Burb Sweet Burb

A lot of people I know are building or moving into new houses, and almost every single one of these houses is in a development. It got me thinking about our first house, also in a development, and why I would never, ever live in one again. (A development, not a house.)

This place was called Laurel Acres*, and it started out as a bankrupt dairy farm. When we moved in, there wasn't an effing tree in sight that was over 4 feet tall. The builder made a half-assed attempt to put trees in, and every house got the same treatment - one in front, two in back. It was insanely cookie-cutter. There were only 2 types of houses available -- Ranch and Colonial -- and you could have either of them in a mirror image floorplan, so basically every fourth house was exactly the same as yours. Maybe, if you were lucky, it would be a different color.

Put it this way, it was a definite bitch if you came home drunk. After about 2 months of trying to pick my house out of a lineup, I put a blue bulb in the lamppost out front. Problem solved. I would tell people coming over at night -- look for the blue light. It made it easy for me as well.

That worked great until the douchebag three houses down from me thought it would be a good idea to do the same thing.

With the same color bulb.

So from then on, I had to tell people that we were the FIRST blue light.


But I'm not bitter.

Anyway, it was a new development, and it was full of new families -- as in lots of people with many little kids. Nobody could afford a fence, or more likely, didn't care if they had one, and the backyards all connected. You could look right down the line at about 30 back yards, and it was like some sort of surreal farm where the crops were swing sets, above-ground pools and sheds. The kids pretty much ran amok, and there was no such thing as private property.

Our house was a ranch, and it was a pretty common occurence to wake up and find the little monster who lived next door with his face against our bedroom window, or discover him sitting in the rocking chair on our porch at 7am. Or even digging up my wife's flowers for no apparent reason.

Development Rule Number One: When you live in one, you have zero privacy. Get used to it. You will most likely find that you had more privacy in your old apartment.

We had some good friends on one side of us -- and the Addams family on the other. We called them Gomez and Morticia, and they totally looked the part. She had long black hair, and pale skin, and I think I saw her outside about 3 times the entire time we were there. They had two kids, and I swear to christ they came from a pod. They just...appeared --at an approximate age of 4 or 5. We are pretty sure they either grew them in the basement or abducted them from somewhere. We always leaned toward the "growing in the basement" theory, because they looked just like her -- hellspawn vampires, only with sunlight resistance.

The parents and the kids had this incredibly annoying New Yawk City accent that scraped little curls of bone from your skull when you were forced to listen to it. And you pretty much had to listen to it all the time, at top volume. Either she was yelling at him, he was yelling at her, they were both screaming at the kids, or sometimes they were all going at the same time. They would smack the kids and drag them into the house by the arm, hair, shorts -- whatever was handy. It was like having our very own Walmart right next door.

Right about then I figured out what the deal was. The houses were pretty cheap, which is why we snapped it up. We looked at it as a stepping stone. This was a house to live in for a couple years, then flip for some quick cash, and then build the house we wanted. We figured it beat paying rent, and it would cost about the same.

What we didn't count on was the fact that most people in this development were at their pinnacle, and here for life. They had moved out of the trailer park straight into the Merkin Dream. As a result, we soon realized we were living in the biggest trailer park without wheels that anyone had ever seen. That gives you some background on most of the neighborhood.

Right around this time, a few people in the neighborhood noticed a curious thing: Their backyards were slightly squishy. It seemed that in certain instances, the mud pies that little suzie had been baking were composed entirely of her own family's shit. It turns out that the septic tanks were faulty, and raw sewage was seeping up through the ground. Good times.

We didn't have a problem, but we were instructed to dig up our tank to make sure it was installed to code. So that was my first neighborhood chore that was forced upon me. Turns out our tank was fine.

The next thing I know, some loudmouth freakjob with bad hair and a kid on each hip is knocking on my door with a petition. They are suing the builder, the real estate company, the engineer who put the septic tanks in, the realtor who said that we would most likely have city sewer and water within 3 years -- you name it. If it moved, they were suing it. They wanted us to join the class action suit. At first, I thought it might be a good idea, since if anything went wrong with the septic system, at least there would be money to cover it.

It didn't take us long to realize that these people had dollar signs in their eyes, and you could easily see that they were banking on getting rich off this shit. They had visions of putting junior through clown college and buying a kickass pontoon boat with their share of the booty. We got smart pretty quickly and bailed out of the entire mess, which caused a lot of people to get pissed at us.

