We’re at the find out portion of the fuck around era, and I am not here for any of it. Get your germs away from my ass, both figuratively and literally.
I thought we were getting to higher ground with the pandemic. Sure, things are kind of still a shit show, but there is literally nothing left for the anti-COVID idiots to complain about, what with politicians abandoning all sense of responsibility and public health being bought off by the likes of the mRNA gods and goddesses. To be clear: I am pro vaccination, but the way in which we have been sold to the CEOs of major corporations, both in what’s available to us for therapeutics, treatments, and preventatives, as well as the various industries that saw mitigation measures correlative to decreased profits for them (I’m looking at you Delta…), well it makes my ass sick. Not COVID sick, just sick.
The problem with letting COVID rip, so they call it, is that it has done a remarkable job at mutating, infecting people multiple times, causing massive disruptions to public life, and hammering down our immune systems. I read the other day that 4 million people in the US, alone, now have long COVID, which is pretty fucking profound if you think about the number of people that represents that may have left the workforce.
In any event, now we are seeing all of these other diseases emerge, go buckwild you might say, and the result is of course that the government and public health professionals just… ignore that shit too.
In the last several weeks, we have had an onslaught of people not just getting covid, though. The UK announced polio cases, and a few weeks later news broke that someone had been paralyzed by polio in New York. Just yesterday, the New York State Department of Public Health announced that they detected polio in the waste water as far back as June. There is this mysterious hepatitis showing up in children (no largely mentioned correlation to COVID, though, even as over 75% of the kids had prior infection with the Omicron variant). Today, BNO news announced that some people had tested positive for dyptheria in Switzerland. A few days ago, it was scurvy.
And we all know about the monkeypox. Or do we?
Monkeypox was something we all should have been paying more attention to back in May, when it was clear that it was beginning to spread. But instead of – oh I don’t know – doing anything about it, we all sort of just sat around and chalked it up to being a gay thing. I’m not shy to the fact that the vast majority of cases are currently in the gay/bi/MSM community; however, this is a far cry from who can actually get monkeypox, which is anybody and everybody. Monkeypox just happens to be in an associated group right now, and of course that’s only perpetuated by the fact that as far back as May and, in many places, still today, the only people that can get tested are from that associated group (of gay men, mainly). To be clear, though, while monkeypox isn’t as transmissible as COVID, it can spread in a lot of ways – in the air if someone sneezes through a lesion in their nose, through – yeah – sex (though it’s not an STI), by touching something the other person touched, hotel sheets… you name it, monkeypox can even survive for long periods of time on your food.
And yet still, the government has sort of just ignored it as people begin to die from its effects around the world. Children have started to test positive for it as well, the more that testing has opened up; in fact, two have tested positive here in California, where I live.
I’ll say it again: get your fucking germs away from my ass.
I just don’t understand what fucking thinking we have going on in our heads right now. I read somewhere that COVID does affect some people cognitively, and so I’m wondering if everyone got COVID and we’re all just fucking nimrods now that cannot put two and two together.
So here, I’ll do it for y’all:
1. None of this shit is going to get under control if you all don’t start demanding more from your elected leaders – from the top, down. That first requires you all to give a shit, which I’m pretty sure may be a far cry from happening, but it’s worth saying. If you gave a fuck about each other again, maybe you’d have the impetus to contact someone – anyone – to demand they do better; I don’t know, just shooting that one from the hip. Congress should be funding more research, treatments, response. The White House should be sending out more tests. The CDC should be requiring masks in healthcare settings, at the very least.
2. As long as COVID is allowed to spread, people will continue to get infected over and over and over again. At some point the 4 million people that are disabled now as a result of long term symptoms (not to mention all the people that continue to fucking die, some quite young in fact), is going to grow to such an exponentially unmanageable number that social security will collapse and/or no one will be around to keep your favorite, local Applebees open.
3. Every time a new disease or new-old disease emerges as a problem, you run the risk of it mutating and wreaking havoc the likes of which we have not even yet seen; especially as a result of the aforementioned weakening of the immune system caused by repeated infections with COVID.
4. It is not normal for diseases like polio to show up in the waste water.
5. Monkeypox is painful and puts a higher percentage of patients in the hospital due to the lesions, the sites they are commonly found on, and the amount of pain they create. The United States’s healthcare system is already on the verge of collapse due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, adding this to their burden is – frankly – unforgivable. People can die from monkeypox because it also crosses the blood-brain barrier and can cause encephalitis. And, as if all of that was not bad enough, as many as 50% of cases end up with neurological or psychological issues.
It’s starting to seem as though we have somehow teleported, or time traveled, back to the days when people just died of random diseases all the time. Women lived to the ripe, old age of 32, and then died of period pain in the middle of the cobblestone street. The callousness with which we approach the lives of each other has perhaps normalized massive amounts of pain, suffering, and death, after two years of people replying to COVID deaths on Facebook with laughing emojis, I suppose because it’s easier to just accept this new life?
I for one do not accept it. I want none of it.
It is the 21st century and science has advanced us to a point where a vaccine could be created against a deadly viral disease in under a year, and y’all motherfuckers brought back polio and diphtheria as a response.
There is, of course, the obvious plot twist in it all as well: that this is just a necessary consequence of a changing climate. Anyone arguing still today that climate change is not real lives further down than under a rock. Everything going on – monsoonal pressure on the West Coast, all time heat in Spain and the UK, the storms, the fires… all of that is just the tip of the iceberg of climate change. Scientists have also been warning for years, decades in fact, that another aspect or potential of climate change would be that zoonotic diseases would cause more spill over resulting in human epidemics; that viruses would be able to mutate and adapt more quickly because of the changes to the ecology of our planet; and, that as permafrost melted, old shit would resurface.
Well here the fuck we are, I hope you all are happy.
Whatever the case may be, I – for one – am tired of this shit. I don’t get people that have absolutely zero problem being sick all the time. I do not get it. I’m not saying crawl in a hole and hide forever. I’m not saying seal yourself in a bubble, like Bubble Boy. I’m just saying to get your germs away from my ass. Stay the fuck home when you are sick.
Since y’all cannot even seem to reliably do even that – the absolute bare minimum – maybe I will get a bubble after all…
I haven’t posted on here in well over a month – not a matter of writer’s block or dearth of content, but the fact that we moved. Back home. Not to the home from which our landlords cruelly and callously terminated our lease at the beginning of the year (after years of dutifully paying rent monthly in full and on time, and taking prodigious care of their home as if it were our own). But a few blocks away.
In our temporary rental, nearly 45 minutes from the city my kids have always known, the situation went from bad to worse in such a rapid and bizarre fashion, for a brief moment amidst it all I legitimately believed I was going insane. There was just no way that conditions could be that bad there. We had mold, water leaks, floods, more mold, sagging floors, crazy neighbors, and – in the final hours – a family member of our landlord rifling through the mail. For one of our last weeks there, my children and I were displaced for an entire week due to a mold remediation. And in the last shower I took there, the floor began to sag, water came gushing from the ceiling beneath me into the garage on the first floor, and mold began to appear through the paint pealing off the walls.
When we terminated our lease prematurely, and provided a letter for the landlord citing a breach of warrant of habitability, the letter had 26 pages of attachments providing evidence. By any and all standards: it was bad.
Possibly in a moment that was serendipitous, but more realistically just sheer, dumb luck, a home became available in our price range, in our old neighborhood, while all of this was going on, and the rest is history. Now, we are unpacked and settled in. And just like that, I’m back home.
Much of the last few weeks has felt like putting the pieces of the puzzle of our lives back into place. When we moved away months ago, we had to significantly downsize; now with more space and almost an identical floor plan to our old home down the street, we’ve pieced it back together, all the while cognizant of everything that has happened. Our temporary rental had no real functioning kitchen to speak of, just a broken oven and about a foot of counter space to work on, so we’ve also caught up on eating at home. I feel more like myself today than I have since the day our lease was terminated – now 7 months ago; and my kids are finally letting down their guard, no longer afraid that something else would go wrong after months of seemingly every day having a problem.
And that’s the thing: this situation – being a comfortable, middle class family with the security of a roof over our heads, suddenly being thrust into insecure and unsafe housing during an unprecedented moment in history – well, it changed me, it changed us. I didn’t just find myself in the position of privilege to simply empathize with people struggling in the housing and rental crisis, I was forced to live it myself.
45% of Californians are renters, this nearly half the state has been subjugated into a class war that stereotypes them as unworthy, an undeserved other. Ironically, this group of people are the sole reason people in the landlording business are able to do so. A landlord’s livelihood is entirely dependent upon having tenants to pay the bills. And while I don’t typically like to turn things into a conspiratorial bigger plan, after living the consequences of insecure housing for several months, I understand now the bigger societal problems that are created by this wing of late stage capitalism run amuck.
Availability of Housing
When I ran for city council, something that struck me as odd was the fact that there was a clear and certain need for housing, but very few city council people seemed to have any real understanding of how urgent the need was. As time went on in my campaign, and afterwards, it became evident that they do understand. Their donors – largely property managers, realtors, and personal landlord investors – just have control of these local politician’s votes.
In my county, there is 1 housing unit for every 1,348 middle income families. This is on its own an astounding figure I myself did not think could be topped, until just this week when I learned that my county also has the most severe metro area housing shortage in the entire nation. The slow walk to development in my community is so profound and – frankly – unbelievable, until you consider that it is in their best interest to slow walk development, because this allows the prices to rise exponentially, unchecked.
