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Cheap Rent Makes For Good Stories

GUEST,Bill Hudson 26 Dec 11 - 07:52 PM
GUEST,999 27 Dec 11 - 11:00 AM
Charley Noble 27 Dec 11 - 12:56 PM
GUEST 29 Dec 11 - 12:31 PM
GUEST,999 29 Dec 11 - 02:20 PM
Charley Noble 31 Dec 11 - 10:17 AM
GUEST,999 31 Dec 11 - 11:24 AM
GUEST,999 31 Dec 11 - 11:28 AM
Charley Noble 31 Dec 11 - 05:53 PM
Sandra in Sydney 31 Dec 11 - 10:59 PM
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Subject: Cheap Rent Makes For Good Stories
From: GUEST,Bill Hudson
Date: 26 Dec 11 - 07:52 PM

Being a musician can be tricky when trying to cut cost so one can feed the Frankenstein or the dreams as I like to call it. We have a tenancy to live in the cheap part of town. And when there are many of us live there, well, word does get around and before you know it we have to move because there far too many antique stores. When they show up you know rents going up and it's time to move. I call this the cosmic bellybutton it kind of moves around. Use to be Vermont, use to be SoHo in the Village, and use to be Key West for a short time, and use to be Floyd here in Virginia. So yea we try to find a somewhat cheap place to live and at times it can get downright strange. Your family might not understand it and they might call how you live, "a lifestyle". If someone does not understand the how and why on how you live that's what they call it, a lifestyle. But I am getting off the subject here….cheap rent. So I'll go first and feel free to post your stories, I'd love to read'em . Kind of like that post, The Gig from Hell post.
The way many of us find cheap rent is just look in the paper and read the ads and make some phone calls. You never know until you call them up and see the place for yourself. I called this one guy and he seemed a bit too pushy and too friendly but heck we all have our bad days and I always give people the benefit of the doubt so I drove out to see the place. Now on the phone I told the guy to tell me everything about the place and the settings. He told me that is was way out in the sticks and was a peaceful place. I had to meet him at a locked gate so I could get in. I found out later he kept the gate locked to keep them out from turning off the electricity. So anyway we made an appointment and off I went.
I met him at the gate, I think it was a warm Saturday afternoon and he was right it was out in the sticks, which I always seem to like. I went through the gate and followed him to the house which was in an open field. I parked the van and walked to the house and he said something like," Let me show you around". When he opened the door out came 6 or 7 (a herd) man eating dogs (rottweiler's) and I made a bee line for my van. All the while he had a cockatoo bird that was yelling, "hello there, hello there, brockkkkk". Wow, this guy did not mention a thing about those dogs and he was trying to tell me they were ok. I told him, "You did not mention those dogs, damn!" He told me he didn't want to mention that one because it might scare away people from coming over. Gee I wonder why?
Now the way this guy looks was a trip too. He had a shaved head with a goatee and was a bit loud kind of guy. He told me he did demolition for a living and he looked like it. You might say he was kind of a drama queen and way too loud, kind of like his herd of dogs. All the way I was looking at this guy listening to him I told myself maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the dogs were ok and maybe that bird is not as lonely as he sounds. While he was talking the herd of dogs was playing with their stick. The stick was a 6" pole that was about 10 feet long that looked like they had been chewing on it. One dog somehow straddled the "stick" with his paws and was moving the damn thing. "Oh he's just showing off", the demolition man said. I was thinking, man I don't know about this place. But I did need a roof over my head so……
As I was walking ever so slowly away from my van so I could at least look at the house the demolition man told me, "don't run too fast the dogs might be getting to ya". Great I was thinking but how much more strange can these places is? I have this tedious when I see strange I want to know more. As we went through the small house he showed me the kitchen which had the smallest refrigerate I have seen. He told me, "We share this". I looked in and it was packed, not that there was much room.
Now to make a long story kind of short yea I moved in and did have my own room upstairs. The first night was kind of strange because that cockatoo was saying every now and then, "Hello up there, hello up there".   Maybe he is kind of lonely. I came down for breakfast the next morning and make my espresso. The herd of dogs it seems to herd around the kitchen when there is some kind of food around. So you have to yell at them to back off way too many times but at least it works. I wanted to head to town that morning to get some stuff food and so on. As I was leaving he told me, "Let me put the dogs in the house because they do not like you leaving the house and they bit your tires and I don't want you to get a flat". All I said was, "What?"
I came back when some food and some other things like toilet paper. He asked me what I got and I said something like, "Oh a few things ya know like food and toilet paper "TOILET PAPER, TOILET PAPER, OH MY GOD YOU SHOULD OF TOLD ME, I HAVE A BARN FULL OF THAT STUFF" Wow what the hell is this guy doing with a whole barn full of that of that stuff. Maybe fate is trying to tell me something.
Well as you might of guess I did not live there too long. I do remember I brought a girlfriend of mine there because she just did not believe it, oh there goes Bill again he's exaggerating. When she showed up and was surrounded by the herd of flesh eating dogs while the cockatoo was yelling, hello there, hello there. She was doubled over from laughing because it was all true. Yea, cheap rent does make for good stories. Funny now but next time I'm going to listen to my gut feeling.

