Sunday, January 8, 2012

Jeffrey Dahmer of the Woods

I certainly very much enjoyed my first cut Christmas tree, but the going in is better than the going out. While I am pretty sure I will have one again next year, I nevertheless wonder if the whole thing makes more sense when one lives in a rural setting, or if urban or suburban, then at least living in a house with a yard. Somehow having a cut Christmas tree, especially with the disposing-of-it-after-Christmas issue, in an urban apartment may seem as peculiar as having a pet tiger…something that more reasonably belongs in and can be better taken care of in a different and more appropriate environment.

First, getting the tree home…certainly not every urban dweller has a truck, or, if they do, it is more of an affectation rather than something they ordinarily will get much use out of. I guess maybe one could stuff a Christmas tree into the back of an SUV (most of which never haul anything except children), but the whole Christmas tree thing seems to fit more of an image of tromping out into the snowy woods, cutting one from your farm’s tree lot, and then dragging it home. None of that in the big city. As for me, I had mine delivered, and was thankful for the service.

The place where I bought the tree advertised a disposal service at the end of the holiday, but when I asked about it, they said that it wasn’t them, but a separate service that they would be happy to refer their customers to…all arrangements would made with that particular company. Somehow this extra step was enough for me “think about it later”, which I also did when I saw that the place was selling “Christmas tree disposal bags”, at a price I don’t remember, but somehow it seemed that the disposal service and the bag, together, were going to cost more than the whole tree did to buy in the first place, and that is not even counting the cost of the delivery (and tip), so I balked. So, I just took one step at a time.

But soon enough (actually, surprisingly quickly), it was time to deal with that issue. Despite having a full bowl of water to sip on, the tree was noticeably drying up, even before Christmas. This did not destroy its appearance, but instead, as the thick, rich, full foliage “shrank”, it revealed the lights more (which I had buried into the branches), which was quite pretty, and still did show green, although a paler green than it had shown originally. So I was happy to keep it going a while longer, keeping an eye toward New Years day.

But, alas, the calendar turned and New Years came and went and winter break was over and I was back at work. For sure the time was now to undecorate the house and figure out how to get rid of the tree, which I thought of kind of like a pet that needed to put down.

I was curious about “curb-side” pick-up, but, looking on-line, found nothing conclusive. It seems that in my area, trees can be “dropped off” at several county parks and fire stations, but only on Sunday, January 8, between certain hours. No mention of any kind of curb pick-up, and indeed, last week along my commuting route, I saw only one tree outside on the curb and there it stayed all week.

I did find an advertisement for what I bet is the same pick-up disposal service that the place where I bought my tree mentioned, but it just seemed to cost too much, so I was reluctant to simply use them. I figured the best bet would be for me take advantage of one of the drop-offs, but for that, to be able to put the tree into my car, I felt I needed to put the tree in a disposal bag. However, now it seems that where I bought my tree (where I saw the bags for sale) is closed for an indefinite time. This isn’t because they are only a Christmas tree lot, because they are not. They are a vegetable and fruit farm, selling produce all year-round, or so I thought. Anyway, they aren’t open NOW, so no Christmas tree disposal bag.

I decided the best thing for me to do would be to cut up my own tree. Using a hand saw, I cut off the top two feet. This revealed a forest of branches underneath, so I began to eviscerate the tree, one branch at a time, sawing, sawing, sawing, and stuffing the branches into regular kitchen garbage bags (which were too thin, but serviceable). I figured this would be good enough for stuffing pieces of the tree into my car’s trunk, which otherwise wouldn’t have carried the tree whole.

I admit that I felt like Jeffrey Dahmer, doing this, except that instead of my apartment now flowing in blood and internal organs, the tree version is needles…so many needles…a virtual unstaunchable torrent of needles.

I’ll tell you this, if you love the scent of an evergreen tree, having had the tree, itself, over the Christmas holiday gives you only the hint of evergreen, but cutting one up from limb to limb, you’d think I spilled a whole bottle of Pine Sol. Also, there is quite a lot of tree sap generated, which required me to stop and wash the tar off my hands as I progressed.

It was at the time of cutting off these branches and attempting to stuff them into kitchen garbage bags that I came up with my “you ought to be rural for this” thesis. How badly I simply wanted to burn the whole thing, a nice wintry bonfire in the evening would be perfect, or, failing that, I could be warm and toasty crackling these branches in a wood-burning stove. But, an urban apartment…please.

The most laborious aspect of it all was the shifting Sahara of pine needles all over the place. I had read on-line that one needs to sweep up all the pine needles, NOT vacuum them, as apparently they can gum up your vacuum cleaner’s works (must be that tar, again). Taking them at their word, I actually did sweep up those needles, and added them to my kitchen garbage bags (picking up handfuls of them). Of course there was still some dusty duff that I couldn’t manage to pick up off the living room carpet, so that portion (not too much), I did vacuum. I discovered that when I did some more vacuuming today, that my vacuum cleaner (at least with this bag still in it) is now a powerful pine scent atomizer.