So availability of housing is not an issue in a vacuum, rather it creates a backchannel of issues like housing affordability, temporary rental availability; it even has a negative impact on the tourism industry because of the number of hotels filled up with vagrants, and the simple fact that a tourist-centered community loses its appeal when every corner has someone homeless, someone pan-handling, or a car parked with a mattress on top of it and a person sitting inside shaving their armpits.
But to the people that own the politicians? The people in the real estate and landlording industry? They don’t care. With 1 unit for every 1,348 middle income families, and a housing market that sits at a median home price above $800,000, this is simply their opportunity to cash in. To be clear, this is the fault of every local politician of the last several decades – Democrat, Republican, Independent, you name it. Will they be held accountable? I find the prospect unlikely.
Conditions of Living
As I mentioned, our temporary rental was an absolute nightmare, and we were fortunate to have the ability and means to get out of it. Not everyone is as lucky, and at some point shortly before we moved I obtained a list of all the rentals our landlord owned.
To say I was shocked is an admission of my own naivety: one of the rentals had a Port a Potty outside, another had a tarp for a roof. I’m sure people that have rented from the slummiest of slumlords will sit and nod their heads in understanding, but for me this was an absolute dereliction of what I imagined such a profoundly small number of people could subject upon nearly half the state. Our landlord, himself, lived (lives) in a 4 million dollar mansion on a 23 acre farm, overlooking his peasants. I’m sure a working toilet and completed roof isn’t an issue for him; but being bathed in his own privilege does not excuse that he legitimately believes people should live without those things.
Even little things you don’t realize until you live in it become an issue when your conditions are reduced to semi or unlivable. As I mentioned, our kitchen was a broken oven and a one foot space of counter. At the time we rented the place, we had absolutely no other options; and I figured I could make it work. The reality, though, with a family of six, was that I could not, so it was take out most days, sometimes multiple times, and a lot of quick things that didn’t require the appliances or equipment we had to store, or the counter space needed to prepare.
In other words, for months, we ate like absolute shit. (While being exposed to toxic mold.)
We of course see this all over the country, with landlords providing substandard conditions for their tenants – mold, rot, unworkable appliances. But what isn’t often talked about as well are the conditions of the community that is predominately renter-based: roads in need of repair, no easy access to healthier food options, a lack of public transportation. Some states, including California, have requirements about affordable housing in proximity to big box stores; however these ineffective policies are easily skirted, and do not address how a community deals with the situation when politicians slash budgets for public transportation, or when stores close down due to new developments in other areas of the community.
But again: will anyone be held accountable? I find this unlikely.
The Class War Is Real
For now, the dust has settled and I’m plotting my next moves. Not housing moves, though; what I have to do about my community members who continue to suffer under this absolutely unfettered, hyper-localized, class war. While I thought that the Democrats and Joe Biden’s abject failures had radicalized me and my politics, I suppose I was not even remotely prepared for where this experience would take me. Perhaps most worthy of note is that this year, at 40 years old, my idealism about reform from within is finally gone. The only way I see this being fixed is for the entire system that perpetuates this to go along with it.
So where does that leave me? Well, I’m back home, and it’s an election year. Not a single thing will change if people do not start running for office that will rid our communities of the corruption that has infiltrated every level of government. But this again runs along the belief system that people can be elected and reform things from within. Can they? AOC faking handcuffs at a Roe rally, or Bernie kowtowing to the party line suggests otherwise. Maybe I’m wrong, but for now it seems that there has to be another way.
In local elections, it’s becoming harder and harder to find candidates anyway; nobody wants to run. Why would they? As a former candidate myself, you have to not just have a tough skin, but sometimes a bulletproof vest. If your personality isn’t in line with the identity politics of either the Left or the Right, you’re as good as a lost cause. Of course election reform could fix all of that, including comprehensive campaign finance reform; but then the people that would have to reform this will never do so because the system itself benefits them.
But I think it goes deeper than that. People aren’t just not interested in running because they aren’t interested. They’re too busy working and struggling to survive to do – literally – anything else.
In our temporary rental, it was profound how much time was spent just struggling to survive. Between the kitchen, the conditions, the health issues that started to crop up from the mold, or having a leak one day, a toilet back up the next day, and a flood in the backyard over the weekend, our time was consumed dealing with problems that people not in this subjugated living situation ever have to spend their time on.
This is the real point to the class war. It isn’t to keep people in their place. It isn’t to have people to pay your bills, and provide you your services. It isn’t to keep them sick and dependent, or hungry and available to work for low wages.
It’s to keep you so busy you can never change this system of capitalist oppression.
I’m sure, in the end, I’ll change my tune. At least that’s what family and friends say. Maybe I’m just spouting a tangent after arguably the most traumatic experience of my adult life (and that’s saying a lot). Or maybe I really did go insane and this is all some lunatic’s fantasy and ranting.
Whatever the case may be, this change of thinking was a long time coming. As I said, I’m now 40. It took four decades for my eyes to be opened to the real hardships that exist, in all our communities, and even so I still make jokes about it. But we all do, we all joke about the abject horror we are seeing in front of us – memes on Facebook about tyrant landlords, viral videos on Tik Tok about completely absurd living and working conditions. “Anger and humor are like the left and right arm. They complement each other. Anger empowers the poor to declare their uncompromising opposition to oppression, and humor prevents them from being consumed by their fury.”
I never considered myself poor, we are by all standards well off. But that didn’t stop us from living through what we lived through the last seven months, my family. So I guess even the definition of poor needs be revised. And I suppose the day to take it all seriously – the class war and the people most impacted by it – will be the day the jokes stop.
Anger empowers the poor to declare their uncompromising opposition to oppression. If there is one thing I feel when I think back to everything that has happened this year, it is a little flame of anger shrouded in disbelief that it actually happened. The days plug along and we grow further distant from that hellish situation, and the disbelief fades leaving just that tiny flame of anger and disgust for a system that is designed to harm.
And just like that, I’m back home. But who returned is wholly different and forever changed.
I don’t know, things are getting a little harried around here. We basically live in a dumpster. All we need is a fire, and it’ll be just peachy: a metaphorical and literally version of my life since that fateful day, back in January, when our landlord terminated our lease to give the place we had lovingly called home for years, to a friend.
I’ve provided you guys with plenty of updates, the most recent (which contains links to the previous updates on this rental situation) can be found by clicking HERE … don’t worry, we’ll be right here if you need to catch up. Since that grim, and a little nihilistic, update on May 31st – 12 days ago – an absolute shit show has played out at this rental, as we simultaneously continue to look for, get a lease to, and secure a new home.
What seems to be the most stressful about it is that the process of renting a home is not streamlined or – essentially – standardized. Anywhere. You go through one person and they make a decision at their discretion, which I guess is their right (it’s their home after all), but it’s also wide open to discriminatory practices that, well, who can prove? You then go through a property management company and they have a different way of doing things; go to a realtor who is managing a property, there’s another process. All different, all distinct, none that make this anything less than a full-time job. There’s also security deposit bidding wars, realtors and brokers in the mix, the timing of things being different at each location… it’s a real mess, to be frank.
So now, in the last week and a half or so, a complete disaster has unfolded at the rental we are in now. To be clear: this home was never going to work as a long term solution for our family. We took this because, at the time, we had no other option. When our landlord at the old place issued us our termination of tenancy,I knew that it was going to take a considerable amount of time to find someplace to go. So I wrote them a letter, practically begging them to give us at least until the summer. My reasoning was sound: our kids needed to stay in the school system, our daughter had surgery scheduled that would have to be canceled if we were in the middle of a move; and we were willing to pay considerably more in rent to allow us just two or so extra months. Callously, they said no.
In our county, it is reported that there is 1 housing unit available for 1,348 middle income families like us. People are turning to motels, RV parks, renting backyard spaces to tent camp, and their cars, to ride it out until more housing becomes available. We are up against, at times, hundreds of other people, and again – with a difficult timeline and our regular lives of work and kids, and a different process for every single house we apply to, it’s been an unsurmountable task to find a more permanent home that meets the needs of our family. So we are in some sense fortunate to have found this place before we were relegated to the streets, a middle class family with above median income, simply because there are literally not enough places available.
But at the same time, this experience has perhaps caused more harm than living in a hotel for a while ever could have.
So this temporary home, we identified early on, has a number of glaring problems that seem to boil down to: age of the home, neglect by the owner to keep up with maintenance, and some community issues with the water and sewer system. I suppose we should have considered it ominous that within a week of living here, our neighbors to the right of us had a massive mold remediation job done from water damage in their downstairs living room and half bathroom. The process took a whopping two months to complete: evaluation, remediation, restoration, repair, during which time we listened in on an HOA meeting at the pool and learned that two other houses on the other side of the complex were also having some sewer and water damage issues.
Now there are several aspects of this home that absolutely violate the warrant of habitability, so terminating our lease was going to be easy. We just – again – needed to a find a place. I suppose the Universe decided our reasoning on that was not sound enough, because since that last update, a cascade of maintenance crises have flooded this house, including both a literal flood, and the discovery of massive amounts of water damage and mold.
The Broken Sprinklers
Turns out the broken sprinkler I shared in my last post was worse than we thought: all of the sprinklers were spraying directly at the front of the home, and with improperly sealed stucco at the foundation of the home, the baseboards through the entire downstairs of the house had begun to squish.
