Several more chapters from “Withholding.” (Unknown Telemarketing Company, Acme Tutoring, Term Paper Writer, Medic/Tx, Minton-Caldwell Funeral Home.)

Unknown Telemarketing Company–1989–1 or 2 months. Part-Time Tele-marketer, selling coupon books.

The first job I landed in Austin was with a tele-marketing company, the name of which I long ago forgot. I was supposed to sell a thick book of coupons over the phone. I wouldn’t have wanted the fucking coupons as a gift, and I certainly wouldn’t have paid anything for them, so needless to say I didn’t have much luck selling them.

Every day I sat at a folding cafeteria-style table in front of a picture window that looked out onto an enclosed garden. I shared the table with a gay kid named Terry, who was delighted that I insisted on calling him “Terence.” He that said when he got old he wanted to act like the elderly Bette Davis—speaking his mind, chain-smoking, and not giving a damn.

Every time he went up to the supervisor’s desk for a new print-out of phone numbers he moved with a strange hobbling gait. But it took me some time to learn he had an artificial leg.

I don’t know how long I worked at this place—a couple weeks, a couple months. If I sold any coupon books at all I’m sure it was no more than two. I quit as soon as I got established in something better.

*******  

Acme Tutoring–1989–3 months–Part-Time Tutor.

While I was still selling coupons I got another job at a place called Acme Tutoring. It occupied the ground floor and mezzanine of part of a West Campus high-rise dorm, and was carved up into a rabbit warren of tiny classrooms. The owner was a humorless middle-aged Indian man.

Students would call the business, say what they wanted to be tutored in, and would book an appointment. The owner’s assistants would then call a tutor who specialized in the area in which the student needed tutoring, and would tell him to be at the office at a certain time. If they didn’t get ahold of the tutor someone else would be assigned. My tutoring specialty was the liberal arts—literature, history, composition, and such. Most of the students needed help in math, the sciences, or business, which meant I didn’t get called very often. But I had specific plans for my time at Acme Tutoring.

You see, often times I’d go off into a classroom with a student, and once the door closed he would explain he didn’t want help—he wanted to hire me to write him a paper. And I had been looking for a way to establish my term paper business in Austin. I very quickly assembled a reliable and faithful hub of two types of clients—frat boys and sorority girls on the one hand, and foreign exchange students on the other. They told their friends about me, and within a short time my name and reputation was made.

I had moved from the couch of my friend Matt Wilson to the couch of my friend Jubal Carpenter. Jubal didn’t have cable TV and he didn’t run his air conditioner because he spent all his spare money on four- or five-hour-a-night long distance phone calls to his girlfriend in South Carolina. So I took to spending my afternoons in the smoking room of Quack’s Coffee House on The Drag and my evenings in the TV Room of Jester West Dorm on the UT campus, going back to Jubal’s only when  the night-time security guard came on duty. Quack’s and the West Jester TV Room became my unofficial offices.

I was supposed to meet with an Indonesian client, to give him a term paper I’d written for him. But he mixed up the meet-up time. He panicked, and then went to Acme Tutoring to look for me. He was waited on by the owner, and he tried to explain the situation in broken English. Not having the good sense to lie to save my ass and his, he nevertheless presented a garbled version of the facts.

The owner concluded that I had arranged to meet this kid off the premises to tutor him on the side. Fortunately, he didn’t know I was actually writing term papers for students I’d met through his business. He called me up and fired me, but by that point it didn’t matter. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 1989 I was pulling in $1,000 a week writing term papers and had moved into my own place, a tiny room near campus.

*******  

Term Paper Writer—1989-1993.

Term paper writing was a much more profitable business in Austin than it had been in Huntsville—the students just had a lot more money. And I lived in West Campus, right in the midst of thousands of students. I was a convenient service. I got my price up to about $12-$15 per hand-written page, which would be about $24-$30 per typed page, though I didn’t do typing.

For a time, I employed typists, kids who were poorer than I was, whom I paid next to nothing. Otherwise, my clients would type the papers themselves or take my papers to a typing service.

Though term paper writing was a huge part of my life from 1985 to 1993, I don’t have many stories to tell about it. I was an old whore, and eventually the faces began to blur together. I saved the originals of maybe 20%-30%  of all the papers I wrote, but then after I quit the business I gave them to a friend who was just starting college. Shortly thereafter, his house burned to the ground and all my papers were destroyed.

