Cesspool

Disclaimer: Just so you know, many of today’s photos will have little to do with the story I’m about to write.  You see, I don’t really have photos that I can access regarding the story, so I’m going to include some photos that are only marginally related, because I’ve decided that posting photos makes a blog more entertaining to read.  So enjoy the pretty photos, I’ll put captions and you can make your own connections.

We moved to a two bedroom apartment in Massapequa when I first lived on Long Island.  We had planned to renew the lease, initially, until the management decided to re-write the lease.  Suddenly, we found ourselves being asked to sign a lease that stated we were renting a garage when we weren’t, and that had a termination clause that indicated the management could terminate our lease for no reason whatsoever, and that if the lease was terminated, regardless of the reason, we would be accountable for the entire year’s rent.  Now, normally such provisions would not be enforceable, but when you have a law degree, you’re more likely to be held to anything you sign, because the courts will think you should have known better, never mind that rental housing on Long Island was barely possible to find, and the housing bubble was growing at that time.

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Houses on Long Island, as seen from a Dump-turned-Park in Merrick

 I was 11 months pregnant when we started searching for apartments.  There were exactly 0 apartments on Long Island that were not “low income” (we made too much to qualify) or “senior housing.”  Unless you counted illegal apartments in people’s basements.

One rental house of interest was in Elmont, not a particularly good school district, but we had time to worry about that later.  The house was rather small, one of the “bedrooms” was basically a linen closet, and there was some sort of locked storage room accessible from that closet that the landlord wanted to retain the right to access.  (By entering the house whenever they felt like it…)  Oh, and there were people living in the basement.  Did I mention it was expensive?

I literally ran, in all my pregnant glory, to try to catch up with the real estate agent whom we almost missed when we were supposed to meet her out in front of the Huddle House in Long Beach to see another house.  It was “almost finished.”  By almost finished, I mean all they had to do was install floors, walls, fixtures, and the electrical wiring, and then it would be ready for move in.  There was no parking available, as it was built in the back yard of another house.  I’m not sure, but it may have just been somebody’s Sukkah house before they realized that they were sitting on a potential gold mine in rental fees…

So when we found “That 70s House” in West Babylon, it was a dream.  It was month-to-month, it was BIG, it was part of a duplex, and it was available.  All it needed was a lot of paint and imagination and about $1500 worth of electrical work and it would be the house of someone’s dreams.  We agreed to rent the place, with a move in date that occurred just after my daughter was born.

It was two story, we had the bigger half, there were people in the unit next door.  Our side had the garage.

Downstairs, there was a living room with a fireplace, a dining room with a really scary looking chandelier (it had shards of glass just waiting to drop like icicles) and a very brown kitchen with a mishmash of 1970s earth tone appliances, except that when we first moved in, the refrigerator was white.  It didn’t work, but it was white.  The landlady replaced it with a goldenrod yellow refrigerator that “was clean” that she found at a garage sale.  By the time she paid for someone to move that refrigerator, she could have purchased a cheap white, brand-new refrigerator from Sears at the same price, it would have included delivery and pickup of the old refrigerator.  Did I mention yet that the landlady was bat-shit crazy?  Oh, and by “clean,” we mean “the shelves were covered with aluminum foil that only had a little bit of food on them.”

There was a half-bath on the ground floor.  It was “Afternoon Delight” yellow, with crazy daisy wallpaper. The floors had tiny tiles that were white with a few yellow ones mixed in.

The closet for the washer and dryer (which we purchased.  Woo hoo!  No more laundromats or laundry room visits with two babies in tow!), and it was wood paneled, like the foyer and the walls leading along the staircase to the second floor.  More about the washer and dryer later…

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Random photo of a laundromat for your viewing pleasure…

 Upstairs, there was a green and white bathroom.  It had white walls, and tiny green and white tiles that were placed in a random pattern.  By random, I mean I would actually sit on the toilet and search for some sort of sense to the pattern.  Nope.  Nothing.  It probably spelled something if it was converted into binary…

There was a rather large bedroom that had no electricity.  Oh, it had outlets, it had fixtures, they just didn’t work.  (This problem did NOT appear when we did the walk-through. Everything worked during the walk-through, but broke by the time we moved in.  We tried to get them to fix it, it was a nightmare.)  My daughter’s crib was in the master bedroom at the time, as she was a newborn, and I couldn’t set up the monitor in a room with no electricity, and my oldest, the one-year-old son, slept in the other upstairs bedroom that had electricity.

