Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The League of Jewish Gentlemen is here tonight.

At least that's what I call them. They meet at this Starbucks every Tuesday night and discuss religious or political issues. It's led by a man who is the youngest of the lot. He decides the topic for the night and brings copied materials written in both Hebrew and English, depending on the source. He's an attractive man, and speaks with enthusiasm, intellect, and fairness. He wears glasses and a nice suit every time, and the others are always dressed well. One of them has a key chain that advertised a sports medicine center. My guess, he's a nice Jewish doctor. I have a feeling he's not the only MD in the group. All wear yarmulkes and greet each other as old friends as they set up their tables according to the numbers. The leader has a kind face and is someone with whom I feel I could immediately be open with.

I'm comforted by this group. Their grasp of history and their culture within it. And, their care and willingness to discuss issues that are important to them. There's a tradition that is so clear within this group, starting that it is a men's group and that there seems to be a respect for the many opinions that surface during discussion. Tonight, the discussion is the recent events affecting the Gaza strip, and whether the land should be divided following the political or biblical borders. Or, whether they agree with the recent events in the "giving back" of parts of the Gaza strip to the Palestinians.

I'm incredibly ignorant on the history of the Gaza strip, so I couldn't speak on it. Listening to these men, I can see why that is. It's incredibly complicated and intricate.

I rescued a small cat a couple days ago and am looking for a home for her. She is incredibly sweet and so mellow. I took her to the vet today and she has a clean bill of health, though she did not enjoy the big adventure. I thought she was a kitten, but the vet thinks she's about one year old. I heard of her plight on our neighborhood BBS and it pulled at my heart strings. I set out to look for her and found her on the stoop leading into an apartment building. She let me approach her and pick her up. I put her in the car and drove her home, then set up her "room" with her own litter, food, water, cat bed, scratching post and got a little night light for her. I also play soft music for her when I'm not there. She is such a sweetie. I'll post pictures of her soon. I kept her seperate from my cats because of the risk of feline leukemia. Now that I know she doesn't have it, the gradual introduction will begin tonight. My cats have been incredibly cool about it, not stalking or growling at the door. So, we'll see how things go tonight.

A woman from Animal Rescue said she may be able to help with finding this cat a good, loving and responisble home. I hope so. She deserves one and will make someone very happy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I just have not been in the mood to write lately.

I think it's mainly because I'm busy with the LA job search and that has me writing cover letters. All cover letters are is a form of talking about myself in a way I would never do otherwise, and trying to convince a bored HR executive that I am a better candidate than the other toadstools who applied. Blogging makes it too much "self" in one day. Even when I don't write a cover letter, it's on my mind which is a drag. I'm excited about the opportunities out there, but the drudgery of the search isn't enjoyable in the least. I'm in this for the long run, and am not expecting things to happen overnight. This cannot be a quick fix, but a well thought out and carefully executed move. I just have to remember to eat, step away from the computer when I'm not being productive, and get out at least once a day. That's what Starbucks has been good for, but I'm tiring of the same scene. And like I've mentioned before, I'm becoming too well known there. Also, there are only two outlets to plug in laptops and those can become spoken for very quickly. Perhaps I should start going later in the night, but that can have its drawbacks too.

The dreary days don't help, and it's been dreary and cool outside. Today was no exception. These are the days where I just feel like sleeping, and then reading in bed.

But instead, I sent one more cover letter and resume.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

I just got back from New York City.

I had a great time, taking the bus up to stay overnight with my sister who had a layover there. I'll be posting about it soon, so stand by.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The neighbors were officially evicted today.

The remnants of a careless, reckless life. Their stuff was literally thrown out of their windows in bags, the couch cut into three pieces and dropped out the third floor window.

They left a ton of stuff in the apartment, and were living like derelicts. It is a testament to "just say no" to drugs if there ever was one. If Betty's parents knew how their daughter was living they would be horrified. Cluttered by tons of trash, miscellaneous items, a stained mattress, an oriental rug that is probably worth some money but was left to ruin and serve as a pissing mat for the dogs. They told me last year that Igor, who has relatives in Egypt, received it as a gift from his sister who had brought the rug from there. I'm sure she didn't see its humiliating future of being dropped out of a third floor window in Baltimore City, soiled and reeking of piss. Nor did the people who made it by hand. It makes me wonder how many other treasures meet such ends across the globe, bestowed on people who lack the ability or care to preserve them.

