giddy with the dynamic
Saturday, October 14 2023
Gretchen had scheduled a bunch of prospective tenants to come check out our third floor apartment in the Downs Street brick mansion, and she wanted me to help her with that. My job would just be to hang out in the backyard and give people tours of the basement while she showed the apartment itself. So early this afternoon, we drove over there with Neville and did a little straightening up in the backyard and basement. I'd brought my impact driver so I could fix the fence in the back where the small dog living in 1L had managed to escape. We'd also brought Neville, since we haven't wanted to leave him by himself with Ramona now gone. We dressed him up in his purple jacket because it was a little cold for the season and also threatening rain. There wasn't much for us to do back there except sit on the back porch of 1R and wait. I had my phone to flip around on, but the deluge of advertising on a smart phone makes it so unpleasant to use I'd almost rather stare into the middle distance. There were some little kids in the driveway of one of the houses that occupy the large middle of the block, and they were riding their bikes and running back and forth along the fence I'd just fixed screaming and challenging each other in ways that sounded like bets, though the money amounts were absurdly large. They started out betting a hundred dollars, but it wasn't long before the bets had reached a million. When a light rain started, the kids disappeared.
Periodically the prospective tenants would come back and I'd show them the things I was tasked with showing. Since there wasn't really all that much to show except where in the basement they could store stuff, I also showed off the fancy new gas boiler with its iPhone-like touchscreen. The prospective tenants tended to be unctuously nice in the way that people get when they're hoping to charm something out of you. In this case, I controlled something they wanted: a place to live in Kingston, NY, which is almost impossible to find. It reminded me of my job search, though of course I'm the one trying to be charming in those interactions. These were all desirable tenants, so I didn't know how we were going to decide. I hate having to break bad news to people (which was something Gretchen would be handling), but with this number of prospects, that was mostly what we'd be doing.
After an hour and fifteen minutes, the last of the prospects left and Gretchen was giddy with the dynamic that had unfolded. She'd apparently priced the apartment too low, and it's such stunning, unusual space once people get a chance to see it in person. But this was all fixed by something of a bidding war [REDACTED]. One of the tenants was a girl whose mother would be handling all the financial details, so that would've been easy. But Gretchen also somehow sees our operation as providing a service to those in need, so she really wanted to rent to a very nice guy on SSI whose rent would mostly be paid by the government. But that would mean forgoing the results of the bidding war. We decided to go to coffee shop to deliberate.
When we got to Rough Draft, though, the place was mobbed by what looked like British soldiers from the 1770s. It turned out that his weekend fell on the annual reenactment of the Burning of Kingston, and, aside from the books, Rough Draft was almost a period-accurate tavern. After carrying Neville there (since he refused to walk on his leash), Gretchen declared it a zoo. So then we carried and dragged Neville to Sweet Maresa's. On the way there, we ran across Matt, one of prospective tenants we'd seen earlier. He's a sound engineer and had driven all the way from Philadelphia to see our apartment. We really liked him, and he was willing to pay the results of the bidding war. He floated the idea of perhaps subletting the apartment, since he would away a lot doing his job, but we weren't enthusiastic about that idea, since we want to be able to vet the people living in our houses. (We've had problems with unvetted residents in the past, particularly when Eileen ran the Brewster Street rental as a flophouse.) SInce Sweet Maresa's was also crowded, we decided we'd have better luck outside Kingston. So we ended up driving to Woodstock and sitting down at a corner table at the Garden Café.
Gretchen is something of a VIP at the Garden, and they already had news of Ramona's demise. People know us and they know our relationship to our dogs is like that of a normal human to their children. So the staff at the Garden went all out for us. Also, the food was unusually good; I got a black bean vegetable soup that was truly amazing, but it was somehow topped by the Latin-style mushroom tacos. I also order not one but two Abbey Ales. Just before I ordered the second one, our waitress told us that our meal was "on the house," which was completely unnecessary. This was why we ended up leaving a $50 tip.
During our meal, we decided that Matt the sound engineer was our choice, though we really like the guy on SSI too and were wondering if we could somehow get him into 1L. The tenant there hadn't been responding to any of Gretchen's texts or emails announcing a $50/month rent increase. It seemed like she was playing a game, thinking she could avoid the rent increase if she pretended not to have received the communications. I thought it was bad to indulge a tenant playing such games. Since her arrangement with us is month-to-month, we could kick her out and move the guy on SSI in. So Gretchen sent her a message saying she was to vacate by December 1st.
Back home in Hurley, Gretchen quickly prepared a letter for our problematic renter in 1L to be sent via registered mail. But when she got to the post office, she found it had closed at least five minutes early.
And then S, the resident of 1L, finally called Gretchen. She tried to make like her old phone had broken and she was on a new phone and that was the cause of the communication breakdown. But that didn't explain the failure to respond to the emails Gretchen had sent. She then talked about how overworked she is as a nurse during the ongoing wave of covid. Gretchen was hardnosed a first but gradually softened. When this happened, I jumped in on the speaker phone to say that it seemed like S had been playing games in an effort to avoid a rent increase. She seemed a little indignant about that, saying she's not a child and she doesn't play games. But really, there is no other explanation. In the end though, even I softened. It would be a huge bother for S to have to move out, and she is a medical worker doing good in the world. If she would stay in better communication and pay more rent (Gretchen came up with some story to explain a jump to $1425/month), I was willing to let her stay. "But she's on notice."
Later this afternoon, Fern, the woman who housesat for us while we were in Costa Rica back in February, stopped by. She brought her new boyfriend, Joshua, a martial arts instructor originally from Canada. We sat around in front of the fire drinking tea and talking about various recent events, such as Ramona's death, cabin-related stories, and also the fact that I no longer have a job. I notice in such interactions that a new male companion always needs to find his own separate channel to interact with me on, since the thing we're supposed to have is distinct from the thing that Fern and Gretchen are supposed to have. I play along with this, since it's part of the protocol. It's a little fun, but there's also an element of it that feels archaic.
Then suddenly Gretchen had to leave; an old friend had offered her a free ticket to see the Violent Femmes at UPAC. She's not really a Violent Femmes fan, but she's not turning down a free ticket to see a famous band only seven miles away. That left me alone with Joshua and Fern. Initially I feared that this would be socially exhausting, since the friendship is really between Gretchen and Fern and I'm just the plus one. But I managed to rally. At some point I ran up to the laboratory to get one Oscar's fur balls, and this reminded Joshua of a photo his friend in Italy had sent him. It was of a disc with a grey rim, wavy white layers like tree rings, and small hollow center. When neither Fern nor I could guess what it was, he revealed that it was a cross-section through an ancient Roman water pipe. The grey rim was the pipe itself, which was made of lead, and the white material was crystalline material that had, over the course of thousands of years, come out of solution and gradually built up layers, much like cholesterol in a coronary artery. Fern and Joshua stayed about twenty minutes after Gretchen had departed.
Some of my social agility this evening was probably the result of a recreational dose of pseudoephedrine I'd taken this morning. Later this evening, I hunted down more old photos of Ramona while drinking booze and occasionally shedding a few tears.
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