We started to notice this a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t until we had other water-related issues that someone else identified the issue and the severity of it, which will require a complete replacement of the base boards and, possibly, some of the tile. This is, of course, only after the stucco is sealed, which can only happen after the HOA fixes the sprinklers.
Until then, the water will just spread further and further into the first floor of our 928 square foot rental…
The Great Flood
Early last week, we came home from running errands and picking up our Election Night Pizza (a tradition in this home), to see water coming out of the drain pipe at the end of our driveway. At first, we thought nothing of it – thought it may be from something else – until pizza time was over, and we went to the backyard to discover a massive flood had taken over the entire backyard. We notified the landlord, and rather than send an emergency team, he said the landscapers could come in the morning – leaving water flooding (and running up the bill exponentially) for upwards of 12 hours.
The next day, I awoke on the couch upon which I sleep (remember, this house is incredibly small and my husband works at his desk in our bedroom, overnight) to see a group of men staring at me through the front window, even though I had left the side gate open to allow them access to the backyard as I had been instructed.
They immediately began to dig into the hill at the back of the lot, to uncover an entire and abandoned irrigation system (that the landlord had previously told us did not exist). They ripped it out, only to discover the leak was coming from piping in the foundation. But… they didn’t want to have to rip up concrete, so after the landlord – himself – showed up, they all dug through our trash can to find an old Pringles can and a can of Diet Coke, from which they fashioned miniature buckets. They then bailed water out of this hole in the hill for approximately two hours, returned all the dirt, and – I guess – are now hoping for the best (that the remaining dripping water will just soak into the soil, I assume).
Oh and, of course, this happened, which my 5 year old stood and pointed at yelling “I can see that guy’s butt Mommy!” Repeatedly.
The Coupe de Grâce
After all the hubbub, I was ready to put my chin up and move on. The flood was fixed (for now), everything was fine. We were continuing to look for a rental, we had been approved on one and were just waiting for the lease… we were going to make it to get out of here with the flood hopefully being the last major issue.
So on Thursday – the next day – I got up, showered, and was going to put on makeup for my first time in over a week, when I noticed that my makeup basket, which is stored under the sink in the half bathroom, was soaking wet. All of my make up in it? Ruined.
I emptied the cabinets underneath the sink and almost immediately vomited: a leak in the pipe had been dripping, and this issue was so clearly either overlooked or ignored by the landlord before we moved in, because the damage to the back of the sink was so profound, with mold growing around the edges.
Now remember, a few weeks before this, we had run some at home mold tests and mold did begin to grow in the tests. But this could always mean a variety of things, in California especially – where mold is everything – it simply means you need to keep an eye out. So we did, but I was not expecting the extent of what was going on in that half bathroom, which connects to the master bathroom; which effectively impacts about half the house.
The 928 square foot, temporary rental house for our family of 6.
So now there is a phenomenal amount of work that I am now being expected to facilitate. Be home for the contractors. Be available for the assessors. Be able to manage my 5 year old around the remediation equipment. Make this all work with my husband working nights still, sleeping on the couch, while getting the kids to and from their school and other activities; be available to let people in, schedule all the work, while still cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, taking care of the dogs, grocery shopping, getting my 5 year old to sleep every night amidst the noise and the chaos and a parade of workers coming in and out of the house … while trying to secure our new rental, and packing to move… in the middle of an alarmingly high amount of COVID in the community…
When it all gets spelled out like that, it really seems like the dumpster fire has already been lit. This house is uninhabitable. Though the rental market demands patience on finding a place to go. Like the others, the millions of people in California that make up 45% of the state – us, the people that rent either by circumstance or choice – what choices do we have? What recourse or urgency is there to provide us with safe and available housing? Who is representing us? What politicians will do something – anything – to right these wrongs?
I wish I could write one, fucking newsletter without starting off with something like: welp, what a mess this world is. But we’re 12 issues in, and sure as hell nothing has gotten any better.
In fact, I’d wager, it’s gotten worse.
I’m starting to find myself looking at things going on in the world – shootings, violence, crime, and the like – more as evidence that people are starting to snap, than anything else. Sure, gun safety reform and legislation is absolutely necessary; so is more adequate access to mental health services. As are a host of other things that create an insurmountable amount of pressure that, for some, just ends up being too much.
I do not condone anything that is happening in that space, but I have to say that I understand. I really do.
People can just only take so much. So much pain, death, disease, hardship, and lack of care.
In any event, let’s get to it.
Around the World
Dr. Oz won his primary this week, in the same general vein and district patterns that Trump did.
In other words: we’re fucked.
Not that authoritarianism isn’t already kind-of sort-of going on already. To be more clear: it is. The Biden Administration has taken the road of doing what they think is best, even though it is antithetical to even some of the fundamental principals and mandates upon which they were voted in. And I’m not even just talking about areas in which they are strapped, and their hands are supposedly tied (which they are not, and we’ll get to in a minute). But when an Administration makes as many blunders as this one has, and keeps cow-towing to the Republican and corporate demands that are not in the best interest of the people, while having essentially a blank check for a foreign war that the majority of people did not co-sign…
Well Houston… we have a problem. This is how you invite hyper-nationalistic fascism to the dinner table.
It is my belief that the Democrats have rendered themselves impotent in the name of old-timey bipartisanship and, well, capitalism. Not only has Joe Biden failed to hold true to many of his campaign promises in 2020, his Administration has largely failed to meet the moment on a number of crises that have occurred around the country, and world, since. Have they been an abject failure? Well no, but on the areas in which they have had a mandate, they continue to fall short.
What does not make sense is being elected to do those very specific things and then just … not…
Democrats, and the Admin, are great at pointing the finger, except for when it comes to pointing it at themselves. As I see it, a number of factors are getting in the way of them achieving any of their promises, and securing enough wins in the fall to hold the majority. Oftentimes, they remind me of one of my old boyfriends who would defeat himself with inaction and procrastination; it was easier to point blame and feel sorry for himself than to actually try and be successful. Because once you’ve been successful, well how will you win the next round (in the case of the Dems, what will you campaign on?).
But, if we’re being frank here: I don’t see the Democrats doing anything with the majority anyway (they always, invariably, find an excuse not to). Now they’re on some grand campaign to gaslight America, to try and make people believe that their material conditions aren’t actually worse, that things aren’t really hard right now, that inflation and housing and jobs and everything in between isn’t really affecting them… that we all just don’t understand, which – in my own personal experience – is the D’s traditional line when they’re pinned up against the wall. And this is, sadly, exactly why the vast majority of people in America see them as elitist assholes who, frankly, do not serve anyone but themselves.
The bottom line that hardline Democrats are failing to understand is that average Americans – the people that vote only when they care about something – are not party line voters. They will not Vote Blue No Matter who if Blue doesn’t do anything for them before the next election. Republicans get it, they give their voters the things that they explicitly are elected to do (often times, judges and an elimination of government control). Numbers of non partisan or so-called Independent voters have grown in exponential numbers, around the country, for decades, and it’s why so many of our elections are unpredictable, and communities are largely a purple swath of people that sway with their conditions at the time the ballots are cast.
Blaming people is an ineffective tool if but only because of all those factors I mentioned getting in the way. Among them are: a refusal to reform the filibuster, a refusal to utilize the bully-pulpit of the Presidency, an Administration that is both ignorant and incompetent on important issues until it is too late (see: Omicron, baby formula), a President that is living in the past (the days of bipartisan deals and being good friends with Mitch), and, well, capitalism.
Even on issues like the economy, Joe Biden has a fiscal policy that is politically to the right of Nixon. Just think about that for a minute. President Nixon – a traitor to democracy – did more for economic stabilization to stave off inflation and recession than Joe Biden will. His plan for the economy is laughable, at best. Beyond the fact that average Americans are largely unaffected by the deficit (an arbitrary and made up concept to begin with), the bulk of his plan to deal with inflation and the economy is all the talking points of that failed piece of legislation – Build Back Beyond, or whatever it was called – that Manchin vetoed, they promised to break up, and haven’t talked about since. They’re empty promises, just like COVID funding and calling on Congress to do something about guns. Rather than flex the powers of the executive branch that Biden actually does have, he’s making remarks, letting his Administration correct them, saying he didn’t see pretty much everything coming (including the formula shortage, which is unforgivable as I see it), then heading home for a three day weekend in Delaware, seemingly just as much as Trump used to golf. It’s insanity!
(And I say this all as a Democrat, with absolutely no skin in the game. Think about that one too…)
Around My World
Welp, the lesson I’m learning now is that when you go through hard shit, you learn who your real friends and family are.
We’ve been looking for a rental since January, and shit just gets uglier and uglier by the day.
We’ve now spent $3,960 on non-refundable application fees, and the rejections are getting stupider by the day. Today, after being effectively approved on a home, we were then told “sorry, a military family contacted us we’re going with them.” This is the second time this happened in the last two weeks.
My daughter who is 14 went with my husband to one viewing, and the realtor showing the home thought she was his girlfriend. I guess not getting selected for that home was a blessing in disguise.
We are now at three homes that we are waiting to hear back on. This is how it goes. It’s 3 then 5 then down to 2; it got so confusing at a point that I had to make a spreadsheet for us to keep track, which is a depressing sheet of just strikes through addresses and notes like “probably not going to work for us too small,” and “has 117 other applicants.”