I went upstairs when they were cleaning it out and saw the trashed place. Thick blankets were nailed to the windows letting no light inside. One of the workers yanked it off and then opened the window to gasp for fresh air. There was so much dog piss caked the floor that it looked like a waxy film on the wood floors. The stench is unbelievable. For months, the dogs upstairs were kept inside all day, and walked maybe once at midnight. The rest of the time, the floor was their pissing ground. The smell is so bad that for months I thought that my cats were peeing somewhere that only they knew about, as sometimes a strong scent of urine infiltrated my apartment, especially on more humid days. However, since my cats are good kitties, that wasn't the case. I'm sure they'd be deeply insulted if they thought I suspected them. I just didn't think it had gotten that bad up there. And, she walked around the place barefoot sometimes. I'd see her leave the building with no shoes on.

I didn't mention this in my earlier post, but there was suspected drug dealing going on from that apartment. The neighbors saw many cars pull up for very short times and exchanges of cash. I never saw that, but always suspected Igor was back to his old tricks due to their continuous "bad luck." They were always getting money stolen, or mugged, and things kept "happening" to them. This is a neighborhood with lots of families, which is why the neighbors noticed the activity so much. I became the source of information about the status of their getting booted out for the many worried parents on the block. I'd walk out of my apartment, and they'd ask, "Are they out yet?"

A week before they did their final pick-up, the neighbor who lives next door, a federal attorney with two young children, heard Igor and Betty's dogs howling for over fifteen minutes and grew concerned. She walked out in front of our building and called up to their window, asking if everything was ok, when she was intercepted by Igor who appeared to be on his way back from a drug run. He was high as a kite, eyes glassy, stumbling, topped off with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. When he saw her, he shouted at the top of his lungs for her mind her own fucking business, called her a fucking whore, and said that if she told the landlord that he was dealing drugs, he'd tie up and kill her children. I missed that little display because I was at the court commisioner's office pressing charges on the two for the phone theft.

This is a grand old building with rich history. It probably housed a wealthy family a century ago that cared for it like an extended member of their clan. The proof of that is in the details of the building. With the eviction of these two, I have a feeling their ghosts are relieved. That, and the building itself is being allowed to exhale on the third floor.

Speaking of ghosts, I was in my bed reading and Scout as usual had claimed her place right next to me. All of a sudden, she popped off my bed like a kernel of corn, launching herself a good two feet in the air and several feet from my bed. It was pure adrenaline powered by instinct, a wild leap where she writhed in the air but being a cat, landed right on her feet. Her tail was straight up and thick like a pin cushion, and she looked at me as if wondering how I could just be lying there. There were no weird noises or anything that could have prompted it unless it was one that I couldn't hear.

On other fronts, I've launched a full court press on applying to jobs in Los Angeles. Cover letters being written and perfected, resumes being sent, and fingers being crossed. My good friends there have even set up their message box to take messages on my behalf. I've felt a change coming over me in the last few weeks, and want to find a "home" instead of be a gypsy. A home, meaning a full time job where I can actually plan for things in my life and feel some sense of security and place. I think that was hammered home today watching this eviction, how important that has become to me.

However long it takes to come to pass, that's fine. Achieving that doesn't happen overnight.

But I'll be ready when it does.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I think it's safe to discuss the bullshit now, but because this involves criminal charges, I'm going to have to use that wonderful word "allegedly."

And here is the disclaimer. All of the below is alleged until proven in a court of law, which means that all parties mentioned or inferred to are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Now with that out of the way, let it be said that there are two things that are on my top five hate list. Liars and Thieves are two of them.

By liars, I don't mean the white lie you tell someone who asks you if the zit on their face that resembles an African ant hill is really that noticeable. By thieves, I'm not talking about a thrill shoplift of a Hershey Bar from 7-11 to impress your new friend in middle school that your parents surely wouldn't approve of.