Development Rule Number Two: When you live in a development, you inherit the development's problems. You will become sucked into them against your will. Be prepared.

Finally, when we couldn't take it anymore, we decided to sell. It was a bad time, with the lawsuit going on and all the bad press, but we still managed to make a few bucks on it. We then overreacted a bit and drove too far north in search of peace and quiet. The first time my boss came over to the house for dinner, he was convinced I was taking him somewhere to kill him and hide his body.

So the net result of our move to the new house is that now I have a killer commute, and callouses on my ass from sitting in my car for two hours a day. On the plus side, you would not believe our gasoline bill every month.

Every time I think about moving closer to work, I look around. We have ten acres of woods. We can't see or hear our neighbors, the closest of which is a few hundred feet away through the woods. There are 5 houses on the entire street. On a weekend, you don't hear 30 lawn mowers going all at once. There are no screaming pool parties. No blaring rap music.

In other words, it is sweet.

As long as I am able, I will live in a place like this.

I've narrowed down my house hunting needs to a few essentials -- First, wherever I live has to have a porch. Second, that porch has three requirements. You have to be able to piss off of it, shoot a gun off of it, and screw on it without getting arrested -- or even noticed.

If you can do that, there's not much else you need.

Lastly, a word of advice for my newly 'burbed friends:

Development Rule Number Three: Buy a SHITLOAD of candy on Halloween. Those little bastards are insatiable.


* Did you ever notice the names they give these places? Wandering Stream, Fox Run, Meadowland Estates, Luther's Forest.....basically, they name it after whatever they bulldozed into oblivion in order to slap up the houses.


Does your gas pump ever make you feel wet and sticky?

So I'm at the gas station the other day, and I grab the nozzle from the pump to put gas in my car, and the handle is wet and sticky.* WTF? If you read my blog, you know that I think people in general are scum, and this was no exception. Who would get shit all over the pump handle, and then not clean it off? Disgusting, I tells ya.

Not knowing whether it was blood, cherry popsicle residue or Something-else-red-I-Know-Not-What, I look around for a paper towel to wipe it is off my hand. As I hit the towel dispenser, I realize that they now have a Purell hand sanitizer dispenser next to the towels. I never even thought about it before, but what a great idea. Normally, I put the gas in, jump in my car and go on my way -- probably because I never got funk on my hands before.

This Purell stuff looks to be alcohol suspended in an aloe gel or something. I really have no idea what's in it, but you can tell that when you put it on your hands, microscopic things are dying at an extremely satisfying rate. I gobbed it on quite heavily, and I'm pretty sure that whatever that red goo was, it didn't stand a chance.

That got me thinking. All things considered, a gas pump handle has to be one of the most "handled" things in the modern world (insert joke about John's vasectomy here), and EVERYONE who drives ANYTHING needs gas.

That garbageman who just spent 12 hours getting maggoty garbage juice all over his hands, the new guy working for the tree service company with the seeping blisters on his palms from running the chainsaw all day, that fat chick who just dug her week-old underwear out of her ass before she got out of her car, the Harley dude who is allergic to showers -- all of them need gas for their cars, trucks, busses and bikes.

So along comes you, and you grab the handle and drop 20 in the tank. Even if you pay at the pump, you're still hanging onto that hotbed of viral funk for upwards of at least 3 minutes. That shit is halfway up your arm by the time you drop the pump handle back in the slot. Then you jump back in your car, grab the door handle, the seatbelt buckle and the steering wheel...before you know it, your car is basically a rolling petri dish.

Then all you have to do is inadvertently rub your eyes or bite a hangnail, and best case, suddenly you've got three weeks to live. Worst case, you just ate an antibiotic-resistant strain of group A streptococcus, and 6 hours from now you'll be a steaming puddle of goo.

OK, now that I've grossed myself out, think about that shit next time you get gas, and remember: Be kind to your immune system -- it's the only thing standing between you and a hideously gruesome death. And if you see some sub-human shitting up the gas pump handles, call them on it -- maybe they're so clueless they don't even know they're doing it. ("Dude, did you know your hands are bleeding? No? Well, you might want to get them looked at. I don't think fingernails are supposed to fall off like that.")