So as of now we’re at three, one is ideal for our family, another sort of ideal but outdated, and the third was a scene of a crime today when, three doors down, a man was arrested after the chopped up remains of his mother were found in the community dumpster.
Meanwhile, we’re still in our temporary rental. It has dampness and mold, no ventilation, an outdated circuit breaker that could catch fire at any moment with all the lights around the house flickering, and no emergency exit that will open. The dampness has caused me to have a sinus infection for 4 weeks now, and I am covered in hives; but God forbid I mention that in casual conversation, then – it’s becoming more and more common – I never hear from whomever I’m talking to again.
It’s not that I mean to just complain all the time. It’s just that this is a pretty big thing going on in our lives right now, and when people ask how things are going, I take that to mean they actually want to know…
Because that’s the real lesson in all of this. Not that California’s housing crisis is greater than anyone not experiencing it could ever imagine. Not that 45% of the state is a renter and virtually no one in public office on any level is doing anything to represent them with the urgency of this unprecedented crisis. Not that landlords are literal scum, and your house can literally harm you physically.
No, it’s that when these types of things happen, a lot of people in your life just… disappear. Because it makes them feel bad to talk about their vacations when they know you have to spend your spare cash on application fees, and an $800 a month gas bill so your kids can still go to their activities after you had to move out of town.
To them I just have to say: I am very sorry that my personal predicament makes you uncomfortable in your privilege.
There are also those that themselves contribute to the problem by hoarding empty homes, or subjugating the middle and working class into uninhabitable conditions as landlords. I’m not saying that all landlords are bad, just that if you are a landlord or employed somehow in this line of work, and find yourself justifying (or attempting to justify) ostensibly horrible conditions and situations… I don’t know, maybe you’re just a horrible person. I’ll never forget the conversation I had with a friend about mold in the kitchen cabinets; a friend who herself works as a property manager for a relatively large company in Los Angeles County. She said to me “well you know you can’t expect to have a home AND have it be livable all the time,” and that – ladies and gentlemen – was the end of our friendship.
You Can’t Unsee This
Sorry to burst your bubble. This is the current rate of COVID transmission in the US. You are being lied to if someone is telling you it’s over. It’s not. COVID is still very real. Living with it does not mean just infecting people all willy-nilly (more on that in a post next week…).
Get your masks back on, at least in situations where vulnerable people may be present. Consider scaling back on gatherings.
And if this monkeypox thing blows up…
I live in Southern California, but the truth to the matter is that all over the world people are experiencing the changing climate. A part of that is that droughts like we have never experienced are cropping up all over.
The effects this will have on crops, life in general, is a more serious conversation for another day. For now, I’d like to talk about people with grass lawns, and golf courses.
In So Cal, we have been restricted to only water once per day, and who-boy have the crazies come out.
One group is asking why we are building more apartments and houses if we don’t have enough water infrastructure to water our palatial lawns and take 2 hour showers every day. Well, first and foremost, all those people that are living in RVs, in homeless encampments, in tents in people’s backyards, in their cars, in local motels… they have a right to live in a home too. They exist. They are more important than your fucking grass yard and 1970s ol’ reliable washing machine, Janice. Unless they all just up and die (which, to be frank, I’m sure many of these NIMBY fucks would be fine with), they need a place to live. This doesn’t have a single thing to do with watering restrictions. So shut the fuck up to them.
But also, and this is going to blow all of your minds, the people defending the watering restriction and conservation guidelines need to shut the fuck up too. I know! Crazy, right?
In California, as an example, only 10% of water usage is attributed to people’s homes. Brushing your teeth a little less, taking shorter showers, washing your clothes less frequently, and only watering your lawns once or less a week, is not going to do a damn thing to really make the sizable dent in the water reserves that will be needed for the long term. So the people going after those complaining about grass lawns and their plants dying for real need to shut the fuck up. Because who you need to really go after are the golf courses, high schools, businesses, and agricultural sectors not doing their part.
There is absolutely no reason why golf courses and high school football fields should be exempt from water restrictions, and yet they are. More to the point: Big Ag could make substantial changes to their watering processes to irrigate more efficiently and with less run off, but they won’t because – duh – Big Money.
Rather than go after someone reasonably pissed that all the investment they’ve made in their yard – whether you agree with that investment or not – is about to die (because watering once per day is honestly not going to keep a damn thing alive), why not focus your anger at the politicians and the golf course and agriculture lobbyists that are passing the ultimate burden onto the rest of us? Because they are the enemy, and until you recognize that I think it’s time to just…
This is starting to feel like a diary of my demise, these housing situation updates. If you’re late to this glamorous party, here are some links to get caught up… don’t worry, I’ll be right here when you get back. Stuck. In this hell.
Link to my post when we first came to our temporary rental home HERE.
Link to my article about the housing crisis in California, including our part in it HERE.
Link to my post about how we are managing in our temporary rental home (grimly) HERE.
Link to my commentary on landlords in general HERE.
You can see that I waffle between incredibly personal updates, and ones that are simply more general or not specific, rather speaking to the crisis at large. That’s because I want to share my story, while also discussing the very real and certain reality that millions of Californians – actually, no, Americans – are experiencing at this moment.
If you don’t know about, and/or have empathy for, the situation for renters of this country (in my state of California, roughly 45% of the entire population), then you honestly have absolutely no soul. When my husband and I committed to renting, we did so in a time that renting was a luxury: it was a matter of being able to lock up and go whenever you want, be free of property taxes and exorbitant costs of maintenance, and it ensured we didn’t get into a position of being in over our heads. Now, the script has flipped, and after our landlord terminated our lease that fateful day in January (the 4th, to be exact), we have been thrust into the position of being in insecure and unsafe housing.
(I’ll get to the insecure and unsafe part for us in a minute.)
Last week I watched a fantastic documentary on the homelessness problem in Los Angeles on my local Fox News station. I’m not a fan of Fox, but this is the local one (Fox 11) and they tend to be more balanced, moderate, and local… a lot of news reports from the zoo, and quirky local weather forecasts. That kind of thing. What struck me in the documentary, though, was the emphasis on mental health. People tend to think that mental health and addiction issues are the reason for homelessness, when the truth to the matter (just reported recently by the LA Times) is that less than 30% of people that fall into homelessness are mentally ill or addicted to substances at the time they go to live on the streets. But what was stated in this documentary, and to which I understand fully, is that for that 70% – the ones that just fell on hard times: once people are thrust into insecure housing, a series of events and lack of social support happen that affect them so profoundly there is just no way their mental (and in some cases physical) health will not decline. It just won’t.
I see myself cracking around the edges, as well as my children. We’ve now been here for just over three months, and my 14 year old now is having what appear to be panic attacks. We’re roughly 45 minutes away from where she is to go to high school in the fall, but we still don’t know if we’ll even be able to get back before then. She’s enrolled, registered; but as the cost of gas rises, I am now spending over $800 a month just to take the kids to the school groups, tennis lessons, doctors, and friend activities. When school starts, we don’t have some magic fund from which we can draw to pay $9 and $10 a gallon that is being projected to keep driving to and from our old home every day; we can’t even sustain the $6 we are paying now. And anyway, as I’ve addressed in previous posts, with two other kids and absolutely no consistent and regular support system, I just cannot even say now that I am going to be able to make that happen. Of course my older and younger kids are both stressed to the maximum too, the oldest affecting her menstrual health and endometriosis that is now warranting emergency room visits, the youngest affecting his sleep and overall learning and focus; and – well – the fact that I’ve had a sinus infection for 4 weeks, and now my entire body is covered in stress hives sort of speaks for itself.
… so at least for the kids and I? The ship seems to be going down. Fast.
Compounding this is that the longer we stay here in this temporary rental, the more boils to the surface.
Several parts of the wall, ceiling, and baseboard around the house of our temporary rental are bubbling out with moisture;
We ran a mold kit both up and downstairs and black mold was detected in the dust in the air;
We purchased a moisture meter and almost every room in the house sounds the alarm;
One window upstairs and one window in the downstairs bathroom actually opens, no other windows in the home open;
Both sliding glass doors to the backyard were installed improperly, making the emergency exits difficult to open, at times impossible;
There are roots in the sewer, it has so far backed up twice, one of the times in a dramatic moment of raw sewage spraying into my 5 year old’s face;
The circuit breaker is old and in need of updating, it has burn marks on the rubber around the edge and the landlord refuses to repair or replace it;
The neighbor next door is psychotic, which we’ve discussed in previous posts; but moreover, the neighbors on both sides smoke cigarettes within 25 feet of our backyard making it impossible for our children to use;
The sprinkler is broken, and while this isn’t exactly dangerous – per se; the HOA refuses to fix it, nor to turn it off (we have no access to the controls), and in a drought this is going to result in a hefty water bill of wasted water and fines;
At this time, the landlord has refused to address these issues. I could certainly call the area housing authority, or the fire department, about the clear code and safety violations. And also, we have sought legal counsel that has assured us our warrant of habitability has been broken and we can legally leave at any time with no penalty to us. But then what? At that point we’d likely be given notice to leave and have absolutely nowhere to go.
Our search for new housing has been going on since January 4th. So many people have criticized us for moving here, but what other options did we have? Exactly one: an apartment in the ghetto, where a methamphetamine lab was recently busted by the area sheriff’s department. Not exactly the best area.
