Monday, May 30, 2011


When did other people’s marital problems become mine?

As I await word from the bank and park on whether I am worthy enough, I marvel at the fact that I have been able put up with just about anything from my neighbors for longer than most people … until.

For 26 years I have lived with people next to, above, or below me at any given time, usually two of the three, as I have either lived on the bottom floor or top with neighbors on both sides.

My first experience was a townhouse in Dutch Village, Newport News, Virginia. I managed to rent a home with a lesbian couple next door and a gay couple next door to them. Every morning, I would hear “Honey, what do you want for breakfast?” “Just oatmeal, Dear!” loud and clear through the paper-thin walls. They never fought, and I am still friends with one of them to this day (they broke up in the 1990s). Unfortunately, the guys whom I also befriended and enjoyed having as neighbors died of AIDS as many of my friends did during the height of the epidemic. They are all missed.

On the other side was an obsessive cleaner who I swear would pick up her furniture with one hand, vacuum under it then drop it from a height of three feet. She vacuumed night and day. But she was pleasant. Also, she had the greenest apartment I ever saw, and I am not talking about environmentally. Lime green shag carpet, green wallpaper, green sofa, green drapes. Green is my favorite color, but even I wouldn’t go that far.

I also had a long-haired dachshund, Yorkshire terrier mix named Daisy. My neighbors loved her, and she liked it there.

The experience of living in Dutch Village was a pleasant one until I decided to move into a smaller apartment when my brother moved out and my car was stolen – the two events are not related. I then had people above me. The couple was pleasant enough, but I swear they had a pet elephant, who used to run back and forth in their apartment night and day. The stairs to their apartment were next to mine, so I heard their comings and goings all the time. This also is the apartment that was robbed while I was at work. The manager’s son was pulling up to apartments with a moving truck and using the master key to rob people. Long after I moved from there they caught him. We don’t know what took them so long because all of us suspected him.

However, all that did not deter me from renting my next apartment in what was called a ‘luxury complex’ in Hampton, Virginia. This time I was on the top floor. The couple below me screamed at each other and threw things all the time, and the couple next door? Oh my God. They would beat each other up daily. The irony is they were the last people you would expect to exhibit such behavior. They were a young, attractive, well-to-do couple who were always holding hands and friendly when you ran into them on the landing (all entrances were outside), yet once the door was closed. Take cover!

I could never figure out if they were having rough sex or just trying to kill each other. I would have called the police, but what do you do when the battering is equal opportunity, and from the sounds of it, you had an inkling this was something they enjoyed? I’ll never forget the morning I greeted them, and they both had ‘shiners.’ Neither of them batted an eye (pardon the pun) as they said good morning.

This is the time that I began to realize when you live in an apartment, other people’s marital problems become yours whether you like it or not, no matter if you lived in a dump or a luxury complex.

Nana, my mother’s mother, lived below Aunt Anita and Uncle Walter during the 1950s. She used to tell us how they would fight every night, so she would grab a cigarette, sit in the dark and listen until she got bored. Then she would bang a broom handle on the ceiling for them to shut up. When you only get one TV station in town, entertainment is listening to your relatives argue about money. Anita and Walter stayed married till death did them part. They were two of the nicest people I ever knew, but their marital problems became Nana’s without her requesting permission to take ownership.

If you read On Tuesdays, They Played Mah Jongg and Michael’s Secrets, there are two characters based on Anita and Walter, and one in the first book based on Nana (shameless plug

What followed was my five-year stint in Florida. First, I rented a cottage in Lake Worth that was attached to a house. What I soon learned was the house was a brothel. My friends and family are learning of this for the first time here. Halloween was always interesting – think about it.

If you think couples arguing is annoying, you should live attached to a brothel. I cannot begin to describe what I heard at all hours of the night and day. And why is it that hookers in real life are nowhere near as pretty as the ones in movies? This place had the market cornered in skank.

After a year living with a narcissistic, drunk, youth obsessed, toupee wearing … never mind, I then rented a converted butler’s quarters built in the 1920s (my favorite decade of the twentieth century) that sat above a matching studio apartment that was once the nanny’s quarters in Flamingo Park, West Palm Beach, Florida. Of all my apartments, this was my favorite and ironically, the smallest. It had one 10 x 18 living room/bedroom and the other 10 x 18 half was divided into a kitchen and bathroom with a half wall dividing them. For once, I had windows all around (apartments usually have windows on one, or if you are lucky, two walls). It was just a 20 x 18 square, but what a great location and neighborhood.

