What I learned this week…

I can cover some basic home maintenance tasks with a degree of competence. Others – like schlepping up the ladder to clean the gutters – I’m more than happy to pawn off on the professionals. The net result is usually something done faster and with less chance of breaking other things in the process than I would be able to manage myself.

Other times, though, instinct tells me I can do a thing – often because I’ve done that thing previously. Sunday, instinct told me that it might just be better to buy a old fashioned standard toilet at Lowe’s and replace the whole 20-year old contraption instead of fiddling with repairs. Especially because the repairs were going to take proprietary parts and be a pain in the ass to complete myself. A straight up replacement would have been almost plug and play and taken no more than 45 minutes.

I ignored my instincts last weekend, ended up calling in a professional for help, and still finished off by buying and installing a brand new toilet. At least this one has reasonably accessible bits and pieces that I can (probably) deal with when the inevitable time comes.

What I learned this week – or what I re-learned for the 247th time – is that when it comes to home repairs, I should always check my first instinct and then go directly where it points. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred that’s where I’m going to end up anyway.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Junkies. A 17 year old addict stabbed a woman in the neck at one the county’s fine retail establishments Tuesday morning. By Tuesday night local social media pages were filled with calls to pity the poor addict. Far fewer mentioned his victim. Addiction may well be a disease but at some point little Johnny Eightball made a decision to give it a try. All the “he was raised rights” and “he is usually such a nice young mans” in the world doesn’t change the fact that his original sin was a decision not an immaculate victimhood. If Jeff were king for a day the prescription for what ails twatwaffles like young Johnny Eightball wouldn’t be zen meditation, three hots and a cot, or sympathetic understanding that’s for goddamned sure.

2. LED bulbs that “pause” before lighting up. As the 64 watt can lights in the kitchen burn out, I’m replacing them with comparable LED bulbs. Other than the living room reading lamp, these are probably the bulbs in the house that get the most daily use because I like excessive light when fiddling around in the kitchen. Mostly it’s been a happy transition to LED… except for this last one. Where all the other bulbs exactly replicate the feel of “old fashioned” filament bulbs, this latest one has a noticeable, and increasingly annoying “waiting period” before it comes on after I flip the switch. Yes, I know, it’s a minor first world problem, but seeing that I live in the first world, that’s to be expected… so now I’ll go off to Lowe’s and buy another $12 bulb in the hopes that I just got a bum the last time around.

3. Deceiving looks. There’s a tree still lying across the sidewalk and partially into the road just a few dozen yards from my driveway. To anyone driving past it would look for all intents and purposes as if I were the irresponsible homeowner who was leaving it lay there. Of course being the anal retentive jerk I am, I had a full survey done when I bought Fortress Jeff and know exactly where my responsibilities begin and end. The tree in question is without a doubt something that is squarely within the bailiwick of my neighbor to the northeast. Looks are deceiving… and just now the deception is making me look like an asshat.

I brief flicker of understanding…

I picked up the mail this afternoon and seeing a letter from Delmarva Power, opened it assuming it was a bill for having the service turned on or for a partial first month. I was, of course, wrong. It was a “final notice” to the previous tenant. A final notice in the amount of $2,141 and change. Seriously? Two questions come immediately to mind… 1) How exactly does someone rack up a $2000 electric bill and 2) Why does Delmarva Power let someone rack up a $2000 bill? At first I was angry as a customer, because this is the kind of irresponsible deadbeat that everyone who bothers to pay their bills ends up paying for in the end… because lets face it, the power company is going to get their money one way or another.

After my moment of capitalist outrage, I had a brief flicked of understanding  about why the property manager seemed to be so blasé about getting things done to the house. If they stuck the power company with that kind of bill, how much back rent did they owe? The natural expectations would be that after getting hosed the first time, the next tenant would pull the same act so deferring maintenance would almost seem natural. As a landlord, I can relate to that feeling. As a tenant, though, I know I’m going to pay my bills passing sympathy I had for the landlord and property manager evaporated quickly enough.

There’s plenty of backstory to go along with this, but for the moment, we’ll just say that the property manager is supposed to be here tomorrow to start addressing the laundry list I sent the owner yesterday. One or both of them is probably pissed off about this situation, but I doubt there in the same league of peeved that I’ve been in for the last few days. We’ll see how it goes.



The transition from homeowner to tenent hasn’t been what I would call smooth. As a homeowner, I probably established what most would consider slightly exagerated expectations for service and reliability. When things broke, they went to the top of my list of things to fix, I either went to Lowe’s for the appropriate equipment and supplies or called in the trades to get the job done. As a tenant, obviously the process is a little different. I call the property manager and leave a voicemail. I wait a day. Then I call again and follow up with an email. Then I wait a day. Then I call again and usually manage to talk to him on this third attempt where he says “oh yeah, I’m working on that. I’ll be over tomorrow.” And then we wait some more.