I had these two frat boys who were repeat customers and roommates. Initially, they tried to to hide their identity. “Blair” insisted his name was “Robert” and “Robert” said his name was “Blair.” After I found out they roomed together I got really confused. Once they decided I could be trusted they explained the name switch, and I quipped,

–Oh, I see. All this time I thought you were a gay couple or something.

That made them very uncomfortable.

Blair was a nice guy. Robert was a prick who felt the world owed him a living. He was one of those customers who always tried to talk me down on my price.

When he went to study in Spain for a summer, he lived in a private home with a Spanish family. One night he got really drunk, went back to his room, and tore his bedroom sink out of the wall. He got kicked out of the program for that. Another time he was driving somewhere with a sorority girl he wanted to fuck and got into a car accident. When the cops arrived, he claimed the girl had been driving. (I heard this from the girl, who was also one of my customers.)

But money is money, and you can’t eat high-minded  ideals, so when Robert offered me a nice chunk of it to write his application essay for law school, I took the assignment without blinking an eye.

The Indonesians were my most faithful customers. They constantly tried to get a discount because they brought me so many business. Everybody had a brother, sister, or cousin who needed a paper written. Two of them had to do papers on famous American musicians, and for my own amusement, I picked Bob Wills and Louis Armstrong. I thought it an interesting experiment to try to write about these genuinely American figures from the point of view of two writers who had absolutely no exposure to or understanding of them. Indeed, anything I wrote for the Indonesians had to be free of American idioms and informalities.

The leader of that group of Indonesians was a doughy-looking guy named Indra. When he was about to finish up at St. Edward’s University, he, like all other students at that school, had to take and pass a Capstone writing course, which culminated in a three-hour written exam. Indra approached me, and asked if I would take his exam for him. He said I could wait in the St. Edward’s Library, and he’d have the test slipped out to me. I said no fucking way would I take a chance like that. I had horrific visions of campus rent-a-cops and professors descending on me, dragging me from the building. It was all too much of a risk.

A year passed. Indra took some more courses. He signed up for the Capstone course again. And in late 1991 he approached me again with a new twist on his old offer:

–If you’ll agree to take my exam, you can wait at my house. I’ll sneak the test out to my sister, she’ll bring it to you, then she’ll bring the answers back to me. Nobody at St. Edward’s will know where you are. Then you’ll be paid, and a Mercedes will be put at your disposal, to take you anyplace in the city you want to go.

That sounded like it might possibly work. I quoted a price–(I forget what it was, but it was substantial)–and he agreed to it.

So I read the study guide for the exam.

Early on a Saturday morning the Indonesians picked me up and drove me down to South Austin. Indra’s condo was rather strange. There was a courtyard off the kitchen with a large Koi pond. The living room and kitchen were decorated with kitschy souvenirs of the most touristy of American travel destinations—the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, Disney World, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Indra drove off to his exam and I cooled my heels. About forty-five minutes later his sister showed up with a copy of the test. Apparently students were able to get up during the exam, go outside, have a smoke, get a drink of water, or go to the bathroom. When copies of the exam were handed out in his row, one of the teaching assistants handed out one extra test. This was the one Indra gave to his sister.

I sat at the dining table and began work. One of the exam questions had appeared in the study guide, so I was able to answer it quickly. Three or four Indonesians stood around me, watching me work. As I finished my answers, Indra’s sister copied them down in Indonesian onto tiny crib notes. When I finished, she took the crib notes back to the school.

I learned later that Indra was so ballsy that he sat at his desk, holding his pen in his right hand and his cheek in his left hand, and napped unnoticed for an hour, until his sister tapped on the window in the classroom door and he woke up and went outside to speak to her.

As for me, well, I was at loose ends. I’d entered a whole new category of amorality. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself for the rest of the day. I directed my driver to take me South Congress Avenue, where he deposited me in front of an antiques store.

This had been a special job—I couldn’t just blow my retainer on the usual books or CDs.

I sauntered into the store and looked in the vitrines. I pointed to an interesting-looking sculpture and asked to see it.

–Oh, that? That’s an Aztec fertility god head. The story is that the Aztecs would make full-length figures of the fertility god, then on the first day of planting they’d go out into the fields, have a ceremony, start chanting, and they’d break apart the figures, and scatter them all over the fields. That’s why you never see one completely intact.

