Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Year In Review: Part II

Note to Readers: This is a narrative. To start at the beginning, click on the "Blog Archive" to the right and click on the last entry, which is the first written, on 18 February 2014. Or simply click here: Hoosier Daddy?: Beginnings

Nothing jolts you into wakefulness more than the realization that your life's work, your collection of rare books, and countless irreplaceable photographs are likely underwater.

Nate had calmly announced the watery disaster and walked out the door. He had left his bathroom toilet overflowing overnight, and eight hours worth of water had been cascading downward into my home office. Although I was standing in a significant amount of water at the door of the bathroom and in the hallway, I knew that the basement was probably far worse. Before sprinting down the steps to the office, I grabbed towels from the hall closet.

Yes, panic is not rational. A handful of towels was likely not going to absorb a deluge, but it's where my mind went at that moment.

I was met with ankle-deep water in the northeast corner of my basement, and the water rapidly rising. I also had an amazing waterfall feature coming from the ceiling air ducts, and the surrounding plasterwork from the finished textured ceiling had collapsed and was floating in front of my bookshelves as if to offer a life raft for any who would like to jump to safety. Ironically, the toilet lies directly above the unfinished part of my basement directly over a drain. Although admittedly there was a significant amount of water on that side of the finished wall, Mother Nature decided the path of least resistance was not directly down, but along the duct system and directly into my office.

There is really nothing to do at a moment like this. Even I was deeply torn and confused as to whether I should weep uncontrollably, scream with anger at the top of my lungs, or scurry about in some vain attempt of looking like I could actually accomplish something.

I did the latter... with a fair smattering of the former.

I threw the towels down. They floated briefly before becoming saturated and sinking to the floor. I ran upstairs and grabbed more.

In those panic-stricken moments, Kirk had silently left his bedroom upstairs and slipped out of the house. This was obviously all my problem and only my problem, regardless of who caused it. Assistance was not to be found within the home I shared with two utter morons.

Confession: I am a book whore. I have thousands of books. My genealogy library is arranged in a useful manner, mostly geographically. The books in the lower shelves were in obviously affected by the rising tide, and because of the waterfall and ceiling collapse, many of the books in the upper shelves were also in standing water. Geographically, Ohio and Indiana experienced the worst flooding. Who knew the corn belt would be swept away by a toilet?

The following days and weeks were filled with insurance agents, water remediation people, deafening industrial fans and dehumidifiers, contractors, flooring specialists (since my ranch home is all done in hardwood floors that were now buckled and warped), and the sounds of drilling into every baseboard and wall to dry it out. Finally tally: $30,000 in damage.

I could write several more paragraphs about the shoddy job done by the restoration and remodeling people, and their dogged determination to pocket all the insurance money when only doing a third of the work of what was estimated by my adjuster. My insistence on paying them for only work they had done lead to months of battling, a lien against my house, and the repetitive use of the phrase, "Dr. Lacopo, you just don't seem to understand how insurance claims work." Uh huh, yeah, I do....

Or I could tell you about how Kirk and Nate complained and whined bitterly about the need to move out of the house for a week when the floors were being replaced, stripped, and stained. They reasoned that since insurance was paying for me (and two cats) to live in a hotel, I should logically pay for the roommates to live somewhere for the week, while deducting a week from their rent. The work was delayed by a couple days, but on the final day of treating the newly-stained floors Kirk and Nate were instructed by me and the flooring crew that they could move back in the following day, and then in   stocking feet only. A sign was posted on the front door not to enter. I went back to my hotel room, but I returned to the house around 2 a.m. to dump some of my belongings in the garage to make moving back into my home the next day with freaked out cats less traumatic. My desire for minimal drama ended as soon as I turned the corner and saw the exterior of my house.

Kirk and Nate had decided that waiting for the floor to cure was unncessary. They were already in the house. The "Keep Out" sign was still firmly attached to the door.

What followed was a string of expletives not fit for this blog, and a complete breakdown of any sort of sanity or decorum. I nearly broke my hand beating the Nate's and Kirk's bedroom doors down. Yelling. Drama. And a not-so-kindly worded verbal invitation for the two of them to leave. Leave now.