As it stands as of this morning, I’m waiting on six different things to happen: 1) The former tenant’s junked Ford Expedition is still sitting in the driveway. That was supposed to be moved out sometime around June 6th; 2) The 19 inch television sitting on the deck that the property manager says he wants to take to his hunting camp. It’s been rained on three times in the last two weeks. Yeah, that will probably still be sitting there a month from now; 3) The wire dog run was supposed to go at the same time he picked up the Expedition; 4) The garbage disposal went out early this week. He still hasn’t acknowledged the messages I’ve sent about that; and 5) The $100 washing machine that he said had been rebuilt will do everything a washing machine is supposed to do… except drain the water once the tub is filled. I left a voicemail about that yesterday, but when I drove by the manager’s place on my way to the laundromat yesterday afternoon his truck and boat were gone, so there’s not much chance he was paying attention to that; 6) The moldy wall has been nicely cut and hauled away – but that leaves the small matter of having a large part of the basement I can’t do anything with until, you know, it has actual walls again.

The actual owner lives in Germany now, so once I dig up his address Monday  morning I’ll get a message off to him. I’ve tried being the good neighbor, but since that doesn’t seem to get results worth a tinker’s damn, I’ll have to start being the sonofabitch neighbor who beats on the letter of the lease. This should be fun.


God love her, the representative of the management company hired as a caretaker for the homeowner’s association must have the patience of a saint. There was one couple at the meeting last night who I’m pretty sure were enjoying their first “big city” experience after coming fresh off the farm. Neither the budget, or the attached explanation of expenses, nor the further explanation of the manager, or the helpful comments made by the other owners seemed to sink in past the first or second layer of brain cells.

The only reason they were there is to figure out where their $120 a year HOA fee went and why the management company was hassling them about the length of their lawn. The nice lady went to incredible lengths to explain that she was only able to enforce the rules put in place by the previous builder and written into the HOA covenants and restrictions and once a new board was elected, they would be responsible for modifying and enforcing the rules.

The concept of maintenance of common areas seemed to present a real analytical challenge for this bunch. Apparently somewhere in the world $170 a month to cut, trim, and treat grass, salt side streets and alleys, and do general upkeep is considered excessive. If $10 a month in fees is going to get your goat, try living somewhere where the condo fees are north of $500 a month. Then we’ll tiptoe into a conversation of unreasonable fees.

My point is this: I don’t want to do it. You don’t want to do it. The guy down the street doesn’t want to do it either. So let’s just agree to put a board in place, let them make the executive decisions, and continue to pay the nice lady a few hundred bucks a month to handle the detail stuff like sicking the lawyer on people whose paint is peeling or who park derelict truck on the street. Otherwise slack-jawed yokels like you and the missus will run this place into the ground.


Homeowners Confederation…

It seems that there are now enough lots in the subdivision sold to warrant the handover of the homeowner’s association from the builder to the actual homeowners. Actually, it’s not the builder… Two of them went bankrupt trying to build the place out, so we’re actually dealing with the a holding company who probably can’t get the place handed over fast enough.

Usually I wouldn’t bother with these meetings, but in the interests of trying to hold the usual extremists at bay, I figure showing up is the least I can do. Given the level of neighborly involvement here, I fully expect this to be a homeowner’s confederation rather than an actual rule-making or enforcement body. Once I’ve assured myself that the couple of activists aren’t going to run away with things, I plan on going back to ignoring 99% of what goes on here.

Sometimes I Miss Apartment Life…

At first there’s the profound feeling of accomplishment at being a homeowner. And then shit starts breaking. At first it’s little things. A light switch goes on the fritz. Then a window cracks, then the gutter leaks, and then, and then, and then on into infinity. Of course that’s all followed immediately by the calling of the contractors, and the calling and the calling and so on and so forth. By the time you get one thing done, ten more seem to need doing. It’s madding.

I’m not what you would call handy. I’m good at identifying the problems, but in trying to repair them I have a tendency to cause more harm than good. I’m a big believer that it’s important for a man to know his limitations… and mine apparently involve being able to make seemingly simple household repairs. Once the weather breaks, I have a proverbial laundry list of things that need doing, but that I’m decidedly incompetent to do on my own. Since that is officially a known fact, I suppose it’s time to get all reasearchy and put the short list together of people who appear to be worth contacting in the first place.

In case you’re wondering, that sucking sound you hear is the cash being sucked out of my wallet to get it all done.