My downstairs neighbor was a Muslim drag queen, who was also a drama queen. We were located behind a large home, so there were motion lights that came on when you walked down the driveway to get to our apartments. He used to complain that when I got up in the morning, I set off the motion lights and woke him up, so I was asked to walk on the other side of the house. The newspaper I had delivered would also disturb him, so I was asked to have it delivered in the front yard. If I came in late at night, I was to walk on the dark side as well. However, he never abided by these rules.

One night, he and his boyfriend were having a fight, and the motion lights kept going on and off, as each threatened to leave the other, and they were going back and forth at 2:00 am. So, I got up, walked downstairs, knocked on their door and said, “If you are going to practice your high drama to make a point, do it on the other side of the house, so the lights don’t wake me up.”

That drama drag queen had the nerve to complain to the landlord the next morning that I had embarrassed him, and they were having a problem and could not help setting the lights on and off because he was afraid to walk on the other side of the house since he thought he saw a snake. She tried to get angry with me, but I soon shut her up with how I had put up with his demands that I not set off the lights and how I had a wet paper every morning because I was not allowed to have it delivered to my own door and how I had to walk on the dark side of the house so as not to disturb him.

Again, someone’s marital problems became mine. And this was the time I realized I will put up with just about anything for longer than most people will.

Stay tuned for Mount Pleasant is neither a mount nor pleasant, discuss …

Friday, May 27, 2011


A few years ago during the housing boom, a real estate agent friend of mine (all gay people have at least one friend who is a real estate agent) tried to convince me to buy a condo – a 600 square foot condo for $285,000. I even went so far as to get pre-approved for a mortgage. I was pre-approved for $400,000. I thought that was ridiculous. But banks were ridiculous then. For me to make payments on a $400,000 mortgage, I would have to forego food, car, utilities, retirement, drag wear, massages with happy endings, etc.

I come from the old school where your housing expense is no more than 25% of your take home pay. Not the other way around! Needless to say, I did not make an offer on that sixty-year-old, former apartment, fixer-upper condo in North Fairfax, which did not have a washer/dryer hook-up, AC or a dishwasher. It also only had one window and only street parking.

So, I sat on the sidelines while I watched idiot after idiot buy these expensive homes they had no business even visiting during an open house. I worked a couple of open houses for my real estate agent friend, and I found the buyers amusing. “Mmm, only $585,000 for this one bedroom condo sounds reasonable. I can get used to the trains going by at all hours of the night at these prices.”

I kept saying to myself, “These homes are not going to appreciate. How high can these ridiculous prices go? This is all going to crash.” And I am not even psychic. Am I the only one who saw that?

Now, if you are reading this from a part of the country where housing prices have seriously fallen, you are wondering why I went the mobile home route. Here in the DC region, prices are still ridiculous, and thanks to all those people who bought homes they had no business buying and banks lending to people whom they knew could not make the payments, to buy a home is now almost impossible without having at least 20% down and a seven-figure income and a kidney to sell.

When I first looked at a mobile a few years ago, I was told you needed good credit and 10% down. That is still the case today, and 10% of $60,000-$90,000 is a lot easier than 20% of $585,000. So, I thought this will be easier to settle as well. Hell, I could buy a $50,000 car in an hour by filling out a few forms (and I have no business buying a $50,000 car), so how hard could buying a mobile home be?

Boy, was I in for a surprise!

The first thing you need to know is that buying a mobile home is like buying a car, renting an apartment, and getting approval to buy into a co-op on the same day. Your new home will be titled through the DMV or in Maryland’s case, MVA. However, a mortgage is a mortgage. The park is another story entirely.

First comes the Mobile Home Community or Trailer Park depending on where you decide to go. You may have cash to buy the home, but the park has to approve you. They need the last two year’s tax returns,W-2s, and 1099s; then they need the last two month’s paystubs from all your jobs (I have two); then they need bank statements proving you have the security deposit, which is equal to one month’s lot rental and first month's lot rental; a form filled out by your present landlord or managing company stating you are a good tenant; a letter from your veterinarian stating your dog is of good temperament and under 35 pounds and not one of five (yes, five) prohibited biting breeds; a list of your vehicles, year, model and condition (my youngest car is 29 years old) – this is a trick question because you only get your two-car driveway and can have no more than two cars; a letter from all employers proving you are still employed; and permission for them to run a credit check. Then you must sign a form and give them a $25 check to process all this and receive the “Mobile Home Park Rules.”

There are 40 pages of Mobile Home Park Rules! And you better read them. You must mow your grass. You must get approval to landscape. You must get approval to paint your home exterior in an approved color. You must get approval to add an awning. You cannot let your kids under 18 out after 10:00 pm or before 6:00 am. You must clean up after your dog. You must not throw loud parties. Your pipes must be “heat-taped” in winter (I had to ask about that one). You cannot do car repairs. You cannot have a non-titled car on the premises. You cannot have more than two cars. You cannot have any trash on your property. You cannot have overnight guests for more than four days without registering them with the management office. You cannot sublet your home (my favorite rule). And so on and so on.

