Sunday, August 28, 2011

I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet

Brace yourself, there is a storm coming. Of course, when you live in a mobile home, especially one in a mobile home community, you are aware of every tornado watch. It is not out of fear that you stay informed; you do it so that you can say "I told you so" to your friends.

For some reason, your friends are almost disappointed when your home doesn’t go airborne and land on your sister. What sissy has not seen the Wizard of Oz a dozen times? Dorothy may have lived in Kansas, but she did not live in a trailer, bitches!

I don’t know how many of my acquaintances are obsessed with the impending natural disaster I am to experience in my new home. “Aren’t you afraid of high winds? Aren’t you afraid of flooding? Aren’t you afraid of tornadoes?” I watch the news. The tsunami in Japan didn’t take away only mobile homes; it took away ALL the homes! A hurricane flooded New Orleans, not just the trailer park in the West End.

I saw a comedian on Logo the other night who said tornadoes are God’s away of erasing trailer parks with a sweep of her hand, saying, “No, no; don’t live there!” So now, even gay comedians are getting in on the act.

Who the fuck cares! As I said before, tornadoes don’t destroy mobile homes; they destroy Walmarts.

Now, I have lived in my new home for more than a month now, and anyone who lives on the East Coast knows about all the violent thunderstorms we get in the summer months. We have had quite a few big ones since I moved in, and let me tell you the house did not shake, the roof did not peel off, the windows did not shatter, and the house did not go floating down the street – although that would have been cool!

My home is built to higher standards than stick-built homes, and it had to withstand traveling by semi from Pennsylvania over potholed highways in the middle of February to its final destination in Jessup. Some of your luxury cars could not survive that!

And here is something else you might want to consider. Since I bought a brand new home, I have a fifteen-year warranty on it. That is better than what Chrysler offers. This comes in very handy. Being a new home, there were a few items that needed to be addressed, so a carpenter from the factory came down to do work on my home on August 23, 2011 (I include the date for a reason). I also worked from home that day.

I needed to have a wall panel replaced in my office as it was slightly off color, a small crack in the ceiling patched up and a squeak in the floor fixed. If you buy a mobile home, buy the brand I did. I visited the factory a few years ago, and they do great work.

The gentleman patched the ceiling and then went into my office to replace the panel. Did I mention I have three bookshelves with over 500 titles on them and that I edit gay erotica part-time and handle distribution of such materials from our Web sales? That inventory is what is in my office! I didn’t mention it to factory guy either. I had to empty the shelf that was blocking the panel, so he could have access. The books were stacked neatly on the floor, books with titles like Homo Thugs, Boys Hard at Work, Kidnapped by a Sex Maniac, Men, Muscle & Mayhem, Who’s Your Daddy? … you get the idea. When he went into the office, I took that opportunity to take Esmeralda for a walk.

Upon our return, I checked on his progress, and he asked me, “Do you make money selling these?” We then had a very interesting conversation about how he and his wife are friends with a gay couple, and his wife likes to read gay erotica, and if his co-worker had come down, it would have been awkward since he is a big homophobe … or as I like to refer to them, “closet cases.” It wasn’t exactly the reaction I expected, and I was pleasantly surprised.

I wonder if his co-worker has tattoos?

Anyway, the last thing he needed to fix was the squeak. The squeaks are actually caused by pipes rubbing against the floor. The floors are first built upside down in the factory with the pipes pre-fitted and fastened, then flipped.

He asked me to stand on the spot and rock back and forth while he went under the house and to stop rocking when he shouted that he had located the squeak. So I rocked back and forth. Now, I have not been dancing in a long time, and I started humming Michael Jackson’s “I Want to Rock with You.” Remember that song and the dance we did to it in 1979? You would bend your arms at the elbow and swing them back and forth while rocking your hips. And if you were stylin’ you rocked forward then backward. I was stylin’.

So there I was, humming and rocking. He had already found the squeak and fixed it, but I couldn’t stop. Next thing I knew, he was standing there watching me. He cleared his throat.

All I said was, “Cool, you stopped the squeak.”

He then had me sign the work order, shook my hand and was on his way.  I hope they send him again. He was good, clean and efficient. And before you ask, no he wasn’t “doable.” I never get the hot ones. My friend Ed gets the hot ones. I get the efficient ones.

