Friday, July 21, 2017

Overwhelming mess is a tragedy in layers

The back yard in this photo by a neighbor is a story all its own.
     It felt a little bit like a block party as neighbors came by to chat and laugh  a little and take a tour to view the damage. Some offered congratulations, others offered sympathy and most offered to help with the cleanup. It could have been a group of neighbors socializing on a sunny summer Alaska evening. The thirteen police cars lining both sides of the street might have given it away, but, then hadn't a block party ended now and then when one neighbor had a beer too many and let another neighbor know what he really thought of him, eventually leading to a call to the police?
The table by the bed.
     Despite the social aspect this wasn't your normal neighborhood party. What they had just observed, and were celebrating in a way, was an eviction. Neighbors who had dealt with the denizens of this home where they stood had come by to cheer and congratulate my friend for finally getting them out.
     That friend had spent the past six months attempting to evict the band of tweakers and thieves who lived in the rental unit she owns. Time after time she went to court and was discouraged by one technicality after another.    Meanwhile neighbors were complaining to the police who often visited the place finding stolen cars and investigating various illegal activities.
     Finally this week the eviction went through. It took all those police cars and some insistence but the inhabitants packed up and took what they could in a big U-Haul. and left. Then the neighbors started showing up, But there is more frustration in store as the former residents have two weeks to come back and take what they want before they are out for good, so that keeps us from getting in there and cleaning up.
     Cleaning up is a mild term for what needs to be done. It would be difficult to imagine much less describe how absolutely horrible the mess is. Seriously, there is barely a spot on a floor anywhere that isn't covered with something. Piles of garbage, stuffing a dog tore out of a mattress cover infused with spilled soft drinks next to a table in the master bedroom holding at least two crack pipes, several tiny plastic baggies, empty energy drink bottles, evidence of spilled foods, cigarette lighters and various other objects a druggie would keep next to the bed. Here and there in that room were items a child would use, toys, discarded boxes for toys, The Lego Movie DVD. Next to the table on the floor was a tangle of mattress stuffing held together by a spilled Slurpees of some sort plus anything else that would stick to the mess including a shoe, couple of broken smart phones and a couple of phone
cases. Around the room wires ran from a rack on the wall that would have held a flat screen TV. A line of small Velcro patches crosses about half the ceiling like they might have held up some kind of a curtain that could have shielded a child from the goings on in the bed and next to it.
     That's just the bedroom. In the kitchen the sink was so full of dirty dishes you couldn't even find it. We moved a big bookshelf and discovered a stack of dirty pans still thick with grease and crawling with little flying bugs. Every flat display surface like the top of the wall cabinets was lined with empty liquor bottles of one kind of another. Our shoes stuck slightly to the floor when we walked through. We got the kitchen window boarded up.
     It's a small living room, but it holds a Coca Cola vending machine, a full-sized slot machine and one of those electronic games you see in stores with the claw you can manipulate to pick up prizes in the base. The prizes in this one were soft dice like we used to hang from the rear view mirror. I counted at least three flatscreens on the floor and not plugged in. Speaking of which extension cords ran everywhere often plugged into splitters that led into a spider web of cords going elsewhere. We tried to get them all unplugged before we turn on the electricity and start a fire.      
Electronic pieces and parts and a child's book.

Speaking of that, the electricity has been turned off for several months for nonpayment. There are pieces and parts of various electronic components all over the place, plus three couches where people obviously crashed. And trash, piles of it everywhere. Found three pairs of various kinds of boots. There was very little visible floor.
     The outside yard is a story all its own. I could go on and on but the pictures pretty much tell the story. At present we are boarding it up but not cleaning too much. The tenant has two weeks to get everything out so we have to let that happen. At that point we might have lots of help.
Kind of makes you wonder who Teenah was.
     As I was working through the mess moving stuff out of the way so we could get at the windows to measure them for their new plywood coverings, a thought began nagging my mind. Now and then  someone would comment something like "you wonder how people can live like this." And eventually I began to wonder too and I realized my friend Kitty had lived in places like this with people like this. If you have followed this blog you have seen snippets of a book I have been working on for years about a young girl who ran away from an abusive home, became a meth addict and prostitute and lived in crash pads with other drug users. She had even described for me once how she and her friends had trashed a woman's apartment when they were high. And, this woman had taken Kitty in after a boyfriend/pimp had almost killed her when he shot her up with a mix of drugs. She had no remorse and thought it was odd that I would criticize her for it. As I was finishing up what needed to be done and making lists of materials and tools I would need the next day, Kitty and I carried on a conversation in my head about her life in a world that looked like the inside of this house. I lost the will to socialize. I suddenly hated the people who had done this to my friend's house and, too, I hated the people who had done what they did to Kitty. Though she was a welcoming participant, still, they trashed her mind and body in the same way these people had trashed this house, and who knows how many other Kittys might have wandered into a mess like this. I felt a sympathy for them though I hated them with my whole being.
     Toward the end of the evening as the crowd thinned out and we had finished measuring the windows for boards. A young girl from the neighborhood was talking with the owner. She looked maybe 14, only a couple of years younger than Kitty was when she ran away from that abusive father and fell into the life.
     As she was about to leave, with all her innocent enthusiasm and desire to help, and standing in that disaster area she asked the owner, "are you going to need some help cleaning this up?" I laughed right out loud and then the owner joined in. For a moment the girl looked consternated wondering why we would laugh at her heart-felt offer and then she realized what she had said and had a good laugh with us.
     Are we going to need some help cleaning all this up? Yes we are, sweetheart, yes we are.