I'm talking liars, by someone who tells a bold faced lie to escape blame or get something they didn't earn, and thieves, like my neighbors, whom I'll call Betty and Igor, who ask me how I've been while they are stealing my phone service. Allegedly.

This makes them both. Liars, by omission, and thieves, because they spliced into my phone line through some crude hot wiring done on the phone box down in the boiler room to get free phone service. Allegedly.

Mostly, it makes them lowlife scumbags. That is not alleged.

Invading my privacy wasn't enough for these two. They also allegedly gave my number out to the trash that they associate with. I discovered this on Saturday while holding my cordless phone in my hand. I'd had suspicions that something was going on with repeat strange phone calls and some other stuff, but not full blown proof until that day. I had pressed the talk button to engage the dial tone, and was about to dial a number when the phone started dialing on its own in my hand. Curious, I held the phone to my ear and listened as Betty called Igor, who also lives in the apartment but wasn't home. During their conversation, my call waiting kicked in and both asked, "What the fuck was that?" Betty then said, "Maybe she's getting a phone call." By she, she meant me.

And let's just explain for a minute who "she" is. "She" is me, and I was the only person who made an effort to make these people feel welcome and overlook their incredible shortcomings when it came to being good neighbors. I tolerated their loud dogs, loud fights, and his throwing cigarette butts all over the building. I coached them on the expectations of being good neighbors, such as picking up after their dogs in the neighborhood. I made excuses for them to the landlord and bragged on them after they helped me when I was maced. I felt they needed a chance, stumbling as they were through life, and that maybe they could make it.

Back to that moment when I was sitting at my desk with the phone in hand. I stayed silent, absolutely dumbfounded as my fury level quietly rose to a boiling point. The two grunted a bit more to each other, and then he gave her a phone number to call to get a ride to where he was. I went downstairs to the Freddy Kruger room, otherwise known as our boiler room and saw the job on the phone box. My years in the computer industry served me well with this one to see what had been done. I then went to my parents' house to call the phone company.

When I arrived back at my apartment, Betty's ride had arrived. The guy was sketchy as hell and strutting around like he owned the place while he waited for Betty to come outside. His entire being pissed me off, so I asked him what his business was at our building. Not surprisingly, he copped an attitude. I copped one right back, so much that he got back into his double-parked car to wait for her. Little did he know that I had just been on the phone with Verizon reporting the very person he was picking up for stealing my phone service. As I looked at the swaggering broken down piece of shit, I was livid that he had my unlisted phone number. Also, I simply didn't like his face. Under the circumstances, I wouldn't have liked it even if he had looked like Brad Pitt.

My stepfather had accompanied me home and was standing across the street, and both of us took turns playing overly nosy, intolerant neighbors who didn't want riff-raff infiltrating their turf. I made a show out of taking down his license plate number, after which we exchanged a few hostile words. We let him know he wasn't welcome in the building and that we weren't intimidated by his gangster sashay and thugster attitude. During this, Betty trotted out of the building and saw what was going on. She kept her head low and avoided looking at me, then shrank into the man's car. Not a word from her as she sat in the passenger seat as meek as a mouse. As the words flew between us, I think if she could have, she would have stuffed her head underneath the seat. The guy put up a show, but I've not seen him back since. Criminal types hate to be visible, and I made sure he knew he was glaringly so. They also don't like it when girls half their size wearing designer clothes don't back down to them.

A little background on Betty and Igor. They fell four months behind in their rent and got a put-out notice. I saw them move the last of their belongings out yesterday, and I can only hope that is the last of them. Just after Igor moved in, he went away to serve prison time for a drug charge while she lived in the apartment and went to college. Like I said, I gave them a chance.

Over time, they showed they were irresponsible in small ways, sort of just clueless about being good neighbors, but it started to get more severe over the last year. She quit college, estranged her family and friends, and was frequently picked up by shady looking characters. At night, at least two times a week, they had vicious fights and on all occasions I could have called the police, but did so only on three. Neither have been able to hold steady jobs.