In the master bedroom, which was relatively normal, there was a very scary bathroom.  Remember my phobia of toilets from the previous post?  Yeah.  Well…  The bathroom could have done to bathtubs what Pennsylvania did to toilets… The toilet didn’t work, either.  We used the bathroom for the sink.  Or rather, the husband did.  I avoided it for the most part.  The bathroom had shiny bronze wallpaper that was covered on one wall with peach wallpaper.  The bathtub had a sliding door that had more limescale than glass.

Then, there was the basement.  There’s a reason that houses in horror movies always have basements.  Because they are freakin’ creepy… At least this one was.

Going down the stairs into the partially finished basement, the front room was almost okay.  You had to go into the basement to get to the circuit box for the house, something I did many, many times each and every day…  Because that washer and dryer?  It tripped the circuit every ten minutes.

There was a cedar closet in that basement, probably the nicest thing in that house.  There were two back rooms, also. One led into the garage (up a short flight of stairs) and the other contained a stand-up freezer that may or may not have once held a murder victim.  I’m not sure, because I didn’t look too closely.  Something about that basement made me remember that we weren’t so very far from Amityville, New York.  (My mother only told me after we moved out that she had a creepy feeling when she went into that basement…)

There was central air conditioning.  It didn’t work.  There was a pool.  It was covered, and it needed repair.  We tried to shake the leaves off the cover one day in an effort that still gives me nightmares.  There was black water in that pool… just enough to hold the bodies of the drowned children whose toys and tricycles were in that pool under the vinyl cover.  The landlady said we could fix the pool and air conditioner if we wanted, and that would make the place nicer.  I’m not sure, but I suspect it would also have made her feel as though she could raise our rent.  We were living there month-to-month, mind you…

Therein lies the worst part of that house.  The landlady.  I know I mentioned she was bat-shit crazy.  She looked like a crazy cat lady.  She owned a bunch of rental houses all over Long Island, and each month, on the first day of the month, she would drive around to each and every one to collect the rent, in cash or money order only, thank you very much…

When her electrician, who would make appointments in a Muslim fashion (He wasn’t Muslim, but had that “Insha’Allah” kind of attitude: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insha%27Allah ), informed her that the refrigerator would cost more to repair than replace, she offered to buy us a new one if we would go halvsies.  (My mother asked which half we could take with us when we moved…)

The house needed major rewiring, but she only wanted to fix things piecemeal.  Which meant the entire thing was probably a firetrap, like many houses on Long Island.  Hell, the oil tank buried underground next to the house was a little scary…

Okay, I did a lot of laundry.  My daughter had severe reflux, my son was a year old. Yes, I did a lot of laundry.  My day usually consisted of about 50 trips down the stairs to reset that damn circuit breaker, as I was washing a load a day.  It was a very depressing time in my life…

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Get it? Depressing…

And then, the bubbles started appearing in the sink next door.  Apparently, I alone filled the cesspool that had not needed emptying for at least two decades.  (Logic.)  The landlady wanted us to go halvsies with the next door neighbor on the cost of emptying the cesspool.  Yes, really.

No.  We stood our ground.  At the time, we were in the process of finding an asbestos-filled, plumbing-challenged firetrap of our own to purchase and move into.  But we absolutely told her no.  We were not going to pay to empty someone else’s shit, or even our own, because that was something that should be the responsibility of the homeowner.  It was worked into the cost of renting a place.  After all, my mother had FOUR kids, and did laundry at least as often as I did, and she didn’t manage to fill up a septic tank in FOUR MONTHS.

We lived in that house from October until the following May, a total of eight months, the last four spent dickering about the cesspool, which still hadn’t been emptied when we moved out.  Having heard stories like this: http://7online.com/archive/8166053/ I must say I am rather happy that we got out of there before the thing was emptied…

And on that note, I’ll leave you with some pictures from a beautiful place that was once a dump:

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Photographs from Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve. Google this one for yourself.

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