At least I knew it would be a quiet clean community. I also knew that everyone who said to me, "You can always rent it out," didn't know a thing about mobile home living. See above; not allowed!

Then comes the home mortgage. For the bank, you need all of the above, and don’t say make copies of what I gave the community. You need to do it all over again because they are separate entities. In addition, you need to give a $1,000 deposit to hold the home and show you are serious and not a tire kicker. Yes, they call them tire kickers in the mobile home business, too. I couldn’t find the tires. The axles are removed and sold back to the manufacturer once the home is parked. I wish I still had them because they fetch $700-$1,000.

The best part is that every time they run a credit check, your credit score goes down a few points due to people running credit checks on you. How ironic. At least four times, credit checks will be run on you. So you better hope your score is a good range above 700 (thank God mine was). They will sell to someone with as low as 630 but reluctantly and not without a bunch of other hoops to jump through.

Just when you think you have given them every piece of information you can, they call you up and say they need one more thing. I finally did say to the guy that I could go to the car dealer down the street and buy a car worth the same as the mobile home in an hour and with none of this information.

And finally, you must obtain mobile home insurance and have proof you did!

I never realized becoming Gay Jewish Trailer Park Trash was going to be so difficult. In case you are wondering, I am still waiting to be approved by the Mobile Home Community!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I have learned so much about mobile home shopping in the last few months, but the most important lesson is that it is less about the home and more about where you park – I mean place it.

You may find a fantastic doublewide, but there may be only one community with an open lot, and then you find out the difference between a “trailer park” and a “mobile home community.” And if you don’t know the difference, drive around and visit some. You will learn very quickly. If you see cars on blocks, old school busses parked next to trailers, homes made of aluminum, honey, you just drove into a trailer park. If you see manicured lawns, modern manufactured homes, landscaped community areas and no junk cars and cars parked on the street, you just drove into a community.

Keep in mind that there are strict zoning rules about where to put a mobile home park … I mean community, so chances are you will be off the beaten path a bit, and near some industrial storage sites. Oh, and don’t forget that all mobile home communities and trailer parks are in the direct path of tornados. So if you are a storm watcher, just follow the tornado to your new home.