When he left, it was 1:40 pm. I had not eaten anything, so I decided to change out of my sweats and go out and get some lunch. No sooner had I changed and was applying Chapstick, when I heard a thumping that sounded as if Esmeralda was really scratching herself and hitting the floor with her rear paw.

I then smeared my Chapstick all over my face. The thumping got louder and more rapid. I thought that Mr. R (I will withhold his real name to protect the innocent) had done something to mess up my pipes, and the house was now making a very loud noise as a result. Then the house began to rock slightly, and the floor was moving.

We were having a fucking earthquake! An earthquake? In Jessup? No one made trailer park earthquake jokes! I stood in the middle of the great room and started spinning in circles the way I do, except I didn’t turn into Wonder Woman (some day I will), and I thought, “Am I supposed to be under something or in something?” Obviously, I am not from earthquake country.

After thirty seconds, it stopped. Then Esmeralda came out from under the bed and looked at me as if I moved the house. I stepped outside, and some of my neighbors were outside as well. We all asked each other if we felt that.

And to all you trailer haters, no house was toppled over. Another fact – being mobile in nature, our houses are built to withstand earthquakes! They flex. Esmeralda and I went back inside and checked every room. No cracks, nothing broken. There was only a cabinet door in my office that was open.

Upon further investigation, I noticed the sofa was now six inches from the wall. My menorah collection had rearranged itself. And the weirdest thing was my flower arrangement in the guest bathroom. It had spun around 180 degrees.

I called Ed, who recently moved to California and had yet to experience an earthquake to announce two things. I got an earthquake first, and I was going looting!

That is what one is supposed to do after an earthquake, right? Look for a Radio Shack and go looting?

My brother asked me to get a flat screen. Another friend told me to steal jewelry. Too bad we don’t have a Frederick’s of Hollywood here.

Of course, looting in Jessup means throwing a brick through the front window of Wing’s Liquor, Bar & BBQ and stealing a bag of Doritos. This did not make the rednecks inside very happy.

Oh well. The next day, the news reporters talked about how folks have to wait sixty days after an earthquake to get earthquake insurance. Ha! I already have earthquake insurance, bitches!

If that wasn’t enough, at the end of that same week, we had to prepare for Hurricane Irene, the largest hurricane to hit the East Coast in seventy years.

Did I ever tell you I am the “Queen of Bad Timing”?

So, then I got an email from my friend … I’ll just call her Bev because that is her real name. I love Bev, but Bev does not like where I live – ever. When I lived in Mount Pleasant, she worried I would get caught in the crossfire of MS-13 Gang violence. Puhleeze. I went to the same barbershop the gang members used. I even had my “tag” shaved into my hair. I was known as “Poodle Walking Faggo.” Whassup?!?

Well, the email from Bev was a link to an article about how those living in mobile homes need to evacuate immediately and commit suicide because their lives are not worth living. What those who read it neglected to do was finish the article. They were referring to mobile homes that were not anchored and were built more than twenty years ago.

This brought back memories of my days in Newport News and Williamsburg whenever the rare snow storm approached. My parents would call me where I worked every ten minutes telling me to go home immediately. I didn’t even live with them, and I am not making this up. They would call and call and call. One storm hit on a weekend, and I was working at Marino’s Italian Restaurant in Williamsburg. We were slammed since we were the only restaurant on the street with power. And the owner would come to me every ten minutes and say, “Your mother is on the phone.” “Your father is on the phone.” I finally threatened to call the police and get a restraining order. That didn’t stop them.

I was nearly thirty years old at the time, and they were still doing this. I am also the only one in my family that would have to drive home in snow storms, and I managed to do it without incident every time.

My parents are dead now, and I am nearly fifty, so I can now enjoy the occasional natural disaster in peace … or so I thought. Bev called me to tell me to come stay at her house and bring Esmeralda. She sent me emails, contacted me on Facebook. You get it. I finally asked her to stop. Her wife, Marlene, separated herself from the situation. “It wasn’t me who called you!”

There is something I also don’t do. I don’t panic, and I don’t deal very well with people who do panic.

My neighbor asked, “Are you ready for the hurricane?”

I answered, “If I am not, will they cancel it?”

It will be what it will be.

The Friday before the big hurricane weekend (which was only four days after the earthquake), I went out to do my regular grocery shopping. I could not get over the people with their big run on groceries. And all of them were buying bottled water. Seriously? Don’t hurricanes come with rain? Just put a goddamn bucket outside, and you can have all the water you want.