*speaking of "wet and sticky," it turns out that I must not have been the only one a little grossed out by the mini-pad commercial, because I saw it again last night, and they changed it. The brazen woman now asks the other chick if her pad ever makes her feel wet and "uncomfortable."


Out Cruisin'

I was walking by my television, and happened to see this:

For a second, I thought the whole Katie Holmes thing was off.


Pit stops on the road to paintball

So I was out at the old corporate headquarters on Thursday for an half-day of meeting half-day of fun kinda thing. Right before the half-day of fun was supposed to start, I got paged to fix a problem. Me and this other guy, who I will call PP for short, got to stay at the office while the rest of the crew went off to play paintball and drink beer - not necessarily in that order. We were on the phone with vendors, emergency response, the client, you name it.

After about two and a half hours, we determined that we needed to talk to one of the guys on our team who was probably, at that exact moment, lying on his stomach behind a burned out jeep, pinned down by enemy paintball fire. So PP and I start walking down the hall to the parking lot to drive over there and find said pinned-down expert. PP is still talking on his cell phone, dialed into this emergency phone conference.

As we pass the men's room, I motion to him that I have to make a quick pit-stop before we drive. I turn left, push open the door, and walk toward the urinal.

As I'm taking my piss, I realize something odd.

I can still hear PP talking on his cellphone. That's because he is standing right next to me, pissing away.

Still dialed in.

There is no mute.

There is only pee.

And flushing. Lots of flushing.

I quickly wash up, break for the door and stand in the hallway outside the men's room, waiting for PP to finish up.

I learned something else. Apparently, "finishing up" doesn't necessarily need to happen on any particular side of the men's room door, because PP comes out of the men's room and he's still zipping up when he hits the hallway. It was awesome.

I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on the hand washing thing even though I didn't witness it, but jesus. On one hand, I admire him for not giving a shit what people think, but on the other hand, I'm just glad no bigwigs were walking by at that exact moment.

So to all the people on the phone -- sorry. I didn't know he would follow me, and subject you to this. Also, if you're keeping track, I'm pretty sure his pee noises were louder than mine, since it sounded like he was aiming right for the water instead of banking it off the back.

I will, however, cop to that last double-tap flush you may have heard. That was all me.


They're here.

Have you ever been driving down the highway, and you look over and see a tarp-covered flatbed truck, and you realize that the shapes underneath it are nothing even remotely recognizable? I hate that. Call me paranoid, but I always wonder just what the hell it is that they're hauling, and to where.

The other day on the way home from work, this truck passed me, and I glanced over and saw this:

I mean, holy shit on a stick. Just look at this thing. This is the highest number of death-inducing signs I have ever seen on a single truck in my life. And it was all covered up with a blue tarp. I didn't even want to breathe when it passed me, just in case.

If you're not familiar with these signs, they are required by law to be displayed on all rigs -- they are supposed to give the authorities an idea of what type of payload they are dealing with in case of an accident.

In other words, they are a reliable indication of just what kind of stuff that particular truck is hauling.

All I know is if I see these types of signs on anything, I want at least six inches of hermetically sealed, stainless steel-reinforced wall between me and it -- not a effing blue tarp.

Of course after I blasted past it and was a safe distance away, I started breathing again. Breathing and wondering. After a minute or two, I had it. I knew exactly what was under that innocuous blue tarp:

Go ahead, tell me I'm wrong.


Caution: Children

I vandalized a street sign once when I was a kid. I think I took some white spray paint and put a big DON'T on a stop sign or something equally lame. In my defense, I don't think I had actually reached puberty yet. Later on, I would see other vandalized signs in the neighborhood, but I never ran with the crowd that did that sort of thing on a regular basis. Their mods always sucked anyway -- the people who would usually tend toward that sort of behavior didn't seem to be the brightest of the bright. So normally, you'd see them changing the speed limit 30 sign to an 80, or just spraying some random crap over the Yield sign.

I think that as a result of a restless mind, and the unfulfilled delinquent tendencies I had as a child, I still see the possibilities in this extremely neglected art medium. The 'Caution: Children' sign still gets me to this day. I always speed up because I have visions of crazed zombie children swarming my car and trying to pull me out of the driver's side window and eat my brains.