Nate tried to argue that he never touched the floor. Apparently he floated down the hall. Kirk was a bit overwhelmed by my insistence that he leave my house and go straight to hell. He got out of bed, put on his clothes and shoes and started into the hallway.


Kirk left. I never saw him again.

Nate left, but he returned minutes later in an attempt to convince me that he crawled through his window. It is a crank window that opens vertically with a screen on it. I called him on his ridiculous lie. He threatened to come back the next day to show me what happens to "pretentious little faggots."

Then the police came. Apparently screaming on your front porch at 4 a.m. alarms your neighbors.

Nate returned in the following days, but only long enough to start packing for his departure to a new apartment. He was gone within two weeks, and with him an assortment of my electronics and cable equipment. Left behind in his wake was just the mess that had become one of my bedrooms... and the smell.

So, the water damage is repaired, the roommates are gone, and life can go on, right? I can chart a new course of gleefully living alone in a freshly remodeled home, right? Of course not.

Hours after I kicked out the roommates, I went back to the hotel to attempt an hour or two of sleep. The sun had barely risen above the horizon, before my cell phone was ringing with a call from the owner of the flooring company.

"I'm sorry, Mike. I'm really sorry. This has never happened to us before."

As an aside, this is NOT how any phone call should begin, regardless of the circumstances. Nothing good can follow. 

Hem. Haw. Apologize. Stutter. Stammer. Apologize some more. Delay. Throw out some clich├ęs. Stall. Stammer some more.


In the course of finishing my hardwood floors, the crew had cut through the water line that leads to my refrigerator and freezer. Their sander had severed it, and it had just slipped and fallen back into the basement. As the crew was sanding and staining and finishing my floor for eleven days, my basement was again slowly filling with water.

Destroyed books, photos, heirlooms. Dryers. Dehumidifiers. Mold.... Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

If you have read this far, you are likely getting a good idea of my 2015.

And I am only to August.

The remainder of the summer and most of the autumn was dedicated to fighting insurance companies, unfreezing salvageable books one at a time and drying them out, remodeling the destroyed bathrooms on my own, gutting the entire basement and deciding what to keep, donate, salvage, store, file, trash, and making lists and lists of books damaged and destroyed from two floods. You see, in the minds of an insurance adjuster any book that cannot be found in Barnes & Noble's present-day inventory is worth $9.58. I have no idea where that number comes from, but additionally, ths value is then depreciated by 50%, thus making every destroyed book worth $4.29.

And guess what? Most of the books you find in a genealogist's library ain't gonna be found in Barnes & Noble's inventory.

So, for example, the original 1913 history of Crawford County, Ohio, that I paid to have restored and rebound, and is obviously not in print, is worth $4.29. After receiving the book inventory from the insurance adjuster, my return email started with "Okay. No. Just no. No. No. No." Oh, and that additional $10,000 home insurance rider I added to my policy years ago to just barely begin to cover my library's worth? Nobody at my insurance company had any idea what I was talking about, nor is there any record of it. The idiot agent I had worked with years ago was long gone. Oh, and you use these books for your work? Your insurance policy doesn't cover as much for work-related items as it does for personal property.

While trying to pull my home together, I still had bills to pay. There were lecture and research trips (and associated travel disasters) to Virginia, Ohio, California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky, Texas, and throughout Indiana. Talking to researchers about genealogy gave me great joy, but they always ended with the knowledge that I had to go home to deal with ongoing chaos.

On 5 October 2015 the call came that my father had ended his own life (see Hoosier Daddy?: Phase Two: Life is Messy). Although we had not spoken in over a year, I was still the one people turned to with the hundreds of unanswered questions. "You know how to find things! Find out what happened!" Calls to police detectives, lawyers, medical examiners, crime scene investigators filled my early days of autumn. Much like genealogical research, the more information you discover and process, the more questions it raises without providing any answers.