I just got my usual stuff, rolled my eyes and left.

Hurricane Irene blew through as expected. Esmeralda and I survived. The power never went out. There was no damage to my home.

I hear a tree fell on the house next door to Bev’s. Bev also predicted I would include all this in my blog.

For once, Bev was right!

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Allen Wrench Lament

You know how you tell yourself you will never do a something again then do it anyway then curse yourself for doing it again? It’s like dating. You have a bad date, then swear you will never date again, and the next thing you know you are telling your life story to a guy who apparently has not brushed his teeth since the Clinton administration while still wondering if you will get any at the end of the evening, providing you don’t have to kiss him.

This is how I feel about assembling furniture. I keep telling myself I will never buy another piece of furniture requiring the use of an Allen wrench, yet I keep buying such furniture. I don’t know why.

I remember my mother buying a chrome and glass dining room table in 1973, and my father cursing for hours about having to assemble it. What was worse was that after watching my father spend eight hours assembling it, we had to spend the next twelve years looking at that monstrosity. Imagine a square chrome table with a large glass top and chrome director’s chairs with black vinyl seats and backs. Imagine it sitting on orange shag carpet. Yes, you went blind a second too late.  

Of course, my father, who at one time was a TV repairman, never assembled anything without either ending up with extra parts or missing parts. The man could never follow directions. Our own TV required a matchbook wedged between the tuner and the cabinet, so we could get good reception – did I mention he was a TV repairman? Our antenna was in the attic rather than on the roof – something that to this day, I will never understand. I remember my brother crawling up there to adjust it and our praying he wouldn’t fall through the ceiling. I am claustrophobic, so I never went into the attic.

I am the opposite when it comes to assembling things. I can look at a diagram once and put any furniture together and have no missing or extra parts … but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it. My parents bought my Aunt Flossie an entertainment center when she moved into her condo, and my father proceeded to help me put it together. I ordered everyone to go out to get dinner, and when they returned, I had the whole thing assembled. But, I didn’t enjoy it. I wonder where that entertainment center is today.

So when I bought my first home, I told myself all my present furniture would fit and there was no reason to assemble anything new. Famous last words. Had I learned nothing from Lucy Ricardo? The woman had more living room sets than any other housewife on television – five. And remember Betty Ramsey helping her buy $5,000 worth of furniture? This was after Lucy bought back her old furniture from the new tenants who wanted to saw and paint everything when the Ricardos moved from their apartment to the house in Connecticut.

When I moved to Florida, I schlepped (or is it shlept?) all my furniture only to realize that what I spent on moving it could have been better spent buying new stuff for my new home. When I moved to D.C. from Florida, I sold everything and started fresh. When I moved to Rockville, I made the mistake of buying stuff before the move, only to have to change and get rid of so much when I got there.

Now, with the house, I already told you how none of my office furniture fit and ended up on the curb the afternoon of the move. I also decided not to bring my bedroom furniture. One of the movers took it for his own home. Apparently, he liked early American discount crap. I bought that set from one of those furniture stores where they scream at you on their commercials. “NATIONWIDE WAREHOUSE … COME ON DOWN! WE HAVE BEDROOMS FOR $200! COMPLETE!”

Then, after sitting at my dining room table for breakfast the first morning, a table I spent months trying to find in 2007, I realized it was a tad too large for the space, since I banged my knees trying to sit and my head when I stood up. It was also too large for the Rockville apartment, but this was one of those things I had put together when it arrived, so I kept it anyway. Mrs. M’s sister-in-law liked it, so it became hers, and I ordered a new one, small and square.

I did keep my hideous entertainment unit from Ikea and put it in the bedroom. The only reason is because of all the crap I have assembled over the years, this one had the most parts and took the longest, so I refuse to get rid of it. It now holds my menorahs. Some of my friends hope it goes up in flames during Hanukah. It is that ugly.

When the new table, pantry cabinet, dressers for the bedroom, night stand, étagère and a few other items were delivered, they all needed assembling. What fun. First I opened the boxes only to have to deal with an avalanche of Styrofoam. I hate Styrofoam. Have you ever tried vacuuming up Styrofoam? I think I will be finding those Styrofoam popcorn balls all over the house for the rest of my life.