Otherwise, it was this, or living in our cars. Or a hotel, if we could find one that would rent us three rooms we could all cram in, plus a storage unit for all of our things, for the price of rent we pay per month. Most local motels have largely filled up with locals that are in a similar situation, though, and remember we live in coastal California: ie, tourist area, so hotel room pricing peaks at this time as is. Again, we could have joined the renters that have strapped their mattresses to their car roofs, driving around and sleeping in parking lots. California has such an exponentially worsening situation in this space, they’ve set up entire lots with security, port a potties, and toaster ovens with picnic tables for people’s safety while they sleep and exist. I don’t know, it might get to that at some point.
For now, this was all we’ve had as an option. When our lease termination was closing in, we had to take what we have been offered. And to be fair, we tried to be positive about it, but it was hard after just a couple of weeks. Every week is effectively a lifetime in this place: a lifetime of worsening mental and physical health, exponentially rising financial costs, and more of a casual drift downward into the place these landlords and the housing crisis has subjugated our family to be.
This became even more clear to me this past weekend when a realtor friend of mine helped us find out more information on our landlords in this temporary rental. To call them slumlords is a woeful understatement of the situation. We cruised by a few of their other rentals, and considered ourselves fortunate that black mold and possibly dying in an electrical fire in an unescapable home in the middle of the night is all we have to deal with. One of the rentals they manage has a tarp for a roof; another a port a potty in the front yard. Given our experience with their refusal to do maintenance here, it makes sense; of 20 rentals they own and manage, maybe they just got in over their heads on investments, right?
Wrong. My friend also managed to get us details on the landlord’s property as well – you know, the one he lives in. I figured it must be a scummy, slimy home too… he just has his tenants live in the type of conditions he himself finds acceptable. Right? … right?
While I won’t dox his address or give any details, I will leave it just at this: his mansion is worth $4.9M and sits on 20 acres of farmland that he also owns and operates. Like a castle looking down upon his peasants, this man is bathing in $100 bills for leisure.
And his tenants just don’t have any choice.
What’s heinous about it is that since January, we’ve now applied to 30 different rentals, all of which we applied to only after we were overwhelmingly sure we were more than qualified. Why not just shoot for the moon? Well, we have four legal adults that have to apply, which comes to about $30-$40 non refundable fees per application, per person. Back of the napkin math? We’ve spent over $3800 just to apply to all these rentals, of which we have been so far offered this one and a meth lab apartment.
People have told us to make more income, as if this suggestion is not preposterous enough as is, that would be all fine and good if only they knew that in most cases we make 4, 5, and in one application even 6 times the rent. The requirement is 3. The problem isn’t the credit scores or the income or the number of people. There are simply not enough houses, not enough apartments, and absolutely no local representation for tenants. At all.
I keep trying to remind myself to be patient. We’ll find a new rental eventually. But will we? And at what cost? There are physical and financial, and at some points mental, costs to this situation at this point, that I cannot see us withstanding for much longer. At some point we have to pull the plug and stop the faucet on the application fees; at some point we have to make choices on our children and their futures and education. What I do know is that we have utterly failed them, and when I watched that documentary on my local Fox station – the one on homelessness, the crisis and its tolls – I could see what this shame and hopelessness of failing your children, no matter how hard you’ve tried, does to a parent.
And when we do pull the plug on this house search, and accept our lives amidst sadness and hopelessness? Then what? I honestly have no idea.
Of course the irony of me calling landlords “literal scum,” is that many of them actually view renters in the same vein. And, in both cases, there are likely a whole scale on which you could plot individuals who either landlord or tenant. Some are probably genuinely good people, just using their starter home as a way to make a little extra income in their retirement; and in the case of tenants, most are simply middle or working class people that find themselves the product of capitalism run amuck. There are always going to be slumlords, of course; and there will also be your occasional renters that burn cigarette holes in the carpet, and mix meth in the bathtub.
This is no different, though, than your average home owner. For every slumlord that expects others to live in mold and grime, I’m sure there are just as many voluntarily doing it themselves. And, well you know, people that make drugs actually are often homeowners, because — duh – who else can afford a house in this market?
If you are a landlord, this is of no offense to you. I’m sure you’re a nice person. But, if you continue reading this and see some of your own behaviors in what I am about to describe…
… well, it’s time to start evaluating your behaviors.
As many of you know, we’ve been looking for a new rental home for what feels like forever. In January our lease was terminated so that our landlord’s friends could move into the home we had rented and taken care of as our own for years; and because they callously refused to give us a little extra time to find a new rental, we wound up 45 minutes away from our home and community in a temporary rental that is looking less and less temporary by the day.
The process of finding a new rental has been less than desirable.
It’s common knowledge, now, that a security deposit is really just a tip or a bonus that your landlord nickels and dimes to death at the end of your tenancy, so as to never have to give you a penny of that back. And say you are able to get some of that money back… Well your landlord put that in a bond, cd, or savings all those years and earned interest… and you? Well, you’re not going to see a penny of that (the interest earned on your money).
What’s absolutely bananas now, though, is that while people purchasing homes are getting into bidding wars over house prices; renters are now getting into all out bidding wars over rent, and security deposits. We’ve had several rejections now that were as simple as the other party was able to offer upwards of double or triple the security deposit.
Back of the napkin math, at the prices and the security deposit limits in California: that’s people offering $10,000, $13,000, in some cases even $18,000 for the security deposit, alone. Just to get the edge over other applicants. And while laws prohibit what a landlord can require, nothing stops them in any amount that they are allowed to take.
Maintenance is tricky in a rental because, while required to provide you with a habitable home, the definition of habitable is very subjective. When you sign a standardized lease, it’ll say something to the effect of: you accept the condition of the home as is. But most of the time, if the landlord even takes the time to show you the rental, they want you in and out in a matter of just a few minutes at the viewing.
We just attended a viewing of a home we did not get selected for last week, and the place was not only limited in the amount of time the irritable property manage let us look at it for, but it was a complete disaster. Had we been able to even see the counters, we may have uncovered major cosmetic issues; or holes in walls, or missing essentials. It was just that much of a pigsty, the previous renter being a real estate agent herself who apparently didn’t think renters deserved to actually view the condition of the floors or sinks. We left at the point when we needed to measure the room that our California King bed would go in, and the door wouldn’t even fully open because there was so much stuff on the floor. I guess to a landlord, if your bed doesn’t fit you should just sleep on the concrete tile.
I took some heat for complaining about this over on Facebook – busy mom, you should worry about the home itself not the mess. Well the issue was that the mess and the rush of the viewing made it virtually impossible to see the home itself, and potentially major maintenance issues. And maybe that was the point. Major maintenance issues often can’t be noticed until you’ve lived in the home for a while. At the temporary rental we’re in now, after spending just over two months here, we’ve discovered:
Mold and moisture in the floorboards
An electrical problem through the entire house
No working garbage disposal
Roots in the sewer line
And quite a few more minor things that are inconvenient, not dire, but for the amount we pay should be fixed
The problem with maintenance of course is several fold. First, it’s common knowledge that landlords retaliate for major maintenance issues, especially appliances that have to be repaired. In our prior rental, we suspect that at least part of their decision, or the way it played out, was retaliation for the fact that the oven broke and had to be replaced just a few months before they terminated our tenancy. Retaliation is – of course – illegal; as is outright refusing to make repairs. But what are you going to do? Go to court? Sue them?
Some states have laws that protect you, that allow you to claim what’s called warrant of habitability. You have several options, legally, at that point: you can move out without notice, repair and deduct, refuse to pay your rent… But under any and all circumstances, you’d better be prepared for attorney retainers and a court battle.
Back to the rental we are in now: we’ve already had one maintenance issue outright refused, and another blamed on us simply because they didn’t know about it until someone moved here. Bottom line? Landlords are literal scum, and expect their tenants to live among that which they leave in their trail.
They’re Doing You A Favor, Ok?
The most pervasive, and the same time backwards, attitude that I have come across over the last year is that landlords are doing us a favor by letting us live in their homes.
First of all, many landlords (again, not all; but many) are actually major corporations or big time, locally owned, commercial property management companies. These are not their personal homes that they lovingly cared for over decades and just grew out of, and decided to rent out instead of sell to help fund their retirement. Even single property owners that have no personal history with a home are becoming more prevalent in the rental market: it’s a money maker, after all.
At our last rental, the one we got booted out of, the owners had 10 other properties around the county, and had purchased the one we lived in and immediately turned it around to rent out without ever stepping a foot into the house.
But the idea of ownership is so uniquely built in to the fabric of our society… They’re doing you a favor, ok? If they didn’t own the home, you’d have nowhere to live. Right?
In California, as just one example, approximately 45% of the state identifies as a renter, which – obviously – is almost half the state’s population. But the issue isn’t that without ownership we’d all have nowhere to live; it’s actually that the owners (again many of whom are mostly just investors, property management companies, and large corporations) have an absolute death grip over municipal and county governments, and their lobby has profoundly limited even the amount of housing that is built for anyone – rent or buy. Have you ever looked at the campaign finance disclosures for your local elections? It’s typically one realtor and broker, property manager, and property investor after another that donates to local candidates, as well as the local and state real estate PACs that have the explicit interest of keeping the market hot in mind. Their sway – the NIMBYism, or practice of not wanting to build more and adequate housing in a timely manner, has created such an unprecedented crisis of housing availability that its effects are a little much to even wrap your head around: they’ve not only driven up rental prices, but they’ve created this environment of competition that leaves middle and lower income renters with few options, filling up short term rentals, local motels, and side streets with entire families living in their cars (or worse) simply because there just is not enough housing to go around.
