Time Mythmanagement

not quite the man-cave it once was, eh?

carpet 14
Loyola Park. Photo by Roman.

It’s not that I’ve desisted in being a slob, but I spend more time cleaning the apartment than I once did. How to explain this puzzling behavior? Think of yourself as a cat licking its butt. The cat does not like licking its butt, but it’s not as if any of the present alternatives offer much competition.

Vaccine!!

Here’s an update: I had my second dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine yesterday.

So far, the only definite side-effect so far has been that classic sore arm. The arm was sore for a day from first dose also, but that soreness seemed to be as much mechanical as anything else: The result of having liquid forcibly injected into a spot not intended for such. One can imagine the cells in that vicinity on the nerve-wire to the conscious “I” complaining vociferously about the insult, ending with: “Furthermore, we’re calling the police!”

Yes, thank you, that was the intent.

This time the shot seemed smaller in volume and the soreness had a burning quality that suggested something other mechanics. To pursue the earlier image, this time the T-cells were reenacting the 1968 Democratic National Convention police riot. Chicago cops seem to like that idea. And this time, there’s a virus worth clubbing.

Some folks have reported fatigue, but there was none that I noticed. Bedtime that day was at its usual time. But I ended up awakening just three hours later, and it was a wide awakening, that definitive certainty that this day’s sleep is over. Don’t bother to try to recapture sleep. It’s gone.

Unlike the first dose, I was unable to avoid the weather. It was a chill and rainy day until an hour or two after I got home. It may not have warmed much, but the rain stopped and the sun appeared.

But this did offer the amusement of watching some of my fellow CTA passengers come on board dressed for yesterday’s weather. There’s always a few.

Coming home, the bus pulled away from the Michigan Avenue bus stop just a minute or so before I got to the stop. Bummer! But there is a shelter for the stop, and the kiosk helpfully informed me that the next arrival for that bus route would be in 10 minutes.

A Story Goes With It

“Now,” Herbie says, “wait a minute. A story goes with it,” he says.

Well, of course this is a different matter entirely. I am such a guy as will always listen to a tip on a horse if a story goes with the tip. In fact, I will not give you a nickel for a tip without a story, but it must be a first-class story, and most horse players are the same way. In fact, there are very few horse players who will not listen to a tip if a story goes with it, for this is the way human nature is. So I turn and walk back to Hot Horse Herbie, and say to him like this:

“Well,” I say, “let me hear the story, Herbie.”

–“A Story Goes With It” by Damon Runyon

Within a few minutes, other buses arrived and the shelter’s population dropped to two. On a quick and careless glance, the other inhabitant might be a bag-lady about my age. On reflection, I’m not so sure, but she suddenly demanded my attention.

When this happens in the big city, it usually means that something is wanted of you. My strategy is to give that person my undivided, non-judgemental attention, even sometimes including questions to expand on some point or other. All the while, I’m listening “with a third ear” to what is included in the story, what is left out, but not whether it is true or not because I do not need to know.

“Listening with a third ear” is one of those phrases from mid-20th Century pre-feminist America, back when psychoanalytic self-help grifters suggested to women that, if their spouse was a troublesome character, the strategy to deal with it was not to dump him but rather to understand the root of his problem so as to avoid the next manifestation. In the meantime, the woman was to be alert for those “teachable moments” that would in theory enlighten said spouse to the errors of his ways. You can still find this advocated in family drama movies aimed at a religious female audience.

I don’t think it worked out happily ever after very often, but it is a useful technique.

I won’t go into her story, but it did make what turned out to be rather more than 10 minutes seem fairly brief. More to the point, it distracted her from the bite. The bus arrived and I was gone for the bus door before she could shift gears. It turns out that she just wanted to have someone pay her bus fare. And she really did not need me. She just contritely confessed to the driver that she had no money and could she ride the bus for a few blocks? She coulddah been his grandma and letting her ride would only cost the CTA a few pennies more in fuel. Why not?

She got off at Michigan Avenue and Delaware Place. Now do not jump to conclusions. She could have been going to work, even with her wheeled shopping basket. She could have been going to visit a friend. She may have been going home and home, on Delaware Place, could be an outrageously expensive condo, a tent, or a cardboard box. What is most certainly true is that she really did not want to walk in that rain.