Two weeks later I received another call much like the one before. Another unexpected death. My best friend from childhood had died unexpectedly at his home at the age of 48. David and I grew up one block away from each other, and our friendship stretched back to the days when I was allowed to ride my bike around the block, but I was forbidden to cross any streets. David lived around the block AND across the street. He too was not allowed to leave the safe confines of the sidewalk. So we would chat from opposite sides of a suburban neighborhood avenue almost always devoid of traffic.

We were inseparable in grade school and junior high, and being the fifth born in a hard-working, busy family of six children, it was easy for David to slip away to spend days with my family, eventually gaining status as my unofficial adopted brother. He joined us on family vacations. We shared secrets. We occasionally fought like brothers, but the bond you make with someone you choose to be your family often runs even deeper than blood.

Our high school paths differed, and he married and started a family shortly thereafter, while I went off to college. Time spent together lessened, but there were always visits, phone calls, emails, texts. The advent of Facebook allowed a closer reacquaintance with each other's lives. He fathered four children: the youngest a mere toddler at his death. I was busy with work, travel, trying to establish myself in a new field while shedding the skin of a veterinarian. The story is familiar. Our lives are busy. We are (relatively) young. There is always tomorrow. The last message I have from David was a few months before. It was a random Facebook text checking on me: "Hello Brother... you doing OK?"

Now he was dead.

Like the news of my father's death, it initially felt like a cruel joke. I think that was my first response, "You're kidding, right?" Once the information is truly processed, the hope that what you've learned is merely macabre humor is replaced with numb disbelief. Unlike the news regarding my father, the numbness was replaced with utter despair. One man in an anonymous sea of billions was plucked from this planet far too soon, but he was a special man -- to me, to his children, to his family, and to many others. So many previous opportunities to get together gone and wasted, never to be offered again.

I had the opportunity to go to David's viewing and funeral service. I was not given that chance with my father. I noted the time and the place. I made sure the proper shirt, tie, and jacket were not at the dry cleaners, but in the end, I did not go. I know the funerary rituals we embrace are largely absurd, and I am aware that they are performed for the comfort of the living. Perhaps his father, brothers, sisters, wife, children, mutual friends all would have felt consolation by my presence, and shared stories of David's life would have lessened everyone's grief. In the end, I could not do it. I can give you a million reasons why it was a good decision, but the bottom line is that I am a chicken shit. I did not want the last view of someone young, vibrant, meaningful, and loved to be an artificially recreated rendition in a box. Admittedly, the spectacle of me collapsing into a formless blob of tears, wailing, and spewing snot also figured into the picture. I mourned alone, in silence, and cataloged my regrets and missed opportunities without having to wear a tie.

The physical toll of 2015?

I gained 25 pounds. I hate those people who lose weight when they are stressed, at least they can look svelte whilst being distraught. Clothes that fit at all are uncomfortable. The shirts at the back of the closet I rarely wore because they were "billowy" now fit well. I am tired and easily overwhelmed. I have probably over-embraced the lack of roommates, and I cling tenaciously to my reclusive ways. Never having been a good phone person, I leave my cell phone mailbox full to avoid people leaving messages. It's a good thing. I rarely checked it anyway.

My hair turned white. No, I do not mean that I began to see white hairs. That happened long before. The smattering of white in my beard is now well beyond the salt of "salt and pepper." My chest hair turned white. Even my arm hair is now turning. The temples of my head hair are predominately white, with the remainder of my once-brown hair replaced by a dingy colorless gray. Spoiler alert: it's all dyed.

Conspicuously missing in this entire assessment of 2105 is the primary focus of this blog. This year of chaos should have been somewhat redeemed by the opportunity to get to know the fascinating man I chased so aggressively during the entirety of 2014. Had I been granted such an opportunity, it might have been. But the biggest blow of 2015 was one I have yet to describe. 

Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty died, on 25 March 2015, at the hands of the daughter he never knew existed.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Year In Review: Part I

Note to Readers: This is a narrative. To start at the beginning, click on the "Blog Archive" to the right and click on the last entry, which is the first written, on 18 February 2014. Or simply click here: Hoosier Daddy?: Beginnings.

