Monday, February 13, 2012

Surrounded - Foreclosure Crisis Hits Home

1st in a series of the perfect storm surrounding my urban homestead.

 1900 - ?

Foreclosure due to drugs/divorce -
It started slow enough, in front of our own eyes so to speak.
Piece by piece, corner by corner we watched as it unraveled across the street on an almost daily basis until now the home sits vacant in legal limbo. Not so much of an eyesore because we the hood have taken to keeping the yard tidy coveting the space. Dreams of annexation sanctioned by a city auction float in our heads.

# 35 never really had good karma @ least since Nixon was president.
Years before I ever thought of living in the Queen City this typical four bedroom balloon framed home saddled with three mortgages had started in financial decline.
Neighborhood lore says the man of the castle a sheriff, wore his wife beaters proudly in the home. The lady who loved him so, she followed to the sunshine state. No doubt to wash his undershirts until her fingers bleed. Their children took advantage of the opportunity to scatter, to college where keggers were the norm not knock down spousal discord.

Then this home became a rental to a single mother with wayward teens who lowered themselves from the upstairs windows on sheets. I made a metal note to myself to short sheet my children when they became of age.

There was the family from Russia, teachers who hated Poles yet ate pirogi like candy.
Karma kicked them to the curb soon enough. Their names having gained profanity status @ the Polish Falcons club.

Then the blue house with white trim became a pawn in a privately backed note that didn't end well for the lender. After some costly repairs & a short sale a young couple moved in.

They proudly introduced themselves.
Young lovers since grade school who were to be married in the spring.
Wanderers from the rural portion of the county. Born & bred in open pastures they told us, three dogs in tow. Soon joined by another followed by a few cats.
And a mother of the bride who loved to tell me how much she enjoyed Puerto Rican food. Her crack mouth breaking into a wide smile each & every time.
And then their entourage that resembled the rejects from an open casting call of you know your a red neck punch lines, came & went running the streets like gas was 76¢ a gallon. Midnight knocking ... cars pulling away from the curb never eating where they shit.

I had asked if the house had been a wedding present, perhaps a rich uncle with a warped sense of humor. Or maybe they had won it in a lottery site unseen ?
Their city lot measures 40' x 100'.
No city shed, not much of a porch after a late seventies remodel.

By the time snow fell again their body language said it all as the came & went from this house built in 1900 on a stacked stone foundation. Four good sized bedrooms, two bath, an eat in kitchen. New replacement windows and kitchen cabinets. A fresh coat of paint to seal in that bad karma.

Soon the newest man of this house was replaced.
Then he.
Then one more maybe two.
The lady of the house grew thinner, given to bouts of housecleaning late into the night.
To fund her appetite items were sold; appliances, previous mister's belongings, then pipes, and eventually a furnace. Windows left open in rainy weather. Cats and squirrels made themselves @ home while she visited the big house. Two of her old romances came & loaded the last of the furniture that had been wedding gifts.
Eventually a few memos taped to the front door explained it all.
No trespassing by order of XYZ Mortgage lender.
No digits. No email addy.

Periodically a contractor stops by to check for human squatters. He snaps a cell phone pic of the meter then walks to the back yard. Makes a few notations on his clip board then gets in his ride unless we chat.

I always imagine the squatters wearing hazmat suits 24/7 because now the mold and native animal droppings have grown exponentially. My new neighbors would stroll across the asphalt measuring cup in hand. Can we get a cup of lye from you ? We were making a batch & ran out.

The lender's clip board holder never knows anything about when # 35 will be ready for sale.
It's not his job.
Neither is boarding up the opening were the skunks enter.
Each time he repeats that line I hear canned laughter and think of Chico & the Man. I tell him that my husband has replaced the plywood twice. Again he repeats Chico's line and assures us he will mention it in his report to them.
He plays deaf when I ask who them is.

He tells us tales of 200k homes in worse shape than this as he motions to the blue house with a quiet water stain that marks the siding were the gutters have failed. How's you like to be those neighbors ?
I roll my eyes knowing I'd die of stress with a bank note that size.
But I imagine a never ending yard to garden in. Then I realize I wouldn't have to time to garden I'd be working my life away.
200 grand.
My mind just can't wrap around the amount of debt.

Once he called the fire dept. to pump out the cellar of waist deep murky water.
As I watched fireman dig through snow, ice, gravel to uncover the shut off valve my mind wandered to the idea of growing fish in cellars of abandoned homes.

The code man tells us this house is in limbo.
If the neighbor turned metal scrapper would only sign off the powers that be can take over. He quiets when I ask if "the powers that be" is code for the city.
Call me he says handing me his card.
There's paper out on her.
I can get her to sign off.
I stifle a chuckle, thinking of him playing bad cop code man ... Sign this you delinquent homeowner who didn't give a crap about her neighbors SIGN IT NOW !

I wonder if the reason no one has seen her is she swimming with the fishes in basement ?

The neighbor to the right diligently mows the front lawn with her own weekly. She mumbles about it disappearing so she can buy the lot.
I joke that I could make it happen if she agrees to let me garden on this lot that has no shade issues all the live long day. I imagine the view from my living room window a dwarf apple orchard fragrant full of pink in May.

Every other week I join her with my weed eater and push broom.
A two woman neighborhood landscape team manicuring the front lawn of a lost cause.
Neighbor in back notifies us that he will be attending the as yet unannounced foreclosure auction.
Save us a spot I think as we both nod.
He hands us a large plastic trash bag to hold the grass clipping before going back inside.
So far I have collected almost a box's worth of bags since I compost.

With fresh snowfall it is easy to see if anyone has been peeping in the windows of #35.
I am given to fits of yelling out my front window @ people who lurk on the porch always asking if that girl still lives here, they need to find her.
Get on the list behind the dozen or so homeowners on this avenue, a bondsman who wears business attire and drives a hybrid, & the code man.

I can ask po po for you ... you want ?
No, it's not for rent it has bad karma.
Now get off the porch.

~~ pelenaka ~~