By rent standards, these places are very affordable. Especially with two people sharing an apartment, it would take two part-time jobs for them to make ends meet. Rent for the apartments is around $700 a month. Expenses, if you are watching your pennies, can't be more than $200 a month. Betty is in her early twenties, and Igor is in his mid-twenties. Aside from his conviction that will keep him from certain types of employment, both are able-bodied people who can work.

Two weeks ago, her friend from high school and the friend's father stopped by the apartment because they hadn't heard from Betty in weeks. They told me that Betty's father was worried to death and that if they had to, they would kidnap Betty to get her away from Igor. Despite being the same day that I found out about the phone theft, I was very touched by this, seeing this man and his daughter who cared so much for their friend who was ruining her life. The father had a braided pony tail and was a big no nonsense guy whom I bet would defend my honor any day in a rough bar. He stated to me his thoughts about Igor in one sentence, "Don't like him."

Right now, I don't like either of them. She however, is in dire need of an intervention, but also a dose of reality of what the criminal life is like. These two would be what one would call "small time" as are their thugster friends. They are not the kind of criminals profiled on The Wire. They wish. Why they wish, I have no idea.

During my conversation with the two in the stairwell, Betty and Igor walked in. He skulked past the two with his head down and asked me how I was. I wanted to say, "Why don't you tell me since you can listen to my phone calls?" The last time Betty had seen me I had been telling her sketchy friend to get the fuck out of here and stay out. However, no mention of that. When she saw her friend and the friend's father, her entire demeanor changed. I saw the girl that she may have been once, which included a smile and maybe even a thread of confidence. She did end up going with the two, and I was thrilled. That is, until 1:30 that morning when she returned. They had one of their most vicious fights, and I called 911.

I believe the phone theft started a few months ago after the day that Betty knocked frantically on my door after Igor had been mugged. Read, beat up by characters who were real thugs that he'd gotten into trouble with. She had already told me her cell phone was "stolen," and asked to borrow mine. I let them keep it for a bit as calls were coming in from the police. Now, I swear I'm not making this next part up. Betty told me that they knew who the mugger was. Apparently, the guy that mugged Igor of $600 in cash, (no, I'm not naive as to why he had that much cash on him) is an "acquaintance" of a "friend" of theirs. The mugger is a guy whose real life story was used as a base for a major character on The Wire. Yeah. And let me just say, that guy is way out of their fucking league in thugville. Igor didn't press charges as far as I know.

I however, did.

I'm moving on prosecuting both of them. If she wants a taste of the reality of being a thug, I'll give it to her. Especially when a Verizon rep called me at my home number and Betty answered it from her apartment. When he asked for me, she had the nerve to tell him that "She isn't home." Once again, that mysterious "she" is me. Luckily, he didn't tell her why he was calling and noted it in his records. And yes, I have that representative's direct line if it's needed.

I have some very damning proof, but that's for only me to know right now. I'm not about to show my cards in case said scumbags read my blog. But if they do read it, let me ask, how fucking stupid are you to steal phone service from the person in the building who works as a researcher for "The Wire," a show that has a major focus on wiretapped phone lines? You knew that's what I did for a living you dumb twats. Not to mention, how fucking scummy of you to steal from me like that and invade my privacy. How completely trashy.

I was able to pull some very high strings in the Baltimore City Police Department through my police contacts with The Wire and cut through that bureaucracy and get the charges pressed under the right offense. I was relentless on this, and in my dealings with the phone company and in evidence gathering. Another thing about us researchers and writers, we're good evidence gatherers because we have to do it all the time for the weirdest shit. When you deal in the world of make believe, it takes you to places where few people get to go in their daily lives. My last writing gig took me to the far reaches of the earth, through the jungles of India with sandalwood and ivory smugglers, to former Soviet bioweapons facilities, and Antarctic Research stations. And that was just a tiny bit of that project. I did it all from my desk, but were someone to ask me to find stuff on any of those topics, I'd know where to go and whom to call. In this case, that's exactly what I did. Once I felt I'd gone as far as I could on my own, I called our technical adviser who is a high ranking fellow within the BCPD and he was all too happy to help me. The experience with the court commissioner is a whole different blog post.

My court appearance is in June and what I've mentioned here is in my complaint.

And of course, all of the above is alleged, just for the record.