Of course the irony is that were it not for renters, these types of corporations – the Blackrocks of the world; the small time property management companies and commercial investors; the realtors that are in the rental game too; and, single or limited individuals that have a extra property they do not need to use personally, so use it to help fund their retirements, vacations, or… whatever…
… well while they’re of the opinion that they’re doing renters a favor, the reality is that none of their profit margins would exist were it not for renters paying them on the 1st of every damn month.
And that is, ultimately when you get down to it, the rub of it all: that landlords and tenants both think the other is what they themselves may very well be. Delinquent. Doing you a favor. Scum.
But as a renter, myself, who has neither the money nor the interest in owning a home in this country, and this economy, I have to side with the underdog on this. Landlords are absolute scum. Maybe it’s unfair to paint them all with the same brush, but then that’s what they’ve all done to us. Two can play at this game.
Don’t you love how every time I say I’m going to try to get back into writing the newsletter every week, and then I – like – say I’m going to really and truly hold myself accountable “this time,” I then disappear on the newsletter-front for about a month? Or more? Every time?
Around the World
So how about that monkeypox?
What an absolute shit show this world is. We have Russia continuing to hedge the world closer and closer to World War 3, an ongoing SARS2 pandemic that is just being made worse by incompetent public officials and capitalist governments, Roe is about to be overturned, and now we have monkeypox, aka mini small pox.
So if you aren’t following BNO Newsroom on Twitter yet, I highly recommend you do so. They post about a number of news items, including a tracker on COVID and now, I guess, monkeypox. What’s so scary about monkeypox I think is actually that it’s spread much more widely and rapidly than in previous outbreaks, which implies that something about it, or us, may have changed; and the fact that its closest relative in small pox can spread 9 miles through the air. While they know what to do, how to deal with it that is… I think the trauma response from the last two years of absolute clusterfuck that’s been COVID is just rearing its head.
Know how to deal with it, or not, I just have no interest.
Beyond pandemic disease, the ongoing climate crisis (which I, personally, believe the pandemic disease stuff is a part of), and all the other shit going on (war, economy, gas prices… you know…), it’s election season. If you’re in California, it’s time to get your ballots in. And while I don’t know the schedules of all the other states, I do know you need to vote, even if it’s just writing yourself in because practically everyone else in public office or politics right now is a piece of shit.
(There, I said it. Someone had to. And yes, I wrote myself in on at least one spot of my ballot.)
What’s interesting about the primary election is that it’s happening as COVID is surging, and so – like it or not – I think this is profoundly impacting both people’s votes, and pandemic policy.
As we see cases of COVID in SoCal, and hospitalizations along with them, rise rapidly, officials still hold their trigger fingers on bringing masks back – even in notoriously mask-friendly Los Angeles. Personally, I understand keeping them off in places like movie theaters and restaurants – those are totally optional entertainment venues, risk takers beware.
But now it’s spread (that mask-free life, I mean) to pharmacies, grocery stores, and doctors offices, which is just insane. People don’t have a choice to stay away from them, so of all the places we should have masks it’s there. And yet, we have no policy, which makes me believe that the election is – once again – swaying health policy. In the words (or word) of Donald Trump: SAD!
Apparently at least a few people agree with me; late last night I posted a Twitter poll and almost all respondents believed that the election is at least partially influencing mask policy.
Around My World
Welp, we’ve been looking for a new place to move to. Again. I know, I know. We just moved, but we know how to get out of our lease easily, and legally; and so we’ve been looking for a new spot back home and out of this remarkably bad, potentially dangerous, situation.
The whole experience of finding a rental in California is so strange. On one hand, 45% of Californians rent, and so you would think that there would be some basic understanding that renters are people too. In my county, this constitutes roughly 400,000 people – that’s no small number of people, and they rent for a variety of reasons, including convenience.
Yet still, you come across so many people that consider renters to just be the absolute scum of the Earth, which is rich when you consider the fact that if it weren’t for that so-called scum, landlords would not have so much extra money from which to avail their own lifestyles.
There is then, of course, the whole matter of going to look at places, only to be confronted with the conditions that they present.
Earlier in the week, we visited a house that was literally crumbling apart. I mean the wall was crumbling to the ground during the viewing. The owner had marked the price so ridiculously high for the amount of square footage she was offering, and admitted in the course of the tour that she was simply trying to recoup her expenses from repairs she had to do before renting it out.
That’s not… how it works…
Then yesterday, we visited a home that was being rented out by a property management company. The home was previously being rented by a couple of real estate agents that had moved to the area and rented while purchasing their own home; they said they were moving out in the middle of July.
So we showed up for the open viewing, which meant about 10 other people showed up as well. We all waited and waited, for no one to be there. Someone finally called the property management company and – apparently – the realtor that had been living there had agreed to show the home. Well she wasn’t there, so she lied; so this man from the management company came over to let everyone (that remained) in.
I’m surprised anyone could get in the front door.
This. House. Was. Trashed. We are talking garbage all over the floor, on the counters. A white board piled on top of their kid’s highchair. Counters covered in products; laundry baskets everywhere, Target bags all over the floor. It looked like a literal tornado had come through the room.
While I completely and 100% respect the struggle of a family with young kids, if you’re a realtor yourself and you (a) do not show up when you say you will, and (b) leave the house in a literally unshowable condition, you’re a dick. You’ve treated your peer in the field (the property manager) and his clients with total disrespect. And you’ve made it nearly impossible for prospective renters to actually see the condition of the home (upon further reflection, I really wonder if that was the point).
It’s also a violation of a standard lease in California. I went back and looked at our last two leases: both state quite clearly that in the last 30 days before moving out, you agree to have the home available and in a clean condition for viewing.
Again, I sympathize with being a busy parent, but that’s not what was going on here, and for us it made it difficult to even assess if the home would work. Many people walked in, saw the mess, and just walked out.
We have some furniture that requires space, so we needed to be able to measure a couple of spaces to make sure it would all fit. There were rooms we could not even get in to. The doors would not open. How could we possibly make the call to take that rental under those conditions? Surely someone will accept that kind of shit, just as in the case with the crumbling home from earlier in the week; but just because someone will does not make it right to expect them to. And that fails, on top of everything else, to recognize that you are responsible for the condition of the home, even if you’ve accepted it as is. This is to say that as a renter, if the house is crumbling, you take responsibility for that – including, when it comes time to return your security deposit.
I think this speaks to a bigger issue: of thinking of renters as people that should just take whatever they can get. When I posted about it on Facebook, naturally several people came after me and said that the mess was not an issue, that I should be more sympathetic (I deleted the post shortly after putting it up, because – honestly – I just did not want to hear about how many people in my personal life are cool with professionals disrespecting each other, and treating renters like they don’t deserve to actually inspect a home they are planning to spend a significant chunk of their lives in). What about sympathy for renters that need to check the home though; for the ones that came to that showing today having taken time off work (there were at least two, that I could tell)?
Perhaps a bigger issue: why is it that we have to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, even when the facts tell us that in this instance we should not?
The only thing that will resolve this is hard and fast legislation and public policy that develops more housing to address both the needs and rights of the middle and working classes. Until then, it’s Target bags, and crumbling walls. If your furniture doesn’t fit, or the trash was covering holes in the floor… well you’re SOL.
You Can’t Unsee This
Today my kids were making collages with this amazing collage book my 14 year old has, and I decided to grab all the election mail trash I received and make my own. It sums up well what I think of most of our local electeds and politicians.
It’s called “Welcome to the Nothing Will Ever Chance Circus: Sorry About the Dilapidated Tent, In This Economy It’s All We Could Afford” The cost of admission to the circus is a $50 campaign contribution, and a blood oath to Big Oil. There are several candidates featured, one has a bright red clown nose, one has a number of supporters that are racist so I made his head pointy and have him saying “My head is as pointy as my supporters’ white hoods.”
In the foreground is our State Assemblywoman. She’s a real thorn in my side, because in 2020 when I ran for city council, she – a Democratic woman – endorsed my opponent – a misogynistic Trump Republican – and even sent out mailers against me – also a Democratic woman. At a candidate’s event she and I were both in attendance, she made perhaps the stupidest comment I have ever heard a candidate make, so I immortalized it in my collage. She says “At the 2020 Islamic Center candidate forum, I was asked what I would do for the Muslim community of Ventura County if re-elected. I didn’t plan to do anything, so I responded “I enjoy your food.””
I don’t have many to say shut the fuck up to this week, but I do still have one in me for a handful of the people that had the audacity over the last couple of days to tell me that candidates should not be judged by their donors.
Only an insipid clown in the show at the Nothing Will Ever Change Circus would think that campaign finance does not have a direct correlation to what a candidate goes on to do, or more often not do, while in office.
To them, I say shut the fuck up. Real hard.
And for the rest of you, if you happen to be local to me, this was in response to a voter guide I posted just outlining some of the highlights from the local races and their campaign finance reports. I don’t usually post these kinds of hyper-local things on this blog, but it seemed an important election to do so. If you fall in that group, you can find that HERE.