I am very meticulous – some call it anal – so after dealing with the non-biodegradable snow, I put all the parts on the floor, emptied all the nuts, bolts and washers into a bowl (this keeps you from losing any – I told you this was part advice blog!), and read the instructions from beginning to end. Then I noticed the one thing I wish they wouldn’t include – the dreaded Allen wrench.

Why God? Why? Why must they use Allen wrenches? I have an electric screwdriver. I have a tool box with all kinds of useful tools. I also have all the Allen wrenches from my past furniture assembling experiences, and do you know what bothers me more than anything? None of those goddam Allen wrenches fit anything but the furniture they came with. It is a right-wing conspiracy!

Allen wrenches hurt. They always put the screws where you can’t get a full turn of the Allen wrench, so you have to keep pulling it out and doing half turns. And they strip easily. Why, why, why have I not learned my lesson?

Buy assembled furniture, you moron! I am the moron, not you.

A friend of mine suggested I buy blow-up furniture. But why should the furniture have all the fun?

Oh sure, I can assemble this stuff in record time (I know I brag about this, but I have so few talents ...), but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating … or painful.

But I had to know. Where the fuck does the Allen wrench originate? Forgive my French. I know wrench isn't French. What sadistic bastard invented this tool from the fiery pits of hell? Oh wait, Jews don’t believe in hell. So it must be the fiery pits of West Palm Beach – the armpit of Florida. I know I will get mail about that one. That’s OK; the Post Office needs the business.

I assembled all the furniture in no time at all, and as usual, there were no extra or missing parts. It all looks lovely if you ask me, but who asked me.

After vacuuming up the popcorn balls and taking the boxes to the recycling center, I decided to do some research. And apparently, some guy wrote about Allen wrenches in his memoir? Seriously? I wonder if it was a bestseller? Read on:

A hex key, Allen key, or Allen wrench is a tool of hexagonal cross-section used to drive bolts and screws that have a hexagonal socket in the head (internal-wrenching hexagon drive).


·         The tool is simple, small and light.

·         The contact surfaces of the screw or bolt are protected from external damage.

·         There are six contact surfaces between bolt and driver.

·         The tool can be used with a headless screw.

·         The screw can be inserted into its hole using the key.

·         Torque is constrained by the length and thickness of the key.

·         Very small bolt heads can be accommodated.

·         The tool can be manufactured very cheaply, so one is often included with products requiring end-user assembly.

·         Either end of the tool can be used to take advantage of reach or torque.

The idea of a hex socket screw drive was first conceived around the 1860s through 1890s, but such screws were not manufactured until around 1911.  There was a flurry of patents for alternative drive types in the 1860s through 1890s in the United States, which are confirmed to include internal-wrenching square and triangle types. P. L. Robertson, of Milton, Ontario, Canada (what a lovely name for a town), first commercialized the square socket in 1908, having perfected a manufacturing method. The first manufacture of an internal-wrenching hexagon drive of which records have surfaced is that of circa 1911 by the Standard Pressed Steel Company (SPS), then of Philadelphia, later of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania (the predecessor corporation to today’s SPS Technologies, Inc.). SPS had sourced set screws of square-socket drive from England, but they were very expensive. H. T. Hallowell, Sr., founder of SPS, in his memoir (1951) says that “[for] a while we experimented with a screw containing a square hole like the English screw but soon found these would not be acceptable in this country. Then we decided to incorporate a hexagon socket into the screw.” Soon after SPS had begun producing the hex socket head set screw, Hallowell had the idea to make a hex socket head cap screw (SHCS). Hallowell said, “Up to this moment none of us had ever seen a socket head cap screw, and what I am about to relate concerns what I believe was the first socket head cap screw ever made in this country.” SPS gave their line of screws the Unbrako brand name, chosen for its echoing of the word unbreakable.

Hallowell said that acceptance of the internal-wrenching hexagon drive was slow at first (painfully slow for SPS’s sales), but that it eventually caught on quite strongly. This adoption occurred first in tool and die work and later in other manufacturing fields such as defense (aircraft, tanks, submarines), civilian aircraft, automobiles, bicycles, furniture, and others.

World War II, with its unprecedented push for industrial production of every kind, is probably the event that first put most laypersons in contact with the internal-wrenching hexagon drive. Popular Science magazine would note in 1946 that “Cap screws and setscrews with heads recessed to take hexagonal-bar wrenches are coming into increasing use.” As Hallowell explained, the dissemination of the wrenches somewhat lagged behind the adoption of the fasteners. The shortfall in distribution against a background of gigantic wartime demand might have created a partial vacuum in the market.