–What’s the provenance?

–One of the Pre-Columbian artifacts collected by Sarita Kenedy East. You familiar with her?

–Kenedy Ranch heiress. Left her share to the Catholic Church. Family’s been fighting the will in court basically my entire life.

–That’s right.

–Wrap it up for me. But I’m gonna look around some more.

The fertility god head forms the centerpiece of a secret display of keepsakes I have in the secretary desk I inherited from my father. The head sits up on a boll of raw, pure, non-ginned cotton, which in turn rests inside an ashtray that used to stand on my father’s poker table. If the head still possesses the power to grant fertility I’ve certainly not noticed it.

*******  

Medic/Tx–1990–3 months—Part-Time Tele-marketer for a company that sold electronic stethoscopes.

I worked as a part-time telemarketer, selling calling hundreds of doctors all over the United States, trying to sell them electronic stethoscopes. The trouble was, most doctors had their phones answered by receptionists, who fended off salesmen, and the few doctors I actually did get to talk with liked the old-fashioned, non-electronic model stethoscope. I made three sales in as many months, and I think one of those was eventually canceled.

The manager was an inept, annoying, pudgy twerp from Israel named Chaim Rosen. He spoke in a high-pitched whine and he looked perpetually confused.

One of the executives in the company, a white-haired gentleman, called me into his office one day and asked me if I could give him some examples of Chaim’s misdeeds. He told me in confidence that he was leading a movement within the company to fire Chaim and have him charged with criminal mismanagement. If the movement succeeded, working conditions for the telemarketers would greatly improve.

I don’t know if the executive managed to remove  Chaim or not, because a few weeks later he told me he was going to have to fire me for low sales numbers. He allowed me to resign instead, though, so I could list the job on my resume.

A few years later I walked past Chaim in the lobby of an airport hotel. Since I was very well-dressed at the time he jumped to the mistaken conclusion that I had become very successful.

Now in December 1989 I had moved into a room in a house in the West Campus neighborhood. The first room was temporary, because the landlord was waiting for the room I wanted to be vacated. The temporary room had a sloped floor (it had originally been a sleeping porch) and diagonally slanted wallpaper. I slept on cushions on the floor and every time I got up I felt dizzy.

My second room was tiny—maybe eight feet square. And even then I had trouble paying for it. After I was fired from Medic/Tx my family decided for some reason I needed some of what they termed “tough love,” so they cut off all financial assistance, thinking that would magically force me to find an excellent job that would pay all the bills. I looked for work, but couldn’t find it. I began to starve.

One afternoon I went for a walk along the Drag and saw a radio station was doing a remote from the Hastings book, music, and video store. Some guy was out front handing out cans of Pepsi and I helped myself to one. Inside in the center of the store was a table with a six-foot-long submarine sandwich, cut into three-inch sections. A Hastings employee handed me a serving, which tasted me to me like a feast. Then I waited around for an hour or two, browsing through the books and magazines, until there was a shift change and a new employee was assigned to the sandwich table. Then I got another serving of sandwich and left. That was my meal for the day.

I could never walk down the Drag in those days without worrying how long it’d be before I’d up sleeping in a doorway there, begging for change. I developed a complicated attitude about homeless people. Though I was disgusted by their odor and poor hygiene, if they weren’t flat out rude to me, I’d often give them a few bucks if I was doing well. I considering this as paying protection money to karma—as long as I occasionally looked out for my fellow man, God or the fates or something would keep me off the street. The fear of impending homelessness is one I’ve never been able to shake.

I’ve always been terrified of losing my possessions or being put into a situation where I’d be filthy. To me, once you abandon good hygiene you sacrifice your claim as a human being.

Another time I went to the blood clinic to sell my plasma. I had just enough money for food, but I wanted a pack of cigarettes. I wanted it to look like I was slumming, just doing this for a lark. I put on a dress shirt and an Yves Saint Laurent necktie and tucked a copy of “Foreign Affairs” magazine under my arm.

I was examined by a doctor in his office and made a comment about the print of Lawrenceville School he had hanging on the wall. Then I was escorted into the main room and made to stretch out on a cushioned table next to a wino. I held up the magazine and started reading an article by Richard Nixon about the Soviet Union. I looked away when the needle was slipped into my arm.

Quite some time later a male attendant came by, bent over me and frowned.

–Sir, you’re not bleeding.