So, for those of you with restless teens at home, you probably won't want them to see what's coming up next. With two paint brushes, a bit of black and yellow paint, and a few beers, this is what is possible*:

Warning - Road Apples ahead:

Watch for Farmer Brown tending to his prize Holstein:

I hate it when those headless little bastards dodge right out into traffic chasing their loose melon.

The always popular "Watch for streakers" variation:

This one is just confusing:

This one's a little bit cruel, but hey -- Closet Delinquent, remember?

*Note that I did not actually go out and vandalize these signs. I sat on my ass with a gin and tonic and the new Bowling for Soup CD and photoshopped them.


The Grand Tour

Well, I said if I could get into the Scummerson Estate that I would take some snapshots and share them, so here they are.

There are two things that these pictures will not convey -- the fact that, a) there was literally only a a hair over 5 feet of headroom in this place and b) the whole thing smelled like shit. And by shit, I don't mean "really bad" -- although it was really bad. I mean literally, like human or animal excrement.

Here's the fabulous kitchen:

Here's the master bedroom with adjoining bath. Note the seriously cute "half-moon" outhouse decor on the door. Obviously, the electrical work was done by an experienced electrician that was fully licensed and bonded by the state.

I snuck a peek into the bathroom too:

Just kidding.


All This Can Be Yours!

Proudly displayed in a pristine setting, this stunning Adirondack Farmhouse* is being exclusively offered to those with discerning taste! Located on a beautiful one-acre corner lot, this house is a tribute to beauty. It blends quality high-end materials, fine craftsmanship and special attention to details! Take a walk through the leaves on a crisp autumn day as you listen to the babbling trout stream* behind the house.

Amenities include:

1 Bedroom
1 Bathroom*
Living Room*
Dining Room*
Eat-in Kitchen*

CALL US for a confidential showing of this extraordinary home.

So.....as you can see from the picture, the Squatterson Estate went up for sale this week. For the last month or so, we've been noticing some unusual activity in and around the building.

A few weekends ago, about 6 or 7 biker-lookin' dudes with pickup trucks and lumber showed up and installed a 6-foot-high stockade fence on the property line between this place and the Scummersons trailer next door. I can totally see why blocking off the view of that shithole would be the first thing on the agenda, however I'm not sure how much good the fence will do unless they're planning to bring prospective buyers in by doing a "visit to the Batcave" kinda thing with the knockout gas and what not.

Nothing has really changed at the Scummerson place next door since I last reported on it, although I do have a pretty funny current example of how these people think, or don't, as the case may be. About a month ago, when it was nice out, they washed a load of clothes and hung them on the line to dry.

So that being said, here's a picture from this morning:


The same clothes.

These things have to be as stiff as shingles by now. At this point, they are basically a stretched out bundle of sun-bleached rags. I have no idea why they just decided to leave them there indefinitely, but they did. They have been rained on at least a dozen times, and then dried to a beef jerky-like consistency at least a dozen more.

I'm guessing that this particular thought process is being hammered out by the same malt liquor-blasted neurons they used to decide that the snowblower should be permanently stored in the middle of the front yard. Yeah. I can see the reason for the fence.

I actually called the number on the 'for sale' sign, and talked to Cooter. We chatted a while about the "real nice trout stream," the "fantastic views" and the "house" itself. He told me that he was pretty sure I could build a new house on this one-acre lot (I can't, there's a 3 acre minimum) and the fact that it was in the Saratoga school district, (it's not, it's in Corinth) and how the taxes were *very* reasonable (they're not) before we finally got down to price.

Are you ready?

All this can be yours for the amazingly low, bargain-basement price of.....


Keep in mind that a few years back we bought FIVE secluded acres on a dead end street a quarter mile away for $27,000. Somehow, I'm thinking that even with the recent real estate boom around here, this guy is living in some delusional crack-induced dreamland.

I thanked him, and told him I would catch up with him later for a look inside the house. If I get in there, I'll definitely post some pics.

There is one good thing about them asking so much for it -- there won't be anyone buying the place with last week's leftover drug profits and then turning it back into a shit collection with a shack in the middle of it. At least right now it's neat, and they keep the lawn mowed.

Anyway, don't all dial at once. You might start a bidding war.

*Muddy culvert that splits the property in half
*Same room as above