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Subject: RE: Cheap Rent Makes For Good Stories
From: GUEST,999
Date: 27 Dec 11 - 11:00 AM

NYC, 1964. I'm about to turn 17 and I'm making my living in basket houses--sing songs and pass the hat. Whatcha get is whatcha live on. I find a room above a fresh food import place on 14th Street and 8th Avenue. I have $32 so I rent the room for four weeks. (Rent was $8 a week, no lease.)

I move in with my guitar, two extra pairs of socks, extra shirt and extra 'pair' of undershorts. I call them extras because they were the ones I wasn't wearing. Whew. Off the streets and into my own place. Then I notice these bugs all over everywhere. Hundreds--no--thousands of the damned things. Yep, I'm in the cockroach hotel. Jaysus.

I lived there for about four months, and despite having a high regard for roaches and their adaptability to life's vicissitudes, I hate the bloody things to this day. There are few creatures on this planet I'd like to see completely exterminated; however, they are one of the two.

But, the rent was cheap.

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Subject: RE: Cheap Rent Makes For Good Stories
From: Charley Noble
Date: 27 Dec 11 - 12:56 PM

Cheap rent also inspires songs such as this one:

Words by Mark Charles and Sheila Ritter, © 1981
Tune: adapted from Cyril Tawney's "Gray Funnel Line"

The Old Landlord's Dump

I mind the rain coming in the roof;
It's cold and wet and that's the truth;
So late at night when I close my eyes
I feel it drip and I moan and sigh.


It's one more day in my old landlord's dump!

I mind the cockroaches in the sink;
I mind the living room painted pink;
I mind the water that comes out rust;
There's not a landlord you can trust. (CHO)

I mind the snow piling 'round the door;
When he'll shovel it, I'm not sure;
I mind the cold coming through the walls;
My heat bills rise as the temperature falls. (CHO)

Oh, Lord, if dreams were only real,
I'd find a place to buy for a steal;
Then I'd drive right by that landlord's place,
And stick my tongue out in his face. (CHO)

My friends and I will save our dimes;
We'll work and plan until that time;
Then we'll buy a house that we can share,
And all our lives we'll be happy there.

Final Chorus:

We'll live no more,
In that old landlord's dump!

Notes (from the draft Pity the Downtrodden Landlord housing songbook):

This song was put together by two long time friends, Sheila Ritter and Mark Charles, who between them have experienced a wide range of outrageous housing situations. They also worked hard for years to correct such conditions or provide alternatives to rental housing. Mark helped organize the Tenants Resource Center in East Lansing, Michigan, coordinated a city-wide rent control campaign, and together with Sheila pioneered a new cooperative house. Sheila is also a past director of the National Association of Student Cooperatives. The song itself is a parody of Cyril Tawney's "Gray Funnel Line" making it ideal for a cappella singing – just the song to try the next time you and some friends are hanging out in some musty mint green stairwell.

This song was first published in Broadside, Vol. 165, August, © 1985, p. 8.

Warm regards,
Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Cheap Rent Makes For Good Stories
Date: 29 Dec 11 - 12:31 PM

Thanks Guest 999 for that story. Sounds like stink bugs we have down here in the South.

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Subject: RE: Cheap Rent Makes For Good Stories
From: GUEST,999
Date: 29 Dec 11 - 02:20 PM

They are that, Bill.

In another cheap rent place on the southern edge of Harlem (NYC) I bit into one that had died in some cornflakes. They taste terrible, too. After that I inspected all the food I ate, when I could eat.

That first place I was in: I put each leg of the single bed--more like an army cot--in a bucket of water. Damned things would get up to the ceiling and drop onto the bed. They are dastardly things. YUK.

I understand that they will gladly feast on dead flesh such as can be found on the soles of one's feet.


But there was one old guy I took a liking to. I was washing pots at the Night Owl Cafe thanks to Joe Marra: 10 bucks a night and all the tuna fish sandwiches I could eat. There was one cockroach who would appear from behind the sink and just stay there. I swear he was two inches long and bulky. I could never bring myself to kill him, so he became a kinda pet. He ate some tuna fish too. I figure he was the grandpa of all the cockroaches in NYC. He actually became quite tame. Never let me pet him, but he'd come to within a foot of my hand and wait for me to leave the 'catch of the day' where he could get at it. I have wondered off and on whatever happened to him. If he's still alive, he's over 45 years old and he's likely the size of a chihuahua by now.