–What do you mean I’m not bleeding? I’ve had that needle stuck in my arm all this time.

–Yes, but there’s no blood flowing into the tube.

And with that he started poking his finger around the point where the needle entered my skin. I began to feel sick to my stomach, dizzy in my head, sick all over, ready to black out.

–Please….I wish you wouldn’t do that….Please stop touching that….Please….I think I’m gonna black out….Please stop….

I began convulsing violently. I had the sensation that I was first on the table about four feet off the ground, and then was suddenly hurtled up to within six inches of the ceiling, then back down on the table, then up to the ceiling again, back and forth, back and forth….

When I came to every doctor, nurse, and attendant in that clinic was standing around my table looking scared.

Someone asked if I knew where I was. I didn’t.

Someone asked if I knew my name. I tried to think for a second, but no, I didn’t.

A realization came over me: I am about to die. This is what death is like. I got very scared.

I don’t know how long it took for me to get my wits about me and remember what I had forgotten.

After about thirty minutes an attendant came over and asked if I’d like to try to sit up. I became very nauseated and dizzy, so she had me lay back down again. Forty-five minutes later she came back. I was able to sit up, and stand up, albeit in a wobbly manner.

I was escorted to the door and given $7 of the $14 I was originally supposed to make. I’m sure they did it out of pity, because I doubt they got any plasma out of me.

Somehow I managed to walk across busy Guadalupe Street, catch a bus, and walk home without getting run over. A collapsed fully-dressed onto my three-cushion bed and slept for about twelve hours.

My house was running downhill fast. Everybody had private rooms, but we shared two kitchens and several bathrooms in common. One of the girls downstairs was a stripper with anorexia. She managed to clog up all the toilets downstairs with vomit, then moved up to the second floor to puke in all of ours. It took me awhile to find out about this, though. I was wondering why every time I went into the bathroom I saw little bits of salad at the bottom of the bowl.

Two of the second floor rooms got rented out to this group of white trash rowdies. They all seemed like truck strop whores and motorcycle enthusiasts. Because of the position and small size of my room, every time these people gave a party their friends would assume my room was the bathroom, and they’d tug repeatedly at the doorknob and hammer on the door.

These people were too lazy to clean up after themselves. They let so many dirty dishes pile up in the second floor kitchen sink that I couldn’t fit a glass under the tap to fill it up with water. They couldn’t be bothered to take their sacks of garbage downstairs to the trash cans—they just dumped them in the hall closets. Soon the whole second floor was filled with an awful smell. Rats feasted on the garbage, then died, and armies of roaches nibbled on their flattened bodies.

I started stealing from my neighbors. Late at night, after everyone in the house had gone to bed, I would slip out in my stocking feet so no one would hear me, then take just enough food out of the refrigerators and cabinets that it wouldn’t be missed—two slices of cheese here, three cookies there, one slice of bologna. Eventually the food supply got down to a critical level—my neighbors hadn’t gone to the grocery store yet.

The guy who’d lived in my room before me had been a body builder. High up in one of the kitchen cabinets I found an almost full can of his weight-gain powder. For three days I lived off that powder mixed with room-temperature water.

My friend Max was alarmed when he read of all this in a letter I’d sent him. He borrowed $100 from his parents and drove from Conroe to Austin to buy me groceries. I was so moved it was all I could do not to start crying….

It was around this time that my parents rented the film “Barfly,” starring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway, and based on the works of Charles Bukowski. My mother watched Rourke’s character– a dirty, sloppy alcoholic, living in a ratty apartment, carousing in bars and writing on the side, stumbling around in dirty clothes, and walking like he was carrying five pounds of shit in the back of his pants–and she turned to my father and said,

–I bet that’s how J___’s living right now.

*******  

Minton-Caldwell Funeral Home–1990–3 months–Part-Time Tele-marketer, then Acting Manager of Tele-marketing Dept., Assistant Manager of Tele-marketing Dept., Private Appointment Setter, then Tele-marketer again.

The ad in the paper said

–Century-old established Austin business seeking tele-marketers for part-time sales work afternoons and evenings.

When I called the number provided the guy I talked to said basically the same thing, gave me an address, and we set a time to meet. The office building was non-descript, with non signs outside indicating the name of the business. I followed instructions and walked through the lobby and up the stairs to the second floor. Lining the wall on the way up were framed photographs of tombstones and mausoleums. A few minutes later I was hired to do tele-marketing for Minton-Caldwell Funeral Home. I had not even noticed the funeral home next door.

My mother had a good laugh. She thought this was a perfect job for someone so “morbid” as me. Within a few days several more tele-marketers had been hired. Within a week everyone had quit except for me, because they’d all been creeped out by the work. Another group of tele-marketers was hired and I was named Acting Manager.

The job we were hired to do was an unethical scam. We’d call up people and offer them a funeral planning folder. This was a plain manilla file folder, with a form printed on three sides. The client was to fill out the form, detailing how he wanted his funeral arranged, what music was to be played, what readings were to be done, what friends and family members should be contacted, whether he wanted to be buried or cremated, and so forth. If a person filled out this form he was not obligated to use the services of Minton-Caldwell, and the file was considered secret and confidential, locked away in a filing cabinet until the client or his next-of-kin asked for it.

The catch was we weren’t allowed to mail these file folders to interested clients—they had to be delivered personally by Minton-Caldwell salespeople, who would use that opportunity to do a high-pressure sales pitch for cemetery lots and pre-arranged funerals. And some of the salespeople were know to open up the files, copy down the names and numbers of a client’s friends and family members,  then call them up, saying this client had referred them.

As with most tele-marketing operations, most of our staff consisted of kids who had maybe finished high school, but had no plans for college and all they had to look forward to were service industry jobs and unwanted pregnancies. I thought that an informed tele-marketing staff would know better how to answer the questions of the people they called, so I arranged to have a sales person do a slide show, showing what services the company provided.

At one point they showed a slide with a drawing of the cross-section of a mausoleum vault. One of the tele-marketers asked why the vault had what looked like a tiny air shaft extending from the vault up to the roof. The saleswoman got a little uncomfortable and said,

–Uh, that’s, um, to keep the vault clean.

Then I blurted out

–I would imagine that’s also an outlet for all the gasses the body builds up as it decomposes. Otherwise the pressure inside the vault would become so great it’d blow the stone marker off the front of the vault.

The saleswoman went pale and the tele-marketers looked disgusted.

I wasn’t any good at this job. I’ve always felt salesmen were only slightly higher up the morality ladder than child molesters. I didn’t feel right about bothering people at home, trying to con them into buying something they didn’t need, as well as setting them up for a scam that would cost them thousands of dollars. One evening I got ahold of a woman and went into my pitch and she responded with an empty, hollow laugh:

–Wow. This is rich, sir. Just rich. I just this minute got back from the doctor that told me I had inoperable ovarian cancer, and already the vultures have started circling!

I got very embarrassed, apologized, and hung up.

The powers that be decided they needed a permanent Tele-marketing Manager, but didn’t bother to ask me. Instead they hired Kerri Kalder, a single mother who was a few years older than me and had a sense of fun. I was made Assistant Manager.

Kerri had a lot of experience as a tele-marketer, but the strangest gig she said she ever had was tele-marketing for the retailer Frears.

On her first day, with in two hours she’d racked up more sales than the best established salesperson in the office. But she picked up a weird, cultish vibe from her bosses and co-workers. The supervisors seemed glassy-eyed and a little too enthusiastic. The motivational posters and slogans posted on the walls were creepy and Orwellian. Finally the time arrived for the mid-morning break. All she wanted to do was go have a cigarette, but no, the supervisors herded everyone into a large room where they were to clap hands and sing motivational company songs. The one she remembered best was to the tune of “If You’re Happy And You Know It Clap Your Hands:”

–Got an itchin’ in my britches to sell for Frears!
   Got an itchin’ in my britches to sell for Frears!
   Got an itchin’ in my britches!
   Gonna earn a lotta riches!
Got an itchin’ in my britches to sell for Frears!

Well, that was enough for Kerri. She told a supervisor she needed to run out and get something from her car, and she hit the door and never came back.

Kerri and I spent our shifts joking around, since we weren’t expected to make as many calls as the regular tele-marketers. I got her to arrange for us to tour the funeral home next door, and I remember  she opened a door by accident and we walked into a viewing room, where a solemn old dead man was  on display in his coffin. She thought this was hilarious for some reason and doubled over laughing.

The tele-marketing office shared a common outer office with the office of Jessica, one of the two Senior Salespeople. Jessica was a tall, humorless blonde who had to be in her early fifties. She always left her office door unlocked when she went off to appointments and she had a big candy jar on her desk that Kerri and I loved to raid.