Okay. Yes. I am recapping my 2015 nearly eight months after it ended. I get it. I am slow.

Star Wars fans had to wait a decade for The Force Awakens after Revenge of the Sith. I figure by comparison, I am downright speedy. (((pats self on back)))

But how best to end a long silence with a bit of replay? Perhaps I need to jog your memory a bit (as well as mine), and get those literary juices flowing again. There is a lot to cover.

A lot.

Let me begin with some historical context. 2015 was supposed to be THE YEAR. You know... the year it all comes together, regardless of what "it" might be. 2015 was supposed to be the year my career choice as a professional genealogist netted a six-figure income. It was the year I was to find true love, my abs, and the miraculous ability to successfully manage my time while still trolling my Facebook feed and watching strings of meaningless YouTube videos. 2014 ended with all the chessmen in place. I just need to maneuver them into my checkmate.

It didn't quite work out that way.

I left my job as a small-animal veterinarian at a busy multi-doctor practice in January 2013. And by "left" I mean I was told after twenty-two years of practicing that my services were no longer needed and then given a five-minute notice to pack my things and leave. It was not unexpected. Having worked part-time since 2008, I had made myself expendible. I was also not exactly quiet and demure in my vocalization regarding the gross mismanagement of the business, as well as grappling with the wildly growing egos of money-hungry and power-thirsty younger associates. The medicine still excited and intrigued me. The health and well-being of beloved dogs and cats motivated and rewarded me. The people associated with both sides of the exam table were doing none of the above. To quote a blog I rarely read because of the associated anxiety it creates:"From time to time I'd have one of those days when I'd rather be the janitor in a porno theater than to continue this nonsense of being a veterinarian."1 

My contract was to end in July 2013, and I had no expectation of receiving an invite to stay on, nor did I necessarily want to. Being handed my walking papers six months prematurely was not unexpected, but it was traumatic.

Suddenly I was thrust into relying solely on genealogical income for my survival. The first few weeks after my professional life abruptly ended, I battled physical illness, nausea, and anxiety associated with the stress of realizing that years of higher education and nearly a quarter-century of my professional life had just been tossed into a dumpster. Thereafter, I slowly came to the realization how nice it was to sleep in past 6 a.m. and gain a sense of excitement toward channeling my professional energies into this "hobby" that had consumed my life since my pre-teen years.

My newly adopted attitude was along the lines of "Neener Neener Neener, I No Longer Have To Participate In The Rat Race!" I was born and raised poor white trash, so I never bought into the mindset and extravagence of spending money on things I could not afford. I had made a good living as a veterinarian and squirrelled away enough savings for this very moment. Sleeping in even after the alarm clock goes off was a luxury of which I was becoming accustomed, because now it was merely a suggestion, and not a command. Relaxing mornings became the norm, nursing a pot (or two) of coffee whilst reading the news, emails, or the stack of genealogical periodicals that previously were little more than part of the perpetual clutter that was known as my work space. Throw in some required laptime for three cats, random household chores, perpetual snacking, degredation of housecleaning and gym habits, and I was completely and totally embracing the reclusive life of a hermit. 2013 quickly became dominatd by oft-repeated questions, such as "Did I shower this week?" or "Should I shave this month?"  These questions were, of course, directed toward the cats, since human interaction was purely hypothetical.

"Why Working from Home is Both Awesome and Horrible," The Oatmeal,

So let's just say that 2013 was a transition year; a year of much needed rest and a zero-tolerance rule for stress and anxiety. It was a year of increased travel and visiting friends from California to New Jersey. It was a year needed to bring myself to a middle ground where I was putting one professional life behind me, and embarking upon a new one. And hey, I had savings, and I lived alone in a three-bedroom house. If need be, I could rent out those two spare bedrooms and supplement my current non-existent income and unemployment benefits, and life would be peachy! Right?