Me neither.

Vaccine!

Just a small update on personal affairs: I had my first dose of Pfizer COVID vaccine. The recommendation for folks in my shoes was to use one’s own healthcare provider and for me that meant a trip downtown to Northwestern. Being a reclusive geezer in any case, the errand was something of an adventure for me.

(Plus I have the usual geezer obsession with “how far to the next restroom?” You probably don’t want to know the details so I’ll just say that it is really effective at keeping one close to home. Home, as they say, there’s no place like it!)

Northwestern was running a pretty efficient operation, probably over-staffed though when dealing with folks my age or more, over-staffing probably doesn’t hurt. The hospital’s risk-management folks must be purring. Likewise, they asked us to stick around for about 15 minutes so as to not scare the pigeons if there were any short-term reactions.

The shot was administered by a seriously perky young woman. Employee perkiness usually inspires a mildly sullen attitude in me, but this time I had the feeling the perkiness was all-at-once genuine, a technique for getting through the day, as well as a behavior desired by management. Plus these geezer ears are no longer adept at separating a young woman’s voice from the dull roar of a large and active room. Which is to say, I had too much to do to have time to cop an attitude.

And it could be that even recluses need occasional company. Conversation? I dimly recall such a thing.

The shot was a bit more consequential than a flu shot. It seemed to be more voluminous. The advice to rest for a short while afterwards seems to be good as well: for a short while, the connection with my feet seemed to demand my attention. And I do still feel a bit stoned but not unwell. The word is that the second shot is usually the one that makes one feel mildly unwell. Unwell? I’m old enough to have had a vaccination for small pox. Unwell? Bah! Go get a small pox vaccination then talk to me about side effects.

But then there was also the weather. Mid-March has been downright nasty for most of the “lower forty-eight” states. Here in Chicago, Thursday started out cold, wet and seriously windy. Not bad by comparison, but it was still classic “catch your death” weather for the underdressed. I was not one of them, but there were enough of them (sweet young things of every gender) on Michigan Avenue to be a tad concerning. By the time I left the apartment, the rain had pretty much ceased so at least I dodged that.

Still, I’m looking forward to bed early this evening. In the meantime, maybe I’ll find a stupid movie on the web somewhere.

Voilà. That’s my COVID report update.

Yip Abides in 2020

the ghost of 2020 reaches out…

Here lies buried in 2020 the content of this here blog for that year. By category in reverse chronological order:

Audio

Photo Wall

Video Wall

Poetry

Politics

Prose

Reviews

Meet the New Year…
Same as the Old Year.

Suzanne

i beg your pardon whilst i become slightly more improbable…

suerobert
Bob Roman and Suzanne Zumstein, December, 2003. Photo by William Zumstein.

I lost my sister this month. She was nine years older than I and had been diagnosed with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis… essentially a death sentence diagnosis so it was not unexpected. It’s one of those mid-range horrible ways to go.

We were not close, not for the past several decades. This was entirely my fault though it was neglect not hostility. On the other hand, Suzanne was often understandably more than irritated about my failure to be a brother. Though we did have our moments. Still, she deserved a better little brother than I. And still,  for all that we did no more than talk on the phone occasionally, I miss her.

Funny thing about that photo. I somehow always remember her as taller than me.

An Old Soul…

Begins to Resemble a Ficus.

Do us the favor of moving us into a sunny corner from the neglected shade, and we return the favor by losing more leaves. No… get away from me with that watering can. I’m near enough to drowning as it is.

But that was almost my reaction to an email received last week announcing laundry utopia!! Put away those quarters: Now you can (you must) use a chipped debit or credit card. You can also use your phone by downloading this handy app that will even inform you when the machine is done. And, oh yes… lest we forget… the price of a washer or dryer, once a dollar, is now $1.75.

Well heck. It’s been a dollar for at least a dozen years.*

Even so, anxiety is an interesting reaction to this. It was accompanied by a deep feeling of alienation, almost disembodiment; I’ve never before felt (even temporarily) so elderly and disconnected.