One quiet afternoon most of that office suite was in darkness. The tele-marketers hadn’t arrived yet. Kerri said she was going upstairs to the kitchen to get us some Cokes. I shouted out over my shoulder after her

–I’m gonna see what kind of candy Jessica’s got in her jar today!

I burst into Jessica’s darkened office and was shocked to find Jessica actually sitting at her desk. She gave me a baleful, pursed lip look, and said,

–Go on ahead.

I took two tiny pieces of candy and slipped away embarrassed.

Two of our staffers at this point were black, teenaged girls. One day they were talking music and I awkwardly blurted a reference to George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic. They looked at me as if was a hundred years old, and one said,

–White boy, stop trying to relate to us.

The bosses talked among themselves and decided that three or four tele-marketers really didn’t need two managers, so I was assigned as the private appointment setter for Bill, the other Senior Salesperson. I now worked out of a cubicle in the big office upstairs. I usually had that whole floor to myself. Many was the time I walked past the copy machine and considered making a Xerox of my penis, but I was afraid either someone would see me or there’d be a paper jam and the image would be stuck inside the machine for someone else to find.

I set appointments for Bill for a few weeks, until I got called into the office of the big boss, Bob Munson. Munson gave me the fish-eye every time he walked past, from the day I started. There was something about me he didn’t like. He was a white-haired, middle-aged asshole with the pale, expressionless face of Middle American respectability and moral corruptness. He was a crook with the clothes of a church deacon.

He demoted me back to the tele-marketing room, to the job I’d started with. It seems Jessica had been complaining that if Bill had a private appointment setter then she should have one too. So Munson decided that nobody would have one. Within a week he called me back up to his office and said that since I’d not been making the sales quota in the last few days he had no choice but to fire me.

I was at that job three months.

Robert, my slack-jawed redneck landlord, brought in his enforcer, Lilith, to serve as manager of my dirty little house. She evicted the rowdy white trash and cleaned up their filth. Then she crossed the line from savior to huge pain in the ass.

She discouraged residents from socializing with one another, spreading malicious gossip to foster suspicion. She told everyone I was a mortician—that was why they kept at a distance. She started posting pointless rules and regulations everywhere. Worst of all were the little notes she’d constantly leave, meticulously written in cramped, angular handwriting, threatening us with huge fines for trivial offenses. Of course, no one who was reduced to living in a shit-hole house like that could afford those fines.

She was a strange, ascetic creature. Rail-thin, pale, with long dark hair. Unsmiling. She lived off a diet of coffee and brown rice. Her room was furnished with a small folding metal bed, a straight back wooden chair, and a folding table on which she molded pots. There was no evidence that she read, listened to music, or watched television.

Her malevolent personality hung over the house like a cloud. Whenever I’d approach the house and see her Range Rover parked in the driveway my asshole would pucker. I used to think of the James Thurber cartoon, “House and Woman,” where a tiny man is frightened by the sight of a four-story Victorian house morphing into the giant figure of an angry woman.

When I first moved into the house Robert took me on a tour and showed me a laundry with a washer and dryer he swore he’d hook up soon, but he never did. I talked to people who moved in after me and he said the same thing to them. So I was forced to lug my laundry five blocks to a washateria. This was especially a problem during the very bitter winter. Homeless men would hang out in the heated washateria and try to talk me into giving them some of my clothes so they could stay warm.

One night I just didn’t feel like going to the washateria, so I took my clothes into the least-used second floor bathroom, put them in the old claw-footed tub, poured in some soap, and filled the tub with hot water. After about ten minutes there was a furious pounding on my door. Lilith was standing there just shaking with rage, barely able to speak.

–You will take your clothing out of that bathtub, rinse it out, scrub it with bleach and Ajax within the next fifteen minutes or you will be fined $150, and if I EVER catch you trying to wash your clothes in one of the bathtubs here I will speak to Robert about having you evicted!

Jesus Christ! You’d think I had the leprosy or something.

A day later I got a pompously-worded letter from Robert, scolding me about “endangering an antique bathtub.” Endangering a bathtub by filling it with soap and water?

This was around August of 1990. Not long after that I moved into New Guild Co-op—sort of a student-run boarding house filled with a about three dozen neo-hippies.

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