The Allen wrench trademark of the Allen Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, was taken out in 1943, and Allen became such a successful brand of hex key that many consumers in subsequent decades have assumed (reasonably but incorrectly) that the internal-wrenching hexagon drive was invented by someone named Allen.

It appears that the internal-wrenching hexagon drive may have been independently reinvented in various countries. At the least, it was patented in various countries by various patentees, and its name varies. For example, in various European countries, it is known by the name Inbus, after the company that patented them in Germany in 1936, Bauer und Schaurte of Neuss. Similarly, there is another name in Italian (brugola), stemming from an Italian company’s name.

I decided to get one of those folding Allen wrench sets where they are all connected and you can use the holder to twist the wrench. It is too bad I have sworn off anything needing assembly … for now.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Lifting the Mary Richards Curse

I cannot begin to tell you how many wedding, baby shower, engagement and other “special” occasion gifts I have bought over the years. My favorite line from Sex and the City is when Carrie asks when she gets to have a “Congratulations You Didn’t Marry the Wrong Guy Shower” as she laments having to buy an expensive gift from a registry for someone’s baby shower.

I don’t mean to sound bitter – but you are bitter, Blanche! However, there comes a point in a single man’s (and I am sure woman’s) life when he gets sick of having to celebrate other people’s milestones by spending inordinate amounts of money because they want the pleasure of his company and lots of free stuff when no one celebrates the single man's life.

Personally, I think the whole registering for presents thing is the most selfish act in the world. There, I said it. You were thinking it, but I said it. And do you know I have been called selfish for thinking that?

I’ll give you some examples. I knew a couple who lived together for seven years. Then, they got married and registered at the most expensive store they could find. Seriously? All I could think was you’ve been screwing each other for seven years, and now you decide to get married, so we have to help you fill your home with necessities? What did you use all those years, paper plates and plastic sheets?

My favorite was the friend of mine (and I say friend loosely) who got married on July 4th weekend in Newport, Rhode Island. The trip would have cost me over $3,000 not including the present from their registry I would be obligated to buy. I sent my regrets. And he had the nerve to get pissed at me. All I did was RSVP that I could not make it. I actually was going to send a present, but when he got pissed, I changed my mind. He hasn’t spoken to me since. That saved me from having to buy a baby present for their unfortunately ugly child.

Seriously, did I ask him to spend $2 to celebrate my latest trick? I should have. Actually, I should have made him fly in and watch!

And don’t get me started on baby showers. All of a sudden, we have them at work. I thought these were just for your girlfriends to attend. Now, if you are going to have children, shouldn’t you wait until you can afford to buy your own diapers? I refused to participate at a work-related one, and I was made out to be a pariah. I didn’t screw her, so why should I celebrate? I didn't even get a kiss or a cigarette.


I have never held a housewarming party, or more exactly, apartment warming party, either. I just think that if I am going to move into a new home, it is my responsibility to furnish it. If I cannot afford to furnish it, I have no right moving in. Also, as you can gather from the above, I never have been comfortable asking for presents. I don’t throw myself birthday parties or any other parties to try and get presents.

Before I continue, I must offer a clarification. No one enjoys buying presents more than I do. I love giving gifts. However, I especially like giving them on my own terms. If I know your birthday is coming up, I would rather surprise you than be told to buy you something. There is no joy in obligated gift buying. The irony is I rarely celebrate my own birthday, but I love celebrating other people’s birthdays.

If you move into a new home, I will be the first to give you something to celebrate the occasion, unless you throw your own housewarming party. If you have a baby, I will buy you a present, but don’t invite me to the shower. Besides, there was a time when Jews didn’t throw baby showers. One always waited until after the baby was born.

Another note on birthdays. What is up with gay men celebrating every goddam birthday? Seriously? “I am going to be thirty-seven, and I am throwing myself a party!” Thirty-seven, who cares? We know what you are doing. You just want gifts! And the ones who do this never write a fucking thank you note!

I always write thank you notes. I guess it is because I get so few presents … said the old bitter queen.

I also expect people to do the right thing. When I moved to Rockville after twelve and half years in Mount Pleasant, I didn’t get one housewarming present. That is OK. I didn’t ask for any, but you would think all those people I bought presents for over the years to celebrate their life-changing events would have sent me a goddam card or something. I think that was the point where I said enough is enough.

There was the couple who bought a new home and I bought them a Mezuzah complete with rabbinically blessed parchment, too. The couple who got married and I bought them a complete set of China. The couple who bought their first new car, and I bought them a complete car care set. None of these gifts were solicited. I just bought them.

Do you know what those couples bought me? If you said nothing, you win the magic duck.

So, when I bought my first home, I was asked if I would throw a housewarming party. The thought never occurred to me. Have we met? I don’t ask for presents.

Now, there is something else I don’t do well either – throw parties. I have the Mary Richards curse. Any child of the 1970s knows all about the Mary Richards curse. Some of my parties in the past have been disasters.

When I was in the seventh grade, my best friend, Scott, and I decided to throw a party. We went to different schools. We invited our friends to his house, so everyone could mix it up. They didn’t. The ones from my school would be in one room and those from his in another. And they kept switching rooms all evening, never wavering from their schoolmates. I heard about this for a year. This was strange to me because when we would go to United Synagogue Youth (USY) conventions, I was the one who would always sit with new people. Isn't one of life's great joys, meeting new people?

I threw my next party when I was in ninth grade, and one of my guests proceeded to try to convince everyone in the room to accept Jesus. The rest of my guests were Jewish and all but one still are.

I didn’t throw another party until I moved into my first apartment. This time, I invited a cross-section of guests, and it was the first time I encountered cliquedom. Apparently, some people there felt we should all be grateful for their presence. Not only that, everyone left before ten. My cousin Carole-Sue told me they left because I had the lights on too bright.

However, I never gave up. Over the years, I threw a party where all forty-two people I invited to my studio apartment in West Palm Beach showed up, and one guest monopolized the room by telling everyone how she wanted her twenty-three-year-old daughter to get her tubes tied but no doctor would do it. There was the party where two drag queens got into a fist fight on the front lawn. There was the party where it turned out there was a feud between two groups of guests, and the room went silent for almost an hour until everyone left. There was the party where I said BYOB and no one did, so I had a bunch of boring sober people in my house until three in the morning.

And the pies de resistance was the party where my then-boyfriend was caught screwing a passed out guest on the coats in the bedroom while a former one was doing another’s boyfriend in my walk-in closet. Some would say that party was a success, but they didn't have to clean up the mess!

So you can understand my resistance at throwing another party. Dinner parties don’t seem to be a problem as long as I keep the guest count to no more than four.

Well, I decided maybe I should give it one more try. And here is where living in a mobile home has its advantages. You have an open layout that is perfect for entertaining, ample parking for your guests, and no codes for guests to punch in order to be buzzed up.

However, the biggest advantage is the “Yoko Ono Factor.” What is that you ask? In the movie Jeffery, the question is asked, “Why did the gay man date Yoko Ono?” and the answer: “To see the apartment of course!”

I knew most guests would come just to see the “trailer”!

I decided to celebrate Lucille Ball’s 100th Birthday, and I planned the party with very short notice. I also did not call it a housewarming. I just said let’s celebrate the Queen of Comedy and come see my new home. I invited a cross section of guests and did what my mother taught me about always inviting those who have invited you. This was easy because the single gay man over forty rarely gets invited anywhere. Apparently, even lesbians consider me a threat. It must be my AMC Spirit – a total lesbian magnet of a car.

Well, was I surprised. For the first time, I threw a party where people actually enjoyed themselves. No drag queens tore each other’s wigs off. No cliques were there to look down at the other guests. There were no mass migrations from room to room. No one got laid in the bedroom – was this a plus? There was just enough booze. The lights were adjusted perfectly, and the music at just the right level. The best part was everyone was talking to people they were meeting for the first time rather than just to people they already knew.

You should have seen the looks on the guests’ faces as they entered my home. All of them looked up and down as if to say, “So this is what a trailer looks like on the inside.”

I think that the secret to my success is the fact that when one attends a party in a mobile home, he doesn’t feel a need to impress the others in the room or act like an ass. Mobile home living allows you to be yourself and enjoy life! After all, the host can’t possible put on airs when his house was brought in on a semi! And how often do you go to a party hosted by a Gay Jew in a trailer park?

All I know is that the Curse of Mary Richards is finally lifted! Who knows? I may just throw another party very soon!