I chuckled lots at your girlfriend's reaction to the scene. Looking back, we gotta see these things as being funny. Good story you told. Many thanks.

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Subject: RE: Cheap Rent Makes For Good Stories
From: Charley Noble
Date: 31 Dec 11 - 10:17 AM

Love these stories!

I'm reminded of one overnight experience from my Peace Corps experience in Ethiopia in the 1960s:

One vacation I invited a good friend (who I chronically lusted for) to accompany me in a rented car to Dira Dawa. She was very impressed with my off-road skills and eventually we pulled into a small plantation village for the night. The folks who ran the old Italian hotel were happy to rent us a room for the night, and after dinner we snuggled in for the night. The room was brightly lit with moonlight, but it wasn't long before we noticed shadowy shapes crawling up the walls, alongside our bed. What we found even more unsettling was after they reached the ceiling an occasional one would drop down. There was nothing to do but pull the sheet over our heads and giggle hysterically for the rest of the night as another roach-like creature practiced his sky-diving techniques.

Somehow we never were able to plan another trip together. I can't imagine why.

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Cheap Rent Makes For Good Stories
From: GUEST,999
Date: 31 Dec 11 - 11:24 AM

Speaking of that first place . . .

I decided to eradicate the cockroaches in my room. As I recall, looking back to 1965, I tried Raid, two spray cans of it. One in the morning and another at night. I sprayed every crack in the floorboards/baseboards and alas it was to no avail. Then I tried another spray product that seemed to work. It caused the cockroaches to come into the room and run in circles of about eight inch diameter until they stopped, went into spasms and died, usually in the space of 20 seconds. By the time the can was used up I had amassed a pile--I kid you not--of dead roaches that was about nen and a half inches high and about six inches diameter. A rough estimate: minimum a thousand roach bodies. I swept them up and dumped them into the toilet and flushed. It was a feeling of great triumph. The ingenuity of human chemists had defeated the enemy. As the agent in that act I decided to treat myself to a six-pack of Ballantine Ale in celebration. When I returned from the small store across the street I inserted the key in the lock, flicked on the overhead light and looked around. The fuckin' things were back. Almost like they'd come for the funeral.

I tried to do a rough estimate of how many roaches lived in that building. I figured there were about 5,000 using my room as a home and larder. There were about 56 rooms rented out. I got a few of the ales into me and then to empty my bladder. When I got back to the table to finalize my mathematical calculations, I noticed one scaling the side of my glass. That's when the war started in earnest. I know that collectively they out-weighed me, but I figured I could out-think them. Divide and conquer.

Planning a war is not work for the faint of heart. Recalling Lincoln's remark about Grant and 'send a case to each of my other generals' I figured whiskey was the answer, not ale. Out I went to the jar store.

By about 4:00 AM it seemed a great idea to put out a half dozen plates with Canadian Club in them. About four ounces sorta evenly split amongst the six dishes. Grant had nothin' on me. Roaches began arriving, climbing the dishes and sipping on the booze. One tried getting at my glass but he was swatted by a lightning-fast right hand. He died gloriously, and my glass hit the wall and shattered. Well, that brought out even more roaches. I began to see that I was involved in a war of attrition, and I needed reinforcements. However, it would have to wait for the morrow.

I awoke with a mild headache, and swept up the cockroaches who'd been unwary enough to drink the whiskey. Ha! By my count there were twenty-three dead. I knew it would be a long war.

I have to go to Ontario in a few minutes, so for anyone interested, I will continue the story about "The Battle of 14th Street and 8th Avenue" when I return. It involves strategy (kill the bastard things), tactics (whiskey) and logistics (procuring sufficient reinforcements and sufficient alcohol to bring death and destruction to the enemy).

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Subject: RE: Cheap Rent Makes For Good Stories
From: GUEST,999
Date: 31 Dec 11 - 11:28 AM

'about nen and a half inches high and about six inches diameter'


about one and a half inches high and about six inches diameter

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Subject: RE: Cheap Rent Makes For Good Stories
From: Charley Noble
Date: 31 Dec 11 - 05:53 PM


They say napalm is very effective. Did you try that?

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Cheap Rent Makes For Good Stories
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 31 Dec 11 - 10:59 PM

I read 'about nen and a half inches high and about six inches diameter' as 10 & a half inches x 6 inches, & wondered about the effect such a huge pile of cockroaches had on the plumbing.

Decades back my friend's mother called a plumber to fix a blocked drain - turned out that the problem was caused by 3 women with waist length thick wiry hair & the plumber had never seen such a blockage in his career! Since then I've used a sink drainer in my shower as I have even longer (fortunately very fine) hair.


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