Some of this is simply the new payment modes. And that may be more symbolic than anything else. After all, a currency-less economy has been creeping up on us all my life. Public transit excepted, I’ve never become accustomed to charging small amounts on plastic. It’s a pain in the butt to keep track of, there are security issues, and somehow it doesn’t seem like money. Still, it’s not something new. For the past several years, it’s not been unusual for me to spend less than $20 in cash over a month, apart from laundry. But just for that moment while reading the email, the situation seemed deeply alien.**

The other part is to wonder, if this doesn’t work, am I still physically able to schlep a week’s washing the half-mile or so to the laundromat? (Yeah, probably, if I get a cart. Bloody inconvenient. And preferably put-off until after the plague.)

This week’s washing went okay. Both the old and the new machines are “Speed Queen” brand. The new equipment is slightly smaller than the old but not enough to make much of a difference. The new washers worked not quite as well as the old (design compromises re: energy and water efficiencies, I think, and not unexpected) while the new dryers were a definite improvement, including a feature to purchase an extra ten minutes for twenty-five cents (pricing bound by now useless quarters). It’ll be interesting to see how this all gets listed on my credit card bill, especially as no receipts are provided. I also see some possibilities for overflowing the laundry tubs, if I can get all three washers working in phase.


* Did you catch this? It’s really the most interesting part of the whole story. The seventy-five cent increase is outrageous, of course. If the price followed the urban consumer price index from September of 2008, it should have been an increase closer to twenty-five cents. But in this digital age, why should we be bound by quarters? A simple inflation adjustment would only be an increase of nineteen cents. But not only was the laundry management greedy with an increase of four times that, they were also bound by quarters.

** Just to rub it in, there is this story posted on October 28 by Almaz Kumenov at eurasianet:

A technical failure suffered by a popular payment service in Kazakhstan momentarily caused headaches for retailers and consumers alike, while showing at the same time how much the population has come to embrace non-cash transactions.

Users of the Kaspi mobile application noticed the trouble on the morning of October 28, when they were unable to withdraw money, make payments or top up their accounts.

It would have gone mostly unnoticed if this had been a glitch at a regular bank – those happen all the time in Kazakhstan. But this is a service that around one-third of the population uses regularly.

As has become customary, flustered Kaspi users took to social media to vent. Some posted pictures showing ATM screens showing unimaginably large tenge figures, running into the trillions. (One million Kazakh tenge currently buy around $2,300). Others complained they were unable to pay for taxi rides or for their groceries. On a lighter note, one meme showing a group of hapless cavepeople without Kaspi did the rounds to illustrate just how much Kazakhs have come to rely on their beloved cash apps and cards.

MORE.

Gossip

Toward the end of May, I posted a longish note pissing and moaning about my housing prospects for the coming year. There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that management proposed a reasonable deal and the bad news is that a reasonable deal is not, for me, sustainable. Nonetheless, it’s less than the opportunity costs associated with moving, so here I stay.

Based on their advertising, I had anticipated the new rent to be about 122% of my present rent, right about the amount where I might be able to find a new place of similar size* where the lower rate would pay for the move over maybe two years. There’s lots of ifs there. But management proposed a new rent of only 104.5% of my current rent, bringing the charges up to the lower mid-range for the neighborhood. The property manager was no better at negotiating than I am; he sounded so relieved when I indicated I was interested.

I should check their web site to see if they’ve come down in price there as well or if they’re rationalizing this as an “unimproved” unit.

Still, “the large print giveth and the small print taketh away;” I wanted to read the rental contract first. It was pretty much the usual: The tenant has no rights beyond what the law demands we recognize and we don’t admit to recognizing all of those rights either unless we’re dragged into court where we’ll also try to collect all our legal expenses from you whether we win or we lose. I don’t believe I’ve ever signed a lease that offered anything different. I trusted the previous management company more than these folks but the previous company was, in fact, somewhat more obnoxious with their leases.

So this is not a sustainable deal. It won’t do in the long term and even the medium term demands action. The new rent means that nearly all of my income goes to rent, even factoring in this year’s virus money. But I’m a geezer. “Long term” may easily have a somewhat different meaning to me than to you.