Have a good weekend everyone. Rest up, you just don’t know what’s up next in the roller coaster that is 2022.
This is a personal update, and has a major trigger warning: a lot of heavy shit, massive complaining, and hard knocks situations. But, it’s time to stop being stoic, and start being honest. Maybe that’ll come up with some solutions – flushing them out here, in a blog; because right now I’m out of them.
I’ve mentioned a few times that we recently moved. It feels like a lifetime ago, but the reality is that it’s only been about two and half months since we got the keys to the place. I guess, when you’re miserable, time slogs along at a snail’s pace. I’ve tried to gaslight myself, as have others: chalk it up to depression, chalk it up to turning 40 this year, chalk it up to the fact that I did not get into a doctoral program I worked three years to get into at the same time as we moved. I tried rationalizing it as something millions of other Californians are going through.
While all of these may be a little piece of the truth pie sitting at our table beginning to rot, the reality of the situation is that we – my family unit – is in a pretty bad place, and it’s only getting worse.
(And when I say “sitting at our table,” this is of course a mischaracterization of our home… there isn’t even room for a table in our home that we can all fit at anymore.)
We Were In The Worst Position To Move
When we received our notice that our landlord had decided to terminate our lease, we were probably in the worst position imaginable to move. I wrote a letter to them, begging to let us stay just a couple of extra months until the end of the school year – the beginning of summer. I outlined the reasons with total honesty.
The first was that our now-18 year old daughter was scheduled to have excision surgery for endometriosis with a specialist in San Francisco in the spring, something we had been waiting over a year to get the a-okay on. Requiring us to move at that same time would make both the logistical and financial aspects of that a complete impossibility, after seeing a considerable loss of our income through the first year of the pandemic.
The second was that our kids and their friends were in years foundational to a kid’s childhood, especially our 8th grader. To rip them out of their communities in that time would, in our view, be absolutely devastating to their mental health.
The third was that the housing market for rentals was going to be difficult to navigate. We had cared for the home as if it were out own for over five years, and paid our rent in full and and on time without question. Even when we had a 30% reduction in pay for the bulk of 2020. It seemed fair to ask for a couple extra months to find a place so our kids could stay in their community. This isn’t like we are a military family, where moves are expected and this was our choice. It was sudden, it was unexpected, and we were given very little warning.
In that letter, we also made a number of offers. We offered to pay considerably more in rent to allow us to stay until June. We offered, if they were planning to sell the home, to make it readily available for work, and showings.
Their response was callous and cruel: to reject our request, with absolutely no reason why. A lot of friends and family surmised that this was because they had planned to quickly get the house on the market for sale. In reality – we learned from several friends we left behind that lived on the same street – it was so one of the landlord’s family members could take the home.
You all can imagine the result: my daughter’s endometriosis surgery has now been indefinitely postponed. The kids missed out on much of the year’s things with friends, even though I have tried as hard as I could to drive them back for all of them. We were forced to take whatever was available, even though it was far away and a significant increase in our monthly cost of living, our rent alone now constituting 46% of our monthly income, with a host of other additional costs of living where we now live.
And as it turned out, this was only just the beginning.
I Had a Premonition
Originally I thought that the worst of the stress was going to be finding a place, and moving to it. Moving is the absolute worst, and we were doing it under forced circumstances.
Now I’m not saying that I’m psychic or that I actually believe I had a premonition. But I do often have hunches that turn out right, typically my anxiety piques for a reason, and more than anything I listen to my dreams, because they’re telling me what I already know and don’t want to believe or admit.
About a week after we moved to our new place – a whopping 45 minutes in the best of circumstances from our old home and our entire lives – I had a bizarre dream about moving, and woke up thinking and the move was just the beginning, the worst is yet to come. In an instant, the reality that I had not been focusing on (just trying to get myself, my husband, my three kids, and my 79 year old dad moved, and the house looking as nice as I could make it) came crashing down on me, and it was true.
The move was just the beginning, the worst was yet to come.
For the Kids
So I’ve mentioned the situation with our 18 year old, but more than that this has put her entire life’s plans into peril. At the time that we were notified of our move, she was being scouted by several colleges to play tennis. But the thought of being that far away from home, and making that kind of a commitment, was too much for her if she had not yet had her surgery.
The problem now? Several-fold.
First, and foremost, the surgery requires a significant amount of financial commitment – travel, hotel, the costs of the surgery, and so on. We also will have to go back on a waiting list, which at the moment is over a year long. That, probably, is a blessing in disguise because – as I said – we were totally unprepared financially to move; now financially unprepared for anything medical, dental, or otherwise, to be honest. To be frank: with the exponentially higher cost of living here, and the amount of money it took for us above and beyond our savings to move here, I find it hard to imagine how we will even recover financially from this move, let alone be able to save up for more things years down the road anyway (something I try not to think about too much just yet, because right now it’s about surviving each day). But for now, we’ll stick with… four year college is on hold.
Nevertheless, she has considered two paths until we figure out the surgery: community college, with playing tennis there; and/or coaching for tennis. But still, we come up against more walls, as the community college with the tennis team closest to us is an hour and a half one way, in good traffic; giving lessons would also have to be done around 45 minutes away, as the only courts near us are already reserved by other coaches.
People have suggested we just get her a car – a fair proposition, if we are comfortable with increasing our cost of living even further beyond the bounds of what we can afford; except when beginning to explore this, our HOA notified us that we had already reached the maximum number of cars allowed in the community, and any additional vehicles on the premises beyond 48 hours will be towed (see what I mean when I say they hate renters?). And remember that condition she has that requires surgery? She takes medicine for part of each month that makes driving a bit dicey anyway. Wherever she goes, whatever she does, we need to bank on that she’ll need a ride.
So she is in something of a holding pattern, trying to figure out what to do while feeling entirely helpless to even make that decision. And the clock is ticking – you can’t wait forever to begin the rest of your life, or even your next year. There’s really no winning for her at this time, in this situation, and that we have done this to her at this point of her life is absolutely devastating to me, something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for.
Our middle child, the 14 year old, seems to be relatively okay. Because of the move, she decided that she was definitely going to public high school back home. And while this seems like a positive thing: she’ll be with her friends, her community she’s spent her entire life with, the school is good, and relatively safe compared to other area schools; for myself I’m trying to wrap my head around how exactly I can manage to commute her older sister to school or work or whatever, plus her to school and high school sports…
… and also raise my 5 year old. He will homeschool for primary grades, as his sisters did; but that doesn’t mean he should be forced to just be carted around to chauffeur other people all the time. And then, of course, since he’s reaching the age of starting to get into activities himself… where exactly am I to put him in those? Back home, where we hope to eventually return to and where his sisters have lives? Or here, where we really don’t know anyone and it’s not exactly… safe? And the schedules for everything, should I just expect the schools and the coaches and the activity directors and the other families to work around us and our ridiculous situation? How, doing this all – for the most part – alone, am I to do that?
We’ve explored several options. My husband looked at a few office spaces to use as hubs back home, but none were within our budget, and moreover, most had restrictions about times and who could be there (no little kiddos, which seemed odd). Someone suggested using a family members house as a to-and-from hub. Well first, what family? We have a lot of family, but we may as well live on Mars to them. When we said we were moving, we got little, to no, offers of help. It’s been years since many of them came to a birthday party, a graduation event, invited us to either, or even said “Hello” to us when we’ve seen them at the tennis courts and said “Hi” (and don’t get me started on seeing family members pay little kids we know on Venmo for tennis lessons, when they know our daughter is trying to get her own coaching business going… hurtful does not even describe thatone) – again this is one of those topics we can save for another day, and another post. Even so, we are still trying to be COVID conscious, and so I just would love to know how… that would even work when most everyone else has moved on? Because of my dad, we still have to be careful…
Whatever the case may be, it all comes with a price tag – either a physical one, or an emotional one; and frankly, the piggy bank on both is empty.
But Wait, There’s More
But it isn’t just the logistics of my children and their future that make this situation untenable to all of us.
Because of how few housing units were available, and the competition in the rental market that we were just unable to compete with at the time, we had to take the first place that came available that would approve us and that we could make work, even under dire straights.
Putting it bluntly: this home is way too small. It has the same number of rooms as our old home, but they are infinitely smaller than the other house, which makes things incredibly difficult; and some are open concept or an area of courtyard with no roof, so cannot be actually used as bedrooms or office/study rooms.
My dad’s room is on the second floor and has no closet. That’s right: it has no closet, making me think it was an office that the landlords decided to market as a room. He’s getting older, though (he’s 79 and his mobility is starting to strain), so if he’s having a bad arthritis day, I see him literally dragging himself up the stairs, I’m assuming due to knee and hip pain. Also upstairs is where my husband has set up our bed, all of our storage (forgot to mention there is no attic in this home); and his work space. The walkway between the wall and all of that is so tight that you have to walk sideways at some points just to get an Easter decoration out of the closet, shoved between his jackets and t-shirts.
My son has completely sacrificed a bedroom, and now sleeps downstairs in the largest bedroom with my two teenage daughters. His toys are stored in the garage. Because the room is the largest room in the house (so the natural room to put three people), but only a little larger than the other two rooms upstairs, we had to get rid of his bed. So he sleeps in one bed, and my two teenage daughters sleep in the other. In there, they have their own bathroom, which is good – kids bathroom downstairs, adults bathroom upstairs; except that the lights malfunction, and the landlord refuses to do anything about it, so they have to shower and get ready for the day and in the evening, with the lights off. The flickering is just that bad.
