Friday Checklist

Good men are in my neighborhood

Every morning I drive the same route to work, which crosses through one of my favorite neighborhoods in Durango. The houses are old and the sidewalks are cracked by roots of trees who have been around since this town was founded.

Faded Tibetan prayer flags hang from porches, marking the student rentals. Sunflowers poke their heads over the fences of retired hippies. Further south, blocks of established family units mingle together, listening to music, gossiping and watching their kids play. People have already rolled out their bbq grills, eager for the warm afternoons of drinking and sunbathing.

 On College Avenue, my friend JL has her Scrapbooking store, which has flourished in its first year of business.  Due to its location, people walk to work from this neighborhood, sporting Durango’s standard of “professional” wear: blazers and Birkenstocks.

As I come to a stop at 6th Avenue,  two kids cross the street with their dad, headed towards Park Elementary. When I worked for 9-R, this primary school was the most sought after place for kids in Durango. People would use their mom’s, cousin’s, landlord’s, etc.. address to qualify for enrollment. The school, the location &  the people are just a few of the reasons this neighborhood’s average home price ranges between $400,000.oo and $600,00.00.

That’s a lot of zeros for a single mom to digest.

I watch the little group pass in front of me. The daughter (8-ish) rides her Razor scooter, flying towards school with a smile on her face. The dad walks behind with his (10-ishson), talking to him and sipping coffee. His face is stubbly, coming to a point in a sandy-haired goatee. His uncombed hair sticks out in wisps under an army green cap. He is the picture of crunchy, outdoorsy, laid-back, Caucasian Colorado, with his snowboarder son in a neon green hoodie.

I feel a little twinge of happiness, looking at them. There are some good men out there, even within the 16,000 people who live in my town. Maybe even one that might be interested in me.

10 Years Later

Almost a decade ago, I had a high school sweetheart. I haven’t been a part of the whole High School Musical mania, but I’m thinking our story would have resembled like that. We always played opposite each other in high school and community plays. I was Dorothy, he was the Cowardly Lion. I was the princess, he was the prince. You name the random female character and he was the male counterpart. In other words, we spent a lot of time together. When we weren’t in drama class, we were in community theatre after school.

After graduation, I left for Boston and he left for Fort Benning, GA. He had enlisted as an Army Ranger, and I was headed for film school. Our first year of a long distance relationship didn’t end well. He was going through mental and physical hell. He used to tell me that the only difference between a Navy Seal and an Army Ranger was that if you’re a Seal, they just try to drown you, over and over. If you’re a Ranger, they try every other way to kill you.

I was going through my own bout of Freshman Depression. I was homesick, lonely and confused. I was a poor kid in a private school that only had 15% of their student body on financial aide. I locked myself in the dorm, reading letters from my sweetheart, crying at the pain I could feel in them. On rare occasions, he would call me and describe the brain-washing “training” he was going through. I’d sit and listen in shock, while he laughed in a voice that scared me.

We saw each other again at Christmas, 2000. After that, no more contact. Rumors started flying that he was hooking with every girl in town. He was a military man, right? That’s what they did. They went to strip clubs and drank like fish during their time off. I heard he got accepted to West Point. Then 9/11 happened, and America’s collective panic level went to code orange, and I wondered if he was laying in a ditch somewhere in the middle east.

Eventually I stopped thinking about him. I went full throttle into party mode. I drowned my sorrows in as many mood altering substances as I could. I clubbed until I dropped. I started using the phrase “I can sleep when I’m dead.” I met Rooferman. I got engaged. I got pregnant. I became a single mom.

My new job has exposed me to a whole new sector of the Durango population (and we aren’t that big of a town). In a few years, I may know everyone within the city limits. In fact, yesterday, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in almost 10 years.

My high school sweetheart.

After an awestruck hug, numerous frazzled comments, I told him to stop by my office whenever if he wanted to talk. He nodded and bid me farewell. LB and I made our way to the car, my mind still reeling.

I turned around. He was standing there.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“That’s ok,” I said.

“I just really wanted to tell you something. I’ve been thinking about it for years now.”

Oh Christ. This should be good.

“I just wanted to say that I went through a really messed up time in my life while I was in the Army, and I was really awful to a lot of people. I know you were one of those people and I just wanted to say I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve it.”

I was the definition of dumbfounded.

I actually said, “Are you better now?”

“Yeah, I’m doing really good now.”

“Well good. I hope you didn’t beat yourself up for the last 10 years, because I’m fine. I don’t think our relationship did any permanent damage to me.”