I needed to get the tornado myth out there and move forward. Every time I mention my buying a mobile home, someone says, “What about tornados?” I lived in Florida for five years and never saw a hurricane. I have lived in Rockville for two years, and we had an earthquake. If you live your life in fear, you are missing out on so much.
Back to the communities ...
I was out looking at various parks and communities one day during my break between contracts when I passed by a well-manicured community with trees lining the entrance, so I doubled back and pulled in to drive around. There were no junk cars, and the place was immaculate. There were new cars parked in the two-car driveways, and they had sidewalks, and all the homes looked to be younger than ten years old. That was when I decided to drive over to the sales office.
I indicated I wanted to see any homes for sale, and I preferred a new one because I have spent a lifetime living in someone else’s former home. The park manager then drove me down the main street to look at the only new home they had left, and it was the model. My first impression was a good one. It had a deck and a shed, and a two-car driveway that was only fit for compact cars (note to self: put the 1979 Lincoln Continental on eBay).
Once inside, I kind of liked it, but I wasn’t thrilled. It was 820 square feet, but I have to say they were the most efficiently laid out square feet I had ever seen. I remarked that there was little closet space, but the manager pointed out the Amish-built shed that came with it, and there was a true laundry room – not just a closet with a stackable. It also had something apartment dwellers rarely have, a back door! I also marveled at windows on every wall, not just one wall as apartments often have.
There were ceiling fans in every room, a kitchen island with pendant lights, a dishwasher, central air, full size washer and dryer, and being the model, all the windows had tasteful drapes and window treatments. I expected to feel like a giant in a doll house, but surprisingly, I didn’t.
I did ask to see a larger home, and he showed me one, but I was also informed that the only community that had an open space for one was located in Severn, Maryland, and I had seen that park … and it was a trailer park not a community.
I thanked him for his time and asked him to send me the brochure on the model home since it had just been set up and they did not have printed brochures yet with the layout and dimensions. He did inform me that it had six inches of insulation in the walls, floors and ceiling, and triple-pane windows and was Energy Star rated. From my research, I learned that any manufactured home built after 1996 had to meet stricter government codes than stick-built homes. That is what the rest of you live in – stick-built homes.
I then drove home, thinking about what it would be like to live in Jessup … JESSUP?!? Was that where I was? According to the GPS, I was in Jessup. I had been driving around so much that I thought I was in either Columbia or Elkridge. How in the hell did I end up in Jessup? Oh well, who cares?
When I got home, I did what anyone in the 21st Century does. I Googled Jessup. Well, there seems to be, or has been, or still is a prison there. No problem, the criminals are locked up – I hope. And if not, “rough trade” can be fun. At least I knew there would be a tattoo parlor nearby, and once I Googled, I found one.
However, who knew such a place could be so convenient. There was a brand new gym only one mile away, along with an organic market, a “Chinese Take-Away” – as Hyacinth Bucket on “Keeping Up Appearances” calls it, and every Jew needs to be near a “Chinese Take Away on Sunday.” There was a barber right down the street. And the biggest plus was a Super Walmart right around the corner. I could become one of those “people of Walmart”! I also found I would be five minutes from two MARC train stations and only twenty minutes from a Metro Station. How convenient.
Then my phone rang. The manager called to tell me if I made an offer on the model, he would give me six months free lot rental. I asked why, and he said “singlewides” don’t sell quickly, and it was the last one in the community. He also said they don’t like riff raff and I was “good people,” and they wanted good people in the community.
Had I stumbled upon a restricted community? I did see a black man pulling into the driveway of one of the homes. What would they do when they found out this “good people” was a Gay Jew?
I told him I would think about it. I actually wanted a singlewide for two reasons. Doublewides have a ceiling that slants up one way on one side and the other on the other side, so every room looks cock-eyed if you look up. Singlewides have a peaked or cathedral ceiling that is less nauseating. Also, moving a singlewide is a relatively easy process, whereas a doublewide must be pulled apart, floors, ceiling and all. For $10,000, you can move a singlewide cross country. I had done the research.
My only concern was that it was barely 120 square feet bigger than my apartment. But I would be gaining a room I could use as an office rather than my office being part of another room as it had been for 26 years.
Oh my God! Had I lived in apartments for 26 years? That did it. I called the next day and made an offer.
Stay tuned if you think buying a mobile home is easier than buying a stick house.
Laugh now because you are in for a big surprise.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Yesterday, I Took the First Step to Becoming PGJT

I have been an apartment dweller for almost a quarter century, and I did not pursue home ownership until the market went nuts. I have lived in bad neighbors and neighborhoods that were worse. From Newport News, Virginia, to Hampton, Virginia, to Lake Worth, Florida, to West Palm Beach, to Washington, DC, and finally to "luxury living" in Rockville, Maryland.

My family would always call me impulsive, but that is because I don't share every detail of my life. I investigate before I plunge into something, and then I tell them what is going on. But let me be clear, if my parents were still alive, what I began yesterday and hope to pursue by July 1, 2011, would kill them.

I have always been an oddball. My mother never heard me say, "But everyone else is doing it." She would always say, "Why can't you be like everyone else." I knew this about myself ever since I brought the green crayon to first grade class after reading about the boy with the purple crayon, and everyone else brought red or purple crayons.

My longest apartment stay was 12.5 years in the sometimes gang-infested neighborhood of Mount Pleasant in Northwest Washington, DC. I had neighbors upstairs who fought constantly, and my friends urged me to move before one of them shot a bullet through the floor into my bedroom. The problem was the rent was dirt cheap, and the location was convenient.

But even I got sick of it, so I moved to what they call luxury living in a multi-use development called Rockville Town Square. Unfortunately, this became the straw. If you have never lived in a multi-use development, don't. Every f--king weekend is a g--dam festival or parade. There is constant noise from the rooftop nightclub or Mommy on the Square night, or concerts, etc. And in luxury living, no one, and I mean no one looks at you or says hello. I know three of my neighbors.

In Mount Pleasant and in Florida, even Newport News and Hampton, I knew everyone.

With home prices soaring out the roof, and my exhaustion with living in spaces previously occupied by someone else, I wanted new construction, no attachment to anyone else's home and peace and quiet. A mobile home emerged as the answer. I had considered this for a long time, since 2002, and after much investigation, yesterday I took the first step to owning my own home. On July 1, I plan to become Poor Gay Jewish Trash (PGJT). I grew up PGJT, so this will not be a stretch.

What I plan to share with you over the course of the next year -- or decade, are my adventures as a Gay Jew in a Mobile Home Community.

First lesson: Mobile Home Community is the preferred term, and I was determined not to move into a Trailer Park. When you see what I found, you will be surprised -- and somewhat curious -- and maybe a little appalled. But I have never cared what other people think about me.

I hope you follow my adventures.