And it's not as if I was doing NOTHING in 2013. I was still lecturing. I was still chasing the dead people of others for hire. I was still doing the work I was born to do. I just hadn't done much in the way of business planning or honing constructive time management skills before this transition was thrust upon me. Then again, I wasn't entirely embracing the need to do so right away either. When 2013 came to an end, there was the stark realization that I may actually have to work in 2014.

Unfortunately my 2014 began with a lecherous B&B owner sneaking into my rented bedroom and groping my nether regions in my sleep on an early, sunny Palm Springs, California, morning. This was quickly followed by a hasty and obscenely early retreat after some police intervention to catch an Amtrak train with my increasingly melodramatic mother. Sunny California gave way to a ridiculously frigid Midwest and a subsequent eleven-hour delay as we inched our way into Chicago during a polar vortex. With all transportation shut down and a state of emergency declared, I was booted out into the streets of Chicago in forty-below-zero weather by testy Amtrak personnel who had no idea when they could get me home, nor any desire to make it happen.

I really should pay a lot more attention to these New Year harbingers of doom and destruction.

The other thing that 2014 brought me? DNA. I do not need to rehash THAT part of my life here. Those who have read this blog from the beginning know that fact full well. In February 2014, I learned that the man I had regarded as my biological maternal grandfather was not at all correct. While I had long suspected that a reasonable doubt existed, and that my grandmother's first husband could be the man who fathered my mother, I was also shocked to learn that he too was not the man I was looking for. My grandfather was a complete stranger.

It really is a very unkind twist of fate to destroy one-quarter of a genealogist's pedigree after thirty-five years of research.

2014 was supposed to be the year I got my business off the ground. 2014 was the year I was going to finally work on my certification project for the Board for Certification of Genealogists. 2014 was the year I was going to tighten the reigns and make my mark on the world of professional genealogy. 2014 was the year I was going to leave Indiana and start life anew... perhaps in California, in Utah, in Pennsylvania... just somewhere that was not here.

Instead, 2014 became the obsessive year of finding my grandfather. Hours upon hours were spent analyzing even the tiniest autosomal DNA match in hopes of finding some common thread. When the trail began heating up, I would spend days extending pedigrees back several generations on Robinsons, Ryders, and adjacent families that would later be found to be completely unrelated. I stalked countless people on Facebook who might carry DNA that would help me. I made elaborate diagrams and trees. I begged strangers for DNA. Repeatedly. There was no comprehensible thought of leaving Indiana now. Knowing my mother was conceived in the area around Elkhart, Indiana, in the spring of 1946 meant that the likely home of my unknown grandfather and his extended family was also northern Indiana. The dream of starting a new life in a new place was put on hold indefinitely, because I was determined to identify this mystery man before ever leaving the state.

I WAS going to identify this man. I had no question about that.

Business in 2014 was laughable. Little money was coming in, and a whole lot was going out on dozens of autosomal DNA test kits. Client work was minimal and even those projects I took on where grievously delayed and perpetually behind schedule. I spent more time obsessively checking 23andMe's results pages for new matches to my mother instead of writing reports. No new matches at 9 a.m.? How about 10? 10:30? 2? Certainly there would be a new lead at 4 p.m. Over and over and over again like pulling the arm on a damn slot machine waiting for my three cherries to pop up and dump a jackpot into my lap.

It wasn't quite that easy. Obsession, compulsion, determination, fanatacism... whatever you want to call it... paid off. In less than a year I had found my grandfather. 2014 ended with not just a new name on my pedigree chart and new genealogical lines to investigate. It ended with finding a living human being who showed me how and why I ended up being a part of a family with whom I had so little in common - physically, emotionally, intellectually. Finding Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty was the end of a journey I had no idea I was taking. I did not find just a name, nor did I find an unremarkable old man. I unwittingly found myself. An intellectual, analytical, factual, genealogical search became intimately more personal.

This is what life offered me as 2014 drew to a close, and 2015 dawned. Yes, 2015 was going to be THE YEAR. Doors had been opened. A quest had come to a successful fruition. My motivation to work at my chosen profession energized me every day, and I had a wonderful new part of me that I yearned to learn about. Nothing could possibly keep me from attaining new heights of happiness, success, and world domination. Okay, at least the first two were easily within my grasp.