At this point, LB is looking at me with an expression I don’t even know how to describe. I realize that she’s never seen me interact one-on-one with another man like this. She’s never seen me hug a man (besides grandpa).

My high school sweetheart walks away into the dusk, and I can’t help but wonder if he’s still single. Last I heard, he was married, divorced, and remarried. Kind of seems like the wrong time to ask, 10 years later, in the parking lot, with your toddler in hand.

P.S. He’s a Scorpio.

No “Mercy”

I would like to educate the blogging world of the practices of an organization whose so-called “vision” is to “create a more humane world.”

Yes, I live in a housing project funded through a non-profit organization. I have been a resident of this apartment complex for 15 months. I have never once been late on my rent. I followed through with a 12-month application process, which included paying a $100 in administrative fee, as well as a $400 deposit before moving in. I went through background checks, employment checks, bank statement checks, and got on waiting lists. I also was forced to wait an extra 6 months before I was able to move-in, due to construction delays.

Currently there is a waiting list for my apartment. Another single mom could be living in a motel right now, hoping that something becomes vacant. A couple with a new baby, living off one income, desperately hoping for an affordable apartment. I could move out in 30 days and the apartment could be filled by then. Everyone wins.

My property manager informed me that because I would be breaking my lease, I would be subject to penalty fee, totalling $1514 (2-months rent). I would also be responsible for paying for professional carpet cleaning, which usually runs $200 a unit.

I was furious. I told them that my new job pushes me over the income limit for my family size. Technically, I am not eligible for re-certification, and I am living in my apartment illegally. They shook their heads and said that that information would not be considered until my lease ended.

I told them that since my new job pushes me over the income-limit, it also makes me inelligble for Head Start, and I would be forced to find alternative care for my daughter. I told them that my new apartment is an ideal  situation because it is above a preschool.

I don’t think they could have cared less. I asked for the regional property manager’s email. I sent her a very polite, very reasonable explanation of my current situation, and got this response:

I’ve been in this business over 25 year, and I never deviate from my policies.

WHAT THE HELL? YOU ARE  A NON-PROFIT WHOSE MISSION IS TO HELP PEOPLE! I AM ASKING FOR HELP!  I UNDERSTAND ORGANIZATIONS HAVE POLICIES, BUT THEY CAN MAKE EXCEPTIONS DUE TO INDIVIDUAL CIRCUMSTANCES! OBVIOUSLY ITS ALL ABOUT F***ING GETTING MONEY OUT THE “POOR” PEOPLE YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DEDICATED TO!

This new apartment is too good a deal to pass up. Its an amazing opportunity for me and my daughter, and at this point, I really don’t give a s*** about some gigantic corporation’s “policies.” I am filing a complaint and a policy change request with the Colorado extension office, and putting a deposit down on my new rental. I am not going to take my chances on the freak-show of  the Durango housing market, come November. In fact, I plan on being out of my apartment in the next 30 days.

Today is also my last day at the school district. My boss and co-workers took me out to lunch, gave me flowers and presented me a card with almost $200 in it. Needless to say, with all the current events in my life, I’ve been a little emotional today.

So let me recap: New job, new apartment, an egg donation, a court date and God knows what else in the next month. Never a dull moment, eh?  Deep breath.

Court Lesson One: The Accidental Witness

I actually absorbed  an hour and a half of custody cases this morning. I also got to observe one of the other judges who may be assigned to my case. Still no word on whether my filing fees will be waived, but the clerk said she would bring it to the judge’s attention. Eek. Hope that doesn’t piss him off.

The two domestic disputes I witnessed were like night and day, Aries and Pisces, tequila and coffee. The first was a pair of aging, White, upper-middle classers, both represented by Lawyers. The second was Miss Thang, Que Rica, ghetto fabulous, representing herself. Miss Thang had her two kiddos in tow, but ditched them with a Sk8ter Boi babysitter the hallway.

I sat through the catty, White couple hearing, listening to the Lawyers go at it. The Exes shot each other looks of death, and consequently turned up their noses at each other as each request was presented. Que Rica was another story.

I had arrived at the courthouse at 8:30 am. The cunty White Exes had their hearing at 9 am. At that point the court clerk had come into the room and asked me if I was “Radisha”, to which I replied, “Uh no.” She turned and left.

Que Rica Radisha did finally show up at about 9:20 with her Homegirl and Homekiddos, and sat down across from me. The judge was wicked confused and asked her why she was there. She said she was there for a status conference and her hubby was supposed to call in, but his lame ass ditched her on the last one, and of course was going to ditch her on this one.

The clerk came back in and informed her that her hubby did call  but Radisha was nowhere to be found. Que Rica stood up and said “Excuse me lady, but I was sitting here at 9 am. I didn’t hear you call me.” The court clerk, who resembled a Human version of “Roz” from Monsters Inc, gave this insubordinate Hussy a withering glare and POINTED AT ME.

“Your hubby called in at 9 am. I came in here and asked this lady if she was “Radisha” and she said no. You definitely weren’t here.”

Homeslice Radisha looked at me and I thought her ginormous, studded hoop earrings were going to fly off and slice my throat open. I thought, Ok Roz, I know you’re right and everything, but please don’t implicate me as a witness which may result in my disrespecting the Durango faction of “La Eme.”

Luckily for me, I didn’t have to prove Miss Thang wrong, because the Judge got on the ball and told the clerk to get Homeboy on the phone.

Radisha turned to her Homegirl and said “Oh no she di’int just call me a liar to my face.”

Outside you could hear the kiddlets pulling each other’s hair out, and Sk8ter Boi emerged, looking slightly miffed that these children were destroying his Sativic buzz.

I left halfway through the status conference, because the Judge was basically going through the filing process, step by step with the exes. Since Homeboy was on a cell phone with crappy reception, it was a painfully slow process, and I’ve already filled out my forms for the most part.

I did catch a few rainbows from my court experience, which was satisfying. I definitely know that I’m not the only pscyho representing myself, and I should leave the attitude and the kids at home.

I wonder what kind of circus tomorrow’s docket will present.

The Death Road

When LB’s daddy and I lived in our shack in Montezuma County, our landlords were these two dredlocked hippies. The dude was a Phish-loving, former Deadhead  who was hiding out in Colorado under a fake name. His main squeeze was a blonde chick who inhereted the property from her brother after he was busted running a meth lab out of the house.

The property consisted of 3 dead trees, a dry pond, a broken dock, a clothsline, a main house and two cabins. The dude pretended to be a real caretaker for the property, while his girlfriend worked at the Absolute Bakery in Mancos. His handyman skills were less than exemplary, spending most of his day knocking back bottles of Captain Morgan and beer. 

About 80% of the time, dude was a nice guy. He thought it was frickenHilarious that both of us had lived in Vermont and ended up in Colorado, and he thought my pregnant belly was “the essence of womanhood.” Besides the fact he was on the lam, hippie dude was pretty cool to a young couple who had only been screwed over by an endless line of beaurocratic landlords. But he would get ” bad feelings” about things, start twitching and act generally paranoid. He would also say things like “The highway from Mancos to Durango is the death road, man. I’m telling you, people DIE on it all the time.”

When I got into my 3rd car wreck while pregnant, I was driving home on the “death road.” It was about 11 pm, and I had just gotten off my shift as a delivery driver at Pizza Hut. Living in Colorado, you learn to deal with driving on dangerous roads. We may not have to worry about drive-by shootings, car jackings, or freeway driving, but “Acts of God” are a daily occurrence. Blizzards, mountain passes, hail, wildfire, deer, bear, and elk are probably something that every driver in Colorado has experienced while on the road.

I drove my car for a living, so I wasn’t what you would call a “meek” driver. I had driven my car from New Orleans to Los Angeles in the last year, so I was practically at home in the front seat, my pregnant belly snug behind the wheel. Sadly, my carefree days of driving were about to be over.

A few minutes later I was spitting glass, blood and animal hair out of my mouth.  The windshield had shattered, and one of the elk’s ears had landed in my backseat. Some drivers had stopped and called 911, so I sat on the side of the road and cried my little pregnant eyes out until the ambulance came.

It took me a long time to feel comfortable driving that 35 miles of highway again. Luckily my car was totalled, so I didn’t have to force myself to get behind the wheel any time soon. As for my landlord, he eventually turned himself into the police after he got drunk and pulled a gun on someone at a party they were throwing. I always think about his words though. The Death Highway.  

Recently, a kid who was in my little sister’s 6th grade class was killed in a motorcycle accident. Seems like there is an accident-related death almost every weekend in La Plata County, whether it be on the road or someone hiking in the back country. Just makes you that more humble and thankful for the life you get to experience everyday. Those hippie words still ring in my ears sometimes.

In remembrance.

What my blog is supposed to be about.

If you are confused by the title of my blog….click here. I know my posts consist mostly of movie quotes and toddler antics, but in all honesty, I should be tracking the economy a little better. I started off strong with these posts:

That was a year ago, and I was still living with my mother, which explains the desperation and anger in my posts. Thankfully, the reporters at the Durango Herald feel my pain, and continue to write about the economic power struggle that is Quality of Life versus Affordable Housing.