You all may be remembering that my husband works at nights. Yes, the thing they never tell you about the film industry is that hours are shit. His job in post production marketing is from just before 6 pm every evening, until whenever he’s done working in the morning. He doesn’t like to be bothered by our 5 year old during the day, when he sleeps though; so he locks the door to the room. This, coupled with the fact that all of our stuff had to be stored in that bedroom closet (old DVD cases, papers, holidays decorations), being the only storage to speak of in the entire house besides the area by the laundry in the garage, I have to keep my clothes in bins in the kids’ closet downstairs, and use a rolling garment rack that sort of just roams around the house, to store my clothes. And to sleep?
That’s right, I sleep on the couch. For the first year of the pandemic, I slept on the floor in my kids room along with my son. That was better than this, and more comfortable; but not possible, as you can see the floor through out the house is tile. As the pandemic wore on after that first year, we were able to really adapt our house for the long haul, as it became evident that the government wasn’t going to do anything to return actual pre-pandemic normalcy. But now? Now there is just no option but the couch for me. Every night. And because our house is so small, I can hear my husband working all night, I can hear my dad going to the bathroom at 4 in the morning, and when the kids get up… well then I’m up too. No locking bedroom doors and getting a solid 8, or even 4, hours for this lady.
We no longer have a laundry room, those hook ups being in the garage. I know that’s fairly common, though it does make it difficult to do laundry for six people when you live in a desert that gets really hot and dry during the day, and where you can regularly look over while sorting your whites from colors to see whatever the fuck this is:
Even the dogs lose in this situation: whereas at our old home they had a nice, grassy yard they could play in; now they have some concrete and a dirt hill in the back. It doesn’t matter that we have that back area, though: the first couple weeks we were here, our duplex neighbor complained to the landlord that our son was giggling in the back yard and playing with the dogs. So, frankly, we don’t go back there much.
And That’s The Rub
For the short term until we could find a new home, this seemed do-able. But as the days wore into weeks, it became less and less likely that getting out within months was a possibility. And so, hopelessness and depression has become pervasive to our household unit.
I haven’t even gotten into the crime in this community, which is something to write a series of blog posts about. We’ve had white collar crime, squatters, drunken people passed out outside the neighborhood gates, a throuple living next door in their mid-60s (not exactly crime, but also not something I want to have to explain to my 5 year old), someone try to break into our home, and, as mentioned before, our crazy duplex neighbor has it out for us something bad. Beyond the complaints about the mere existence of my son and dogs in her general vicinity, just today, we saw her taking photos of our garage when it was open, and later saw in her garage she has a pinboard with photographs of us and our house pinned up on it. This all, in just over two months.
But again, what even can we do? Can we get out of the lease here? Sure. In fact, we’ve consulted with a lawyer, and it should be easy and cheap to do so. But then what? Having spent our savings, plus recognizing the rental market everywhere right now, it’s hard to see an easy solution. We are not competitive, and have no way to pony up another security deposit, after our old landlord illegally stole ours for nefarious repairs that had nothing to do with our tenancy. There’s no way we can, or are even willing, to purchase a home at this time – it is way beyond our means, and more responsibility than any of us can fathom after everything that’s happened these last few months. Then again, it’s hard to make any decisions when my kids have medical needs I don’t know how to meet, they have educational and social needs that are becoming more difficult by the day; and everyone is literally on top of each other, while I basically do not sleep anymore.
It’s ultimately a dire situation, and hopeless to boot. And while I don’t have answers, and don’t expect any from you, what I do know is that we can all demand more housing and for our elected representatives to solve this crisis the entire country, and especially California, is experiencing right now. That’s about all I have left to hang on at this point.
Unless you live under a rock, you know that Roe and Casey are about to be overturned.
If you do live under a rock, my apologies. Last night, a leak from within the walls of the Supreme Court was published in a Politico article, which included the opinion of the Supreme Court, which has effectively taken an internal vote to overturn both Roe and Casey. This will throw abortion and other healthcare rights back to the states, which will have an avalanche of consequences, including the return of back-alley abortions, and an elimination of privacy for everyone. It also, effectively, makes travel even through a state with outlawed abortion a non-option for millions of young women, as even travel through will be subject to criminal proceedings should a woman later terminate a pregnancy that was merely conceived in the state, in passing. Here is a link to that article; if you need to go read it, we’ll be here waiting when you’re done: LINK.
There is little less in this world quite as grotesque as the actions and words of many within hours of the publication of that article. I am sure more will come.
If I were to include an incomplete list, it would include:
1. Men, like Congressional Representative Eric Swalwell, making this into being about him:
2. Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and the DNC/Joe Biden fundraising off the issue:
3. People who have been promising to protect women for decades, only to repeatedly fall short of doing so
And the big one:
4. Men who believe they have a right to pontificate on how women are allowed to respond, react, feel, and vote/not vote on this issue
And that is, fundamentally, what I am seeing of the most. Men, and a few women as well, taking to Twitter and Tik Tok, Facebook, Instagram – everywhere really – to pontificate and bluster about how this is the fault of young people who didn’t vote in 2016, or this is the fault of people, especially women, that are critical of Biden and the Democrats now.
The problem with that is that it fails to acknowledge history, and the gift that Democrats have been given over and over again over the last 50 years, only to take that gift for granted, much in the way women are often used and abused and then thrown to the side when no longer needed in every day life.
Even if we just consider the last couple of administrations, since the Supreme Court evidenced itself to be a political body in Bush v Gore, you have to accept that:
-In 2009, Obama had a super majority in the Senate for 5 months. Prior to this, he had campaigned on codifying Roe into law, and yet as soon as elected, his agenda shifted and this no longer became a priority. With that super majority, nothing was done.
-In 2014, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked to retire, and she was either too selfish or senile to oblige. People claim that she wanted to wait until a woman was president, but this foolish viewpoint is a grim statement more (in my view) of why the Supreme Court should not be a lifetime appointment; that an age limit should be enforced.
-In 2019, as highlighted above, Biden campaigned on codifying Roe, much like Obama did. And while he has not been gifted a super majority, his weak leadership has only made the problem worse. When asked to expand the court, he created a commission to study it. After spending our tax dollars to research the issue, the group created a 300+ page document that simply provided a history of the Supreme Court, and issued no recommendation. Since then, the issue has been dropped, mentioned now only in passing when things get bad. Moreover, in fall of 2021, the House passed a bill that would codify Roe into law, and the Senate has remained in gridlock on the issue. Most notable though is that a handful of senators did not even show up to vote on the issue, Biden made no public moves to lead with an iron fist on the issue, and to this day he continues to take zero position in favor of nuking the filibuster – even for a carve out on this singular issue, which they have done before, on military spending.
And these last 24 hours, the people in power have again shown us who they are. Pelosi and Schumer issued perhaps the weakest joint statement they have ever issued; Biden did much of the same today. It was more “let’s wait and see what happens,” as if time is not of the essence in this issue, as if the clock is not about to strike midnight. Fundraising, because women’s rights are a big money maker; and moving on to their agenda for the day of passing more money for Ukraine.
In the end, the military and the economy is really what this is all about anyway. If women continue to stop having babies, the economy cannot grow. Right?
But all of that is neither here nor there, in the final analysis. The damage to this point is done, and now it is only a matter of time before women in this country are subjugated in ways we never even believed could happen. Interestingly, over the decades, abortion statistics have remained static, through illegal and legal times. The only difference, fundamentally, has been whether or not they are safe.
Then again, were we the ones foolish and senile on this issue? The people in power in this country – the elite oligarchy of Democrats and Republicans, and a handful of progressives who still have more cash on hand than the rest of us – have systematically shown women what they think of us for a long time. There is no universal childcare. No equal pay, truly so. No paid family leave. Women’s healthcare has been on the downslide for decades, with abortion being the final nail in the coffin.
And it’s more than that. It’s the rise in toxic masculinity that is pervasive to daily life. It’s people saying they don’t want to wear a mask to protect others because it makes them feel “weak,” and “feminine” to care about others, have compassion and express feelings like kindness. It’s feeling threatened when a strong or intelligent woman enters the chat. It’s being a woman and calling the cable company, only to have them ask if they can speak to your husband. It is exhausting to be a woman in America today, this decision by the Supreme Court is more of the same.
It’s a country of men mansplaining to women how they are allowed to feel and react, and – again – how to vote or not vote in reaction to their fundamental right to choose being taken away.
Please stop making Roe about you. Please stop posting your hot takes, turning it into your own issues, using it as a fundraising tool, and telling women their frustration with their supposed-allies is invalid. Even if you are an older women, consider that this only symbolically affects you. For young women – women under 50 all over this country – the stakes are much more dire; for you it’s posters and cries to resist, for them it’s life, death, and back alley abortions.
Consider this: when you tell a young woman who is now faced with the consequences of the world created for them, a woman who has to plan travel around not even going through states that outlaw abortion (unless they want to later on face possible criminal proceedings)… when you tell them that they cannot vote how they want, feel how they want, or react how they deem appropriate, because the Democrats said so and the two party system is just what we have:
You are doing the same thing that the Supreme Court did by voting to overturn Roe and Casey.
You are taking away a young woman’s autonomy. You are deciding for her what she is allowed to think, feel, and do.