And then I tried to die.

Melodramatic? Maybe. But wandering around Salt Lake City in January 2015 drenched in sweat, confused and disoriented while gasping for oxygen through the audible crackles and wheezes of my diseased lungs certainly qualifies for the trivia list entitled Top 5 Illnesses of My Life. A fantastic weight loss plan, yes, but one I do not highly recommend using on a regular basis. This should have been my sign of things to come.

The ensuing Spring had me traveling to to a number of lecture venues and attempting to jump start my career with new client work and lecture opportunities. With the melting snows also came two new roommates.

Some background: if it does not relate to genealogy or DNA, I am a Scrooge. I can have my desk stacked with six spare autosomal DNA test kits, but I will agonize over the price of gum. Having roommates was a welcome -- and necessary -- addition to my financial well-being. But let's take a broader view here: how many responsible, sane adults need to live in a stranger's spare bedroom? I am near the Notre Dame campus, but not close enough to garner the interest of students. I live in the booming metropolis of Granger, Indiana. How am I going to find renters? And what kind of people would they be?

Craigslist. Yep. That's where I sought life's answers. I advertised for any lost souls who wanted to rent a room. Of course, I had prospective tenants fill out renter's applications. I conducted interviews. I ran credit and background checks. I may be desperate, but I ain't no fool. It wasn't all haphazard. After all, I did manage to avoid the very charming, attractive, and well-spoken man who conspicuously left a large portion of his application blank, and upon research was a convicted felon with a lengthy prison record, and as an additional perks was also on the state sex offenders list. I declined the guy whose occupation was "professional gambler" who upon first meeting proceeded to give me the intimate details of his sex life while on the road playing poker. Then there was the boyfriend-girlfriend duo with the German Shepherd who just wouldn't take "NO" for an answer. No, I don't want two people renting one room. No, I definitely don't want a large dog in my house with my two cats. No, I am not going to consider it. No, I don't want to meet you. No, I am not going to send you an application. No, I am not going to respond to your fifteenth and sixteenth email.

The first to move in was Nate. Forty years old and recently divorced, his ex-wife had moved with his two pre-teen sons from Wisconsin to be closer to her parents in nearby Edwardsburg, Michigan. He was looking to move nearby so he too could participate in his parental responsibilities. He was a bartender of long standing at a Madison brewhouse, and his references were sound. He had the personality of a grown-up child, or perhaps that of a frat boy that never matured passed his late teens. He was funny and relaxed, tousled and unkempt, with a penchant for magic tricks, collecting coins, treasure hunting with his metal detector, and indulging in political conspiracy theories. We were certainly not cut from the same cloth, and it was unlikely that we would be spending our evenings in animated discussion on the history of the German settlement of eighteenth-century Pennsylvania, but he also seemed harmless, financially sound, and possessing a legitimate reason for needing a cheap place to stay relatively quickly. Done deal.

The second roommate was Kirk. He was in his sixties, and his application boasted his professional history of successful investment banking in Chicago, while currently working part-time as a weekend concierge in a Chicago restaurant and as a fitness trainer at a local gym. To me, his nickname immediately became "Skeletor," as he was rail thin and hardly someone I would take fitness advice from. His ultralean frame was topped with unnaturally dark jet-black hair that obviously came from a bottle. He bathed in cheap department store cologne that would let any woman know by smell before sight that a way-past-his-prime-but-doesn't-know-it Lothario was out on the prowl. Kirk's aged father had recently died, and he had moved from Chicago to Michigan to live in the family's lake house and ready it for sale. Its immediate and unexpected sale meant that he needed a place to live while his estate in Florida was being built, where he would be moving with his steady girlfriend, who would likely soon become his wife. As it turned out, the Florida home was never again referenced, and the girlfriend was never seen.

Although his story reeked of bullshit, he seemed harmless enough. His background checked out, and he moved in with nary a pot to piss in (but enough dietery supplements to choke a horse). He had a daily routine that kept him away from the house for most the time other than night-time sleeping. It seemed perfect.

