Thursday, June 11, 2009


As I’ve mentioned before, my new office is located in a rather old building. When it rains hard, you’ll find wastebaskets set out in odd places to catch the dripping water. There’s a maintenance guy who fixes things every week, but it’s a never-ending job.

Along with age comes vermin. About a week ago, I opened my desk drawer and fished around for a ballpoint pen, only to disturb a cockroach. I uttered a startled yelp, and he scampered around frantically until I ended his misery with a crushing blow.

I mentioned the incident to our office manager, a no-nonsense German woman, who immediately sent the maintenance guy to me with a can of poison spray. He spritzed around the desk and in the drawers and I figured that was the end of it.

Today, groping for a pen, I discovered another resident, who I dispatched in the same manner. As troubling as this was, moments later I found out he had a roommate in another drawer. Nobody else has this problem, just me. I don’t keep food in my desk, so I can’t understand why these insects are singling me out. My co-workers are highly amused by my cursing, so I’m starting to suspect some kind of office prank.

Nonetheless, I told the office manager about it, and this time she sent the maintenance guy out for some heavy artillery. He came back with a gigantic pump sprayer full of cockroach kryptonite and a cordless electric screwdriver. In about 10 minutes he had disassembled most of my desk and was busily soaking every surface in liquid death.

I have a brother named Dennis in St. Louis who is schizophrenic. He takes medication and is very congenial and friendly, just strange and not really able to care for himself very well. My brother Patrick was looking after him, but Patrick passed away last year. Dennis was left high and dry, and I’m trying to make arrangements for his continuing care by moving him to Florida where I live.

But Florida ranks 48th out of the 50 states in state-funded benefits for mental health. Because he’s not retarded, he doesn’t qualify for group home benefits. Because he’s not elderly, he doesn’t qualify for assisted living benefits. So I’ve been trying to figure out a housing option that he can afford on his meager Social Security.

Thanks to the disastrous housing market, prices are now dirt cheap. But not quite cheap enough. Condominium prices have plunged to record lows, but the association fees are not changing. Even though I could buy him a nice, affordable condominium close to where I live, the association fees would eat up the remainder of his monthly check. He couldn’t afford electricity or food. There are some cheap detached homes available, and they don’t have association fees. But the neighborhoods can be scary or inconveniently located.

Today while browsing online, I found a 3 bedroom, 2 bath foreclosure house in a non-scary, convenient neighborhood, and it's listed at $49,000. It sounds too good to be true, so I stopped by after work to give it a quick look. From the outside, the place is actually very nice. While I was prowling around, one of the neighbors came over and filled me in.

“You’ll have to gut it,” he told me. “The guy who lived there was elderly and he became addicted to morphine. He didn’t maintain the house and eventually he died in there. He had three dogs that he never let outside. They had to shovel it out. It’s full of fleas, cockroaches and rats. The plumbing burst and flooded it once, so the drywall is covered with mold and mildew. Oh, by the way, the roof leaks.” He gave me a hopeful look, because he lives next door to this disgusting wreck.

I figure if I borrowed about $40,000 over the price of the house, I could make it a nice place, and it would be worth more than I put into it on the day the work was finished. But once I do that, the mortgage payment is back up to where Dennis can’t afford it. If I could find him a reliable roommate who could pay about $400 a month, it would work. But where do you find a roommate for a schizophrenic? I’m afraid all I would get are other schizophrenics, or morphine addicts with dogs.

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