - hooray Andy and Rick! Good luck with the cd!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Farewell, EW...

I've been a subscriber to Entertainment Weekly now for ages. I love it. It's a weekly fix of junkfood for the mind. I love The Hot List, I love the list of Must Sees for each week. Once a month, Stephen King has a column on the final page. It's good to see new words from King. (The WB, that Kresge of television networks, would call it "fresh" - as in, "and now, fresh Stephen King... on the WB...")

Many moons ago, when I still worked for Goodwill Industries (which my sister Betsi calls "Ill Will" for my benefit), I got an envelope from EW, offering me a "special professional courtesy rate" of $19.95 a year, which, if you know the cover price - or regular subscription price - is a screaming deal. And so, I signed up. I have no idea how I qualified for this rate. I was a Russian historian working at a disability-focused non-profit. The form letter didn't mention what professions qualified. ("Special liberal arts graduate with no advanced education kinda professional we feel sorry for you so we'll call you a professional courtesy rate!") Regardless, I can assure you, I didn't complain. Every year since then, I've received my "professional courtesy renewal" reminder envelope, and I've gladly send in my 20 bucks, minus a nickel.

Until now.

I got my little envelope from EW last week. Imagine my shock when I found a bland message informing me that my subscription was about to end, and a renewal would set me back... $89.

Holy crapito, Batman! What happened?!? I'm still a professional, albeit one who will be unemployed in a week. Did they get advanced warning of my impending joblessness? Yes, I know that's ridiculous, but it's hard to not feel a bit targeted, when you already know that Ramen Noodles and whatever is available in the cabinets is your fate in a handful of days. Crap, crap, crap. Jeez, even if I still had a job past the 18th, I wouldn't cough up that kind of cash for EW! I'm tempted to write to them and ask what I did to offend them.

So, it's the end of an era. No more Must See lists. No more Hot Lists. No more Stephen King pop culture trips. Adios, Lisa Schwarzbaum (and that other guy who reviews movies, too.) If only EW were offered with those "you didn't use your frequent flyer mile" magazine freebies. I'm not sure why, but usually, my list of freebies on those offers seem to be all golf, Mac user-ish, and gay/lesbian interest. Perhaps they have me confused with some hipster member of the LPGA tour...

What to do now? Well, heck, as a wise little sock puppet once said, "READ A BOOK!" (But they tend to get sweaty and don't hold up well on the treadmill at the gym...)

So beginneth a new blog. Yes, it's a lame post, but it's a start...