I kept the eviscerated Christmas tree parts by my front door all weekend until this morning, Sunday morning, the day that all these places were accepting the drop-off of dead Christmas trees. Now for the task of getting the bags out to my car. However, only a third of the bags completely filled up my trunk, and left a trail of pine needles (and on the floor of my trunk), to boot. And, sitting right there next to me were four perfectly good garbage dumpsters, not anywhere near full…in fact, the furthest one was nearly empty, and I knew that the garbage collection would occur tomorrow. So, to heck with it, I simply threw the sections of tree into the dumpster. I’m not quite sure why I shouldn’t…after all, except for the garbage bags themselves, this is definitely biodegradable and may actually be good for the landfill. I am pretty sure the apartment complex’s gardeners put their prunings into the dumpster. Still, I did feel a bit “bad”, like I had put myself in league with all those people I complain about who throw their furniture away in (and mostly around) the dumpsters (which is against the lease). I wished that the management of the complex had sent notices around to all the tenants regarding the best way to dispose of their dead Christmas trees, but they ignored the issue, leaving it to the devices of the residents, which is not the best idea.

As an example of that, one person had simply dragged their finished Christmas tree out to the dumpsters and left it lying there, still nailed to its stand and water bowl, right in the exit path of the guy who parks next to me. Next time he wants to leave, he will be faced with having to do something with that old Christmas tree that is blocking his egress. It’s still unimaginable to me this low level of action (simply leaving a Christmas tree there for another tenant to deal with), but in this place, the unimaginable is becoming “normal” quite fast. Of course, whoever did that wouldn’t be expected to even have a saw to use for cutting up his tree like I did, let alone actually do the work of cutting it up, the benefit of which apparently would accrue only onto to somebody else, a stranger, no less. Which takes me back to the idea of having to being rural again, where self-reliance and, I hope, some consideration of your neighbors, might be the norm. Which makes me wonder why people like that celebrate Christmas at all. Just what does it mean to them, exactly? In their heart and soul, do they even have a place for meaning?

Monday, January 2, 2012

If I Express It, Maybe It Gets Better

One thing good about starting back to work tomorrow after having had one of the best winter breaks ever--and this is the only good thing I have thought of so far--is that I won't have to hear every day the horrible voice of the man who lives down below me. I don't really know if he actually does live there, I don't think I have ever seen him (I only hear him), as I had originally thought who had moved in was three very ugly girls (young women). I wouldn't ordinarily think to describe anyone as ugly, and the fact that all three are grossly overweight has nothing to do with it, but when I happened to run into them waddling across the parking lot and gave them a very friendy "hello", they ignored me entirely, which in this complex (or neighborhood) could mean that they don't understand a word of English (or even have the ability to interpret a smile), or, more likely, actually are very ugly people. Their ignoring my friendly overture lifted any optimistic veil I might have had covering my eyes and I could see quite clearly that the very best word to describe all three of them was "ugly".

It must be that all three girls were moving in, they kept piling in so much junk that boxes and bean bag chairs and every other kind of assorted (ugly) junk filled up even the dining area that is easily seen from the front door. They even filled up their balcony with junk, something that is against the lease, but is something that is generally ignored elsewhere in this complex, as well. As the quality of the clientele here has diminished steadily over the months (to the extent that I feel a rush of surprise and positive energy if I happen to run into somebody here who is actually decent), so have the standards, to the extent that, apparently, there no longer are any standards at all.

The unit below me is like mine, a three-bedroom apartment, so three college-age girls commonly makes sense for that size of an apartment if one isn't a family. In fact, I have finally understood why there is so much moving in and out, which I have observed over the months and determined from some conversations I have had with those doing the moving out--they are singles who have roommates and the roommate moved away for some reason, and, since the tenant couldn't find another roommate, he or she had to move out, too. The other big reason is that if it is a couple, they break up, or get a divorce. The complex is large enough, and the relationships unstable enough, that there is a U-Haul in the parking lot almost every single weekend, including the resultant thrown-out ratty furniture crowding out my parking space...also against the lease, and also generally ignored, of course, because it is impossible to police and it seems that people have lost the ability to police themselves. Which means that I will very soon be treated to a whole forest of dead Christmas trees also crowding out my parking space. For my own (sadly) drying-up Christmas tree, I have found several places run by Los Angeles County where you can for free drop off your trees to be turned into mulch, so that's where my own will be going. By the way, a few days ago, I took to one of the county's hazardous waste disposal three bags of stuff--one filled with expired prescription medications, one filled with expired over-the-counter medications, and the third filled with old grooming products that I no longer use. Imagine, I didn't just throw all that out into our apartment's dumpsters, how weird everyone here would think I must be to not do that!

As ugly as the "three girls" were, they weren't really very noisy, which was a blessing compared to whomever lived there before, the heavy pot smokers who generated smells in addition to their constant fighting and door-slamming noise, not to mention their yippy little dog whom they would put out onto the balcony (instead of walking him like they should), which made his yapping all the more evident to my ears. I seriously contemplated dropping down some poisoned meat, and I love animals and normally would never think of such a thing, but this dog simply did not deserve to live. I prayed for these people to move out, but, you know, be careful what you wish for.