An afterthought: It turns out this isn't an isolated incident. As I have told other people about this, just about everyone at least knows someone who went through the same thing. I wrote not long ago about how in Alaska no matter what you do someone has done it better, gone farther or higher, did it faster and suffered more hardship than you have. The next day after the first entry, I ran into a guy whose father had encountered the same problem. Only that house was so bad the guy burned it down.
An online conversation with a young prostitute

AN UPDATE AFTER TWO WEEKS: We finally got in there to clean Aug. 3. We hauled out more than six bags of trash, a couple of heavy shelving units, some hazmat stuff (paint and cleaners) and about 40 pounds of spoiled, thawed salmon and you couldn't even see the difference. Then the owner called a pro. Estimate to clean up the damage done by tweakers to this house? $9,000. And that is only for hauling the junk away, not repairs or general cleaning or removing that truck. The guy estimated a crew of five or six people would need three or four days. He said his crew had cleaned dirtier places than this but never one with this much trash to haul away. Today I uncovered six like-new propane tanks. We also found evidence of a potential fraud, a death certificate and two birth certificates for the same person. Ain't life grand?

AND HERE IS WHAT IT DOES TO OTHERS: I asked the woman who owns the house if she minded if I wrote something about the estimate and cost of the cleanup. This is what she said:

"Absolutely okay.  Go for it!   I am not embarrassed anymore.  It is what it is, and while it is terrible, at least it is spectacularly terrible. I had nothing to do with it, so it's okay to celebrate the terrible-ness in a spectacular way. 
  "For a while, I could not talk about it because I was embarrassed and shocked and ashamed, but I have worked through it and have accepted that it's just another life experience. 
"I can get angry.  I can grieve. I can be embarrassed. However, those are not helpful, and whatever my attitude, the situation will stay the same.  If I can find ways to keep an upbeat attitude (most of the time), then maybe I can simply face what needs to be done.  
"I choose to try to find the least traumatic or depressing way to deal with it all, and that helps me take care of me."

Comments lifted from facebook

Terri Golden I am so sorry for your friend
Jeanne Passin Deeply disturbing and fascinating at the same time.

July 21 at 10:41pm
Betty Sederquist The horror, the horror...

July 22 at 7:29am
Jennifer Weber · Friends with Craig Medred and 3 others
The poor children living in that environment... and the poor people whose life choices led them to this lifestyle. Sad all around. But I'm glad they were evicted and the owner can clean that mess up.

July 22 at 7:40am
Kitty Delorey Fleischman Makes you wonder how people can live like that.
Linda G Robinson Sounds like fodder for a Tim Jones mystery book.

LikeShow more reactions
ReplyYesterday at 8:58am
Barry Piser · Friends with Lillie Dremeaux and 4 others
Whoa ... I saw that picture when the neighbor originally posted it on Facebook awhile back. And saw another post about the police arriving for the eviction. Crazy that you are part of the clean up process. I can only imagine the total amount that will be hauled out to the dump. I'd just assume that mice and bed bugs are in play too. Scares me as a landlord when I see these situations.
Carole Trombetta Thoresen O....M....G....!!! 
I had no idea it would be this bad! Unbelievable! 
...See More
Kitty Delorey Fleischman Believe it or not, we had a grandson and his girlfriend that asked to stay at our house, stayed rent free with two kids for six months, then left their rooms exactly like this. They also had rotting food in the mix. It took police to get them out of th...See More

July 20 at 8:07am

Kitty Delorey Fleischman I felt like doing an exorcism after we got them out of there!
Kitty Delorey Fleischman You win! This is after a couple of dumpsters were removed, but it went on forever.

Betty Sederquist That is the nightmare tenant of all time! I can't believe this mess. We once had tenants who refused to pay for garbage pickup, buried all their garbage in the yard, also ran a whorehouse in the house.
Raine Hall Rawlins You are a good man for helping. What a disaster!
Wendy Wiedenman I've helped a hoarder who was worse!
Wendy Wiedenman Glad you are there to help!

Tim Jones If this were a contest no one here wins. I met a guy yesterday whose father had it happen to a rental property he owned. In the end he burned down the house.


  1. Just to make a note...this is a Kitty who is not me!

  2. Of course she's not you. My apologies for any confusion.


Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeareon Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve