We knew we were getting ever closer to our destination by the proliferation of billboards warning against the use of meth. Yes, the Dark Heart of America ( in western Oklahoma)n was looming ever larger in our sights, and we were powerless to turn away, to save our souls from, if not eternal damnation, at least a weekend of wretchedness.
How did this situation come about, that we must make a lightning fast return to the Forbidden Zone. a place we swore never to return?
Well, come closer, gather around my feet, children, and I’ll tell you a tale so horrifying you’ll swear never to leave home ever again.
Tracy’s late mother’s home has been on the market for a little over a year now, and it is our great good fortune that this coincides with the current downturn in the oil industry, which means that fewer homes are being sold in the Forbidden Zone.
This doesn’t mean that there are no homes being sold, however. Realtors just have to be more innovative in their approaches. It was with this in mind that I looked over the Facebook page of the Realtor who, until recently, had the contract to sell the house, which is in a pretty nice part of town.
Imagine my great surprise when I discovered that houses in the $150,000 to $200,000 price range are a little out of her range. In fact, what she does seem to specialize in (why the hell didn’t I look at her Facebook page a year ago?) is commercial property and double-wides.
Now, I’m not knocking either one of those; it’s just that, really, dude, there wasn’t one house similar to the home we were trying to sell anywhere in sight on her page.
Off to the races!
We made arrangements to meet with two Realtors on Saturday, making the six hour trip down from Fayetteville the night before.
It was a harbinger of things to come when, seeking a restaurant that delivered at 9pm on a Friday night, the desk clerk at La Quinta said, “Domino’s Pizza delivers.”
What he neglected to add, however, was that there was no Domino’s Pizza in town, and had never, ever, been. Unable to find Domino’s in the phone book, I called the front desk and asked if he knew the number.
“No, I don’t,” he said, and hung up.
Ah, Sweet Dark Heart of America, you haven’t changed a bit.
making a run to McDonalds, we discovered that the fast food in town lived down to its usual fine standards.
Gotta tell you, though, that the pillows in the hotel were great. What a sad commentary, that the hotel pillows are the highlight of the trip.
Still, you can’t have a silver lining without a cloud around it.
There may be some who will remember of our adventures with lawn service folks in the Forbidden Zone, particularly the fellow who was taking money and still managed to let the grass in the backyard grow to over six feet high. Ah, good times.
We were more confident this time around. Tracy had been paying a fellow our Realtor had suggested who was supposed to be taking care of mowing, hedging, and making sure that no trees were threatening to grow into the foundation or fence.
Well, it’s always possible he got his instructions wrong, I suppose.
When we arrived, the grass was several inches high, but no problem, as a new lawn guy was due to meet us that day. We settled in to meet with the potential new Realtors.
The first Realtor seemed competent and professional, and we liked her, though she did seem to beat a hasty retreat after we said we wanted to run everything past our attorney before we signed anything.
Number two was much more satisfying. We agreed that the first Realtor we had used was a “nice woman,” and we all left it at that.
Not much to add, except that we were much more impressed with both her and her approach to selling houses. perhaps - just perhaps - one obstacle is out of the way.
Lawn Guy - why you don’t take Mommy or Daddy with you on a job interview.
Basically we just wanted the grass cut this time around, and let the guy the new Realtor suggested handle the job from now one. But the young man’s father pretty much screwed him out of even this particular job.
We started walking around the house, and started ticking off what needed to be done, and the price, which went up every time he rounded a corner. At one point, just as one might say, “I got me a medical degree from Harvard,” he said, with a sense of self-importance, “I used to work on this house years ago when I worked for _____ ____.”
I laughed inside, and said, “Yeah, I fired _____ a few years ago.”
He looked a little uncomfortable but didn’t say anything more on the subject. Finally we got to the backyard, and his drill sergeant manner returned, as he strode across the yard, pointing to things that would have to be done. I’ll bet you’re real fun at parties, I thought.
As we parted company in the garage, I thanked them for coming - I say them, but the hapless young man said barely two words while his father was pontificating - and said, “Well, thanks for coming by. We’re interviewing folks for the job today,” and I made sure I had their phone number, though it will be a cold day in hell before I’ll ever use it.
Before they left, the father turned back to me and asked, “So, uh, why did you fire _____?”
“Well, a few years ago we came down and the lawn was overgrown. I called _____ and asked how everything was going. ‘Fine,’ he said. ‘I just did the lawn yesterday.’
“‘That’s funny, _____, because I’m standing on the porch right now, and it doesn’t look mowed to me.’”
The father, as he led his son down the driveway, said, “Well, I hope you don’t fire us like that.”
I laughed, thinking, yeah, like you’ll get hired in the first place.
But do you know why I really, really didn’t like him?
Because for all his prancing about in the yard, his take-charge and charge-the-hell-out-of-you manner, all he offered up at the end was a limp handshake, like car salesman or a politician on the campaign trail.
It annoyed me so much that I gripped his hand just a little harder - because, yeah, sometimes I can be a jerk, too.
As Johnny Cash once sang, “That’s about all there is to tell about our little trip into living hell.” I hope the story of our journey was instructive, even if in only a small way.
Today’s blog was accompanied by the original cast rerecording of West Side Story.
On the Air with Douglas Andonian
In an effort to understand his father better, filmmaker DOUGLAS ANDONIAN
retraced his father's path in the Battle of the Bulge and entering a Nazi concentration camp, and produced two excellent films as a result. Along with our interview, clips from his film can be seen anytime at:
Quote of the Day
An education is like a crumbling building that needs constant upkeep with repairs and additions. - Louis Dudek