Crack Den Sweet Crack Den November 8, 2014

Author’s Note: This post is dedicated to Annapalooza’s number one fan, my Uncle Jim, who told me to “Get off my lazy butt and write.” I hope you like this one.

Once upon a time I had these romantic notions of renovating a big old house. I will be the first to admit that much of this desire was influenced by watching way too many renovation shows on HGTV. My favorite was the one with the tiny cute blonde with a cartoonish voice who zips around town on her little scooter. She’d wear tank tops and cut-offs with construction boots, and in every episode she’d find some former crack den, buy it for something like ten dollars, and then renovate it in about a week or so. And everything turned out so awesome that I suddenly found myself wanting to quit my job, buy a Vespa, and start flipping houses. After all, it looked so darn easy and fun! Maybe I too could be a hip little renovation queen that all the construction guys drooled over!

So my husband and I found this big old beautiful house to renovate. I was so excited! Finally I could live out my dream of becoming a renovator (albeit one with absolutely zero construction skills).

Let me be the first to tell you that my renovation experience was nothing like the above. Not even close. There wasn’t even a scooter.

In reality, most of my renovation experience was more like an episode of Holmes on Homesbefore Holmes arrived. (And on a side note, I think HGTV should really do a spin-off where Holmes then goes and tracks down all the horrible, crooked contractors that screwed those poor people over. Wouldn’t you love to watch as he opens a can of overalled Canadian whoop-ass on those crooks?)

Even if you are working with a wonderful contractor, there are oh-so-many things that could go wrong during this entire process. Here’s one example:

Let’s just say that one day you are at Home Depot, gleefully picking out all your kitchen and bathroom fixtures. You fall in love with the brushed nickel, and who can blame you, right? Only thing is, the brushed nickel is special order. No problem, you say. It will be here within a week and that will be just in time for the plumber.

Little do you know, ‘special order’ is really code for: The manufacturer will screw up the order and send you ugly 1980’s brass and then you’ll have to argue with them and send it back in some special packaging that they didn’t include in the box and then they won’t mail you your actual order for another month, just to screw with you, and in the meantime this throws the whole carefully-planned schedule off and the plumber can’t come back again for another month and now instead of celebrating Christmas in your newly-renovated home you will be eating frozen pizza on the floor of that horrible rental your husband picked out without your blessing.  

Yeah, I’m talking to you, fixture company that rhymes with ‘bowler’.

So I mention the horrible rental because that is exactly where we ended up while our house was being renovated. It wasn’t uncommon to see police cars in the parking lot of the complex, and one time we even had an exciting search (and arrest! yay!) of two guys who had just robbed a gun store.

Every day I’d come home to the tiny apartment and greet it lovingly.

“Ah”, I’d say. “Crack den sweet crack den.”

I would then proceed to eat whatever takeout I had chosen that night. I was too disgusted by the kitchen, so the only thing I ever cooked in there was a frozen pizza.  During the entire five months.

When I wasn’t gagging in the kitchen, I had to avoid the dodgy characters living there. Oddly enough, that included the onsite manager. Sensing that we weren’t “the usual” renters (i.e. we actually paid our rent and didn’t have criminal records) she quickly started asking my husband if she could borrow forty bucks here or there. Dan, bless his heart, always gave her the money. And to her credit, she always paid him back.

Now as for the other tenants, I guess I could best describe some of them as “hangers”. These were the guys who would just hang out on the front porch all day, wasting time and poking into everyone’s business.  One of them in particular, George, was an African American gentleman who always took a particular interest in my comings and goings. Living with George meant there was a constant running commentary on your life, whether you wanted it or not. Typical days went like this:

Going off to work:

George: Well look at you, business lady. Going off to work, yes you are! All business-y. You have a good day, business lady!

Coming home from work:

George: Well look at you all business-like. You a business lady, now. You had a long day of work, you did!

Going off to play tennis:

Look at you with that racquet, you swing that racquet all over the place, yes you do!

But George wouldn’t just sit out on the front stoop. Sometimes at night he’d sit outside at a picnic table with some other men, drinking and talking. This was fine with me, except for one hot summer night when we had the windows open and our kids with us. Things were getting pretty rowdy and expletive-filled outside, and since I was very familiar with George’s voice, I could clearly hear him as the ringleader. Not exactly the lullaby I needed the kids to fall asleep to on a school night.

“Okay, that’s enough,” I said, getting out of bed and moving to the window.

“Hey, George!” I yelled.

Silence. It was liked I had caught some schoolboys smoking in the bathroom.

“He’s not here!” I heard a male voice yell back out of the darkness.

“Yes he is!” I yelled back. “Watch your mouth, we have kids up here!”

More silence, and then George’s voice.


I crawled back into bed, and my husband and I burst out into laughter. We hardly heard a peep the rest of the night.

Shortly after, we finally moved out of the crack den apartment and into our beautifully renovated home. As we left, the manager lady sadly waved us goodbye, as her short-term loan service was now unavailable.

“I hope you come back real soon,” she actually said to us.

Like hell we will, I thought silently, smiling and waving back at her.

This business-lady was OUT.


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