* A smaller studio apartment might pay off the moving expenses sooner, but I’m still encumbered by too much stuff to actually fit into one. Maybe next year.

In Need of Excitement?

Photo by Roman.

Blood pressure 97 / 58 pulse 61…

It may be that I am in need of some excitement…

Though it’s wise to be careful with one’s wishes. Back in October of 2019, I noted an ominous gathering of suits on the sidewalk outside my apartment building. This was followed by a survey by an architect. These were evil flags of pending change, and change was not likely to be good news.

Sure enough, the building management (and maybe the ownership*) changed. The original management could not be said to be friends of tenants, but they were competent, responsive and not particularly greedy. The building seemed to be a long term investment that did not need major immediate returns.

The new management company seems (too soon to be sure) to be equally competent and responsive, but they also have a gentrification record: buying properties around Rogers Park (and elsewhere), doing some amount of rehab on the units and raising the rents considerably. This seems to be the new gentrification strategy. Prior to the Great Recession, it would have been more common to turn the property into condominiums. Consequently, the new management had been the object of a community campaign over one of their new properties in Rogers Park a few years ago. That experience maybe has had an interesting consequence: The company seems far more aware of their tenants as people who need to be sold on doing business with them; the company (prior to the plague) had been organizing happy hours, book clubs, give-aways, and other social activities for tenants.

My Geezer Downsizing Project (now on covid-19 hold) was an attempt to get out in front of this, to be able to fit into a studio apartment and to raise at least some of the costs of moving. It appears as though I’ve been far too geezerly in doing this. My lease is up at the end of July and the newly advertised rate for an apartment my size in my building is 122% of what I’m paying right now. This is a lot more than the nice plague support money the IRS so kindly deposited in my account.

Of course, this is assuming they will propose charging the advertised amount for an already occupied, unrehabed apartment. But don’t accuse them of thoughtless greed if they do just that. Greed, yes, but thoughtless, no.

If I object and move, they can begin work on making the unit seem new and shiny and expensive. During the summer when students from Northwestern and Loyola are absent, during the summer of our plague depression, it may not matter much if the unit is off the market, even if Rogers Park real estate does not go back to something resembling normal come September. Just where that would leave them depends on just how abnormal things remain… but with testosterone intoxication, overcoming anything will seem possible.

If I acquiesce, the cash continues to flow… but all my income will go to rent.

What about negotiations? It’s always worth a try, but my experience has been that for all but the most trivial issues, tenants are not regarded as having any standing worthy of a response. In Chicago we have in law a “Tenants’ Bill of Rights” but elsewhere a tenant has fewer protections from abuse than your average minimum wage employee.**

But if the plan is to rehab and rent gouge (as it seems to be), they may simply decline to do a new lease or insist that I move to a different apartment within the building or within their empire.***

It’s worth noting that as a geezer, it’s a bit problematic to organize a moving party.

Eh, well. As I wrote in an earlier post: Sufficient unto the day is the haemorrhoid therein. Even if trouble is on the way, it ain’t here yet.


* The old management company said they were going out of business. The letter from the new management company referred to the building as having been sold. Whatever. Illinois has multiple ways of concealing ownership of real estate and of privately held companies incorporated in Illinois. The game, as they say, is rigged.

** The Real Estate Industry, in general, views any attempt at giving tenants “rights” to be obscenely unnatural. At best, tenants are cattle to be milked and at worst destructive, conniving thieves and, by golly, what good is government if it doesn’t kick the butts of the latter? Tenants, in general, view landlords as leeches, thieves, or incompetent bumblers. If you talk to either side, you’ll get an earful of war stories involving outrageous bad behavior. The one thing both sides agree on is that the courts do not provide relief unless, maybe, you’re all lawyered up. In any case, it’s viewed as a zero sum process: I win! You lose! Note that I do have a dog in this fight as I am a tenant and was once, briefly, a tenant organizer.

*** I hear there are some plague related temporary restrictions in Chicago at least, but I’m not hip (for example). In any case, the end of July will probably fall between the cracks.