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Shhhh, You’ll Wake the Neighbors

Old habits die hard. Ask any public nose picker.

I was the perfect apartment tenant. I was respectful of my neighbors, didn’t play loud music, didn’t throw loud parties, and in the throes of orgasm, always buried my face into the pillow … or an armpit.

I never wanted to be the guy hearing broom handles banging on his floor. Yet, I always ended up being the guy with the worst neighbors – no need to rehash that.

There are also those who move into an apartment for the first time and do not realize how much their neighbors can hear. For the first few months, they have intimate conversations using their loudest outdoor voices. I have heard it all! Do I really need to know that the Preparation H burns when you apply it? Or that your husband likes it when you dress up as a sheep?

I especially enjoy the ones who move into a luxury condo and are appalled at how much they hear from next door … or below … or above. A friend of mine once said, “For what I am paying, I shouldn’t hear my neighbor flushing his toilet.” To myself I said, You may call it a condo, but it is nothing but an apartment with a mortgage. Unless the walls are made of lead, you are going to hear your neighbors! This was another reason I never considered a condo.

Now, I live in a mobile home with my own four walls and no one on the other side, but I still find myself tiptoeing around and whispering. I never wear shoes inside. I quietly go about my business, and I still don’t own a stereo. I even sing quietly. And before you say ‘Thank God,’ Esmeralda likes my singing. Serena didn’t like it, but she liked my dancing. Esmeralda finds my dancing disturbing.  I guess the pole is a bit much for some dogs.

There are times when I turn on the TV and the sound will be very loud for no known reason, so I immediately turn it down and apologize to no one in particular. I was watching porn – I mean an educational documentary – on my computer, and all of a sudden one of the characters started screaming, and I immediately muted it. No one needs to hear that … not even me.

Some mornings, Esmeralda doesn’t want to get out of bed, and I end up standing by the front door, saying quietly, “Esmeralda, come here. We’re going for a walk. Don’t make me yell. I don’t want to wake the neighbors.” She just looks at me as if I am an idiot. Come to think of it, she looks at me a lot like that. Then I whisper loudly for her to get up. We have all done the loud whisper, which isn’t quite a whisper. You sound like a three-pack-a-day smoker trying to get a waiter’s attention.

Why do I keep doing the apartment dweller thing?

One of my friends, upon hearing about my descent into trailer park trashdom, remarked that you can hear your neighbors fart when living in a trailer. I actually believed him. For the first week I lived in my new home, I made sure all my farts were silent, and when a loud one slipped out, I cringed, knowing my next door neighbor heard it. I was so embarrassed. What if he could smell it, too?

I guess after spending more than half my life with people on the other side of my walls, it will be a while before I break old habits.

I have grown accustomed to the quiet. I rather enjoy not having my neighbors’ marital problems becoming mine. Life is so drama-free. I do admit that sleeping the first night was odd since there was nothing but silence. I kept waking up anticipating someone’s head hitting a wall after hearing, “Go ahead, hit me … I dare you … hit me ….” <THUD!>

If you who are wondering about the neighbor fart thing, my home is fully insulated, so I have not heard a fart from next door. My friend Frank has knocked on the door, and I have yelled “Come in” and he never hears me. Good luck hearing any bodily functions. And if you do hear a neighbor fart, call the Guinness Book of World Records, or look up because someone is headed for low-earth orbit.

Esmeralda doesn’t even hear my car pull up when I come home from work, and I drive a thirty-year-old AMC!

However, there is one habit I needed to break very quickly. My apartment in Mount Pleasant was ground level (I’ll never admit it was a basement) with one hidden window, hence calling it The Patty Hearst Memorial. In Rockville, I lived on the fifth floor with no buildings facing me. I could walk around naked in both, and no one could see me. My blinds were open all the time to let in natural light and be free.

So much for natural light. It was a few days before I realized I was putting on a show every time I walked from one end of my home to the other, giving anyone looking in something very natural to see or at my age, something very unnatural one should not be forced to see.

As Joan Rivers said, “A peeping Tom reached in and closed my blinds.”

That habit is now broken but not before a couple of near misses.

I cannot wait to be comfortable enough to sing my favorite American standards as loudly as I want. Esmeralda will be thrilled when that day comes. She especially likes “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart.”

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Be Careful or It Will Tilt!