Perfection it was not.

I have learned to embrace being a recluse, and I did not rent rooms to hire friends. Nate loved to tell me about his day, his kids, his job, his magic, his everything. Fine. Okay. He wasn't a bad guy. I can do this. My office and library is in my fully-furnised basement. It is my sanctum sanctorum. Being an open concept house, there are few doors, so there was never an obvious physical barrier distinctly telling people to "Keep Out!" Nate loved to come downstairs to chat. Often. Then he decided since his laptop was broken, he could take over one of my desktop workstations when I was not at home. This led to his divine realization that he was destined to quit his job and become an eBay god, spending his days at auctions and garage sales and his nights listing various pieces of junk online. My house rapidly became a storage space for tchotchkes best relegated for a dumpster; each one of which he showed me, described its acquisition in detail, and to which he ascribed some sort of rare and expensive value. Soon he had commandeered by computer, my printer, my packaging material and tape, and most of all - my space. Rummage sale refuse was stacked in my living room, my kitchen, my basement, my garage.

Oh, yes, it was in his room too. But then again, so was everything else. His wordly possessions were mounded on top of each other in a disorganized heap, and he only just kept added to it. I thought eventually it would reach the ceiling, and he would not longer have headroom to stand up. This growing mound also incorporated within it a random assortment of unwashed clothes, food, and eating utensils.

The other thing housed in Nate's bedroom, but regrettably not contained within, was the smell. Not a terrible fan of showering, and even then, deodorizing, Nate was often quite ripe to the discriminating nostrils. When I spied a pizza box with uneaten pizza within lying on his bed for the fifth consecutive day, the law was laid down. If I can smell it, it needs cleaned. And I gave him fair warning that I would enter his room often to reclaim dishes, silverware, cups, and glasses that never seemed to make it back to the kitchen once they entered his odiferous abyss.  Truthfully, I think he found it all rather amusing. It was only when I also demanded the removal of his inventory from all living areas that he started getting defensive. When I declined his offer for increased rental payment in exchange for "work space" in my basement office, he countered aggressively and out of character with a string of expletives about how self-absorbed and greedy I was. It was apparent that frat boy Nate had the potential for significant anger.

Strangely, Kirk and Nate got along well, largely I am sure because of a shared dislike for me. I learned to be perpetually in tune with the sound of their cars, so that I could run and hide in my office or my bedroom. Kirk was odd. Nate was annoying. I was a prisoner in my own home avoiding any possible chance necessary interaction with either of them. Kirk was the polar opposite of Nate: a neat freak who had to keep his wardrobe perpetually clean. Nate would only wash the one pair of black pants and the one black shirt he needed to bartend. Of course he did this repeatedly, as his work place had commented on his sloppy appearance. Combined, my washer and dryer never stopped. My electric bill skyrocketed, and I rarely kept up with the depleting salt demands of my water softener.

This increased level of tension culminated in the events of the morning of 07 May 2015.

Since I have cats that demand complete and total access to my bedroom, I sleep with my door open enough for them to come and go as they please. On that particular morning I was awakened by increasingly louder repetitions of my name from the cracked door. "Mike. Mike. Mike. MIKE."

It was Nate. Once he recieved my acknowledgment, he stated with an obvious tone of amusement, "Dude. You're gonna be pissed when you see the basement." Then he left.

I struggled a minute with conprehending the meaning of his statement while coming to full wakefulness. He was already out the front door when I jumped out of bed and ran through standing water in my hallway.

This was an immediate invite for "Hysterics. Party of One."

My mind raced. My body struggled to follow the dozens of directives simultaenously issued by my brain. Where is the water coming from? Is the valve turned off? Do I grab a million towels? Do I assess the source and path of the water flow....

...Oh Jesus Christ, Mary, Joseph, and all the Angels and Saints on High, the path of least resistance for all this water is DOWN! THE BASEMENT!!!

Hell is not fire and brimstone. Hell is water. Lots and lots and lots of water.

1 "Veterinarians Behaving Badly," blog post, 2 May 2015,