However, after a month of blissful quiet, I soon started to hear the sound of a baby or child crying. Now, this isn't minding that per se, or least, in this case it wasn't the crying itself that was bothering me, but more that it sounded like a child who was possibly being abused. I definitely couldn't hear clearly enough to make any kind of a determination on that score, nor can I explain exactly why that thought would enter my head, but somehow, this didn't quite sound like a baby's "normal" cry, but had some note to it that made me think "abuse". And with three obese ugly girls taking care of it (read: "serious emotional problems and frustrations"), abuse sure seemed like a possibility, but not enough for me to call any kind of authority, but just enough to put me into a state of constant tension whenever I would hear it.

It was soon after that that I began to hear the voice of this hideous man. Again, I don't believe I have ever seen him, but there is some evil quality to his voice that makes me want to vomit. He never seems to speak, he only seems to shout. It is impossible to understand what he is actually saying, because it is in a foreign language, so for all I know, he may be saying "Honey, do you want me to help you with dinner?", but instead it sounds like anger and bullying. I do think it is Spanish, but I have never heard Spanish sound ugly, before, so, again, I think he actually is speaking ugly, angry, bullying words. Anyway, he seriously puts me on edge and the fact that I live so close to such a horrible-sounding man is disturbing, and also a bit frightening, thus the feeling of nausea that overcomes me, as if I, myself, were the child fearing abuse.

Without knowing his story at all, what I can imagine is that he was the "lover" (using that term very loosely) of one of the ugly fat girls, who got impregnated by him and now this is the baby of the two of them, who are not married. He is probably taking no responsibility for this baby at all, but comes by periodically just for some more sex. I can't imagine anyone wanting sex with one of those three girls, whichever one it is, if any of them, but from the sound of him, he can't be too choosey. He probably hates her for her ugliness, though, and he hates her for his sexual need (a man like that doesn't take responsibility for anything, even his own desires; it is all the fault of somebody else). And so it is possible that the abuse of the baby comes from fact, I have started to notice that the two sounds are now often concurrent. Again, not anywhere near enough for me to be conclusive, only negatively imaginative.

Fortunately, I really don't think he lives there, but, instead, comes loudly clomping up the stairs (also disturbing to me) and slammingly enters the door and the shouting begins until he slams the door on his way out and his hobnail boots go stamping on down the stairs and his car-sorely-in-need-of-a-muffler-repair goes booming out of the parking lot. I hate him and want him totally gone. Even if everything I have imagined is 180 degrees away from factual, the hideous sound of his voice, alone, is enough for me to want him removed to a different dimension.

I am sure that all this makes it seem that I live in a truly awful place and, of course, must want to move, myself. Well, I do want to live in a house (living here has made it very clear that I would never buy a unit in a condomium) and have no idea what my future holds, but I actually really love the apartment, itself. And unless I were a millionaire (or maybe even billionaire), I have no idea where I could go where the entire culture, itself, isn't falling apart. Fortunately, except for some noise and a certain feeling of "aloneness" (the negative aspect of "solitude"), my life here is good. There are so many neighborhoods that are much, much worse. From a middle-class point of view, this one is still pretty good. Although I will admit to being disturbed by having discovered just last week that the Spanish-language billboards are now only one major street to the north away (as you travel south from here, the neighborhood goes from middle class to some of the more upper class in the entire San Fernando Valley, but as you travel north from here, well, the billboards being in Spanish tell you what that means).

With the United States being economically more polarized than ever before in its history, and it is predicted to get only worse, the ones who are being hurt are the middle class. The rich class seems to still be untouchable, and the lower class is now the ever-increasing majority. When one reads of people moving out of Los Angeles specifically, and out of California generally, I think the ones doing that moving are the middle class. Again, the rich are still benefitting from the assets that California has to offer, and the poor somehow just keep on piling in, across the border if from no place else.

Strangely enough, I am actually liking Los Angeles more than I ever have before, but still, if I ever manage to hear of (and be convinced of) any place in the world where things are actually getting better (and by that I don't mean China, which most westerners think is the economically booming place, but I think that it is heading for a serious correction, or Africa, some countries of which actually have logged in some of the highest economic growth on the planet, meaning "up from nowhere",, I would visit there to see what it was really like, and maybe even make plans to move there. However, so far, I have not heard of one hint toward anything in that regard. Instead, what I have heard of strikes me as ridiculous; mostly extremely rich Americans moving to what they believe is the real-life version of Atlas Shrugged's "Galt's Gulch", but which is located, not hidden away in the mountains of Colorado, but in southern Argentina. I say, "Argentina, you've got to be kidding me;" that's a country that seems to alternate among dictatorships, socialism, and economic collapse, which one of those cycles is the one that is supposed to be appealing? Of course, I'm not rich enough, or "mover and shaker" enough to be welcome even if it really were a genuine "Galt's Gulch" but as it is, it is a commercial real estate venture that heavily advertises its golf courses and the like and is being sold more like a billionaire's resort except not in a Caribbean paradise. So that one is a "no".

So, for now, like most everyone else, I am stuck with what we've got and attempting to make the best of it. So for me, to quote Nick Vujicic, "Attitude is Altitude".