The one thing about living in an apartment that bothered me the most was the difficulty in getting someone evicted. I know that sounds cruel. Those people who lived above me in Mount Pleasant needed to be put out on the street five minutes after they arrived.

The one thing I love about living in a mobile home community, especially one with forty pages of rules, is the ease at which you can evict someone. And the best part is when they leave, they take their home with them. “Get out, and take your goddamn trailer with you!”

You poor condo dwellers. I guess you can only evict those who live in corner apartments.

A couple of weeks ago, what was once a doublewide across the street from me became a vacant lot in a matter of hours. I felt like Gladys Kravitz in that episode of Bewitched when Endora and Uncle Arthur kept arguing about her living in Samantha and Darrin’s neighborhood. They made Endora’s house appear and disappear over and over again. Gladys called the police and said, “I swear, officer, there was a house here a minute ago.”

Over the course of the next week, after Endora’s doublewide disappeared, I finally witnessed the process for mounting a mobile home. Actually, the term is anchoring, but mounting sounds like so much more fun. Well, to be totally technical, the house has to be placed and leveled first.

First, they clear the lot of debris, then level the land. Next they place cinderblocks on top of each other in strategic locations to hold the frame of the house. Yes, mobile homes have steel frames. They aren’t unitized like a Nash; they are body-on-frame like a Crown Victoria.

With the precision of a Swiss watchmaker, an eighteen wheeler backs the sections of the home onto the cinderblock pilings, one at a time. Once the house is leveled and the two halves are attached, the axles are removed. The owner can get a $700 credit for the axles if the home is purchased before mounting … I mean anchoring. I missed out on that monetary benefit.

Then comes the scary part. The house sits on the cinderblocks, some stacked five high, while the home is being leveled and remains that way for a week! This looks most precarious. It is as if you could walk by and push the house, and it would fall over. Of course the laws of physics are on the house’s side (as a matter of theory ... not actually painted onto the side of the house) because the weight of the house keeps it in place unless there is a violent storm, which there wasn’t, even though all mobile homes have a tornado magnet built in. There, I said it before you did.

Actually, Walmarts seem to have a tornado magnet as well. Have you ever noticed how tornadoes always rip the roofs off Walmarts? As a rule, I never shop in a Walmart during any weather event.

I worked construction for a summer after college graduation during the Reagan trickle-down economy when unemployment was quite high, and homes that were not set directly on a cement foundation were held up by similar means, so I don’t know why I had concern for this house.

But for the week the house remained that way, I began to wonder: If I had more than twenty people over to my home and they all stood on one side of the house, would it tilt over? Would we reenact the Poseidon Adventure? Would I have to put on fifty pounds, a la Shelley Winters, and swim through my house to search for survivors? Would Gene Hackman make a guest appearance?

I then asked my neighbors about the cinderblocks, but they assured me mine was anchored because they watched them anchor it ... as they watch everything that goes on in our neighborhood!

My fears were allayed by the next step – the actual anchoring. Steel poles are placed at all four corners and depending on the house’s size, mid-way down each side. The poles are anchored six feet into the ground. Then steel bars are attached diagonally from ground to the frame. These poles and bars are what keep the house from blowing away. Each state has different rules for how a home is anchored, but all require it of mobile homes now. There was a time when they didn’t, and in some states, if you buy a used mobile home (pre-1985 in some states, pre-1996 in others), you need to be sure it is anchored and not just sitting on cinderblocks.

In earthquake zones, mobile homes sit directly on a cement foundation. I did my research.

Another interesting aspect of the anchoring process is the concern all the neighbors have for it being done properly.

I was the first to learn which house was going into the recently vacated lot. The property manager told me they sold the green doublewide with the wraparound porch. I told Mrs. M across the street, and she asked which side the entryway would face, where would the air conditioning unit go, where would they put the shed. I will have to learn that if I am to be a neighborhood busybody, I need to get more information!

As the home was awaiting anchoring, it seemed as if everyone in the community drove or walked by to check out the home. All were wondering who bought it and were scrutinizing the anchoring and skirting technique. Yes, our mobile homes have skirts! This is most reassuring because in my neighborhood, you better know how to mount or you will get an earful!

Astro, which for all you automotive history buffs is a combination of a Hudson and a Chevrolet (think about it).

In addition, I now know that half my neighbors came over checked out my home after it was anchored ... and skirted, which explains the dirty carpet I had to steam clean!

I still want to know who used the nonfunctioning toilet.

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